Heikkila-Mattila Homestead

Finnish immigrant Gust Heikkila filed his 160-acre homestead claim along the Little Belt Creek coulee in 1902. By 1905, other Finnish settlers had homesteaded the area, calling it Korpivaara, “potentially dangerous wilderness,” for the remote wooded surroundings. Here the Heikkilas raised eleven children, expanded their holdings to 639 acres, and were among the first to shift from farming to ranching. The skills of Gust and local Finnish builders Victor Mattila and Matt Maki reveal an outstanding folk vernacular building style that transfers the Finnish farmstead to a New World setting. Early buildings such as the traditional sauna (1905), spring house (1905), and main house (1916) of Fenno-Scandian log construction crafted with Old World tools (vara, broadaxe, and awl) attest to the talents of these builders. Multiple rooflines and special use buildings convey a classic Finnish open courtyard appearance. In 1938, the sons of Victor Mattila, whose skilled craftsmanship contributed to the building of the homestead, bought the property. John Mattila, trained in carpentry by Matt Maki, expanded some of the existing buildings and, with his brother, also built new ones. American in design but Finnish in construction, the 1938 barn in particular represents a masterful blending of the two cultures by second-generation Finnish builders. In 1986, the homestead was deeded to Gilbert and Eugene Myllymaki, descendants of Victor’s wife, Fannie Jussila.

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Belt, Montana ~ Private property, access restricted. Location pin is placed at the Belt museum in Belt, Montana.