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Kathryn (Kaarlela) Tervo - A Life History

JoLinda Tervo

In the year 1886, on May 9, near the town of Nivala, Finland, Kaisa Kaarlela was born to Mr. and Mrs. Emanuel Kaarlela. Kaisa lived in Nivala until she was fourteen. When her parents came over she most likely stayed with family in Finland. When finances allowed her parents to send money to her, she then came over to America with her eighteen year old uncle. The boat docked at Ellis Island in 1901. Kaisa's uncle foolishly told her to throw her papers overboard as soon as the Statue of Liberty came into view. Included in the papers tossed overboard was her birth certificate, her passport, and many other valuable papers. She didn't know her real birthday until many years later when her daughter Lillian contacted the Church in Finland.

From New York, Kaisa and her uncle boarded a train which took them to Canada (possibly St. John). From Canada they took a train to Hancock, Michigan. Kaisa's mother and father were waiting for them in Hancock. Kaisa's parents had three more daughter's after they came to America.Kaisa became known as Kathryn after immigrating to America. Her son, Leo, also remembers people calling her Katri. This is a common Finnish translation to Kathryn.

Kathryn went to work for the same uncle she immigrated with, in Painesdale, after he got married. He and his wife ran a boarding house for immigrants and Kathryn helped keep house. Kathryn met Tuomas Tervo while working here.

Tuomas (Thomas) and Kathryn were soon married by an Apostolic Lutheran minister, Arthur Heideman, in 1907. They resided in Coburntown, since Thomas had a job in the Quincy Mine. The Tervo's had boarders, both in the basement and upstairs. The family below them had the family name Orava, which means squirrel in English. Kathryn often joked with her children about having the "squirrels" living in their basement. Five of their children were born here; Julius, Wilbert, Carl, Lillian, and Tom. The house is still standing today and in good repair, though not in the Tervo family.

Work in the copper mine became scarce with the strikes and the decrease in copper. The strikes were a rather scary time for the Tervo family, and they decided it had gone too far when the National Guard had to start camping outside of the mines. Thomas and Kathryn decided it was time to leave town. Thomas took a ferry down the canal to find farmland. He landed on Portage Entry and found forty acres of land, complete with a little, log cabin. Adam and Eve Kokko had wanted to buy land closer to a town so the two families traded houses.

The Tervo's had to borrow a team of oxen to move their few belongings to Portage Entry. Thomas and Katheryn brought their five children, a cow, a dog, and a pig that died on the way, along with their clothes and whatever else they needed. Living in town, the Tervo's hadn't needed animals, so they had to borrow the oxen. Thomas and Kathryn lived in the little cabin with their five children the first winter. They built a new home the next summer, about 1918, and their sons Wesley and Leo still live there today.

Kathryn had four more children; Jenny, Wesley, Kenneth, and Leo. Time's were tough, and the depression was hard on the family. Thomas logged out many fields to try and earn some money, but at the time trees didn't have as much value as they do now. The family had little money, so the children seldom received more than an orange for Christmas, and clothing had to be patched and handed down many times.

The Tervo's raised dairy cattle and strawberries. Kathryn's son Wesley, remembers all the strawberry and dairy meetings being conducted in Finnish, since most of the neighbor's were Finnish. The meetings were held at the Chassell Community Center. Strawberries became important to the Tervo's in about 1930--then in 1936 a group of strawberry farmers in the area started an association. The strawberries were shipped by train to Chicago where they were sold. The Tervo strawberry farm was about 3 acres large at its peak. Leo remembers one really bad year--about 1938. The berries rotted on the way to Chicago and were sold at a very cheap price. The Tervo's received an average of only six cents for every sixteen quarts of berries.

Because Thomas and Kathryn were both immigrants of Finland, they never really spoke much English. The children all learned Finnish at home and had to be taught English in the Snake River School. Most of the children finished all eight grades in the little one room school. Jenny, Wesley, Kenneth, and Leo were the only of Kathryn's children to go on to Chassell High School. Since it was such a long walk into school every day for the high school students, the Tervo's started to drive school bus. Kathryn's children, Carl, Tom, Wesley, Ken, and Leo all drove school bus for Chassell. Leo is still a substitute driver and Carl started driving bus in about 1936.

Kathryn is remembered for having a good sense of humor. Wesley remembers his mother enjoying a good laugh with the neighbor ladies whenever they got together. She didn't talk often about Finland that anyone remembers now, but when she did, she spoke of her grandparents she left behind when she came to seek a new life in America.

Kathryn made wonderful rye bread and if it ever got old, she would soak it in something (Kenneth thinks maybe salt pork fat or something like that) and then fry it. Her children loved her leipapaisti (frybread). Kenneth remembers wearing thick, woolen, knitted stockings that she made. She didn't have much time for hobbies, but she was a hard worker.

Thomas and Kathryn mentioned seeing the famous "Big Louie Moilanen." They enjoyed going to the museum on the top of Quincy Hill and seeing his clothes. Kathryn also brought her children into town when she was able to. Kenneth remembers going on the old street car with her to visit the Kotila's. They would go out and have fun whenever they had a chance.

Kathryn died on November 29, 1959, at the age of 73, eight years after her husband. She suffered with right lobar pneumonia for about six days before her death and died in the St. Joseph's Hospital, present day Portage View Hospital. She is buried in the Forest Hill Cemetary in Houghton. Kathryn's good sense of humor is remembered by the people who knew her!

JoLinda Tervo

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