About Us

The company which now operates as Northwest Gas in northern Minnesota had its origin in the operations of Kanabec Hardware, located in Mora, MN. Kanabec Hardware was established following WW I by Frank Gorham and Kleo McIlhargey and one of their lines was the sale of propane-fired home space heaters and the delivery of propane cylinders to fuel them. These cylinders were filled at a facility in Little Falls cooperatively owned by a group of Our Own Hardware store owners. Following WW II Bob and Jack Gorham (sons of Frank) returned from the armed services and pursued the continued growth of the propane operation, which now became known as Gorhams’ Gas (“the Company”). Gorhams’, Inc., a Minnesota corporation, was formed to hold the gas operations. Gorhams’, Inc. built its first propane bulk plant in Mora in 1952 and commenced installing propane tanks and making bulk propane deliveries to customers.


While continuing to grow organically, the propane operation also was expanded by the acquisition of neighboring propane delivery operations. Following the purchase of Northwest Natural Gas in Milaca, MN (despite the name, a propane delivery operation) the entire company was re-branded as Northwest LP Gas. During the early 1960s natural gas came to East Central Minnesota, causing the loss of propane customers to natural gas in the towns newly served by natural gas utilities. Company management successfully pursued a franchise and built their first pipeline distribution system in Ogilvie, MN. Unfortunately, the town’s largest gas consumer, a creamery, ceased operations just as the gas distribution system was being built. The loss of this customer resulted in project economics which did not allow the serving natural gas transmission company, Northern Natural Gas, to extend its transmission line to Ogilvie. Company management then built a new propane bulk plant to serve the Ogilvie town system with propane gas. This operation was branded Northwest Natural Gas.


Over the next decade the Company built two more town propane distribution pipelines, added numerous resort or development propane distribution pipelines and continued to add customers to its trucked propane delivery operations both by organic growth and by acquisition. Mike Gorham joined the Company in 1981 and continued both the acquisition of trucked propane operations (Grand Rapids in 1985) and pipeline propane distribution systems.


Beginning in 1990, Company management involved in strategic planning began to explore the practicability of installing natural gas pipeline distribution systems in towns not yet served with natural gas. Following the determination that the economics were favorable for natural gas pipeline distribution systems serving some of these towns the Company, through an affiliate, decided to initiate natural gas service in Ogilvie, where the Company already owned and operated a propane pipeline gas distribution system. New natural gas systems were built (also by affiliated companies) in Henderson in 1992 and in Mapleton, Minnesota Lake, Vernon Center and Good Thunder in 1993. In 1994 a natural gas distribution system was built to serve Slayton, Fulda, Dovray, Avoca and Currie.


Also during the early 1990s, the Company sold two of its propane pipeline town systems and one of its large development systems to Minnegasco (now Centerpoint Energy). These sales were necessitated by Minnegasco’s expansion plans enveloping formerly propane territories.


In 1997, most of Gorhams’, Inc.’s owners elected to sell their interest in that company. Mike Gorham decided to maintain his ownership, so a sale of the southern Gorhams’, Inc. assets (all of the propane assets except for Grand Rapids) was made to an outside buyer, the departing owners were cashed out and Mike Gorham became the sole owner of Gorhams’, Inc.


During the summer of 1998 Gorhams’, Inc. built a natural gas distribution system in Cass Lake which it has owned and operated since. In 2012 Gorhams’, Inc. commenced build-out of a natural gas distribution system serving the extreme southwest portion of the City of Grand Rapids and the extreme northwest portion of Harris Township. In addition Gorhams’, Inc. operates and maintains five northern Minnesota natural gas or propane pipeline systems for other owners.


Currently Gorhams’, Inc. doing business as Northwest Gas owns a trucked propane delivery operation based in Grand Rapids, the natural gas pipeline distribution systems in Cass Lake and southwest Grand Rapids and several propane pipeline distribution systems at Grand Rapids area resorts and developments and serving the southeast extremes of Bigfork. Northwest Gas operates and maintains natural gas distribution systems owned by the cities of Clarissa, Eagle Bend and Cohasset, the State of Minnesota-owned gas systems serving Fort Ripley (natural gas with a propane backup) and Thistledew Camp (a propane system) and provides limited support services to the City of Randall for their natural gas distribution system. Northwest Gas also operates and maintains a direct-connect natural gas pipeline for Minnesota Power at its Boswell generation facility in Cohasset.