Ernie Lantto in front of Lantto's Store, circa 1963. Photograph is from the Cokato Enterprise Collection.
For 112 years the Lanttos store has been a fixture in French Lake. The store legacy began when Finnish immigrant Abraham Lantto purchased Bergstrom Store in 1908 for $800. The store stocked a variety of items including dry goods, clothing, shoes, landscaping tools, and poultry. The store even sold ice, most of which came from French Lake itself. Initially, dairy products were not sold in the store as most of the French Lake residents were dairy farmers. Over the years the store became a social hub, a place where people gathered together to share the latest news.
Article by Michael Worcester from the Cokato Historical Society's newsletter In the Midst Of, October, 2005, Vol. 25 No. 4.
It is known that the first car seen in Cokato appeared in late August 1900. As written in Cokato’s First Century:
“the occupants were a man and wife reported to be en route to Mille Lacs Lake to hunt and fish. The Enterprise editor wrote that the vehicle ‘speeded” along at a rate of 12 miles per hour when on a good road, and the horseless carriage was quite a sight for those who had never seen one before, which probably meant almost everyone in Cokato.”
It would be another three years before car ownership arrived in Cokato, when businessman Emil Erickson and farmer John Ojanpera each purchased a new Oldsmobile. Gust Akerlund joined the ranks of car owners two years later, when he purchased a 1905 Oldsmobile from a stranger who drove into town.
In that day, there were no service stations to supply the essentials needed for auto ownership. Oil and gas were bought in bulk from hardware dealers. It would be another thirteen years until an actual service station opened in Cokato. And when it did, it was under the ownership of the largest corporate conglomerate in the world, Standard Oil.
Cokato Historical Society's newsletter In the Midst Of, July, 2020, Vol. 40 No. 2.
Spanish Influenza, so named because Spain was the first to publicize the crisis, came from unknown origins. In a war torn world brought on by World War I, soldiers carried the disease from one camp to another. By the spring of 1918, the Spanish flu reached the United States with the first case appearing in Kansas. In September of 1918, the virus reached Minnesota and spread at analarming rate. What was so terrifying about the malady is that victims could be healthy one moment then near death after only a few hours. Symptoms included cough, chills, fever, congestion, body aches, exhaustion and bleeding. On top of all of this, the flu was often followed by a bout of pneumonia, that proved deadly to many. By the time the influenza epidemic waned in Minnesota during the spring of 1919, over 10,000 people were dead. Even small rural communities like Cokato did not escape the reaper. 1