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Peter, which now had a population of 7,754 while the whole county had 20,929.

Renville and the First Finnish Pioneers

Renville County lies northwest of Nicollet, but one flank of it still follows the Minnesota River. Having marked down the lands they wanted, the first Finnish group came to Brick Cooley and to Camp. Peter Lahti, receiving his discharge from the army after ten months' service, was the first to be bold enough to come to this region, where the Sioux Indians had in 1862 brought destruction and death to pioneer families living on isolated farms. To make life more secure, the Federal Goverment had built Fort Ridgely, which housed a cavalry unit, but when conditions returned to normal the fort had been pulled down. Lahti built himself a log cabin and cattle shelter on the 160-acre homestead he received, and he offered to put up Matti Niemi-Johnston until the latter could take possession of his own land at Camp. 3 In addition to his farming, Lahti used to do a great deal of hunting, and for years he hunted the forests north of Bird Island Lake. Later on in life he became the first Finn in Minnesota to be involved in a scandal: on 18 February 1882 the Uusi Kotimaa published a story, according to which Lahti had been locked up in an insane asylum after putting his farm in his wife's name : "This was followed by arguments over which one was the boss. The wife procured witnesses and took the matter to court, which decided that the husband was unsound of mind, and now his wife is both wife and boss at home," wrote the

wife too much authority, it's a dangerous thing."

Another settler in this area was Matti Pokema (Matts Pukema or Bogema) who came with his family and settled in what was to become the town of Franklin, situated in the northeast corner of Birch Cooley. 4

Information about other Finns who arrived at this time is vague, but at least one Mikko Heikka seems to have settled in this new region. According to the WPA history of Birch Cooley, "he hunted for eight years and then got himself a homestead." Salomon Budas (or Nulus, or Pudas) mentioned in the previous chapter as one of the first group to arrive in Red Wing, seems

3. Nicolas Johanson interview. Franklin, Minnesota, 1938. WPA Archives, St. Paul, Minnesota.

4. Isaac Bogeman interview. WPA Archives, St. Paul, Minnesota.


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