Tricounty News

The Leppa Family of Kingston, Part 4



'Along the Way' by William E. Leppa, written in 1975

There was a large warehouse across the road from the store that had a meeting hall upstairs. That's the hall where I first learned to dance. Sadie Huro, a neighbor girl a couple of years older than I, finally got me to get up enough nerve to try. So that was the beginning that led to many happy evenings. That's how I met my wife, Emma Ryti, at the French Lake Hall.

That same Murphy's warehouse is where I sold prickly ash bark and slippery elm bark after we moved to our first farm. That bark was used for medical purposes and brought several cents a pound.

The children that Father and Mother had before we came to Kingston were me (William), Levi (No. 1), and Axel (No. 1) who died before we moved to Kingston, then Esther and Axel and Levi. Then Sophia and Hanna were born in Kingston. Ed and Oscar were born on the farm two miles north of Kingston that Pa later sold to Gust Isaacson. Ben, Charlie, Lillian, Walter, Helen, and Evelyn were born on the North Kingston farm.

While we were still in Kingston, I was sent out to Grandpa Matt Leppa's farm to help in the summertime. There I learned to drive a horse in front of a one-horse hay rake, picking up stray bunches of hay that the men had missed. I also learned how to milk a cow.

My uncles also gave me a bicycle. They had assembled it from several old bicycles, but it was wonderful as far as I was concerned. Also, I had my first pair of skates. So those were wonderful summers.

Grandma Sofia Leppa was still alive then, and she was wonderful to me. She died in 1908 of some kind of asthma. I remember we went to the funeral in style. Pa drove Murphy's nice team in front of a surrey with a fringe on top. It was the nicest rig there. The coffin was hauled to the church in a large family two-seat spring wagon with the seats taken out. She was buried right next to the church.

In 1904, I saw my first moose. Claude Brower and Bob Damuth had gone moose hunting in northern Minnesota, and when they returned, Damuth hauled his moose from Dassel in a bobsled to Kingston. I remember going to stare at it, as it was so big with large horns.

Before I leave Kingston, I must mention that Adam Brower had a brick factory at Kingston. They dug the clay from a pit in the river bank right west of the church. A lot of the brick was hauled as far away as Litchfield.

The only thing that I remember about that clay pit is that Matt Maata, John Matsen's stepfather, had a small house at the edge of that pit. I used to carry milk to them, as Anna Liisa Maata was Mother's aunt and a real nice lady. She used to have a piece of candy or a cookie for me, so I always looked forward to going there. Note: In 1864, Anna Liisa Maata (1834-1913) and her husband Matt Tiiperi, daughter Anna Kreeta (15) and sons Petrus (14) and John (2), were in the second group of Finns to come to Minnesota. Anna Liisa's first husband, Matt Tiiperi, and oldest son Petrus died of cholera in August 1864, three weeks after arrival in Red Wing. About three months later, son William was born. Anna Liisa married Matti Maata in 1867. They came to Cokato and then to Kingston. John Matsen (1862-1956) and William Matsen (1865-1930) changed their name from Tiiperi to Mattson and then to Matsen to avoid confusion with all the other Mattson families.

I must not forget to mention my first fishing trop while we are still talking about living in Kingston. Our next door neighbor was a cousin of Mother's. William Matsen was a son of Anna Liisa Maata. He had a son the same age as me. He took us fishing to Lake Francis. We walked the four miles to William Snow's farm on the northwest side of the lake. He had a boat that we used. We used worms and for fishing poles we used dried willow poles. We caught large sunfish and bass.

The remarkable thing about those days was that other fishermen had marked the good fishing spots by sticking poles into the bottom of the lake. Nobody was afraid that you would catch all the fish. There was plenty for everybody. We took only what we could eat. There were no game hogs those days. What wonderful memories. Later on in my life, that same Bill Matsen taught me how to run a steam engine.

to be continued ...

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Great gift idea: for the hard-to-shop-for friend or relative. A membership or renewal of membership for the Kimball Area Historical Society, if you haven't already done so for 2012 (January is membership month). Other gift ideas are postcards, and other great gifts from $7 to $10.

By popular request, below are two recipes featured at our Finnish Immigration event:

Kimball Area Historical Society can be contacted at Box 100, Kimball MN 55353, or phone (320) 398-5250, or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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