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Great, Great, Great Grandpa Elias

Iloni Kotila

In 1861, an adventurist was born: my great, great, great grandpa Elias Takkala. He was born into, a land-owning family in Karelia, Finland. He had brothers and sisters, but how many is unknown. His love for new endeavors grew along with his years, which probably crossed him with trouble's path more than he made good use of it. But he had an unbreakable spirit as a young man. After his first wife died in childbirth, Elias left Finland and went into England. In England he had a few odd jobs, and then enlisted in the British army. With the British army he went to South Africa in the Boar War. It is unsure whether or not he actually fought in the Boar War.

When Elias returned from South Africa, he was ready for a new beginning - and a new name. Elias decided that when he went to Canada, "Johnson" would be simpler than "Takkala". In Canada, Elias worked for the Canadian-Pacific Railroad. But curiosity and his longing for travel got to him as soon as he heard about Finns immigrating to Michigan.

It was sometime in the 1880's that he moved to Jacobsville, Michigan, where he met and married his second wife, Emma (last name not available) - nicknamed Emmi - with whom he had five girls and one boy. In Jacobsville, Elias quarried the sandstone used in blocks for buildings, including Suomi College's first building. Elias was involved in the laying of the foundation for Suomi College's first building, and he was mentioned in a local Finnish newspaper in 1898.

(Translated from Finnish into English)
Sandstone Cutters

It's worth noting here about the sand stone that came from Jacobsville, cut for the new construction of the Suomi College's first building. These are the ones that did the work: Gust Mattson, Jaakko Lund and Elias Johnson from Ripley, Isaac Sippola from Hancock and Jaakko Storvis and John Helman from Dollar Bay.

In 1930, Elias and his family moved to Ripley, Michigan, while still working at the Sandstone quarry in Jacobsville. They lived there for one year before their home was burnt to the ground due to an electrical shortage. Sadly, the fire was caused by Elias wife, Emmi. One day, broom in hand, she banged the wall - sure that there was a mouse behind there. To the family's detriment, Emmi indented the wall and the fire from the electrical workings shot out. Because the fire "trucks" were horse-driven wagons, there was not enough time to get to the house to save it.

A large portion of his life is unaccounted for because he did not tell his family much about his past, since he lost track of his family from Finland. None of them came to the United States. The children who were around him when he lived in Michigan did not think to ask him questions. His own children grew up and went there own ways, and after Emmi died, Elias was put into Houghton County's Oldfolk's Home, which was nicknamed "The County Poor Farm". In 1944, death visited the 83 year old Elias Johnson. His family lived on. One of his daughters, Sana, had married a Finnish immigrant, Axel Virenius, who worked in the copper mines. They were the parents of Sylvia, who was the mother of Gerald, my father's father. Other than Elias' gold watch, which he gave to my grandpa Gerald (who still has it safely kept), the only part of Elias I have is his adventurous Finnish blood. It has run down to me and will flow through the lines of my future family tree. I will pass on to my children what I know of Elias, but they may have to be content with his blood in their veins.

Iloni Kotila

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