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The Americanization of the Finns

John Wargelin, A.M.,

President of Suomi College and Theological Seminary

Preface.
Chapter I.  Introduction. Meaning of Americanization Discussed.
Chapter II.  Historical Background of the Finnish Race.
Chapter III.  Causes of Immigration from Finland.
Chapter IV.  Finnish Immigration to America.
Chapter V.  Distribution and Occupations of the Finns.
Chapter VI.  Cultural Life of the Finns. a) School.
Chapter VII.  Cultural Life of the Finns (continued). b) Press.
Chapter VIII.  Cultural Life of the Finns (continued). c) Church.
Chapter IX.  Cultural Life of the Finns (continued). d) Societies.
Chapter X.  Naturalization and Political Life.
Conclusion.

Chapter VIII.
Cultural Life of the Finns. (Continued)

c) Church.

The Finns are religious by nature. Before their conversion to Christianity they worshipped many gods. Nature was animated with various kinds of spirits. The god of the forests and game was ''Tapio"; of the cattle, "Kekri"; "Wellamo" dominated in the watery realm; and "Tuoni" or "Mana" had dominion over the gloomy regions of the nether world. "Ukko" was the supreme deity who reigned over all space and other spirits. Most of the gods were supposed to have female companions, who were worshipped to some extent with them. The worship consisted of prayers and sacrifices to the deities. No temples were built, the sacrifices being offered on altars built on mountain tops or near some living springs. The Finnish epic, "Kalevala", gives a very good general understanding of the religious life of the pagan Finn. Juhani Aho, Finland's most gifted modern writer (died in 1921), has written a most fascinating book, entitled "Panu", on the pre-Christian life and customs of the Finns. In general we may say that the Finns have lived close to nature and have always been open to the mysterious suggestions and whisperings of the spiritual world. There exists a great resemblance between the old Aryan mythology of India and that of Finland.

About ninety-nine per cent of the inhabitants are classed as Lutherans. They were converted to Christianity in 1157 by Bishop Henry, an Englishman sent by King Erick the IX, of Sweden, to convert the Finns. After a severe battle, where better arms and higher civilization triumphed, the Finns were conquered, and those that remained from the battle, were baptized at the "Spring of Kupitta", a place near Turku, Finland. After that Finland remained in union with the Roman Catholic Church until the time of the Reformation. In 1527 Sweden adopted the new faith for the whole Kingdom, and Finland became a Protestant country. The new faith found no opposition in Finland for many of the leading men had studied at Wittenberg, Germany, the seat of Protestantism, and had brought with them the new spirit into the Church; then, also, the remoteness of the country from Rome had protected it against many of the evils found in countries where papal influence was greater.

Webster defines a Lutheran as one "who accepts or adheres to the doctrines of Luther or the Lutheran Church". In this sense the Finnish Lutherans in America may be said to be one, although in external government they compose three distinct bodies, namely, 1) The Finnish Lutheran Church of America or Suomi Synod, 2) The Finnish Evangelical National Lutheran Church in America, and 3) Finnish Apostolic Lutheran Church of America. We shall give briefly the statistics of each of these bodies.

Suomi Synod. This Synod, which is the oldest and the largest, was organized in 1890 at Calumet, Michigan. In 1922 it had a membership of 9,396 men, 9,837 women, and 16,836 children, total membership 36,269. Besides these members in the congregations that are actually affiliated with the Synod, the pastors serve several independent congregations, so that the total membership thus rises to 41,500 persons. In 1922 the Synod had 206 Sunday Schools, with 1,570 teachers, and 8,675 children. Last summer there were in operation 70 religious summer schools for children, with 76 teachers, and 3,980 pupils. There are 87 church buildings, valued at $473,707; 59 parsonages, valued at $91,200; other church property valued at $87,578; total valuation of property $652,485. The number of ministers at present is 55; out of these 10 have received their education in Finland, nearly all of the others have been educated at Suomi College and Theological Seminary. About fifteeen years ago the proportion was vice versa, only a very small number being educated in America. This fact shows that Americanization is gaining very rapidly in this Church.

The work is well organized and directed. Work among the young people is progressing very satisfactorily. Home-Mission work is done among the Finns that are scattered here and there throughout the country. A special Superintendent has charge of the work. The work is being jointly supported by the United Lutheran Church in America and the Suomi Synod. Foreign Mission work is done jointly with The Missionary Society of Finland in the mission fields of China. The Synod took part in the Campaign, conducted by The National Lutheran Council, for the relief of sufferers in Russia. Another important department of work is organized under the name of The Finnish Lutheran Book Concern, of Hancock, Mich. We have already stated that this Concern publishes various church papers and periodicals e. g. "Amerikan Suometar", "Paimen Sanomat", and a Sunday School paper for children. Last year a branch office of this concern was established in Astoria, Oregon, for the purpose of reaching the thousands of Finns in the Western states that are outside of any Church. For this purpose a paper, printed in Finnish, "Lännen Suometar", was started last April. The Finnish Luth. Book Concern does extensive outside printing work yearly. For example, the 1923 Annual of The Michigan College of Mines was printed and bound here. It also distributes and prints yearly thousands of volumes of good educational and religious books. This branch of the work is very important in connection with the study of the Americanization problem. The Finnish Lutheran Book Concern has been a great factor in giving thousands of Finns a right understanding of American ideals. The same thing may also be said of the National Synod publication work, which is carried on on a smaller scale.

The Suomi Synod owns and supports Suomi College, and the president of the school makes a yearly report of the work at the annual meeting of the Church.

The officers of the Church are: Pres., Rev. Alfred Haapanen, A. B.; Vice President, Rev. John Wargelin, A. M.; Secretary, Rev. Victor Kuusisto; Notary, Rev. Lauri R. Ahlman; and Treasurer, Isaac Wargelin.

A great deal of the preaching in the churches is still done in Finnish, because so many of the older members can understand only Finnish. But the young people are fast demanding the use of English, and many of the churches have introduced English jointly with Finnish. The programs of the Young Peoples' Societies are largely conducted in English.

All this shows that the Finns are passing through a period of transition in their church work.

We add here the statistical table of the congregations affiliated with the Suomi Synod, and their membership.1

Table XI.

Statistical Table of the Finnish Congregations Affiliated with the Suomi Synod in 1923.

 

Men

Women

Children

Total

California:

Berkeley

14

35

31

80

Eureka

5

7

4

16

Fort Bragg

40

44

31

115

Los Angeles

8

12

5

25

Reedley

16

21

51

88

Rocklin

3

7

8

18

San Francisco

10

37

14

61

 

       

Colorado:

       

Leadville

Membership not given

 

       

North Dakota:

       

Ahola (Wing)

41

45

135

221

 

       

South Dakota:

       

Lead

30

34

80

144

Poinsett (L. Norden)

70

73

100

243

Fredrick

84

92

125

301

 

       

Illinois:

       

Chicago

20

30

15

65

De Kalb

88

74

124

286

Waukegan

90

98

156

344

 

       

Maine:

       

Harrison-Pulkkila

21

25

80

126

South Paris

21

24

53

98

 

       

Massachusetts:

       

Allston-Brighton

42

56

62

160

Cape Ann

179

192

212

583

Gardner

100

105

85

290

Maynard

56

60

100

216

Peabody

70

76

104

250

Quincy

48

55

100

203

West Barnstable

30

30

70

130

Worcester

128

130

220

478

 

       

Michigan:

       

Alabaster

21

11

8

40

Allouez

22

19

56

97

Amasa

80

84

171

335

Askel

6

7

34

47

Atlantic

70

78

102

250

Baltic-South Range .

110

110

296

516

Baraga

-

-

-

-

Bessemer

41

53

98

192

Calumet

251

231

263

745

Champion

20

25

45

90

Chassell

63

61

103

227

Covington

92

95

126

313

Crystal Falls

124

132

365

621

Deerton

32

20

45

100

Detroit

158

137

105

400

Diorite

2

4

15

21

East Branch

10

8

20

38

East Tawas

17

12

16

45

Eben

68

51

128

247

Ewen

8

9

23

40

Elo

20

18

29

67

Grand Marais

28

22

64

120

Hancock

6l3

588

867

2,068

Ironwood

23l

243

552

1,026

Ishpeming

4l7

397

549

1,363

Jacobsville

31

25

20

76

Kaleva

242

217

288

747

Keweenaw Bay

26

20

56

102

Pelkie

40

44

90

174

Laird

120

145

220

485

Lake City (Jennings)

23

20

73

116

Maple Ridge

57

59

136

252

Mass

30

50

90

170

North Ironwood

36

42

53

131

Mohawk

108

94

124

326

Marquette

4

9

4

17

Negaunee

137

135

203

475

Newberry

70

65

120

255

Oskar

22

23

24

69

Onnela

28

24

25

77

Painesdale

36

38

65

135

Palmer

73

55

76

204

Paynesville

56

55

83

194

Pequaming

15

13

15

43

Princeton (Gwinn)

127

110

245

482

Redridge-Beacon Hill

27

25

70

122

Republic

176

161

345

682

Rudyard

123

112

210

445

Sault Ste Marie

54

50

80

184

Stambaugh

43

36

51

130

St. Ignace

6

8

10

24

Trenary

14

6

28

48

Toivola

26

22

57

105

Trimountain

16

18

42

76

Trout Creek

25

30

68

123

Uusi Suomi

30

32

72

134

Wakefield

262

254

521

1,037

Winona

13

12

56

81

Winthrope

57

67

106

230

Wasa Siding (Wainola)

32

33

90

155

 

       

Minnesota:

       

Angora

24

28

58

110

Biwabic

22

25

35

82

Brainerd

35

35

50

120

Chisholm

50

56

110

216

Cloquet

41

37

35

173

Cokato

47 39 75 161
Cromwell 15 10 25 50
Duluth 30 35 45 110
Ely 105 104 155 364
Eveleth 156 150 220 526
Embarras - - - -
French Lake 63 55 78 196
Floodwood 80 60 90 230
Gilbert 30 35 40 105
Idington 16 12 18 46
Iron 33 41 31 109
Ironton 6 7 - 13
Kalevala 39 40 49 128
Kingston 29 25 52 106
Kinney 16 23 27 66
Minneapolis 26 37 25 88
Middle River 30 30 91 151
Mt. Iron 98 100 169 367
New York Mills 36 32 48 116
Finlayson 46 45 57 158
Rosburg-Valparaiso 6 9 17 32
St. Louis River 80 75 145 300
Sebeka 19 19 42 80
Soudan 54 65 61 180
Sparta 36 29 52 117
Suomi (Deer River) 5 7 14 26
Tamarack 10 15 38 63
Toivola 17 10 18 45
Tower 5 6 13 24
Trout lake 12 18 30 50
Virginia 146 148 158 452
West Duluth 18 20 36 73
         
Missisippi:        
Pecan       22
         
Montana:        
Butte, Highwood, North Willow Creek. No figures
in these places; work is being carried on with the
aid of Home Mission support.
         
New York:        
Brooklyn 96 123 151 370
Harlem 23 94 11 128
South New York 8 18 11 37
Van Etten 28 23 51 102
         
New Hampshire:        
West Concordia 10 10 20 40
North Brookline - - - -
         
Ohio:        
Ashtabula Harbor 380 340 380 1,250
Burton 14 14 14 42
Cleveland 15 28 23 66
Conneaut 161 181 380 722
Fairport 386 381 550 1,317
Girard 27 33 56 116
Jacksoville 15 13 45 73
Warren 76 90 155 320
         

Oregon:

       

Astoria

107

113

85

305

Blind Slough

10

12

5

27

Portland

18

41

23

82

Swenson

3

4

6

13

 

       

Pennsylvania:

       

Bessemer

13

11

14

38

Erie

12

15

31

58

Monessen

75

70

180

325

New Castle

59

74

100

243

Nanty Glo

21

17

34

72

Rankin

8

6

4

18

 

       

Washington:

       

Deep River

58

39

53

150

Seattle ...:

19

23

16

58

Woodland

9

8

12

29

Ilwaco

18

20

17

45

Vader

8

6

18

31

Aberdeen

7

13

5

25

 

       

West Virginia:

       

Clarksburg

10

12

16

38

Weirton

22

20

60

102

 

       

Wisconsin:

       

Phelps

19

22

71

112

Iron Belt

45

48

71

164

Niemi

20

18

100

138

Owen

49

41

100

190

Oulu (Salo)

30

25

48

103

Superior

9

13

18

40

Westboro

18

21

23

62

Uusi Savo

29

25

30

84

Turtle Lake

44

30

36

110

North York & Marengo

15

17

39

71

 

       

Wyoming:

       

Rock Springs

6

11

13

30

 

       

Canada:

       

Cobalt

-

-

-

-

Copper Cliff

66

76

98

240

New Finland

50

50

120

230

Sault Ste Marie

18

27

41

86

Total

9,378

9,573

15,456

34,441

The Finnish National Synod. This Synod was organized in Ironwood, Mich., in 1898. The Synod numbers 24 ministers, 59 congregations, and 7,992 members. The total valuation of church property is estimated at about $200,000. The Synod is also engaged in different departments of work. About four years ago a Theological Seminary was opened up at Ironwood, Michigan; no preparatory department has been attached to it. The enrollment in 1922 was four students. The institution has been closed since then because of lack of students. Foreign Mission work is done by giving aid to the Gospel Society of Finland, which has a field in Japan. A church organ, by the name of "Auttaja", is published at the printing establishment owned by the Synod at Ironwood, Mich. A Sunday School paper, the "Lasten Ystävä" (The Children's Friend), is also published there.

The officers for the year 1921 were: President, Arne Wasunta; Vice President, Rev. M. Wiskari; Secretary, Rev. P. Miettunen; and Treasurer, Erick Kangas. The Rev. K. E. Salonen has been in charge of the Theological Seminary.

Finnish Apostolic Church. The churches going under this name are not organized into any so-called Synodical system. They are united in doctrine. No official annual meetings are held, and the church has no elected officers. The government of the church rests with the congregations and thus may be said to be Congregational in organization; but otherwise this body has nothing in common with the Congregational Church of America. The Apostolic Church does not believe in a paid ministry and is therefore nearly entirely dependent on laypreachers. They rank second to the Suomi Synod in number of congregations and church members. It may be said that some of the earliest Finnish immigrants, who came to America from Norway, Sweden, and the northernmost part of Finland, were members of this group. This sect is generally known in Church History by the name of Laestadians, taking their name from Lauri Levi Laestadius, a preacher who labored in the northern part of Sweden about the middle of the last century. In America his followers have adopted the name of Apostolic Lutherans.2


1 The Yearbook of the Suomi Suomi Synod, 1923, in Finnish.

2 These facts have been gathered from the Year-book of Suomi Synod, 1922 and 1923, Year-book of the Churches. 1921-1922; and the Lutheran World Almanac for 1922, with additions by the writer.
The statistics of the Suomi Synod were given in full for the purpose of showing where Finnish churches are found in general. The National and Apostolic Synods are found represented mostly in the same communities.

Publication: John Wargelin, The Americanization of the Finns. The Finnish Lutheran Book Concern. Hancock, Michigan 1924, 185 pages.

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