When you glance around New York Mills, it’s hard to imagine what it looked like in the early, lumber company days.
When the New York Mills Company purchased the land from R. L. Frazee on which to build their lumber mill, the virgin white pine forest was still thick with wild game and provided a way of life to the Native Americans in this region.
During the short tenure of time the lumber mill was in town, the majority of workers hailed from the East Coast. “Yankees” is the term the first residents of New York Mills are still marked with today.
When the Finns arrived in 1874 and following years, businesses were set up to try and capitalize on the company workers. A boarding house ran by a stern Finnish woman who was known to crack a bullwhip when irritated by unruly behavior was one of the only places in town in the early years.
Farms were constructed out of the timbered mess left behind by the New York predecessors, who after the timber was clear cut, gave up their interests in the area for other money-making schemes.
As the small company town evolved into a Finnish community, other necessities were needed. Dairies starting springing up for farmers to sell their cream. Cooperatives and general stores were built to buy and sell goods, including many crops.
The earliest necessities of a functioning community were the schools and churches, which allowed for socialization and education, as well as spiritual needs. Though many businesses founded in that time have long passed away, the schools and churches have remained, even if in consolidated forms.
A long history of baseball formed in the late 1800s in every village, township, and open field where the game could be played. You’d be hard pressed to find a sport that has been more intwined with its community than baseball has.
Central Park is the location of the old lumber mill, torn down about 140 years ago. I have heard that NY Mills was built on a foot of sawdust. It makes you wonder how a business with such a short and unknown history had such a large impact on life around here, even to this day.
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