Finns in Wisconsin | Wisconsin Historical Society

Historical Essay

Finns in Wisconsin

Finns in Wisconsin | Wisconsin Historical Society
Dictionary of Wisconsin History.


Finnish immigrants first came to Wisconsin in the 1890s and settled in primarily rural areas. Most settled in 13 counties in northern Wisconsin, three of which, Douglas, Iron, and Bayfield, accounted for half of the state's total Finnish population. Small Finnish communities did exist in Superior, Milwaukee, Ashland, Kenosha, Racine, and West Allis.

In the first wave of settlement, from 1890 to 1910, many Finns were forced to take temporary jobs as laborers before they could purchase farms. Between 1910 and 1925, Finns made intensive efforts to convert former woodlands in northern Wisconsin into productive farmlands. Most of these farms failed. As a result, by World War II, most Finns had stopped farming.

[Source: Wisconsin's Cultural Resources Study Units, Wisconsin Historical Society]

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