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Early Finnish Immigration to the United, States

Finnish participation in the settlement of America began in 1627, when the first Finn came to these shores. 4 A fairly large group came together with the Swedes in 1638 to Delawarethese were Finns who had moved earlier from Finland to Sweden and then moved on to America, some, seeing a favorable opportunity, others, frankly, coming because they were forced to make the move.

After that, small numbers of Finns, seamen for the most part, who landed at Baltimore or Boston, Galveston, New York, Philadelphia, sometimes remained on land. Old New York records mention one Mauno Peterson, from Turku, while records of the 1850s list the following Finnish seamen : Charles Broman and Gustaf Wendelin from Raahe, and Charles Törnquist from Kokkola. Among the earlier inhabitants in Harlem were the Finns Dirsh Mickelsson, Hans Peterson, and Jurgen Woll. In Providence lived the former seaman Tuomas Ruona from Kuortane. During the Crimean War, a Finnish captain who in 1854 had berthed his ship in New Orleans decided it was wiser to sell his ship there than to risk seizure by the English on the high seas, and most of his crew decided to settle down in Louisiana. 5 In other instances seamen walked off their ships, as did all the Finnish crew members of the S. S. Sylfid in 1900 in Portland and Astoria, Oregon, having signed on for the sole purpose of getting to Americas Earlier, during the California Gold Rush, many Finnish sailors settled in San Francisco.

Between 1830 and 1840 numerous Finns settled down in Alaska, whose governor (according to some reports) was a Finn and aware how suited Finns were for facing the rigors of the north.? In the 1860s a large group of Finns, employed by a Russo-American trading firm, did go to Alaska and remained as permanent settlers in Sitka and vicinity. 8

The groups, and the seamen who had more or less casually moved to America, formed that living link in the chain which united the Delaware Finns of 1638 and the more recent arrivals in the mass movement of Finnish immigrants, which began in the 1860s.

4. C. Niemi, Americanization of the Finnish People in Houghton County, Mich. Duluth, Minn., 1921. p. 13.

5. Siirtokansan Kalenteri, 1940. p. 45. 6. Lännetär. May 10, 1900. 7. Literary Digest. May 24, 1919. 8. Siirtokansan Kalenteri, 1940. p. 45.


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