The farm was built in 1901 by Finish immigrants, John and Elmiina Kangas. They had five children, but the youngest one died in infancy. John’s parents, Antti and Maria, also lived there. Maria was a midwife for the area. John and Elmiina added on to the house in 1917 to operate it as a boarding house for railroad workers and loggers, as well as some school children from neighboring communities that had no 12th grade in their schools. These children attended Embarrass High School, which did have a 12th grade.
John was a blacksmith, a cobbler, and raised dairy cows to sell milk and cream. There was also a mill on the property to grind grain for the livestock. The original old grinding wheels still lean against the low lying shed. John also farmed huge potato fields. There is a root cellar on the property that was built by John to store potatoes over the winter and is still in use for this same purpose. It is built of rocks and mortar, and you can see John’s handprints in the mortar.
Elmiina ran the boarding house and raised the children. She also cared for three orphan children along with her four, as their mothers had died. She tended large gardens and raised sheep, spinning their wool for slippers and socks. Elmiina also loomed rag rugs.
The long log barn at the back of the property was the original barn. The newer barn closer to the house was built in 1936. The Kangas home is said to be the first home to have electricity in the area and also to be the location of the first telephone office, which was located in the house. Their oldest daughter, Lydia, was the telephone operator.
Their youngest son, Otto, was the last to live on the farm. He sold the farm to Ken and Rose Scherer in 1961. They raised their 13 children on this farmstead, calling it the Little Ponderosa. Mischief involving firecrackers and a few of the boys resulted in the original sauna burning down. The aforementioned boys (who shall go nameless) were then in charge of building a new wood burning sauna, which is situated at the end of the current garage.
With only one bathroom on the first floor (not counting the still standing and operational outhouse), Ken designed the wonderful wood burning sauna to not only heat the rocks, but also the 52-gallon hot water heater, which offers hot showers to users after a sauna during the summer. Sauna (bath nights) were Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Ken Scherer was a great craftsman. He made many wonderful improvements to the house. He designed and constructed the shutters currently hanging on the house and barn. He was not able to complete that project before selling the farm in 1991, but Dave, Ken’s son-in-law, finished the shutters for subsequent owners. They were then hung by another guest of the bed and breakfast, completing the shutter project. Ken also designed and built the gazebo, which, with the fairy lights twinkling on summer nights is a favorite place for guests to enjoy a glass of wine.
The Scherers had livestock and large gardens to supplement the large family. Rose loved her flowers. Ken passed away in 2010, but made several trips to the farm to visit w and share his stories and his wealth of knowledge.
Several of the Scherer children live in the area and stop by the farm or the gift and antique shop often. Even those that live further away stop in and say hello when they are in the area. One of the sons, John, handcrafted the signs currently hanging from the log archway over the driveway.
The Scherer’s sold the farm to Buzz Schultz and Elaine Braginton in 1991. They had a vision to turn the century-old homestead into a bed and breakfast. The bathrooms on the second floor were installed under their ownership. They originally named the inn Finnish Heritage Homestead and ran the business until 2002.
Pam Zahn and Kathy Johnson bought the farm in May of 2008 and opened for business as Northern Comfort Bed and Breakfast in September of 2008, continuing welcoming guests until the current innkeepers, Jeff and Patty Brower picked up the reigns in the summer of 2016.
The rich history of this farmstead brings warmth and character to the buildings, and provides interesting details to visitors and guests. This farm is one of many beautiful old Finnish farms in the area, and it is definitely a historical treasure.
Hi Patty, this is Toni (#9), married to Dave. Dave did finish the shutters, but he did not design or build a gazebo. That was all Dad.
Awesome! Thanks, I got this with the materials Pam and Kathy handed over and wondered about some parts (like who built the root cellar!) I’ll adjust 🙂