Sebastien Rubino / [email protected]
Hockinson has close historical ties to Finnish immigrants who moved to the county town of North Clark in the 19th and 20th centuries.
As a county staple, Hockinson has places like Cloverlane Mercantile & Event Center, which help put it on the map.
The Western Finnish-American Historical Society has published a journal titled “Hockinson Area Finns: Clark County Washington”, which details the history of the city’s prominent Finnish community. A townsman has taken the dairy industry to new heights.
“Eli Hill is considered one of the first settlers to market a dairy product,” the newspaper said. “Sometimes in the 1870s he was said to have strapped sixty-pound barrels of butter to his back and driven them each to Vancouver to sell.”
Meyers Creamery was the first large-scale dairy in Hockinson, but smaller-scale creameries on Finnish farms were also present, according to the newspaper. There were two wells that helped cool the cans of cream with the water, which helped the industry. Selling dairy products was considered the “bread and butter” of the Hockinson community, according to the document.
“Farmers came to the collection point with cream and milk to be turned into butter and cheese,” the newspaper said.
Leather and blacksmith shops run by people of Finnish descent were also staples of the city. For example, the journal mentions AG Olson, who opened the city’s first forge. Charles Sandberg, who immigrated to the area from Finland via Canada, bought Olson’s shop in 1905, the document says.
“Locals quickly became aware of his expert skills,” the newspaper said. “One was a secret ‘tinplate’ soldering process, which he kept as a carefully guarded trade secret; given to only one other blacksmith who left the area.
Sandberg expanded the business by erecting a two-story building, which he incorporated as a carpentry shop on the second floor. He made wheels, spokes, beds and boxes for customer wagons. He then installed a food grinder and rolling mill.
Sandberg was then known for his drinking habits, the newspaper said. A friend of his, John Mattson, recalled seeing Sandberg “sitting before his self-built gasoline-powered travel hammer, cracking nuts between his outstretched fingers.”
The new building built by Sandberg was destroyed by fire, so he had to move it to his barn down the road from its location. He then died at age 56 on December 5, 1932, according to the newspaper.
Logging was another industry essential to the founding of the city.
“Huge trees, which were at first a hindrance to settlers, became a cash crop as mills began to sprout almost overnight,” the document says. “Oxen were brought in at first to drag logs on the roads leading to Vancouver. Land that had been discounted earlier was quickly recognized by settlers and landholding companies as valuable “timber land”. Imagine long lengths of this beautiful timber being sold for two to four dollars by merry Finnish settlers.