Theodore F. Koch
The business side of European immigration
It's a life story repeated thousands of times in places throughout the United States. A European immigrant settles in the United States and convinces other immigrants to join him in his new home. It's happened over and over and it's still happening, with the result that America's cultural landscape is a patchwork of communities that hark back to their founders through their names, through the traditions they uphold in their annual festivals, and through the churches and social halls and synagogues and restaurants where community members gather. Nominator Robert Schoone-Jongen tells the story of Theodore Koch, born in Looward Castle in the Netherlands, whose sharp business sense and ability to match a good farmer with a good piece of land shaped a number of communities still going strong more than a century after their founding:
"During his twenty-five-year career as a colonizer and real estate developer in Minnesota, Koch sold in excess of 1,000,000 acres of land in more than a dozen counties to immigrants from many nations, including the Netherlands, Germany, Ireland, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. Koch formed a vital link in the economic network that channeled cash from European investors into the state during the 1880s, 1890s, and 1900s. These investments provided much of the capital that created literally thousands of farms in every corner of the state.
"Koch, who served as vice consul of the Netherlands in St. Paul for about fifteen years, personally knew politicians and financiers and linked them to common farmers. These alliances and his connections with steamship companies and railroads on both sides of the Atlantic helped create Minnesota's rich cultural mosaic in settlements stretching from Askov in Pine County to Clara City [named for Koch's wife] in Chippewa County and Prinsburg in Kandiyohi County all the way to Lake Wilson in Murray County. Theodore F. Koch was truly one of the unsung heroes who made Minnesota the unique place it still remains."
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