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taken on the task of clearing that hopeless stump land, and in

his book, Americanization o f the Finnish People in Houghton County, Michigan, Clemens Niemi cited the words of L. M. Geismar, County Agriculture Agent, to the effect that the French were content to stay on the farm as long as there were woods, the children of Central European farmers simply refused to stay on the farms, the Dutch and the Belgians were not accustomed to clearing land, so that the Finns were the only hope that it would ever be done. And the Finns proved equal to the task: "From a burned over stump land the Finns have created a paradise," wrote the New York Times (22 August 1944); "the people from that far north of Europe seem to thrive best where life most severely tries man," wrote the Survey (1912). "They were of the opinion that in wanting to make man happy, God gave him a piece of land," said J. H. Jasberg, writing of the advantages of a farming life. It was in this fashion, then, that the Finnish settlement spread throughout the northern portions of Minnesota, areas which, once cleared, were to prove a fertile, rich region.

Crow Wing County

Crow Wing County lies in the center of the state north of Morrison County. In the vicinity of Brainerd, exploitation of the forests was extensive in the 1870s, in the decade which also saw the completion of the railroad from Duluth to Fargo. When the line was completed in 1874, maintenance facilities for rolling stock and repair sheds for locomotives were set up in Brainerd, offering work to many immigrant laborers. A few factories also appeared, and then sawmills and a big chemical plant.

Brainerd: By 1880, the population of Brainerd had reached 2,000, and a decade later, 5,700 (1950: 12,637.) In his 1923 study, Ilmonen 1 wrote that "it will probably be impossible to determine who was Brainerd's first Finn, but in 1873 there were already several there: Tuomas Autio, Matti Pikkarainen, Alex Nykänen, Antti Tuomela, Antti Puuperä, Johan Vapola - who all moved on to become pioneers in New York Mills later in the same decade. It was not until the 1880s that Finns came to Brainerd to stay permanently." Ilmonen also estimated that the Finnish population of Brainerd never exceeded five hundred 2 and a more realistic maximum would probably be no more than half of that.

1. Ilmonen, S. op.cit. II, p. 219 2. Ilmonen, S. op.cit. III, p. 191


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