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Finholms in Washington


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Picture courtesy GSF
For nearly 100 years, when emigration from Finland was greatest, the largest number of emigrants to America were Swedish Finns. Many of their descendants are now found in the northwestern states of Washington and Oregon.

In the fall I made my third trip to America. This visit, combined with my previous two visits, were to find relatives in Washington and Hawaii, and now Seattle.

In the 1890s three of the nine Finholm siblings from Bosund in Larsmo in Swedish Österbotten went to America. Ten years later the fourth sibling went to Washington. The four Finholm siblings were Maria and her three brothers: Leander, Alfred and Johannes Finholm. They were also siblings of my mother's father Anders Finholm as well as my father's mother Mathilda Svenfelt.

All four Finholm siblings married in America with Swedish-speaking Ostrobothnians. Leander's wife was Katarina Eriksson from Munsala and Alfred's wife Hanna Rank was also from Munsala. Johannes, who moved later to Washington, married Katarina's sister Ida Eriksson. Maria Finholm's husband came from Larsmo.

The Finholm siblings bought land and built houses in Olalla village. They had farms specializing in growing strawberries. They transported the berries by boat and sold them to markets in the area around Seattle. The city built up and grew quickly. Emigration from Norway and Sweden has also been prominent in the Seattle and surrounding area.

Life was good for the Finholm siblings and their descendants. There are many of their descendants in America. Today no one from the second generation is still living except two women over 90 years of age who were married to second generation Finholms: Francis Finholm was married to Alfred's son John Finholm, and Doris Finholm married Johannes' son Walter.

Leander Finholm moved to Gig Harbor which is now a little closely built community not far from Olalla. There he built and owned the telephone and telegraph company. He was active in community work in his area and was called "Mr. Gig Harbor." He was a member of the Lion's Club until he died in 1964 at age 94.

Alfred Finholm's sons John and Edward also moved to Gig Harbor. They bought and operated a well-stocked market called Finholm Market. Today there is a business with the same name, but it is owned by someone from Vietnam.

John Finholm was also active in the Lion's Club. He died at 88 years of age. The Gig Harbor Lion's Club, as well as John and Edward Finholm's children, built and donated a stairway to an outlook called Finholm View Climb. There one has a fine view of Gig Harbor.

Today I and many others in the Jakobstad region have many relatives in the Seattle area. We have 17 distant cousins who are industrious and successful men and women engaged in trade, industry and church activities. Many are Republicans. Ronald Finholm of Gig Harbor is a retired bank director. He is active in church work. During President Richard Nixon's term he served on the office staff.

Margaret Johnson, daughter of Walter and Doris Finholm, lives in Bellevue with her husband Ronald Johnson. Margaret's brother David Finholm is an architect in Colorado.

By Gösta Svenfelt in Suomi-USA, Jan 2005

Translated by June Pelo

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