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Chapter V

The Finnish Contribution

In Central Minnesota

Central Minnesota- the area north of the Minnesota River but south of a horizontal line that might be drawn by continuing the dividing line between the Dakotas straight eastwardis an area embracing 29 counties, which contain considerably more Finns than do the counties to the south. In considering these Finns, the counties will not be taken up alphabetically but rather in a sequence based on the routes the Finnish pioneers themselves followed.

Nicollet and the First Minnesota-Born Finnish Child

Nicollet County, located within an elbow of the Minnesota River, is really in the heart of southern Minnesota. A few of those Finns who first stepped ashore in Minnesota at Red Wing came here in their attempts to escape the epidemics. Their destination was St. Peter, the point from where the newcomers generally continued their journey westward by oxcart to the virgin prairies or primeval forest lands.

The first group of Finns to arrive here were given shelter and most welcome advice by Norwegians who arrived even earlier. The Finns took jobs on farmsteads near the city, and they saved their pay to be able to secure homestead lands for themselves. One of them, Matti Niemi, changed his name to Matt Johnston, and his son Nikolai became Nicholas and son Kalle became Charles. While most of the men stayed on farms, two of the younger ones enlisted in the army in the fall of 1864: Peter (Pere) Lahti joined the First Minnesota Heavy Artillery and young Niemi-Johnston the First Minnesota Infantry. However,


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