Friday, June 12, 2009


Welcome! Last weekend, after two days of business meetings in Duluth, I took the opportunity to drive up the North Shore (of Lake Superior, or what one postcard now dubs the “North Coast”) and visit my folks for the weekend. On Saturday my folks suggested a visit to the Finland Heritage Site, located about 3 miles from Finland, MN on Cty. Rd. 6. In addition to several preserved buildings from the early 1900’s including a Visitor Center housed in the first forestry building in Finland from 1927, there is a brand new museum that is still in process of being finished, which will have story boards depicting the lives of early Finnish settlers covering events up to the present multi-ethnic community. Of special note – the saw blade sign on the visitor center belonged to my great-grandfather Axel Enerson. It was passed to my grandfather Archie and then to my mother Ellen. My parents donated it to the historical society, where my father is the treasurer. Great grandpa Axel's saw blade The heritage site resides on what used to be the 40-acre homestead of John Petaja, who was referred to as “John Pine” by the locals, a Finnish immigrant who settled the acreage at the early age of 20 and lived his entire adult life as a bachelor on this site. There are several interesting stories about John, which were relayed to us by the caretaker of the site, Judy Reinke. John Pine's homestead cabin One thing she pointed out to us was the sliding panel on the wall behind his cook stove, which she slid aside to reveal the place where John used to hide his liquor bottles. There is a story about the mailman finding john along side the road one day, and, thinking he was injured or possibly deceased, stopped to check on him only to find he was asleep in the grass. John reportedly said upon waking that hauling the water from the spring on the other side of the road tired him out, and he was merely taking a nap. We think perhaps the liquor bottles had something to do with it. Another interesting story about John was he used to report to his neighbors that when the “time came” for his death, he would never be found. And one day in is 80’s, he disappeared without a trace. Oddly enough, his breakfast was found on his kitchen table, the door cracked open for his cats, and his pension check still sitting, uncashed, on the table as well. Park Hill School In addition to John’s restored cabin, the site also houses the Park Hill School, a one-room school house that replaced an even smaller 1-room school, called the Lindstrom school (ironic because I live just outside of Lindstrom, MN, several hours to the south). Park Hill School was closed in 1928, but has been well preserved. Several small desks line up single file in the classroom. In the corner rests the heating stove. Big windows let in the light and make the one room seem much bigger than it really is. In the small room with a sign on the door declaring “Women Teachers,” there is a handmade loom that was owned by Esther Hakkarainen and reportedly bought in the 1930’s for $30. thru the looking glass After touring the school we passed by the Alex Rousku Sauna, circa 1920, and then wandered among a collection of antique farm implements, and I asked my father about the uses of several of them. Both my parents grew up on farms, and I never tire of asking them how this item or that tool where used. dump rake We also hiked the nature trail, although part of it was still closed down due to the massive number of downed trees caused by the April 8 ice storm, the damage from which is still evident all the way from my folks’ property near Silver Bay, on up the shore nearly to Tofte, and inland to Finland. John Pine's Pines After our short hike it was time to leave the heritage site. As I gazed one last time down the straight rows of planted pines, perhaps the only witnesses remaining as to what really happened to John Pine, the wind blew softly among them and I could almost hear them say, “When the people are all gone, we will still remember. We are here.” Siunausta - Blessings!


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