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Immigrants dig into Rocklin's quarries

Rocks, Rails and Ranches
By: Gary Day, Special to the Placer Herald
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They would drag hay bales across the floor to make it slick and then dance to the music of Rocklin’s Echo Band until midnight. They would adjourn upstairs for supper, rest awhile with the quarry worker band members and then dance again until 3 a.m. This was a typical Saturday night for the early 20th century Finns living in Rocklin. And this was Finn Hall, then and now the most visible reminder of Rocklin’s once dominant Finnish culture. Rocklin’s first Finns were among millions of Europeans who immigrated to New York and other East Coast ports in the late 19th century. Finland’s harsh political conditions, made worse by a famine in the late 1860s, pushed at least 350,000 Finns across the Atlantic between 1864 and 1920. Most settled in the Great Lakes area of the U.S., but others headed west on the railroad. A large group settled in the San Francisco Bay area, primarily in Berkeley. The migration of large numbers of Finns to Rocklin started in 1880 when Finn John Mantyla acquired the Capitol Quarry, today known as the Big Gun Quarry, near the corner of today’s Rocklin Road and Pacific Street. He encouraged Bay Area Finns to join him in working the quarry. By 1887, nine Finn families and dozens of single Finn men had located here as the granite industry boomed. High demand for Rocklin’s granite and machine-powered quarrying technology brought the quarries to their peak of activity by 1895. Finns continued to migrate here in the 1890s, many directly from Finland with the sponsorship of their Rocklin relatives. By the early 20th century Finns and their immediate descendants comprised nearly half of Rocklin’s population. They became prominent in Rocklin’s politics, business enterprises, and social life. Next time: Finn Hall