Before ‘Cuyuna’ said mountain biking, it said ‘mining’

Step into the past to learn the region's origin.

The Cuyuna Range got its name when Cuyler Adams’ wife, Virginia, combined his name with his dog, Una.
The Cuyuna Range got its name when Cuyler Adams’ wife, Virginia, combined his name with his dog, Una.

— Minnesota Historical Society Photo

Cuy-what? Cuyana? Cuyuna.

To say the word "Cuyuna" has become vernacular for mountain biking and recreation in central Minnesota and, yet, few people outside those who live in Cuyuna Country — on the Iron Range — could speak to the word's bedrock origin.

Cuyuna (and its small namesake city near Crosby and Ironton) owes itself to late 19th century prospector and real-estate developer Cuyler Adams, who discovered and mapped iron ore deposits. By 1902, Adams completed his survey and began organizing a railroad company and ore dock facility, according to MNopedia, a Minnesota Historical Society online encyclopedia. He also solicited investments in local iron mines. The story told locally is that Adams' wife, Virginia, named the Cuyuna Range when she combined her husband's name with his faithful companion: his St. Bernard, Una.

The Kennedy Mine was the first to open, in 1907, on the Cuyuna Range.

Cuyler Adams and Una appear in a building mural on the Main Street Plaza in downtown Crosby. Also on the mural are other notable residents, like philanthropists Ernest Wilbur and Jessie F. Hallett, as well as outdoor recreation scenes of the present. The public art is part of a series of murals born of a wider community revitalization campaign called Project Revive. Johnna Johnson, a former Cuyuna Lakes Chamber of Commerce director, is among the organizers. She said the constant thread among the murals is to reflect the region's history and progress.

"We are going to honor the past, but show where our future is," Johnson said.

Miners gathered at the Portsmouth Mine. Date unknown.
Miners gathered at the Portsmouth Mine. Date unknown.

Courtesy of the Cuyuna Iron Range Heritage Network

An excavator worked the Portsmouth mine. Date unknown.
An excavator worked the Portsmouth mine. Date unknown.

Courtesy of the Cuyuna Iron Range Heritage Network

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