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Commissioner of Schools, Houghton
Information on the history of the Finns in America is very meagre in the English language. Occasionally some special feature in their life may have received the attention of some newspaper man, but in general attempts to interpret their life have been singularly few. In Finnish, however, valuable work has been done in gathering facts pertaining to the immigration and the early history of the Finns in America.
Although the Finns are met with in the early history of the United States, for instance, in founding the colony of Delaware with the Swedes, in 1638, it was not until the year 1864 that they made their appearance in Michigan. That year may be taken as the beginning of modern immigration from Finland.
Michigan was one of the first states to attract them in large numbers. The first immigrants did not, however, come directly from Finland. Several thousand Finns are found living in Norway where they are mostly engaged in fishing on the coast of Norway. The Norwegians had been coming over earlier to work in the copper mines of Houghton and Keweenaw counties. It is reported that a certain mining company sent one Christian Taftes to secure miners from Finmarken and Tromso in Norway. In the summer of 1864 he landed in Hancock with over one hundred Norwegians, Swedes, and Finns. Some of the men took up work in the mines, while several were induced to enlist in the United States army which needed more men in defense of the Union.1 There were further arrivals the same year from Hammarfest, Wadso, and Kaafjord in the Copper Country in Michigan.
Other early immigrants came from the central provinces and the Torneo River valley in Sweden, where Finns have lived for a long period of time. In 1870 and the three following years there was a large immigration from Finland proper. They came to work in the copper mines. It is related that on one occasion they had much difficulty in making their destination understood by the ticket agent at Quebec, because they wanted to go to Quincy, Michigan, meaning, of course, that they were destined to seek work in the Quincy mine, located in Hancock. One lake steamer carried one hundred Finnish immigrants to Hancock in 1871. It was at that time that a daily newspaper of Chicago featured the event by publishing in bold type: The Russian Finns have begun their migration to America.2
Favorable reports were soon sent to the Old Country, and new arrivals came year after year, so that by the end of 1873 there must have been at least a few thousand Finns in Houghton and Keweenaw counties.3
The total Finnish population of Michigan, according to the United States Census reports of 1930, was 74,229, of which 27,022 were foreign born, and 47,207 native born. As to the number of Finns who have come from Norway and Sweden and are, therefore, to be added to the above census figures, see The Americanization of the Finns, Wargelin, p. 66.
Before following further events in the history of the Finns in Michigan, let us pause briefly to inquire who these newcomers were.
The Finns belong to that linguistic if not racial group of languages known as the Finno-Ugric, a term first used by the Finnish ethnologist Mathias A. Castren. The best known of these people are the Magyars of Hungary, the Esthonians, the Livonians, and the Finns proper. There has been considerable controversy among scholars as to their original home. An earlier conception placed them somewhere in central Asia, concluding that the Finno-Ugric group was a sub-division of the Ural-Altaic family, which was supposed to be related to the Mongols. Later study, however, has discredited this theory, on sufficient grounds in the opinion of the writer. A recent volume states: "Philologists are of the opinion that the original home of the Finno-Ugrians must have been in the regions which stretch from the headwaters of the Dnieper and the western slope of the Ural Mountains. The tracts round the Oka, the bend of the Volga, and the Kama, were probably Finno-Ugrian territory even at that early date, as they still are to some extent at the present time." (The Genealogy of the Finns, U. T. Sirelius, pp. 32, 33). The Mongolian theory as to the origin of the Finns has also been shaken badly, and most of the best ethnologists have given it up completely.4
The Finns settled on the Peninsula of Finland in the second or the third century of the Christian era. In 1157 they were converted to Christianity by the Swedes. As a result of this Finland was united politically and culturally with Sweden for over six centuries. In 1808, during the turmoil of the Napoleonic Wars, Alexander I of Russia made war against Sweden, and as a result of it Finland found itself united with Russia as a grand-duchy, having its own constitution and institutions. The union with Russia lasted until the revolution of 1917, when Finland declared itself an independent state.
Finns in Michigan
The Finns in the mines. Some writers have tried to explain the location of Finns in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan on the basis of the similarity existing between this territory and Finland. A certain similarity is observable in the numerous fir and pine forests, the abundant lakes and rivers, and the rigorous climate of each, but the Finn was motivated by the stern realities of life rather than by sentimental appeal of nature. He came hither because it was the way of least resistance. His natural interest was in farming, but no homesteads were to be had, as far as he knew, in more fertile sections of the country, so he came to work in the copper mines where there was plenty of work for the immigrant with wages that were much higher than he could earn at home. That he was interested in settling on land even at this time is proven by the fact that several men, who had come to work in the mines, left soon for the state of Minnesota where homesteads were to be had in Douglas and Otter Tail Counties.
Marquette County, the largest iron center in Michigan, received its first Finnish immigrants about the year 1870. They came there from the Copper Country.5 Soon they were followed by others direct from Finland. Undoubtedly the first Finnish child born at Ishpeming was the daughter of one Mikko Kantola and his wife, born in 1870.6 The Gogebic Range, the second largest iron district, received its first Finnish immigrants about 1880. At the present time they are found quite generally scattered throughout the mining regions of Michigan, and are to be found among the leaders in many walks of life.
Although he had never been used to mining in his native land, as an industrious and hard worker, the Finn made good, and has ever since been known as a miner of first rank. Some of the early miners became to be looked upon as men possessing skill and qualities of leadership and were entrusted with responsible positions by the mining companies. Of these we shall only name two, namely, Captain Jacob Wilson, deceased, of the Quincy Mining Company,7 and Superintendent John Huhtala, deceased, of the M. A. Hanna mines at Palmer.
The Finn as a farmer. Over 50 % of the Finns have come from agricultural life so that it is not surprising to find their steps leading back to farm life in America. After working in a mine or at some other work for a few years, until he has saved enough to give him a stingy start, he buys land, from 40-80 acres, and takes up his cherished occupation. Professor Chase reminds us that "whatever he (Finn) does he is very likely to own a milch cow or two and to care for them with what the Yankee would consider quite absurd solicitude".8 He also adds that the Finn is an excellent dairyman.
A story was told the writer, which proves that the cow has, indeed, been considered important in the family life. In the early seventies, when no roads connected Jacobsville with other towns, a Finnish man bought a cow in Houghton. As there were no roads, he took the cow to Jacobsville in a rowboat. Indians, who lived as their neighbors, had never seen a cow before. So one evening when the lady of the house went to milk the cow, and no menfolks were home, she found herself suddenly surrounded by curious Indians, who were watching her acts. She was much frightened at first, but continued her work. On completing the milking, she cleverly got some dishes and poured out some milk to each one of the Indians who seemed to enjoy this new drink immensely.
The Finn has not been afraid to go into some out-of-the-way place to farm, as is proven by the settlements he has founded at Tapiola (the abode of the bear), at Askel (a step, suggested by the topography of the place), at Toivola (the home of hope), and at Nisula (the home of wheat), in Houghton County, at Wäinölä the home of Wäinö, (a legendary name for the Finnish family), in Ontonagon County, and other remote districts. The Finns were pioneer settlers in many of these communities, having located in many of them as homesteaders, or as purchasers of cut-over stump lands, often ten to twenty miles away from railroads or any towns. The difficulties encountered were innumerable. Usually it was necessary for the men to leave their homes to work in the mines or the woods during the winter months in order to earn means of subsistence for their families, women being left home to care for the children and the cattle. Today these places are prosperous communities with modern homes, good roads, well-equipped schools, and churches. But the best of all, there live in them free, sober, loyal, God-fearing people.
Mr. J. H. Jasberg, former colonization agent of the D.S.S. & A. Railroad, who has probably sold more land to the Finns in Michigan than any other man, paid a high tribute to the pioneering work of the Finns when he remarked in his humorous way that "the only language the stumps understand in Upper Michigan, is the Finnish language".9
Other prosperous Finnish farming communities in the Upper Peninsula are found at Covington and other points along the D.S.S.& A. Railway, at Chatham, Eben, and Trenary in Alger County, at Rock in Delta County, at Rudyard in Chippewa County, and at Metropolitan and Foster City in Dickinson County. The inhabitants in the last two places are mostly Finn-Swedes, who have been very successful as lumbermen and farmers. In the Lower Peninsula are found a few scattered settlements, one at Lake City, which was started about fifty years ago, another at Lewiston, one at East Tawas, and the largest Finnish rural district in the Lower Peninsula at Kaleva, Manistee County, which was settled about the close of the nineteenth century. A Finnish land agent brought these settlers together from various parts of the United States. Some came from the iron and copper mines of Michigan, or the coal mines of Wyoming, others from New York and other cities in the east, where they had been engaged in various trades and occupations. This accounts in part for the enterprising spirit this community has revealed. The soil was very poor and sandy believed by many to be totally unsuitable for raising grain and vegetables. But today, after about thirty years of cultivation, it appears like an oasis in a desert compared to the other towns along the Pere Marquette line between Traverse City and Grand Rapids. The people are industrious, peaceful, and temperate.
Professor Van Cleef, of the Ohio State University, says of the Finnish farmer: "The Finn is thrifty and independent. Both of these qualities are the consequence of his life upon the farm in his native country where isolation and the struggle against the odds of nature challenge the strongest and bravest of men. He has consequently developed a penchant for work, a tenacity of purpose, and a skill in farm management which may well be the envy of the peer of America's best farmers".10
Other occupations. In the Copper Country they found employment early in the large hardwood forests that supplied the mines with fuel and timber or the charcoal kilns with hardwood. And in the seventies and eighties of the last century, when the northern part of the Lower Peninsula and the Saginaw Bay district were thickly covered with timber, and logging was done on a large scale, hundreds of Finns worked as woodmen in these areas.
While considering the experiences of the Finns as woodmen, mention must be made, by way of illustration, of a Finn who rose to be an employer of a large number of men in his logging operations. This man was Andrew Johnson who came to Hancock in 1873. He first worked in the Quincy mine for awhile, but soon bought himself a team of horses and began hauling freight. Out of this small start he developed one of the largest logging and contracting establishments in Houghton County. He also did farming on a large scale. He was a respected leader in religious and civic activities among his people. At his death in 1903, his son William took up the management of the business. Many other successful lumbermen among the Finns could be named, e.g. August Huttula of Covington, but space does not permit naming others.
The life in the homeland made the Finn adept in the handling of various kinds of tools. This training has been of great benefit to him in his new homeland. Many have been satisfied to work in the woods or the mines all their lives, but others have kept their eyes open for better opportunities. Soon many of them found employment as carpenters or blacksmiths at the mines, and later on began to work for themselves. Others, again, got positions with the stores trading with the Finns, and gradually we find them as independent businessmen owning their own stores and commercial establishments. The second and third generation are availing themselves in a commendable degree of the various opportunities found in our democratic country. At the present time there is hardly a trade or a profession in our complex American life that can not boast of its Finnish representatives. It may even be admitted that some of them may be found engaged in occupations that border on the unsocial, when measured by higher moral standards, as is true in regard to many other Americans, for the Finn seems to be human like the rest of the "homo sapiens" family. But it is only fair to add that due to his Christian bringing up under democratic conditions in his native land, the Finnish people have generally developed a strong moral fiber. The present Russo-Finnish conflict affords the world a true test of the moral and physical characteristics of the Finns.
Continuing our survey of the occupations of the Finns we next find them in the automobile factories of the Lower Peninsula. It was during the Copper Country strike that the lure of this new, growing industry was felt by mine workers as others, and thousands of Finns moved to Detroit and to other automobile centers. Here they are employed at various trades, some of them having distinguished themselves as draftsmen and engineers and originators of important improvements, while their children occupy clerical or commercial positions. Several young men, and even young women, serve on the Detroit police force. There are also several professional men among them, e.g. doctors, dentists, lawyers, teachers, artists, and ministers. In this connection we may point out that there are several hundred Finnish teachers in the public schools of Michigan. As to the number of Finns in Detroit, we have only approximate estimates, but on good grounds we may estimate their number to be at least 10,000. Since the above was written the writer was able to consult the U. S. Census Report of 1930, which reports 5,927 native born and 3,218 foreign-born Finns in Wayne County. And since practically all of this number live in Detroit, we get the total number of 9,145 Finns in Detroit and its suburbs. To this figure must be added a few hundred whose ancestry hails from Sweden and Norway.
The social life of the Finns. We can only touch on the different activities indicating this phase of our study, although for some reasons it is the most important. How an individual adjusts himself to his environment, and what use he makes of his physical and spiritual endowments, give his life real value.
The Finn brought with him a deep interest in religion. Great revival movements had swept through Finland in the first and second quarters of the nineteenth century. The early immigrants to Michigan showed signs of the influence of these movements in the special type of their Lutheranism. Churches were organized as soon as the new-comers were established in their work. Some of the oldest Finnish congregations in Houghton County are today about seventy years old. It is easy to understand the difficulties they met with in these activities when we recall that they had very little if any experience in church organization and parliamentary procedure, and with no ordained ministers to guide them. The Norwegians, who were earlier arrivals, had churches and ministers, but their ministers could not speak the Finnish language, although they ministered commendably under the handicap to the spiritual needs of the Finns.
The first Finnish Lutheran minister was the Rev. A. E. Backman who arrived in Calumet in 1876. He returned to Finland in 1883. In the same year that he came, a Finnish immigrant lad was commencing his theological studies at Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois. In 1883 he was ordained, and became the first Finnish Lutheran minister ordained in America. Having served a church in Astoria, Oregon, for about three years, he moved to Republic, Michigan, and became the founder of several of the oldest Finnish churches on the Marquette Range and elsewhere in the Upper Peninsula. This man was the Rev. J. J. Hoikka, D. D., who died at Crystal Falls, in 1917. The Rev. J. K. Nikander, D. D., came to Hancock from Finland in 1885. He labored among his countrymen continuously until his death in 1919. Together with Doctor Hoikka and two other ministers, Rev. K. L. Tolonen and Rev. J. W. Eloheimo, he organized, in 1890, at Calumet, the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, or Suomi Synod, and became its first president. Rev. K. L. Tolonen came to Ishpeming in 1888, and served that congregation until his death in 1903. The local church owes much for its flourishing condition to his efficient work as an organizer.11
The second general church body, which is known as the Apostolic Lutheran Church in America, is composed of the followers of Lauri L. Laestadius, one of the revivalists referred to earlier in this paper. The early immigrants from Norway, Sweden and Northern Finland belonged to this sect. As they emphasize the doctrine of the spiritual priesthood of believers, they favor lay-preachers, and very few ordained ministers are found among them. The Rev. A. E. Heideman, of Calumet, labored among them over forty years, until his death a few years ago. The Apostolic Lutheran group has divided recently into three minor groups, of which only one faction has a formal synodical organization. The different churches of the other two minor groups are joined together by a unity of spirit.
The third general church body is the National Finnish Lutheran Church, headquarters at Ironwood. It has about 15 congregations in Michigan, 7 ministers, and a membership of about 4000. The Suomi Synod has in Michigan 65 churches, 25 ministers, and 13,325 members.12 No statistics are available of the Apostolic Lutheran groups, but we may estimate their membership to be about 10,000 in Michigan. Most of the churches of the last-named group are found in Houghton and Keweenaw Counties. Although officially the number of church members in these general bodies appears comparatively small, in reality they serve a much larger number of Finns.
Education. When the Finns arrived in Michigan, the public school was a well established system in this state. They were pleased to have their children attend the public schools until they had completed at least the eighth grade. Gradually, more and more Finnish boys and girls, as is common in general, have continued with their education through the high school, and at the present time a considerable percentage take college courses or prepare themselves for professional careers. The children are of fair ability, and many show a high degree of intelligence. It is not uncommon to have Finnish children rank at the head of graduation lists in the large high schools of the Upper Peninsula. As the home training has been permeated by a conservative religious spirit, the children learn obedience at home and offer no special disciplinary problems in school.13
In 1896 Suomi College and Theological Seminary, the only Finnish educational institution of higher learning in America, was founded for the training of ministers for the Finnish Lutheran churches and for the higher education of the Finnish youth in harmony with religious principles. The school has operated continuously since that time, and has been an important factor in the education of the American Finnish youth as well as of others. The school is located in Hancock. Its largest enrollment of students, 165, was in 1921.
After the educational activities must be mentioned the temperance work. The first local societies were organized about fifty years ago. The grand lodge, organized in 1888, known as The Finnish National Brotherhood Temperance Association, with headquarters at Ishpeming, had at one time about 10,000 members, of which about one-half were in Michigan. During the last few years there has been a considerable decrease in membership. Professor L. A. Chase thinks the Finns played an important part in the adoption of the constitutional prohibition in Michigan.14
The Finn is a natural lover of music, and the musical culture of his native land is admittedly high. These traditions have influenced his life in America. He has spent much of his leisure time in musical activities. "The annual song festivals held at various points in the Lake Superior region, merit more attention than they have received", according to the judgment of Professor Chase.
Cooperative movement. The Finns are believers in cooperative system, and their cooperative creameries in Minnesota, apartment houses in New York, wholesale grocery company in Superior, Wisconsin, and their various kinds of cooperative, organizations in Michigan testify to their ability in establishing this method of production and distribution. They brought the idea over from Finland where the movement has had considerable spread and success, for example, the Elanto Cooperative Association of Helsinki operates general stores, restaurants, bakeries, and other establishments, employing in all about 11,000 workers. The present Foreign Minister of Finland, Doctor Vaino Tanner, has been at the head of the Elanto company for a long time. The types of cooperative organizations found in Michigan, some thirty of which are affiliated with the Central Cooperative Wholesale of Superior, Wisconsin, include general stores, creameries, gasoline stations, fire insurance companies, flour mills, savings banks, and boarding and rooming houses. The annual sales of the Central Cooperative Wholesale in 1938 were $3,356,550.00. These establishments aim to eliminate the middleman - storekeeper, banker, and employer. They follow a democratic principle: voting membership, often limited share holding, dividends in ratio to purchases, and subordination of the profit motive to the common good. In proportion to their number the Finns have been leaders in introducing the cooperative movement into Michigan.
The athletic activities of the Finns are so well known to the general public that we merely mention them here. Athletic clubs, either independent organizations or as a part of the program of some other institution, are very common in Finnish communities.
We cannot pass by the question of socialism by merely referring to its existence because of the prominence this side of the life of the Finns has received. Many Finns have shown radical tendencies. During the Copper Country strike some Finnish agitators made themselves infamously notorious, and socialistic labor temples are found in several communities in Michigan. This is admittedly true, but this is an example of a special phenomenon which has received undue recognition. In all they own about ten labor temples in Michigan, while the three Finnish church bodies own together over one hundred churches. Several large communities exist with strong Finnish Lutheran churches where there are no socialistic organizations, but there is not a community of any size where the opposite condition is true. The work of the church is often unnoticed because its work has no "news" value, but the bombastic resolutions of a handful of radicals may gain front page publicity. Socialism was unknown among the American Finns until after 1900 when the ukase of Czar Nicholas II, known as "The February Manifesto", in 1899, resulted in driving away thousands of people from Finland. It was during these years that emigration from Finland reached its climax, and many of these later comers were affected by hatred of organized government. Socialism in Finland has been attributed to the system of land tenure in large estates, to opposition to the tyranny of the one-time rule of the Czar, and perhaps also to a close connection between Finnish and German higher education and philosophic thought. "Tendencies acquired in the Old World," writes Professor Chase, "may have persisted in America through a failure thoroughly to assimilate the Finn in this country and to his subordinate position in economic life."15 Socialism has not touched the older immigrants, nor the church and the temperance people, and signs indicate that it is able to hold very few of the younger generation. It is on the wane in every community, and the socialists have always been in the minority.
It is interesting to point out in this connection that when the loyalty of the Finns came to a test by the Russian invasion of Finland on the last day of November, in 1939, the Finnish socialists in America as well as in Finland have stood united in their support of the democratic government of Finland.
Moreover, the first Finns cast their lot with the cause of Abraham Lincoln, when they fought in the Civil War, and it has become a tradition with them to side with the Republican party. What political prestige they have attained earlier in Michigan, has come to them through their activities with the Grand Old Party. The Prohibition party has also received the support of some of the sympathizers of the temperance cause. More recently many Finns have favored the policies of the Democratic party under the leadership of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Mr. Emil Hurja, a native of Michigan, having risen to national prominence during his first administration.
The Finnish newspapers have been a very important means of communication in the life of the Finns. Due to the system of catechetical instruction in the Church of Finland, nearly all the immigrants may be said to have been literate. The use of this ability was a stimulus for satisfying the desire to receive news from the old homeland. A further motive for the newspaper was the need of reliable information of the life of the land of their adoption. The first Finnish newspaper in America, and in Michigan, was the "Amerikan Suomalainen Lehti", published at Hancock in 1876, by a student named A. J. Muikku. Two years later another paper, "Swen Dufva", was organized in the same town by Matt Fredd. In 1879 was established the third Finnish paper in America by Alex Leinonen, of Calumet, one of the early pioneers among the Finnish immigrants to America. None of these exist today. The death rate among Finnish papers has been very high. Today there are published four Finnish papers in Michigan, namely the "Amerikan Suometar" at Hancock, "Valvoja", and "Opas" at Calumet, and "Auttaja" at Ironwood. Besides these there are a few religious periodicals. No Finnish socialistic papers are published at present in the state.16
In general, the Finns have adjusted themselves commendably to their new environment. This does not mean that they have given up all their former traditions and characteristics. No intelligent observer would expect that of any immigrant group in our midst. That would mean that Americanism per se possesses all the good qualities, and the immigrant none. There is a blending of cultures in process in the phenomenon of immigration. To what extent the old world traits are transplanted into the American life ultimately depends upon the survival value of these traits. The immigrant is still influenced to a large extent, even after his life has flown into the great ocean of Americanism, by his heredity and the social current of his past life. It is only after a considerable length of time, many generations, perhaps, before he has entirely lost all trace of his racial origin, and to expect him not to betray his racial characteristic, in the first or even second generation, does not show good understanding of sociological laws governing the problem of assimilation.17
We have here touched on only the most characteristic features of the life of the Finns in Michigan and have not attempted to point out their specific contributions to our life. But if their past record be considered any criterion for future prediction, they should be a distinct asset in the future development of Michigan.
Beginning. The year 1896 marks the formal beginning of Suomi College and Theological Seminary, as the full name reads. The matter of an educational institution for the training of ministers for the Finnish Lutheran Church, or Suomi Synod, had been discussed prior to this at every annual meeting of the said church, since its founding in 1890. The school was located in Hancock, Michigan, although other places, e.g. Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Superior, Wisconsin, had been considered. The Copper Country was chosen because it was the home of thousands of Finns, and the headquarters of the church government was situated there.
Buildings and Support. The school was opened in rented quarters in West Hancock in September, 1896, with eleven students. In 1900 a three-story red sandstone building was completed at a cost of about $40,000. In 1904 a frame building was added, which housed the Commercial department and the General and Theological libraries until the end of 1939, when a new building was completed. This building was the result of a financial campaign conducted in the spring and summer of 1938, when about $100,000 was raised. A similar campaign had been started earlier, but it had been postponed on account of uncertain economic conditions during the years of depression. The new building has a combined gymnasium-auditorium, a general library, a scientific laboratory, several classrooms, and a music room. The plans were drawn by Professor Eliel Saarinen, internationally famous Finnish architect, and his assistant J. R. F. Swanson, of Cranbrook Institute. The old main building now houses the college office and the commercial department, while the other departments have been located in the new building. By this addition Suomi College has a physical plant and equipment which will be adequate for its needs for many years to come.
The school gets its support chiefly through the annual contributions of the churches. Less than one-half of the annual budget is derived from tuition.
Purpose. The first purpose in founding this institution was religious. The Finnish immigrants to America experienced great difficulty in getting Lutheran pastors, - 98 % of the people of Finland are Lutherans - who could serve them in their own language. Very few ministers could be induced to come from Finland, and most of them who came remained only for a short time. It soon became self-evident to the church leaders that a native ministry must be educated to care for the spiritual needs of the immigrants.
The second reason was to give the children of the immigrants a chance to receive instruction in religion while pursuing their secondary education. Then, again, the adult immigrants had no chance to go to school to learn English and other common branches of learning in which they happened to be deficient. They were too old to attend public school, and the education of adults with offerings of practical and fundamental subjects was not provided for as it is today in nearly every American city. Suomi College was organized partly for this reason, and it has been an important factor in the Americanization of scores of young men and women, not only those of Finnish extraction but of other nationalities as well.
Lastly, the founders wished to provide their children with an opportunity to acquaint themselves with the literature, history, and the fine arts of their native land, in short, for the cultivation of their national heritage in America. This last reason is not difficult to understand when we recall the history of the earlier immigrants to America. They did not start a completely new life in America, but built their life and institutions on the social heritage of their native lands. The American life has been greatly enriched by the cultural contributions made by different races coming to America. Professor E. A. Steiner says in this connection: "Not that man should be feared who bears in his bosom an affection for two countries, but he who does not love any country at all."
Curriculum. The first department was modeled after the Finnish "lyceum" with seven grades. This was changed in 1904 to consist of a Preparatory department of three years to be followed by an Academic department of four years, corresponding to the traditional four-year high school of our secondary education. The Preparatory department was discontinued in 1923. It had been organized particularly to serve the educational needs of adult immigrants. But during and after the World War immigration from Finland nearly ceased, thus making this department less necessary. The Academy was accredited by the University of Michigan in 1920, and continued to enjoy this favor until its close in 1932. The reason for its discontinuance was that a high school department drawing its students from several different states in the Union, although offering as a special feature courses in Finnish and religion, was too far away from the homes of the students, and thus necessitated them leaving their homes during the early adolescent period when home influence is most necessary.
The Theological Seminary was started in 1904. It offers a three-year course in the four main branches of theological science, including the study of the original Bible languages, Hebrew and Greek. Two years of college work in the liberal arts curriculum is required for entrance. Over ninety per cent of the pastors of Suomi Synod have received their training in this department.
The Commercial department was begun in 1906. Formerly at least one year of high school was required for entrance, but now all students are high school graduates. Five courses are offered, namely bookkeeping, shorthand, combined course, and two courses combining some commercial work with Junior College courses (e.g. Introductory Business Problems, Economics, and Accounting). The third named course, by way of illustration, includes the following subjects: bookkeeping, commercial law, salesmanship, business arithmetic, business correspondence in English and Finnish, business English, civics, typewriting, shorthand, secretarial studies, penmanship, and a course in Christian ethics.
The Music department was organized as a separate department about ten years ago. It offers instruction in history of music, theory, harmony, instrumentation, piano, organ, violin, and voice. A special feature in the work of this department has been the annual rendition of some larger musical composition of the masters, sponsored by the director of this department and assisted by some outside talent. Much creditable work has thus been done in elevating the appreciation of good music in the community. Its service as an interpreter of the works of Finnish composers to the American public has also been important.
The last department to be organized is that of Junior College, which was begun in 1923. Since the Academy was to be discontinued for practical reasons, this department was to take its place in serving the youth of the church, as well as others who had completed their high school work. It offers those subjects of the liberal arts curriculum in which enrollment has proved to be the heaviest in colleges during the freshmen and sophomore years, namely English, French, German, American and modern history, economics, psychology, sociology, college algebra, trigonometry, chemistry, and biology, also courses in Christianity and Finnish literature. While many of the European languages may be studied in many American colleges and universities, Suomi College is the only institution of higher learning in America which offers courses in Finnish, the original language of Kalevala, the great Finnish epic. In 1932 the college succeeded in establishing diploma relations with the University of Michigan, while its work had been approved earlier by a number of first class colleges.
Students. All the students were of Finnish descent in the beginning, but in more recent years non-Finnish speaking students have steadily increased in the Commercial, Music, and Junior College departments, so that they have numbered thirty per cent of the total student body during the last few years. The students come from several states in the United States and Canada. Yearly enrollment has averaged a little over one hundred students, the largest enrollment, 165 students, was in 1921. The total number of graduates from all departments is about 1400. In 1914, at the time of the tenth anniversary of the first graduating class, an alumni association was organized, which has shown great interest in the development of Suomi College.
Faculty. Because of the special purpose of the institution some of the members of the faculty have received their education in Finland, but a large number of them are graduates of American universities. At the present time, of the nine members of the faculty holding graduate degrees, one has received his Ph.D. degree from Harvard, two have received their Master’s degree from the University of Michigan, one from Chicago University, one from the University of Wisconsin, one from Northwestern, one from Pennsylvania, and two from the University of Helsinki, Finland.
Finnish is the medium of instruction only in the Finnish courses and some branches of theology; all other courses are taught in English. But it appears to those informed on this situation that it is only a matter of time when the beginning courses in Finnish will have to be taught through the medium of English. And this for two reasons, first, a vast majority of students coming from Finnish homes do not understand Finnish sufficiently to follow instruction in that language, and secondly, even non-Finnish speaking students could enroll in these courses for which there is great demand.
The first president of the school was the Rev. J. K. Nikander, D. D., who held the office until his death in 1919. He was followed by the Rev. John Wargelin, A. M., D. D., an alumnus of the school, who served until 1927, and again from 1930 until 1937. The Rev. Antti Lepisto, Ph. B., an alumnus, presided over the institution during the years of 1927 to 1930, inclusive. The present incumbent, the Rev. V. K. Nikander, Ph.D., who is also an alumnus of Suomi College and a son of the first president, was elected to this office in 1937. The reason for these many changes in the administration can be mainly accredited to the difficulty of financing an institution of this kind. It is amusing in this connection to point out that college presidents, and particularly those of church-related colleges, have received the designation of "an organized greed for money" during the period after the World War I.
Conclusion. A bright page has already been written in the history of education of America by Suomi College. Thousands have spent a shorter or longer period of time in study within its walls. Hundreds of young men and women have been started there in their practical or professional careers. Many are now serving as professors, teachers, doctors, lawyers, ministers, organists, engineers, and business executives in our country. It has contributed much to the life of the Finnish immigrant by creating a better understanding of the conditions, the responsibilities, and the work to be done by him here in America. It has contributed by its influence to the enrichment of American life. A noted educator, Professor A. J. Pietila of the University of Helsinki, commented on the work of Suomi College in these words in a recent book of his: "That the transition of the Finn from the position of a despised immigrant to that of an honored and trusted citizen of the United States has come about as painlessly as it has, is due more to Suomi College than to any other single factor. Suomi College has trained leaders who have been the intermediaries between the American social life and the Finnish-born. These leaders made easy that development which must necessarily take place under such conditions as exist in America."
And what of its future? It has been said that in appraising the future of an institution, particularly in determining its ability to meet the demands which will be made upon it, the history, traditions, location, and services of the institution are decisive elements. As Suomi College has a wealth of such assets, it should be exceptionally well situated for the training and educating of young men and women to take their rightful places in our social and economic life.
1Amerikan Suomalainen Historia, Vol. II, S. Ilmonen, p. 69.
2J. Wargelin, The Americanization of the Finns, pp. 52-54.
3Amer. Suom. Hist., Ilmonen, Vol. II, pp. 25-31, 73.
4J. H. Wuorinen, Nationalism in Modern Finland, Columbia University Press, 1931; also Kaarlo Hilden, Suomalaiset Rotututkimuksen Valossa, (The Finns in the Light of Genealogical Research).
5A. Jarnefelt. Suomalaiset Amerikassa, p. 106.
6Ibid, Ilmonen, p. 126.
7Ibid. Ilmonen, p. 125.
8L. A. Chase, Rural Michigan, p. 166.
9Wargelin, lbid, p. 94.
10The Scientific Monthly, May. 1923.
11V. Rautanen, Amerikan Suomalainen Kirkko, pp. 35-42; Ibid, Ilmonen, pp. 76, 80 , and 128.
12Suomi Synod Yearbook (Finnish, 1939).
13Cf. Ibid, Wargelin, p. 101.
14Rural Michigan, p. 167.
15Ibid, p. 16.
16Wargelin, Americanization of the Finns, pp. 114-126.
17Ibid, p. 180.
Published in Michigan History Magazine, 24(1940), p. 179-203.
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