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Matti Viktor Kilpelä. 1865-1939

Bradley (Toivo) Pietila

On a stormy evening on the Kilpelä farm, located between Lake Linden and Gay, two small towns near Houghton Michigan, Helmor Kilpelä, the youngest son of Matti Kilpelä, was hooking a team of Clydesdales to a wagon. Suddenly the horses spooked and jumped. They ran onto the top of a well, which was covered up with old rotting boards. The boards gave way and the horses fell into the well. Being the early 30's there was no way to lift the team out and the prize team had to be shot. Helmor never recovered from this tragedy and it led to his early death a few years later, heart failure according to family members. The farm and the beautiful team of horses had belonged to Matti until he sold the farm to Helmor.

Matti Viktor Kilpelä, a loving man, was born on March 24, 1865 in Koivunkylä, on the Kemijoki river, the parish of Tervola, in northern Finland. He is the son of Juho Abram and Anna Reetta (Romsi) Kilpelä. He had five brothers, one being older than him. He grew up on the Kilpelä farm, which eventually was passed down to his youngest brother, Olli Kilpelä. The farm is still standing, but it has since been divided among some of the family members. The owner of the main part of the farm today is Einari Kilpelä who lives in Helsinki and goes up to the farm every summer. Einari has fixed up the farmhouse and made it into a museum.

The Kilpelä families were talloliset and ran their farm like any big farm at the time. People came to work the land for the owner of the farm for the price of room and board and little extra. Being such a big farm the name of Kilpelä stayed with the land and house since it was established in 1636. (For example, if a man married a woman from the farm instead of changing her name and the farm name he just took the name of the farm. Refer to the record, at the end of the paper, of the families the have resided on the farm.) The original farmer's name was Kilpinen, and the farm became Kilpelä. Both of the names were used to in the records of the farm and it occupants but then just the Kilpelä name took over.

In 1886, after many hard years of life and a future that did not look any brighter Matti decided to immigrate to Calumet, Michigan, USA. As with most Finnish people he moved to work in the mines that needed good, strong workers. They came over to earn enough money to move back home to Finland and lead a happier life or to earn enough to buy and build a farm so their families could come. Matti's plan was to earn money to build a farm.

Matti married Greeta Magdaleena Raiha in 1888. Even though they had known each other in Finland and had come from the same area they did not get married until they came to the United States. They had seven children, the eldest, their only girl died when she was nine years old, Hilja. My great-grandpa, John, was included in the six boys of the family. After raising children for 24 years on the wages of a miner Matti earned enough money to buy a farm in 1910. On this 200-acre farm he grew enough hay for 20 cows. He also grew and sold strawberries to the local stores in town. Most of the work was done with the help of two horses, Jack and King - the horses that fell in the well. In later years there were also a few tractors that had steel tires. Finally in 1930, being to old to farm and needing an easier life Matti sold the farm to his youngest son, Helmor, and moved to Calumet.

In 1932, a year after Matti's wife died he made a return visit to Finland. He spent the summer on the Kilpelä farm with all his relatives. It apparently was a great time for him and everyone in on the farm because when my grandpa, Paul Kilpelä, went over in 1962 all the stories of Matti's trip were talked about as though it just happened. Matti retumed to the States that fall to spent the rest of his life with many his grandchildren and passed away on August 19, 1939 and buried next to his wife in the Lakeview Cemetery in Calumet, Michigan.

Record of the Kilpelä Families that have resided on the Kilpalä Farm since 1636.

1. Mikko Tapanin poika Kilpinen 1636-1688
Wife Valpuri Hiekin tytar.
2. Mikko Mikon poika Kilpinen 1688-1728
Wife Reeta 1728-1729
3. Kaisa Mikon tytar Kilpinen 1729-1759
Husband Olli Tervo-Kilpela 1729-1759
4. Reetta Ollin tytar Kilpelä 1749-1805
Husband Niilon Kanto-Kilpelä 1749-1805
5. Kaisa Niilon tytar Kilpelä 1805-1820
Husband Juho Leinonen-Kilpelä 1805-1820
6. Pekka Juhon Poika Kilpelä 1828-1882
Wife Leena
7. Juho Abram Pekan poika Kilpelä 1882-1885
Wife Anna Reetta 1882-1899
8. Olli Juhon poika Kilpelä 1899-1938
Wife Iida Amanda (Lampela)
9. Petter Wilhelm Ollin poika Kilpelä 1938-
10. Wife Laura Kristiina (Kokkonen)


© Bradley Pietila

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