My Swede-Finn grandparents and their family in Minnesota

I am mesmerized–mesmerized, I say–with this story of my Swede-Finn grandparents, their family, and what life was like in Minnesota for them. The story was written by my wonderful aunt, Grace (Overfors) Johnson. Here’s how it begins:

“Proving” a homestead in 1913 was a way of life for the early immigrants to the remote northern Minnesota wilderness. To “prove” your homestead you brought a witness to the Federal Land Office in Duluth and “proved” you had lived on the land for five years and in that timespan had made specified improvements to the property. The property was then given to you free of charge, but with the understanding you had to pay the taxes on it.

In the year 1910, when the “New Duluth, Winnepeg and Pacific Railroad” opened up the big timber country north to Canada, a lot of small towns sprang up along its route. One of these small towns, forty miles north out of Duluth, was called Shaw. Here the steam locomotive stopped to rewater, and here is where a small post office and general store materialized, and of course the giant water tower to supply the train with its water. It was here that my parents, Irene and Albert Overfors, “proved” their homestead a few years later. Irene and Albert had immigrated from Finland in 1913 and with six young sons settled in a hastily built, one room log cabin that Albert and his brother-in-law had set on the edge of a forty of land. The only access to the cabin was a tote road used by the Martin Timber Company to supply the saw mills of Duluth and Cloquet. We did not have a car or any means of transportation, other than what could be transported on the passenger train to set up housekeeping for the six youngsters.

Check out the full the story at

Overfors family

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One Response to My Swede-Finn grandparents and their family in Minnesota

  1. Steve Drewes says:

    Marie, I have a very strong family interest in Walter A. Overfors, an older brother of your aunt Grace.He was a B-24 pilot who was killed in action during WWII. Pleasae contact me and I will fully explain my interest. Thanks

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