Sunday, September 1, 2013

From Finland to Fairport, Part 1

Later this month, on September 15, the Finnish Heritage Museum in Fairport Harbor, Ohio, will dedicate a sculpture commemorating Finnish immigrants to the USA. A couple months ago I wrote a blog post about the sculpture, the Spirit of Finland, and the fund to raise money for its installation. Donors to the fund have a chance to contribute to a Memory Book that will be available in the museum for people to read. I made a small donation, so I was invited to contribute to the Memory Book.

Half of my ancestral heritage is Finnish. All of my Finnish immigrant forebears settled in Fairport Harbor on the Ohio shore of Lake Erie where the Finnish Heritage Museum is located. So for the Memory Book I wrote about these immigrants, trying to tell as much of their stories as I could in a limited space.

Over the next few posts to this blog, I'm going to share what I wrote for the Memory Book. Eleven ancestors of mine immigrated from Finland. I wrote about them pretty densely, so for this blog I'm just going to present them a few at a time. Check back for further installments.

First up are Wilhelm Hirvi and Wilhelmina Oberg Hirvi:
Wilhelmina Oberg Hirvi and Wilhelm "Bill" Hirvi, circa 1938.
Wilhelm “Bill” Hirvi (11/25/1866-7/10/1949) was born in Ylistaro, Finland. He arrived in the USA on 3/18/1884. He was naturalized 3/26/1895. On 9/11/1885 Bill was one of a group of twenty-three Finns who arrived in Fairport Harbor, Ohio, and established the first permanent Finnish settlement there. He lived at 116 Fourth Street in Finn Hollow and worked for the Pennsylvania and Lake Erie Dock Company until 1933, first shoveling iron ore into hoisting buckets and later as gang foreman, driving the dockworkers under him so hard that they called him “Wild Bill.” He served several terms on the Fairport village council. His wife Wilhelmina Oberg (2/2/1865-1/7/1945) was also born in Ylistaro, Finland, and upon arrival in the USA in 1886 settled first in Ashtabula, Ohio. In 1887 she moved to Fairport and married Bill on 3/15/1888 in Painesville, Ohio. They had seven children and were among the founders of Suomi Zion Lutheran Church in Fairport. They are both buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Painesville.
You might have noticed that I didn’t explain how I’m related to these Finnish immigrants. That’s because other members of my family donated to the Spirit of Finland fund and these immigrants are also their relatives. I wanted what I wrote for the Memory Book to be relevant for my other family members, too. But here on this blog I’ll explain my relationship to each of my Finnish immigrant ancestors:
Wilhelm “Bill” Hirvi is my great-great-grandfather, my mother’s mother’s mother’s father (you can read about his house and listen to him sing here)

Wilhelmina Oberg Hirvi is my great-great-grandmother, my mother’s mother’s mother’s mother
Progress on the Spirit of Finland sculpture and its installation in front of the Finnish Heritage Museum has been updated with plenty of new photos on the museum website here. If you’d like, you can still donate to the sculpture fund. You can also become a member of the museum.

Next are Mattias Nikolai Stuuri, Walpori Wilhelmina Erkkila Stuuri, and their son Mattias Vihtori Stuuri.

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