Location: Laurium, Michigan
I left the village of Orajarvi, Finland, north of the Artic Circle, in 1909. My family was desperately poor, using one kind of tree bark to extend flour for baking and another kind of tree bark as soles for our shoes. My mother and father selflessly walked with me the first 20 km. I knew it hurt my mother to let me go – after I left she kept everyone away from the footprints I had left in the snow as I began my journey. Finally, I boarded a ship in Turku, Finland, that took me to America and my new life in the Keweenaw Peninsula. I found room and board in Copper Falls, at the home of Isaac Dahlgren and his wife. I married their eldest daughter Alma, in 1915, in the Finnish Apostolic Church, in Calumet, with celebrations held in Eagle River. Everyone cheered them as we left by the clanging of the bell on the cow we had been given as a wedding gift. I had a good wife who worked hard baking and keeping our 12 children clothed, even making the boys pants from flour sacks to get by. I worked in the copper mines, sometimes logging in the woods when the mines were shut down or slow. I am proud to be a strong man; this was something my family valued. I would have been a farmer but Alma would have no part of that. Alma and I moved the family many times according to which mine was hiring; Osceola, Negaunee, Eagle River, Allouez. Finally, we purchased our own home in Laurium in 1942. I am a man of simple tastes - enjoying a social sauna every Saturday evening with the other men from church, followed by a good cup of coffee afterwards. Finnish is still my only language although I can communicate pretty well with the kids. They would gather around when I would perform lead-pouring on New Year’s Eve to tell our family’s fortune of marriage, death and wealth for the New Year. Together Alma and I grew potatoes, raised chickens and picked strawberries, blueberries and thimbleberries. Alma and I loved to pick berries; sometimes we took the kids for an overnight blueberry-picking trip to Horseshoe Harbor. We enjoyed the Finnish Apostolic Church picnics in Eagle River with our children and friends. We suffered the loss of a 6-month-old son and a 6-year-old daughter to influenza in the 1930’s. Yes, there were difficult years but we still we had a good family life. My sister sends news of my family by letter, which brings up a grief so deep I can’t keep tears from my eyes. How I miss my departed, darling, wonderful, beloved, mother and how I have longed to hear her lighthearted laugh and to see her again. I like to think she would have thought I had built my life in a new country with true Sisu.
Contributed by: Kathryn Hodor, Waterford, MI