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Oscar Poyhonen

Karrie Kilpela

Oscar Poyhonen, born on November 26, 1882 in Puostijarvi, Ekofrs, Hietaniemi, Norrbotten Lan, Sweden, my great grandfather. His parents were Erik and Wilhelmina Poyhonen. He had one brother by the name of Isaac. His father had been previous married. No one knows her name. Gotha Bryhild Poyhonen, and Rudolf Poyhonen his half siblings from his father's first marriage.

Oscar left his home in Sweden to come to the U.S. in July of 1902. He arrived in Hancock, Michigan. In 1904 or 1905 he married Hulda Maria Mettavainio. She and her baby died during childbirth in late 1910 or early 1911. He then took a journey back to Sweden so he could leave his children, who were motherless, in the care of their grandmother.

His brother Isaac had married Eufemina Tapani. Back then typically one brought regards to someone when returning to Sweden. Oscar's brother asked him to bring regards to Eufemina's sister Wilhelmina. Oscar did as he was asked and after they meet, they exchanged letters.

Oscar and Wilhelmina fell in love and got engaged. She had to come to the U.S. to get married. Oscar returned to the U.S. and made enough money so she could take the journey. Her brother Jacob, and cousins Anna and Alfred Hietala, planned to take the journey in April of 1912.

Wilhelmina would have taken the British luxury ship the Titanic over if her money had not been stolen. The man who the money had been sent with never gave to Wilhelmina so she had to until Oscar made up enough money for another ship ticket. The Titanic sank on April 15, 1912, after colliding with an iceberg in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. I am not sure if her brother and her cousins came over on the Titanic or another ship.

Wilhelmina finally arrived and they married on August 3, 1912 at his brother Isaac's house by the Rev. Paul Heideman. Rev. Heideman had just settled into the Copper Country and this happened to be his first wedding ceremony he performed anywhere. Years later he also conducted the funeral ceremonies for both of them and went to their 50th wedding anniversary. Oscar and Wilhelmina thought that church was very important because where they came from they went to church from the day of their birth Faith was very important to Oscar and Wilhelmina.

After Oscar and Wilhelmina settled into their new life in America Oscar had a few different jobs. First he found work at the Quincy Mine, in Hancock. Oscar and his brother-in-law Arvid Naasko started on a Saturday. They were assigned to work in different shafts. Oscar got assigned to a shaft that wasn't as stable as the one Arvid got assigned to. As they parted their ways to the shafts, Arvid asked if he really had to go. Oscar replied, yes. As they parted, Arvid asked once more if he really had to go. He said he had to because it is part of his job. This was the time Oscar would see Arvid alive. An explosion ripped through the shaft in which Arvid occupied, causing the support to break. Arvid and eight other men died in that mining accident.

Oscar quit his job at Quincy mine that day and found work at the Calument and Hecla Mine in Calumet, Michigan. He worked at the C&H Mine during the Great Depression. He also worked for Michigan Smelters and the City of Hancock. At the age of 68, in 1950, Oscar retired because Wilhelmina had had a stroke. (He retired one year short of receiving social security benefits. The city provided them in 1951.)

For about two years (1917-1979) Oscar and his brother Isaac, along with friends Isaac Walstrom and Henry Daavettila, owned a grocery store in the cellar of Luusua's house on Elevation Street in Hancock. They called it "The People's Market." The business dissolved when Isaac Poyhonen bought a farm in Pelkie, Michigan.

Oscar's first American home is still in the family. Oscar's daughters Martha and Vi Poyhonen live in this old white house, located on the corner of Elevation and North Lincoln drive in Hancock. A Poyhonen family member has owned this house for 84 years.

Oscar and Wilhelmina wanted to go back to Sweden, but they were prevented: first by the miners strike in 1913, and then by World War II. They also planned to have a friend go to Sweden to bring back Oscar's children Gotha and Rudolf, but neither wanted to come. Later, Gotha changed her mine and she emigrated in October of 1924. Gotha met her husband Torsten Wilhelm Linder on the boat. They were married in Chicago, in 1927. Rudolf stayed in Sweden to take care of his dying grandmother Wilhelmina Poyhonen, who had raised him.

Now in my family we seem to have a curious tradition. Oscar and Isaac Poyhonen married sisters Wilhelmina and Eufemina Tapani. My grandfather Howard and his brother George Kilpela married sisters Lillian (my grandmother) and Erma Poyhonen. My aunt Margaret and uncle Mark married siblings Darwin and Christine Heinonen.

Oscar and Wilhelmina raised a rather large family. They had fourteen children. Oscar had two children from his previous marriage to Hulda Maria Mattavainio. The children of Oscar and Wilhelmina were Elvie, Edna, Viola, Arthur, Ina, Erma, Martha, Mildred, Lillian, Ruth, and Ray Poyhonen. From these children Oscar and Wilhelmina had over 300 grandchildren and great-grandchildren. These living relatives are spread all across America.

After Oscar and Wilhelmina died they were buried in plots next to each other. Just a few plots up the road is their son-in-law Howard Kilpela. Their family buried in the Lakeside Cemetery located in Hancock, Michigan.

Oscar and Wilhelmina are remembered in many different ways. I feel the presence of Oscar and Wilhelmina through many things. When I visit any of their children I can hear them talk in Finnish. My great-grandmother didn't know any English so her children learned Finnish and still speak it. We also have many of his possessions. My father has the barometer that Oscar owned. Two of his children still own the only house that he bought. Oscar had a hard life but he made the best of it. He left his life in Sweden to come to America. He was looked upon by many.

Karrie Kilpela, 2001

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