Hockinson’s roots hold strong ties to Finnish community

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Hockinson has strong historical ties to Finnish immigrants who moved to the town in North Clark County in the 19th and 20th centuries.

As a staple to the county, Hockinson boasts places like Cloverlane Mercantile & Event Center, which help put it on the map. 

The Finnish-American Historical Society of the West published a journal called “Hockinson Area Finns: Clark County Washington,” which details the history of the town’s prominent Finnish community. One local in the town brought the dairy industry to new heights.

“Eli Hill is noted as one of the first settlers to go commercial with a dairy product,” the journal stated. “Sometimes in the 1870s he was said to have lashed sixty pound casks of butter to his back and walked each of them to Vancouver for sale.”

Meyers Creamery was the first large-scale dairy in Hockinson, but smaller-scale creameries in Finnish farmhouses were also present, the journal stated. There were two wells which helped cool cream cans with the water, which helped the industry. The sale of 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 made into butter and cheese,” the journal said. 

Leather and blacksmith shops run by people of Finnish descent were also staples of the town. For example, the journal mentioned A.G. Olson, who opened the town’s first blacksmith shop. Charles Sandberg, who immigrated to the area from Finland through Canada, purchased the shop from Olson in 1905, the document stated. 



“The locals were soon aware of his expert skills,” the journal said. “One was a secret process of welding ‘white iron,’ which he kept as a carefully guarded trade secret; given only to one other smith who left the area.”

Sandberg expanded the business by erecting a two-story building, which he incorporated as a woodworking shop on the second floor. He crafted wheels, spokes, beds, and boxes for customers’ wagons. He then installed a feed grinder and rolling mill. 

Sandberg was then known for his drinking habits, stated the journal. A friend of his, John Mattson, recalled witnessing Sandberg “sitting before his self-constructed gasoline engine trip hammer cracking walnuts between his outstretched fingers.”

The new building Sandberg built was destroyed by a fire so he had to move it to his barn down the road from its location. He then died at age 56 on Dec. 5, 1932, the journal stated.

Logging was another industry that was pivotal to the foundation of the town. 

“Huge trees, which were at first a hindrance to settlers, became a cash crop as mills began sprouting up almost overnight,” the document said. “Oxen were brought in at the beginning to drag logs over the puncheon roads to Vancouver. Land which had been discounted earlier was quickly recognized by settlers and land companies as valuable ‘timber land.’ Imagine large lengths of this beautiful timber being sold for two to four dollars by happy Finnish settlers.”

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