View Full Version : Researching Calumet Finnish Ladies Society

23-07-07, 23:03

I am a grad student with Skidmore College and the topic of my thesis is the Calumet Finnish Ladies Society. My work includes the lives of Maggie Walz and Linda Mahlberg and the other women who lived and worked in the copper country. There has been a great deal of misinformation and "folklore" surrounding this group of women and I am working to clear most of it up. If anyone out there has any information regarding this group or these women I would appreciate hearing from you.
Thank you

24-07-07, 03:05
I have a book called "History of the Finns in Michigan". In this book on page 90, there is a paragraph which is as follows;
"In the decade before the turn of the century and for a time afterward, the best-known Finnish woman, not only in Calumet but in the entire Copper Country, was Maggie Walz. Kreeta Kontra, or Maggie Walz, as she was commonly known, was born in Tervola. She came to America from Tornio in 1881 as a young girl, learned English quickly, and became an enterprising businesswoman. She and her friend Linda Mahlberg, an instructor at Suomi College, were enthusiastic supporters of women's rights and of the temperance movement, giving speeches even before non-Finnish groups. Maggie had the "voice of a sea capatain," and her speeches were remembered long after her busy life ended at the age of sixty-five."

Maggie Walz (Margareeta, Kreeta) Kontra was the founder of the permanent settlement on Drummond Island. She came to America at the age of 12 and in 1902 went to Drummond Island as a government land agent and established a second home there. She travelled to Finnish communities of the U.P. and recruited settlers, eventually there were 300 Finns on the island. The first Finnish community was named Kreetan for it's founder Maggie Walz. Maggie served as postmaster.
One of the most prominent organizations in the Copper Country was Suomalainen Naisyhdistys (Finnish Women's Society) of Calumet. They had 24 members and meetings were held once a week. Literature was taught on subjects of interest to women, night schools were started to learn English and young girls were taught sewing. Maggie Walz and Linda Mahlberg were among the first officers. Linda Mahlberg was also editor of the Women's Paper (Naisten Lehti) at one point as well as others, and it was published until 1909. Maggie Walz was the business manager and also owner of the paper at one point. In 1910 Maggie Walz was sent as a delegate from Calumet to the world conference of the World's Women's Temperance League in Glasgow, Scotland. Many women's societies started up as a result of their efforts for women's rights in city's such as Hancock and Ishpeming.

I hope this helps you with your thesis. :)

Best Regards,

24-07-07, 03:36
Found a link that may be of interest to you about Kreeta. It seems her real name was Margareeta Johanna Konttra Niranen, born in 1861 in Overtornea. I tried to find the family in Hiski but the dates don't go past 1850. I also looked on the Institute of Migration, and it appears, although I didn't find her record, that the surname should be Niiranen.



24-07-07, 06:29
Just found a book I have called Calumet Copper Country Metropolis 1898-1913by Dave Engel and Gerry Mantel. There are references to Maggie Walz in this book. Calumet at one time, I believe was to be the capital of Michigan, instead of Lansing. The following are a couple paragraphs taken from the book that I found quite interesting and summed up who Maggie Walz was. And, by the way, no wonder I couldn't find her on the Institute of Migration or Hiski, she was from Sweden! :o

Oct.7, 1910
"An interesting visitor to Detroit the past few days was Miss Maggie Walz, of Calumet, Mich.. who has just returned from several month's travel i Europe and who came to Detroit for the purpose of interesting local club and fraternal society women in the Woman's Home, College and Sanitarium in Marquette, says the Detroit Times. "I want to have a home for friendless women, old and young, and a place where they may be taught domestic science in all its phases. I hope some day to be able to say the home has solved the 'servant girl problem' in Michigan by supplying first-class maids for housework. I went to Europe this summer as a delegate to the world's W.C.T.U. congress and the World's Missionary congress, and after those gatherings went to London, where I fell into a big woman's suffrage convention, and as I am a strong equal righter i took a hand in that" said Miss Walz. "Then I went to my old home in Tornea, Sweden, to see my mother, the only member of my family who has not left the old home to make a new one in America."

April 25, 1910
"They say we suffragists are not domestic and not practical", said Miss Walz. "Consider this matter as an illustration. It is our purpose to teach the girls how to become good homemakers; how to become domestic. Just as truly we propose to shelter them from foolish marriages. Some of the foreign girls, coming to this country without experience and fearful for the future, marry men whom they do not love at all. They accept faulty men unconditionally for the sake of a home which, in many instances, they are not able to care for. We propose that these girls and American girls, too, shall have a chance to learn to care for themselves. Then they have a real choice when an offer of marriage is made them. If they really want to marry they are ready to take good care of a home."

There are many more references to her in this book. There are a few about a block of real estate she owned, and it appeared she had made a few enemies as more than once, one business or another was set afire in the block she owned. It also sounds like many had tried to give her advice on buying copper stocks, but she ignored their advice, and chose investing in real estate, and she made alot of money, commenting that she could afford to live anywhere she chose in Europe, but liked Michigan, and had a chuckle when many lost alot of money when copper took a tumble in the stocks.

Take care,

24-07-07, 16:21
Here is a photo of Maggie Walz, taken circa 1908, from the book "Calumet Copper Country Metropolis." Sorry, the photo is not very good and my scanner is one with a glass top that you scan pictures by laying them up, and the book would not fit properly to do so.


26-09-07, 20:53

Here is what I have collected about Maggie Walz:
my comments in ()

Great Steve!
And many, many thanks!
I shall send them to my work and print them out in color and study them better with your notes close.
You're mentioned "The Maggie Waltz block" What do you know about her? She was identical to one Margareta (Greta) Välivainio from Övertorneå Parish, and was very suspicious back here. In 1900 she returned to Tornio Valley to draw youngsters over to North America, and she was nearly thrown out from the area. She left her calling card, which I found 1989 in one farm of Niemis village (attached. Also attached some articles from her 1900 trip, taken from the local Tornio valley paper Haparandabladet - Haaparannanlehti.

More later. Thanks again for your friendly help!
in Orjasjärvi village, Swedish Övertorneå parish, on farm No 2 Välivainio ("Wäliwainio"), we finds from 1865:

Farmer Abraham Johansson Myllymäki-Välivainio, b. 1831 d. 1874
Married 12 February 1865 to:
Helena Kristina ("Lena Stina") Isaksdotter Iivari, b. 4 December 1839 in Finnish Övertorneå (Ylitornio). "Hard of hearing". Still alive in Orjasjärvi 1903.
She remarried 1880 to the new farmer at Välivainio Per Nilsson Välikoski-Välivainio from Karl Gustaf parish, b. 1831, still alive 1903. He was also a blacksmith. They lost the Välivainio farm around 1882-83, but they continued to live somewhere on the farm.

Her extramarital daughter:
- Greta Johanna Välivainio, b. 2 December 1861 in Finnish Övertorneå (Ylitornio). Emigrated to North America on 31 May 1881. She returned back home to Orjasjärvi on 6 May 1887. Recorded in the village as "Wäliwainio Greta Johanna". Then she emigrated again, her 2nd time, on 8 June 1888. Surely together with her younger half-brother Johan Abram (see below).

Common children:
- Isak Arvid, b. 1867 d. 1874
- Johan Abram Abrahamsson Välivainio, b. 26 September 1872. Emigrated to North America 11 June 1888, most surely together with his half-sister Greta.

The wife's children from her 2nd marriage:
- Laura Kristina (Persdotter) Välivainio, b. 14 September 1880 (twin). Emigrated to North America 4 July 1896.
- Fia Katarina (Persdotter) Välivainio, b. 15 September 1880 (twin - note the different date). Emigrated to North America 4 July 1896.

So, all the children left for America, leaving the old parents behind.

Greta Johanna was born extramarital to the farmers daughter Lena Stina Isaksdotter Iivari in the village of Kuivakangas, Finnish Övertorneå parish (Ylitornio), on December 2nd, 1861. No father were noted.

I would guess - according to Maggie Waltz interests in drawing new immigrants from Tornio valley and Finland to Houghton County - that her half-brother and her younger half-sisters all passed through Calumet. Don't you think?


Ylitornio - Övertorneå - christened

* Years 1861 - 1861

Born Christened Village Farm Father Mother Child
2.12.1861 4.12.1861 Kuivak. f. 31 ------ Bd.d:r Lena Stina Is:dr Iivari 20-25 Greta Johanna (Maggie Walz)

Ylitornio - Övertorneå - married

* Years 1865 - 1865

Married Village Man Woman Village
29.1.1865 Öfv. Torneå s:n Inh:m.Kongl. Sv. unders. Abram Isaksson Myllymäki B:d. d:rn Helena Kristina Isaksd:r Iivari Kuivakangas
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THE MINING GAZETTE (under various names) of Houghton County, Michigan

1905 May 2 Tuesday

NEWS ITEM- Miss Maggie WALTZ, accompanied by a large party of Finnish people from all over
the copper country, left yesterday morning for Sault Ste Marie, Michigan, and there will go to
Drummond Island, where they expect to start a Finnish colony, should the place prove suitable.
The party will stake out claims of 160 acres each, and will return there in 6 months to take up
residence permanently.

The Mining Gazette
Date: October 25, 1920
Decedent: Williams COLLINS

Headline: Finds an Aged Resident Dead in Waltz Building

The body of William COLLINS, an aged resident of Calumet, was found
shortly before noon, yesterday, in his room at the Waltz building on
Pine street, his death having occurred the day before.
He was found sitting in a chair near the stove, indicating that death
had occurred very suddenly.
The late Mr. Collins had been a resident of this community for about
forty years, spending part of his time on his farm near Osceola, but
for the past two years, living in the Waltz Building.

Transcribed by: Jacquie Sherrer

The Finnish Farmers in America1
Horace H. Russell

Drummond Island, a part of Chippewa County, Michigan, between the North Channel and Lake Huron, is an interesting example of a Finnish settlement. It was settled to farm in the early years of the twentieth century. The credit for this settlement goes to Maggie Walz, a Finn, who came to Hancock in Houghton County in the early seventies. Her early life was a difficult struggle but she eventually became the founder and editor of a Finnish ladies' journal and a recognized leader among her people. She noted the temptations that befell some of the Finnish miners and desired to help them obtain and own a farm, thus getting them away from some of the bad habits they had acquired. She went to the United States land office and secured permission to colonize Drummond Island. It was then opened to settlement and three hundred Finns applied for homesteads. The first houses built were rude shacks and clearing the land was a difficult process. The enterprise, however, was successful, and the Island today has three towns, Drummond, Maxton, and John Woods, and a population of around one thousand. The soil was found to be especially adapted to sugar beets and their cultivation was encouraged. It is also noteworthy that much pride was taken in raising fine cattle and thoroughbred horses.

"Maggie Walz (1861-1927), publisher of the Naisten Lehti (Women's Newspaper), represented the Finnish American suffragists in the American suffrage and temperance movements."


This Finnish cooperative colony located in Lake Huron off the eastern coast of michigan's Upper Peninsula was founded in 1905 by Maggie Walz (or Waltz), the spearhead of a drive to establish a Finnish colony in the United States since her immigration to the United States in 1881. In short order, four settlements and 900 hundred residents could be found on the island. They worked the lumber camps, sawmills, and sugar beet farms there, leading to reports of general prosperity. However, life in the remote island community was hard, and the socialists among the members led a revolt against Walz's leadership in 1914. Thereafter, all communal features on Drummond Island quickly vanished.


Michigan Land Records
Land Office: MARQUETTE
Sequence #: 1
Document Number: 20581
Total Acres: 163.13
Signature: Yes
Canceled Document: No
Issue Date: August 08, 1905
Mineral Rights Reserved: No
Metes and Bounds: No
Statutory Reference: 3 Stat. 566
Multiple Warantee Names: No
Act or Treaty: April 24, 1820
Multiple Patentee Names: No
Entry Classification: Sale-Cash Entries
Land Description: 1 N½NE MICHIGAN-TOLEDO STRIP No 51 N 35 W 4

1910 United States Federal Census
Name: Maggie J Walz
Age in 1910: 40
Estimated birth year: abt 1870
Birthplace: Finland
Relation to Head of House: Head
Father's Birth Place: Finland
Mother's Birth Place: Finland
Home in 1910: Calumet, Houghton, Michigan (418 Pine Street)
Marital Status: Single
Race: White
Gender: Female
Year of Immigration: 1888

1920 United States Federal Census
Name: Maggie J Walz
Home in 1920: Red Jacket, Houghton, Michigan
Age: 55 years
Estimated birth year: abt 1865
Birthplace: Sweden
Relation to Head of House: Head
Father's Birth Place: Finland
Mother's Birth Place: Sweden
Marital Status: Single
Race: White
Sex: Male <-- error
Home owned: Own
Year of Immigration: 1891
Able to read: Yes
Able to Write: Yes

Detailed information (Finnish Americans)
Last name Waltz
First names Maggie
County Osceola
State Michigan
Country USA
Year of Source info 1897
Additional information See: Erik Ragnar Johnson
Source Journal of pastor J. W. Eloheimo 1891-1911

Detailed information (Finnish Americans)
Last name Waltz
First names Maggie
County Calumet
State Michigan
Country USA
Year of Source info 1898
Additional information See: Harland Howert Waldemar Palmer
Source Journal of pastor J. W. Eloheimo 1891-1911

Detailed information (Finnish Americans)
Last name Waltz
First names Maggie
County Drummond Island
State Michigan
Country USA
Year of Source info 1926
Additional information -
Source Ilmonen, S.: The History of Finnish Americans 1926, page 142

Detailed information (Finnish Americans)
Last name Walz
First names Maggie J
County Calumet
State Michigan
Country USA
Year of Source info 1896
Additional information
See: Isaac Arthur Kaartti
Source Journal of pastor J. W. Eloheimo 1891-1911

Detailed information (Finnish Americans)
Last name Walz
First names Maggie
County Calumet
State Michigan
Country USA
Year of Source info 1899
Additional information
See: Florence Irene Kekkonen
Source Journal of pastor J. W. Eloheimo 1891-1911
Finlandia University archives:

Died 19 Nov 1927 Laurium Hospital (now Calumet Hospital) (date error)

Margareeta Johanna Knottra Niiranen
Lastadian parents
1893 Business school for 1 year -Valparaiso Business College, Valparaiso Ind
paid her own tuition
came to America (Hancock) with 7 dollars left
paid her own way here
was a member of the Calumet Apostolic Lutheran Church

24 Sep 1959 Gazette -article and pic of Walz building (emty)
torn down by O.A.Peterson.
Funeral Home data (Peterson)

Maggie Walz
b. 1862
d. 9 Nov 1927
buried - Lakeview Cemetery
by Heideman

father: Konrad Walz

funeral paid by: John Laanaer (last name not very clear)
and: Mrs Takula

country born: illegible

Buried: 12 Nov 1927 - Lakeview Cemetery
Sec 15 Lot 53 - no stone (age- 66)
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HISKI data
Haapavesi - christened

Born Christened Village Farm Father Mother Child
4.6.1837 11.6.1837 - - Brita Niiranen 25-30 Conrad (oä.)
28.2.1844 10.3.1844 - - Brita Caisa Niiranen 30-35 Gretha

Amerikan Suomalainsten Historia II Ja Elämäkertoja

Name Immigration Born Parish Died
Niiranen Kontra 1873 1830/1834 Haapavedellä 1903

Name Born Died Spouse
? Anna Liisa Kontra Niiranen (1st)
Kangas Saara 1857 Ranttilassa 1915 Kontra Niiranen (2nd)

Detailed information (Reference records)
Last name: Niiranen
First names: Kontra
Other name: *
Date of birth: 00.00.1830
Place of birth: Haapavesi
State of birth: OU
Country of birth: SF
Date of death: 00.00.1903
Place of death: *
State of death: *
Country of death: USA
Remarks: Pso: 1. Anna Liisa Niiranen, 2. Saara Kangas (k. 1915)
Lapset: ?
Amm: kaivosmies. (miner)
KS: Hancock, MI, USA
LS: > 1873 Hancock, MI, USA
[Syntymäajaksi ilmoitettu: 1830 tai 1834] (1830 or 1834)
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Steve Johnson