Hurley, Wisconsin

Coordinates: 46°27′1″N 90°11′23″W / 46.45028°N 90.18972°W / 46.45028; -90.18972
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Hurley, Wisconsin
Location of Hurley in Iron County, Wisconsin.
Location of Hurley in Iron County, Wisconsin.
Coordinates: 46°27′1″N 90°11′23″W / 46.45028°N 90.18972°W / 46.45028; -90.18972
CountryUnited States
 • Total3.38 sq mi (8.76 km2)
 • Land3.23 sq mi (8.37 km2)
 • Water0.15 sq mi (0.39 km2)
Elevation1,496 ft (456 m)
 • Total1,558
 • Density444.31/sq mi (171.56/km2)
Time zoneUTC-6 (Central (CST))
 • Summer (DST)UTC-5 (CDT)
Zip Code
Area code(s)715 & 534
FIPS code55-36525
GNIS feature ID1566822

Hurley is a city in and the county seat of Iron County, Wisconsin, United States. The population was 1,558 at the 2020 census. It is located directly across the Montreal River from Ironwood, Michigan.


Hurley is located on the Montreal River, the border between Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The city is on U.S. Highway 2 (US 2), and is the northern terminus of US 51, and is about 18 miles (29 km) south of Lake Superior. Hurley had its origins in the iron mining and lumbering booms of the 1880s.[4] The city is located, along with adjacent Ironwood, Michigan, at the center of the Gogebic Range. The economy of Hurley, together with the city of Montreal in Wisconsin, and the cities of Ironwood, Bessemer and Wakefield in Michigan, was dependent upon the extraction of iron ore from the Gogebic (a/k/a Penokee) Range during the 19th and 20th centuries.

Hurley took its name from Canadian-born M. A. Hurley,[5] a prominent attorney of Wausau who won a lawsuit for the Northern Chief Iron Company in 1884. The compensation for winning the lawsuit was that he asked for no fee, but only requested that the town involved in the case be named after him. M.A. Hurley held stock in the Northern Chief Iron Company. The full name "Glen Hurley" was used for one year, but in 1885, the first name was dropped and the community became known as Hurley. The first Plat Map of Glen Hurley was recorded in the Ashland County Register of Deeds by C.N. Nutter, surveyor for the Northern Chief Iron Company of Wausau, in December 1884.[6]

Hurley did not become a city until April 1918. Previously, it was part of the town of Vaughn, named after Samuel S. Vaughn, pioneer resident of Ashland, for whom the Vaughn Public Library is named. When the city of Hurley was created, the town of Vaughn was dissolved and divided among the City of Hurley, the Town of Oma (Finnish for "Our Own"), the Town of Carey, and the Town of Kimball.

Henry Meade was the first mayor of Hurley.

John Ankers opened Hurley's first saloon and served as the first clerk for the Town of Vaughn, first Justice of the Peace, and first fire chief.

In early November 1887, ten people were killed in a fire that started in a three-story theater and spread to other structures.[7]

The Gogebic Range Directory of 1888 states: "During the past summer, Hurley was twice visited by terrible fires. The first occurred of June 28 and the second on July 9. These destroyed almost the entire business portion of the city, and at first it was thought that they would prove a crushing blow to its prosperity, but later events have proven that they were blessings in disguise. The wonderful pluck and energy of its businessmen were fully demonstrated when they at once began the erection of fine brick buildings in the place of the wooden ones destroyed. The result has been that the burned portion has been rebuilt with brick and stone, making them nearly fireproof. And Silver Street is one that a much larger city could well be proud of."[citation needed]

Boundary dispute[edit]

Hurley was at the center of a boundary dispute between Michigan and Wisconsin, culminating in a United States Supreme Court case in 1926, confirming Hurley belonging to Wisconsin. The Montreal River was mapped in detail in 1841 by Lieutenant Thomas Jefferson Cram of the United States Land Office Department of Topography. Cram was assigned by Congress to survey the northeast boundary between Michigan and Wisconsin. This boundary had been originally outlined by Congress in 1834 on the basis of the faulty maps of the time which incorrectly showed both the Montreal and Menominee rivers originating from the Lac Vieux Desert in Vilas County. After a detailed survey, Cram located the headwaters of the Montreal 55 miles west of Lac Vieux Desert, and recommended the boundary line be run from the center of the lake to the headwaters of the Montreal.[8] Michigan brought suit against Wisconsin to correct the boundary line between the two states. Michigan's claim included the City of Hurley and its valuable mineral deposits. Michigan's lawsuit, Michigan v. Wisconsin (270 U.S. 295, 1926), was dismissed by the US Supreme Court on the grounds that Wisconsin's long continued possession of the disputed property was acquiesced in by Michigan (P. 270, U.S. 301).


Hurley was a known gangster resort haven for mobsters in the twenties and thirties. According to an article in The Wisconsin Magazine of History, Hurley was the most infamous town in Wisconsin during Prohibition. "Hurley: a notorious northern Wisconsin city with a long history of vice. Prohibition agents staged massive raids on Hurley, but each time the saloonkeepers paid their fines and went back to their usual business. On December 27, 1926, federal agents padlocked twenty-nine Hurley saloons in a single day. A 1931 raid closed forty-two saloons, resulting in the arrest of sixty people- one out of every forty Hurley residents. In an economy dependent on revenues from drinking, gambling, and prostitution, local officers looked the other way and the city continued its business with routine harassment by enforcement officials. By 1929 federal officials were afoot in Wisconsin to access changing conditions. Prohibition investigator Frank Buckley was most aghast at what he found during a visit to Hurley. He commented that Hurley 'has the distinction of being the worst community in the State....Gambling, prostitution, bootlegging, and dope are about the chief occupations of the place. Saloons there function with barmaids who serve the dual capacity of soda dispenser and prostitute.'"[9]

Historic locations[edit]

The Old Iron County Courthouse (now the Iron County Historical Museum) was designed in the Richardsonian-Romanesque style by architect L.H. Ruggles. The building was completed in 1893 by contractors Rinkle and Carroll at a cost of $27,303. The original clock in the tower was installed by Chicago jeweler J.J. Neuhavre. Lightning struck the clock tower in June 1922 and set the tower ablaze. The original clock was destroyed and was replaced by an electric Seth Thomas clock at a cost of $1,348. The building served as the county courthouse until 1975. In 1977, it was sold to the Iron County Historical Society for $1. It has been listed on the National Register for Historic Places since 1977. It was considered "architecturally significant in an area where there are few comparable buildings." The building currently houses the Iron County Historical Museum, which features three floors of exhibits and a weaving room where volunteers use looms to make rag rugs.[10]

The Iron Exchange Bank of Hurley, was the oldest bank of the Gogebic Range. It was organized on November 26, 1885. Dr. J.C. Reynolds, the bank's first president, and his brother, W. S. Reynolds, the bank's first cashier, were the prime movers in the organization of the institution. Associated with them in the organization were John E. Burton, Alvin E. Tyler, Edward Ryan, Nathaniel J. Moore, James A. Wood, and Shepherd Homans, all men prominent in the mining industry in the area in the early days.

The first newspaper in Hurley was the Montreal River Miner which was first published on October 8, 1885. After absorbing the Iron County News in 1950 the two papers names were merged to form the Iron County Miner, which is still published as a weekly.[11] La Nostra Terra ("Our Land"), an Italian language newspaper, was published in Hurley from 1904 to 1913, when it merged into the Iron County News.

The first hotel was located at the corner of Second Avenue and Silver Street in a log building, with James Guest as the first landlord.

Burton House[edit]

The Burton House was an immense four-story frame hostelry, which was a famous gathering place in the latter part of the 19th century. John E. Burton, of Lake Geneva, erected the building in 1886. A mining speculator, his original wealth came from the iron range. Later he established offices in New York City and bought up other vast mining interests in Mexico and South America. The Burton Hotel contained 100 rooms, a ballroom, dining room, café, and clubrooms, all highly decorated and furnished with the best of the woodworkers' art of the time, and equipped with the best furniture. The Burton Hotel cost $35,000 to construct, and the furniture cost Burton $10,000. Many noteworthy people stayed at the Burton House: including Benjamin Harrison, in 1888, during his campaign for president; the actress Sarah Bernhardt, who made at least three appearances in Hurley; the financier Colgate Hoyt, nephew of James Boorman Colgate, son of the British-American industrialist, Charles Colgate; the actor Edwin Booth (brother of John Wilkes Booth); and author and playwright Edna Ferber. Grover Cleveland registered at the Burton House Saturday, October 5, 1889. By that time he had already served one term as president of the United States. In 1889 when he was in Hurley, he was a New York lawyer and businessman. Cleveland was elected to the presidency again in 1892. The Burton House burned to the ground on February 2, 1947, as the result of an over-heated stove on the first floor VFW meeting room.

Strategic Air Command Radar Bomb Scoring site[edit]

In the early 1960s, the US Air Force established a Strategic Air Command (SAC) Radar Bomb Scoring site atop Norrie Hill in neighboring Ironwood, Michigan to track and score high altitude and treetop level simulated bomb runs by B-52s and B-47s on targets in the Hurley area. A monument is erected outside of Hurley to remember six crew members who were killed in two B-47 low level runs in 1961. The Radar Bomb Scoring site was moved to Charlevoix, Michigan in the mid-1960s.


Hurley and the adjacent communities were founded upon the discovery of iron ore.

In 1965, the last mine in Hurley, the Cary Mine, closed. Following the closing of the Range's mines, many residents left the area, especially to factories in Racine and Kenosha, Wisconsin, and the economy of Hurley and the surrounding region went into serious decline. Some of the former iron miners obtained employment at the White Pine Copper Mine, White Pine, Michigan, and commuted to work 60 miles each way.


Hurley is located at 46°27′1″N 90°11′23″W / 46.45028°N 90.18972°W / 46.45028; -90.18972 (46.450361, -90.189802).

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 3.58 square miles (9.27 km2), of which 3.42 square miles (8.86 km2) is land and 0.16 square miles (0.41 km2) is water.[12]

It is across the state border and the Montreal River from Ironwood, Michigan, both cities located on the Gogebic Range.


Hurley has a cool humid continental climate (Köppen Dfb), with long, cold winters and short, mild summers. In an average year the temperature drops below 32 °F (0 °C) on 192 days, and below 0 °F (-17.8 °C) on 40 days. Hurley is also one of the snowiest cities in the United States with an average of over 160 inches of snow per year due to Lake-effect snow from nearby Lake Superior.

Climate data for Hurley, Wisconsin (1991–2020 normals, extremes 1987–present)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 50
Mean maximum °F (°C) 39.6
Mean daily maximum °F (°C) 20.3
Daily mean °F (°C) 11.8
Mean daily minimum °F (°C) 3.2
Mean minimum °F (°C) −18.7
Record low °F (°C) −31
Average precipitation inches (mm) 2.31
Average snowfall inches (cm) 38.8
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 14.0 9.6 8.7 9.8 11.3 11.4 11.1 10.1 12.2 12.9 11.5 13.1 135.7
Average snowy days (≥ 0.1 in) 13.4 8.8 6.2 3.5 0.4 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.6 7.0 11.2 52.1
Source: NOAA[13][14]


Historical population
U.S. Decennial Census[15]

2010 census[edit]

As of the census[3] of 2010, there were 1,547 people, 771 households, and 360 families residing in the city. The population density was 452.3 inhabitants per square mile (174.6/km2). There were 1,032 housing units at an average density of 301.8 per square mile (116.5/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 97.5% White, 0.1% African American, 0.8% Native American, 0.2% Asian, 0.1% from other races, and 1.2% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.8% of the population.

There were 771 households, of which 20.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 31.1% were married couples living together, 10.0% had a female householder with no husband present, 5.6% had a male householder with no wife present, and 53.3% were non-families. 47.1% of all households were made up of individuals, and 23.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 1.89 and the average family size was 2.66.

The median age in the city was 49 years. 16.2% of residents were under the age of 18; 6.9% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 20.5% were from 25 to 44; 30.3% were from 45 to 64; and 26.1% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 47.3% male and 52.7% female.

2000 census[edit]

As of the census of 2000, there were 1,818 people, 830 households, and 458 families residing in the city. The population density was 577.3 people per square mile (222.8/km2). There were 1,025 housing units at an average density of 325.5 per square mile (125.6/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 97.36% Caucasian, 0.06% African American, 1.38% Native American, 0.11% Asian, 0.17% Pacific Islander, and 0.94% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.88% of the population. 30.3% were of Italian, 20.4% Finnish, 9.7% German and 9.3% Polish ancestry.

There were 830 households, out of which 20.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 41.7% were married couples living together, 9.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 44.8% were non-families. 39.9% of all households were made up of individuals, and 20.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.06 and the average family size was 2.72.

In the city, the population was spread out, with 18.2% under the age of 18, 8.6% from 18 to 24, 27.0% from 25 to 44, 19.7% from 45 to 64, and 26.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 43 years. For every 100 females, there were 90.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 86.2 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $24,821, and the median income for a family was $33,000. Males had a median income of $27,717 versus $17,750 for females. The per capita income for the city was $14,554. About 11.0% of families and 14.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 18.6% of those under age 18 and 15.1% of those age 65 or over.


Hurley is the county seat of Iron County. The current mayor is Joanne Lundgren Bruneau.[16]

Presidential elections results
Presidential elections results[17]
Year Republican Democratic Third parties
2020 57.3% 468 41.7% 341 1.0% 8
2016 55.9% 396 39.6% 281 4.5% 32
2012 39.3% 286 59.2% 431 1.5% 11
2008 33.3% 252 65.6% 496 1.1% 8
2004 40.6% 362 58.7% 523 0.7% 6
2000 44.9% 367 52.2% 427 2.9% 24


Gogebic Community College, a two-year public community college, is located in adjacent Ironwood, Michigan. It was founded in 1932, and has a student body of approximately 1,000.

The Hurley K-12 School is located just outside of Hurley in the Town of Kimball. It was built in 1991 and serves students from Northern Iron County in Four Year Old Kindergarten through Grade 12. Approximately 550 students are enrolled as of the 2021–2022 school year.


At various times, Hurley was the site of six Christian and one Jewish house of worship.




Intercity bus service to the city is provided by Indian Trails.[18]



Hurley was served by the Chicago & North Western Flambeau Line with the Flambeau 400 train between Chicago and Ashland, and the Soo Line Railroad [formerly Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Sault Ste. Marie Railroad] between Minneapolis and Bessemer.

The Duluth, South Shore, & Atlantic Railroad Line [now Canadian National Railroad] skirted Hurley a few miles to the north. This line originally ran from Superior to Sault Ste Marie.


WHRY-AM and WUPM-FM are the two local radio stations, along with stations from Ironwood, Michigan.

Recreation and tourism[edit]

The western terminus of the Iron Belle Trail, a non motorized path, begins in Hurley. The trail runs along the former Soo Line Railroad tracks from Hurley to Ramsay, Michigan. Hurley is located near numerous waterfalls. The SISU Cross Country Ski Race is held each January in neighboring Ironwood, Michigan. The Paavo Nurmi Marathon, one of the first US marathons, is held in Hurley the second Saturday of every August.

Hurley commemorates its Italian heritage at the annual Festivale de Italiano, held every Labor Day weekend.

The National Finnish American Festival Cultural Center (NFAF) is located on US 2, near US 51 south. Viola Turpeninen Day, held annually in the summer, commemorates the legendary Finnish-American accordionist and singer. Other events take place on Mothers' day and Juhannus as well as throughout the year. The NFAF museum is open from April through December.[19]

Hurley is also known for its ATV Hurley Rally held on Memorial Day weekend, a Pumpkin ATV rally held the second weekend of October, and the Red Light Snowmobile Rally. Both attract thousands of visitors to the area each year. At the 2005 ATV rally, a new Guinness World Record was set for the largest ATV parade, with 687 participants.[citation needed]

Riccelli Park is located in Hurley. The park provides picnic and playground areas, as well as the Nestor Laspa pavilion for gatherings. The Felix Patritto baseball field is located adjacent to Riccelli Park.

Popular culture[edit]

A fictionalized version of Hurley as well as the famed character and murder victim Lotta (Lottie) Morgan was the subject of Edna Ferber's 1934 novel Come and Get It. Ferber did most of her research for the novel while staying at Hurley's Burton House hotel.[20]

In 1954, Lewis C. Reimann published the book Hurley - Still No Angel,[21] in which he claimed that crime and corruption were still prevalent in the town.

Ralph Capone, the older brother of Al Capone, died in Hurley in 1974.[22]

Notable people[edit]


  1. ^ "2019 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved August 7, 2020.
  2. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. October 25, 2007. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  3. ^ a b "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved November 18, 2012.
  4. ^ Connors, Dean (1994). "Introduction". Going for the Iron. Friendship, Wisconsin: New Past Press. ISBN 0-938627-23-6.
  5. ^ Gannett, Henry (1905). The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office. p. 164.
  6. ^ Connors (1994), p. 30.
  7. ^ "Hurley, WI Theater and Buildings Fire, Nov 1887". Eau Claire Daily Free Press. July 13, 1887. Retrieved July 25, 2020.
  8. ^ Connors (1994), p. 12.
  9. ^ Drager, Speltz (Spring 2013). "Bottoms Up: A Toast to Wisconsin: Historic Bars and Breweries". Wisconsin Magazine of History.
  10. ^ Kolesar, Kristin (March 15, 2022). "The Iron County Courthouse: Standing Strong Through 129 Years of History". History Section. The Ironwood Daily Globe.
  11. ^ Oehlerts, Donald E. (1958). Guide to Wisconsin Newspapers 1833–1957. Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin. OCLC 10421981.[page needed]
  12. ^ "US Gazetteer files 2010". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on January 25, 2012. Retrieved November 18, 2012.
  13. ^ "NowData - NOAA Online Weather Data". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved June 13, 2021.
  14. ^ "Station: Hurley, WI". U.S. Climate Normals 2020: U.S. Monthly Climate Normals (1991–2020). National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved June 13, 2021.
  15. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  16. ^ "City of Hurley". Iron County, Wisconsin. Retrieved November 17, 2021.
  17. ^ "Wisconsin election results". Lubar Center for Public Policy and Civic Education. Retrieved November 16, 2021.
  18. ^ "Indian Trails Schedule 1491" (PDF). Retrieved July 20, 2023.
  19. ^ "Little Finland". Hurley, Wisconsin. Retrieved March 20, 2022.
  20. ^ Hunt, Mary Hoffmann; Hunt, Don (2010). "Hurley Area". Hunts' Guide to Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Midwestern Guides. Archived from the original on September 7, 2011.
  21. ^ Reimann, Lewis C. (1954). Hurley: Still No Angel. Ann Arbor: Northwoods Publishers. OCLC 3731628.[page needed]
  22. ^ "Ralph Capone, 81". The New York Times. November 24, 1974. Retrieved September 30, 2018.
  23. ^ Cattelino, Jessica (2008). High Stakes. doi:10.1215/9780822391302. ISBN 978-0-8223-4209-0.
  24. ^ "Archival Resources in Wisconsin: Descriptive Finding Aids: Summary Information".
  25. ^ "The grace of old fashions in furnishing /". Retrieved June 5, 2022.
  26. ^ "A Fistful of Stars".
  27. ^ "9 Dec 1886, 1 - Montreal River Miner and Iron County Republican at". Retrieved June 5, 2022.
  28. ^ "Hurley and the murder of Lotta Morgan. 1890". The Oshkosh Northwestern. April 16, 1890. p. 1.
  29. ^ "12 Apr 1890, 1 - Gogebic Iron Tribune at". Retrieved June 5, 2022.
  30. ^ "Nell Ziff Pekarsky, 1910 - 1998".
  31. ^ "Philip Romiti, 68, Judge at Major Chicago Trials". Chicago Tribune. May 3, 1985.

Further reading[edit]

  • Aldrich, H.R. (1929). The Geology of the Gogebic Iron Range of Wisconsin. Madison: State of Wisconsin. OCLC 223216368.
  • Kohlemainen, John Ilmari; Hill, George William (1965). Haven in the Woods: The Story of the Finns in Wisconsin. Madison: Wisconsin State Historical Society. OCLC 1861314.
  • Liesch, Matthew (2006). Ironwood, Hurley, and the Gogebic Range. Images of America. Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 9780738540665. OCLC 76945540.
  • Magnaghi, Russell M. (1987). Miners Merchants, and Midwives: Michigan's Upper Peninsula Italians. Marquette, Michigan: Belle Fontaine Press. ISBN 9780942879001. OCLC 16949543.
  • Magnaghi, Russell M. (2017). Prohibition in the Upper Peninsula: Booze & Bootleggers on the Border. Charleston, South Carolina: American Palate. ISBN 9781467119443. OCLC 994225038.
  • Martin, Lawrence (1965). The Physical Geography of Wisconsin (3rd ed.). Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. OCLC 487635.
  • Oberto, Peter (2004). History and Census of the Italian Immigrants from the Seven Towns of the Asiago Plateau on the Gogebic Range of Michigan and Wisconsin. Ishpeming, Michigan: Peter Oberto. OCLC 123573816.
  • Olmanson, Eric D. (2007). The Future City on the Inland Sea: A History of Imaginative Geographies of Lake Superior. Athens: Ohio University Press. ISBN 9780821417072. OCLC 71126711.
  • Ostergren, Robert C.; Vale, Thomas R. (1997). Wisconsin Land and Life. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 9780299153502. OCLC 468776800.
  • Sturgul, Paul A. (1987). "Italians on the Gogebic Iron Range". In Vecoli, Rudolphs J. (ed.). Italian Immigrants in Rural and Small Town America: Essays from the 14th Annual Conference of the American Italian Historical Association. Staten Island, New York: American Italian Historical Association. ISBN 9780934675147. OCLC 17503967.

External links[edit]