Lincoln County colony once home to Latvian immigrant farmers

This image most likely was made the day in 1906 when the Latvian Lutheran church in Lincoln County was dedicated.
This image most likely was made the day in 1906 when the Latvian Lutheran church in Lincoln County was dedicated. The photograph was rescued from a trash container by George Mondeik, a second-generation Latvian who for years was the unofficial historian of the Lincoln County community.
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While most late 19th and early 20th century Latvian immigrants to the United States settled in urban centers, some found new homes in rural areas. The most deliberate effort to establish a Latvian “colony” was in Lincoln County in northern Wisconsin.

The first Latvians arrived in Lincoln County in 1897. As the colony grew, they built farms, established a cemetery and, in 1906, dedicated the first Lutheran church built by Latvians in America.

Today, little evidence of the colony remains except for the cemetery. The church was torn down years ago. Many of the descendants have moved to other parts of Wisconsin or the U.S. Yet, interest in the colony’s story continues.

Through the years, I have visited Lincoln County several times to photograph the area and to interview descendants of the colonists. Here I present a gallery of some of the images that I have made or collected.

For additional information about the Lincoln County colony, visit the following websites:

Latviešu pēdas pasaulē: In 2011, the museum and research center Latvians Abroad in Rīga unveiled a digital exhibit focused on the stories of specific artifacts. I served as project manager and contributed the story of the Lincoln County church’s cornerstone. EN LV

Viskonsinas veclatvieši: Genealogist Antra Celmiņa, working with the Latvians Abroad museum and research center, created a digital exhibit telling the stories of three families that settled in Lincoln County. EN LV

First Estonian Church: Not far from the Latvian cemetery stands the first Estonian Lutheran church built in America. The structure is being renovated. Updates also are available on the project’s Facebook page. EN