By Tucker Henderson
Some of you folks around town have already heard that I’m back in the Dispatch office after a six-week hiatus while working for Salolampi, the Finnish Language Village affiliated with Concordia Language Villages just north of Bemidji.
First off, I would like to thank everyone for the heartfelt “welcome back” that I have received in the past week. It is much appreciated and I’m glad to be back, again sharing the stories of New York Mills.
While I was away, I realized throughout my time there, that faces, names, and ties from our very own little village of New York Mills would pop up during my daily life as a counselor and marketing assistant.
Now, the most obvious of the connections is Amy Iida Tervola Hultberg, the dean of Salolampi. She lives here in Newtonville and is a Mills native. I also met the granddaughter of Walter Peltoniemi at camp this summer, who said that she loved spending time with her grandfather at his farm northwest of Heinola when she was growing up.
One of the most prominant examples of these connections is the impressive hand-calligraphy records of all the donors that contributed to the first and second building funds in the 1990s when Salolampi was gaining a step up in the world of CLV: obtaining their very own site. Names such as Harold Karvonen and Leon Keranen are recorded as directors of the project and Russ Parta was an obvious choice for publicity chair back in ‘93. You will also see the names of Gen Keranen and Glen and Miriam Mursu as well as many others with ties to New York Mills.
The library, of course, is a smart spot to research anything Finnish and Finnish-American. There are dozens of books that mention New York Mills and some of our community members from throughout the years. One such book, an immigrant’s calendar from 1922 (100 years old this year!) lists all kinds of information about the wave of Finnish immigrants that came to this area in the late 1800s. Many of my own ancestors are listed there.
Chrisitianity is an important part of Finnish and Finnish-American culture, it always has been. It should come to no surprise that a certain Finnish Bible made its way to a corresponding shelf in the Salolampi library once upon a time. This Bible surprised me by the incription inside the front cover: it had been donated to the New York Mills Elders Home in 1962 by the Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Adult Sunday School! My best guess is that Harold Karvonen had donated it to Salolampi from the Elders Home in the years that he was a director on both boards.
Another fact that I happened upon by accident (which can sometimes be the most fun research of all!) when I was scanning my way through the Finnish translation of ‘History of the Finns in Minnesota’ when I saw a familiar name in the local church information. A familiar name, I may add, that wasn’t familiar because of my research into this area’s history. Quite the contrary, this name is only known to me because of its importance at Salolampi: E. A. Jyring.
Now, E. A. “Jerry” Jyring is a name that many Salolampi villagers will encounter, even if they don’t take the time to learn who he was. My interest in all things history led me to learn a bit about Mr. Jyring a number of years ago. He and his wife donated a substantial monetary sum to help aid Salolampi’s building fund. Their name graces the largest building on the grounds as “Jyringin Talo.” Now what was his name doing in the Trinity Lutheran Church section of this book? He lived in Hibbing after all. He certainly wasn’t a local.
After reading the excerpt, I took the book to a native Finn to have him look it over to make sure I was translating it correctly. Sure enough, the same Jerry Jyring that donated the money for Salolampi’s Iso Talo, was also the architect for the old Trinity Church building south of the railroad tracks!
Like I always say: the more you learn about the Finnish-American community, the smaller and smaller it gets.