They Chose MN: What Drew Immigrants to the North Star State
WAITE PARK -- Minnesota storyteller Doug Ohman will be in Waite Park later this month. He'll be at the public library on Tuesday, January 18th talking about what drew immigrants to the North Star state.
He says it was Abraham Lincoln's Homestead Act of 1862 giving settlers 160 acres of free land that was the big draw.
The first wave was the early French settlers and then those that came from New England. I call them the Yankee old-style Americans that came to Minnesota first. They were the ones whose grandparents had fought in the American Revolution and they were given land to move west as part of their military pension. Most of them settled in the Ohio Valley in Ohio, Illinois, and Indiana.
Ohman says the children of those settlers needed to keep going west to claim their land which brought them to Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota.
He says Stearns County is thought to be heavily German, but there were other nationalities represented here too.
It was very heavily German but there were other ethnic groups as well. There was Irish a little bit north of St. Cloud. There were Slovenians, Poles, other groups too. If you worshiped at the same type of church, spoke the same language, had the same cultural background, you naturally would gravitate to be together.
Ohman says free land was something that was unheard of in Europe and was a big draw for immigrants looking to make a better life for themselves.
He says the last of the homestead land in Minnesota was claimed around 1880 and the state was considered settled.
The children of the settlers in Minnesota continued to claim land in North and South Dakota well into the 1890s and early 1900s.