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Jaakko Nikolai Ketoluoma was born in Rovaniemi, Finland on July 11, 1898. Rovaniemi is located in the northern part for Finland. Jaakko was the first child of Herman Ketoluoma and his wife, Kaisa Serafia. Herman was born in Ilmajoki, Vaasa, Finland in 1874. Kaisa was born in Finland on April 27, 1878. Herman and Kaisa were poor tenant farmers. During this time, Finland's economy was poor. Much of the economy was dependent on the agriculture and due to droughts and unsuccessful crops there was a high amount of poverty. Because there was such economical hardship in Finland, Herman decided to take a ship to America, to work in the copper mines. He believed he could better provide for his family in America. Probably the most difficult party of leaving Finland was having to leave his wife and first son behind, until he made enough money in the mines to send for them.
When Herman Ketoluoma arrived in America, he shortened his last name to Luoma. It is unclear why he decided to do this. He began working in the Baltic copper mine. The Baltic copper mine is located approximately 5 miles southwest of Houghton, Michigan. After eight years of hard labor, Herman was finally able to send for his wife and son, who were still working as peasant farmers in Finland. Kaisa and Jaakko boarded a ship in 1906, bound for the States. They traveled third class on a large steam ship. The accommodations were less than desirable, but the mother and son looked forward to being in the new prosperous land. The two crossed the ocean and finally, after eight long years the family was reunited. Herman brought his family to the Copper Country and he continued to work in the Baltic mine. Jaakko attended elementary school and Kaisa was a housewife. Jaakko and Kaisa had another son Reino Luoma shortly after the family was reunited and soon after Reino came Arnold, Edward, and finally Vaino, who was born in 1912. Unfortunately, Vaino died when he was eighteen years old from appendicitis.
When Jaakko was 12 years old, he quit school and began to work as a puffer boy in the Baltic mine. Puffer boys would take care of the pumps, which rid the mine of water.
The Baltic Mining Company employed laborers and supervisors. The laborers were typically of Italian, German, Irish, and Finnish descent and a majority of the supervisors and foremen were English or Welsh. The different groups tended to socialize among themselves. There was one Welsh supervisor who befriended Jaakko. He told Jaakko that if he wanted to get ahead in this country he would have to change his name. Jaakko took his friend's advice and changed his name to John Hill. John worked in the Baltic mine until he was eighteen years old.
He decided to make a change and move to Detroit where he worked in the auto industry until he was thirty-two years old. Then he met Aino Olkkonen. Aino was only twenty-two years old and she was attending Northern Michigan University. She was going to school, determined to get a degree in music and become a music teacher. John was inspired and made the decision to attend Northern Michigan University also. John did not complete high school, but was able to attend the university. He decided to teach also, but music was not his field. John became a math teacher. After John and Aino graduated, they moved to Ishpeming, where they began teaching.
On March 13, 1932 they had their first child, John Jr. A few years later they moved to DeKalb, Illinois and had their second son Karl on February 6, 1935.
Herman and Kaisa remained in the Copper Country, but it became more and more difficult for them. They were getting old and the winters were harsh. Traditionally, the eldest son returned home to care for his aging parents. So John and Aino moved to Jacobsville, Michigan, with John Jr. and Karl. They lived there until John's parents died. Unfortunately, Herman died in 1939 and Kaisa followed him in 1941.
After the death of John's parents, John, Aino, John Jr., and Karl moved to a farm in Skanee, Michigan. They purchased 240 acres of land filled with apple orchards and gardens. They also had livestock and before school each morning the boys had to milk the cows.
Aino and John taught in a one-room schoolhouse in Skanee. There was a lot of poverty at the time. Therefore, the government provided funding for lunches. People were still trying to recover from the Great Depression. The two taught, cleaned, and even prepared the lunches for the children.
While the family lived in Skanee, John and Aino had their youngest son Arthur. He was born in 1945.
After the closure of the one room schoolhouse, Aino and John taught in the L'Anse Public Schools. The small town of L'anse was only about 15 miles from Skanee.
John Jr. attended Michigan Technological University and became a mechanical engineer. Karl married Joanne Waters and attended Northern Michigan University studying pre-med. Karl was accepted into medical school at Wayne State University. Aino and John decided to move to lower Michigan to help their son, Karl, complete medical school. John, Aino, Arthur, Karl, Joanne and the children all moved to the Detroit area. Arthur was still in high school, Aino taught music at Bloomfield Hills Elementary School, John was a substitute teacher, and Joanne raised the children. During Karl's college years he and Joanne had seven children.
When Karl completed medical school he moved to White Pine, Michigan with his family to begin his practice. Aino and John moved back to the farm in Skanee and Arthur moved to California. He became a successful commercial artist. John lived in Skanee for the rest of his life. On January 22, 1970, John died at the age of 71 at Baraga County Memorial Hospital. The farmhouse and land remain in the family. From time to time we gather there and tell stories of how it was in the olden days. Aino and John are both buried in a private cemetery on the property. The farmhouse has a lot of history and hopefully this family treasure will be a place where future generations will gather.
© Chelsea Smith, 2001
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