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by
Sharon OJanpa Mackey, FHM Staff Reporter

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Monday, May 13, 2019, was the May meeting of the Finnish Heritage Museum in Fairport Harbor, Ohio. Museum president, Lasse Hiltunen, called the meeting to order promptly at 7:00 P.M. Lasse then gave the invocation, and visitors and guests were recognized. Program Committee chairman, Anne Pohto, introduced the program for the evening: Four Daughters of Finn Hollow. The first presenter was Anne herself, playing the part of the mother, Saima Wilhelmiina Noponen Nieminen, known to her friends as Miina (pictured directly below).

Here is her story.

Miina was born 154 years ago in Karstula, Finland, on June 6, 1865. She married Heikki Nieminen; their oldest daughter Aina Serafiina was born in 1887, the same year Heikki left for America. He was 28 and Miina was 22. They had heard there was work on the docks in Fairport, Ohio, so that’s where Heikki headed. He got a job and was able to build a house on dock company land, in a place called Finn Hollow; it was the second house to be built there. This house was waiting for Minna and Aina when they arrived in Fairport in 1892. The house was unusual for Finn Hollow as it was a duplex. Heikki and the Jacob Walli family built the house together. The Wallis lived in the back part of the house and Miina’s family lived in the front.

Five years later, in 1897, the family was asked to move: to find a lot, build a foundation, and move the house. Aina was now 10 years old and Saima was one. In order to move the house, because it was shared, the house had to be cut in half. The Wallis were not moving with the family. Because the house was cut in half, the back wall was missing during the move, an unforgettable sight as the house moved down the street with the family still living there. The move took several days and ended at 525 High Street, where this house still stands. A basement and six additional rooms were added to the house. Although the house is still at 525 High Street, no one from the original family now lives there. Two more daughters, Olga and Hilja, were born in that house. Over the next few years the house became a boarding house, then housed both Hilja’s and Saima’s families.

Miina died in 1940, still in her home.

Miina then introduced her four daughters. The oldest was Aina Serafiina, played by Barb Ollila. Barb Ollila presenting below. Notice real husband John adding support and playing the part of Aina's husband. This is Aina's story.

Aina was born in Karstula, Finland on June 22, 1887. Five years after her father came to America, Aina and her mother arrived to live with him in Finn Hollow in Fairport. In the 1910 census, she was listed as living at home at 525 High Street. She and her mother worked very hard running the boarding house at that address. Because she was several years older than her three younger sisters, she had many responsibilities. Not too long after the census showed her living at home, she married a sailor and moved to Detroit. According to her father’s obituary in 1943, she was still living in Detroit.


Saima Sivilina, played by Donna Lesiacsek, was the next sister to tell her story. She was born in Fairport on January 19, 1896. Although her father had a good job on the docks, it seemed as if providing for a growing family was always a struggle. Saima attended Garfield School, which is now the Fairport Harbor Village Hall. The police and fire stations are also located there. Saima married William Ralph Dewey Wolff, an electrician, on June 15, 1918. He was the son of early Fairport settlers, August and Mary Lieber Wolff. The newlyweds lived in the house at 525 High Street for a number of years. In the early 1930s, they moved to Harmon Avenue in Painesville with their two children, Delbert and Leona. Saima was proud to be a stay-at-home mom. Delbert was a senior at Northwestern University when he was called on to fight for his country in WWII. On December 2, 1943, he was declared dead, lost at war; his body was never recovered. In 1952, Leona was married to Donald Eugene Price. They later moved to Texas, where they raised two children, Deborah and Mark. There are now five great grandchildren, one of whom has been a visitor at the Finnish Heritage Museum in Fairport Harbor. Saima became a widow in 1984, and died in 1990, at the Beaumont Medical Center in Texas. She and her husband are buried at Evergreen Cemetery in Painesville, Ohio.

Olga Wilhelmina was daughter number three and was portrayed here by Kris Reed. She was born in Fairport in 1899, and on September 3, 1918, at the age of 18, married Armas Leopold Luoma They were members of Zion Lutheran Church in Painesville, and later of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Fairport. Olga worked in the cafeteria at the Diamond Alkali Co. She and Leo had four sons, the oldest being Edwin of Mentor, Ohio. Melvin Henry now lives in Long boat Key, Florida. Adrian lived in Brevard Florida, until his death. Martin never married and lived on St. Simon’s Island, Georgia. Olga lived with him until she passed. Leo and Olga had seven grandchildren and 13 great grandchildren. One of the greats lives in Fairport Harbor, today.

The youngest daughter, portrayed by Shirley Northcott, was Hilja Maria. She was born in Fairport on May 31, 1901 and lived in the family’s boarding house at 525 High Street, helping out from a very young age. There was always something for her to do. Hilja and Jacob Mackey were married on January 1, 1925. Jacob worked in the Processing Department at the Diamond Alkali Company. Daughter Marilyn was born in 1926; son Jack in 1932; Mike in 1936. Life revolved around the children, Jacob’s work and Zion Lutheran Church in Painesville, Ohio. The family stayed in the house after Miina passed away, and Heikki went to live with Olga. When Heikki passed in 1943, his prayer services were held in the home on High Street. The family moved from the house in 1944 and went to live on Harmon Avenue in Painesville. For many years Hilja had a job cleaning at McKinley School in Fairport, then took a job as a clerk at Educational Supply in Painesville. Jack became an industrial arts teacher in Madison, Ohio; Merle lived in Akron with wife Marcia and their two girls. Marilyn had three children; she died in 1979. Jacob retired in 1965 and died in 1982. Hilja Maria lived in Akron for the last eight years of her life; she lived to be 100 years old.

By this time, the house at 525 High Street belonged to another family. It still stands today. My husband and I took a ride past it the other day; it is a beautiful old house in good repair, with lots of flowers and trees around. I hope it is nurturing another family and preparing them for whatever life brings.

Note: The Finnish Heritage Museum has excellent documentation of all the houses which were in Finn Hollow many years ago. The picture below shows the houses in present day. This 4 Sisters program completes the stories of the families and houses in Finn Hollow.

After the completion of the program, Lasse invited everyone to enjoy refreshments provided by the Saari sisters – Mary Biller, Ailiin Andrews, and Helen Hadden. The business meeting then ended up the evening. Please check out our website at finnishheritagemuseum.org to find out what is happening at the Finnish Heritage Museum.

 

4 Sisters TEXT © Sharon Mackey, pictures © Jane Hiltunen 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

         

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