By Elaine Lillback, FHM Reporter
The FHM genealogical committee, called "the Genies,"
told the stories of five of the "first Finns of Fairport" as part of the on-going project to find those stories. This was the second of three first Finns program. Ann Pohto introduced the program and the speakers.
John Ollila presented his grandfather, S. C. Olin, a productive editor and writer since 1921, having begun as a writer for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. For the celebration of Fairport’s 150 years, he wrote the “The Story of Fairport”. He has written hundreds of articles, traveled as a lecturer and provided programs for schools and colleges as well as club groups.
Saul Chalmer Olin was the son of former Fairport pioneers, John and Mary Ollila, born October 12, 1903, in Palo, Isokyro, Finland. John Ollila’s great grandfather, Kustaa Killinen, in Finland is well known there for his beautiful poem for deaf children, “Pium- Paum” and signing with the signature Kln. He developed a new method of teaching deaf-mute children, the method taken into practice in all of Finland.
The second speaker of the evening, Elaine Tikka Lillback, introduced her grandparents, Alexander and Maria Sironen born in Evijarvi and Kortesjarvi, Finland. Alex was one of five children, and following his father’s death; his oldest brother was given the family farm. Alex was put out to work on other farms until he was old enough to join the Russian army. He served his time there in Turku, and later following his meeting Maria, he married her. They had a child, Alex, and another on the way. He was invited to go to America, Fairport, Ohio by Tuoresmaa. He offered him a place to stay, until Alex was able to send $60 per ticket for his wife. By 1888 he had sent money, and Maria was on her way,
Alex worked in Aurora cutting trees, and then got a job with the dock, unloading the ships in Fairport.
He, and seven other men were invited to build non-basement houses on PLE property, with the stipulation they would move the houses when the company needed their land for expansion.
Nine years later, the Painesville & Lake Erie Company asked the men to move their houses. Alex hired a flatbed and horses, and was the first to move down on lower High Street. He had built a foundation and moved the house, adding six more rooms. Later, because of the housing shortage, they built a second house next door as a boarding house. They raised nine children in these two houses, and many Finns who came to America, were given the sustenance and faith they needed in America.
The third speaker, Ken Quiggle, presented Jacob Kulberg, born in Finland in 1869, and immigrated to America in1886. He married his Finnish born wife in 1868, in Ashtabula. Jacob’s occupation was listed as “foreman on the ore dock”.
Ken interviewed 90-year-old Bob Stalker, the grandson of Jacob Kulberg. He related how Jacob had taken a trip to Finland and on the ship met the brother of Tubman, from Fairport. A store was opened and located at 415 High Street, across from Tubman’s. Mr. Stalker is the son of second oldest child Jennie and her husband Dan Stalker. He related that the Kulbergs were members of the Finnish
Evangelical Lutheran Church. It was later called Immanuel Lutheran, and Jacob served on the “Constitution Committee” in 1900.
Susan suffered a stroke, and remained bed ridden until her death.
Second oldest child Jennie married Dan H. Stalker from Wisconsin. He was a commercial fisherman. They moved to Seattle, Washington. Jennie died at age 48, Dan at 54.
Anna married a Mr. Frye. Not much else is known about her.
Edward studied electrical work at Buick Company. He later worked on
boats and trucks. He died in San Diego in 1969.
John graduated from Fairport High school in 1923. He was active in class plays, and played guard on the basketball team, and a member of the first Fairport football team in 1921. He attended Case College and became an engineer, working on the Terminal Tower project.
Fannie graduated from Fairport High school and went on to business school. She married Mr. Waldal and lived into her nineties.
Bertha graduated from Fairport and went to Ohio University and studied to become a physical education teacher. She moved to Seattle and lived into her nineties. They had lived the American dream.
For the fourth story, Jeff Werronen presented Emil Arvit Werronen. Emil was born in Rautio, Finland in 1867, and died in 1941. He left, unheralded, for America in 1884-5. He constructed railroad lines in Ashtabula for five years, moving on to Fairport five years later. About a month after his discharge, he would marry Susanna Kumara, and in the next nine years, they had five sons: Aatto, Arvo, Anton, Arne, and Antero. Back in 1902 Emil and his wife Susanna had sponsored the voyage of her 17-year-old sister Aino Serafia. They were, following little discussion after Susanna’s death, married on December 19, 1910. The second marriage brought about ten children: Alliie, Ina, Arne, Alvar, Lillian, Edwin, Eino, Martha, Toivo and Gerald.
He lived in houses he had built, and taught Zion Sunday school classes for two years on the second floor of the Temperance Hall. He also worked at the Diamond Alkali. He played poker, and carried a gun, accompanying his daughter to work at 2:30 am at the North Star Bakery on High Street in 1930.
Amy Werronen presented the side of Herman Reini and Liisa Pakkari Reini. Sanna married Juho Vilhelm Hilston in Isokyro, Finland. Juho came to Ashtabula in 1884, and Sanna arrived in Fairport in 1886. He was a dockworker at Diamond Alkali. He died at work in 1927 and is buried in Zion Cemetery, Fairport. He built a house at 535 High Street. It was the first house to have electricity.
Herman Reini was born in 1840 and died in Painesville at the age of 48, May 1, 1888. Liisa Pakkari Reini Hannyksela came to the USA in 1900 from England and made her home with two her daughters, Sanna and Amelia for 25 years. She is buried in Zion Cemetery in Fairport. Amelia came to America in 1888 and married J. Gust Hilston, a cousin of Juho. They had 9 children.
Emma Josefina came to America in 1889 and married Alexander Sander Mattson in 1890. They had 13 children in Lead, S.D. She died on 8/23/1939 and is buried in South Lead.
It was a busy life cooking on wood burning stoves, and baking 9 pies at a time, with the coffee pot always ready to serve. The Finns have kept the pot warm!
The meeting was adjourned; coffee was served graciously by Janine LaBounty and Suzanne Jokela.
© text byElaine Lillback © pictures by Jeff Troutman.