The Minnesota State Historical Society is funding a search through this general region. Its purpose is to record the personal stories of a unique segment of the community. It is the 70s dreamers who are sought; those who arrived here in the 60s through 80s specifically in hope of living simply and honestly “on-the-land."
This was a unique time in history when Wadena County, and Central Minnesota, were in the spotlight all across this nation. In San Francisco, New York and Chicago there were young minds focused on this region and eyes searched the landscape long distance using catalogs, tax forfeits, farm sales, and word of mouth.
On the coasts an exciting urban counterculture had blossomed and decayed all within the 1960s. Young people were disillusioned with that loss but still disconnected from the conservatism and consumerism of the older generation. So, a back–to-the-land consciousness arose. The firm belief grew that a person could start fresh in a rural place; live simply; grow and build what was needed, and succeed quietly on better and peaceful principals.
In cities across the country the search was on for that new home. And, north-central Minnesota was a primary region in the spotlight. This was because rural land here was incredibly cheap. At that time, farmland was selling for around, or under, $100 an acre. In fact, it was possible for virtually anyone, with no high means, to save-up and buy-down on an old family farm or a small wooded acreage.
Until today, there has been no tally of how many moved to this region on that dream. Some were quiet and to themselves, some succeeded on their terms but blended into community, and many were challenged and left. The number was fluid over time. But, it is documented that there were dreamer settlers specifically from California, Chicago, Manhattan, and even from Hawaii. Some found their way onto small 40-120 acre farms and some into the woods. They were people excited to start fresh, in a new way, in a new place. They brought with them a new set of values and they worked to live them out in daily life as islands of alternative hope. When they made it they made it slowly and gently. Those who failed faded away. But, a dream as big and motivating as theirs feels rare today, and there is something valuable to be learned from those who have lived it.
Anyone who arrived in the 1970s and 80s on that ”back-to-the-land“ dream has a story that is wanted. The current focus of this oral history project is Wadena County, or nearby, but it will expand. Therefore, regardless of exact location please email the Wadena County Historical Society with full contact information and a few sentences of personal history, today at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 218-631-9079.