And the journey continues. Now it’s time to tell about one of the most exciting days on my trip (and perhaps in my life too), as I finally got to travel to Chisholm where my grandfather was born in 1917. None of my family members ever got the chance to go there so I was the first. It wasn’t easy though – there are no trains there, no buses either, and the plane would’ve cost like 400-500 dollars. Providentially a friend of mine found two friends who were willing to help me out and drive me. Randy (left) drove me to Forest Lake and Paul (right) drove me to Chisholm and then back to Hinkley, where I took the bus back to St. Paul. We all had breakfast together and celebrated my graduation (Bachelor’s) which officially took place that very day.
After about 3 hours of driving up north we were finally in Chisholm. As people had told me, the nature (trees etc) in northern Minnesota is just like Finland, and so it was. On the way I was reading some old correspondence between my great-grandfather and the relatives back home in Finland. Chisholm itself as a town surprised me – it was much more beautiful and advanced than I thought. But it still retained a peculiar sense/spirit/smell of the early 1900s. Here are some of my first impressions in visual form…
We only had 3 hours to spend in Chisholm. Obviously our main concern was to try to find information on my family. The first thing we saw was the Tourist Information (imagine they have one in Chisholm but none in Pittsburgh!:D). We spent a while there and got some useful materials about Chisholm but the woman there gave us lousy advice as to how to spend the 3 hours (go eat somewhere nice, go see the mines and ride all these new fancy machines etc). We didn’t take the advice but instead went to the archives of the library. We had a look at some old newspapers but didn’t have much luck in finding info about my family.
Down the street there was a souvenir shop, and of course I wanted to get souvenirs for my family. I went in and realized it was almost all Nordic stuff, Finnish and Norwegian flags and hats and cups and mugs and whatnot. So I asked if I could find an American Finn or Finnish American, whichever way you want to put it, and soon the shop was full of them! So one of my long time dreams was fulfilled as I got to hear some true Finglish from these people:) Their parents had come to the US and stayed, they had been born there like my grandfather but never returned to Finland.
As you can see above, our next destination was the Research Center (yes, there just happened to be one in Chisholm, there aren’t many of them in the area). There we had some more luck and found some documents related to my great-grandfather. We also found his home and work address in old phonebooks, and with the help of old maps we found out which modern streets those houses are on today. Time was running out, but we made it just in time to the neighborhood and found all the relevant places. We even got inside the house where my grandfather was born and talked with the woman who lives there now.
So, after an intensive 3 hours (sharp!) we headed back with loads of materials, of which I could only cover a small portion in this article. I will hold a presentation to my family (and why not others too if someone is interested) on my grandfather’s birthday, the 6th of September this year, where I will go through more materials and in more detail. For now I leave you with a photo where I stand before the beautiful nature of the iron mine Chisholm next to the Research Center.