View Full Version : Sillanpää (emmig. to Canada, joined Mac pipe)

04-09-05, 23:12

I wonder if anybody in this forum knows more about this person or if he had any children in Canada:

Sillanpää, Frans J. (1904-1938), born in Sideby Finland, emigrated to Canadan Devon in 1926, joined Mac-Paps bataljon and fighted for Canda in Spain in 1937, died in Teruelissa.

Best regards,

05-09-05, 00:40
Hello Christer,

In Ömossa village http://sydaby.eget.net/eng/nybond/omoss.htm in Sideby parish a Salomon Arvid Johansson Sillanpää b. 8.12.1876 in Vittisbofjärd in Satakunta http://sydaby.eget.net/eng/nybond/post.htm is known in the local literature. He is mentioned in connexion with his marriage to a descendant of Elias Grönberg http://sydaby.eget.net/eng/nybond/gronberg.htm, but the children in the marriage were born after 1918. It is possible that he was married before. The name Sillanpää still exists in Ömossa. I will try to study it.

Gunnar Nybond. "Soldater, torpare och bönder. Släkt- och bygdekrönika från Sydösterbotten." p.46. - Vasa 1980,


05-09-05, 15:13

I have some information about his parents and brothers and sisters in Sideby, but I do not know anything about his life after he left Sideby ( I guess he had no family in Sideby?). He left Sideby as a 22-year old and according to a book by Jyrki Juusela (Suomalaiset Espanjan sodassa) he moved to Canada Davon and joined the Mac-Paps. It would be interesting to know what he did in Kanada, perhaps worked as a miner?

I found an interesting picture on the net (= same picture as in the Juusela book where he mentions the names of all the persons on the picture - all Canadian Finns. The same picture in that book is broader and shows also this Frans Sillanpää). If you are interested, take a look:


Here some information I have about him (You are right Salomon was married twice and this Frans is from the first marriage):

Frans Johannes Sillanpää föddes 29.12.1904 i Vittisbofjärd (Ahlainen), stupade 1.5.1938 i spanska kriget.

Källa: Ämbetsbevis från 1941, Sideby pastorat, ämbetsbevis, Björneborgs ev.lut. Församlings centralrergister, daterat 2.6.2005.

Salomon Arvid Sillanpää. Född 8.12.1876, Vittisbofjärd (Ahlainen).
Dog 2.3.1936 i Sideby. Flyttade 20.2.1912 till Sideby från Lappfjärd med hustrun Hilma Alina f. 30.7.1884 i Vittisbofjärd, död 4.5.1914 i Sideby.
Källa: Ämbetsbevis, Sideby pastorat.

Småbrukare på Öström.

Tog 1902 namet Sillanpää, före detta Ollila/Riitaniittu. Flyttade med fru och familj 10.12.1906 till Lappfjärd

(Salomon Arvid Ollila, Talollinen; Riitaniittu, s. 8.12.1876 Ahlainen Ylikylä. Vanhemmat: Johannes Johansson Ollila, torpparin poika, s. 7.2.1837 Ahlainen Ylikylä, kastettu 8.2.1837 Ylikylä ja Maria Johansdotter Österås, torpparin tytär, s. 29.5.1841 Ahlainen Ylikylä:

Puoliso: Hilma Alina Malin, s. 30.7.1884 Ahlainen Lamppi.

Vanhemmat Jakob Johansson Malin, s. 16.5.1849 ja Wilhelmina Johansdotter, s. 2.3.1844)

05-09-05, 20:57
Those "Sydaby"- pages are a real treasure! It was interesting to read them ones again.

05-09-05, 23:20

Men from even a small place like Sideby have fallen on battlefields (almost) all over the world, but this was unknown to me and probably to most others here. It certainly stirs imagination and I will as promised try to dig for more information (where was he for instance buried?). As is often the case in family history a small piece of information begs for more reading about the general history of the events - this time the Spanish Civil War of which I do not know very much more beyond reading Hemingway's "For Whom the Bells Toll" and seeing some movies. If you are interested to write or compile an article about this man Frans J. Sillanpää from Ömossa in Sideby I will readily give you space at my web site.


Karen Norwillo
06-09-05, 03:18
The search for more information on the Mac-Paps was fascinating. The Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion was formed in July 1937 and served in Spain as part of the International Brigade that came to fight Fascism. They became part of the Abraham Lincoln Battalion when they got to Spain They were there illegally as far as the Canadian government was concerned. A large majority were Finn and Ukranian and Communists. Over 1200 men came and by the end of the war almost 1/2 were lost. The Battle of Teruel began 17 Dec 1937 and ended in defeat 7 Jan 1838. There was a terrible blizzard and many froze to there guns. When the soldiers tried to return to Canada, many were arrested. The men were denied Veterans benefits and went unrecognized for years. A monument was finally placed in Victoria , BC and there is a movement to recognize these men. One article says the men were often buried where they fell. By the way, Devon is in Calgary, Alberta.There was a Communist settlement, in the sense of communal living, everyone equal, that was tried here. Excellent info on Wickipedia.org

06-09-05, 05:06
Your posting regarding Sillanpää interested me as there is a small community (not actually a village any more) about 70 km outside of Thunder Bay, Canada called Devon. Devon was settled mostly by Finns in the late 1920's.
I have book called "A Chronicle of Finnish Settlements in Rural Thunder Bay" which describes Devon and it's early settlement. It mentions John Sillanpää among one of it's early settlers. The page on Devon doesn't specifically provide more information regarding John Sillanpää but it does tell you a bit about the community and what it was about and who some of the other settlers were. If you are interested I can scan the page and e-mail it to you.


06-09-05, 05:43
Your query regarding Frans J. Sillanpää perked my interest because of the community he lived in Canada. There is a small community (approximately 70 km.) from Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada called Devon. Devon was settled by Finns in the late 1920s as described in a book called “A Chronicle of Finnish Settlements in Rural Thunder Bay”. John Sillanpää is noted as being one of Devon’s early settlers. The brief chapter doesn’t provide specific information about John Sillanpää but it does give an outline of the life in the community during the 1930s. If you are interested in the article I would be happy to e-mail it to you.
I also happen to know a lady that was the daughter of one of Sillanpää’s fellow settlers. She was born and raised in Devon and may know of John Sillanpää. I will contact her as soon as she returns from her cottage.


06-09-05, 10:00
There is a Johan Sillanpää in both the passenger lists of the Institute of Migration departing on 21.07.1926 from Finland and in the Canadian database http://www.archives.ca/02/02011802_e.html arriving on 1926/08/08 on the METAGAMA of the Canadian Pacific, but his age is 41 and Frans Johannes Sillanpää ought to be 21 years in 1926. Else it is not at all impossible that he used his second first name Johan(nes) (John) and that a digit 2 has been mixed with the digit 4 in the database records. The original record can be checked on Microfilm reel T-14725. Any person named Frans Sillanpää traveling in 1926 can definitely not be found in the abovementioned databases.

06-09-05, 16:42

Thanks all of you for all the interesting comments, it filled out some of my "big black box" relating to the Spannish civil war!

I guess I'll continue to read this book by Juusela (consist of 448 pages, including a good listing of names of the Finns in this war. It says that it was 225 Finns batteling in this war, out of which 73 were Canadian Finns and 78 were American Finns)

Staffan, I made a quary on the database behind the link you mentioned and found a "Juho". It could also be that Frans Johannes has become "Juho" and americanized it to "John". The age & timing seems right. See below.

Pirjo, it would be really kind of you if you scanned the page relating to Devon.

Given name:
Date of arrival:
1927/04/29 (YYYY/MM/DD)
Port of arrival:
Halifax , Nova Scotia
STOCKHOLM , Swedish American
RG76 - IMMIGRATION, series C-1-b
1927 volume 8
Microfilm reel:
Note: Due to the poor legibility of the original indexes, some information
in this database may be incorrect and/or incomplete.

Source: FINDI76 - 53531

06-09-05, 19:07
Devon Township, one of the remotest of the settled townships circling the city of Thunder Bay, is situated about fifty miles southwest of the city, with Pearson (which is almost equally isolated) to the north, Pardee to the west and the American border to the south.
Devon (or Jackpine, as its post office was known), unlike other Finnish settlements, was not founded until the late 1920's.1 For the most part, the movement of the "devolaiset" to the Devon area was a direct response to the Depression and the fact that new timber tracts were available. Its residents felt that life in the bush, although hard, was preferable to jobless existence in the cities. A family could generally provide a living for themselves on the land: at least there was always enough to eat, given a few cows chickens, pigs, and a garden.
Although Swedes and Finns arrived in Devon as early as 1918 (one of the early trappers being Nestor Ylatalo2), they were men who worked mainly at trapping and bushwork. Permanent settlement did not come for more than a decade.3 Among the first were Emil Stoback, Sanfrid Finholm, Arvid Flink, John Matson, Edwin Matso. They were followed by Oliver Nygard, Emil and Alarick Ehn, Mike Barden, Ragnar Skogman, Gunnar Nygard. Other early comers were Antti Ruuska, Matti Ylatalo and Pentti Tenhunen,4 John and Kusti Puukila, Jalmar Uusitalo and John Sillanpaa.5
Roadbuilding did not start in Jackpine until 1930's, and even then progress was slow. Farmers were paid 80 cents a day and later two dollars a day to work, four dollars if they had a team of horses.6 Before the completion of the road, the only way to get supplies was to hike nineteen miles to Nolalu. With travel by horse and car made easier now, conditions improved and Evard Makela found it feasible to open a small store. Later it served as the site for the first post office) A branch store of the Farmers Merchantile store was opened in Devon, 1940's, managed by Gunnar and Mamie Nygard who also looked after the Jackpine post office at the junction of Highway 593 and Concession 2 road Devon. Travel was also facilitated by the construction of two bridges, one across the Whitefish River in 1930, the other across the Arrow in 1935.8
Industry in Devon was centered around bushwork. Oscar Lampinen had the first sawmill, followed by Antti Ruuska who opened a sawmill in 1931 and sold lumber for house building, while Paul Korhonen, had the first large steam-powered mill.9 Don Clark and Fred Brown were lumber contractors in the area, as was E. Johnson, whose company, Pigeon River Lumber, in its early years used lumber from Jackpine to make ties for Silver Mountain. 10
By 1934, there were enough residents to make practicable a petition for a school. It is dated August 13 of that year, and included these names: Paul Korhonen, Matti Pekkala, Hjalmar Uusitalo, Waino Vataja, Kustaa Puukila and Evert Makela.ll Unfortunately, problems of organization delayed construction of a building until 1938.12 Until then, classes were held in the home of Ivar Jaakkola or "Pikku Ivari",13 the first teacher being a Mr. Jefferson, who commuted the twelve miles from Silver Mountain daily for two or three years.14 His salary was 75 dollars a month. This school was 144 in operation until 1961.
Devon never had a hall of its own, although occasional meetings of the Finnish Organization were held at the school and at various homes. 15 There was no religious organization exept for travelling missionaries, Esther Rissanen, Aune Ikavalko, and others who held services in homes of at the school. Social life was by no means inactive: during the summer dances and socials were held on an open platform called the Pavilian, on lot 47, Concession 4, and in winter at various homes and at the schooll6, group visits were also made to Nolalu and Pine River for meetings and socials. 17
The most active years as a Finnish community were 1930's to the 50's, then some of the older settlers passed away, others moved to the city due to old age and the children moved into other areas to work and make their homes. Some of the early settlers who live in the area are R. Skogman, Paul Maki, Emil Aho and Hilka Ehn.
1. Interview with Mr. Heino Niemi, May 28, 1975, by L. Tolvanen, and with Mr. and Mrs. Antti Ruuska, July 29, 1975, by L. Tolvanen and C. Kouhi.
2. Interview with Mr. Nestor Ylatalo, July 22,1975, by L. Tolvanen.
3. Niemi.
4. N. Ylatalo.
5. Niemi.
6. Ruuska.
7. Niemi, Ruuska, Ylatalo. The post office must have been established some time after 1936. The Suomalainen Asukasluettelo (port Arthur, 1936) still lists Devon residents under the Silver Mountain mailing address.
8. Niemi.
9. Ruuska.
10. Ylatalo.
11. Petition for a school, Devon S.S. No.1, Port Arthur, August 13, 1975. Ministry of Education files, Thunder Bay, Ont.
12. Niemi, Ruuska.
13. Ylatalo, Ruuska.
14. Ruuska.
15. Ylatalo.
16. Ruuska. Ylatalo.
17. Ruuska.
Devon interviews
Mr. and Mrs. Antti Ruuska 615 Vale Cres.
Thunder Bay, Ontario. 577-6122
Mr. Matti Ylatalo Dawson Rd. 767-1709
Mr. Eino Niemi
351 Dufferin St. Thunder Bay, Ontario. 345-9504
Mr. Nestor Ylatalo Dawson Rd. 767-1709
Mrs. Hilka (Pekkala) Ehn Devon
Also a telephone conversation with Mr. Oliver Nygard.

06-09-05, 21:04
Thank you Pirjo, it was really interesting reading!

Many of the names mentioned in that article is common familynames in the region in Finland that John (or Juho) came from.

It would be interesting to know if he was married or had any children as they would then be my mothers cousines... he was about 33 years old when he went to that war.

09-09-05, 05:10

I just had a call from my cousin's wife. She grew up in Devon and remembered John Sillanpää well. The first thing she said was that he went to fight the war in Spain and died there. From that reply we know that he was the right person. She said that he never married. He had a small cabin and worked in the bush. There wasn't much more that she could tell me about him as she was quite a young girl when John Sillanpää used to visit her parents.


09-09-05, 23:24
Thanks a lot Pirjo!

It's incredible that I was able via this forum to be in contact with someone who knew this John!!

It's getting more and more confusing.... children or not?

However, it would be interesting to know what for instance happened to his cabin /things after he died? Did he have any photos etc.?

I scanned the photo from the the book of the civil war in Spain where also John Sillanpääs name is mentioned. However, I'm not quite sure wether John is the dark & taller or the shorter guy of those two I ciruled in the attached picture?

I has been in contact with several people and managed to get in contact with one person here in Finland that remembered that he left Sideby/Finland because his parents wanted him to get married with someone that was pregnant to his child. However, he claimed that he was not the father and became so upset about all this that he emigrated to Canada.... hmmm...I will try to figure out more about this :-)

I also found this table....:

Taulu 1500 (taulusta 1499)

{Removed references to living persons. Please remember that we cannot give personal information about living persons without their consent! /Hasse}


10-09-05, 04:03
I sympathize with you Christer, more often than not, the answers we find create more questions.
I should amend my previous message to say that to the best of her knowledge, John Sillanpää was not married or at least did not have a wife in Devon. From your message it appears that he may have been married in Finland. Perhaps his wife remained there when he emigrated. I will pass your questions on, although, I suspect that as my cousin’s wife was quite young when John left for Spain that she may not know the answers. She may, however, remember what he looked like, at least whether he was dark or fair; these memories often remain with us from childhood. If she agrees, I will send her e-mail address to your private mail so that you can contact her directly. It may take a few days to reach her as I’m sure she is off to her cottage again. We’ve been enjoying beautiful weather and like to take advantage as long as we can, winter invades us soon enough.
Good luck with your search.

15-09-05, 21:28
I found some more links relating to F.J Sillanpää- there is one new name relating to him... "Frank". I have no found the following names for this Frans Johannes Sillanpää: Juho, John, Frank!

On this page among the "volunteer"- list he is called Frank

Book where John and a Sam Sillanpaa is mentioned (same as Pirjo mentioned) :


Other book of interest (familiar to some one, if so I would be greateful if someone could check up if John Sillanpää is mentioned):
Under the Northern Lights: My Memories of
Life in the Finnish Community of Northern Ontario by Nelma Sillanpaa, Edward W Laine,
Canadian Museum of Civilization.

A Cementary close to Devon Sudbury. Here is one John Sillanpää mentioned as died, cannot be the same person?


Suomalisia Thunder Bay, Ontario:


17-09-05, 04:41
In the book "Meidän Poikamme Espanjassa" John Sillanpää is mentioned on Page72 as one of the men killed in the battle of Teruel. The description of the battle in January 19378 was wriiten by Feliks Kulmala from the conversation with Frank Rogers, Mac+Pap batalion commisioner (sotakomissaari).

18-09-05, 09:15

Thanks a lot for your tip!

I'll try to find that book here in Finland

Best regards,


15-10-05, 19:00
Hello Christer,

A while back I sent you a private message regarding the contact for information regarding John Sillanpää . I hope she was able to help with your search for information regarding your relative.


18-10-05, 09:06
Yes, thank you Pirjo!

I received your mail and I have received mails from your friend as well. She was only 6 years old when she saw John (Jussi) so it is of course hard to remember. But, she had some funny memories about him cutting her hair. He was aked to cut her hair but it seemed that he was not that good barbearan as he gave her a bowl cut and cut her hair up to her ears- accordind to your friend she never let him cut her hair again... :)

She also remembered him being dark,and that he wore a fedora type hat.

Best regards,

22-10-05, 05:20

I'm pleased that you have been able to make a connection to your gr-uncle, albeit, circuitously. It’s amazing what we can find out about our ancestors through this modern medium. The story about the hair-cut is precious and certainly gives you a real glimpse into your relatives life in Canada.