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Origin of the Finns in the Western Reserve

John Ilmari Kolehmainen

(Evanston, Illinois, U. S. A.)

A study of the general overseas movement of Finns reveals a pattern of origin which has largely determined the composition of the Western Reserve settlements.1 Finnish migration to the New World has been marked by the heavy preponderance of the Vaasa element. Out of the 334,873 Finns leaving Finland during the years 1893-1933, at least 156,851 - or one out of every two and a tenth emigrants - were from the province of Vaasa.2 The dominance of the Vaasa element is likewise attested in the proportion of emigrants to the total number of inhabitants. In the period 1901-13 there were 139.3 emigrants per 10,000 inhabitants in Vaasa and only 51.8 for Finland as a whole. Thus a large majority of the immigrants in the Western Reserve, as generally throughout the United States, obviously came from Vaasa. Of the seventy pioneer Finns working on the railroads in and about Eastern Ohio during 1871-73, fifty-eight originated in Vaasa and the remainder almost without exception came from the adjoining province of Oulu.3 A census of the Finns residing in Ashtabula Harbour, taken in 1897, showed the following distribution of foreign-born Finns according to province of birth:4

Vaasa 575 Kuopio 5
Oulu 98 Mikkeli 4
Turu-Pori 61 Hame 2
Uusimaa 7 Viipuri 0

A census of the Fairport and Painesville Finns taken in January 1911 by members of the Kasvi Raittiusseura (Temperance Society 'Growth') disclosed a similar apportionment:5

Vaasa 522 Mikkeli 2
Oulu 15 Uusimaa 1
Turu-Pori 10 Kuopio 1
Hame 3 Viipuri 1

While no detailed enumerations are available for the Finnish settlements in Cleveland, Conneaut and Warren, it is possible to sample a fairly large and representative number through the membership rolls and marriage records of the religious institutions. Table 1 was compiled from the rolls of the Warren and Cleveland Lutheran (Suomi Synod) Churches and from the marriage records of the Synod's congregation in Conneaut:6

Table 1
Origin According to Church Records

Province

Cleveland

Conneaut

Warren

Vaasa
Oulu
Turu-Pori
Uusimaa
Kuopio
Mikkeli
Hame
Viipuri

111
12
9
1
8
6
3
11

149
5
8
1
2
2
1
1

107
6
15
2
3
0
8
2

If the figures for Ashtabula Harbour, Fairport, Cleveland, Conneaut and Warren are now combined, the marked dominance of the Vaasa element is brought into clear relief:

Vaasa 1,464 Hame 17
Oulu 136 Viipuri 15
Turu-Pori 103 Mikkeli 14
Kuopio 19 Uusimaa 12

In other words, there are nearly five times as many Finns from Vaasa in the Western Reserve as from the other provinces combined.

It is possible moreover to go beyond the province in defining the origin of the Finnish immigrants. The migration from Vaasa, as from the other provinces, was not uniform but spotted with heavy emigration from certain parishes and slight movement if any from others. In Vaasa, for example, the following fourteen out of a total of some eighty-seven rural parishes provided nearly forty per cent. of the province's total rural emigration during the years 1893-1902 and 1908-17:7

Table 2
Emigration from Vaasa by Parishes

Parish

1893-1902

1908-17

Närpiö
Ylistaro
Lapua
Isokyrö
Vöyri
Jalasjärvi
Kauhava
Alavus
Kauhajoki
Karstula
Mustasaari
Alajärvi
Laihia
Alahärmä

1,637
1,784
1,404
1,759
1,450
1,247
1,456
1,192
1,165
1,166
1,301
1,512
1,122
1,081

1,532
1,010
1,314
882
939
1,100
887
1,134
1,082
1,069
919
704
731
637

The distribution by parishes of the immigrants in the Western Reserve settlements naturally reflected the pattern of the Vaasa migration. The membership roll of the Finnish Congregational Church at Ashtabula Harbour for 1891-1936 showed the following distribution of Vaasa emigrants:

Isokyrö 15 Ilmajoki 4
Kauhava 12 Kaustinen 3
Ylistaro 11 Ylihärmä 3
Karstula 9 Seinajoki 3
Laihia 5 Ullava 2
Pihtipudas 5 Jalasjärvi 2
Kälviä 4 Saarijärvi 2

One each from the parishes of Viitasaari, Toholampi, Lohtaja, Alaveteli, Teuva, Alajärvi, Kivijärvi, and Himanka.

According to the Kasvi Raittiusseura's census of 1911 the classification of the Vaasa Finns in Fairport and Painesville was as follows:

Isokyrö 160 Vähäkyrö 10
Ylistaro 94 Vöyri 8
Laihia 35 Kälviä 7
Jalasjärvi 32 Töysa 6
Karstula 30 Ilmajoki 5
Kauhava 22 Nurmo 5
Peräseinäjoki 20 Soini 5
Lapua 18 Ylihärmä 4
Alajärvi 17 Evijärvi 4
Lappajärvi 17 Kortesjärvi 4
Jyväskylä 3 Jurva 3
Kuortane 2 Perho 2
Viitasaari 2

One each from the parishes of Kivijärvi, Alavus, Saarijärvi, Kannus, Kauhajoki, Laukaa, Teuva, and the city of Vaasa.

The parishes of birth of a considerable number of Vaasa immigrants in Cleveland, taken from the records of the Suomi Synod church, were as follows:

Kälviä 2 Ullava 4
Ylistaro 22 Pihtipudas 4
Isokyrö 14 Keuruu 3
Viitasaari 11 Kaustinen 3
Kauhava 8 Ästäri 2
Nurmo 7 Jurva 2
Soini 6 Alahärmä 2
Lapua 5 Laihia 2
Karstula 4

One each from the parishes of Alajärvi, Jalasjärvi, Toivakka, Kortesjärvi, Ilmajoki, Uurainen, Alavus, Kauhajoki, Seinäjoki and Kuortane.

The marriage records of the Finnish Suomi Synod Church in Conneaut for the years 1900-28 indicated this distribution of the Vaasa Finns:

Ylistaro 36 Alavus 5
Kauhava 15 Lappajärvi 3
Isokyrö 13 Jalasjärvi 3
Laihia 13 Kurikka 3
Viitasaari 11 Kortesjärvi 3
Nurmo 8 Töysä 2
Karstula 6 Pihtipudas 2
Soini 5 Lapua 2
Ylihärmä 4 Saarijärvi 2

One each from the parishes of Alahärmä, Kaustinen, Kauhajoki, Kälviä, Kuortane, Konginkangas, Jyväskylä, Peräseinäjoki, Alajärvi ja Toivokka.

In Warren the same arrangement seemed to hold true. The parish distribution of the Vaasa emigrants, as revealed in the membership roll of the Suomi Synod church there, was as follows:

Isokyrö 25 Ilmajoki 4
Alavus 11 Lapua 4
Ylistaro 8 Nurmo 3
Teuva 8 Kauhava 3
Jalasjärvi 7 Karstula 3
Kortesjärvi 7 Töysä 2
Laihia 6 Pihtipudas 2
Saarijärvi 5 Toholampi 2

One each from the parishes of Kuortane, Toivakka, Seinäjoki, Petäjävesi, and Viitasaari.

It is clear from the above tables that the dominant elements in the Western Reserve settlements are the Isokyrö and Ylistaro emigrants. Out of the 978 Vaasa Finns used in the sampling, 398 or two out of every five came from these two parishes. The regional concentration of the migration stream from the province of Vaasa is further indicated by the fact that Isokyrö and Ylistaro, along with the parishes contiguous to them, namely Nurmo, Lapua, Ilmajoki, Laihia, Vähäkyrö, Vöyri, and Ylihärmä, furnished 557 out of the total of 978 Vaasa Finns in Ashtabula Harbour, Fairport, Cleveland, Conneaut, and Warren.

Generally speaking then, one out of every one and a fifth Finnish immigrants in the Western Reserve has come from the province of Vaasa; one out of thirteen from Oulu; one out of seventeen from Turu-Pori; and from the others, varying from one out of ninety-four from Kuopio to one out of 148 from Uusimaa. The parishes of Isokyrö and Ylistaro have furnished forty per cent. or more of the Vaasa emigrants to Northern Ohio; the largest number of recruits for the Oulu migration stream has come from the town of Raahe and the parishes of Haapavesi and Kalajoki. The other provinces have played minor roles in peopling the Western Reserve.

References

1 The historic Western Reserve of Connecticut comprises the Northern Ohio counties of Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Erie, Geauga, Huron, Lake, Lorain, Mahoning, Medina, Portage, Summit and Trumbull. The largest Finnish settlements are in Ashtabula (1,333 foreign-born Finns in 1930), Fairport (800 foreign-born), Conneaut (287 foreign-born), Cleveland (1,303 foreign-born), and Warren (495). The total Finnish foreign-born population in the Reserve in 1930 was 5,359: that of the State, 5,633.

2 Suomen Tilastollinen Vuosikirja, 1934 (Yearbook of Statistics, Finland, 1934), Helsinki, pp. 79-80. See also the annual publications of the Siirtolaisuustilasto (Statistics of Emigration), Helsinki 1905 et seq.

3 S. Ilmonen, Amerikan Suomalaisten Historia (History of the Finns in America), II, Jyväskylä 1923, passim.

4 Kalle H. Mannerkorpi, Ashtabula Harborin Betania Seurakunnan 25 Vuotis Julkaisu, 1891-1916 (25th Anniversary Publication of the Ashtabula Harbour Bethany Church, 1891-1916), Hancock, Michigan, 1916, pp. 20-21.

5 Proceedings of the Fairport Kasvi Raittiusseura, January 1911, MSS.

6 The membership records of the Cleveland Church date from the early 1900's as do those of Warren. The figures in the text include all those who were at one time or another members of the congregations. The marriage records of the Conneaut Church cover the years 1900-28 but unfortunately the origin of all the contractants was not always listed.

7 Siirtolaisuustilasto (Statistics of Emigration), I, Helsinki pp. 82-86; XIV. pp. 30-32.

8 It has been impossible, of course, to gather information concerning the birthplace of every Finnish immigrant in the Western Reserve. The sampling of representative groups in Ashtabula, Cleveland, Connneaut, Fairport and Warren has given a fairly accurate parish distribution of the Vaasa Finns as well as those of the other provinces.

Published in Baltic and Scandinavian Countries, Vol. IV, 1938, p. 389-390.

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