9.25.2022 [archived ~ originally published 5.21.2017]
When I began my research on the western and northern communities of Itasca County, I started a list of places that I did not know. The first time I found mention of Mack, I assumed it an error and should have been Max, but eventually, I discovered I was wrong. There had been a post office, and an unincorporated community called Mack from May 1st, 1912, when John K. Samuelson was appointed the first postmaster, until sometime in the early 1930s.
Mack was located along the boundary line between Bowstring Township and Marcell Township, at about the junction of where Hwy 6 interests with Mac Road, which is actually the old railroad grade between Alder and Spring Lake.
Samuelson had a general store, and that is where the post office was. He was the postmaster until the end of 1923 when John and Ida (Suominen) Puhakka took over the store, and Ida was appointed postmistress. There is no record in the documents I had access to that indicated when the Mack post office closed.
Elmer Mattila Interviews
One of the places I found Mack referenced was in some of the oral history interviews Elmer Mattila and others did with the older population in the area in 1996 and 1997.
Elmer used a very in-depth set of questions with everyone he interviewed, then the tapes were transcribed and are filed by the last name at the Itasca County Historical Society (ICHS). I located four who walked to Mack three days a week when delivered by the train that came from Deer River to Wirt. The other days the train went from Deer River to Bigfork.
Robert McDonald (dob 1925) ~ “It was called Mack or Coal Docks. It was a coal station for the railroad. They had big piles of coal there.”
Saimi (Mantila) Poliachik (dob1913) ~ “When I got old enough to go, I had to walk there a couple times a week. It was four miles to Mack. That’s where the mail was.”
Cliff Niemela (dob 1926) ~ “Mack would have been the nearest store. By the Alder Road. It used to be a depot there and a Post Office, and then Puhakkas store. That was the closest until Noso put up a store on Higgins when Higgins was in jail. But that didn’t last long. Maynard Tumsa robbed that store. Ever hear about that? Maynard come over Noso wasn’t there and he went into the store. Then he bought a candy bar. He started down the road. Noso said he was walking kind of funny. So he ran after him. He stuck the money in his shoe and he couldn’t walk.”
Mary (Byer) Schultz (dob1903) ~ “There was a depot there. See the train went through there up to Spring Lake then. Then there was a depot and Samuelson had a great big store there. Post Office. And then there was a lady that started a restaurant there.” Elmer: “So in Mack, there was a restaurant, the post office, store and the depot? Mary: “Yup, that was Mack.”
There is a file on Mack at the ICHS. It is thin but contained an interesting document. A copy of the Petition for Naturalization for August Kuusela, who resided in Mack with his wife Hilda and several children at the time he made application in 1916. Here is the portion of the paperwork I found most interesting:
Petition for Naturalization
In the District Court of Itasca County, Minnesota the petition of August Kuusela hereby respectfully states:
First, my place of residence is Mack, Itasca County, Minnesota. Second, my occupation is Homesteader. Third,
I was born on the 3rd day of November anno Domini 1883 at Kuopio, Finland. Fourth, I immigrated to the United States from Liverpool, England, on or about the 1st day of May, anno Domini 1910, and arrived in the United States, at the port of New York, New York, on the 13th day of May, anno Domini 1910, on the vessel Lusitania. Fifth, I declared my intention to become a citizen of the United States on the 31st day of May, anno Domini 1912, at Grand Rapids, Minnesota in the District Court of Itasca County. Sixth, I am married. My wife’s name is Hilma Kuusela. She was born in Finland and now resides at Mack, Minnesota. I have three children, and the name, date, and place of birth and place of residence of each said children is as follows:
Aili Tyyne – born Aug. 4, 1913 in Deer River; Svea Esther – born Sept. 2, 1914 in Mack; Salli Senia – born May 6, 1916 in Mack. Residence – Mack, Minnesota.
The petition covers a few other items, and includes affidavits and signatures of petitioner and witnesses. The witnesses were Joseph P. Peterson of Alvwood and Wirt Heikine of Mack. It is dated and filed with the court on October 18, 1916. Heikine had homesteaded on a parcel of land adjacent to Kuusela’s 80 acres in section 27 of township 147-25 (Bowstring).
Searching ancestry.com brought up another very intriguing piece of information. Hilma (Peltola) was supposed to have been on the Titanic. In fact, her trunk was on the ship, and of course, it was not recovered. Peltola arrived from Finland to Liverpool too late to board the Titanic, and sailed on a different ship! [Hibbing Daily Tribune, Hibbing, Minn. May 22, 1985.]
William O. Benson and his son Everett came up from Missouri in the spring of 1917 and settled about four miles from Mack. They started working the land as soon as they could, and in a letter William sent home in December 1918 he stated: “We think Minn the garden spot of the earth. Of course we can’t raise everything here and neither can you any place else that I have ever heard of. But we can raise all the potatoes and other roots. We had 175 bu potatoes, 30 bu rutabagas & turnips, 15 bu parsnips, 10 bu carrots, 5 bu onions, some beets and 100 head of cabbage. We canned 75 qt green beans, about 20 qt peas, 60 qt raspberries, about 15 qt strawberries. I expect I saw a carload of raspberries go to waste, they are everywhere that is in open ground.” [Jessie Lake the First Fifty Years]