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In the early 1900's many people from Finland came to America seeking better land and privileges than in Finland. At that point in history, land was poor in many parts of Finland and also the government was in charge of everything, including religion. Land was dry and therefore farming was poor; many Finns had little to eat because of this. The government ordered that all of Finland should have one religion; many who didn't want to believe by the government had private church services at their homes. Many of the Finns dreamed of coming to America to be free and many of them came. Among the Finns that arrived here in the early 1900's was my great-grandmother, Mari Tamminen, and my great-grandfather, Edvard Josef Heinonen.
Mari was born in Elimäki, Finland on November 9, 1884. Although Elimäki was part Swedish speaking, my great-grandmother and her family spoke Finnish. Elimäki is where Mari was born and raised. Mari was the daughter of John and Elizabeth (Kankahlia) Tamminen. She had nine other siblings.
When Mari was twenty years of age, she married Edvard Josef Heinonen. The date of their wedding day was June 11, 1905. Not long after they got married, Edvard Josef and Mari moved across seas to America in July of 1905. They came to America so they could practice their own religious beliefs. They also wanted better land to grow crops on. They settled here in the Copper Country of the upper Peninsula of Michigan.
Many people believe that their ancestors came to the U.P. because it looked a lot like Finland, but that is not true. Like Mari and Edvard Josef, many Finns came here for mining and logging jobs, they weren't too worried about how the land looked like Finland, it was the money and land they wanted. Of course the U.P. is much like Finland by means of climate, but it is not true that they settled here for the reason that the U.P. looked like Finland.
Some Finns settled in the East coast cities as tailors, carpenters, construction workers, and painters. Other Finns who came to America worked in quarries, sawmills, and lumber camps of many of the states in the U.S. Others found work in factories in the towns of Boston, Chicago, and Detroit. On the West coast they became fishermen and lumbermen, and in many of the Great Lakes ports, they worked on docks and railroads. But most of the Finns came to the mid-west and worked in the forests and mines and later on the land.
When Edvard Josef came here, he farmed land near South Range, his and Mari's first home in America. They later lived in Trimountain and in Liminga. In his later years, to get Social Security, he worked for the Houghton County Road Commission and helped build the covered Drive in Liminga. Mari, as well as many other ladies of her day, stayed home as a housewife because she felt it was important to mother her children.
When Mari and Edvard Josef were settled in the new environment, they started a family. Their first child, George Edward, was born on May 17, 1906. They had ten more children after George. Among the eleven children, two of them, Arthur Lawrence and Martha Miriam, died as infants. One of them, Peter Walfred, is my grandfather.
Edvard Josef died on June 28, 1942 of a heart attack. His youngest daughter had found him in the sauna. This is quite interesting because not many Americans die in a sauna. It is in our Heinonen blood to have saunas. Unfortunately heart attacks run in the family also. Three years after his death, in August of 1945, Mari married Oscar Jonas Nordstrom. Oscar was born in August of 1880 and died on May 22, 1956. Oscar was a friend of the family and lived in a nearby town of Edvard and Mari.
An interesting thing about this marriage is that my grandmother is the daughter of Oscar Nordstrom. Because of this marriage, my grandfather Peter and grandmother Pauline grew up together. They, Peter and Pauline, were married on November 6, 1948.
It would have been interesting to know my great-grandmother. I only know of her by stories I hear from relatives. She was a quiet and shy person. She loved to listen to children and would always tell them stories. She seems to be a loving person, it would have been fun to visit her. It would be neat to hear her stories live. I wish that she could be here so I would know how it really felt when she heard she could come to America, how her journey was, and how excited she was when she saw the "Land of Gold".
© Michelle Heinonen
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