The old town was located between Eveleth and Gilbert just south of Hwy 37.
The once thriving mining town of Sparta in St. Louis County (there is another town of Sparta in Chippewa County west of the Twin Cities), now exists only in the archives of the Iron Range Historical Society in the town of McKinley.
Old Sparta grew rapidly upon the opening of the Genoa underground mine in 1896. By election on September 26, 1896, the townspeople voted to incorporate. It wasn’t long before Sparta had a thousand residents, but when the underground Genoa and Sparta Mines converted to open pit operations, the Oliver Mining Co. purchased the land from the townspeople and several of the original buildings were moved in 1908 and 1909 to the new town of Gilbert, which agreed to increase its geographic footprint to accommodate the buildings. On February 20, 1911, the last residents of old Sparta voted to dissolve the town.
Residents of the relocated townsite considered themselves a sub-city of Gilbert and predictably stated they were from Sparta even though it was part of Gilbert. The new Sparta did not last and today, most of the buildings that were moved to Gilbert are gone. The new Sparta was located on the north end of Ely Lake just south of Hwy. 97. Hwy. 97 crosses the Mesabi Trail and ends at Hwy. 37 northwest of the trail and newer Sparta townsite.
According to “Those Were the Days, My Friend: The History of Gilbert and Sparta,” by Sanford P. Bordeau, and James L. & Kathie I. Krause, © 1983 by the Gilbert Herald, “An interesting sidelight on the purchase of the Townsite of Sparta by the mining company was the Sampson affair. Joe Sampson and the mining company could not agree on what Joe should be paid for his house and lot, so the mining company proceeded to mine all around Joe’s property. It was discovered that Sampson’s house was merely resting on rock and the company did not need the property for mining purposes.”
For more information, see the Gilbert page on this web site.
The Mesabi Trail™ has been funded in part by the LCCMR and the Minnesota Environmental and Natural Resources Trust Fund.