North Barton and Halsey Valley-Dean Creek


In 1913, three men from the Black Hills of South Dakota decided to come to see the farms for sale in the Spencer area, so glowingly advertised by Mr. Pelto. They were Matt Herrala of Belle Forche, John Rova and John Balander of Roubaix. Young Balander, the only bachelor, acted as interpreter for his friends. He also served as agent for his parents who were interested in buying a good bargain-priced farm. Both Herrala and Rova bought a farm in Halsey Valley. Mr. Balander found no property he thought his parents would like, but he did find his future bride, pretty Lempi Pelto, whom he married several years later.

Matt and Emma Herrala and children John, George (William), Walter, Amanda, Marian, Jenny, Eric, Theodore and Saima were soon settled on their farm in the North Barton area of Halsey Valley. Mr. Herrala had worked as a gold miner in the Black Hills, then as a rancher, raising cattle and horses. When the family moved East they shipped a carload of horses and a carload of furniture to their new home. Later they ordered another carload of horses from the West. The horses were driven from Spencer to Halsey Valley, a sight that looked for all the world like a western round-up. Herrala descendants still occupy that farm, and another adjoining farm purchased some time later.

John and Hilma Rova and children Eino, Uuno, Hazel and Vieno lived in Halsey Valley only a few years before moving to Endicott. Mr. Rova had also worked as a goldminer and rancher while in South Dakota.

In 1914 Frank and Amanda Keturi and children Lempi, Elmer, Aileen, Leonard and Oscar came to North Barton from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where they had owned a cranberry farm. The family lived on the Cape for only a year after arriving there from Houghton, Michigan. The Keturis had owned a dairy farm from which they delivered bottled milk to their customers in Houghton. Frank had tired of making the daily milk deliveries during the long harsh Upper Michigan winters. While the family lived on the farm they first owned in North Barton, a son, Raymond, was born. In 1918 they moved to another farm, known as “The Plantation”, closer to Halsey Valley. Arthur, Irene and Doris were born there.

With the large families of the Herralas and Rovas living nearby, they had many enjoyable times together. When more Finnish families started buying farms in the area, they were busy with house-warming parties. As the children grew up, “The Plantation” was a gathering place for the young people. Dancing to the music of a phonograph or an accordion was a popular pastime.

In 1915 two other Keturi families moved to North Barton. John and Emma Keturi and children, Tillie, Urho and Laila moved there from Butte, Montana, where John had worked in the copper mines. Oscar and Bertha Keturi and daughter Gertrude, came from Flat City, Alaska, where they had owned and operated a hotel.

In 1917 two new families arrived in North Barton. August and Hulda Halme and children Everett and Gertrude, had lived in Gardner, Massachusetts, where August worked as a glass blower. He had also been employed as a basket weaver and caner. After a few years the family moved to a dairy farm they had purchased. This was located in the northwest corner of the village of Spencer. After the Halmes retired, they sold the farm to Lois and Leo Balander.

Matt and Aina Aho and children Leo, Gertrude and Thelma came here from Monesson, Pennsylvania. Matt had worked in the steel mills of that city. After about three years on the North Barton farm, the family moved to Van Etten. Laila, Doris and Melvin were born after the move to New York State.

In 1918 Toivo and Tilda Salomaa Uotila of Flat City, Alaska, moved to North Barton with their son Jorma. Toivo had worked with his brother Gus as a gold miner and freight hauler. Gus brought the first gasoline-powered crawler tractor to Flat in 1915. To get to the nearest dentist when in Alaska, Tillie had driven a dog team a distance of fifty miles. In 1923, the family moved to a farm now owned by the Bernard Berkleys on Dean Creek Road. In 1927 Toivo purchased a garage in the village of Spencer of W. A. Wells. The farm was sold to Frank and Saima Pelto and the family moved to a house in the village.

In 1919 the families of two sisters of Tilda Uotila’s moved here from Glassport, Pennsylvania. One of these families was Edwin and Amanda Salomaa Natunen and children Oliver and Sirkka. Edwin had worked as a glassblower in Glassport. The other family was Toivo and Lydia Salomaa Ranta and children Rauha, Aune and Walter. Toivo had worked in the steel mills of Glassport.

Also that same year, Mr. and Mrs. Seili Lehto of Newberry, Michigan, moved to North Barton with their children Eino, Aili and Charles.

In 1919 other families also arrived in Halsey Valley. Mr. and Mrs. David Turunen (Davis) and children Mirja, Orvie and Elsie Sunsted, and Ruth and Margaret Davis came here from Monesson, Pennsylvania. Antti and Sophie Torkko and daughters Laura, Aina and Elma moved to this area from Ohio. Reino and Helmi Salmi and sons Waino, Toivo and John left the New York City area to make their home in the Valley. In 1977 Waino still operates the third farm the family has owned in this area.

In 1920, Mr. and Mrs. Leander Huopana and children George, Dagmer, Orvil, Elmer, Eugene and Thelma came from Aitken, Minnesota, to their farm in North Barton. They brought a seven-passenger Reo touring car with them, an impressive vehicle in that time and place.

In the early 1920’s the families of two sisters, Paul and Ellen Joslin Steele and Walter and Bertha Joslin Forsstrom with daughters Karen and Alice, settled on farms on the Tyler Hollow Road. They had previously lived in the New York City area. The men had operated a banana plantation in Cuba before settling in New York. The Forsstrom family lived for a short time in Crumtown before the move to Halsey Valley.

In 1921, several new families moved to Halsey Valley. Among them were Mr. and Mrs. Isaacson and their small son Lauri who came from New Jersey to settle on a farm on Hagadorn Hill, and Mr. and Mrs. John Rautio who came from Floodwood, Minnesota where John had worked as a lumberman and farmer. They settled on a farm on the Tyler Hollow Road where a daughter, Elsie was born.

John and Aino Kangas also were among the newcomers to the area that same year. A daughter, Kerttu, was born after the coupled moved to Halsey Valley.

In 1924 Mr. and Mrs. Ronkainen and children Tauno and Saimi arrived in the Valley from Wisconsin.

That same year Gusti and Lempi Wirtanen came here from Pennsylvania.


In 1915 Mr. and Mrs. John Nikkari and sons Charles and Otto moved to a farm on the Dean Creek from Kaleva, Michigan. After two years, John decided to sell the farm. He placed an ad in the “Uusi Kotimaa” (New Homeland), a Finnish-language newspaper. As a result he sold the farm to Andrew and Hilma Salo and the Nikkari family moved to the new home on East Hill that they had purchased.

In 1917 Mr. and Mrs. Salo and children Hilja, Waino, Aksel, Arne, Matt, Hilma and Arvo settled on the farm purchased from the Nikkaris. They came from Red Ridge, Michigan where Mr. Salo had worked at the Baltic Copper Mill. They had worried that the mill would soon close, so after studying the Nikkari ad, they decided to move to the security of farm life. A later visit to Michigan proved their fears well-founded as the mill had closed down and Red Ridge had become a ghost town.

Mr. Nikkari had already built a sauna on the farm. Andrew wanted a better one so with the help of his sons, he built a log or “hirsi” sauna, much like those built by the Finns in Michigan, and before that, in Finland. This was a smoke sauna or “sisalle lampiava”. It meant that the smoke from the fireplace escaped from the hatch high on the wall instead of a chimney. It stood near a pretty brook some distance from the house. This log sauna, the exterior still intact, was still standing in 1977 though it was no longer in use. A third sauna was built in the newer style with a chimney and a stove that heats up more quickly, beside the old sauna. It was also almost free of smoke inside the building.

A short distance from the sauna, beside the brook, the Salo men built a small park-like picnic area, complete with fireplace, kitchen cabin, swing, and footbridge. On the hillside the name “SALO” is spelled out with growing evergreen trees and easily visible as one drives south toward the farm. Salo descendants still occupy the farm.

In 1920 Robert and Hannah Leinonen and daughter Jenny of Monesson, Pennsylvania, moved to a neighboring farm now owned by Mr. and Mrs. Aber. They sold it to Mr. Sillanpaa in 1922. Two years later it was sold to John and Hilja Walker of New York City.

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