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About a century and a half ago, my great-grandfather, Johan Jakobsson Taipalensuu, was born in the far away land of Sweden, in the little village of Muonionalusta, in Pajala parish. He grew up in this village, went to school and was drafted in to the Swedish army. On March 17, 1878, Johan was united in marriage with Kristina Henriksdotter, the daughter of Henrik Olsson Parkajoki. Three children were born to this union before they left Muonionalusta, Sweden. They traveled from Sweden to Quebec, Canada, then to Calumet, Michigan by train. They lived in Calumet, on Pine Street, for three months, then they moved on to Kearsarge, Michigan. There Johan Jakobsson Taipalensuu, now known as John Muonio, worked in the Kearsarge Mine for 18 years. At this time, many people were moving into the Copper Country, where they worked in the mines or in the woods. John and Kristina, now known as Christina, had neighbors from many different cultures; such as Hungarians, Germans, Italians, French and English. Their house was so near the Wolverine Mine No. 3, once when a hole was blasted. the rocks flew through a window and broke their chimney. After this incident, they moved their house to a different place, where it is still standing today.
The three children mentioned earlier were; Gustava, John (known as Walter), and Mary, who all had the family surname Taipalensuu, because they were born in Sweden. After they moved to America, they had six more children, whose names are; William, Hilda, Oscar, Sophia, Herman, and Flora. Oscar and Sophia died as infants in Kearsarge. Walter and William worked in the mine with their father in 1904.
After a while they decided to move, because the government was giving away homesteads. They received one in Gackle, North Dakota. On April 12, 1904 they left Calumet, Michigan by train to make the big move. Hilda, my grandmother, was 17 at the time. She wrote about life in Gackle and how her family still received, The Daily Mining Gazette. They would get them in big stacks, because they wouldn't get to the post office very often. She also wrote about their house, which was a 10' by 12' homestead shack and a tent. The outhouse was the prairie, behind the hill and the first sauna was made of sod. The second sauna was dug-out in the side of a hill. The nearest neighbor was two and a half miles away (-) so different from when they lived in Kearsarge. At the time of their move, there was not a school in Gackle, but they went to the neighbor's house and Brother Bill taught them. He only had a 8th Grade Teacher's Permit to teach. On stormy nights they had to spend the night at school or else they would get lost on the prairie. John bought twenty-eight heifers from a farmer, because there was no free grazing when homesteaders came in. Later he bought some cows so they could start getting an income. He had to also buy a cream separator, milk and cream cans, pails and a strainer.
In the back of Hilda's mind she always wanted to come back to the Copper Country, a place where there was a lot of activity, instead of staying on the prairie where it was lonely. This was especially so after her mother died in 1910. After Herman died she stayed 10 more years to take care of the farm. One day Nels Ruonavaara came to the farm to see Hilda and they went to the courthouse and they were married on June 27, 1913 by a judge. They lived in Gackle for 3 months and then they moved to Jacobsville, Michigan on October 29, 1913. A few years later they had their first child, Walter Amold. Then on August 3, 1916, Robert William, my father, was born. They also had two daughters, named Flora and Elma. Then in 1919, Nels, Hilda's husband, died. My father was only three at the time so he does not really remember his father. But he remembers his grandfather and how he ate a big bowl of porridge (puuro) every moming, even in his later years. Grandfather Muonio was a big man. When Walter and my father went to Gackle to see him, they tried on his pants and each boy could fit in to one pant leg. On December 12, 1945, John Muonio died in Gackle, North Dakota. He lived a good life, with many good fortunes, that carried him to where he ended up.
© Marie Ruonavaara
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