For access to the Mesabi Trail™ from Hwy 169, exit north at Hwy 25 and continue .3 mile towards downtown. Trail access and parking lot are on the left.
Ride a mile north on Hwy. 25 from the Mesabi Trail access to the 12 square block foreign country called the Republic of Kinney. Kinney had 192 residents in 2019. The population fluctuated dramatically coinciding with mining operations. There were 367 residents when the town was formed in 1910 and peaked at 1,200 in 1920.
Kinney Lake, Park, and new pavilion are scenic and peaceful. The lake has been stocked with rainbow trout. Tip: History buffs may want to pause in front of what was once Mary’s Bar (now Liquid Larry’s) and imagine the once two story building as it was when it was the center of activity in a once thriving town.
Following the final retreat of glaciers from northeastern Minnesota approximately 10,000 years ago, native peoples migrated north and west. The Dakota people historically occupied the area. Lake Superior Chippewa (Ojibwe/Anishinaabe), the most populous tribe in North America, migrated westward and the Dakota moved west of the Mississippi in the seventeenth century. There were periods of peace and conflict between the two tribes, but the stream of European American settlers into their territories resulted in conflict. The U.S. Government ultimately removed both tribes from their native territories and put them on reservations.
Fur trading between native peoples and French explorers flourished from the 1660’s onward. The first major industry was the wholesale logging of the entire northeastern (‘arrowhead’) portion of the state. Mining followed logging.
The village of Kinney was named after O.D. Kinney, one of three Merritt Mining company employees prospecting the area in 1892. The original ore deposit was discovered in 1902 and mining began in 1903.
As with most mining communities, Kinney was built to last only as long as there was active mining, typically about 25 years.
Mary’s Bar was known across the range as a necessary stop by any DFL (Democratic) candidate who ran for local, statewide, or national office in Minnesota. It was owned by one of the most influential women on the entire Mesabi Range, Mary Pavlovich Anderson, who also was the Mayor of Kinney from December 1973 to 2002. Mary cultivated strong local and range-wide relationships via her bartending and mayoral activities. Politicians dared not skip stopping at her bar to meet citizens and discuss issues. She was a bar proprietor from 1944 until her retirement on March 22, 2002 at the age of 87.
Notably, in 1976, the mayor, chief of police, a police commissioner, police officer, treasurer, and city clerk were all women. But most noteworthy was its secession from the union. The city’s water system was failing so badly that the fire department had to watch buildings burn to the ground due to lack of water pressure. That year the term ‘The Kinney Brown Shirts’ was coined because all clothing washed with detergent that included bleach turned brown because of mineral deposits in the water.
Replacing the water system far exceeded the budget of the small town, so the city exhaustively searched locally and nationally for assistance. The resulting volume of paperwork led to the city’s motto of ‘File in Triplicate.’ The city attorney commented that it would be easier to get money if the city seceded, waged war with the union, quickly lost, and then asked for foreign aid. The joke took root, and the council voted unanimously to secede on July 13, 1977 and a certified letter was sent to U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance. The letter read:
“BE IT RESOLVED that the city council of the City of Kinney, in Kinney, Minnesota, has decided to secede from the United States of America, and become a foreign country. Our area is large enough for it. We are twelve square blocks, three blocks wide and four blocks long. We will be similar to Monaco. It is much easier to get assistance as a foreign country, which we need badly, and there is no paper work to worry about. If necessary, we will be glad to declare war and lose. However, if this is a requirement, we would appreciate being able to surrender real quick, as our Mayor works as a nurse in a hospital, and most of our council members work in a nearby mine and cannot get much time off from work.”
In 1978, the story caught on and made international news. Duluth businessman Jeno Palucci presented Mayor Anderson with its first foreign aid, a low-mileage 1974 Ford LTD police car with the emblem saying ‘Republic of Kinney, Commander-in-Chief’ on one side and ‘Chief of Police, City of Kinney’ on the other side. He also included 10 cases of Jeno’s pizza mix.
The publicity worked, and Kinney received grants sufficient to replace the entire water system. Meanwhile, the city decided to have fun with their new status and issued passports and formed a Kinney Navy which consisted of a single canoe on the shore of Kinney Lake. Requests were received from around the world to enlist in the Kinney Navy.
In the past, Kinney held a large festival called Secession Days.
The town had 111 businesses over the years, but only a handful of non-residential buildings remain including the City Hall, library, Great Scott Township building, and Liquid Larry’s bar (formerly Mary’s Bar). The Great Scott Township building is available to rent for special occasions.
The Mesabi Trail™ has been funded in part by the LCCMR and the Minnesota Environmental and Natural Resources Trust Fund.