May 21 2015

Forest County Museum’s Artifact Autobiography: Per-Ola Land Token


The Forest County Museum will be writing a bi-monthly article highlighting unique objects that can be found at the museum. The articles will be told from a first person perspective of the artifact so the reader may feel a personal connection with the piece of history. This week’s article features the Per-Ola Land Token.

I am a bronze colored metal coin 1.25 inches in diameter with writing on both sides and a large swastika symbol on one side. The swastika in my case was used as a symbol of good fortune (http://www.ushmm.org). I was found underneath a bed twenty years ago at an old farm house located in Racine County by a man named Pete Downs. The farm would hire workers during the time of the harvest and I was most likely dropped by a man that worked on the farm and wanted to start his own operation up north (Pete Downs 2015). The writing on my sides states that I was created by the Per Ola Land Company so that I could be exchanged for the free use of 7500.00 dollars’ worth of heavy clearing machinery as well as a 20 dollar credit in the first purchase of land from the company. The Per Ola Land Company, a branch of the Keith and Hiles Lumber Company, opened an office in Forest County in 1916. The company divided the land they owned into 5000 acres of farm units and allowed farmers the use of stump pulling machines at no cost. The company claimed that in a few years the area would be a paradise for farmers after the lumbermen had cleared the way (Franzen 1992:83). Forest County promoters put up booths at the State Fair and handed out propaganda on the success of farming in the area. The board in Forest County hired someone in 1915 to teach immigrants how to properly farm American soil and the Federal government gave them a surplus of explosives to blast the stumps from the earth (Franzen 1992:83). There were many that put their trust in me as a token of a new start and a better future as farmers of the north. But the short growing season, harsh winters, and the stumps covering the landscape spelled out failure for a large number of participants in the Per Ola Land Clearing Plan. There was so much land that was given to the government through bankruptcy and unpaid taxes due to the failure of the farms that the county was able to create the National Forests and the School Forests (Davis 1997). Now I am housed at the Forest County Museum as a remembrance of a trying time in the history of the county.

perola coin 2

perola coin

Permanent link to this article: http://www.forestcountyhistory.org/forest-county-museums-artifact-autobiography-per-ola-land-token/

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