Jack’s Cabinet of Curiosities: Migrating

We are a country originally settled by migrants, who came from many countries. It appears that with the recent international problems, other countries around the globe will join the U.S as a country of migrants. The indigenous people of North America are the only original inhabitants.

The current invasion of Ukraine by Russia has caused another upset in the lives of the Ukrainians. War has caused many people to seek refuge.

When people migrate to another country, they are seeking a better life. Ukraine was a country seeking a better life in 1870’s. Many settled in Canada first, before looking for citizenship in the U.S.

The Northwestern part of our state drew the interest of the Ukrainians that were farmers. This was open to farm on a large scale and they had the right seed with them. Hard wheat grew best in northern climates; it grew so well Minnesota became a wheat capital of the U.S.

As the years passed, the land was farmed using multiple horses to pull the machinery over large acres of land. After the wheat was planted the farmers would leave via a train, only returning later to harvest. Thus, they became known as suitcase farmers.

At one point in the wheat growing, the fields were attacked by locusts. Very quickly the fields of wheat were consumed by the insects, which meant a loss of wheat crop. Some farmers took to burning their crop while the locusts were consuming it hopefully keeping the locusts from the neighbors’ field.

Hard wheat was a major crop in the early years of our state; thus, the economy was affected by the locust attack. Nothing was available to stop the locusts, so the governor declared a day of prayer to save the crops. It was early in the growing season. The prayers were answered by a late frost, killing the locusts.

The flour milling industry was initiated by the need to grind the wheat. St. Anthony Falls on the Mississippi River provided a good source of power to turn the water wheels, powering the grinding wheels. Thus, a new industry General Mills. The mills are still available to see as a museum dedicated to the flour milling industry.

Personally, I have had experience in the industry working for the Bay State Milling Company in Winona. One of the perks working there came when visiting the testing lab. Daily flour testing took place by baking bread. Those loaves were available on occasion to the employees. We all relished the smell and taste of fresh baked bread.

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