The history of Gwinn began with the acquisition of property by the Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Mining Company in the Austin and Princeton area in 1902. In 1907 the president of C.C.I. decided that a town was necessary for miners to live in. Gwinn was chosen for its beautiful location and its lack of iron deposits. The town was a model town and was designed before it was built.
It soon became a thriving mining town. In 1956 the K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base was developed as a joint civil-military facility. The base was originally used as an Air Defense Command base to deter Soviet bomber attacks. The base was closed in September if 1995. In 1999 it was reopened as the Sawyer International Airport.