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First Finnish Settlement in America 1638

Delaware Colony of Swedes and Finns Has Left Heritage to America

Because the colony of New Sweden retained that name for only eighteen years many students of American history are but slightly familiar with the Finnish and Swedish settlements which grew up in Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey several decades before the coming of William Penn. The ships Kalmar Nyckel and Fogel Grip, landing in the spring of 1638, brought the first Finnish and Swedish settlers. The present nation of Finland was then a part of Sweden, and the colony was named New Sweden. Wilmington, the first settlement, was called Fort Christina in honor of the Swedish Queen, daughter of Gustavus Adolphus who had planned the sending of colonists to America prior to his death on the battle field of Lutzen, in 1632. One branch of the stream which enters the Delaware River at that point still bears her name.

From 1638 until 1656 the land along both shores of the Delaware was the colony's territory, and a succession of ships brought additional settlers, while several royal governors administered the affairs of the colony, Johann Printz being the most famous. He was a distinguished soldier, having led regiments of Finnish infantry in the Thirty Years' War. He built his capital "Printzdorf" on Tinicum Island, and many small settlements developed. One was on the present site of Philadelphia, another at the present Chester, Pa., was called Finland and Upland. In New Jersey is still found the town of Swedesboro. Newcastle, Delaware, was known as Fort Kasimir. A sizeable colony of Finns settled in present-day New Jersey around what is still known as Finns Point. The Swedes and Finns traded with the Indians, and sent furs, tobacco and other products back to Sweden, while developing farming, building churches and homes and making a small but successful colony in the New World.

In 1656 the Dutch governor of New Amsterdam descended on the Swedish colony with ships and soldiers, captured Fort Kasimir and Christina without bloodshed, and took possession of the colony in the name of The Netherlands. This conquest by Peter Stuyvesant brought the "South River", as the Dutch called the Delaware, into control by Holland for a mere matter of eight years, when it was transferred to Great Britain by the treaty which changed New Amsterdam into New York.

Finnish character survives says minister Jarnefelt

The earliest maps of the Dutch and Belgian map makers of what is now the eastern shore of the United States show the Delaware River colony of New Sweden. On these maps we see a settlement designated Finland, so named by these pioneers from northern Europe in memory of their homeland. Today every vestige of that ancient community has disappeared. In the place of the log cabins that were the homes of these early Swedes and Finns, we see gigantic manufacturing establishments; instead of the broad cultivated fields waving with wheat or corn or tobacco, we have paved streets and modern homes of a substantial Pennsylvania city.

But even though the log cabins and the fields have disappeared, and these maps for the last 200-odd years have not borne the name of Finland upon them, yet something, I am certain, has survived this lapse of time.

When we picture these early colonists landing on these shores, stout-hearted and healthy and brave; cutting down the forest and building their log cabins and cultivating the land, must we not believe that as the stream of growing American life swallowed up this settlement and its people, there survived in those who followed them that same love of liberty and independence which brought them here; that there survived the industry and piety of home-loving folk; and the health and vigor of a peaceful people? I would not be true to the people of the country that I have the honor to represent, nor candid in my feelings, if I did not admit of these qualities as traditional in the Finnish people. - Forefathers' Day Banquet, Philadelphia, Pa., April 8, 1938.

Before the transfer to British sovereignty, Upland had become the largest settlement in the Delaware colonies. It included the early settlement of Finland and covered a considerable area of present Chester. For a time the Dutch commissioner from New Amsterdam made his headquarters there. The town grew and was the county seat of Upland County, which under the British extended over the three counties later created by William Penn: Chester, Bucks and Philadelphia. English settlers began to arrive in some numbers, although the rush of population followed the royal grant to Penn in 1678 and Penn's first personal visit in 1682. Until then the larger land owners were chiefly Finns.

Penn made his first landing in present Pennsylvania at the mouth of Chester Creek on October 28, 1682, from the ship Welcome. His proposed great city of Philadelphia had just been started at the old Wicoco settlement farther up the river. The first legislative gathering of Pennsylvania was held at Chester, delegates being named f rom the three new "upper counties" and the three older "lower counties" later to become the state of Delaware. In 1882, Chester celebrated the 200th anniversary and in 1932, the 250th anniversary of the landing of Penn, as in 1938 she is celebrating the landing of the Finns and Swedes.

The first printed description of the settlement of Finland in the New Sweden colony appears on page 75 in Campanius Holm's "Om Nya Swerige uti America", published in Sweden in the Swedish language in 1702. The description says: "Finland, where Finns live, in strong houses well built, without fortifications."

The history of the early settlements has been recorded in several books. The earliest writer seems to have been Campanius Holm, grandson of a Lutheran pastor sent over to the colony. Israel Acrelius, another preacher, wrote a book including much later church history. Amandus Johnson's comprehensive "Swedes in America" followed in 1914. In recent years E. A. Louhi of New York has published (1925) "The Delaware Finns", and Prof. John H. Wuorinen of Columbia University (1938) "The Finns on the Delaware".

Upland began to be known as Chester at about the time of Penn's arrival, or a little later. The reasons are variously given, one story being that Penn named it on the day he landed, but a more likely version attributed it to settlers in the next year or two, when some writers declare that at least 3,000 persons disembarked at Upland.

Various monuments and tablets mark historic spots in Chester. It is probable that the oldest house remaining is the Townsend-Pusey House, near where the first flour mill was built on Chester Creek. Richard Townsend, Caleb Pusey and others built the mill, in which Penn owned an interest. Tablets mark the site of the "Defense House" where the first assembly met, the "Essex House" where Penn stopped with Robert Wade, who had bought the property from Madame Papegoja, daughter of Governor Printz, and the old Boars Head Inn, which was also a residence of Penn during his first winter in America.

It is difficult to delineate the exact boundaries of the first "Finland" and "Upland" settlements, although probably Finland lay west of Chester Creek and Upland east and to the north. The claims of Madame Papegoja to some of these areas were disputed after Governor Printz had left and the Dutch had come in, but she seems to have sold parts of "Finland" even after the English occupation. At the same time some of the earliest settlers and their children had established title to large areas, and Penn's government made every effort to straighten out old claims and establish sound land titles. Joran Kyn, or Keen, who had come over with Printz as a bodyguard was for many years the largest landed proprietor in Upland.

Under three early governments the area now covered by the city of Chester was a center of life and growth in the opening of the New World. From it went out many of the settlers to other parts of Pennsylvania, and from its earliest pioneers were descended many of those who fought the War of Independence and helped to set up the United States of America as a nation.

A quaint illustration drawn for Campanius Holm's account of the colony on the banks of the Delaware. The scene shows the Indians trading with the Finns and Swedish settlers. In the background is a pitched bow-and-arrow battle between two tribes of Indians.

From Finland came the word that Vaino Aaltonen, one of the foremost Finnish sculptors, whose work is well known in the galleries of Europe, had been commissioned to complete the monument. He had furnished clay models of two bas reliefs for a monument in a modern design, the monument to have a total height of about eleven and a half feet, a width of nine feet and a breadth of from three to six feet.

The base was purchased by the American-Finnish Committee from the Rock of Ages quarries in Vermont, and is a light gray, fine-grained granite. The plinth, or sub-base was quarried at Rautalampi, Finland, and is a dark gray, almost black, in color, while the main piece is a brownish-red color, from the same quarries which produced the granite for Napoleon's tomb in Paris.

Rough base block from Vermont quarries.

The work of planning and designing the foundation and approaches to the monument in Crozer Park, Chester, was entrusted to Chester F. Baker, a well-known engineer of Chester, whose avocation is historical research. As a vice president of the Delaware County Historical Society, Mr. Baker has made an intensive study of land titles in the area between Chester Creek and Marcus Hook, which he indicates comprised the territory known as Finland, with the cluster of farm houses probably centering in what is today South Chester, south of Chester Creek. Assisting Mr. Baker has been F. G. Hartvigson, city engineer, and others of the city officials, including C. H. Peoples, Director of Accounts and Finance.

The monument left Finland on May 24th, on board the Moore & McCormack liner Scanstates, after a virtual race against time on the part of Sculptor Aaltonen. Safely landed in Wilmington on June 18th, it was finally lowered into place on June 21st.

Vaino Aaltonen. Noted Finnish sculptor.

Four granite seats have been made available to the committee. Two come from Minnesota's quarries, one of which is for Minnesota; the other for Michigan, the two states with the largest Finnish population in the Union. Two other seats come from the hands of Finnish granite cutters in Massachusetts, one for Massachusetts, the other for the State of Washington. New York State will furnish a flagpole for the monument square, shadowing over the street signposts heralding Monument Square as being at the corner of Concord Drive and Finland Road.

At the suggestion of Consul Norbert A. Considine, of Philadelphia, whose sound and constructive advice and wide circle of acquaintances has led the committee safely through many thorny paths, a "cornerstone" ceremony, was arranged, after the foundation had been completed, and the 15-ton base was ready to be rolled into place. A copper box was laid, with proper ceremony, into the recessed foundation, and to it were consigned a variety of documents, books, letters, pictures and a variety of memorabilia. Most important were autographed pictures of President Roosevelt and President Kyosti Kallio of Finland, pictures of all the members of the Finnish Tercentenary Commission, copies of all available books dealing with the Delaware settlement, a photograph of O. J. Larson, president of the American-Finnish Tercentenary Committee, a signed copy of Congressman Frank Hook's address on the Finnish Tercentenary matter before the United States Congress, and an original leaf from the first bible printed in the Finnish language, and bearing the date of 1551, presented by Emil Hurja.

The monument bears inscriptions in both languages, English and Finnish. A verse in the metre of Finland's famed epic Kalevala appears in a modernistic face at the top of the side of the main stone. The explanatory inscription in both languages is printed on page 12.

The actual unveiling and dedicatory exercises are scheduled for the period from 11:20 to 11:50 a. m., Eastern Daylight Saving Time, Wednesday, June 29th. Arrangements have been made for both national and international broadcasts of the event, which will signalize the presentation of the monument to the people of the United States.

Following the actual unveiling through the sponsorship of Miss Jane Elizabeth Harvey, of Columbia, Pa., a niece of Mayor Ward and a descendant of the early Finnish settlers in the area of present-day Chester, brief speeches will be made by Mayor Ward, O. J. Larson, chairman of the American-Finnish Tercentenary Committee, and Emil Hurja, chairman of the monument committee. The official presentation will be by Dr. E. Rudolf W. Holsti, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Finland. Acceptances will be by Mayor Ward for the city of Chester; Governor George H. Earle for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and Honorable Robert H. Jackson, Solicitor General of the United States, for the United States, as the personal emissary of President Roosevelt.

A musical program at the dedicatory exercises will be led by the United States Navy Band of 75 pieces, under the leadership of Lieut. Charles Benter, U.S.N. Other bands to the number of four will be in attendance.

Coincident with the culmination of three days of formal and informal exercises, in the celebration of Finnish Tercentenary Day at Chester on June 29th, will he celebrations in many Finnish centers of population. One sucli celebration will be at Vaasa, Finland, from which many of the early settlers came; another at Rautalampi, Finland, which prides itself on being the home of the ancestors of John Morton, signer of the Declaration of Independence, and who is buried at Chester. The largest celebration in Finland, however, will be staged at the nation's capital, Helsinki.

Modern Finland. Remembers Namesake of Old

Following the unanimous decision of the United States Congress to invite the Republic of Finland to participate in the Delaware Valley Tercentenary, plans germinated rapidly, both in the United States and in Finland. A general invitation, initiated by Hon. Frank W. Melvin, executive director of the Pennsylvania 300th Anniversary Commission, to participate in the Pennsylvania festivities, was followed by similar proposals from the Delaware and New Jersey state commissions, the latter under the guidance of Hon. D. Stewart Craven, of Salem.

Old map of Delaware river colonies.

With the organization of the American-Finnish Delaware Tercentenary Committee, late in 1937, the plans for participation of American Finns and Americans of Finnish descent took on definite shape. Most definite of the proposals for participation was a suggestion that a suitable memorial be erected at the site of "Finland", on the Delaware river, evidently a settlement of Finns in the seventeenth century colony. This suggestion, communicated to the Finnish government, met with prompt and hearty acquiescence.

It was agreed that a monument, suitably inscribed, would be furnished to the American committee by the people of Finland. This monument would be erected on a suitable base provided by the American-Finnish Committee, and the completed memorial, therefore, would represent the joint contribution of Finns in Finland and America, and Americans of Finnish descent to the memory of the first settlers of Finnish blood on the North American continent.

From this point, plans for the tercentenary went on apace. From the four corners of the United States contributions started to pour in; enthusiasm waxed high, and plans for local observance of the commemoration were outlined in more than a hundred communities.

The officials of the city of Chester, with very friendly cooperation, provided a site in the high area of Crozer Park, fronting on Concord Drive. Mayor William Ward, Jr., assuming sponsorship of the city’s cooperative efforts, has furnished a high degree of sympathy and interest, rarely encountered in any civic venture of this type.

Finland’s Commemorative Postage Stamp

To commemorate the 300th anniversary of the first settlement in America of Finns, the postal department of Finland issued, on June 1, a 3½-markka stamp. A total printing of 1,000,000 copies was announced. The design, by Aarno Karimo, a well known Finnish artist, portrays two male figures struggling with a stump in the process of clearing land. Underneath is a legend: Colonization of Delaware. The stamp is of a three and one-half markka denomination, equivalent, at the present rate of exchange, to 7.67 cents. It is brown in color, and measures 25 by 35 millimeters. First-day covers were handled by the Chester headquarters.

U. S. Commemorative Postage Stamp

The new United States Swedish-Finnish commemorative stamp has as its central design a reproduction of a painting by Stanley Arthurs depicting the arrival of the first Swedish and Finnish settlers. Across the bottom of the stamp is the inscription "Landing of the Swedes and Finns". At the upper left of the stamp appears the year "1638", while in the upper right is the year "1938", between which is the wording "U. S. Postage". The denomination designation "3" appears in each of the lower corners and the stamp is enclosed by ornamental side borders. It is purple in color. The first printing is for 75,000,000 copies.

This stamp is square, its dimensions being 0.92 inches on each border, and is one of the few square commemorative stamps ever issued. It went on sale at Wilmington, Delaware, June 27, 1938.

Sweden’s Series of Delaware Stamps

The General Postoffice of Sweden has issued a series of five stamps commemorating the 300th anniversary of the foundation of the first Swedish colony, on the banks of the Delaware River. The denominations are 5 ore, 15 ore, 20 ore, 30 ore and 60 ore. The five ore stamp shows the Swedish Governor Johan Printz negotiating with an Indian chief, and the 15 ore value pictures the vessels "Kalmar Nyckel" and "Fogel Grip", on which the first Swedish settlers made their voyage from Gothenburg across the Atlantic and up the Delaware River, finally dropping anchor close to what is now Wilmington. The 20 ore stamp symbolizes the establishment of Swedish rule in the colony. Two men in the foreground are shown raising Sweden's coat of arms. Old Swedes Church in Wilmington, still preserved, is shown on the 30 ore stamp, and the 60 ore value portrays Queen Christina of Sweden - daughter of Gustavus Adolphus - during whose reign the colony was founded.

Inscription of Finnish Monument to Be Unveiled at Chester, PA., on June 29, 1938

Kalevaisest kaukopursin
yli aaltojen ajoivat
tata maata mahtamahan
rantoa rankentamahan
tanne pellot perkasivat
piilusivat pirtit uudet

Nailla paikoin oli Finland niminen uudisasutus
taman mantereen ensimmaisten suomalaisten
siten kotimaansa muistoksi nimittamana

Taman muistomerkin pystyittivat vuonna 1938
Suomen kansa ja Amerikan suomalaiset
Delaware-jokilaakson ensimmaisen
pysyvan vuonna 1638 perustetun
siirtokunnan suomalaisten muistoksi

Sons of Kaleva far sailing
Passed an ocean's western reaches
To this soil their strength applying
On this shore a home established
Toiled their crops to sow and garner
Hewed their dwellings from the forest

Near this spot stood a settlement named Finland
so called by the first Finnish settlers on this
continent in remembrance of their homeland

This memorial erected in 1938 by the Finnish nation
and the Finns in America in commemoration
of the Finnish pioneers of the first permanent
settlement in the Delaware River Valley in 1638

Memorial Plaque for Old Finnish Churchyard

Almost immediately upon the first landing of the Finnish and Swedish colonists in 1638 on the west bank of the Delaware River at the present site of Wilmington, small groups of settlers crossed to the east bank and established farms in what is now New Jersey. A group of settlers from Finland established themselves a short distance south of the direct crossing, and this area remains until today known as Finns Point. A little farther south a fort was built to have control of river traffic, Ft. Elfsborg, near present Salem. To the north and east there was a settlement on Raccoon Creek, now the town of Swedesboro, and east of that in turn a colony of Finnish settlers at Mullica Hill.

For many years the Swedes and Finns on the New Jersey side made the trip to Ft. Christina to attend church. Occasional traveling parsons held meetings at the Jersey settlements, but the church officials maintained that the churches at Ft. Christina had jurisdiction on both banks of the river. Finally the east shore settlers set up their own churches, first one at Raccoon Creek and then one at present Churchtown.

With the passage of years, the coming of English settlers, the change of government and their inter-marriages with the Finns and Swedes, both early churches became Episcopal parishes. St. George's Parish retains the name which it had when the first Finns and Swedes built a log church about 24 feet square on the site. Its present church, at the intersection of the Salem-Pennsgrove Highway and the Church-Landing Road, was selected by the New Sweden Tercentenary Commission of New Jersey as the appropriate site for the dedication of a memorial plaque on June 30, 1938, commemorating the pioneer settlements of this section, of which the largest was that of Finns Point, which actually lies about four miles southwest of the church although the name applied to the farm settlement covering a good deal of the area.

The settlers had little money to pay a pastor, but provided a farm for a joint pastor of the church at St. George's and the one on Raccoon Creek, now Trinity Church, Swedesboro. At times both churches had pastors, at times neither of them. The "Half-Way Parsonage" was sometimes rented to a tenant farmer. Since"the colony passed from control of the Swedish government in 1655, only the continued watchfulness of the Lutheran Church in the old country kept a partial supply of preachers coming out to the New World at intervals thereafter. The younger generations of Finns and Swedes tended to drift into denominations which established churches with regular services and the English language became universal.

Peter Kalm, the famous Finnish naturalist, sent out by the University of Turku, Finland, to study botany in the New World in the 1740's was the most distinguished preacher at St. George's in its early history. He lived nearby for about a year, working at rescarch and preaching in the church. The records of the Parish, its burial ground where many of the Finnish pioneers rest, its births and marriages, and the land records of the area have been carefully studied, photographed and translated during the past year by Lewis Cook and Joseph S. Sickler, geneologists and historians, under the auspices of the New Sweden Tercentenary Commission of New Jersey. Senator D. Stewart Craven, of Salem, Chairman of the Commission, has given meticulous attention to seeking out and preserving the valuable historical records of the first settlements, giving to the nation a chapter of history which had long been neglected, if not forgotten.







Near here
300 years ago and later lived the
first colony of settlers of Fin-
nish blood upon this continent.
* * to their memory and to the
love of freedom and justice that
they handed down to their des-
cendants this tablet is erected
June 30, 1938
New Sweden Tercentenary
Commission of New Jersey
D. Stewart Craven, Chairman


Official Program. Finnish Tercentenary Day. 300th Anniversary of First Finnish Settlement in America. Chester, Pennsylvania. June 29, 1938. 1938, 27 p.

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