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Flying Bird Image

When Everybody Called Me Gah-bay-bi-nayss,
"Forever-Flying-Bird":
An Ethnographic Biography of
Paul Peter Buffalo

Timothy G. Roufs
University of Minnesota Duluth

a note on tenses
a note on style

orignal tapes information

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Buffalo Image

38

Finns, the "Sweatbath Men"(1)

There are a bunch of Finns in Deer River. Deer River is mostly a Finn town. But Deer River also has Norwegians, Swedes, and Indians -- and the Finns helped all of us lots.

We call these Finns Mah-du-du, Ma-du-duu wI-nI-nii. Ma-du-duu is "a sweatbath." Ma-du-duu wI-nI-nii, that's "a sweatbath man." That means, "The-people-that-use-sweatbaths, steambaths, a man." Ma-du-duu wI-nI-nii, or wah-du-wI-nI-nay, that's "sauna men." And that's the Finns.

A Norwegian says, muk-ah-kii. "Frog." Well, the Indian uses that too. You know, when they get together, the Finns sound just like a bunch of frogs. You couldn't understand them, "la-dada-peli-labla wii-hIss wiwi awa wa."(2) Muk-ah-kii means frog. Indians and Norwegians call the Finns frogs because they don't listen to one another. They could all talk at the same time and still know what they're talking about because that language is so simple for them. They could talk, and listen to this other guy at the same time. The Finns sound like they could be a bullfrog: "Wii-y-sla-boa." Oh gosh! It's nice to listen to them. We don't make fun of them, but we imagine what they sound like . . . and that's frogs!

The Finlanders know we don't make fun of them. Finns have more fun too, just like an Indian. See, an Indian laughs too. They laugh. The Finns often invited us in for a visit. They invited us to sauna too. Why sure!! I stopped in there. I was right with them. Sure. We had a lot of fun. I was young then, I'll tell you. We had coffee with them. You bet! They made good coffee too. I learned part of Finnish, at that time. We said a lot of things together, and they said a lot of things in Indian too. We'd laugh at one another. We used to have a lot of fun.

The sauna is something the Finns brought into the country. But the Indian knew it before -- as a "sweatbath."(3) The Indians always had a sweatlodge before the Finns came. Before the Finns came we called it a "sweatbath." We called it a "Finnbath" later on. Finns, Norwegians, Swedes, and everybody went to sauna. We knew that, but we still called it a "Finnbath" at that time. The others got it from the Finns, and they knew how to do it.

The Finns use the sauna for bathing. They used it for rheumatism. They used it for doctoring. That's where they kept clean, and it was always busy. They used the sweatbath for the flu or anything. And they didn't use that sweatbath for anything else. It was only a bath house.

They didn't use it for washing clothes, or smoking fish, or making jerk-steak, or anything like that. They might have in the Old Country, but we(4) didn't here. We always had enough lumber here to separate the bath from the other buildings. We separated them in respect for what we use it for. See, we respect the meat, smoke-meat, and we have separate ovens up here that smoke fish and smoke meat. They're more like ovens than a sweatbath, but they work good because we use maple and hardwood. We had lots of wood, yea. So we had separate buildings for smoking fish and meat.

The Finns came in our area, well, the way I remember, it was about 1912, '11, '12. I saw one once before I left for Tower School,(5) but, mostly, they came into our area while I was away at school.(6) The Finns did lots for us here when they came in. We learned a lot from them. I'm talking about Deer River and the Reservation near there, seven miles west of Deer River. Some of them, most of them, by about 1918, had their own sweatbath. It was about 1920, 1919, and all that time in there, when they began to have their own sweatbaths. Some of the Finnish settlers who came about 1916, or before 1918, had their own saunas or sweatbaths too, but they were little ones. They were accustomed to that. The first one or two Finns just made a little wigwam sauna like the Indian. They were built out of ash. They used the Indian idea of putting poles together to make a little wigwam, and they sweat in that. And we told them, "You don't have to use sticks. If you're going to use the sweathouse permanent, you better get lumber.(7) Lumber seals better." Then after while, when they got lumber, they made a little Finnbath house.

I remember the Finns at first having bath houses without fire places, without barrels. They had the center of the bath house filled with rocks. They just piled the rocks in, maybe four by five feet, and smoke would come out then between the rocks. They'd just throw the rocks in and build a fire underneath them. There'd be air space, and the flame'd go right through it. And then they'd open it on the top, so that the heat'ed go out through a big chimney -- through a stovepipe. The heat would go out through a big chimney. When the rocks got hot enough, they shoveled the ashes and coals out, and shut the draft.

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Sauna stove.

Sauna stove.
Creator: Matti E. Kaups
Photograph Collection, 1974
Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. GT2.53 p11 Negative No.

In those early days they would sit on the ground -- not on planks, but right on the ground. It would take about, oh, four to six hours to heat the rocks for a sweatbath. I remember that. That was before the barrel stoves came 'round. They had openings on the tops for the escape of smoke. The smoke escaped through the top, and they had a shutter to adjust the heat and the smoke. The barrel stove makes it easier now.

The first permanent sauna was just a little lumber building that was sheeted and insulated. It was made out of lumber, and the outside was tarpaper. It was well built. There was no draft. The door shut tight.

When the Finns came to Deer River and Ball Club and first built a sweatbath sauna with lumber, that building wasn't very wide. It was just a small room, because when they build a sauna the size depends on how many will use it -- and there weren't that many Finns around them days. When I first saw that Finn sauna house, where I grew up, near Dear River, there was a bench in there about two feet high. They'd go in there and then they'd strip off, ya. The room inside was about twelve feet, twelve feet round! It was round. The first sauna baths in Deer River were round buildings. They were round, some of them. And the size of them all depends on the size of the crew who's going to take them saunas. If he's alone, he doesn't have to make it big.

Some of the Finnbaths were made out of logs, sometimes. Especially in the lumber camps. But sawed lumber(8) was so cheap, and they built so fast with that lumber, that the Finns most generally used lumber for their bath house. Besides, with logs you have to plaster(9) regularly. They didn't trust the logs very much because the logs may get rotten, and if a spark got in there it might burn down the whole thing. Nowadays, those old log Finnbaths are falling down.

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Finnish type sauna, Heiskanen Farm, Toivola.

Finnish type sauna, Heiskanen Farm, Toivola.
Photograph Collection, 1937
Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. MS2.9 TV r6 Negative No. 66057

 

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An abondoned one-room east Finnish savusauna near Toimi, Lake County.

An abondoned one-room east Finnish savusauna near
Toimi, Lake County.
Photograph Collection, 1972
Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. ML3.3 r12 Negative No.

The first steamer was made of rocks. Later on they had a barrel stove. In the lumbercamp saunas they always used a barrel. We have one up there in Ball Club now, a Finnbath with a barrel stove. I tell you that was made, well-made! They piled the rocks right against the barrel so that the rocks covered the barrel. To heat the rocks you just build a fire in that barrel.

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Sauna stove.

Sauna stove.
Creator: Matti E. Kaups
Photograph Collection, 1974
Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. GT2.53 p12 Negative No.

They used cedar boughs. And they put enough cedar boughs in there, on the rocks, to purify everything. And that smells good, yea. Sometimes, early on, they put some of the cedar boughs in there dry, on the floor. Later on, there were planks on the floor, yea, so you could be sure your foot was on the level. They didn't leave the ground open, because they might slip and fall on the clay. There were cedar boughs on the floor, or on the ground, and after they got through with cedar boughs then they raked them off of the floor. You know, they swept them off the floor and they threw the boughs outside. It's easy to rake off cedar boughs with your hand, when it's dry enough. They would rake the branches, then scatter them outside.

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Cedar

Cedar.

I've had a sweat in the Indian sweatbath -- the little one with canvas to hold heat -- many a-time. But I've never had a sweat in a Finn sauna house. They invited us to sauna, many, many a-time. But we didn't go. Later on, I looked at it though. I just went in and looked at it, to see how they did it.

The first time I went in and looked around at a sauna was in nineteen . . . , about 1940, '38. That was a Finnish sauna. I was up there in the woods by Iron River.(10) I was up there for this logging company, Tom Bradley's. I was working in a lumber camp, and there were Finns there.(11 ) I drove team and in a logging camp. I took any job I wanted. I worked for Tom Bradley of Duluth, and they had a big camp. I worked for Campbell -- I think I did work for Campbell too. I worked for two together, two loggers together. That was at Iron River, at Tom Bradley's lumber camp of Duluth. He had a drying kiln there, which he used to dry lumber. He had a mill up there too, and I went there to work with him. That was about '36, '38. That was quite a while ago, maybe it was even in '40 or '42 somewhere. I worked up near Grand Marais, between Grand Marais and Two Harbors, somewhere in about 1942. I was the only Indian there, and I heard them laughing in the bath house. Geeze I felt like getting in there with them. Sure!

I walked in there to see what a sauna looked like. And there it was! That bath house was built of two-inch-thick lumber. It was about eight by ten, something like that. Maybe it was ten by twelve. And it was sealed! There were no windows in that bath. It was sealed, yea. The house was sealed.

There they used a barrel stove. Rocks with a barrel-stove were inside. They heat those rocks on a rack around the barrel stove. The barrel stove was placed on the ground, because the barrel stove heats up the ground also.

They'd make them barrel stoves and racks through the blacksmith's shop. We had a blacksmith's shop in the lumber camp, and those people who wanted a bath house made racks to hold the rocks around the barrel stove. A Finn in that lumber camp constructed that bath stove and rock rack. He made it just right, the way he wanted it. That way they didn't have that smoke coming against you, or the flames. No.

There's tricks in all trades you know.

They had a bath room, a shower bath room, in camp, but nobody used that. They used that sauna! They used that Finnish bath in the lumber camp. Lots of the lumberjacks would take such baths, but not everybody. We had a hundred-fifty in that camp. They hired many people in those camps, and they realized they had to have room for anybody that wanted to go in there and take a Finnbath.

They used that bath house pred'near, pred'near twice a week -- because there were so many men, way up in the North. If they had a little cold, a touch of flu, they'd sweat it out. They get up on the bench and sweat it out. So they all feel good. You feel good on that.

Later on they'd always stand on a bench. Boy I thought this was really good though. I used to go in there and see them standing on a bench, oh, about six-feet wide. The stove was in the middle and some of the men were standing against the wall. Others stood on both sides. They'd stand over the rocks, on both sides, and one of them would spray the rocks. And they had boughs, cedar boughs, in there to splash water on the hot rocks. Sometimes they used a ball of hay(12) instead. They dip it in water and just splash that on the rock and the steam comes. And sometime's they'd stand there and just pour cold water on the rocks to make steam. And that steam makes you sweat. The steam is the one that helps you. They didn't used soap in that bath house, to wash themselves. It was just sweated out, yea, with steam.

You steam the sweat out from you -- but you have to drink water. Drinking that cold water keeps your internals cool, but the sweat on the surface of your skin comes out. So if you drink cold water, you're all right. They drink a lot of water with it. You can't go in there without cold water. They always drank cold water in there. You can't stand it without a little cold water. Ya, you have to drink water. We used cold water too, in the Indian sweatbath. It gets so hot in there I could hear them groan in there, in the little Indian ones: "Ah$. Iuu$. Iu." That steam would come up so fast and they'd holler.

Some of the Finns also use the cedar boughs to beat themselves. They would beat themselves while they were standing or sitting on the platform.

How they came out of there and sweat! Some of them would run outside and roll in the snow, and very quick they went back in to wipe off. See, that closes the pores. Some of them rolled in the snow, but some didn't. Some of them would just wipe off, because it's cold up in the North.

They had their clothes in the dressing room, not in the bath house.(13) They had another warm room next to the bath house. They could go in there and dress up all they want, and for as long as they want. Some of them would wear an apron in the Finnbath. Yea. They put that apron on in the dressing room. You had to put on an apron in case somebody opens the door. Some woman, you know, might look in -- they're always fooling around. Somebody would set them up to take a peek in there. Oh geeze they'd laugh at that. The cooks would do that, you know. The cooks were just raising heck with the men. But they aren't supposed to bother them men or tempt them when they are taking a bath. They might slip and fall in the rocks. That's restricted. They made the women cut that out. No women were allowed in the camp Finnbath. The men locked the door.

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Women "cookees" (Carrie and Olga Stene) inside logging camp cookshack, John Masten Camp, Beltrami County.

Women "cookees" (Carrie and Olga Stene) inside logging camp cookshack,
John Masten Camp, Beltrami County.
Photograph Collection, 1917
Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. HD5.7 p60 Negative No. 33302

Niishka (XXXsp?? Nuska?? as in Nuska Lake??) was the first Finn person in our area. He was the first one I knew anyway. Paul Niishka (XXXsp??) came first and I friended with him a long time, Paul Niishka. Paul Niishka didn't start a farm. He was a watchman for some land and for the summer resorts that were coming in and building up in the area. He just started working, and he knew how to work. Later on he helped around resorts, cleaning out the shoreline and pulling all the timber out along the shoreline. He utilized the deadheads and timber that was uprooted along the shoreline -- "driftwood" you call it in English. He cut it up by hand and piled it. He used that for the winter. That's a Finn. I think he was a good manager of the land. He was a good person.

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Man sawing wood.

Man sawing wood.
Photograph Collection, 1915
Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. GT2.52 p15 Negative No. 46934

I wouldn't know who came with Paul Niishka [sp?], when he came, because I never asked him much about that. But I knew there was a Finn here and there, at that time. And I thought to myself, "They must be coming in now." Years ago it had been predicted by my older class that Whites would be moving into our area.(14)

"It must be time." That's all I thought.

I went to school. See, I left the country for school in 1909,(15) so I don't know much about the Finns actually moving into our area. I was away when the first Finnish people besides Niishka came into the Deer River area. I didn't know when they came in because when I was nine and ten years old I was up north in the government school.

Then afterwards, when I was done with school, when I came back to the Deer River area, I saw a lot of Finns. When I came back from school(16) I saw the Finns working.

"How come we have a lot of Finns here?" I asked my folks when I got home from school.

"How come they are Ma-du-duu wI-nI-nii?"

My Dad, my Step-dad, told me about the Finns, and their sweatbath. And he said, "They're workers. You watch that swampland they're taking. They go through the swampland and pull up roots and everything. They clear land." Later I saw what he was talking about.

When the Finns came into that country by Deer River, by our area, what did they do?

They did the same thing as the Indian had done for a living. They'd hunt. You didn't have to go far to see a deer. They were good shots too. And sometimes they'd trade for venison. We took what venison we could trade and traded them for their crops. They knew how to farm, you know. They grew crops like turnips, carrots, onions, and everything. And they fished! Finns like fish!!! They were full of smoked fish. Yes, they like fish. They ate any kind of fish. They ate anything they could get a hold of -- whitefish or anything. They're right there with their nets too. We ate food, we grew food and hunted, and traded what we could with them. We hunted, grew, or traded everything, and all we had to do was buy sugar. It was much easier to get along those days. You had everything. You had animals for stew.

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John Kurnicki root cellar of Finnish type, St. Louis County.

John Kurnicki root cellar of Finnish type, St. Louis County.
Photograph Collection, 1937
Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. MS2.3 r1 Negative No.

When the Finns first moved in, they went in the woods. Most of them at first were lumberjacks. They piece cut.(17) They were lumberjacks, loggers. They went for the timber. Before we knew it there were a lot of Finn people coming in and working in the woods.

The Finns like to work on their own. They like to do their own contracting.(18) A Finn always thought that, well, things work better just taking a contract job rather than working for an hour wage. He'd take a contract of forty acres and he'd put up a little log cabin there. He'd chink it up with moss and everything. It had a low roof. {XXXadd photo here} He'd get his own tools. He stayed there all winter. When he came out of that woods he had money coming. And that money some of them spent too easy. But most counted every cent.

If they took a job as contracting, they took a job where they could be working with the other Finns. If they wanted to help(19) somebody else rather than take a contract on their own, there was always a Finn camp where they could go. I know a lot of Finn camps. There were camps where there were Finns and Norwegians and Swedes and everything, but the Finns normally wanted to work by themselves.(20) The Finns would rather have three, four, five, six Finns in a camp to cut cedar ties(21) and everything. They worked as hard labor. They understood one another, and in the evening they got along good and talked. So did the Norwegians.

At Scott's Landing,(22) they're all Finns.

You know how they started?

The frontier of Finns came. And all they were after was work in the swampland.

You know what they cut?

They cut posts, cedar posts, and poles. They'd peel them all too.

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Peeling posts with a spud, Page-Hill Company lumber camp.

Peeling posts with a spud, Page-Hill Company lumber camp.
Creator: Arthur A. Richardson
Photograph Collection, 1910
Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. HD5.29 p5 Negative No. 68768

Some of them were cutting cedar for posts -- cedar posts seven feet long. Some cut poles sixteen to eighteen feet long, making pilings and all that stuff.

Scott's and all the farms along the river(23) were all solid timber -- cedar, cedar, cedar. The Barnes' farm(24) is one of them too. That was all cedar swamp where Joe Barnes' folks' house is.(25)

Besides the Finns cutting cedar in the swampland, the Norwegians and Swedes were on high land, cutting the Norway and white pine with a cross-cut saw. Nobody bothered the cedar until the Finns came, because there was enough white pine and Norway. The Finns didn't handle the Norway and white pine. The Finns were making good on the cedar, and the Norwegians and Swedes went into the gI-po-a(26) for the white pine and Norway. There they were making good money on good timber.

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Sawing down a tree, Red River Lumber Company, Akeley.

Sawing down a tree, Red River Lumber Company, Akeley.
Photograph Collection, Postcard, 1913
Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. HD5.22 r4 Negative No. 60354

They all got pretty good pay, at that time, even cutting cedar posts. And the valuation of the money was valued at a dollar. The food prices, the clothing, the living, the cost of living, wasn't so much. And that's what some of them lived on. They weren't wealthy or anything, but they made 'er.

They made pretty fair money, because they knew how to sharpen their tools by hand and everything. Mostly they used those Swede saws, I mean a one-man cedar saw -- that was a wide one, with one handle on -- and an axe. All they had to do was knock down the cedar, cut it up, trim it, and pile it -- and they were good at that. And the timber and the ties they cut were just like they were planed with a planer, some of them. And they piled them up and got them right out of the woods. They didn't leave anything in the woods.

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Man sharpening saw at Kileen & Company lumber camp.

Man sharpening saw at Kileen & Company lumber camp.
Creator: William F. Roleff (1873-1943)
Photograph Collection, 1914
Miinnesota Historical Society
Location No. Album 95 Negative No. 26190

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Lumberjacks filing and setting the saw.

Lumberjacks filing and setting the saw.
Creator: Arthur A. Richardson
Photograph Collection, Postcard, 1905
Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. HD5.22 r20 Negative No. 37997

After the poles and cedars were cleared out then they would burn over the land. They burnt it up. They burnt the tree tops and everything and made a good garden soil, a rich soil, out of it. Some places they were burning it as fast as they could.

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Burning the piled brush and debris after lumbering has been completed.

Burning the piled brush and debris after lumbering has been completed.
Taken on Section 16, Township 145N, Range 30W,
Minnesota National Forest Reserve.
Possibly photographed by creator: W. E. LaFountain
Photograph Collection: Lumbering operations on
the Minnesota National Forest Reserve, 1904
Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. Collection I.11.13 Negative No.

They were improving the land. They made a swampland into a homestead by uprooting stumps, piling them up with a horse. They had horses. Oh, they raised nice horses, later on. Yea, they even had a horse to help them. And maybe they had one ox or something. And after the land cooled off they'd pull what was left of the stumps out with horses. Then they took grubhoes to cut the sod up and to get the roots out all around the stumps. They chopped the roots way down.

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Christ Moen and Iver Knutson Grubbing tree stumps on the Iver Knutson farm in Renville County, along the Minnesota River.

Christ Moen and Iver Knutson Grubbing tree stumps
on the Iver Knutson farm in Renville County,
along the Minnesota River.
Creator: Ole Aarseth
Ole Aarseth Photograph Collection, 1915
Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. Collection I.97.6 Negative No. 10752-A

Then they took their teams and pulled the stumps out. They'd hook onto a stump and they'd pull it out. Those little ponies can pull! They took those stumps right out. Those swamp stumps are easy to pull out when you have a horse, and if you chop the roots -- and at the same time you cut up the sod.

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Horses being utilized in land clearing operations in northern Minnesota.

Horses being utilized in land clearing operations in northern Minnesota.
Photograph Collection, 1924
Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. SA4.1 r10 Negative No. 10969

If you break up the sod, it'll dry up the live timber and live brush making it easier to pull out the stumps. You can even grub them out after a couple of years. I did lots of that myself. And when you cut the roots and then cover the roots up, the roots deteriorate into the soil. So it was much easier, in later years, to cultivate that. The roots come out just like dead wood.

If there was anything hard that you needed to pull out, like stump or anything, they'd get a block and line. A block and line is a double hook with ropes and pulleys. You anchor the block and line, take a horse, and pull out the stump. A horse alone can pull a stump out pretty good, two, three years after you cut the roots. Cut the roots, wait awhile, and the stump will come right out. That's how much work there was on the frontier. White people and also the older class Indian taught us how to do things.

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Oxen pulling log.

Oxen pulling log.
Creator: Ross A. Daniels
Photograph Collection, Postcard, 1905
Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. SA4.1 r3 Negative No. 69733

Later on in years they got dynamite. Then they blowed the stump and pulled out the pieces with their horse. And they made good land.

As they cleared the land, they were planting at the same time, so they still got their crop while they were working on clearing the land. That's what they figured. Along the edges of swamps there is black muck. They cultivated that first. They chopped up the sod and planted crops at the edge of swamps. It doesn't take much of a piece of ground to raise a big crop. They grew big cabbages -- big cabbages -- for sauerkraut. They grew all kinds of stuff -- carrots, big son-of-a-guns.

"How can you do it?" I asked one of them when I first saw that.

He said, "You gotta take care of 'em on the start. When they get their foothold they grow later on by themselves."

Some places the Indians used to plant around the stump. They put in their garden while they were killing the roots, younger trees, and young shoots coming up. So when they worked on the land they still got a crop too.

And then after while, in the spring, the Finns started breaking a bigger piece of ground. They broke so much ground every year. The more you worked on the land the more crops you'd get and the more land would get cleared. Even if you just used a grubhoe to cut the roots and everything, eventually you got the land cleared, after so many years. Finally their piece of land became large enough so they could cultivate it.

Then they planted the middle part of that swampland too. But still they flooded out, at times, when the water's raised. And it didn't do so good the first time, so they put in ditches, draglines from the swamp to the mainstream of the river. They got draglines to make ditches. They made ditches to keep this soil dry, to regulate the water. See, that's why you still see those big ditches around. They're for the land. That dried the swamp up. And they re-seed that with hay for the stock. They got stock and they made a home. They dried the land up so they could work in the swamp. The Finns, in a cooperation plan, worked cooperatedly.(27) They got a voice,(28) and by working hard they got their places.(29)

Hoh! They would clear out forty acres, sometimes two or three forty-acres. They worked 'till dark! They were glad to be settlers and have a home. They built log cabins and everything like that. Then they got a one-horse plow, a lot of them. Boy they made big farms out of that swampland! They'd work it, and they'd go in the sauna and wash up. I think they're hard workers. They were hard workers!

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Man displaying an old Scandinavian plow.

Man displaying an old Scandinavian plow.
Photograph Collection, Postcard, 1920
Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. SA2.5 r11 Negative No. 10479

So that's what improved the land. But even after they improved it, it was still rough swamp. That's the frontier of our country.

They were the frontier of the country, you might as well say. They cleared up a lot of land, they planted good gardens, and they're hard workers. They're fit for any job, as a hard laborer. They do a good, a wonderful job. The Finns did great work. They were good workers. They work! Oh, they'll work! They're really workers. At five o'clock in the morning they're out there, and they're there until six at night. When it was dark you could still see them working out there. They worked ten hours a day, a good ten. Sometimes some of them worked twelve hours. If you were working for somebody else you had to work ten hours to get any money on account.

That's what learned us how to work, most of us. We compare what we're doing with the Whites -- 'specially the Finns. So we are learning from the Whites as we go along, and also from the newcomers. Of course, a lot of the other newcomers I didn't know were Finns. But anyhow, I got along good with the Finns.

I figured that they should know what they're bringing in, because they knew how to get across from the Old Country. I talked to many of them.

"How did you come across?"

"Well, by working my way through, on the boats, handling freight."

"What did you come for? Why did you come?"

"Ah, we want to live on a piece of land, and the country, the soil and everything, is good. The climate is good. So I think we could do better here, especially by working together."

"OK."

"How we going to work together?" I'd say.

"Well, we'll build a farm. We'll build cabins and everything. And if you need any money for anything, the Federal Government will pay for that for you. The Government will give you a few dollars to help you build a cabin, but you have to furnish the timber."

There was a time when these swamplands were let out by the Federal, State, government, as a homestead.(30) White People were taking homesteads in our area about 1912 -- somewhere in the neighborhood of 1912 -- because I heard at that time when I came back from Tower School that they were letting out the swamplands for homesteading. To get a homestead you had to improve that land. Then, after so many years of working on that and making improvement, you could file for a private ownership, and that land was yours.(31) They'd give you papers and tell you what to do at the State or County office, or wherever the offices were. That's where I saw a lot of Finns come into this area. Some of the Finns first came to clear-ify their plantations. What I mean clear-ify is that they came to get the proof of how much work they put in on a piece of land, certifying how much ground they cleared in order to get a provement(32) to go ahead and live there, to go ahead and put a station, a camp, on there. Later, after they had their provement, they built log houses there on their piece of land.

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Homestead in the woods.

Homestead in the woods.
Creator: Louis Enstrom
Photograph Collection, 1900
Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. E200 p34 Negative No. 58210

Homestead in Indian is gaa-gii-ga'y o-naa-kii-wI-nii. That's "selected land, an individual selection for his life." gaa-gii-ga'y, that's "forever, that's his own." Ya. Then he pays taxes, a little bit.

The State figured this swampland was worth ten cents an acre as it was, so by clearing it up they could get more money out of it. These swamplands would cost the State more than ten cents an acre to have cleared for the State or County. The State found out it would be much cheaper to let a man take over for so many years, make improvements, and after they improved it the State would let the outsiders file for the land with improvements. Then the State got tax money on the improved land.

Most of the high land, with the white pine and the Norway, was federal land.(33) The Forestry administrates that land through reforestation. And that was ceded land, at them days. That's Federal, mostly Federal, but some of it's still tribal lands. Nowadays, that high land belongs to the tribe or the Federal. The government gave the homesteads what I'm talking about on the swampland. But this high land was also Federal and belonged to the government or a tribe. We had tribal lands there too. We still do.

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Indian man standing next to a Norway pine on the Winnigiboshish Indian Reservation.

Indian man standing next to a Norway pine
on the Winnigiboshish Indian Reservation.
C.C. Andrews Photograph Collection, 1902
Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. Collection I.99.14 Negative No. 11348-A

And we had individual lands, allotments, and the Government gave us enough timber with those lands to cut and build log cabins and everything. On some of the tribal land there was the land that was given to the individual as allotments. A 160 acres of land was promised to the Indians, but a lot of them only got 40 or 80 acres from the Federal for individual ownership. But they didn't do anything within twenty years, and it went back to the tribe or was sold off to White buyers or went to the state for taxes.

But the ceded land was for the settlers to improve as homesteads. After they improved it, they were legalized to get a fee patent. But they had to show that they lived there and that they improved the land. By making use of that land and staying on it, they got an improvement. I think according to the rules and regulations you have to show that you're making a living off of that land that's allotted to you.

Well, those who made the improvements got results, and they'd hear at the land office, "How many acres?"

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Land Office in Cass Lake.
Photograph Collection, Postcard, 1900
Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location no. MC3.9 CL3.1 r4 Negative no. 41545

And they'll tell them.

And the land was theirs.

Some Finns settled that way, and by improving a homestead got a piece of land to live on. But some of them already had a family waiting for them in the Old Country and they figured on getting their family over here and getting a place, a better place, to live, without waiting so long. So maybe they bought that forty instead of homesteading. See, they got the land cheap. And they knew that if it's no good, then the government will buy it back. They'll buy it from you. I think they paid low because it was just growing up to quack grass. After they took the cream out of the land(34) there was nothing there. See, much of the soil was so light that it would have to be fertilized. But with the low land you could go for many years without fertilizing. Either way, the Finns got the best deal -- but they worked hard for it too. That's the answer there.

People often ask me, "What do the Indians think of all the Finlanders and everybody else coming and taking their land?"

Well, some of them didn't just take the land. We had to give it to them. Well, you might as well say, we approved that. The land was mostly worthless swamp and everything. And they didn't take away any of the tribal land that we still had left at that time, about 1910, '12.

Boy they were workers! That's why we learned lots from the Finnish. I like the Finnish. They're hardy workers.

They're the only people, one of the only people, who have done right with the United States. They paid up what they owed Uncle Sam for World War II. And they did right by paying this country up.

They're not afraid to work. They're not afraid to pay for anything because they're active. They're husky. They're workers. They have a good mind.

In 1912 there were about one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine . . . about fifteen Finns in our area, Deer River and Ball Club included. There were about fifteen or twenty Finns, ya. They came pushing in. They were welcome ya. They work!

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Log Cabin in Morrison County.

Log Cabin in Morrison County.
Photograph Collection, 1900
Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. MM7.3 r6 Negative No. 7363-A

The first houses these Finns built were little log cabins. The first houses were built of logs. If they were going to have a home there permanently and build a farm there, they would make the houses better. But for temporary housing, for the first little houses, the first building, they had a little cabin with a lean-to roof. They didn't waste any of the first material they had. No. But they still built good homes. The Finns did lots for us. I believe in them. I know lots of them.

For the main house they'd get logs according to the size of the building they needed. If they had two in the family -- him and his wife -- they'd have a small house. If they had three or four, they got logs for a big house. The log houses were about twelve by fourteen.(35)

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Aho family in front of their home in Karvenkyla, north of Chisholm.

Aho family in front of their home in Karvenkyla, north of Chisholm.
Photograph Collection, 1905
Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. MS2.3 p49 Negative No. 20742

It was just a place to eat. Most generally the Finns are outside all the time. It was a one-room house. What's the use to build a two-section house if you're outside all the time? But they always had a curtain to make a room. They hang that on a cross-piece on the rafters. They had a cross-piece across the rafters to hang their clothes, to hang their pans and everything. Some had just one cross-piece, but how many they had really all depended on how many they needed.

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Charles Waisanan house, Balsam Township, Itasca County.

Charles Waisanan house, Balsam Township, Itasca County.
Photographer: Jesse C. Hendricks
Photograph Collection, 1915
Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location no. MI8.3 r7 Negative no. 32111

They didn't have basements in them days.(36) There was no cement to haul way out in the country!! Now they have basements, because they have roads into the area where they're living. We have better roads now, but in those days that I'm talking about we didn't have roads. But they got by, squeezing by, just the cheapest way they knew. All they had was one horse to come after their groceries, two horses sometimes.

When they build their houses they put the logs together by notching them at the corners. They build them by putting a notch right towards the end, and then they'd build a notch on the next one. Then they'd roll that log in the notch. That stands there! You can't move those logs. The more weight you have on there, the more solid that is.

They'd build a barn the same way, and they'd chink it up with moss. That made good plastering. Moss makes good chink. Later on we all used plaster. But before, we always used moss.

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Heiskanen Farm, Toivola.

Heiskanen Farm, Toivola.
Photograph Collection, 1937
Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. MS2.9 TV r5 Negative No. 13894

But later on in years, they got faster in building on that. They sawed the whole end off of the logs.(37) The whole end of the logs they sawed off. That's quicker. Then they got a two-by-six and nailed it on the end of the logs. OK. They first made the four sides with two-by-sixes nailed on both ends of the sides, then they brought those sides together. Then they put in a center beam and spiked it with a center plank, on the corner, outside. They made a solid house that way.

The planks were put on the corners to hold the walls together without building a notch.(38) When you build these log houses down on the ground like that, you can do it much faster. You have pickeroons nowadays and you can line the logs up any way you want to. You line up the logs and cut them off to come out even. Then you can take a level plank and where it hits the logs you can tap it so the logs line up good, then you start spiking. Get four sides done, then raise it up. That's the way they built, later on.

The houses rested on cedar blocks. We sawed off short cedar blocks. Cedar lasts a long time. Those bottom logs are resting on leveled cedar blocks. And the blocks are just resting on the ground. We didn't drive them into the ground. The house then rested on fourteen(39) blocks, about two feet apart. Yea, we put them two feet this way, two feet this way, and then some in the center if we have a floor. You have to put blocks in the center so the floor won't shake. And when we built a house that way, we could move that house anytime we wanted.

The Finns used cedar saws to build their house. You know what a cedar saw is? It's a one-man saw. They had sharp axes and then, later on, they got a bow saw. They had sharp axes, yea! They weren't broad-axes. Broad-axes were made for big buildings. They were not always very big guys, the Finns, but could they ever throw a broad-axe!

Quite a few of them buildings had birch bark roofs. Yea. You could get birch bark in about four-foot strips those days. You just put them on top for waterproofing. But to hold heat you needed something else. For that, they used cedar shakers on the roof.

You know what a shaker is?

Like they use on a roof?

They split the cedar to make shingles. The shingles were about two feet long. They'd put them on so as to lap on one another. That cedar'll hold heat.

Straw roofs hold heat good too. Some of the Finn barns had straw roofs. The more straw you put on, the warmer the barns are. They shed water too. They're made so they shed water. After each tier they laid a big pole, longwise across the roof -- not very big pole, one about four inches across -- and they tied each tier of straw on there so that water would drain off. That's where the pressure comes down. That kept the straw in place. They also had straw roofs on houses, if they wanted. But the houses usually had shaker roofs(40) and all that.

The outside of the log building was anyway you wanted it. Some logs were left round, but most of them were squared. Most of the logs had a run-down slope in the back. See, the slope runs down in the back so that water can go out. They had a high front, so the water'll run down the slope to the back. Nobody walks in the back of the house because it's icy there in the winter.

You still see their log cabins and everything. They showed us how to build log cabins too. This was just about after they began to build up their own places.

The Finns were logging and there were just a few of them at first, but after they started getting a little bit of a farm built up, then more started to come. When I first took note of the Finns coming into our area, sometime around 1912, there weren't many families. There were only a few. The wives mostly did not come along with the men. The wives came later. Some Finns came with their wives, but most of the wives hung back in the Old Country. See, the ones that hung back wanted to know how these Finns made it here. And the ones that made it, they showed the other Finns how to do it. See? That's the best part of that. That's a natural way of life.

I don't know how many different families came right around 1912. It all depends on the area you're talking about. They were shipped all over the northern part of Minnesota. At first they just had a whole load of men Finns here to seek a job -- to find out how the job would be, and how this country would be. They had to be here by themselves. Later on they got money enough to send for their wives. In later years, after these on the frontier wrote back on how they liked it, more Finns arrived. In later years -- about five, six years later -- the other Finns commenced to show up. About 1918 they started to build up. Yea, and then their wives came. The wives came about 1919, yea. So when the wives came the men had the cabins ready for them. And, of course, the little sauna houses.

About 1920 I began to see more of them. Just in the Deer River area -- just in the Deer River, Ball Club, Leech-Mississippi area -- there were one, two, three, four, five -- about six, seven families. Yea. There wasn't much relation to one another of those six or seven families at first, but then, at that time, you never knew who wanted to come next. When the Finns came in about 1917 and 1918 they were not always related to the Finns that came earlier. There might be one or two new families who were related. But it all depended on what city, what division of Finland they came from -- north, or east, or west. If they were living close together in Finland that was all right, but, when they came here it didn't make any difference if they were related. If they knew the language, they got along together. The language makes it so that you're related to the nationality. They all worked together when they got here. They work together and hung together. One family to another they told one another how they made it. It wasn't the family relationship at all that was important.(41) No. The nationality was important, at least for the natives of the Old Country. They came in here as Finns and as nationals of the Finn nation. They knew they were related as a people. A Finn knows and understands his language, the language they use in Finland. When you understand the language of the people, you're related to them. Regardless if he's a Finn or not, he's still related because he can understand the language. Those first six or seven families stuck pretty close together, even thought they weren't relations.

Most of the Finns were only a couple at first, but finally, maybe, they had a boy and girl. There were also intermarriages later on. All across the country they began to have these basket socials, and dances in a private home. Well, in that way they associated, and so they knew one another. Finally, some of them engaged and got married. That's the way they started to multiply, to help the father-in-law.(42) The boy helped the father-in-law and the girl helped the mother-in-law. So that's the way it went, because the old people were getting old.

In 1917, I know one family that got up to six or seven kids, six or seven, but they were Dutchmen.(43) They called them "Dutchmen," but they weren't really Dutchmens. I think they were Germans. Later on the Finns would have six or seven too, sometimes eight. They figure on the future for their children.

Their children work right alongside of the folks. They have the cows, milk the cows, and they made butter with father {XXXcheck original to see if men made butter} or with the mother. The children {XXXgirls too?? check to see if girls worked in the barnyardsl} were always working around the barnyards. They helped cleaning the barn and cutting hay. And when the old man hired a couple of monthly guys(44) to help with clearing land, they just stayed in his house right with the family.

They were working on the farm a lot, especially afterwards when they got a team of horses. In my earlier days, before my Mom married Jack Nason,(45) we didn't have working horses, and we only saw one here and there. {XXXREM check this with the wild horse chapter.} But one time, before I left for the Tower Minnesota School,(46) I saw an old Finn going in to see my grandfather at Bena.(47) He said to us, "I've got a team of ponies over there. Go get them. I'll leave the harness on. Go get them and haul yourself wood. You don't have to go far from here for wood. Instead of packing it in by straps,(48) use that team. Uh uh, you don't have to use those straps anymore."

"Well, how much you gonna charge us?" my folks asked.

"Nahthing. You just come and use them like they were your horses."

"Ya, I'll feed 'em and give 'em plenty of water."

"As long as they're not abused, you can use them."

"OK."

Yep, the Finns helped us lots like that, right from the beginning.

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Pair of oxen.

Pair of oxen.
Photographer: Harry Darius Ayer (1878-1966)
Photograph Collection, 1910
Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location no. SA3.1 r40 Negative no. 37741

The Finns like horses. They talk common sense to them. But they didn't always have horses either. No. But . . . they had an oxen. Yea! Oh boy, these oxen were the frontier of the horse,(49) you know! Boy, they carry a load, those things, with just a stick around their shoulders and a pull-pole hooked onto the sled or wagon! Later on they had tugs. Everybody laughed when they used a horse collar upside down to fit the ox. Ya, they used a horse collar upside down.

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Haying with oxen near Ogilvie.

Haying with oxen near Ogilvie.
Photograph Collection, 1920
Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location no. SA4.51 r52 Negative no. 20208

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Load of logs at the Rail Prairie Timber Camp,  which will be hauled to the Crow Wing River.

Load of logs at the Rail Prairie Timber Camp,
which will be hauled to the Crow Wing River.
Notes: Crew identified on verso photoprint
Subject: McGee, B.O.

Photograph Collection, 1883 - 1884
Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. HD5.31 p39 Negative No. 12666

 

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Skidding with oxen at the Moses and Gaynor lumber camp on the Moose River.

Skidding with oxen at the Moses and Gaynor lumber camp on the Moose River.
Photograph Collection, 1900
Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. HD5.32 p13 Negative No. 177

 

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Oxen pulling load of large logs.

Oxen pulling load of large logs.
Photograph Collection, 1940
Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. HD5.31 p50 Negative No.

The Finnish people came here about, oh, right around 1912, or in there, and by 1917 they had their farms built up a little bit. That's when they started farming. They started farming, really farming, about 1917, or '18. Yea. They started farming when they got enough ground cleared. But during the meantime, on the frontier, some of them still didn't have time to go farming. Maybe they got a cow or two, and a horse. They bought a cow for milk, and maybe a pig or two, but at first that was about all. They didn't want to handle too much, but they always had a few corn stalks or a little corn to throw into the pigs. And they h ad a lot of room. Sometimes they'd turn the pigs loose and they'd root up things. Why, they didn't have to run around taking care of the pigs because those pigs would root all over.

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Finnish farm woman.

Finnish farm woman.
Photograph Collection, 1920
Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. GT1.4i r44 Negative No. 11620

Sinkola (XXXsp??) came in around 1918. He was the first person to make a business of his farm. A farm that was well-built became kind-a like a business in those days. That was Sinkola. Sinkola wasn't a businessman, but he was in business with his farm and cattle. A "truck farmer" you might as well call him. He had a good chance, with some good years. Before that they were all logging, cutting. But this guy, Sinkola, stuck with the farming. Oh, he'd go out and haul a load of cedar or a load of logs when anybody hired him. Ya. That way, see, he'd have a chance to grab both sides.(50) But for the most part he was in for farming. Sinkola was the first one really to start a farm as a business.

Some new Finn families came in 1918 and in the early '20's. One . . . two . . . three . . . four, four or five new Finn families came about 1918, and there were a lot of business people who came then. Two of those four or five families were business men. They came with education, and they started a business here.(51)

Andrew Hannola (XXXsp??) came and started a-hiring. Andrew Hannola also came about 1918. Andrew Hannola had a big . . . he had a grocery store. He's Finnish.

One other businessman also came then, but, well, that's farming again. I forgot his name. He was on highway number six. He had a big barn, a big farm and everything. . . .

These farms kept growing up. A farm would keep growing until it looked like a business place. They were so clean about it. It was hard for them to start, but by keeping a-working, they found a way to make 'er.

When they started business-farming, later on, about '17, '18, most generally they'd start off with two pigs. And they mostly started off with two, three cows. Later on they got five, six head, yea, but at first they had only one or two. And, they had two, maybe three horses. And they had a few chickens, but not too many at first.

When they raised chickens, they got a setting hen. They used the eggs and the chickens, and, the chickens came to multiply on that farm for improvement to their living. They knew what to do. They would multiply everything they had to eat on for the winter. They did this with vegetables and everything. If they'd end up with 75 or 50 chickens they thought they were doing pretty good. These young chickens, as they grew, became eat-able. Then they graded(52) the chickens down to the hens. They killed the roosters and cooked the roosters as meat, to make stew and everything. That helped them too. They kept all the female cattle too, and kept one bull. They knew that! Incubators came later on, and they used them, but they didn't understand how to keep the number of chickens up with the incubators.

They didn't have many turkeys because they figured the chickens alone would eat them out of the farm, because they're eating all the time. They had very few turkeys. Of course, there were prewestern turkeys.(53) But tame turkeys are better where there's more open country. The turkeys and the birds around here don't get along together. We had owls and hawks and everything. An owl could sit on a tree, and he could grab quite a few.

What helped the chickens in this area was that there were a lot of grasshoppers and a lot of insects and worms they could pick by scratching around. That helped them uphold their feeding, upholding their power to carry themselves around and cluck. But the they'd give them feed every morning too.

Besides the chickens, they had the couple pigs, around 1917. And, as I said, most generally they'd start off with two, three cows. Later on they got five, six head, yea.

They always built a barn for their cows. In the first stage it would always depend on their herd. If they bought two cows -- or whatever they had -- they each generally had a stall in the barn. If they had a stall, it was generally a double stall, made of poles, inside the barn. But those poles were well-trimmed up. The cows stood alongside the horse. Maybe they were partitioned off a little bit with a pine log, so they wouldn't disturb one another at feeding time. A horse might kick too, you know. But anyhow, the cows and the horse got along after they knew one another good, after they got used to one another. And chickens were well-denned up too, and kept warm.

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Straw shed for cattle.

Straw shed for cattle.
Photographer: Harry Darius Ayer (1878-1966)
Photograph Collection, 1910
Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location no. SA3.1 r42 Negative no. 81781

Oohh!, some of them barns were made out logs, and not very high. It all depended on the herd that they had. The size of the barn matched to what herd they had. And they got posts for themselves stuck in the ground. The barn down by Day's High Landing would be about forty feet, forty by thirty. It was just a single story. They put their hay on the top, for insulation. And they put hay against the barn. That was just as warm as any insulation. The cows didn't suffer from the cold weather as long as you had plenty of hay. And they sowed alfalfa, clover, timothy, and everything. They seeded, you know. And then when it came up, their two cows -- or whatever they had -- would make a lot of tracks on it. They would track-graze it in.

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Heiskanen Farm, Toivola.

Heiskanen Farm, Toivola.
Photograph Collection, 1937
Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. MS2.9 TV r2 Negative No. 48430

They grew grain. Yea. They scattered a little grain. When they cut that grain they made a few stacks. That was feed for their stock. They had enough to feed on -- besides wild hay. They separated the wild hay away from the tame hay. See? So they'd give so much tame hay and wild hay and grain to the cows. They also gave them some grain for cream. Oh, they weren't dumb. So they had nice looking cattle, beef, too.

When he built the barn he figured that the barn was going to be built because he had many cows that were going to have a calf, so he made room, a stall or calf pen, in the barn. He always counted on the milking cows that were coming in, or were going to be milked. In 1917, when one of the Finns built a barn for ten cows, he would likely have only four, five, or six cows. Most generally he had five, or four, five, six. You know, cows multiply fast. But while he was building, there were times when most of the Finns lived on the meat and butchered some cows, or traded for whatever they could get. He graded the cows, he graded the bulls, he graded to keep what he wanted. That eased the expenses of feeding them through the winter.

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Finnish Farmstead.

Finnish Farmstead.
Creator: Juho Rissanen (1873-1950)
Art Collection, Photo-mechanical reproduction, 1944
Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. AV1986.204 Negative No. 57408

Early on, the Finnish family would generally have two, three, four, five, six cows. Later on, in the '20s, they'd regularly have about eight milking cows, most of them. If it was a big place, they would have a few more. It would have to be a big farm to have fifteen or twenty head. But even if they only had five or six, they were rich, in 1917, because they got a lot of rich cream from those cows. They sent their cream to Deer River. We had a creamery in Deer River. There was a Deer River creamery, later on. We(54) even sold cream. I sold a lot of cream there myself.

XXXREM add stuff on the Deer River creamery here??

Finns had cattle, but they didn't get much for their cattle -- and you couldn't pay much for a cow. A cow, a good cow, was way down to twenty-five dollars. I remember. Now(55) you can't get a cow for any less than a hundred and fifty dollars -- that's for a Guernsey. They learn afterwards that the Guernsey was a better creamer. Selling cream was good living too, because you made cash money. They paid you cash to bring the cream in.

Occasionally they sold things for money and a lot of them did well by spending that money carefully! In 1917 most of the Finns would sell something. They didn't spend time in town anywhere, and always wore overalls and worked. Working always was the only thing they seemed to do. If they weren't doing logging work, if they had nothing else to do, they always had something to work on. They built log cabins and milk houses, coolers.

How much of their money that would be made from their farm, in 1917 - '18, all depended on the expenses and on the output -- including what it cost to help their farm family and everything. I don't think they made any more than ten or fifteen dollars a month, but ten or fifteen dollars was utilized to add up more buildings and improve the farm, and for feed and everything. That was clear money, the ten or fifteen dollars a month.

But then automatically that money was reserved and accounted for later on. Every cent was counted for their living. They'd slip it back again during the dead part of the season, when there was a slowdown. So . . . the money slips back again to pay the expenses. . . .

. . . In fact, to tell the truth about it, I don't believe there was any money in that farming! Just a good living. There you are! That's the answer to everything. That's the way the people ran it, and that was a hardship for the poor.

But feed wasn't too high. But oats, feed for the cattle, or bran, still cost money. Feed, the oats and everything, was 90 cents at that time.(56) Maybe 80 cents or something like that. If they had a pig, that was another 90 cents. Altogether, feed would cost them about six dollars, eight dollars, a month, if they had a pig -- but they'd also have to feed the pig milk(57) with some vegetation off of the garden. They would throw some garden vegetation in the pig pen.(58) And this money had to come from the profit they had saved up. That's what I meant to say before: the money keeps slipping back into expenses. They made money all right, but when they had slow days come -- that was in the summer -- they didn't have enough to spend on much but expenses. In the winter you could go in the woods and make money, but you couldn't do that in the summer.(59)

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Pig in barn doorway.

Pig in barn doorway.
Creator: Louis Enstrom
Photograph Collection, 1915
Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. SA3.5 p14 Negative No. 56763

They had summer logging sooner or later. But first they had to have a crop going and there was a lot of them who stayed home to get their seed in. Seed was another expensive item in those days. They had them over the rope at all times, those poor farmers.

There were some sheep, them days. They had a pretty good size sheep ranch up along Leech River. Flemming had a big herd. Sheep came in and killed all the brush. They had sheep here too, closer to our place on the Mississippi.(60) The Finns had three or four sheep -- something to work on, a few, that's all. There wasn't much goats. The Finns didn't have time for goats.

But some farmers sooner or later got to be modern and they had some extra cash, so they got guineas(61) -- some of them. When there's a hawk around, the guineas will make a lot of noise. They're ready to battle, so the hawk kept away. That guinea cost a little more than other birds, but he kept other birds alive, see. How those guineas would make noise when they saw a hawk come! Maybe they had them, one or two guineas, but they didn't have too many guineas because the guineas were pretty good on market. Everybody wanted a guinea to watch the farm. If a stranger came in there they'd make noise. They make a lot of noise for any stranger. For human beings, or dogs, or wolves, or anything, they'd make a lot of noise, and the farmer then knew, "there's a stranger in here."

They had dogs. The Finns had dogs, mostly cattle dogs -- big, big dogs. Some of them had duck dogs, like a rattail water spaniel. They used them for hunting, to hunt ducks. Some of them finally got tame ducks up here. The Finns didn't have much time for ducks because there were plenty of wild ones. They didn't care for what they already had in this country. They raised what they didn't have, like guineas. Guineas were good, they did the job, and they were utilized.

Now speaking of later years, George Scott had a big farm. Now that's turned over to the State. He was a big farmer. George Scott had horses and cattle, and he always had a hired man to take care of them because he was on the road all the time. They had a big hotel up at Mud Lake.(62) The hotel had tables in there for the hunters, duck hunters, and everything. It cost him money to get food, and he didn't make very much for the food they ate.

The other two or three White people that came in to our area right around 1918 always labored out, sometimes on road work. Road work was a big outfit in them days. Timber work was a big outfit too. They got pretty good pay, for those days, but they didn't get much money for that -- and the work was hard. They'd work ten hours a day and they'd go to bed tired out. They did the same thing over and over. The money was short in those days too. It was hard to get a dollar when you were working for fifty cents a day.

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Building a road, Battle Township, Beltrami County.

Building a road, Battle Township, Beltrami County.
Creator: John Krueth
Photograph Collection, 1910
Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. HE3.81 r190 Negative No.

Some of them even worked for fifty cents a day. But it was usually a dollar a day. They made about thirty dollars a month, I would say, judging. Some of them made less. Why, I know that! We worked for twenty or twenty-six dollars a month, working ten hours a day. That's what we made cutting roads and cutting brush on the roads. I know when I started to work in the woods I went to work for twenty-six dollars a month. That's what they paid for a swamper cutting roads. And after I was a swamper I had to go into sawing. I got fifty cents more for sawing with a cross-cut saw.

Anywhere the Finns wanted to they could apply for a job. They were eligible for anything. In them days we had unemployment, and those that wanted to work had to show what they knew about the work, about the job they applied for -- carpenter helper, or carpenter, and all that stuff.

But Finns were mostly loggers and farmers.

When the Finns worked for somebody else they didn't go away for long periods to work. They didn't go except just for the day. They had a job to come home to every night. They had to tend to the animals. I've seen them in the barn with lanterns, taking care of their stock. But they were hard workers. I'll tell you, they always were working on something. They didn't dress up much. Usually they just wore overalls. And the women, the Finnish women, they were helping! They'd dress like a man! I tell you the women were good workers! Yea. And they were strong as a bull. And I could hear them talking Finn.

Other nationalities from other foreign countries came in and worked also. And a lot of these people helped anybody. It didn't make any difference who they were. There were Polish too. I didn't notice the Polish until later. Later, about 1920, I looked around. There were other groups moving in. There were groups, like the Polish.

I was out amongst the Polish. They're hard workers too. In our area the Polish were more or less on the railroad. The railroad was trying to pull through from Grand Rapids {to Cass Lake XXXREM}.(63) The Polish were working in Grand Rapids. In our area that's the only means of summer labor they had.

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Duluth and Iron Range Railroad building road through  the forest as an inducement to farmers.

Duluth and Iron Range Railroad building road through
the forest as an inducement to farmers.

Photograph Collection, 1910
Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. HE3.81 p76 Negative No. 59056

The Polish started coming in the area about 1920. Mostly I noticed them in '20. At that time I was up in Warsaw, about twenty miles north of Grand Forks, North Dakota.(64)

They have a beautiful church made of stone, with a stone from old Warsaw in it. When I saw that church I started thinking, "that's a Polish church -- that Catholic church is Polish there."

There were also other people there in Dakota, grain farmers, who couldn't make money out of their farm because the value of the crops was so low. You read about the first settlement. You read about how these farmers go through in groups.

Then the Polish came in and they cleared areas for these farmers. The Polish got in there too, and helped clear fields. They were working there in the summer, and after summer was over they'd go home and work. I looked at the Polish and how they work in the fields. They were working, making things go at both places. It didn't take them long to find the channel of good living. A lot of Polish are hard workers.

Polish are hard workers and they balance their food pretty particular. They eat fruit and stuff like that. Stuff that it's good for you. I talked to them. And they're all husky. They're good workers. They're very careful.

It looks to me like they seem to be like how they live in Warsaw of the Old Country. It looks to me like regardless whether they're Polish or not -- or in whatever area they used to live -- they're living here as a community.(65) At least that's the way it looked to me. Regardless of the nationality, when people come in this area they're ready to work.

Also other nationalities came into the same area. They had farms. They go along. One works hard and the other wants to work just as hard. That's the way it makes for a betterment. They brighten up their home, and others want a home like it. They go along and pretty soon the group, the area, is a settlement.

Then we all begin to think. "Why are there better homes here? Why are there nice clean lawns, like a park and everything?" They didn't get that by sitting around. They worked. They got up in the morning and went to bed late. They worked! That's how they advance. They had money enough to put away. They realized they were getting somewhere. They were not discouraged. They just labored. They were satisfied. When you work, you're satisfied. When you accomplish a day's work, there's balance to your living.

That's what I learned from the Finns and the Polish in my early days, and I'm glad I did. I think it's too late to learn that in my age. Never wait! Start right when you're young. Start right when you're young, because you just have one chance. When you go through that chance, if you make good from the beginning, it'll be better in the end. That's good.

I think the Finns improved the area. They worked hard, just the same as the Polish. They believe in hard work. They had to support themselves. But they figured, well, that the Indian could get by because the Indian had a voice. They figured the Federal Government had to work with the voices of the tribe, otherwise the Indians would put in a big claim against them. But this claim was held down by feeding the Indians. That's all the Indian wanted. The Indian wanted help, yep, because they didn't know how to build. Later on in years they learned lots of things from the Finns and Polish. I feel that through their experience of life the Finns and Polish taught us how to do things. They share in with others. And we share in with them. And they started to learn some things from us too.

Sometimes we talk about "Finn-dians." That's just a joke. That's the way we pointed out to them that the way they acted, the way they lived, was getting to be like the Indians. The Indians are thinking, "All these 'Finn-dians' showed that they want to be like an Indian." That's why I call them, and everybody else called them -- somebody, you know, some of these people, in spots, would call them -- "Finn-dians." The Finns are the next people following behind Indians.(66) And they dress like Indians, with bands around their heads. Well, that proves that they like the style of America. They were very interested in this country and interested in getting along with the Indians. But they do better work than the Indian because they're working all the time. I told the Finns in the early days, "I think you'll have power later on to do things in the best way, in your free way of doing things. I kind of feel that you're shyed(67) because you feel you're in a bunch and that the Indian might kick on you."

"Ah un."

"The Indians don't want to bother you. You always had a good place, a nice place, with everything you wanted -- a garden crop, chickens, and anything."

I don't think we ever had trouble with Finns. They were very much like Indians. They love the Indian way of life. A lot of them told me, "We heard in our country that you need help, and we come to help you. If any Congressmen goes against your resolutions we're going to shove resolutions in our council to adjust that. You and I will work together, as a person. So that's why we're here. You, you can't help it that you weren't educated. But we have a little experience and maybe we can help."

They still help me to this day. They tell me, "I'm going to help you. You're getting to be an old man, grandpa. Anybody that bothers you gets us mad, Old Indian."(68)

"No, I never get in trouble."

I'm satisfied the way they showed us how to live, as a friend. They used to use knives in fighting years ago. But they're more satisfied now. They're more . . . I don't know . . . they're more . . . I think they'd like to figure on the next day to live with their wives and with their kids. So now when there is trouble going on they walk out. That's the best. Yep. They would walk out -- in later times.

They don't bother us. We don't bother them.

I think they're nice people to get along with. I think we got along with Finns. I still have some old Finn friends. Go ask any of them, "You know Buffalo?"

"Why is he still kicking?"

"Yea."

I'm going on seventy-six years old. I'm busy all the time. I never stay home. Some days I take off to go the seven miles to Ball Club. I never have to walk because somebody always gives me a ride. First thing they do when they see me on the road is stop, because I'm well-known too much. They are always ready to give us a hand. They're nice hard-working people.

So the Finns are going to stay here -- and they're multiplying to beat sixty of a kind! Gee!!! We get along good with them. I said to them years ago, "Some day you won't hear about Indians. Some day the Indian's going to be as White as you are. Intermarriage is going to cause that. They'll have a lot of chances to meet one another, regardless of the creed, color, race. The boys are going to marry the Finn girls, and the Finn girls are going to marry Indians. Regardless who they are, they contact one another and they discuss what to them is a good way of living.

Years ago it wasn't long before the Finns and Indians began to marry. You have to be careful what you say now. A guy may be partly Finn, partly a White person -- and look like a Finn -- but he's an Indian all right. He's on the reservation enrollment. Be careful when you're talking about the Indian, because if he doesn't like that, you're going to be caught outside.(69)

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Finnish immigrants on the Iron Range.

Finnish immigrants on the Iron Range.
Photograph Collection, 1925
Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. E150 p13 Negative No.

Be careful how you say things and about what you say about other nationalities. See, we can't help our nationality. There's nothing against Whites coming here, and it'll be a better country, sooner or later. But now it's one nation going after one nation. But these nations are going to join together, later on. There are going to be big nations when they all join together. Regardless of who we are, what nationality we are, we're going to join together.

My nationality I can't help, because I was born and raised as the Indian way of life. And so do you. You have a father and mother who talked to you before, and you remember their words. So do I.


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Footnotes

1. For further information on saunas and sweatbaths see references to Ch. 26, "'Self-Houses,' Sweat Houses, and Bloodletting."

2. Paul Buffalo is here imitating the sound pattern of the Finnish language. These are probably nonsense syllables.

3. See also XXX, Ch. XXX.

4. Both Finns and Indians.

5. Cf., page 1072.

6. Rottsolk, James E. 1960. Pines, Mines, and Lakes: The Story of ITASCA COUNTY, MINNESOTA. [Grand Rapids, MN??]:Itasca County Historical Society; p. 42: "Most of the land in Itasca County was not homesteaded until after 1900.

p. 43: "The last large amount of public land was offered for homesteading in 1910. This was land formerly part of the Chippewa reservation, mostly in Morse, Oteneagen, Sand Lake and Bowstring Townships. The land had originally been classified as pine land but was reclassified as agricultural land"; p. 45: "Very likely the first homesteader [around Deer River] was August A. Chase; he settled on the shore of Chase's Lake in 1889. . . . August Chase did not file a claim for his land until 1892 and did not receive the patent for it until the following year." See map page XXX. Rottsolk, 1960, pp. 135-147 lists the names of the individuals included in Itasca County the 1905 Minnesota State Census.

7. Finnish use of the sauna was much more frequent and regular than the occasional medicinal/ceremonial use of the sweatbath practiced by Chippewa. Hence the suggestion to make a sweathouse of lumber rather than saplings and a temporary cover of canvas or birch bark.

8. . . . Sawn lumber, Cf. Ch. 39, "Timber Days."

9. Chink.

10. Iron River . . . Ch. 38, "By Ely"

11. See Ch. 39, "Timber Days."

12. A little bundle of hay.

13. Sauna.

14. See prediction in Ch. XXX...

15. See Ch. 36, "Boarding School Days."

16. Spring, 1912.

17. They worked in the woods cutting trees on a piecework or per-"stick" basis.

18. They liked to contract with someone to cut a given area, rather than to work for someone else.

19. Work for.

20. That is, the Finns wanted to work by themselves as a group, not necessarily alone as individuals.

21. Railroad ties.

22. Scott's Landing is located . . . .

23. Leech River, and then the Mississippi River.

24. See Ch, XXX, . . . Barnes . . . .

25. Near Mud Lake, by . . . .

26. Mimicking of the Finnish pronunciation of "The Chippewa," The Chippewa National Forest.

27. Sic.

28. The began to have influence on what was happening in the area.

29. Homesteads.

30. Cf. Ch. XXX, Treaties Allotments, and Self-Government ?? Homestead . . . .

31. "Individuals could homestead from 40 to 160 acres. Anyone who made such a homestead claim had to live on the land the better part of a year, erect buildings and clear enough ground for gardens to support a family. After fourteen months he could buy the land at $1.25 an acre. Or, he could live on the land five years, but not over seven years, and obtain the land free. Two witnesses were required to ascertain that he had lived off the land as he claimed." (Rottsolk, James E. 1960. Pines, Mines, and Lakes: The Story of ITASCA COUNTY, MINNESOTA. [Grand Rapids, MN??]:Itasca County Historical Society; p. 43.)

32. Sic.

33. See Ch. XXX, Treaties, Allotments, and Self-Government.

34. The cedar . . . .

35. Feet

36. Or slabs. They put the log house on cedar blocks. See page 1069.

37. Earlier on they notched the ends of the logs and let the ends hang out beyond the notch. With the later method they cut the logs to size, and sandwiched a wall between "two-by-six" planks.

38. Without notching the logs individually.

39. To a half (i.e, along one end and one side.)

40. Cedar shakes.

41. From Paul Buffalo's point of view this is a bit of a curiosity, since, for him, the family -- the patrilineage extended back to the beginning of the world through the totem (dodaim) groups -- was of primary importance. The idea that geographic identity could take precedence over family identity was, to him, a bit unusual. Interestingly enough, as the following passages show, he clearly understood the importance of language in defining relationships.

42. Paul Buffalo's people practiced bride service, wherein, for a time after marriage, the newly-wed couple lived with the bride's folks and helped them out. This compensated, in part, for the ultimate economic loss of the daughter to her family. See page XXX. Here he is suggesting that the Finns also practiced this, and even extended it so that the girl helped her mother-in-law. Paul's people liked the Finns, in part because they saw in them many of their own traits. Cf. page 1080.

43. He's probably referring here to the Barnses.

44. Workers hired by the month.

45. See Ch. 37, "Jack Nason, My Dad, My Step-Dad."

46. Fall of 1909.

47. See Ch. 2, "Bena Childhood."

48. The women used straps, or a tumpline, to carry wood. Cf., page XXX.

49. The oxen came in before the working horse.

50. They would have a chance to earn a little cash by logging, or hauling logs, while they farmed and built up a little farm. In these early days there was very little, if any, cash involved in farming. Cf., page 1076.

51. In Deer River, MN.

52. They culled the flock, keeping the best ones for breeding and butchering the others.

53. Wild turkeys.

54. Paul Buffalo's family.

55. 19XX.

56. Ninety cents per XXX???.

57. Skim milk, after they take the cream off.

58. Usually the part of the vegetation that they didn't use themselves, such as carrot tops, potato peels. . . .

59. Because in the summer they were clearing fields, and planting and taking care of the crops. Other people who were primarily loggers could go into the woods and make money in the summer.

60. At the Leech-Mississippi forks.

61. Guinea fowl.

62. Rottsolk, James E. 1960. Pines, Mines, and Lakes: The Story of ITASCA COUNTY, MINNESOTA. [Grand Rapids, MN??]:Itasca County Historical Society, p. 86: "George Scott had established hunting camps on Mud Lake in 1909 and 1910. He once ran a 35-foot launch to bring his tourists from Deer River up the Mississippi and Leech rivers to his camps."

63. By 1896 the railroad extended as far west as Deer River. In 1899 the town was "moved out of the swamp to the point where the M. & R. [Railroad] crossed the Great Northern [Railroad] in 1899." Rottsolk, James E. 1960. Pines, Mines, and Lakes: The Story of ITASCA COUNTY, MINNESOTA. [Grand Rapids, MN??]:Itasca County Historical Society, pp. 45-46. Paul Buffalo is here referring to the extension of the Great Northern from Grand Rapids to Cass Lake in 19XXX. REMXXX Check this date and route destination.

64. See Ch. XX, "North Dakota."

65. The various nationalities come to this country, live in communities according to their nationality, and try to live here as they did in the Old World.

66. In Paul Buffalo's home area the Finnish were generally the first Whites to arrive, and they lived much like the Indians.

67. Shy.

68. "Old Man," "Grandpa," and "Old Indian," are terms of respect and affection.

69. They might confront you outside when you leave.

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