The township of Runeberg received its name in honor of, and in memory of the great Scandinavian author and poet John Runeberg.
Runeberg Township was first settled by white men in the year 1882. A few Finlanders, Norwegians and Swedes, were the first settlers. Jacob Greus, John Maunu, John Johnson, and a few more filed claims in the fall of 1881 and moved onto their land in the spring of 1882.
Paul Kuha erected the first house or shanty in Runeberg, on Section 34 in the spring of 1882, and in the spring and summer of that same year Paul Anderson, Siffert Karjala, Wilhelm Grangruth, Michael Marjama, John Lalle, Thomas Johnson, Ole Salmonson, John Kynsijarvi, Jacob Sarkiaho and a few others settled in the township.
The first settlers were obliged to get their groceries and provisions from New York Mills, that being the nearest railroad station for several years, but after the Great Northern Railroad was built and a station established at Menahga, the most of their trading was done at that place. The settlers, however, were in no danger of starving as the woods were full of game, such as deer, partridges, prairie chickens, rabbits and a few bears and moose. There were also lots of wolves and a panther was seen and killed.
In the fall of 1882 a panther attacked an Indian, and if he had been a white man death would have been the result, but it seems the panther did not like the smell of the Indian, so he stopped within two feet of him. The Indian drew his rifle on the panther, who seized the barrel in his mouth, and when the Indian had forced it into his mouth far enough and turned it in the right direction, he fired, killing the panther on the spot. The dead body was seen by many of the white settlers.
John Maunu had settled on Section 22, and on the 20th day of November, 1882, he saw two deer pass by his house, and after getting his gun he started in pursuit of the deer. He followed them straight north, but he got lost in the woods and did not know where he was. He wandered around until eleven o’clock at night, when he came to and Indian teepee, up in what is now the town of Green Valley. As he came to the teepee an Indian came out with his gun in his hands. Mr. Maunu could speak neither English nor Indian, but laid down his gun and shook himself, signifying that he was cold. The Indian beckoned to him to come in. When once inside Mr. Maunu took off his coat and boots and moved up to the fire, as he was cold and wet through. He then motioned to the Indian that he was hungry by putting his fingers in his mouth and chewing on them. The Indian understood this and spoke to his squaw, who soon brought a piece of venison which she roasted on the fire, and she also prepared a cup of tea for him. After Mr. Maunu had satisfied his hunger he was surprised to see six or eight Indians come in. They had a conversation with the friendly Indian, and began talking louder and louder, and seemed to be very angry, and crowded up nearer and nearer to Mr. Maunu. It made the hair stand straight up on his head, as he was sure the Indians intended to kill him. at last the friendly Indian rushed up between the Indians and Mr. Maunu and kept the savage fellows back, and in a little while they all departed, but the friendly Indian sat up all night and watched over him with his rifle across his lap. The next morning the Indian beckoned to Mr. Maunu to follow him, and to his delight, about ten o’clock they arrived at John Lalle’s shanty on Section 10 in the town of Runeberg. There they rested for a short time and had a little lunch, but the Indian understood it was not the home of Mr. Maunu and would not leave him, but accompanied him to his own home where they were met by Mrs. Maunu and the children and a few of the neighbors, who had been out looking for Mr. Maunu. The Indian was backward about going into the house, but the wife had a feast prepared for her husband and the Indian was beckoned to help himself and partake of everything. All the victuals seemed to taste good to the Indian, as he ate more than Mrs. Maunu and the neighbors had ever seen a man eat before or since at one time, and when through he looked up towards heaven, saying something in a few words not understood by the Finlanders, but who thought he gave thanks to the Great Spirit. He then made a sign that he was satisfied and well paid for all his trouble. Before he started for home Mr. and Mrs. Maunu loaded him down with food to take home with him. If it had not been for this friendly Indian Mr. Maunu would have died, either from cold, hunger or exhaustion. After that day the white settlers had no trouble with the Indians. They came frequently to the white men’s houses and visited for hours, but never begged or disturbed anything. They were quite helpful, and instructed the settlers in many new things. Some of the Indians could speak a little English and so could some of the settlers, and they became quite friendly.
The township of Runeberg was organized, and the first township election was held at the house of August Peterson, on Section 28, on the 24th day of May, 1887. The following township officers were elected: Chairman of supervisors, Olof Leamatta; supervisors, John Lalle and Thomas Ollila; treasurer, A. J. Sarkiaho; clerk, August S. Peterson; assessor, Michael Marjama; justices of the peace, Paul Kuha and John M. Olson; constables, Frederick Sarvi and August Errickson; road overseer, Wilhelm Grangruth.
The first white children born in Runeberg were twins: John and August Kuha, children of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Kuha, bon on the third day of February, 1882. They are now good, strong, healthy boys, and still live in the township with their parents.
The first death among the white settlers, so far as know, occured in 1885, and was that of Johan Peter, infant son of Mr. and Mrs. Chris. Jacobson. The second death was that of Anna Stina, wife of Siffert Karjala on December 21st, 1885.
The first marriage occurred in the year 1889, when Wilhelm Grangruth and Annie Kynsijarvi were united. They are still living on Section 24, and are industrious and well-to-do farmers blessed with a large family and have won the respect of their neighbors, and given proof of what industry, economy and good management will do towards becoming independent.
On the 20th day of February, 1898, the post-office in Runeberg was consumed by fire. The post-office was located on the northwest corner of Section 26. Olof Kortuna the postmaster, a man fifty-six years old and a native of Finland, was burned to death at the same time, together with his dog. Rumors were afloat that somebody murdered the postmaster and his dog, and then set fire to the building to cover up the crime, but nothing could be proven and the incident is now among the almost forgotten things of the past.
The town of Runeberg at the present time, (1906), has a population of 410 and casts a popular vote of 100. Has one church, one cemetery, four school districts and four schoolhouses; and two sawmills were running all the past winter. It has four road districts and fifty-five miles of roads more or less graded.
The population are of nearly all nationalities, but the majority are Finlanders.
The present town officers are as follows: Supervisors, Peter Army, John Kastren and Andrew Karjala; town clerk, A. P. Danielson; treasurer, Carl J. Johnson; assessor, Olof Junes; constables, Gaston Jacob and T. E. Peterson; justices of the peace, A. P. Danielson and Isaac Keksi; overseer of roads, Aug. Parviainen, Erick Koivuniemi, T. E. Peterson and Oscar Anderson.
he township is out of debt and is improving the roads every year; more land is being brought under cultivation, and every effort is being made to induce new settlers to come in and help improve the county and make Runeberg their home.
soil in Runeberg is deep clay. Wheat, oats, barley, flax, potatoes, clover and timothy are raised to good advantage, consequently stock-raising is a profitable industry.
village of Menahga is only four miles east of Runeberg where there is a good market for all kinds of farm produce, including cord-wood and ties. a majority of the farmers are now the owners of cream separators, and are either selling their cream in Menahga or shipping it to the larger cities.
d in Runeberg is now selling for from eight to thirty dollars per acre, according to improvements.
r Hought, the historian of Runeberg, was born in Norway in the year 1858, came to the United States in 1878, lived in Otter Tail County four years, then removed to Richwood in Becker County where he was married to Caroline Errickson in 1882. In January, 1883, they went to New York Mills to live, and in 1887 moved to Runeberg, where they have resided ever since. Mr. Hought came to Runeberg the same year the township was organized and has always taken a helping hand in the affairs of the town, both political and religious, has held several offices of trust, and is the present postmaster of Runeberg. Mr. Hought assisted in organizing the first school district in Runeberg, in the year 1889.
rew White was the first school director, Eber Hought, the first clerk, Paul Kuha, the first treasurer.
first school teacher in Runeberg was Frank Reeves, who taught a term of five months.