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Life and Times in Little Karleby


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Easter 1884 there was a big change in the personality of the Swedish-Finn lumber camp at Coos Bay in the southwest corner of Oregon. The change was so complete that the logger's work comrades thought he had become insane. He started to testify of his Christian faith and how he was born anew. In the evenings he prayed and read the Bible which brought bad blood among the others. They hurried to undress and crawl under the covers to avoid hearing him. But one evening a strange thing happened. The very roughest and toughest boozer among the loggers started to cry and fell to his knees. He was in a state of severe distress and by following his colleague's lead, found peace in his mind. Soon the atmosphere of the lumberjack camp changed while gatherings increased around the preaching of the logger. Drunkenness and profanity disappeared and were replaced with prayer and Bible reading.

The revival also spread into the community of Marshfield and soon they realized it was necessary to establish a church and get a priest to the camp. The Finnish priest J. J. Hoikka, from Astoria, was called. He held religious services in Swedish and Finnish. Through him, the group made contact with the Swedish-American Augustana Synod who sent traveling preacher P. Carlson to Marshfield. In August 1884 they gathered at a meeting where the Swedish Lutheran congregation in Marshfield was founded. There was a total of 44 people enrolled as members of the congregation, most of whom were Finlands Swedes. Just over a year later, the congregation inaugurated its own church building. Within just a few years the parish had over a hundred members and a functioning organization, including a sorority, junior women, literature circle and Sunday school. A new era had begun among Finland's Swedish immigrants in a remote and secluded spot on North America's west coast.

Who was this converted logger who had such a positive influence on his colleagues? In America he called himself A. Sund, but it was a false name he had borrowed from a cousin in Sweden, together with his passport. The reason for the name change was that he had run away from military service at home in Finland. His real name was August Jern and he came from Västergård in Gerby outside of Vasa. A few years after the revival in Marshfield started, he traveled back home to reunite with his family where he continued to convert people and, in time, became a prominent figure in the revival movement under the name of Church Youth.

In the late 1800s, Marshfield, or Coos Bay as the town later was called, reportedly was the largest Finnish-Swedish settlement on the west coast of the United States, with Swedish-speakers among the majority which constituted the largest immigrant group. In 1910 it was stated that there were not less than 500-600 Swedish-speaking Finlanders. Gender distribution was markedly skewed. In 1880 there were more than two and a hallf foreign men for every foreign woman.

The many lonely bachelors lived mostly a bleak existence devoid of culture and religion. The men who sought female company were referred to the saloon prostitutes. This was the breeding ground for a raw life that was filled with drunkenness, swearing and fornication. Hence one can also understand the spiritual distress that prevailed and the need for revival and filling the churches.

That Marshfield was a raw and hard place is verified in an article of Nykarleby newspaper Österbottningen that appeared 6 February 1890. It was an American letter that was dated in Coos Bay, Marshfield in southern Oregon 22 December 1889. Writer W. W. wrote in the letter about a traumatic event. It was about the execution of a murderer who killed a woman and her child. W. W.'s report stated:

"A rack was erected that was eight feet square and eight feet high, and in the middle of the floor was a trap door, which was fastened with hinges on one side and a latch under the floor. An eight foot high frame was erected where the noose was fixed. When all was in order the prisoner was taken out with his arms tied. Everyone thought he would make a speech, but he did not bid everyone goodbye. He seemed not to fear death, for he was more happy than sad. First, his legs and feet were tied and a black cap was placed on his head, which covered the whole face. Then the noose was placed around his neck. Then someone pulled the rope and he fell through the trapdoor and hung on the noose. He fell feet down so the neck was completely pulled out of joint.

"It was as if a cold north wind had blown over hundreds of spectators, to see a man hanging in a noose, so my pen shakes even when I remember that horrible event. The doctor stood with watch in hand to see how long it took. He hung in the noose 15 minutes, after which the noose was cut. Then the corpse was put in a beautiful polished coffin.

"I wish that many of you would get to see such a horrible event. I firmly believe that many would leave their knives at home and think that 'Never again will I use the knife as a defense weapon.' Anyone who pulls a knife against another in this country should be shot down.'"

W. W. also told in the letter that the city of Marshfield was growing each month. There were ordinary workers who built houses for themselves, trying to make them as beautiful as possible. In Marshfield at the time were ten Munsala and Pensala residents who greeted those at home. "Gladly would we all be home for Christmas, but the trip would almost be too long."

The reason that so many of Finlands Swedes found their way to the remote Marshfield is difficult to ascertain. One of the earliest Ostrobothnians in the area was Matt Matson Ventjärvi from Gamakarleby. He first arrived in Michigan in 1872, and continued soon thereafter to Coos Bay. After seven years of work in the woods, he could buy land at the same time he applies for homestead, that is, free land.

He then became a successful farmer with dairy cattle, slaughter cattle, vegetables and fruit in the program. A biography of the early pioneers ended with the following statement: "He has lived on the Pacific coast nearly 40 years and is well known in this part of the state as a self-made man, as an architect of his own destiny, he has built it in a wise and sustainable manner."

Another one of the pioneers was Gamlakarleby resident Konrad Häggqvist, who was also a leading figure in the Swedish-Finn group. which in 1894 founded a Swedish-Finn sick benefit association called "Suomi", he was elected as the first chairman.

Most of the Swedish language in society came from the region of Karleby. Marshfield was thus called "little Karleby". Names that were closely associated with the Finnish-Swedish colony in the Coos Bay area were Asplund, Backman, Bishop, Björklund, Brandt, Bredskär, Broända-Brunell, Emet, Finell, Fordell, Fredriksson, Friis, Gran, Gunnel, Kaino, Haglund, Hassinen, Holmbeck, Hillström, Hongell, Härmälä, Högström, Johnson, Kankkonen, Kotka, Lax, Lowland, Lågland, Snåre, Sten-Stone, Store, Storå, Strang-Strong, Tast, Möller, Nyström, Wiklund, Wikström and Wittick. Besides North Ostrobothnians and Munsala residents there were also a great number of Malax and Replot residents living in the area.

Reportedly many of the early Finlands-Swedish families came to Coos Bay via San Pedro, California. Often the emigrants traveled together and not infrequently they married within their own circle.

Matt Storå, one of the earliest pioneers in the area, was a supervisor in a logging camp in 1881 when his nephew Alfred Storå arrived. Alfred first worked for a time with his uncle, but soon began to look for agricultural land. He found a suitable area in the eastern part of Millicom River above Golden Falls. Land could still be had at this time for free, but the farms were often very remote.

Life could be especially isolated for the lonely bachelor. From his home district childhood friend Hanna Strandell arrived and in 1893 the two were joined at the altar. Then followed a long lfe together on the distant farm. While Alfred worked in the woods, Hannah attended the family and a dozen cows.

Andrew Large - a cousin of Alfred - came to Coos River in 1892 to help his brother Herman. He started working as a lumberjack for another Gamlakarleby resident named Charles Silen, whose wife was the cousin of Andrew's wife Sophia. Silen and Stora became partners in a successful logging company in Allegany.

For transport, they had access to a small private railway. The operation was run so successfully that they could invest in a hotel in Oakland. Along with his brother-in-law Alfred Brunell they bought a large farm at Coos River and he built a modern house for himself.

One of those who came to work in Andrew Stora's and Charles Selin's logging camp was Alfred Walter Nystrom. He worked nine months for the company and was reimbursed for his ticket to America. Nystrom, who started out in the new country, then found work as a carpenter, but soon became a very successful business owner in the construction industry. Nystrom built a number of fine houses and some larger buildings in Marshfield, including Noble Theater. In 1915 he married Andrew Stora's daughter Signe.

The previously mentioned Alfred Brunell also found his life partner in the Finland- Swedish colony. Her name was Anna Höglund who came from Isomäki in Vörå. It was Anna's brother Michael Hoglund who had tired of Russification in the old country and brought his family, his parents, sister Anna and brother Matt to southern Oregon, where he bought a farm at Catching Slough near Marshfield. Michael Hoglund had an adventurous past as an emigrant in America and South Africa.

Of the trip to Marshfield in 1902 Hoglund later said: "When we came to Hull in England there was a great separation. Some were sent to Liverpool: we were sent first to London and then to Southampton, where we had to wait three days., It was very interesting to see; soldiers of all kinds were sent to South Africa to war against the Boers, which was then in full swing in the Transvaal. We went on board the boat "City of New Nork." Everything was clean and the food and the service were good. We had a lot of stormy weather and we were all so seasick as well as the others in our party.

"After seven days we were in New York. There they examined our things and accessories. Our comrade Karl Stenlund brought a new guitar, and it became the question that he would pay duty on it. I tried to explain that he meant to play it and encourage us on our journey. 'Can he play?' they said. Karl used to play in Vasa Baptist church. He stood and sang and played so it was heard far and wide. Many others joined in singing with him. After that there was no question of any duty money.

"So we came to the place where we had to report on how much money we had on hand and what we intended to do in the U.S., then we would travel as far as Portland, Oregon. I and my father would buy the land as fast as we could, the others would seek some work first and earn something before they could buy land. However, it was not only that: they wanted to know from me who was young, if I had anything to buy land for, or if we otherwise would be a burden for the United States. My answer was that I had enough money, but to be really convinced they wanted to see for themselves. I dug in my pockets and hidden places on my clothes and laid on the table a letter from a bank in Portland, Oregon, that I had $3.000. They then asked for apology and added that they wished to receive many such immigrants. The rest of the group who would travel with me to Oregon were then not questioned.

"The trip through the country was different from what we knew, especially for those who traveled for the first time. We bought newspapers where we could and read along the way. When we got to Seattle at the Great Northern Railway, Karl Stenlund, John West and Erik Westerlund stepped off the train. There was said to be plenty of work in that neighborhood. So they immediately got work in a saw mill. The rest of us continued on to Portland.

"Now we began to look for land that would be appropriate for us to buy. But we decided almost immediately to go to Marshfield, Oregon. But we would have had to wait a week for a boat that landed there, so we took the highway. But it was a difficult journey. First we went by train to Roseburg. There we rented a carriage pulled by four horses. On the cart were three benches to sit on and we were in all eight people. Our luggage was coming one week afterwards. It was said to be about 40 miles to Myrtle Point and the trip took us three days and two nights. The road was so bad that we mostly had to go on foot, with the exception of the one that would stick with the little ones in the cart. The horses had a hard time; they often fell down in the mud up to their knees. From Myrtle Point, we took a train to Marshfield - about 20 miles.

"When we arrived at Marshfield, we saw hills with high, dry and dead trees that forest fires had destroyed a few years earlier. Young alders that started growing up shone green. It was low tide time so the water was low and shone gray and black in the Gulf. Tears rolled from my wife's and my mother's eyes. It was like they wanted to know how many days have we traveled? We were now at the Pacific coast. And we had come from the most comfortable Vasa!"

From this somewhat dark startup a new feeling toward their new home developed. Marshfield residents, countrymen as well as others, turned out to be the friendliest people you could imagine, and soon the new arrivals felt happier. After looking at all the land that was available Michael chose to buy a farm that belonged to a Terjärv resident named Victor Anderson. The farm, which cost $3.000, was approximately 138 acres. The purchase included 40 cows, two horses and two living areas as well as tools and farm implements.

Everything seemed in good shape, but in 1905 Michael sold the farm and moved his residence to Wardner, Idaho. His parents stayed for a time in Coos Bay, but then returned to Finland. Michael's younger sister, Anna, however, was left and started a family with Alfred Brunell. She did give birth to four sons before she passed away at only 27 years of age. Her husband had to raise her sons Fred, Clifford and Dell. The fourth son John died at a young age. The father's advice to the three sons was that they would always stay together - and they would prosper in life.

Father's advice was followed and the Brunell brothers became companions and very successful businessmen. The farm they inherited was expanded in the 1950s with four others in the area and they owned 450 cows. They also ran the Brookmead Dairy in Marshfield and a small sawmill. Not only that. In 1947 they invested in a major port facility, which was named the Central Docks. The following generations operated the harbor as a family compound even in the 1990s.

The Brunell brothers were known to work hard and for long hours. They were also known to party hard and for being outspoken. Open quarrels between them in "Karleby dialect" were not uncommon. But quarrels were not bad because one hour later they could be friends again and working together. They made use of the dialect when during a business negotiation needed to deliberate on something they did not want the other party to understand. The Brunell brothers were remarkably popular as employers and there were many who wanted to take up employment with them.

Coos Bay-Marshfield was, undoubtedly, a remote and isolated place. The roads leading to it were very bad and the railroad would not reach the place until the year 1915. The easiest way to get to the town was by steamboat. For farms perched along the Coos River there were no roads but all shipments must be made by boats.

The remoteness of the area also led to unexpected circumstances. August Rufus Jansson from Harju homestead at Finnö in Korpo went to sea at a young age and in 1910 he emigrated to the United States. There, he moved to the West Coast. The last letter home was dated in Alaska in 1914. When he was not heard from, he was declared dead in Pargas Judicial District in 1926. Imagine everyone's surprise in 1926 when the prodigal son paid a short visit with relatives in his childhood home. He had not only lost touch with his homeland, but also the Swedish language. Jansson, or Johnson as he called himself, was then living in Brookings in southern Oregon. There he enjoyed financial success by buying large plots of land where he built houses which he then sold. As a senior, he had begun crafting furniture, which led to a new career.

Coos Bay's remote location meant that every incoming countryman was received with open arms. That verifies the reports in the immigrant newspaper Finska Amerikan that a travel agent wrote about his visits among Finnish Swedes in Coos Bay.

"To top off my adventures as FA's travel agent, I undertook a long journey to Marshfield, Oregon", wrote Henry Lillsjö in an article that was published in Finska Amerikanaren November 1902.

The journey to the distant city was undertaken with the steamer "Alliance". From the pleasant voyage Lillsjö reported: "She carried me like a feather across the Pacific's almost mirror-like surface, peacefully glittered in the sun bath far, far into an incalculable distance.

"Now and then mirror of water was broken by coiling lapping waves, which attracted a funny reveling dolphin, then a heavy handed 'whale', whose mighty head popped up from the depths, as he wondered what it was there on the water. But unfazed by sea monsters, "Allliance" pushed forward, chimney threw clouds of smoke into the sky, propeller thumped straight on to her thump-thump so that it echoed in my wondering brain. "

When the "Alliance" arrived at Coos Bay, the river inlet offered an interesting panorama of small towns on the beaches and many leafy cutouts. "Just as happy as my trip was, equally happy for Finska Amerikanaren was my acquaintance with the country and the men in this significant backwater," reported a clearly contented Lillsjö. In the communities of Empire City, North Bend and Marshfield, he met with many compatriots and apparently there was considerable interest in North America, for the sale of subscriptions to the Finska Amerikanaren went beyond all expectations.

According to Lillsjö one could believe that he was in "Karleby" when he arrived in Marshfield. Most of Finlands-Swedes in the locality came from Karleby and surrounding kommunes. Most of the countrymen knew English, because they had lived a long time in America. But they happily changed over to Swedish when they noticed that there was a countryman they were dealing with.

In Marshfield Lillsjö looked for merchant Herman Finell. Like many other Finlands-Swedes in the community he came from Gamlakrleby. In the old country Finell had the surname Wiklund. He advertised his business in the newspaper Finska Amerikanaren and was also the paper's local representative. The ads told us that the shop assortment consisted of clothing, footwear, hats, caps, tobacco of all kinds, confectionery, jewelery, writing materials, and straight and folding knives. Finell was active and had been one of the charter members when Finlands-Swedes in Marshfield organized the sick benefit association "Suomi" in 1894.

Finell offered night shelter to Lillsjö with Anders Storgård, who presented Lillsjö "recently with pick and pack who went from Finland to the free land in the west and did not stop until he reached the Pacific.."

Storgård had been in Marshfield for a period of time, namely 1889-94. He had had some kind of business. Now he would begin to operate boarding houses, cigar and paper trade and engage in real estate transactions. Storgård was an inveterate socialist.

The following day Lillsjö visited the city's shipyards where he met many compatriots who worked as carpenters. It seemed as if Ostrobothnians were born with an ax in hand, he noted. Interest in the newspaper was great among the ship's carpenters. "You should have seen when I arrived at the shipyard, everyone wanted the newspaper and no one wanted to pay for it. Then I debated for a while to raise the price to $2.50. And can you guess what? Yeah, everyone thought FA plain and simple as it is, probably is worth $2.50. "Additionally rattled were our countrymen on standing for up funds for a subscription to a known "Sheriff" at home in Finland. Who the sheriff was, is not clear from Lillsjö's report, but you can perhaps guess that it concerned the hated Russian Governor General Nicholas Bobrikov.

Lillsjö also had another case in Marshfield. He was also agent for the "Swedish-Finnish Temperance League of America" founded in Michigan in the same year. Lillsjö was appointed to the newly organized West Coast temperance association and induced existing members to join the Finland-Swedish association. The task was not entirely successful. In Marshfielld, as in many other places, there were compatriots who opposed the temperance movement. A leading personality in Marshfield promised $2.50 to the young people who were interested in the association idea.

Lillsjö also received a threatening letter in which he was asked to pack himself off if he intended to aid in the creation of a temperance association. Apparently, in order to emphasize the seriousness the letter was stamped with double postage. The campaign against the association had a completely opposite effect. On October 11 at an inaugural meeting Lillsjö spoke warmly about the idea and his words fell on fertile ground. The new association received 39 members at the beginning. The name of temperance association became "The Star of Suomi" and its first chairman was William Björkqvist from Vittsar in Gamlakarleby.

Around Marshfield were many Finland-Swedes who owned farms and ranches. For some of them times had been real good in the new land. "Your countrymen have taken all the best places around Marshfield", it was an American who explained to Lillsjö. These farmers were also visited by the Finska Amerikanaren travel agent. At Catching Slough Vörå resident Michael Höglund told Lillsjö he was extremely satisfied with life in the new country.

Höglund took Lillsjö to his neighbor farmer Alex Mattson, who was an old subscriber to the Finska Amerikanaren. Mattson himself was a shipbuilder and his sons took care of agriculture. The sons also read the immigrant newspaper, even though they were born in America.

After leaving Mattson Lillsjö then rowed a boat to the Sumner resort and the next subscriber who was Charles Selander. Although Lillsjö got splinters and blisters on his hands, it was worth the effort. Selander not only filled Lillsjö with food and drink, he also put six U.S. dollars on the table for the newspaper's behalf. Selander came from Gamlakarleby and had used the name Silakka there.

The next subscriber who was approached was Matt Nystrom, who was foreman in a logging camp. He had arranged the work for many working compatriots and among them were found a half dozen new subscribers.

Back in Marshfield Lillsjö attended a meeting organized by the newly founded temperance association. It was also a farewell to many of his new found friends. During the meeting, five new members joined the association. Otherwise, the program consisted of lectures, speeches, singing, recitation and a poem rendered by R. Forsell. The program concluded with a play. Before they broke up there was a surprise. The association's president handed over to Lillsjö a gold ring as a memento from Marshfied and "The Star of Suomi".

When Lillsjö visited Coos Bay the following year, he was a witness to how quickly the place was growing. At the place which had been saplings the year before was now a new town. It was called Joro and was between Marshfield and North Bend.

In the area there were over a hundred Finnish-Swedish families. Among them there were also some businessmen. Herman Finell's menswear store had now been joined by a grocery store that went under the name "Wikman & Wikman." In addition, a blacksmith named Charles Johnson started a furniture store. He was also a funeral director, working in the construction industry and the owner of several valuable plots. Johnson was one of the first Swedish-speaking Finns in Marshfield and had arrived there by 1874. In North Bend he had started a window and door factory, where his countryman Victor Anderson was a foreman and partner. Anderson was also a successful businessman who was the owner of valuable properties and land in North Bend.

Lillsjö traveled around the area and collected the subscription fees. Everywhere he was again kindly received. In Nystrom Camp, he was able this time to raise no less than 25 orders for the newspaper. In another camp at Beaver Hill the foreman Matt Anderson gave four subscriptions to the newspaper. In addition four of his employees also subscribed. Anderson was an entrepreneur and felled trees and delivered timber to Beaver Hill mine.

This time he also visited E. Enegren's farm, which was one of the largest in the neighborhood. Enegren was a dairy farmer and had previously raised its production of the dairy. Nowadays, he begins to manufacture cheeses, something that was much more profitable. Prices of milk and meat were in fact relatively low.

Back in Coos Bay Lillsjö attended a meeting of the Temperance Association "Star of Suomi" as he had the year before. His speech during the party was rewarded with such blaring applause that you almost thought the roof was going to fly by. Five new members joined the association and the membership was now up to 90. The Swedish-speaking Finnish temperance movement seemed to have gained a strong foothold in that distant area in Southern Oregon.

Enegren's farm was mentioned frequently in the reports of Coos Bay. Lillsjö's successor in the Finska Amerikanaren's travel agent, E. Ahlskog, said that participants at a picnic hosted at the Enegrens farm summer of 1907 filled a dozen steamboats. When they arrived at the beautiful picnic spot first they hoisted the American flag and the blue and white flag of Finland provided with arms of Finland. Ahlskog reported: "..The 20-strong band marched up to the music platform and let us hear their music, that rang far out into the neighborhood. There was the large dance floor crowded with party-dressed ladies and gentlemen with happy faces who swung by dancing to the music. At noon, they gathered into groups and were entertained by a few minor competitions, and so started dancing again until late in the evening. "

In the evening the Finland-Swedish group boarded the same boats that took them to the place. Once aboard they sang "Vårt Land". The song echoed beautifully over the water in the still summer evening.

The stately Finland-Swedish picnic, reportedly attended by over a thousand participants, took place at Enegrens farm, which was beautifully situated on the Coos River on three sides. Ephraim Enegren was one of four brothers, three of whom owned their own farms in the area.

Enegren's presence in Coos Bay had a quite dramatic beginning. The father of the family, John Enegren, left a wife and twelve children at home in Tölby outside Vasa and sailed in the early 1880s to Coos Bay. When the family after a few years had not heard from him, sons Ephraim and Charles went looking to find out what happened. Once in Coos Bay, they learned that their father drowned a few months earlier. The accident had occurred in November 1899 when his boat capsized in the channel.

Ephraim and Charles stayed in Coos Bay and began working for various dairy farmers. The pay at the time was 25 cents per day. When Charles had saved one hundred U.S. dollars, he sent it home to mother in Finland, but the money never reached the mother. Soon the brothers Enegren received a message that their mother was sick. Charles then returned to their home country six weeks before her time was up. During the stay at home, he found his life partner in Johanna Finne. They married in Vasa in August 1895 and left four days later for America. Charles had apparently given his wife a slightly positive image of their new country, for when they arrived in Coos Bay, she asked when they would come to America.

Charles and Ephraim leased a farm for five years. They raised cattle, made cheese and grew potatoes. The cheese and potatoes were sold in San Francisco. When the lease period was up Ephraim bought the farm and ran it until 1909 when he sold it and went home to Vasa. He invested his American money by building urban farms in Vasa. He lived then on the rental income.

Charles Enegren's wife Johanna soon became ill, possibly of homesickness, which is why they both returned to Finland. But after only a short time in Finland, they returned to Coos Bay. After a few years, Charles could buy their own farm.

Charles was a hard working farmer who felt that they could sleep in the grave. Every morning he was up at four when he began to pick bags of potatoes, apples and plums. These he sold during the day from a hand-drawn cart to customers inside the city. Wintertime Charles repaired shoes, mended fences and took care of the pets. At age 70 Charlles Enegren passed away in 1949. Four years later his widow Johanna sold the farm to his daughter Ellen and her husband George Huttton O'Connor. Another property she could sell was a plot that Charles bought in 1906. At the time of purchase the plot was far outside the city, but after 54 years of rapid development at the time of sale it was centrally located.

John Enegren, an older brother of Charles and Ephraim came to Coos Bay in 1892 with his children John and Edla. John had recently become a widower. For 14 years, he worked on leased farms before he could buy his own farm. He sold the farm in 1915 and returned to the old country, where he started to drive a tank in Vasa.

Their brother Edward Enegren was said to be the owner of the best farm in the area. It lay a short distance up the Coos River. In time, he had paid $10.000 for it. In 1900, the family sold the farm for $20.000 and returned to the old country. In his native country Edward continued on the entrepreneurial path. He built a self-passenger boat service between Vasa and Munsmo in Solf. He ran a technical workshop and received a patent on a flour invention.

The brothers Enegren were far from alone in being Finland-Swedish farmers in the area. Up along the Coos River's various offshoots were thirty others. The common denominator for most was that they had arrived in the area with two empty hands and worked together with an initial capital with which they could buy a farm, after getting a homestead. Often they ended up in isolated places where the river was the only route.

The two Finnish-Swedish unions, "Suomi" and "Star of Suomi", were joined in 1906 by a coalition called "Knights of Finland". The aim of this association was to provide a community center for Finlands-Swedish in Marshfield. They were successful in their endeavors. Under the supervision of the promoter Karl Johan Hillström from Ventus in Karleby, they raised a building in 1907 and in the spring of 1908 they held an opening party in "Knights of Finland Hall". Three years later the hall was purchased by the sick benefit association "Suomi", and then it went under the name "Suomi Hall."

The hall, which cost about $10.000 to construct, was a stately building of three floors on Central Avenue. At street level there were business premises, on the second floor a dance hall, on the third floor a meeting room that was used by a variety of compounds.

Finlands-Swedes had at this time an own big band with Chas Bostrom as leader. When the 20 cheerful and lively musicians squeezed in a schottis, polka or sailor waltz both walls and ceilings shook in Suomi Hall. The dance floor was made of maple and said to be the best in town. Finlands-Swedes dance events attracted great publicity also among other nationalities. Specially popular among families with children were the Christmas parties the Association arranged. Another annual event was John-dances held every year between Christmas and New Year. These dances were attended by all the association members named John as the first name. Midsummer was celebrated in a park in North Bend.

With time members grew tired of going upstairs to the third floor of the "Suomi Hall" for meetings. So the assembly hall was moved down to the first floor which had stood empty since the business had ceased. The historic hall in time became condemned because of the risk of fire and was demolished in 1970. Runeberg Lodge of Coos Bay has remained to this day with some 60 members.

The Finland-Swedish women in the community organized in 1912 into an organization according to the example at home that was named "Martha". The women's association had 44 members at its inception. Within the Scandinavian Church there was a women's club which was officially called "Women's Relief Society of Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Coos Bay Assembly in Marshfield, Oregon." In common parlance,it came to be known as the "Woman's Aid".

Christian life was devoted to the best of their ability to thwart all kinds of sins and vices. In association protocol the members used the American way of calling themselves Mrs. and the spouse's name and surname.

The Finland-Swedish workers were politically organized. In November 1913 they formed a Scandinavian socialist club and have a growing membership group.

For the temperance association "Star of Suomi" everything became worse. During the years 1911-12 they did not operate for one and a half years. Operations resumed in January 1913, but the following year it was reported that the organization was close to disbanding. The closure was prevented by the powerful intervention of the then President Sigurd Ekholm from Vasa. In 1916 it became prohibition times in Oregon. The association had only eight members on their rolls and then it disappeared from the scene.

The old type of meeting did not address the youth, and soon there was a need of a new type of organization. In 1923 the "Midnight Sun Club" was founded, which especially attracted young people with entertainment and dancing. At its peak the club had over 300 members. In 1928 the three Swedish-Finnish organizations merged into lodge #126 in the Runeberg Order. "Suomi Hall" then became "Runeberg Hall."

Entrepreneurship thrived among the Finland-Swedish immigrants. Not infrequently, it was one of the many immigrants from northern Swedish Ostrobothnia who showed his business talents.

The aforementioned Beaver Hill coal mine just south of Marshfield was owned by the foreman Matt Anderson and Gamlakarleby resident Hugo Kotka. The mine, which was described as one of the largest on the coast, in 1914 had 77 employees. The mine had a shaft that went 300 feet below sea level. The thankless work was remarkably poorly paid - 90 cents per day.

Some of the workers were African Americans who were attracted there from West Virginia. Once at the remote site the black workers realized that they and their families would live in leaky railroad cars. Anyone who dared to complain was named as the union agitator and was fired immediately.

After coal is mined it was transported by rail to Coos Bay, where it was loaded on steamers for transportation to San Francisco and other cities along the coast. The coal from the mines in Oregon commanded a price of three dollars per ton, which was twice as high as in other parts of the country. Supply and demand meant that the price of coal on the West Coast soared.

Rudy Hillström, eldest son of Charles John Hillström from Ventus in Karleby, became scientist and inventor. After ten years of study, he developed and patented a method for coking of coal at low temperature. He founded the company "Western Harvester, Inc." and patented in 1946 a reaper for cranberries that became widely used in the industry. It was stated that the invention reduced picking costs to 50-90 cents per barrel compared to 1.40 per barrel in hand picking. With a slight adjustment, the machine can also be used for picking peas, beans and nuts. Hillstrom was a builder and architect. He built public buildings along the west coast from California to the south to Alaska in the north.

One of the lighthouses that he built has since been declared a historical monument. As a side business he built and operated a dance hall which could accommodate 3,000 people. Musician that Hillstrom was, he could also direct the dance orchestra. He ran the amusement setting for 35 years before he sold it in 1952. The same year, he visited his homeland along with his aging mother. After the visit, he was attributed the following review. "He is in his second home a good representative of Kokkola, he unites in his person the best that all Karleby residents have in themselves and even more so. He is open, cheerful and humorous, rich in initiative, energetic, and a great local history friend. "

Brothers Jake and John Hillstrom, also second-generation immigrants, became successful entrepreneurs in various sectors. They built buildings, bridges, roads, and performed the dredging and pile drivers. They were the owners of the shipyard "Hillstrom Shipbuilding Company" and the quarry "Hillstrom Rock Quarry". John ran a dock and Jake was city director.

Charles Nylund, one of the earliest of Munsala's numerous emigrant crowd, in the mid 1850s was the owner of a little old steamer with which he traveled the stretch of coast between Coos Bay and San Francisco. Nylund, however, was soon driven out by larger companies that began to operate on the same route with more modern craft.

Of course it happened that hankering for home-country food dishes was great. At Christmas, it was easy to arrange for dried lutfisk, or lutefisk as it was called in America. Blood bread was another Finland "delicacy" that immigrants brought with them.

An enterprising immigrant in Marshfield sent for some lingonberry from home. The lingonberry would be embedded in damp moss and the intention was that they were going to plant it in the woods. Earlier, a corresponding importation turned out well. The old country filé did not do well. If someone back home dipped a clean linen cloth in a bowl of filbunke, let it dry, and sent the cloth in the mail, the recipient could dissolve cloth in whole milk and start a new batch of filé.

The previouslly mentioned Finnish-Swedish businesses in Marshfield in 1906 were joined by a cooperative grocery store called "The Finnish Co-operative Store". Percentage stake was an impressive $10.000.

In the city, there were also a number of saloons run by the Finnish Swedes. One of them was "Eldorado Saloon" which was run by Andrew Finstrom and Erik Janson in the mid-1890s. A few years later, Janson alone was the owner of "Pioneer Saloon". Janson came from Gerby outside Vasa and was the brother of the previously mentioned revival leader August Jern.

Another known restaurateur was Ernest Whittick from Korplax in Gamlakarleby. Whittick opened a new saloon in 1903 in the rapidly growing North Bend. The saloon was strategically located closest to the old part of the city and thus became the first and last chance for a drink. In 1907 Whittick wanted to open a new saloon on central Sherman Avenue, but the city government had already decided in principle to stick to only the nine that were on the street. Whittick, however, had already already made investments before the decision, so his request to seek approval for a tenth saloon was upheld. The following year ended with Whittick on trial, accused of serving alcohol to a minor. The sheriff had found a boy drinking beer at the saloon's back door. During the trial, the defense argued that it was the boy's father who had bought it and Whittick was acquitted.

Another who ran a saloon and boarding house was John Storå. Some other Finnish restaurateurs in town had meaningless names as Charles D. Johnson, Fred Jackson and Alex Johnson.

A couple of slightly odd Finnish professionals related to saloon life were John Jensen and Frederick Lee, both in the U.S. Census 1900 with the professional title of "gambler", ie players.

One of the Finland-Swedish boarding houses in Marshfield was run by Andrew Birch from Kronoby. Birch was originally named Anders Birch and his wife Lovisa was born in Ventjärvi in Såka . Another boarding house was run by Salome Hill, nee Björklund, from Jeussen in Kronoby . Her husband Alfred, who was also Kronoby resident, had changed the family name from Snåre to Hill. Alfred was involved in an accident that left him incapacitated so the family chose to go home. The boarding house was left on departure in the hands of a neighbor. In his native country Alfred died after a time as a result of the accident. Sons Rufus and Rudolf were told by their mother that the wretch who had taken care of their boarding house had seized the money. When Rudolf as an adult emigrated to Canada, he decided to seek out the crook in Marshfield. What he had expected would be a showdown between him and the crooked neighbor instead became a transformative experience where Rudolf became aware that his own mother was a deceiver. The man with the boarding house could show that the mother had remarried and instead of giving the sons their inheritance from their father, she and the new husband had seized all the money themselves!

In 1908 Marshfield received a boost from a new sawmill "Coos Bay Lumber Company," erected in the city. The sawmill was cited as the biggest and most modern on the Pacific Coast and employed about 1,500 people. Behind the company was Swedish timber king CA Smith, who moved its headquarters from Minnesota where forest resources had been depleted. They were followed by a work force that largely consisted of Scandinavians and Finns. Smith was among those who brought technology and know-how from Europe. Four years later a paper mill was built by two builders from Finland. A problem with celulose was that they didn't have enough fresh water. Two engineers from Finland - brothers Hjalte and Rolf Nerdrum from Kotka were familiar with a process that made it possible to use salt water. The facility which was built represented an investment of several million dollars.

"Coos Bay Pulp & Paper Mills' facility was built in late summer 1913. The factory employed an initial twenty workers, most of whom were Finlands-Swedes. The working hours were long. The day was divided into two shifts so that day shift worked thirteen hours and the night shift eleven hours. Meals were taken when the opportunity arose. The job must have been very dangerous, for as early as the first year of operation two workers were killed. Both were Finnish speaking Finns. In addition, numerous workers were injured. New problems popped up all the time. The worst thing was the variation in the salinity of the water. It turned out that there were large differences depending on the seasons and the tides. The problem might have been overcome, but it was followed by many others. Then came World War I and the owner thought it best to write off the pulp mill as a failed investment.

A Scandinavian bank was founded in Marshfield in 1915 and in 1919 a group of Nordic shipwrights organized a shipyard named "Scandia Shipbuilding Company." Stakeholders were shipbuilders who lost their jobs after making deliveries to the Navy in the First World War. When it turned out that there was no longer a demand for ships built of wood, the company changed its business focus. They began instead building roads and streets.

Many Finns got their living from work at the shipyards in the Coos Bay area. These were coveted jobs for a skilled carpenter who was paid five dollars a day. Here the Ostrobothnians could take advantage of their skills.

Alexander Anderson from Åsbacka in Terjärv, by using a broad ax, could create a straight and nice mast from trees over 30 meters long. Herman Richard Friis from Gamlakarleby served for a time as a foreman for one of the yards.

The sawmills and forests were dangerous workplaces where human life is not held in high regard. Accidents, with fatal results, followed each other.

In WH Nobles camp one day in August 1893 warning cries fell on deaf ears. For some reason 47-year-old Isaac Enroos didn't obey colleagues' calls to get to safety when he felled a giant pine. The tree hit a dead tree, which bent to the ground. The top bounced up and hit Enroos' neck and broke it. Death occurred instantaneously.

In August 1903 Hugo Andela had an accident at Simon's sawmill in North Bend. He came too close to the circle saw so the little toe was cut off. Andela was quickly transferred to Marshfield, where two doctors would operate on him. Then they gave Andela chloroform but something went wrong and he got too much, which led him to sleep in his final resting place. Andela, who came from Pörtom in Ostrobothnia, was only 17 years old. "It is hardly likely the treating physicians were held accountable for their carelessness or incompetence. If the victim had been a Yankee, then an inquisition would have taken place. But Andela was just a 'foreigner'. Anyway, the event is a warning for those who are in need of medical help, not to turn to the first top U.S. doctor," reported the Finska Amerikanaren.

A personal physician was obviously something that was lacking in the great Finnish colony in Marshfield. In the summer 1914 there was an ad in the Finska Amerikanaren for a doctor from home. It promised an apartment because a third of the city's population were Finns, most Swedish-speaking. In the resort there was a Finnish chemist, Lothmans Pharmacy, and it could provide further information. Apparently Axel Löthmman was behind the ad. Löthman had himself moved to Marshfield from Astoria. Apparently the ad led to results, for the same year Dr. Werner Lagus moved down from Astoria to Marshfield and established practice in the city.

An accident rarely happens alone. Just a few days after Andela's accident, Jacob Oja from M. Nystrom's chippers camp near Marshfield was killed. He was about to debark a tree trunk when a log came rolling down from the crest of the hill and crushed his head. Strangely enough, a group of men shortly before the accident tried to push the log down the slope without success. Oja, who came from Kalajoki, was 25 years old and had a family to support.

Lars Alfred Hassinen from Gamlakarleby parish had an accident in autumn 1911 during forestry work in Coos Bay. He died shortly afterwards according to his sister Mrs. John Backman in Marshfield. Hassinen was one of the pioneers in Finland-Swedish community. He was 19 years old when he came to America in 1874 and spent most of his life in Coos Bay.

In the summer of 1914 Ike Freelund died in an explosion that occurred at a small sawmill called Mentze Mill near Lakeside. Freelund was doing repair work on the sawmill boiler when it suddenly exploded. His body flew off into the river and was found later. Another employee was killed in the accident and a few wounded. Freelund was reportedly part owner of the sawmill.

Two days after Christmas Eve 1884 Maja Lena Wevar stood on the stairs at the family's home near Marshfield. She looked out over the bay where her husband John Frederick and his son Christopher were out in a small rowboat. Suddenly a big wave rose up and swept over the boat. The terrified woman was forced to witness how two closest family members disappeared into the depths. Maja Lena continued alone to manage the farm until her death in 1899.

On August 8, 1903 a Finn named Emil Anderson was laid to rest in Marshfield. The 32-year-old man had drowned.

In early September the same year Gustaf Alexander Stora drowned in the Coquille River. He had unloaded a barge and went over a log float toward the shore when the logs began to spin beneath his feet. Stora got into the water between the logs, which then floated up above him .. Divers were sent down quickly, but could not find him in the 27 foot deep river. Ttwo days later, they managed to drag the bottom for the body. Stora was 28 years old. Barely three years later, Louise Stora died by drowning.

At midnight on a Saturday in November 1909 four young men were in a small rowboat. They were heading to Smith's sawmill, where they worked. The boat was too small for the four strong men. Herman Back repeatedly urged the other three to sit absolutely still in the boat. Two of the others in the boat - Gus Bloom and Chas R. Carlson - were adept swimmers and they joked about how readily it would be for them to swim to for help if anything happened. Suddenly, Carlson leaned over the boat, which led to water pouring over the side of it, and the whole boat suddenly capsized and all fell in the water. Back managed to get hold of the boat and called for help. His cries were heard by a sailor who suddenly came out and saved him. The other three died. Carlson and Bloom were both Finns and cousins to each other. The third deceased was a Swedish national named Otto Alexson . Bloom, who was born in Kimo in Oravais, was only 20 years old. Just four weeks earlier he had sent a death announcement home regarding his sister Anna Maria Hagström.

Accidents that maimed workers were also frequent. In 1901, Albert Wikstrom of Linnusperä in Gamlakarleby lost a hand in a sawmill accident. He was l8 years old and had lived only six months in the new country.

Autumn 1902 Arvid Forsell lost two fingers in another sawmill accident in North Bend. Around the same time Gust Moller ended up being hit by a falling tree in Coos River Camp. The result was that one hand was broken in three places.

Even during leisure time at home accidents happened.. In November 1893, Otto Nystrom, Andrew Bjork and JW Ross were on a hunting trip by boat. Somehow they dropped their weapons into the water and then Ross stretched and tried to save them but the boat capsized. Bjork and Ross saved themselves, but Nystrom drowned. During that same hunting trip Herman Hill from Gamlakarleby was killled by an accidental discharge.

In February 1899 Charles Newman and John Enegren had anchored a barge out in the river. Newman took a smaller boat to shore to fetch water. Just a short distance from land he stumbled, fell back overboard and disappeared instantly. Newman was said to be an accomplished swimmer and it had happened several times that he threw himself into the water with clothes on. Newman, who owned a ranch at Catching Slough near North Bend, left a wife and son Albert. By the following fall another accident would again befall the family and with the neighbor Enegren as a witness.

Early one morning when Enegren retrieved his cows, he observed a large black bear in the woods. He warned the neighbors Albert Newman, John Mattson and his son. The four were out with the hounds to hunt bear. After a while, Mattson and his son gave up. Enegren and Newman continued to hunt along Daniels Creek. Enegren happened to be looking in another direction when suddenly a shot rang out. When he turned around he saw Newman sink down. Enegren rushed there, but his hunting companion had died an instant death. A bullet had entered near the right ear. Just before the shot went off Newman had held the gun by the barrel with the plunger resting on the ground. Three eager dogs were jumping around him. It likely was one of the dogs that touched the trigger and then the shot went off. Mrs Newman received, within the space of six months, death announcements of two relatives - her husband Charles who drowned and their son Albert, who was killed by a stray bullet.

In October 1915 Mrs. Sophia Matson died in hospital as a result of the burns she received when gasoline exploded in the home.

In winter people were hurting for cash and jobs in Marshfield and the surrounding area. This led to the city being flooded by job seekers.

Winters brought a persistent rain. The worst winters meant those who have lived near the beaches sometimes had to leave their houses in the lurch. Sometimes the flood waters carried away buildings and several times Marshfield residents witnessed their whole house slide past on the river into the sea. Rainy winters also meant the work in the woods came to a halt with unemployment. Winter 1889-90 was such an extreme winter when it rained almost every day for six months. The rainfall led to roads, bridges and railways being washed away. "We received no mail at all for three months. Lots of snow up in the mountains and bridges were washed away. Same with the railroad. Coos River farmers have a large portion of land nasty with mud, from 6 inches to 3 feet. Potatoes are 3 cents a pound, and meat dare not even think about ', reported Victor Ögren in a letter to his brother-in-law Frans Ekman from Gamlakarleby.

Victor Ögrens letter revealed that he was working for John Näsburg. Ögren also mentioned that a relative named Kallä was in partnership with Näsburg in a saloon business. Näsburg was one of the earliest Swedes in Oregon. He had come to Amrica in 1850 and two years later he had crossed the great plains to Oregon.

The earliest known Swede in Oregon was the shoemaker Charles M. Wilbert from Norrköping. He had come to New York in 1843 and by 1850 he had started his own company in Milwaukee, Wisconsin . Just one year later the city burned and all Wilbert's assets went up in smoke. Not only that - he had a larget debt. The Swede, however, refused to give up. He made his way through the Panama Canal over to the Pacific side and up to Portland, where he again started a company in the footwear industry. The company, which was the first of its kind in Portland, went well and Wilbert could realize his dream - to pay off the old debts in Milwaukee. It would have been easy for him to get a reduction of the debt or to evade creditors, but his honesty and integrity forbade such a thing. Instead, he chose to pay off the entire debt with interest.. No wonder that the Scandinavians had the reputation of being "fair and square" .

From: Egen lyckas smed by K-G Olin

English translation by June Pelo 2014

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