Cokato Finnish American Historical Society
"We remember so that others won't forget"
In September 1865 four Finnish immigrants set out on foot throught the "Big Woods" to find land for their homes. About 3 miles north of Cokato on Moores Praire, they found a site and each man staked out 80 acres as his claim. They returned to Minneapolis to work for the winter and in the spring of 1866 they came back to build their cabins.
The four men were Elias Peltopera, Mathias Karjenaho, Olaf Westerberg and John Viinikka. The first permanent cabin they built was erected on Elias Peltopera's claim. That land was later acquired by Andrew Lankki. In May 1885 Andrew's son Arthur was born in the cabin and then the homestead was passed on to Arthur. The cabin was turned into a grainery. In the 1970's Arthur sold the cabin to the CFAHS and it was moved to the present site.
The Savu Sauna is said to be the first sauna in Minnesota dating back to 1868. It was used by three Finnish families: The Barbergs, Selvalas, and Salmonsons. The sauna was on the county line and when a county road was constructed, it went right by the sauna causing quite a stir amongst the non-Finns. The township ordered and paid the families to move the sauna to the Selvela homestead. In 1976, the sauna was donated to the CHAHS by Dick Wuollet. The sauna was placed next to the Log cabin at Temperance Corner.
The Onnen Toivo (Hope of Happiness) Temperance Society was founded August 2, 1896 as a branch of the Minnesota Temperance Society. That year the group built the Temperance Hall at the intersection of Wright County roads 3 and 100. The crossroads soon became known as "Temperance Corner".
The hall servred as a recreational center for the entire area, particularly after the athletic club for both men and women was formed in 1910. This club used the hall for gymnastics. The upstairs hosted wrestling, boxing and other sports. Also, plays put on by both local and traveling actors were performed on the hall stage. Musical events, lectures and even some election's were held here. The stage drop curtain with the local advertising painted on it has been brought to the Cokato Museum and is on display there. This site was placed on the National Register of Historical Sites in 1976.
Lee School, District #131, was built in 1899. It was located in Wringht County about two miles west of French Lake facing the Crow River. Some of the school children lived just across the river, so the school board decided to build a hanging rope bridge over the river.
The first year term was only 5 months long with 68 students eager to learn. The demands of farm life made it hard for some students to attend on a regular basis. This affected about half the students durning the first years. For over 70 years the school had an average of 32 students enrolled each year. The one room school held grades one through eight.
The first teacher was paid $25.00 per month. The last teacher, Mrs. Donald Nelson, was paid $575.00 per month for a nine month term. The teacher was respondsible for grade one throught eight. Lee School was closed in 1971.
"We remember so that others won't forget."
The Society owns and maintains four historical buildings. They are located in the Finnish Pioneer Park which is commonly known as Temperance Corner. The park is located three miles north of Cokato, MN. 2016 County Road 3