Crumtown and South Danby

There were five Finnish families who moved from various places, to the Crumtown and South Danby area in 1918.

Kusti and Alina Toivonen and daughter Esther were the earliest to arrive there. They had first owned a farm on West Hill in Spencer.

Mr. and Mrs. Albin Moisio and daughters Ina, Hilja and Pearl moved to the former Hollenbeck farm southeast of the Jason Clark farm. They came from Chisholm, Minnesota. Albin was a painter and plasterer and enjoyed a hobby of landscape painting. After their farmhouse burned several years later, he built a temporary residence on a part of his land fronting the Crumtown Road. Shortly after this the farm was sold and the family moved to a new house Mr. Moisio had built in the village. This is now the Lutheran parsonage.

Late that summer, Jacob Ahola came from Negaunee, Michigan to look at a farm in North Van Etten advertised by Pelto in the “Paiva Lehti” (Daily Paper). He was disappointed in this run-down farm, but did buy a better one that Mr. Pelto had for sale. This was the Jason Clark farm in Crumtown. It had a large, new dairy barn, a big house and other farm building. Mr. Ahola had operated a large dairy farm in Negaunee, and sold bottled milk in the town. Later, he began to make butter which he sold wholesale.

After the cattle, horses and equipment were sold and the furniture loaded for shipment, the family left by train for Spencer. On the first of December, Jacob and Liisa Palomaki Ahola and children Hilda, Elizabeth (Saima), Marie, Lydia, Arthur, Matthew, Henry and Edward arrived at their new home.

To attend high school, six miles distant, thirteen-year-old Elizabeth had to stay in town. After having attended a large school in Michigan, the younger children were surprised when they saw their new school with all the grades in one room. Their parents were surprised when they learned they had to buy all the textbooks, paper, pencils and other supplies for each child. These had been furnished in Michigan.

At the same time as Mr. Ahola, Matt Olson of Eagle Mill, Michigan, happened to be traveling by train to Spencer to look for a farm. Mr. Olson purchased the Wilcox farm in South Danby, just north of the church. The family, consisting of Mr. and Mrs. Olson and children Fannie, Hilma, Jennie, Signe, Charles and Onni, moved there later that same year. A daughter, Ida, was born in South Danby.

During that summer of 1918, Daniel Hill bought the Sims farm (now Kuhlman), just north of the Crumtown schoolhouse. Mr. Sims was born a slave in the South. As a boy he had escaped from his master and fled North as far as Spencer. Daniel and his wife Marianna did not move to the farm until the following year. Because the house was in poor condition, they immediatly built a sauna and lived in it while they built a new house.

In 1919 many new families came to this area. Three of these Finnish families settled on farms on the Hart Road.

Henry and Hilda Tiikala and children Lily, Arne and Helvi came from Virginia, Minnesota, where Henry had worked in the mines. Their new home was the old Hart Farm then owned by the Putnums. A daughter, Hilda, was born there. Sixty years later Arne still occupied the old home.

Charles and Aino Kokkonen with their small son Kalevi, came from New York City to a farm across the Hart Road from the Tiikala property. This farm also remained in the family sixty years later. Grandchildren of Aino and Charles lived there after the death of their parents.

Walter and Bertta Forsstrom (sister of Aino Kokkonen) and daughters Karen and Alice, also came from New York City and lived for a short time on a farm just west of the Kokkonen boundary. They later moved to the farm they had purchased in Halsey Valley.

After the Forsstroms left, the farm was vacant until 1930 when Emil and Ida Huttunen bought it. They moved there with their infant son Kalevi from New York City. A second son, Olavi, was born about a year later. The house and other buildings were in a very run-down condition but Emil soon built a new home, sauna and henhouses. The farm eventually became the property of Sid and Ruth Shaw Mesibov.

Mr. and Mrs. Tuomi and young son Sulo moved to a farm just north of the Strong or, later, the Ojala farm. They lived there a short time, then sold the property to Rev. and Mrs. Pietari Wuori. The Tuomi family then moved to a farm on the Emery Road where they lived a little while before Mr. Tuomi died. This farm was then sold to Mr. and Mrs. Aho.

Rev. and Mrs. Wuori with sons Thorold (Toivo) and George, moved to their new home. Rev. Wuori was a pastor of the Finnish National Church or “Kansallis Seura”, a branch of the Lutheran Church. He served as a local pastor for the few years he lived in Spencer. The farm was then sold to Mr. and Mrs. Kusti Lehtonen who came here from Soudan, Minnesota with their son Charles.

Charles and Selma Aho came from Soudan, Minnesota with their sons Arne and Reino. Mr. Aho built a new house on their Emery Road farm after they had lived there for a few years.

In 1919, Matt and Lydia Palomaki Niemi and their small son John came here from Negaunee, Michigan where Matt had worked in the iron mines. They bought the Bingham farm on the Lang Road.

At approximately the same time, Mr. and Mrs. Lehto and son Arnold moved to the Manning farm, but stayed only a short time. The place was sold to Jacob and Katri Olson who settled there with their children John, Mary, Katie, Alma, Edward and Ellen. They came from Jersey City where they had lived a short time after the move from their flax and wheat ranch in North Dakota. Atte and Marie Rosberg were later owners of the farm.

In the spring of 1919 two families moved to farms on the Peters Road in South Danby. Mr. and Mrs. Peter Paajanen and young son George came there from New York City. Mrs. Paajanen died a few years later. The other family, Waino and Elsie Hautala and small son Edwin moved to this locality from Jersey City. They soon returned to New Jersey but kept the farm as a summer home.

Also in 1919, Swante and Miina Kerttu and little daughters, Hildur and Hulda, moved to a farm in the Miller District of South Danby. They came from a farm in Aitken, Minnesota, an area which was such a wilderness that the girls could remember the wolves howling at night nearby. Swante had worked in the mines in Minnesota and with the harvest crews in the Dakotas.

In the fall of 1919 another family from Aitken, Minnesota, John and Hilja Rajala and their son Matt, moved to the former Barkell farm in South Danby. They had owned a dairy farm in Minnesota. John had previously worked for seven years in the iron mines of Aurora, Minnesota. Sixty years later, Matt’s widow Opal and daughter Caroline still occupied the family farm.

In January 1920 John and Ida Launonen and children Fred, Vera, Eino, Albert, Aune, Tauno and Leo settled on the former Swank farm on the corner of La Rue and South Danby Roads. They came from Jacobson, Minnesota, where their farm had been located on the bank of the Mississippi River. Their sauna was close to the river so John tied it to a tree with a stout rope in case high water threatened to carry it away. The rural school the children attended was on the farther side of the river. Their father was hired by the school district to row the pupils across the Mississippi River during the school year, except during the coldest winter months when it was frozen and the children could walk across on the ice.

Later in 1920 other Finnish families moved to this area. In May, Hjalmer and Selma Ojala and children Mary (Sally), Andrew, Willie and Oliver moved to the former Henry Strong farm on the Crumtown Road. They came from Montreal, Wisconsin, where Hjalmer had supplemented the farm income by making cribbing for the mines.

Also in May, John and Hilma Takala and sons Reino and Aimo (Amos), settled on the former Dickerman farm on Emery Road. They came from Negaunee, Michigan, where John had worked in the iron mines. Mrs. Takala died a few years after moving to their new home.

There were two farms with large acreages sold that year to Finnish newcomers that proved to have too many problems for the buyers, inexperienced in large farm operation to solve.

John and Lovisa Pyhtila and children Paul, Urho(Alex), Aili, Karlo, Jennie and Elsie moved to the former Lang farm, a large acreage on the Lang Road. They came from Republic, Michigan, where John had worked in the mines. The family left the Lang Road farm after a few years and moved to a smaller farm in South Danby. The property on Lang Road remained vacant and the buildings eventually collapsed.

Mar. and Mrs. Andrew Wirtanen and children Andrew, Lewis, Einar, Esther, Karlo, Sylvia and Gertrude of Hurley, Wisconsin, settled on the former Bingham Farm. It was just east of the Ahola property and had been vacant for several years. The family left Spencer suddenly after a few years and the farm was again left vacant. The many buildings have long since fallen into ruin. This 250 acre farm had once been a productive farm with two big apple orchards and even a sugar bush with a processing shed and equipment for making large quantities of maple syrup and sugar.

Also in the 1920’s, John and Susanna Huhtala and children Samuel, William, Niilo and Saima Koski of Monesson, Pennsylvania, moved to a farm on the Dawson Hill Road near the Emery Road junction.

In 1921 Andrew and Liisa Kannus and children Henry, Andrew, John, Hilda, Matt, Hugo and Wilho moved to a farm on the Van Woert Road. They came from Palmer, Michigan, where Mr. Kannus had worked in the iron mines as well as operating a family farm. The repairs needed on the buildings of their new home, which had been vacant for some time, were soon made with the help of the older sons. Not long after they had settled on their farm, their widowed daughter, Olga Rissanen, with her small children Reino, Bruno and Irene arrived at the farm from Michigan. The children remained on the farm while Olga went to work in New York City to help support her children.

With so many children in the Kannus family and on nearby farms, the Kannus home became one of the gathering places for the area young people. A wind-up phonograph with records of current, popular dance tunes as well as Finnish folk dances provided music for dancing. Mr. and Mrs. Kannus were a patient and pleasant couple who always made the young people feel welcome. Few of them owned cars so they had to walk to their destination and after an evening of dancing, walk back home again. The early morning call of “Nouse nyt, maitomies tulee” (Get up now, the milkman is coming), came all too soon for the tired youths who had to help with the milking.

In the early 1920’s Mr. and Mrs. Matt Levander and son Taisto moved to a farm northwest of the Ojala farm. This farm had been previously occupied by two widows of Civil War veterans, Mrs. Brooks and Mrs. White. The Levanders lived there only a short time.

In 1921 Andrew and Hilda Hautala and children Arne, Arvo, Hilda and Helen came from Belleville, New Jersey to South Danby where they had bought a farm just north of the Rajala Property.

That same year Frank and Liisa Rajala Allen and daughters Olga, Vera, Bertha and Sigrid moved to their new home on the Peters Road in South Danby. Mrs. Allen was a sister of John Rajala. They came from Soudan, Minnesota, where Frank had worked in the mines and also operated their family farm. Descendants of the Allens still retain the property in South Danby as of 1979.

For a few years Mr. Allen and Mr. Paajanen hauled the milk for the farmers of South Danby and Crumtown to the condensary in Spencer. The milk was supposed to be in the cans and on the milk stands ready to be picked up when the horse-drawn wagon arrived. Both men were rather short-tempered and there would be some colorful Finnish expletives which could be easily heard in any laggard’s barn if the cans were not ready for delivery.

In 1921 Victor Rajala, a bachelor from Crosby, Minnesota, came to stay with his brother John and family in South Danby. He helped with the farmwork on the Rajala farm and was also employed by a few other local farmers. He moved to New Jersey to find other employment a few years later. There he met a young lady, Saima Lehto, whom he married. He returned to South Danby with his wife where they bought a farm. A son was born and they seemed very happy though it was hard to made ends meet on the small run-down farm. Victor and Saima had read and listened to and were influenced by Communist propaganda to such an extent that they were completely won over to this cause. The communist agents’ promises of a wonderful Utopia in Russia offered so much more than seemed possible to attain no matter how hard they struggled on their farm. Against the urgent pleas of his devout brother and the advice of friends, he sold his farm and most of their possessions and the little family moved to Russia. A few years later they tried very hard to return to the United States but were unable to do so.

Early in the 1920’s John and Ellen Luoma and sons Lennart and Leo moved to the Burlew farm in South Danby. They came from Ishpeming, Michigan, where John had worked in the iron mines. An indication of the hazards of this occupation was the close call he had when the cage (mine elevator) in which he was riding, broke loose and dropped down the mine shaft. John grabbed one of the timbers on the wall of the shaft and managed to hang on until help came. All the other men who had been in the cage were killed. A son, George, was born after the family moved to South Danby. Mr. Luoma built a new house soon after they moved to the area.

In 1922 William and Lempi Palomaki bought a vacant farm on the Lang Road. They came from New York City where William had worked as a carpenter. He soon built a new home on the farm as well as some henhouses. Their sons William Jr. and John were born in Crumtown. The farm was sold to Solomon Palomaki, William’s brother, in 1935 and the family moved to the former Maunula dairy farm on the Spencer-Van Etten Road.

In the early 1920’s Mr. and Mrs. John Aarnio and children Katherine, Henry and Helen moved to South Danby. They came from the New York City area where Mr. Aarnio had worked as a printer.

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