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Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Finholms




The Finholm District in the waterfront is well known by just about everyone including our visitors.  Some of us find ourselves there to climb the Finholm Stairs both for exercise and for the beautiful view.  Other times we are there to eat some great food, Anthony's, Devoted Kiss and the other eateries or enjoy music (and food) at Morso's, all located in this district.  You might even be shopping in what used to be Axel Uddenberg's store until John, Alfred's son, purchased it in 1930.

But how much more do you know about the Finholm family?  I'm going to try to condense a long rich history into a short blog to whet your curiosity.

The Finholm family lived in a village named Larsmo in Finland.  It was a large family consisting of Anders and Lisa Finholm and their 10 children.  They lived off fishing and farming in a joint household with Anders two brothers and their families.  Four of the children came to America:  Maria, Leander, Alfred and Johannes.  The other children all remained in Finland.

Alfred was the first to come to America in 1892 at age 18.  He found himself on the West Coast near Olympia working in the woods.  Leander came a year later and he and Alfred found themselves working in the same crew.  

Maria had received a marriage proposal from a friend she had attended church school with and had already moved to Tacoma.  She came to Tacoma 1898 and was married in 1899; she and her new husband moved to Ollala and they had a daughter.  Unfortunately though, Maria died in 1900 at age 32.

Johannes was the last of the four siblings to come to America.  He was a construction worker in Helsinki before Leander inspired him to join them in Washington. 

When brothers tired of the hard work in the forests they decided it was time to find other ways of earning a living.  In 1899, Alfred and Leander had visited their sister, Maria and her husband who were then living in Olalla.  There they had the opportunity to also meet other emigrants from Larsmo, most of whom were strawberry farmers.  The attraction was so great that both brothers bought land in Olalla and started farming themselves including raising poultry and, of course, the strawberries.  Johannes bought his land in Olalla and started working it in 1904.  All three brothers met and married women who had emigrated from Munsala.

Alfred and his first wife, Hanna, had four boys, George, Theodore, John and Edward and one girl, Alma. Leander and Katarina had one son, Hugo  and two daughters, Ida and Elsie.  Johannes and Ida had one son, Walter.

Alfred continued farming although he made most of the farm's profit from his poultry.  One of his sons, George, was active in fishing in Alaska.  We'll learn more about his sons John and Edward later.  Alfred died in 1957 at age 83 from heart troubles from which he had suffered for years.

Leander had a great interest in human society and actively followed what was going on in his homeland of Finland, its wars with Russia, Europe, his new emigrant community in America and its surrounding areas.  World affairs and education were a great draw for him.  He was widely read and was an early subscriber to many magazines, and all though written in Swedish they were sent home to his family back in Finland when he had finished reading them.

Leander was also quite enterprising.  As early as 1903 he had become part owner of a steamship company.  He was among the people who built the first school in Olalla.  He was secretary of the Olalla Berry Growers Association which sold berries throughout all the states as well as Canada.  Then in 1925 he and his son, Hugo, invested in a telephone service which was the beginning of the telephone and telegraph system on the peninsula and in 1930 located at 3417 Harborview Drive; Leander moved to Gig Harbor to manage the company.  Leander also became one of the active leaders if the Gig Harbor Community.

When Leander turned 90 in August 1967 his children, Hugo, Elsie and Ida, arranged a celebration party.  The Peninsula Gateway honored him by writing:  "If we had to arrange a competition in nominating the most eminent citizen in our town, Leander Finholm would be the one to bet on as a winner.  This pioneer represents the hardworking generation that we, and all Americans are proud.  Today, at an age when you normally start taking it easy, this gentleman koins not just in the process of building a community, but continues to challenge his own path with endurance and strength."  

Leander passed away three years later in September 1964 at age 93.  His brother Johannes passed away in June 1965 at age 85.

Next week we will continue our story on the Finholm by talking about Alfred's sons John and Edward and their contribution to Gig Harbor.      

  

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