Buildings disappear. Entire communities can vanish.
Growing up in the Rainy River District, my parents talked about Finland, Ontario. It sounded more like a rural area with a few scattered houses, rather than an actual town. I had no idea.
Finland, Ontario was once a community filled with Finnish immigrants who came to Canada to own land. Korpi, Juhala, Kivari, Lehto... just a few of the family names who settled in Finland, Ontario. (Juhala was my Great Grandpa Johnson and his brother William).
There was once a post office and a store with gas pumps (in the 1930s). Mail and groceries were hauled in by horse, wagon, and sleigh by George and Nelly Ferris. There was a Finland Hall that was built by volunteers before the 1920s, and the Finnish Organization and Women’s Club looked after it. The community hosted events and dances there. Finland also had their own school (S.S. No. 13 Potts School) that opened in 1921.
Then life began to change in Finland. The school eventually closed in 1950 when a new school, Mathers Potts School, opened along the highway. Mathers eventually sold to Mr. Tyrvainen; and in 1983, the building burned down. The Finland Hall was dismantled. In the 1960s it was sold to Taimi and Arne Luoto. Some of the hardwood floor was put down in their home. And the post office and store is still there; it’s privately owned by Eileen and Dave Bragg.
The Finland Cemetery has early settlers but many of the graves are missing markers. Wooden crosses and picket fences have deteriorated over the years. Many of the fields are now grown over with brush. Fields, where years ago, they once worked so hard to clear them by axe and grub-hoe, and used horses to pull out stumps.
There are many vacant lots in Finland with the buildings either gone or deteriorating. The Korpi place is still there, but no one lives there now. It was built in the 1920s. There are still some Finnish descendants who own original family properties but their Finnish surnames and their Finnish language have been lost through the years. What used to be an active little community is no longer.
#6 was my Great Grandpa Johnson and his wife Lizzie. #11 was his brother William and wife Anni. And I’m wondering if #15 was his brother Erikk Juhala. In the map below, you can see where they lived in the Potts (or Finland) Township.
Note from Lainie:
What’s interesting to me is that I have driven by and through this township since I was eight years old (it’s on the way up to our cabin). I had no idea that my family once lived there.
Next summer, I want to find the plots of land where they lived and take some pictures. I also want to take a picture of the old gas station and store that sits at the corner and go visit the Finland Cemetery to see if I can find any family stones.
It’s also interesting to me that an active community can just disappear. A place that was once home to many families now has only a few signs left that it even existed. It makes me think about how important it is for small little towns or neighbourhoods to document their existence. We should take photos of main streets and buildings that don’t seem so important. Someday, we will try to tell our children about where we (they) grew up and it won’t be the same.
A special thank you to Siiri Juhala Gallinger who wrote: Memories Last a Lifetime: Finland, Ontario. A lot of the information in this post is from her book. I was able to learn more about my family because she took the time to write it down.