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Backa - Bäckman

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Folke Johansson of Karleby, Finland, asked for help in locating information of his grandmother's brother's children in America. Matts Leander Mattsson Backa-Bäckman, born 1856 in Öja, Finland, died 21 Sep 1888 in Ashtabula Harbor, Ohio. He and his wife and son Carl (Charly), born 20 Nov. 1875 in Finland, emigrated to America in 1877; (I'm assuming it was in Ashtabula County, Ohio.) Mrs. Bäckman died of TB, leaving three boys, Charly, Emel and Johan (Janne).

After Matts Bäckman died in1888, the oldest son Charly managed to take care of himself but the two younger boys were placed in an orphanage. Janne died on 18 July 1889; Emel was handicapped with a knee problem. Relatives in Finland received four letters, the last one in 1892 and there was no further contact made. Now Folke Johansson would like to find out if Charly married and had any children. If readers can add any new information concerning this family, please contact me. I will include here the four letters sent to relatives in Finland:



Ashtabula Harbor
9 December 1888
Mr. Leonard Haga
(he was Matts Bäckman's mother's brother)
With this I will inform you about the death of Matts Leander Bäckman. He died 21 September 1888 and he leaves behind three defenseless boys. The oldest boy Charley takes care of himself but the younger boys Emel and Johan (Janne) have been sent to a children's home (orphanage?) in the town of Ashtabula, Ohio. The town will take care of their education. Bäckman had a bad life after the death of his wife. He searched for solace in the dram-glass which tells you what happens when a man seeks solace in the bottle.
I who write this believe that Bäckman's life was shortened by the shot-glass. I don't mean that he died in drunkenness, because he didn't take a drop for many weeks before his death. He died of consumption. That was already known two years ago. This form of illness doesn't allow a shot-glass.
Erik Mäkelä asked me to read a letter he received which asked that the boys be sent to Finland. I don't believe they will let the boys leave the orphanage. Perhaps you believe that the children have a bad education in this country. I am sure that they have better care here than in Finland. I have seen what sort of care defenseless children have received in Finland and you may think what you will. Bäckman was the most excellent man before his wife's death and the wife was the kindest of Finnish women. They were busy workers here and when she died Bäckman's destiny was as mentioned above.
At his death Bäckman had $85, but the boys bought new clothes and buried their father. He entered into everlasting peace on the east side of the town of Ashtabula. I will ask the boys if they want to return to their father's home place in Finland. The heritage of the boys shall stay in the bank there until further notice.
Greetings from Erik Mäkelä.
Mr. B. J. Stenroos
Box 712 Harbor
Ashtabula County, Ohio, USA
You can ask the wife of Erik Mäkelä. She knows who I am and that what I write is the truth.

The second letter was as follows:


Harbor, Ohio
20 July 1889



To Leonard Haga
I greet you and give notice that Bäckman's son Johan (Janne) died on 18 July 1889 and the funeral was today. My son Edward also helped carry Janne to the grave beside his mother and father. And on the last day when all arise anew, all three will be together. The cause of Janne's death was "Sall Stickning" (Mr. Johansson wrote this in Swedish, and I don't know what he meant.) and he died the same day. It is true as I write this letter that all three boys had a portrait made of themselves only a month ago. They gave me one to give to you. The boy on the left side is Janne and Charly, who is standing behind, is bookkeeper here in a shop in Harbor. The youngest boy Emel is still in the orphanage. You must remember that the boys Charly and Emel are the rightful heirs to M. L. Bäckman's money.
Drop me a line.
C. J. Stenroos
Ashtabula, Ohio
Harbor, Box 712 USA


The third letter follows:


Harbor, Ohio
16 April 1891



Mr. Leonard Haga in the village of Knifsund
After a long time I, Charly Bäckman, send you this letter. My brother and I live here in the USA with the contentedness given to us by God. My brother Emel lives in an orphanage and I sadly tell you that he will be a cripple. One of his knee-joints is withering away, but he has a good living at the moment. He goes to school and does not speak Swedish nor Finnish, only English.
I will call you uncle. Uncle, if you can, inform me if it is possible to get my father's money from the bank in Finland. I will establish my own shop here so I can take care of my brother Emel. Emel is a good writer and he can help me with his writing. At the moment I am working in a shop here in Harbor and have a good life. I have 30 dollars a month. On 20 November I will be 16 years old and am full grown. Now this autumn, if God is willing, I will visit Finland so we can meet. I will start the trip about 15 November with a secure man, C. J. Stenroos. He will take a trip to Finland to visit his friends and relatives and shall be my escort to you. At that time I will take my father's money. Uncle, would you be good enough to write and tell me if it is possible to visit you. Will you also give me information about my father's money in the bank. The last statement of account was 19 March 1885 and the sum was 4722 mk and 26 p. Some years later my father took 500 mk. So the remaining sum without interest will be 4222mk and 26 p.
Greetings to all of you who know my name.
Mr. Charly Bäckman
Harbor Box 712
Ashtabula, Ohio USA


This is the fourth and last letter:


Harbor, Ohio of USA
15 April 1892



My father's uncle Leander Haga
Thank you very much for your welcome letter of 17 March 1892 and the account of my dead father's fortune.
My brother and I thank you again very much for the trouble that our inheritance in Finland makes for you. But my brother and I are satisfied with the account you have sent to us. I will tell you that Emil is still in the orphanage and his knee is a little better. I have hope that in the future he will be still better. At the moment I am not working because this summer I shall prepare for confirmation which will be held by a Finnish parson. When this is over, my job in the shop will wait for me. In the future I hope to possibly visit you. Here in the harbour of Harbor the ships are beginning to transport coal cargo and it is already ice-free and sailing has begun in the sea of Erie, but they say the Michigan seas are still ice-covered. In the future Harbor will be a Finnish town. There are between 40-50 Finnish houses, three parsons (2 Lutheran and one missionary).
Now I will end with many hearty greetings to all of you who know my name.
Charly Bäckman
Harbor Box 712
Ashtabula CO, Ohio USA




June Pelo


Note: Folke Johansson translated all this material from Swedish to English, asking me to forgive his English which he hasn't used for 20 years. I have used his wording as much as possible. In a later letter, Mr. Johansson mentioned that in Myhrman"s "Finlands Svenskar i Amerika" he noticed two Backman names: Charley Backman and Emil Backman. Emil Backman was formerly president of the Runeberg Order and his birth place was Marshfield. He wondered if these two names could have any connection to his relatives. Does anyone have any ideas?


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