During the early twentieth century, the population of the Iron Range was among the most ethnically diverse in Minnesota. Tens of thousands of immigrants arrived from Finland, Austria-Hungary, Italy, Sweden, Norway, Canada, England, and over thirty other places of origin. These immigrants mined the ore that made the Iron Range famous and built its communities.
Clontarf, a railroad town in Swift County, was established by Bishop John Ireland of St. Paul in 1877 as a Catholic colony on the prairie. Early arrivals named Clontarf for the site of the eleventh-century victory of the Irish king Brian Boru over Viking invaders.
Nineteenth-century Jewish immigrants brought to Minnesota long-standing religious traditions of aiding the poor and needy. Beginning in the 1870s, German-Jewish immigrants, followed by Jews from Eastern Europe, founded an array of charitable and philanthropic groups. Women were the prime movers, though men held directors’ roles.