China Swedes, Forest Finns and The Great Migration: How Finnish immigrants helped build America

finnish immigrants

Currently in Finland, like elsewhere in Europe, we’re hearing much about immigration and how challenging it is for new arrivals to integrate into society. Finns themselves, of course, have a long history of leaving Finland to live elsewhere. Sometimes, as refugees from war or famine, other times to simply try and make a better life for themselves and their families. One popular destination was the United States, so let’s take a quick look at how Finns fared in the New World and how well they settled into life far away from home.

The United States was built by way of cultural diversity, with its citizens coming from all over the world seeking a new start. Finnish immigrants were among the many settlers seeking a fresh beginning, and many Finns made the long journey to the USA throughout the past few centuries. While the majority settled in the Midwest, Finns ended up in all corners of the country. Compared to other nationalities, Finns were a relatively small immigration group. However, the story of Finnish immigration to the United States is an interesting one that goes back hundreds of years and is still reflected in cultures around the country today.




1988 postage stamp celebrating the 350th anniversary of Finnish settlements in America.

1988 postage stamp celebrating the 350th anniversary of Finnish settlements in America.

New Sweden was a Swedish colonizing effort that began in 1638 along the Delaware River in the Mid-Atlantic states of Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Along with other Nordic immigrants, Finns were a healthy percentage of these intrepid settlers. Many of the Finns who helped to populated New Sweden were so-called “Forest Finns,” who were originally from Finland but had settled in Sweden Proper and then moved on to the New World. New Sweden was taken over by the Dutch in 1655, and the Finns were more or less absorbed.

Minnesota family in front of log cabin, 1890.

Minnesota family in front of log cabin, 1890.

However, the Finns of New Sweden can lay claim to something that even today remains a symbol of the American pioneering spirit: the log cabin. That’s right, the Finns’ know-how in the forestry industry, building techniques, and, according to one C. A. Weslager, their “close attunement” with forests is the reason why log cabins were such a hit back in the day.

In addition to log cabins, New Sweden and its Finnish inhabitants gave the United States John Morton, who was one of the signers of Declaration of Independence. Morton was descended from Martti Marttinen (anglicized to Morton), an immigrant from Rautalampi, Finland.

Finnish immigration slowed down to a trickle for many years after the settlement at New Sweden. The next big wave of Finnish immigrants didn’t arrive until the early 19th century after Finland had crossed hands from Sweden to the Russian Empire. Finns, along with Russian fur traders (and monks), headed to Alaska. Many of them found work throughout the 1840s and 1850s as carpenters, sailors, miners, and craftsmen.

Finnish immigrants

The Midwest is well-known for having the highest concentration of Finns in the United States. During the 1860s through the 1930s, Finns flocked to Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, an area known as the Finn Hook. This huge influx is sometimes called the “Great Migration” and is the largest wave of Finnish immigrants in American history.

The majority of Finnish immigrants came from Ostrobothnia, due in part to a major crop failure that occurred in 1867. However, many people from Southern Finland and Lapland also made the long journey across the Atlantic.

Photo taken of a Sami woman from Finland at Ellis Island, 1905.

Photo taken of a Sami woman from Finland at Ellis Island, 1905.

In need of workers, Michigan mining companies actively recruited in Norway during the U.S. Civil War. Several Finns were among the recruits. These few Finns began something of an immigration snowball effect by writing letters to their relatives in Finland, describing the good wages and encouraging them to make the move. Aggressive Russification in Finland around the turn of the century was also a major contributor to Finnish immigration.

Steam baths for Finnish miners, Butte, Montana, 1939.

Steam baths for Finnish miners, Butte, Montana, 1939.

Finnish culture became a strong presence in the Midwest and elsewhere, with Finns setting up many schools, churches, political organizations, unions, and of course, saunas. Finnish involvement in unions earned them a bad reputation in the eyes of exploitative mining companies, with one company head even contacting the powers-that-be of Ellis Island with the statement “we do not want Finlanders.”

Finnish farmer taking Finnish steambath in Plainfield, Connecticut. August 1942.

Finnish farmer taking Finnish steambath in Plainfield, Connecticut. August 1942.

Despite being well-educated and highly literate, Finns faced quite a bit of discrimination. Many often struggled with learning English and were delegated to lower work positions. Their customs and religious beliefs were seen as strange and exotic, and other immigrants considered them to be clannish. The fact that Finns were a relatively “new” group in the U.S. also opened them up for discrimination by employers and other immigration groups who already had a stronger foothold in the country.




Finnish school in Hancock, Michigan c. 1900.

Finnish school in Hancock, Michigan c. 1900.

Finns faced racial discrimination, with many people using the Finnish language as “proof” that Finns were not European and thus fair game to be subject to unfair treatment. Some argued that Finns were Asian, meaning they should be barred from citizenship under the Asian Exclusion Act of the early 1900s. The word “Finlander” was used as a slur, along with “China Swede” and “roundhead.”

Finnish American Athletics association

Finnish American men’s athletic club from Virginia, 1915

Like many other immigrant groups, Finns preferred to stick together, and many “Finntowns” cropped up around the country. One well-known example is the Finntown in Brooklyn, New York, which was home to roughly 20,000 Finnish immigrants in the 1920s. Located in the Sunset Park area, Brooklyn’s Finntown was a working class neighborhood that had many Finnish-language shops, as well as the oldest nonprofit co-op housing complexes in the United States.

Finnish Salvation army in Finntown of Brooklyn, New York. October 1942.

Finnish Salvation army in Finntown of Brooklyn, New York. October 1942.

These days, Americans with Finnish ancestry are a small percentage, making up only 0.2% of the United States’ population. Michigan’s Upper Peninsula has the greatest concentration of Finnish Americans, at 16%. Most Finnish immigrants eventually assimilated into American culture, but Finnish roots are still evident in various parts of the country, namely the Midwest. Place names, surnames, sauna culture, cuisine, holidays, and even the occasional sound of the Finnish language are modern remnants of the Finnish immigrants’ new home in the United States.




Finns migrated for many reasons and, just like today’s immigrants, they faced many challenges along the way, not least racism, mistrust about their religion and fear that their socialist ways represented a threat to American society. Yet, despite all this, they ended up making a huge contribution to their new country and, it’s clear, that the United States is a better place for it.

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135 replies
  1. Helena Halme
    Helena Halme says:

    What an interesting article, thank you! I’m a Finn living in London, but in the 1970’s when I was a child I moved with my family to Sweden, where Finns were also discriminated against. This was mainly due to the different culture and the language, and was more subtle than the discrimination of immigrants today. Still, the sense of displacement and not being wanted by the society around me, left a lasting impression on me.

    Reply
    • Joel Willans
      Joel Willans says:

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Helena. Happy to hear you found the article interesting. Out of interest, what form did the discrimination you, and your family suffer, take?

      Reply
      • Helena Halme
        Helena Halme says:

        Joel,
        It was just the usual name-calling, and general prejudice shown towards anyone who came from Finland. Finns were generally known as ‘Jävla Finnar’; vodka-drinking, knife-wielding trouble-makers. At school boys would make fun of me because I didn’t speak Swedish and because I sounded strange when I tried, but my sister and I soon learned the language so well that no-one could tell we were Finnish. Once on the metro (tunnelbana) we told our mother not to speak during the journey so that she’d not betray our Finnish roots. I’m still ashamed of that. We moved back to Finland after three years in Stockholm, but as I said, that time has left a permanent mark on me. Coffee and Vodka, my novel based loosely on my experiences as a Finnish child in Sweden in the 1970’s is here</a

        Reply
    • Jen Harkonen
      Jen Harkonen says:

      Hi Helena, my husband is a Sweden-Finn who left Finland for Sweden as a child. I am a 4th generation Finnish American. It has been fun to see how much in common I have with my Sweden-Finn inlaws, who are more “Swedish”” whereas I am more “American” but we all have Finnish ways as well.

      Reply
    • Merja H. Lehtinen
      Merja H. Lehtinen says:

      Hope you feel loved and cherished now as a special set who had courage to experience the world incognito, a very Finnish trait.

      Reply
  2. Linda Garland
    Linda Garland says:

    I’m half Finnish and half Estonian. My maternal grandfather came to America in the late 1800’s. First to Minnesota and then to Detroit, Michigan. My maternal grandmother came to America in 1907 at the age of 9. She was sent alone to her father with a note pinned on her saying Iron River Michigan! She eventually ended up in Detroit where she met my grandfather. They belonged to a Finnish Club on 12th. Street. Members from this club found property in what is now Wixom Michigan. They all bought the land and named it Detroit Finnish Co- Operative Summer Camp Association. The Finn Camp, as we fondly call it now, is still thriving and celebrating it’s 90th. Anniversary this year. They have a website if you’re interested it is finncamp.org

    Reply
    • Kathleen Harris
      Kathleen Harris says:

      Wow, what a story! Thanks for sharing. Your grandmother sounds like one tough woman.

      Thanks for the Finn Camp link, it’s so interesting to see Finnish culture alive and well in the US.

      Reply
        • Sue A. Riley
          Sue A. Riley says:

          It is Sisu!
          I am second generation half Finn. My mothers parents immigrated here in Ashtabula,Ohio. My mother, siblings and parents all spoke Finn in the home, but we were not taught. I understand the reason more now. We were to be Americans.

          Reply
    • skm
      skm says:

      I live close to the Finn camp, glad they are still going strong. We’re not Finnish, but our oldest kid relocated to Helsinki (for love!) a few years ago, and we look forward to our packages of Fazer candies!

      Reply
    • Karl Santti
      Karl Santti says:

      Nice summary, Linda. My grandfather came around 1905, worked the mines, lived in Laurium, and sent for my grandmother in 1907. Moved to Detroit around 1921 to get away from mining and build houses. Also a founding member of The Finn Camp.

      Reply
    • Carole Forsman
      Carole Forsman says:

      My father was born in Iron River and his father came from Finland. My Aunt and her husband owned a bed and breakfast in Iron River for years, the Nelsons. I think most if not all of Iron River citizens were Finnish and/or Swede Finns.

      Reply
  3. John Ranta
    John Ranta says:

    Very interesting article. I’m a second generation Finnish American. My grandfather left Normarkku Finland in 1905, first working in Michigan, then making his way to Fitchburg, Ma., which had a large population pf Finns. There he met my grandmother, who emigrated from Toholampi Finland in 1909. They settled in a “Finntown” in Rutland, Ma., where my father was born. He didn’t learn English until he went to grammar school. I live in New Hampshire, where I built a sauna before I built my house. My dad and I have visited our “little cousins” in Finland several times.

    Reply
    • Kim Randa Gundlach
      Kim Randa Gundlach says:

      John Ranta … My great grandparents were from Ely, MN area …. Some of them were “Ranta” and others “Randa”. We live in Upper Michigan and I work at Finlandia University!

      Reply
    • Karen Chase
      Karen Chase says:

      My grandmother came from Saarijarvi, Finland in 1925. My grandfather was born in Boston, but both of his parents were from Finland. They lived int he Boston, MA area, but spent a lot of time in Fitchburg. My grandmother was the president of the Finnish American Society at one point. We used to get the Raivaiia newspaper delivered to our house. There are still a lot of Finns around here. I go to Saima Park in Fitchburg every fall for the annual Finnish Tori.

      Reply
    • Carol Talvola
      Carol Talvola says:

      just found this site on facebook & noted that your grandfather lived in Fitchburgh, MA. my late father-in-law, Ralph Talvola (Finnish), was born there & later migrated w/his family to Ashtabula Harbor, OH (large Finnish community there). Carol Talvola

      Reply
      • John
        John says:

        Today I read more on my Finn heritage especially in NE Ohio. My paternal grandfather Kalle immigrated to Ashtabula, OH in 1880s along with brothers Jussi Jaakko and Matti. Eventually in 2004 I located a 2nd cousin Bob. Once we met the information of our heritage was astounding…..the brothers were our future grandfathers!!!
        During Bob and my childhood we were unaware of this connection. Indeed the brothers never spoke of their relationship to their own famllies. Although my grandfather had 4 children, Bob’s had 11!!? NO COMMUNICATION back in the day. Appreciate the website..

        Reply
  4. Samuel Orvomaa
    Samuel Orvomaa says:

    Nice read. Just wanted to add that The US had its own Finnish recording artist as well, Bobby Aro. Apparently he didn’t speak Finnish, but his “Finglish” recordings prove that at least he was able to pronounce Finnish rather well. You can find them on Youtube.

    (I’m Finnish, in Finland, with no Finnish relatives in America 🙂 )

    Reply
    • Rob Yuretich
      Rob Yuretich says:

      Samuel, my Great Aunt was married to Bobby Aro’s brother, so I remember him when I was a child. My Dad was an auto mechanic and Bobby used to bring his car over for my Dad to repair. I can remember Bobby coming in the house for coffee and he’d do some magic coin tricks for us kids. He was quite a character. We lived in Iron, MN which is about 5 miles west of Eveleth. My Mom’s side of the family is 100% Finnish.

      Reply
      • Ed Pauli
        Ed Pauli says:

        The musical comedy group “Da Yoopers” is made up of many Finnish individuals– also singer Bobby Vee is 1/2 Finnish on his mother’s side

        Reply
    • Virginia jozwiak
      Virginia jozwiak says:

      I am Finnish, live in Michigan in US. Bobbie Aro is a cousin to my grandfather, August Kotaniemi, now deceased. My family heard Bobbie at the Finnish Center in Farmington, Michigan. He is the son of my grandfather’s brother. My grandparents lived in the upper penninsula of Michigan, farmers and copper miners. Bobbie’s side of the family went to Minnesota, and it was many years before the brothers found each other through a Finnish newspaper.

      Reply
  5. Mailis Jarvenpaa
    Mailis Jarvenpaa says:

    Thank-you for this story! There is such shocking stories of the refugees right now in the news and I’m afraid for modern day Finland disappearing in the mix. I’m a proud Finnish citizen who was born in New York state and grandparents and parents settling in South Royalston,Massachusetts.At one time there most of the town’s population was Finnish and I also started school not knowing any English. I learned the English language very well despite my English teacher telling me I had a handicap of knowing two languages!! Finland will be in my prayers for it’s future…and one day I will move there.I’ve been lucky enough to have visited 28 times…..again thanx for the story………finntasticgirl

    Reply
    • Lillian Stiehgramma32@
      Lillian Stiehgramma32@ says:

      I also enjoyed this story and was surprised to see your name ! My grandfather came to Canada in the late 1890’s My dad was born here in 1901 and so were all his brothers & sisters. I think my Dad was 5th of 11. Their birth name was Jarvenpaa and was changed to Jacobson. I was told by an aunt that when her dad was questioned about how to spell his name he didn’t know how to say it in English and they asked his dads name and he said Jakob,

      Reply
    • Glenda wark
      Glenda wark says:

      Mailis, my grandfather changed his name to Jacobson when he came from Finland. He was a Jarvenpaa in Finland. Settled outside of what is now Thunder Bay, Ontario Canada.

      Reply
  6. Paula
    Paula says:

    I am 1/2 Finn raised in upper Michigan where the heritage is awesome! I am raising my children in the same fashion, but it’s hard to find any Finn culture in Virginia. I danced, sang, made cheese and miss it. I proudly display my Sisu bumper sticker!

    Reply
    • Liisa Herweg
      Liisa Herweg says:

      Hei Paula! In the Virginia Beach-Norfolk area there is a fairly active section of the Finlandia Foundation. In the D.C.-Northern Virginia-Maryland area, there is also a quite active section of the Finlandia Foundation and a 60-year-old Finnish club called Finn Spark. Both these organizations have web pages, so if you live anywhere close to these areas, look the clubs up on the net. We would love to have you as member. Terveisin

      Reply
  7. Paul Hannuksela
    Paul Hannuksela says:

    I am a second generation Finnish-American who lives in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. This area, like Minnesota, was a settling place for Finns because it looks much like the old country. They came here to work in the copper and iron mines and as loggers in the forests. Finns made great contributions to North America and the USA because of their work ethic and SISU, and they assimilated almost entirely, except for their pride in being Finns.

    Reply
  8. Dion Riutta
    Dion Riutta says:

    I recently stumbled across this article and found it very interesting the only thing i knew was that most of the finns here in america reside in the UP I an a 4th generation Finnish immigrant myself on both sides of the family. I had my dna traced and i came up at about 85 percent Finnish ancestry.

    Reply
  9. Elina Syri
    Elina Syri says:

    Thanks for an interesting article! John Ranta, greetings from Toholampi, I Was Born There, and since it is such a Small Village, the Two of us Are probably related 🙂 I’m an English teacher working in Tampere, Finland, and have Many Wonderful Friends in CA and NJ, Where I had the pleasure of Living in the 90’s. Sweet memories…

    Reply
    • Raimo Rantakyto
      Raimo Rantakyto says:

      Hello Elina, you say that you are from Tohlampi, my mother was from there as well. She was a kiviaho (maiden name),?father is from Jamijarvi. I was born in Tampere in 1957, and migrated to the us in 1958 as a family settling in Fitchburg Massachusetts.

      Reply
      • Sylvia Curran
        Sylvia Curran says:

        Hello, my father was from Soini, Kalle Kiviaho. I was fortunate to visit Finland in 2010, meet cousins & second cousins. Such a wonderful experience. Dad migrated to the USA in 1910.

        Reply
  10. Catherine Heino Pomerleau
    Catherine Heino Pomerleau says:

    Very interesting reading I am repostingredients for the rest of my family to share thanks Katie Heino Pomerleau

    Reply
  11. Connie Setala
    Connie Setala says:

    I am 100% Finnish and feel blessed that I can say that. My mother was born in the UP of Michigan but her parents came from Finland. Her father, Reverend Matero, was recruited by the Lutheran Church so that the services could be given in the Finnish language. My father came to the United States from Finland as a teenager. His father, Reverend Setala, was recruited also by the Lutheran Church to provide the Finns a sermon in their language. My first visit to Finland will be next summer and I am so excited! My fathers dream was to go back to Finland “someday”. That day never came for him, so I am fulfilling his dream.

    Reply
    • Sandra Hamilton
      Sandra Hamilton says:

      Was your grandfather a pastor in Ironwood, MI? Reverend Matero married my grandparents at St Paul Lutheran church. I’m 100 percent Finnish..

      Reply
      • Howard Usitalo
        Howard Usitalo says:

        Rev Matero married by parents at the Apostolic Lutheran Church in Ironwood. My grandfather was the minister of that church, Walter Reini.

        Reply
      • Connie L Joslin
        Connie L Joslin says:

        sorry, just saw this reply to my post! Yes, he was a Pastor in Ironwood also. I am 100 percent Finnish too! I did go to Finland last summer and am going again ~ I went to visit the Turku Cathedral, where both of my grandfathers were ordained, and the Maaria Church where he was a Pastor while living in Turku. It was the best trip of my life!

        Reply
    • Hannu Vilpponen
      Hannu Vilpponen says:

      In finland here is many named Setala and the services are still given some of them.today in Seinajoki.. I was born near of Seinajoki, in Kauhajoki. Now I live in Oulu. My dream is visit there near of Up of Michigan, in Wisconsin some day too.

      Reply
    • Tammy Svoke
      Tammy Svoke says:

      Hi Connie-was your grandfather the Reverand Herman Matero at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Ironwood, Michigan? I believe my family was good friends with yours. My grandmother was Ruth Grandahl Minkin. She was good friends with the Materos. I mostly remember Helga, Gil and Paul. Was your mom Ruth from Minnesota?

      Reply
      • Cyndy Setala Cuoco
        Cyndy Setala Cuoco says:

        Hi, Ian Connie’s sister Cyndy. I remember Minkin’s farm. We would go there and visit when we were in Ironwood. I had lots of fun out there, I remember Ruth did her kitchen in black & red . They had a playhouse in their yard. Many memories, who lives there now ?

        Reply
      • Connie L Joslin
        Connie L Joslin says:

        Hello Tammy,

        My mom was Sylvia. My sister Cyndy posted, she remembers the farm better than I do. I do remember the farm also. My memories are a big yard, playhouse and pigs! I do remember your grandma and grandpa also!

        Reply
    • Carla Revello
      Carla Revello says:

      I was born in Wakefield, Michigan in 1936 I am a second generation Finn. My maiden name was Mattson.that was the name given at Ellis Island. I had Reverend Matero as the Minister at the Lutheran Church there. I started at the Finnish services & when I got a little older went to the English service. We moved to Negaunee, Michigan when I was 12. My oldest grandson met a girl at Northern Michigan University in Marquette, Michigan,when she attended there for 6 months. They married 4 years ago and are living in Lappeenrant..She is a Librarian there. They are here in the US in Wisconsin visiting his parents. I spent a week with them. Grand son works with computers and is getting pretty good with his Finnish. Went to visit them over there in 2013 for almost a month. I can’t speak fluid Finnish anymore and understand more than I can speak.

      Reply
  12. vicky kangas
    vicky kangas says:

    I am Finnish and grew up in ashtabula harbor, Ohio. A lot of Finns settled there to work on the docks—it is still a strong Finnish community, but as with most ethnic areas, as we lose the older generation, sadly–we lose a lot of the traditions. Our church has had nisua sales to raise funds for many years. People love nisua!!!! Look up then website–growing up in ashtabula for more information. Or, another website: historic ashtabula harbor. Sisu to all!!!

    Reply
  13. Deborah Nikkari
    Deborah Nikkari says:

    Thanks for the interesting article. I grew up in central Minnesota in Sebeka. Three of my grandparents were born in Finland and my maternal grandmother’s parents were both born in Finland. My paternal grandmother was born in Toholampi, which was mentioned by several of the respondents. My paternal grandfather was born in Himanka. On my mother’s side, her father was born in Lapua. My mother’s maternal grandfather was born in Tervola and her maternal grandmother was born in Hirvensalmi. Finnish was my parents’ first language at home, but I studied it at the University of Minnesota. I have been to Finland four times, but would love to go again.

    Reply
  14. Andrew Laituri
    Andrew Laituri says:

    Another voice from Ashtabula Harbor, Ohio. All of my grandparents immigrated in the late 19th, early 20th century. My paternal grandfather worked in the ship yards, a mechanic type I believe. My maternal grandfather was a bricklayer. Both grandmothers were housewives, my mother’s mom died when she was still a girl. Not much of the Finnish culture left in me, but for the pride I will always have in my Finn heritage.

    Reply
  15. Scott Hodgkins
    Scott Hodgkins says:

    Many thanks for this interesting article. My maternal family is Finnish and settled with many other Finns in Mid-Coast Maine to work in the granite quarries of St. George They came to Maine having first lived in Milford, NH and New Castle, PA. An active Finnish Church, Finnish-American Society and Finnish Heritage House keep Finnish heritage alive for many Finns along Maine’s mid-coast.

    Reply
    • Sylvia Pierron
      Sylvia Pierron says:

      My two parents came from Finland in the 1930’s –but, they landed in Canada at Halifax and then went by train across to the west near Vancouver, B.C. at Coquitlam where they heard through other Finlanders that their would be work as Lumbermen in Mills and in the woods of B.C. My parents lived close in Finland but, never met until they attended a Sat.Nite Dance in Vancouver at the Swedish Hall . They married and I am so interested in their backgounds as Finnish citizens although their parents were Swedes living in Finland. My relatives there from these families are now all—Finnish citizens although they keep their Swedish language and customs at home in areas where they live today. I find there just isn’t enough information about the Swedish people who left Sweden and settled in the west part of Finland in many towns and cities.
      I would appreciate learning more of this history as my own 6 children (now grown up) are always asking questions that I really haven’t real facts about. Thankyou for sharing so much of Finland’s background. We made a trip there in 1993 for my dad’s family reunion in the Vasa, Bergo and Petalax area. We found out we are part of a huge family there. (Haggblom) My mom’s side was connected to Boberg family in the Skaftung-Sideby area which was a little south of Vasa.

      Reply
  16. Dianne Snell
    Dianne Snell says:

    There were several Finnish settlements on the Kitsap and Olympic Peninsulas of Washington State. I lived on Finn Hall Road near Sequim, and there is a Finn Hill in Poulsbo. I had friends there that were first generation Finnish. Wonderful people.

    Reply
        • Peter Koskela
          Peter Koskela says:

          Hmmm…very interesting. My name is Peter Koskela and my dad was Juha who emmigrated from toholampi Finland to northern Ontario in 1957. I am going to have to make a trip to the Koskela house in summer 2017!

          Reply
          • Hannu Vilponen
            Hannu Vilponen says:

            !) About KoskelaHouse:
            In 1902, Peter Koskela and his friend, Henry Olilla, immigrated from Finland to Brantwood. Their wives and families arrived later. Koskela purchased the forty at NE NW, Sec 1, T35 N, R2E. While building their new 16′ x 20′ log house in 1902, the Koskela’s stayed with their neighbors across the road to the north, the Thomas Hakko’s. Peter’s wife was the former Ingebor Tervonen. The current address of the homestead is N4865 Lustila Road, Brantwood.
            Please contact Knox Heritage Center for more information about Koskela House: https://www.facebook.com/knoxcreekheritagecenter/?fref=ts

      • Kathy Fleming
        Kathy Fleming says:

        My brother, Matt Matalamaki, built two authentic log cabins on his property in Floodwood, Minnesota and they attract visitors from far and wide. Floodwood has a large Finnish community where, when I grew up there, we had a Finnish Lutheran Church with a Finnish pastor.

        Reply
    • Erickson
      Erickson says:

      Yes, my Erickson ancestors were Swede-Finns (from Solf and Petalax, Finland). We know that at least one came first to a logging camp somewhere on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan before moving to a logging camp in Getchell, Washington (Snohomish County) where all of the loggers were Swede-Finns as well, and then finally settling in Hansville, Washington in Kitsap County. Once again, all of the neighbors were from the same area of Finland. Like so many other immigrant groups, they stayed with people not only from their home country, but also the same small region of their home country. I’m trying to find out where he was (or they were–we assume that this ancestor did not come alone) on the UP. Anyone know anything about immigrants from Petalax?

      Reply
      • Hostman
        Hostman says:

        My father, two of his brothers, a sister, three uncles and a number of other Swede Finn men immigrated to America in the 1895/1925 era settling in Lovelock, Nevada where the were involed in agriculture and mining. All lcame from the Vasa area,most from Petalax. My mother was born and raised in Malax making me a full Swede Finn.November 2016

        Reply
        • Stefan Sandell
          Stefan Sandell says:

          Hi Hostan.!
          Mycket grandfather and his brother went over from the same area a bit more northbound. Jakobsson (swedishspeaking Ostrobotnia)

          Mycket grandfather came back before the war and Finlands independent. His brother stayed for the rest of his days (never got married)

          Reply
          • Stefan Sandell
            Stefan Sandell says:

            Sorry. My “autocorrect ” trying to change the words to swedish. incl. Your name.
            The City is Jakobstad, north of vasa (not Jakobsson)
            “My” was turneringen into “mycket ”
            Apologise for the mess.

  17. Hannu Vilpponen
    Hannu Vilpponen says:

    Finnish immigrants in Wisconsin history, Koskela museum, saunas, log cabins and others. Forest Finns, my memoriam…,lost…1902

    Reply
      • Hannu Vilpponen
        Hannu Vilpponen says:

        Remember anybody whoes build the first koskela-house log cabin in brantwood Wi? When? Very interest to know. Other peoples who co-operative furniture before and beginning of 1900 I want to know. Secondly what happened Makis furniture and Eelis furniture? Knows anybody Hilja Palomaki (from Kuortane Finland too) in brantwood? What happened her householder after? Eelis story. Eelis finnish name was Juha Maijanpoika Koskela. His wife was Anna Maria Kaartunen descends of Sissala, Hautala, Höök, Nelimarkka. Eelis mother don’t get immigrant because she was all blind. Does anybody who birthplace is brantwood wi knows this story or does somebody else know this story? Thanks a lot a good article!

        Reply
      • Vicky Steiner
        Vicky Steiner says:

        The museum that you are talking about is the Knox Creek Heritage Center. It is in Brantwood, Wi.south of Hwy. 8 . You should be able to find them on facebook. They should be able to give you the information you want. I grew up in Brantwood,so the heritage site is interesting to go to since I don’t live there now. I do go there to visit family.

        Reply
        • Hannu Vilponen
          Hannu Vilponen says:

          Next June 2017 we’ll to visit in Brantwood too. We’ll take a so long time as necessary to find out our descends. Thanks a lot good advantages! We haven’t got any more information about our genre from the Knox Heritage Center last half year. My descend Alba Ojajarvi, Ww1 Veteran, we founded. He’s doughter Anna Ojajarvi was my mother’s grandmother There is no one people any more to find out our story?

          Reply
        • Hannu Vilponen
          Hannu Vilponen says:

          Next June 2017 we’ll to visit in Brantwood too. We’ll take a so long time and long way as necessary to find out our descends. Thanks a lot good advantages! We haven’t got any more information about our Koskela museum information from the Knox Heritage Center last half year. My descend Alba Ojajarvi, Ww1 Veteran, we founded. He’s doughter Anna Ojajarvi was my mother’s grandmother There is no one people any more to find out our story?

          Reply
  18. Frank Eld (Harkonen)
    Frank Eld (Harkonen) says:

    Thank you for the good article. Glad you mentioned the New Sweden Colony Finns. I just spoke on that at national FinnFest in Buffalo. Many Finns are not aware of this part of their colonial history. The Finns first came over on the Kalmar Nyckel to New Sweden in 1638. The KN is to the Finns and Swedes what the Mayflower is to the English. The built log cabins because this is what they had done in Finland for many centuries using what material was available.
    My father and maternal grandparents came from Finland c. 1900 and homesteaded in Idaho. Yes, there are Finns in Idaho! We have a Finnish Heritage museum as a part of Historic Roseberry. (www.historicroseberry.com)
    I have written a book “FINNISH LOG CONSTRUCTION-THE ART” which goes in to detail about the unique techniques used by the Finns.

    Reply
    • Jan
      Jan says:

      My Dutch ancestor also came on the Kalymar Nyckal in 1638 to settle in what now is Manhatten.
      As families grew they moved to New Jersey. Now there is a large family & website of Blauvelt descendants.

      Reply
    • Hannu Vilpponen
      Hannu Vilpponen says:

      Your book is welcome! It would be nice to read it. If you like some more art with your project about koskela design with log-construction WI or from somewhere north (I mean design techniques to find better surface treatment for old log-houses against weather) you’ll find a good artist yourself I think. It is important today to find right weather model, surface technique and the material of choice.The designers beginning of 1900 were Henry Ollila, Peter Koskela, Vale Jokela, Eelis(Juha Koskela), all men 100% finnish and experts! Some of their wifes are descended from Nelimarkka Finland Alajarvi and Kuortane 100 % finnish too! Your book will be a good cristmas idea this year again! Thanks a lot a good article!

      Reply
  19. Karen Laulainen Plummer
    Karen Laulainen Plummer says:

    Interesting article! I am surprised no one has mentioned Astoria, Oregon, and Cowlitz County, Washington, as an area where many Finns settled. My great grandfather came from Puolanka (Central Finland and travelled across the USA rom Michigan to Texas to Astoria to find the place he liked best. Fishing, farming, and logging opportunities provided jobs that Finns knew. He sent money back to Finland as he could and the family (his wife and 9 children) came as small groups they could afford the passage..My grandfather married a yong woman he had known in Finland after she journeyed to Astoria in search of a better life. Her sisters and parents (Makelas or Makarainens) came later. They all ended up in the Kelso area. The men fished, farmed and logged! We are very proud of our Finnish heritage. WE have a grandauther who is 6th generation Washingtonian named Kaija! We’ve visited Finland several times as my parents did and our children have done. Finnish sisu is something we have always been proud of. I’ve gathered as much of our family tree as possible and will continue working on it.

    Reply
    • Jo (Niemi) McCullough
      Jo (Niemi) McCullough says:

      I am from Longview, went to school with the Laulainen kids, spent time at the Finnish Church on Columbia Hights, and swam at Laulainen Beach on the Columbia River daily during the summer. My parents were friends of the Laulainens and enjoyed their company through the many years.

      Reply
    • Kirsti Kettunen-Belle
      Kirsti Kettunen-Belle says:

      Hi Karen, I’m staying with my son in Kelso, WA while I’m looking to find a place of my own. I would like Astoria, OR or anything by the coast. My granddaughter’s name is Kaiya, named after my sister Kaija, spelling changed so it’s easier for Americans. i know Astoria has lots of Finns, I was there for the FinnFest 2006. I’m 96% Finn, born in Finland.

      Reply
    • John Nikander
      John Nikander says:

      I spent some time in Kelso and Longview with Aunt Ida and Uncle Nels Tullila. My folks Helmi and George Steph retired to Longview after selling the chicken farm in Winlock. The name Laulainen rings a bell, but my memory is fading.

      Reply
  20. Arthur H Nicander
    Arthur H Nicander says:

    My Grandparents Julius Nestori Nikander and Alma Maria Aalto came to this country in 1902 and 1906 respectively. They settled in Alabaster, Iosco County, Michigan. Grandpa Julius worked in the USG Co. gypsum quarry there while Grandma Alma Maria worked the family farm, which was 40 acres leased from the Company under a lifetime lease they died in 1950 Grandma and 1951 Grandpa. I helped my father tear down the farm buildings as a 9 or 10 year old child. My grand parents never became citizens because they had to read, write and speak English, they were embarrassed about their accent to never applied for citizenship. The name was changed by my Aunt Alma Lillian while in high school, it was not legally done. My father had it changed legally due to the insistence of my mother.in 1962 when they were thinking about retirement and she found out the name was never legally changed. Grandpa Julius came from Parkano, Finland in 1902 and Grandma Alma came from Jamijarvi Village, Finland in 1906. Grandpa Julius also helped to bring his brothers Arthur Henry and Victor to the US also. His brother Oscar Edward was already here in Massachusetts. Granduncle Arthur was killed in an accident while working on a bridge construction near Schenectady, New York in 1922. Granduncle Victor had a farm near Rudyard, Michigan. He worked in the USG Co.quarry for a time, then moved to Crow Wing, Minnesota and worked in an iron mine. Moved to Detroit/Pontiac and worked in the automobile industry before settling down to farm in the UP of Michigan near Rudyard. He died in 1952/53. Granduncle Oscar left the USA for Finland in 1955. Their surname was spelled several different ways, Nikander, Nickander and Nicander, which caused some confusion doing family tree work. I spent many years searching for Granduncle Arthur’s death. Thank the people at Find a Grave for finding out about the cause of his death location and burial location…..

    Reply
  21. Paul Kolppi
    Paul Kolppi says:

    I’ve heard and read many similar stories. Unfortunately I’ve felt the shadow of pain from being different, however during my awakening I’ve embraced and welcomed the warmth of my tribe. Sisu and rauhan.

    Reply
  22. shirley
    shirley says:

    very interesting article, I currently live in Wisconsin, born and raised in Upper Peninsula at Crystal Falls, MI. Many Finnish in Crystal Falls area(iron County)
    I am into geneology and recently found out my dad’s oldest brother was born in Finland before they immigrated to USA. My dad always told the story that he was Swedish, their surname was Erickson, but got changed at Ellis Island as there were too many Ericksons. Changed to Long, which is English background. Also, he said his parents were born in Finland in area now part of Sweden. I have to do more research on that one. anyone have any more info or website on the Finland/Sweden annexation?

    Reply
  23. Pattie Paxson
    Pattie Paxson says:

    My grandparents were both from Finland and emigrated to Thunder Bay, Canada. It was once called Port Arthur. My grandmother’s name was Lempi Ojala and I recently discovered much more about her family in Finland thanks to a friend in the US as well as Finland (facebook friends). Social media is a wonderful thing. My grandfather Waino Mansikkamaki is harder to find. They were both hard-working people and much of Finnish culture remains with me now. My grandmother never learned English and I never learned Finnish so unfortunately our dialogue was minimal. I often think of what a challenge they faced when they came to Canada. The nice thing for them is that we had a strong Finnish community in our city. The article was very interesting. Thanks.

    Reply
    • Hannu Vilpponen
      Hannu Vilpponen says:

      Olivatko “Henry”Ollilat sinulle sukua? Hän yhdessä Peter Koskelan kanssa rakensi hirsimökin (nykyään Koskela-museo) Brantwoodiin 1902. Tieto peräisin Knox Heritage Centerin arkistosta. Seuraava ameriikankäyntikohteemme. Thank you very much too?

      Reply
  24. Cindy Soronen Jorgensen
    Cindy Soronen Jorgensen says:

    This artical was so nice to read. My grandparents came as children from Finland through Ellis Island and a few through Canada. They all settled in the Upper Penninsula of Michigan. I had heard of the hardships but it was never dwelled on. I understood as an adult it built Sisu. I am proud of the work ethic I was taught. The thankfulness to have a home, job, health and opportunity. I am glad I was taught to cherish the simple things. Cindy Soronen Jorgensen. .

    Reply
  25. Seija Somero
    Seija Somero says:

    Great article! I’m in my 30’s and I am the first generation in my family born here in the US. I wasn’t aware of all of this! Both of my parents moved here with their parents when they were young. Living in NH there are many pockets of “finns” in the area and still there is a bit of a stigma surrounding them. We recently met a new to the area neighbor who had asked, what is the deal with all of the finns in the area? What are their customs etc. Hilarious to try to explain! Apparently Finnish traits run deep as I was told once in a college public speaking course that my nationality probably paid a large part in why I did not gesture much during my presentations! Interesting to see how things have progressed!

    Reply
    • Joel Willans
      Joel Willans says:

      Thanks for the thumbs up, Seija. That’s fascinating to hear. I’m an Englishman living in Helsinki with a Finnish wife and kids, (and the founder of Ink Tank) and you’d be surprised how little Finns here know about their American Finnish cousins. It’s one of the reasons we’ve been writing so much about the Finnish American experience, for both communities. Out of interest when you say there is still something of a stigma, how does that manifest itself?

      Reply
  26. Nelma E. Mattice
    Nelma E. Mattice says:

    >My mother’s relatives were from Finland…Helsinki area…her mother was from Minnesota…her dad from Canada/Montana…have many relatives I never met in Montana… and then, our family in New York..my mother’s maiden surname was Hyvonen…her parents’ last names were Mattonen & Hyvonen…a few Finnish families settled in central/upstate New York..but not much culture is here at all…my grandfather had an outdoor sauna….my great -grandparents spoke Finnish, but I never met them…my grandma (who i also never met) was a great ice skater…my great-grandma was a spinning & weaving expert…my grampa was a war hero…still want to learn more about our ancestry…but not many relatives are left.

    Reply
    • RAY KOSKI
      RAY KOSKI says:

      There are many Hyvonen family members still living in Red Lodge, Montana area in Carbon County USA. The older members have passed on but their children and family’s can hopefully be viewed on Facebook somehow. Phone numbers can be obtained on White Pages. If you need their names, please email me and I will give you some.
      I live in southern California near San Diego. I am a retired high school teacher and am probably related to many of them by marriage. I know many of their names. I new their parents. They were hard working farm people.

      Reply
  27. Rochelle
    Rochelle says:

    All four of my grandparents immigrated to the United States while they were in their late teens and early 20’s. My father’s father changed his name soon as he arrived. He was a Kekkonen originally. My mothers father kept his name which is Peltonen and quite common in the U.P. of Michigan and Wisconsin. I’m from Wisconsin and my husband was from Ironwood, Michigan. Needless to say our surviving grandparents were thrilled that we were marrying a Finn. Our children are the last of that heritage as they married outside of the Scandinavian culture/peoples. My maternal grandmother’s family originally moved from Stockholm, Sweden to Finland to find work. It was hard living in Sweden at that time and one could always find work in the timber industry in Finland. So – there are Swedish-Finns and Finnish-Swedes all living together in Finland quite comfortably in this century. I recently found out we even have a.Norske in the famliy tree! My parents spoke Finnish always to each other when I was young. When I entered the 1st grade my teacher paid my parents a visit and said I speak both English and Finnish in school and that needs to be eliminated as they haven’t a clue what I am saying. After that they always spoke English, resorting to Finnish only when they didn’t want us kids to know what they were talking about. I only remember names of things and can’t connect into a sentence – making me sound more like Tarzan of the Jungle!

    Reply
  28. Dave Torma
    Dave Torma says:

    Loved the article and history, much of which new to me. Have to say, most of the Finns I have met are very reserved and friendly in a confident kind of way. Both sides of my grandparents were born in Finland and shared very different backgrounds but both ended up in the UP of Michigan and eventually met in Detroit after immigrating from the UP to the Mitten of Michigan in the early 20th century. Raised Lutheran, I cannot relate to the religious bias you speak of and can only imagine the language prejudice you refer to. Finnish is the most difficult language I know of to learn and get that from a US agent assigned to Finland detail. Love the Finns, proud to be 100% Finn; love all of my UP roots; love all the NHL hockey players from Finland, too!

    Reply
  29. Ray Marshall
    Ray Marshall says:

    I was told by a guy who had been doing a tremendous amount of research into the Finns of Minnesota that the major reason that the the Finns were leaders of the labor movements and unions was that the Finnish church required that every one had to be able to read and write. That wasn’t the case with other nationalities.

    Reply
  30. Peter Esala
    Peter Esala says:

    My grandfather John Jacob (Tuomela) Esala was born in Kayhajoki about 1886. He married Hilma Ruuth in Virginia,MN about 1905. My maternal great grandfather August (Matts) Mattson worked in the MI copper mines until he moved to Pike Township in 1893 or so. My gramdfather who has a couple hundred who have come after him John Jacob Esala has only two greatgreatgrandaighters that are 100% Finn.

    Reply
    • Paivi Luomaniemi
      Paivi Luomaniemi says:

      Hello Peter Esala,
      now I found something familiar, Esala/Tuomela family names. We are related, John Jacob and my maternal grandma were 1st cousins. I’m a Finn living in Finland and doing family genealogy study.
      John Jacob had a big sister Alma, 2 of her greatgranddaughters are coming to Finland today (Sunday August 28, 2016) to see the home country of the their family!!!

      You can contact me at pluomaniemi (at) gmail.com or through my FB page.

      Reply
      • Hannu Vilponen
        Hannu Vilponen says:

        I remember Tuomela family Kauhajoki too. Many of them were my schoolfriends there. I am 100% finnish-kauhajoki. Now I live in Oulu. My family spend holidays in Manamansalo every summer. Manamansalo is an big island center of Oulujarvi. We have self made log-house there. Next summer we all go visit to America!

        Reply
  31. Meeri Viitanen
    Meeri Viitanen says:

    Thank you for the very interesting article, I am hoping to get in touch with any descendants of Pekka Pakarinen who emigrated to America in the early 1900’s. He was my grandfathers brother but the family has lost touch over the years

    Reply
  32. Robin Tallberg
    Robin Tallberg says:

    Very interesting article. Because of DNA testing on my fathers side I found out his line went back to the 1500’s Forest Finns. They came over early then to Sweden and settled around Dalarna. Before the DNA I would have not thought we were from Finland. My Grandfather came to US from Sweden in 1920. We still are Swedish of course but I am very excited to learn of the ancestry going back to Finland. I was then finally able to find the line going back that far. Another interesting tidbit is I am from Michigan and from 12 – 49 I lived in the UP of Michigan. Most of the Finnish people are in northern UP and over by Iron Mountain. They even have a show on TV every Sunday for Finnish people from TV 6.

    Reply
  33. Jan Tommila
    Jan Tommila says:

    I loved this article. It made me so nostalgic for family visits to Mummu and Grandpa. Aunts, uncles, and cousins all jabbered away in Finnish while we ate Mummu’s wonderful coffee bread and sipped strong Finnish coffee. Mummu never learned English and Grandpa only knew a few words.

    My father and his siblings were all born and raised in the Finnish section of Fitchburg, Massachusetts. They learned English in school. Oh how I miss those wonderful times.

    Thank you again for the great article.

    Reply
    • Raimo Rantakyto
      Raimo Rantakyto says:

      Hello Jan,

      I was born in Tampere Finland in 57, migrated as a family to the US in 1958. I grew up in Fitchburg, from 1958 thru about 2008. My recollection of Fitchburg was when it had a bustling finish community. My first job was at the co-op supermarket.

      Reply
  34. Hope Howes (Troppi)
    Hope Howes (Troppi) says:

    Thank you . I am second generation Finnish. My Dad was first born to his mother Lillian
    elizabeth Kansas she arrived at ellis island at a young age. Married Edward John Troppi who was first born in New York after his parents arrived. we have established a family tree on Lillian’s side back to Finland 1700’s. I lived in Kaleva, Michigan

    Reply
  35. alex fresel
    alex fresel says:

    As a descendant of Litvak Belarusans and UP Irish IWW supporters I’ve always had a soft spot for Finns.

    After the Bohemians the Finns were the most radical American immigrant group being one of the founding sections of the early Communist Party. Gus Hall nee Arvo Hallberg from northern Minnesota was the Chair of the CPUSA for decades. His family and a number of others were blacklisted by the Iron bosses.

    Just up in Marquette this weekend met an old Finn at Flanigans he told me about having beers with Black bikers in Chicago back in the 70s. His internationalist laid back attitude is one reason I enjoy visiting da UP.

    Reply
    • david
      david says:

      alex i agree with you, everything i read about american finns politically seems very progressive, not to mention what appears to be their strong presence in the cooperative movement.

      Reply
  36. John Kyllonen
    John Kyllonen says:

    Thanks so much for the interesting article. I’m 100% Finn from Michigan’s upper peninsula. Lots of Finnish heritage there. I moved to northern California a while back and I thought i found a Finn community. Lots of shirts,flags etc with what I thought was SISU. Turns out it was SJSU for San Jose State University. ? Still proud to be Finn

    Reply
  37. Dennis Randa
    Dennis Randa says:

    My father’s mother migrated here from Finland at 13 in the early 1900s. She married a first generation Finn and from that pairing came my father and then his family of which I am son. My father was prosperous enough to afford taking his parents to the homeland in the later part of the 20th century, from all I heard it was a wonderful trip and I wish I could have been along. But what I write about here is from what my dad brought back from that trip. He tried to find some lineage data about our ancestors and was frustrated no end. Seems like the custom is for the family name of the ‘farm’ when it was transferred to another family was for that farm’s name to become the name of the new owners. So my grandmothers family name “Maki” may have come from when her family took over that farm on the “Hill” sometime in the past. Wow, how hard it is to follow a lineage with that complication and how many assumptions do we all carry with us?

    Another interesting story about my family name: “Randa” comes from what I’ve been told at immigration registration into the US the presiding judge was growing tired of so many Ranta sir names and changed the next half dozen or so Rantas in front of him to Randa. Wonder how many times acts such as this happened back in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

    Thanks, this was pleasant to recall and read of others thoughts.

    Reply
    • Hannu Vilponen
      Hannu Vilponen says:

      There is some interest about your first story. Maki’s farm on top of the hill near brantwood… Do you know something about Maki’s co-operatives furniture beginning of 1900 with Koskela in Brantwood? What happened to them? I have heard that my mother’s grandpa died and disappearad at same time.

      Wow, how hard it is to follow a lineage with that complication…I say wow too! Do you know something about my story?
      This was pleasant recall you too, thaks a lot!

      Reply
  38. Hannu Vilpponen
    Hannu Vilpponen says:

    Remember anybody whoes build the first koskela-house log cabin in brantwood Wi? When? Very interest to know. Other peoples who co-operative furniture before and beginning of 1900 I want to know. Secondly what happened Makis furniture and Eelis furniture? Knows anybody Hilja Palomaki (from Kuortane Finland too) in brantwood? What happened her householder after? Eelis story. Eelis finnish name was Juha Maijanpoika Koskela. His wife was Anna Maria Kaartunen descends of Sissala, Hautala, Höök, Nelimarkka. Eelis mother don’t get immigrant because she was all blind. Does anybody who birthplace is brantwood wi knows this story or does somebody else know this story? Thanks a lot a good article!

    Reply
  39. Roy Tuomisto
    Roy Tuomisto says:

    Roy Tuomisto -first generation Finn- Father Kalle from Orivesi came to America In 1928 +/- . Met my mother, Aune Oberg and grandmother Mary Oberg (nee Uusitalo from Alajarvi) .My Uncle John Oberg and Mother grew up in New York City (1912-1930).
    Kalle and Aune married in 1930. My sister, Elena Rei Tuomisto was born in 1933.
    My father and I visited Finland in 1974 to see his family( 4 Brothers and 1 sister) in Tampere and Orivesi. I just took my son , Erik and daughter Jennifer to meet 2nd and third cousins of Tuomisto ,Uusitalo and Kanerva families in June of 2016.. Helsinki, Tampere and Alajarvi are just beautiful and peaceful, clean.. Best water in the world and the Sauna is wonderful. The midnight sun is beautiful. Flew on Iceland Air . $550. roundtrip per.. Wonderful time visiting with family and meeting many on mothers side( Uusitalo) .

    My father was born in 1901 and after New York lived in Philadelphia and finally in Holmes , Pa. Mother (Aune) passed in 1955, when I was 3.
    Uncle John Oberg lived in the Bronx, worked as a stevedore on the docks. We would visit Yankee stadium and see the M&M boys at Yankee stadium from the bleachers. I would take the subway to the Worlds Fair in 1964 . He would meet me at the THAI Pavillion for dinner after he finished work.
    Growing up , we went to many Finnish dances in Mullica Hill in New Jersey and Northeast Maryland. Our friend Jack and Olga Wilson lived in Sicklerville, N.J. and we would sauna there when we visited. We would also travel to Voluntown, Connecticutt to a Finn camp on a lake where I learned to swim when I was 10. We jumped out of the sauna and I doggie paddled to the float out on the lake with my dad swimming next t o me..
    My father, Kalle Tuomisto was a Finn carpenter. He worked on the Walt Whitman bridge, Philadelphia water works and Sun oil in Chester , Pa. A monument to the Swedes and Finns that settled in Chester is still there and the Morton Homestead( Finnish descendent who signed the Declaration of Independence) is on rte 320 and near Chester pike in Norwood, Pa.
    Visit Finland when You have the Opportunity. You will love it ……. Roy Tuomisto P.S-Any Finnish clubs in Southern Pa.- Northern Maryland? My son( 26) interested in meeting Finns in the area.

    Reply
  40. Debbie Kauppinen Esselstrom
    Debbie Kauppinen Esselstrom says:

    I grew up on the Iron Range of Minnesota and am from a small rural community, Cherry. All of my grandparents came from Finland. I remember going to co-op camp as a child and having my first crush on the camp’s lifeguard (I was 8 years old!). I count among my dear friends relatives of Gus Hall and Bobby Aro (both mentioned here previously). I currently live and work on the central coast of California and would be interested in meeting other Finns in the area. Thanks for the great article.

    Reply
    • Larry Kokkonen
      Larry Kokkonen says:

      Hi Debbie Kauppinen Esselstrom, My brother, Matt (Matti) Kokkonen lives in San Luis Obispo…he is quite well known as he ran for the US Congress in 2016, didn’t quite make it, but was a Jr. Ambassador of Finland to Disneyland in 1956. He has an Insurance Agency on Johnson Street in SLO, and always likes to talk to a Finn.
      Larry Kokkonen, Toronto

      Reply
  41. James
    James says:

    Question: If the mining companies were exploiting their workers, why were those same workers writing letters to home telling their friends and families to join them half way around the world? Answer: They were not being exploited!

    Reply
  42. Howard T. Orr, Jr
    Howard T. Orr, Jr says:

    My grandfather, Charles Suo, was born in Finland. My mother and her siblings all spoke Finnish. I understand his last name was originally Suotaken (I believe it means behind the marsh) in Finland and was shortened before he came to America. He worked in the Iron Mines in northern Minnesota. The iron mine caved in on him twice. After the second time he quit the mine and opened up a butcher shop near Virginia, Minnesota. He also owned a rooming house in Virginia, Minnesota where my mother was born. My grandmother contracted tuberculosis and the doctor suggested that they move into the country so they settled near Orr, Minnesota. He took out a homestead for the land and farmed, clearing the land with mostly an axe. The town of Orr was named after my grandfather’s brother (on my father’s side).
    My grandfather (Orr) tells the story of riding in a wagon with a Chippewa Indian named Charlie, sitting beside him, They saw a new farm and house had been built and my grandfather asked Charlie. Who lives there, Charlie, a white man?
    Charlie: “No”
    Grandfather:”Indian, huh?”
    Charlie: “No”
    Grandfather: “Well then who does live there?”
    Charlie: “Finlander”

    My grandmother passed away when my mother was six years old.
    People from Finland were discriminated against and I was told that my ancestry was Scotch, Irish, and English. It did not dawn on me until I was a teenager that having a grandfather born in Finland might slightly change the balance on my ancestry.
    I recently had my DNA analyzed and it came back as 43% Northwest Russia and Finland. Apparently the DNA is not much different between Northwest Russia and Finland.
    I remember seeing a National Geographic article on the Laplanders. One of the pictures had somebody in the picture that, to me, looked like my grandfather. My mother would not acknowledge the resemblance. The DNA analysis does not differentiate between Northwest Russia, Finland, and Lapland (Sami).
    Several years after my grandmother died of TB my grandfather married again to a woman who spoke only Finnish. I could not talk with her as my Finnish was very limited.
    Her name was Ida Suo.
    During the 1930’s Communism was strong in Northern Minnesota. They had periodic meetings and had Josef Stalin’s picture displayed at the meeting. Several families traveled to Russia. They sold everything to get the passage to Russia. “You don’t need any money in Russia.” Most were never heard from again. One family did make it back and were so disgusted that one of the younger men went to the communist meeting and shot Stalin’s picture full of holes.

    Reply
  43. Howard T. Orr, Jr
    Howard T. Orr, Jr says:

    One summer I worked in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Lots of people of Finnish decent live there, I used what little Finnish I was able to speak and was told I was the first person they had met who spoke Finnish that was not from the Upper Peninsula.

    Reply
  44. Howard T. Orr, Jr
    Howard T. Orr, Jr says:

    My daughter and her husband got me the Pimsleur course for Finnish for a present. I have been listening to it but it is frustrating trying to find somebody with whom I can speak it. I have a SISU sticker on my back bumper hoping that someone will see it and at least say “hyuva payva” or something. Once in a while at a ham radio convention I meet somebody from Finland. My Finnish is pretty well limited to “isoisani sinti suomessa” which I believe means “my grandfather was born in Finland.”

    Reply
  45. Patti
    Patti says:

    My great-grandparents, John and Susana Pesola, came over from Finland sometime around the turn of the 20th century, and settled in Belt, Montana. She died in 1910, leaving him with several children, who he cared for with the help of one of the eldest daughters until his death in 1920. Their second to the youngest daughter, Helmi, born 1909, is my maternal grandmother. She married my grandfather, William Alva Nichols in 1930, and they lived in Butte, Montana, which is where I am from. Helmi’s sisters, my great aunts Esther and Annie, married Alvin McGetrick and Elmer Maki, respectively. I remember spending time visiting them while growing up, as they also lived in Butte. There was also a sister, Lempi, whose married name was Backa, though I don’t remember her husband’s first name. Also brothers, Waino and John, who I believe likely passed on before I was born. Possibly other siblings as well. Still trying to trace things back.

    Reply
  46. Roger Paul Lahti
    Roger Paul Lahti says:

    My dads parents came to America around 1906-07 I’m told. I never knew my grandfather but remember Mummu from visits to the Seattle area when I was small. He was a Lahti and she was a Koskela. Their children were razed on Bainbridge Island across from Eattle. My mother, Danish and English met in Seattle and married but lived during my sisters and my youth in Kennewick Washington neat her parents, Henry and Nora Paulsen.mim certainly proud of our family and my ties to a Finnish heratige along with my Danish and English half. Unfortunately with us living in Eastern Washington and only visiting family one the wet side once or twice a year, I didn’t really get exposed to many of the Fonnish traditions or language that others have enjoyed. I know we have many other family ties in America but they have been lost over the years. Sisu Finnboyken

    Reply
  47. Larry Kokkonen
    Larry Kokkonen says:

    I was 19 in ’62 when I moved to NYC from Helsinki, married a Canadian girl, brought her to NYC but got so attracted by the summer cottage area of Ontario’s Georgian Bay area and moved to Toronto. Spent 50 years in Toronto running my businesses and just before retiring 6 years ago, started building a float plane, now finished and my flying licence almost in my pocket, gonna take my bride of 52 years for a plane ride to the summer cottage where we go in April and out in October. By keeping busy throughout my life, and a committed walk with my Lord and Saviour through the years, has produced a well balanced life and an assurance about the future.

    Reply
  48. Peter Esala
    Peter Esala says:

    My greatgrandparents the August Matts’ and Wuori’ settled in Pike and Angora townships, MN and my paternal grandparents Jacob and Hilma Esala settled in Sandy Township, MN. Two of uncles Rev Hugo and Rev Toivo Esala served Finnish NELC congregations .

    Reply
  49. Kathy Gauthier
    Kathy Gauthier says:

    Loved the article and thank you for writing it. All the comments are very interesting.
    My maternal grandfather Matti Sarvela came to Canada ?? in 1929 to make some money for his family and got stuck here in Vancouver British Columbia Canada. He helped bring his widowed daughter Aino Pieti and her 3 children over in 1956. I am one of the 3.
    When we entered school the teacher changed my name from Kati to Kathy and my sisters name from Marjatta to Marietta.
    I have been back to Finland many times and I’m truly proud of my heritage and I do have SISU.
    I have cousins in Thunder Bay as well as Barga Michigan,Calgary Alberta.
    I was born in Ylitornio, and lived in Pekkanpää.
    My paternal grandmother was born in Deadwood, South Dakota in 1888. Her mother died there giving birth so her father returned to Finland when she was 10 years old. Her maiden name was Autio.

    Reply
  50. Irene Jarvela
    Irene Jarvela says:

    This article and the comments were very interesting to read since I, too, have fond memories of growing up with Finnish grandparents (Father’s side) who immigrated to the states at the turn of the 20th century. My maternal grandparents immigrated at the same time from Hungary. My Dad called my brothers and me “Finngarians”. My parents, naturally spoke and wrote fluently in their parent’s native tongue, but insisted that, as we are “Americans”, we must learn “good English” and not be handicapped by needing to learn another language. I was too young to realize back then that my grandparents felt the discrimination of being “foreigners”. Still, despite the stigmas they felt, my ancestors instilled all the “old country” values of hard work, family loyalty, getting a good education, love of music, and most of all the security of being loved and loving back. I’m sure all nationalities have these timeless qualities.

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  51. Peter Koskela
    Peter Koskela says:

    I am very interested in visiting the Koskela log house museum in Wisconsin this summer. My name is Peter Koskela and my father was Juha Koskela who came to northern Ontario in 1957 from Toholampi, Finland. I am not claiming any relations in Wisconsin, just find it interesting that I bear the same name. My mom is from Kannus, Finland and met my father in northern Ontario in 1960. My mom had a relative by the name Kenneth Sampi and he had a sister Helmi (Pearl) in Butte, Montana. Kenneth was supposed to come visit, but he died before his planned visit and we never got to find out any more information regarding those roots.

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  52. Yvonne Johnson Belden
    Yvonne Johnson Belden says:

    My Grandparents and Ancestors are all Finnish, so I guess that makes me 100% Finnish – American! I’m very proud of my Finnish Heritage. All 4 of my Grandparents spoke both Finnish and English. Their parents, or Grandparents, all came from Finland. Towns they were born in include: Hinnerjoki, Ilmajoki, Kalajoki, Himanka, and Karkinen. Their last names consisted of: Kuusisto (which was later changed to Johnson when he arrived in the USA), Niemi, Mattila, Bimberg, Siermala, Kotka, Hautala (which was later changed to Hill when he arrived in the USA), Ainali, Malminen, Siironen, Moisala, Hakala, Luuru, Savukoski, and Harju. All of my Grandparents, Great Grandparents, and some Great, Great Grandparents lived in Northern Minnesota.

    Someone else mentioned Bobby Aro – I listened to him sing at the Meadowlands, MN Fair, and I listened to his son sing at the Floodwood, MN Fair. Both were quite entertaining. We’re also very proud of our Sisu! My Johnson Great Grandfather started the Co-op movement in Cedar Valley Township, north of Floodwood, MN. Years later, I worked at the Co-op Store in Floodwood, MN while I was in high school and into my college years. My Hill Great Grandfather was the first settler in Elmer Township, near Meadowlands, MN. Both sides of my family were involved in logging, and some of my relatives are still into logging. I attended FinnFest 2008 in Duluth, MN and got to meet some new relatives. In Minnesota we also have the Salolampi Finnish Language Camp. I haven’t been there, but several of my relatives have visited the camp several times.

    I’ve been tracing my family history since 1978 and thoroughly enjoy doing so. Thanks for the article, and all the comments.

    Reply
    • Diane Dettmann
      Diane Dettmann says:

      Thank you so much for sharing this interesting article. My grandparents, Paul Kaurala and Hilja (Lukkarila) Kaurala, came to America in 1913. They met on the boat, a ship-board romance. They married and eventually homesteaded a rugged piece of property in Babbitt, Minnesota. In 1995, my aunt, Miriam (Dloniak) Kaurala published our family memoir, Miriam Daughter of Finnish Immigrants. The story reveals the courage, strength and Finnish “sisu” they needed to raise seven children in the barren northern Minnesota wilderness. Our story is a testimony to the determination our Finnish family had to not only survive as immigrants, but to succeed and become productive members of the American society. Great read for all ages.
      You can find more information about the book https://www.amazon.com/author/dianedettmann
      Proud to be a Finn!

      Reply

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