Velma Salmi
                        MC KINNON, GEORGIA

                                        "Finntown"

 

       In early 1921 a group of men revelling in the comfort of a Brooklyn, New York sauna discussed the
prospect of coming to Southeast Georgia to form a cooperative farm. They were told that the weather
there was good for farming, so they felt this could offer a challenge to postwar depression from World
War I. After advertising in Finnish newspapers, money became available for this purchase from
members of communities in New York, Maine and Minnesota.

     After their arrival they learned that a group of German people from Ohio had purchased the land to
raise dairy cattle but returned to Ohio when they discovered despite their hard labor, the business was
not profitable. At this time the Finns also discovered they had been bilked into purchasing acreage at
$18.00 per acre which actually was selling for 50 to 80 an acre (or which had been sold for 50 to
80). After planting they also realized the ground was not "fruitful" (or, very fertile) and certainly not
worth the cost. No doubt the Finnish "sisu" (perseverance, determination) encouraged them to stay and
do their best. They named it Fairfield Cooperative Association... 100 members paying $550.00 per
share, one share per family.

    About one-half of the membership families moved from the North and Midwest. They brought with
them a "Cut and Burn" method land clearing (Old World Custom) with stumps removed by mules. This
enabled them to begin building their homes as well as planting their crops. Each shareholder was
entitled to one-half acre on which to build their home and also a percentage of any cooperative
earnings.

     One of the first buildings to be erected was the Boarding House for the bachelors, followed by: a
Community Sauna, the traditional Finnish steambath -- heated every Wednesday and Saturday and
where fervent discussions also took place -- a Company Store, Post Office and the Social Hall, which
was used for board meetings, cultural and educational programs, community socials and the
ever-popular Saturday night dance where the young people learned the schotish, mazurka,
old-fashioned waltzes, polkas and the local square dances.

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