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When Everybody Called
"This project has been financed in part with funds provided by the State of Minnesota from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund through the Minnesota Historical Society.""This publication was made possible in part by the people of Minnesota through a grant funded by an appropriation to the Minnesota Historical Society from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. Any views, findings, opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the State of Minnesota, the Minnesota Historical Society, or the Minnesota Historic Resources Advisory Committee."
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" but 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 the Finns know 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 house for anything else. It was only a bath house.
They didn't use their saunas for washing clothes, or smoking fish, or making jerk-steak, or anything like that. They might have in the Old Country, but we didn't here.(4) We always had enough lumber here to separate the bath from the other buildings. We separated them in respect for what we use them 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, and they work good because we use maple and hardwood for that. We have lots of wood; yea. So we have 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 Leech Lake 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 wiigwaam sauna like the Indian. They were built out of ash. They used the Indian idea of putting poles together to make a little wiigwaam, 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 a 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 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. When the rocks got hot enough, they shoveled the
ashes and coals out, and shut the draft.
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 Deer 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! 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 the 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 chink or plaster(9) regularly. They didn't trust the logs very much because the logs may get
rotten, and if a spark got in there between the logs it might burn down the whole thing.
Now-a-days, those old log Finnbaths are falling down.
The first steamer was made of rocks. Later on they had a barrel stove. In the lumber camp 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.
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.
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 working for this logging company, Tom Bradley of Duluth. I was working in a big lumber camp, and there were Finns there.(10) I drove team -- a team of horses. I took any job I wanted. I worked for Campbell too -- I think it was for Campbell. Anyway, I worked for two together -- two loggers together. Tom Bradley 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.
There they used a barrel stove -- rocks with a barrel-stove 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 in camp -- a shower bath room -- 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, or a touch of flu, they'd sweat it out. They get up on the sauna bench and sweat it out. With that sauna they all feel good. You just naturally feel good on that.
Later on they'd always stand on a bench. Boy I thought this was really good. 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. They had boughs in there -- cedar boughs -- to splash water on the hot rocks. Sometimes they used a ball of hay(11) instead. They dip it in water and just splash that on the rocks and the steam comes. And sometimes 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 use 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. You can't go in there without cold water. You can't stand it without a little cold water. We used cold water too, in the Indian sweatbath. It gets so hot in the little Indian ones I could hear them groan in there: "Ah$. Iuu$. Iu." That steam would come up so fast it would make them 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.(12) 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. Sometimes 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. The cooks were just raising heck with the men. But they aren't supposed to bother the men or tempt them when they are taking a sauna 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.
I wouldn't know who came with Paul Niska 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.(13)
"It must be time." That's all I thought.
I went to school. See, I left the country around Ball Club and Deer River for school in 1909,(14) so I don't know much about the Finns actually moving into our area. I was away when the first Finnish people besides Niska 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(15) 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
any fish they could get a hold of -- whitefish or anything. They're right
there with their nets too. We ate the same food, so 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; but even then -- early on after the Finns arrived -- we still made most of our own sugar. It was much easier to get along those
days. You had everything. You had animals for stew.
When the Finns first moved in, they went in the woods. Most of them at first were lumberjacks, loggers. They piece cut.(16) 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.(17) 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. He'd get his
own tools. He stayed there all winter, and when he came out of that woods
he had money coming. Some of them spent that money 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(18) somebody else rather than take a contract on their own, there was always a Finn camp where they could go and do that. 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.(19) The Finns would rather have three, four, five, six Finns in a camp to cut cedar ties and everything.(20) 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,(21) 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.
Some of them were cutting cedar for posts -- cedar posts seven feet long. Some cut poles sixteen to eighteen feet long, for making pilings and all that stuff.
Besides the Finns cutting cedar in the swampland, the Norwegians
and Swedes were on high land cutting the Norway pine and white pine with a two-man cross-cut saw. Nobody bothered the cedar until the Finns came. The Finns didn't handle the Norway
and white pine. They were making good on the cedar, and the Norwegians
and Swedes went into the gI-po-a(24) for the white pine and Norway. There the Norwegians
and Swedes were making good money on good
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 a one-man cedar saw -- a wide one with one handle on it -- 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.
After the poles and cedars were cleared out they would burn over the land. 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.
They were improving the land. They made a swampland into a homestead by uprooting stumps, piling them up with a horse. They had horses to help them. Oh, they raised nice horses -- later on. And maybe they had one ox or something. And after the land cooled off they took grub hoes to cut the sod up and to get the roots out all around the stumps. They chopped the roots way down and then pulled what was left of the stumps out with horses. They'd hook their teams onto a stump and pull it right out. Those little ponies can pull! 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.
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 like that. The roots come out just like dead wood.
If there was anything hard that they 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 a while, and the stump will come right out. That's how much work there was on the frontier. The Finns and other white people -- and also the older class Indian -- taught us how to do things.
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 that way.
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 and 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 a 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 grub hoe 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 with a horse and plow.
After that they planted the middle part of that swampland too. But still, that low land flooded out -- at times -- when the water's raised. And it didn't do so good the first time, so they put in ditches using draglines to dredge out a channel from the swamp to the mainstream of the river. They got draglines to make ditches to regulate the water to keep that swamp soil dry. See, that's why you still see those big ditches around. They're for draining the land. They dried the land up so they could work in the swamp. And they re-seed that with hay for the stock. They got stock and they made a home. The Finns -- in a cooperation plan -- worked cooperated‑ly. They got a voice,(25) and by working hard they got their places. (26)
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!
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, and they planted good gardens. 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. Oh, they'll work! 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 -- in those days -- 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 Finns as we go along, and also from the other newcomers. Of course, a lot of the other newcomers I met 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 in the first place. 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."
"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 government as homesteads. White people were taking homesteads in our area about 1912 -- somewhere
in the neighborhood of 1912, because I heard at the time when I came
back from Tower School that they were letting out homesteads.
To get a homestead you had to improve that land. Then -- after so many years
of working on that land and making improvements -- you could file for a private
ownership and the land was yours.(27) They'd give you papers and tell you what to do at the State or County
office, or wherever the offices were. That's when 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 (28) 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 on
their piece of land.
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 each year.
The government 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 through taxes. These swamplands would cost the government more than ten cents an acre to have it cleared for the state or county. The government found out it would be much cheaper to let a man take the land over for so many years, make improvements, and after they improved it the government would let the outsiders file for the land with improvements. Then the State got tax money on the improved land, and they ended up -- eventually -- with more money than the original value of the land.
Most of the high land -- with the white pine and the Norway -- was federal land.(29) The Forestry administrates that
land through reforestation. And that was ceded land -- ceded a long time ago by treaties. That's
Federal -- mostly Federal -- but some of it's still tribal lands. We had tribal lands there too. We still do. Anyway, now-a-days
that high land most generally belongs to the tribe or the Federal government. In this area the government gave
the homesteads that I'm talking about in the swamplands.
And we had individual lands -- "allotments" -- and the government gave us enough timber with those lands to cut and build log cabins and everything. Some of the land that was given to individuals as allotments was tribal land. A 160 acres of land was promised to the Indians, but a lot of them only got 40 or 80 acres for individual ownership. But many of those individuals that got an allotment didn't do anything with it within twenty years, and it went back to the tribe, or it was sold off to white buyers, or it 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?"
And they'll tell them.
And the land was theirs.
Some Finns settled that way, and by improving a homestead they got a piece of land to live on. But some of them already had a family waiting for them in the Old Country(30) 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 for the full five years.(31) See, they got the land cheap after being there just a short time. And they knew that if it's no good, then the government will buy it back 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(32) there was nothing there. See, much of the soil was so light that it would have to be fertilized. But with some of 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!
The first houses these Finns built were little log cabins -- just 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 just had a little log 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 feet, and they had pitched roofs.
The house 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.
They didn't have basements in those days.(33) 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.
But later on in years they got faster in building with logs. They sawed the whole end off of the logs.(34) 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 with a notch.(35) When you build these
log houses down on the ground like that, you can do it much faster. You
have pickaroons now-a-days 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 of the house 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(36) blocks, about two feet apart. Yea, we put them two feet apart along one wall, and two feet apart along the wall next to it. And then we put some blocks in the center -- if we have a floor. With 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 -- those a one-man saws -- to build their house. They always had sharp axes and then -- later on -- they got bow saws. 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 a 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 weight -- that pressure -- keeps the straw
in place. They also had straw roofs on houses -- if they wanted.
But the houses usually had shaker roofs.(37)
The outside of the log building was any way you wanted it. Some logs were left round, but most of them were squared, and most of the square logs had a slope that ran down towards 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.
Here and there you still see their log cabins and other buildings. The Finns showed us how to build log cabins too. This happened just about right 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 other Finns made it once they got 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 Finn families. 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 to them.(38) No. The nationality was important, at least for the natives of the Old Country. When the families started coming in 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 though 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.(39) 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.(40) Well, they called them "Dutchmen," but they weren't really Dutchmens. I think they were Germans. Later on some of the Finns would have six or seven too -- sometimes eight. They figure on their children for the future.
Their children work right alongside of the folks. The children look after the cows, milk the cows, and make butter with father or with the mother. The children 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(41) to help with clearing land, they just stayed in his house right with the family.
Children were working on farms a lot, especially afterwards when they got a team of horses. In my earlier days -- before my mom married Jack Nason -- we didn't have working horses, and we only even saw one here and there.(42) But one time -- before I left for the Tower Minnesota School(43) -- I saw an old Finn going in to see my grandfather at Bena.(44) 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,(45) 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."
Yep, the Finns helped us lots like that, right from the beginning.
The Finns like horses. They talk common sense to them. But they didn't always have horses either. No. But . . . they had oxen. Yea!
Oh boy, these oxen were the frontier of the horse,(46) 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.
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 in to the pigs. And they had 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 and take care of themselves.
Sinkola came in around 1918. He was the first person that I noticed 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 business man, 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.(47) 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.(48)
Andrew Hannula came and started a-hiring. Andrew Hannula also came about 1918. Andrew Hannula had a big . . . he had a grocery store. He's Finnish.
One other business man 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 the chickens down to the hens.(49) 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.(50) 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 from there he could grab quite a few of those turkeys.
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 Finns gave 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.
Oohh!, some of them barns were made out of logs, and they were 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 and stuck them in the ground for fencing. 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.
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 and they'd give so much tame hay and so much wild hay to the cows. See? They also gave them some grain for cream. Oh, they weren't dumb. So they had nice looking cattle -- beef.
When a Finn built the barn he figured that the barn was going to be built because he had cows that were going to have a calf, so he made a room for them -- a stall or calf pen -- in the barn. He always counted on the milking cows that were "coming in" -- that were going to be milked.(51) 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.
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. But 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. There was a Deer
River creamery -- later on. We even sold cream there.(52) I sold a lot of cream there myself.
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 you can't get a cow for any less than a hundred and fifty dollars -- and that's for a Guernsey.(53) They learned 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 Finns 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 -- and even if they had nothing else to do -- they always had something to work on. They built log cabins and milk houses, and coolers.
How much of their money 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 another ten or fifteen dollars was utilized to add 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 into the running of their farm 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.
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.(54) Maybe it was 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(55) with some vegetation off of the garden. They would throw some garden vegetation
in the pig pen.(56) 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
They had summer logging sooner or later. But first they had to have a crop going and a lot of them 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.(58) 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(59) -- 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 because the guineas were pretty good on the 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. Earlier on he had a big hotel up at Mud Lake.(60) The hotel had tables and everything in there for the hunters -- duck hunters. 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 those 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.
Some of them 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 those 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. Boy 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 -- 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.(61) The Polish were working in Grand Rapids. In our area that's the only means
of summer labor they had.
The Polish otherwise 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.(62)
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. In Dakota -- when you read about the first settlements -- you read about how these farmers also went through in groups.
The Polish came in and helped clear fields for these farmers. 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 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'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.(63) 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.
Other nationalities also came into the same area. They had farms too. They go along the same. 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 at 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.
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 the government feeding the Indians. The Indian wanted help, yep, because they didn't know how to build things. But that's all the Indian wanted. 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, in spots, would call them -- "Finn‑dians." The Finns are the next people following behind Indians.(64) 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 shy‑ed(65) because you feel you're in a bunch and that the Indian might kick on you."
"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. 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."(66)
"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 just walk out when they sense trouble -- 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?"
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
Be careful how you say things and 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. 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. . . . I was born and raised in the Indian way of life.
And neither can you. . . .
You have a father and mother who talked to you before . . . and you remember their words.
And so do I.
2. Paul Buffalo is here imitating the sound and intonation pattern of the Finnish language.
4. Neither Finns nor Indians used their sweatbath structures for any other purpose.
6. Most of the initial group of Finns moved into the area while Paul was at Tower Indian Boarding School, from 1909 (for the 1909-1910 school year) to spring of 1912 (at the end of the 1911-1912 school year). Cf., Ch. 35, "Boarding School Days," and Rottsolk (1960, pp. 42-45): "Most of the land in Itasca County was not homesteaded until after 1900. . . . 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. . . . 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." Rottsolk lists the names of the individuals included in Itasca County the 1905 Minnesota State Census (1960, pp. 135-147).
7. Finnish use of the sauna was much more frequent and regular than the occasional medicinal/ceremonial use of the sweatbath practiced by Anishinabe. Hence the suggestion to make a sweathouse of lumber, rather than with saplings and a temporary cover of canvas or birch bark.
9. With log structures you need to periodically chink the spaces between the logs.
11. A little bundle of hay.
12. They put the clothes in the dressing room of the sauna.
13. See predictions in Ch. 41, "Talking with the Old Folks: Recollections and Predictions," and Ch. 40, "John Smith 'Wrinkle Meat.'"
15. Paul returned from the Tower Indian Boarding School in 1912, at the end of the 1911-1912 school year.
16. They worked in the woods cutting trees on a piecework or per-"stick" basis.
17. They liked to contract with someone to cut a given area, rather than to work for someone else on an hourly basis for wages; or, alternately, they liked to "piece cut" on a per-"stick" basis.
18. If they wanted to work for somebody else as a wage laborer or piece cutter rather than get a contract to log an area basically as an independent contractor, they would sign on with a Finnish logging camp.
19. That is, the Finns wanted to work by themselves as a group, not necessarily alone as individuals.
20. Cedar fence posts, cedar poles, railroad ties, and things like that.
21. Scott's Landing is located on the east side of Mud Lake.
22. Along the Leech River up to and beyond where it joins the Mississippi River at the Leech-Mississippi Forks.
24. Here Paul is mimicking of the Finnish pronunciation of "[The] Chippewa," refering to the Chippewa National Forest.
25. By working together cooperatively the Finns "got a voice" and began to have influence on what was happening in the area.
26. In this manner of working and clearing the land they got title to their homesteads. The various "Homestead Acts" that gave away Indian lands to independent non-Indian farmers generally required that the settlers, homesteaders, occupy the land for five years and show evidence that they had made improvements during that time of occupancy.
27. "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, 1960, p. 43.)
28. In order to get proof.
30. Paul uses the term "Old Country" when talking about Finns at this particular time in history in part because Finland did not become independent from Russia until 1917.
31. As Rottsolk (1960, p. 43) suggests, in Itasca County at least, homesteaders had the option to buy the land at $1.25 an acre after fourteen months, rather than wait the full five to seven years to get the improved land free. See also footnote #27.
32. At that time and place the "cream of the land" was the timber.
33. The log houses at that time didn't have basements or slabs. They put the log house on cedar blocks. See discussion in text that follows.
34. 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 fitted the logs of a wall between "two-by-six" planks, spiked them on, and stood the side section up.
35. The wall sections were put up without notching the logs individually (and fitting them together at right angles).
36. The house rests on about fourteen blocks to a half (i.e, along one end and one side), plus some in the center if it had a wooden floor.
37. The houses often had cedar shakes on the roofs.
38. From Paul Buffalo's point of view this is a bit of a curiosity, since, for him, the family -- the patrilineage which extended back to the beginning of the world through the dodaim (totem) groups -- was of primary importance. The idea that geographic identity could take precedence over family identity was, to Paul, a bit unusual. Interestingly enough, as the following passages show, he clearly understood the importance of language in defining relationships and memberships.
39. Paul Buffalo's people traditionally 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. Here Paul is suggesting that the Finns also practiced this, and even extended it so that the girl helped her mother-in-law. Paul's people very much liked the Finns, in part because they saw in them many of their own traits. Cf., Ch. 24, "Courtship, Marriage, and Living in with the In-Laws," and Ch. 25, "'Self-Houses,' Sweat Houses, and Blood-taking."
41. Occasionally they hired workers by the month.
42. Paul here is talking about working horses. Early on, and in Paul's younger days, there were small herds of wild horses in northern Minnesota. For more on horses see Ch. 43, "Cattle, Horses, 'Siouxs,'" Ch. 32, "Medicine Men / Medicine Women," Ch. 36, "Jack Nason, My Dad, My Step-Dad," Ch. 23, "Niimi'idiwin: 'Come and Dance, Come and Sing--Living and Spirits Alike,'" and Ch. 26, "Dreams and Visions."
46. The oxen came in before the working horse.
47. He would have a chance to earn a little cash by logging or by hauling logs, while he farmed and built up a little farm. In these early days there was very little cash involved in farming.
48. In Deer River, MN.
49. They culled the flock, keeping the best ones for breeding, and butchering the others.
50. Wild turkeys.
51. Cows that are "coming in" (or are "coming in fresh," or are "freshening") are milking cows who give birth and their milk production is beginning. After "freshening" the the cow is known as a "wet" cow (as opposed to a "dry" non-milking cow). Regular milk production starts about forty-eight hours after the birth of a calf. For a short time a dairy calf might be allowed to suckle colostrum, initial milk with high-density nutrients and antibodies, but the calf is then usually separated from the mother and put into the "calf pen" so that humans can make use of the milk. Paul's family, and others with milking cows, often then "separated" the cream from the milk and sold the cream to a small local creamery in Deer River for a little cash income.
54. Feed in those days typically was a mix of things; hence it is difficult to know exactly what the "ninety cents" was for. When Paul lived at the Leech-Mississippi Forks, and later when he lived with his wife in Bena, he had experience feeding animals, so his estimate is likely to be related to those experiences, but adjusted for the costs in earlier years. Given the amount of though he devotes to being accurate, it is likely to be a close estimate.
55. They would give the hogs skim milk, what was left after they "separated" the cream from the whole milk.
56. Usually this would be the part of the vegetation that they did not use themselves, such as carrot tops, potato peels. . . .
57. The Finnish farmers couldn't log much in the summer 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, and did.
59. Guinea fowl.
60. Rottsolk notes: "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" (1960, p. 86).
61. Paul is referring to the extension of the railroad from Grand Rapids to Cass Lake, begun in 1899-1900 (Cf., U.S. National Park Service, 2005). In 1899 the town of Deer River was "moved out of the swamp to the point where the M. & R. [Railroad] crossed the Great Northern [Railroad] . . . " (Rottsolk, 1960, pp. 45-46).
63. Paul is noting that the various nationalities often come to this country, live in communities according to their nationality, and try to live here as they did in the Old World. And, he notes, they all come here ready to work.
64. In Paul Buffalo's home area the Finnish were generally the first whites to arrive, and they lived much like the Indians.
66. "Old Man," "Grandpa," and "Old Indian," are terms of respect and affection.
67. If you are not "careful what you say" they might confront you outside when you leave.
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