Hilma Sofia MutkalaX

Born: July 16, 1885

Location: Kauhajoki

I am Hilma Sofia Mutkala, pictured here with my husband Samuel and our first child born in America. We have named him Eino Arthur and are very happy that he is strong and healthy. I was born on July 16, 1885, in the small village of Kauhajoki, Vaasa, Finland, where my family had lived for over four centuries. Finland was ruled by Russia when I lived there and life was very difficult. My people were tenant farmers, working the land of wealthy landowners for as long as anyone could remember. It was unlikely we would ever have land of our own. I was happy to meet Samuel, who lived in the neighboring village of Kurikka. He was born on March 7, 1884, one of ten children whose parents were also tenant farmers. When we married on April 15, 1906, he was already talking of going to America, where we might find a better life. His oldest brother, Jacob, was living in Laurium, Michigan; working in the copper mines, and encouraged us to come. Our Taimi Maria was born on June 9, 1906. She was not a strong baby and lived only until August 30th. In January 1907, Samuel sailed for America. I was worried when he left, knowing that a winter ocean crossing could be stormy and dangerous. I was now expecting another child; it would be a long time before we would be together again. I prayed that God would keep him safe. Little Eero Samuel was born on May 18, 1907. I wrote a letter to Samuel in Michigan telling him we had a healthy son. Alone with a new baby, I was grateful to live near my family in Kauhajoki, where my seven brothers and sisters helped with Eero. When the long summer days turned to long dark winter ones, sadness again visited my life. Eero died on December 4th. He was not yet seven months old and never seen by his father. It was a sad letter I sent to Michigan. In August 1909 there was finally money for my passage to America. I was sad to leave everyone and everything I knew, yet eager to be with Samuel. I had borne two children but was childless. When my long journey ended, the Keweenaw Peninsula was bright with autumn color, the sky a Finnish blue—and there he was. Eino was a year old when we moved to a farm that Jacob had bought in Pelkie, 45 miles to the south. Samuel worked in the copper mines in the winter and farmed with his brother in the summer for several years, until we were able to buy land of our own. Six more children were born to us on those farms. They all lived to be adults. Jane Hiltunen, granddaughter of Hilma and Samuel Mutkala and daughter of Eino Arthur. Dollar Bay, MI

Contributed by: Jane Hiltunen, Dollar Bay, Michigan