Previous Page Search Again Next Page

Lake, Pike, Sandy and Kugler townships. Of these, Pike and Kugler were established in 1904, Vermilion Lake in 1912 and Sandy in 1916, indicating that administrative boundaries followed years after the Finns had begun to settle in these wilderness regions in the 1890s.

The Pike River winds northward between two iron-rich ridges, the Mesabi and the Vermilion. The first Finn to settle in the valley was Fred Anderson in 1893, and he was soon followed by Andrew Hiltunen and J. R. Salmela. Arduous effort was required here, too, to clear the forest and to make way for cultivation, to open even a primitive road, to establish fords and rafts for river crossings. According to the Vermilion Lake history prepared by the St. Louis County Rural Schools Leisure Education Department, "Cattle were fed with wild grasses, and frugal housewives sold butter in five-pound crocks while the children gathered berries to be sent to Tower to be sold."

The Finnish center of population clustered at a point about 8 miles southwest of Tower. Settlement was furthered by the presence of the Vermilion Trail and the Duluth and Iron Range railroad with its stop at Athens; the pioneers themselves cleared a road from Tower to Vermilion Lake, via Wahlsten.

Olof Määttä was the first Finn here who owned a horse and wagon. He and his wife Hilda (Pöyliö) were the first to marry here. Lauri Salmela and Alma Simonson were the first white children born here. There were many Indians in the area, and the Finns generally got along well with them. The Indians used to paddle along Pike River in four-man canoes, peddling game and fish, and the Finns often bartered with them, offering dairy products in exchange. Game, of course, was available to the pioneers as well, and even bears were far from uncommon here.

Early settlers included Fred Anderson and his wife, and Peter Payla and his family. In fact, Payla became the first local postmaster and as a local businessman was among the first. The very first local store, however, was opened in 1919 by John (Soine) Hendrickson, who later sold out to John Salmela, while later storekeepers included Matt Hill and Uno Huttula. Payla kept his post office and store at his own home, and the community got its name from him. Subsequently Peter Payla was also a member of the school committee for years, after the first school was opened in the home of Charles Kangas in 1905. Other committee members were Jacob Carlson, Matt Hill, John Mäkelä and John Salmela. Later, Lillian Arkkola became teacher in the Payla school. Peter Payla, meanwhile, went on to become one of the


Previous Page Search Again Next Page