Thursday, May 17, 2007

Felix Matias Kujala, 100 years ago today...

On this day, May 17th, one hundred years ago my great-grandfather Felix Kujala left his home of Finland and moved to what would become his new home, the U.S.A. Felix never became a U.S. citizen but it is known that he had initiated the process, although the documents haven't been discovered yet. At any rate from 1909 to December 1952, the year he died, Felix would call Montana his home.

Feeliks Matias, or Felix as he was known in America, was born April 2, 1887 in Jalasjärvi, Finland to Hermanni Samuelinpoika and Adolfiina Malakiaantytär. He was baptized on April 5, 1887. His godparents were crofter Matti Kaseva and his wife Ulriika Serafiia Samelintytär. He was baptized by the Vicar, Julius Ivar Engström.

Felix and his family lived on the croft (torppa) by the name of Lustila (See earlier entry in this blog about the Lustila croft). Lustila was a part of the large Marttila farm in the village of Hirvijärvi that had been founded by his 9th great-grandfather, Martti Sipinpoika, 326 years earlier. Martti was born in Kurikka on the Vähä-Tuisku farm. After having been isäntä of Marttila (1561-1571) in Jalasjärvi he went to Kauhajoki where he started the Iso-Aro farm and was isäntä there from 1580-1621.

Felix's mother died at the young age of 34 on May 15, 1892 having given birth to seven children by that time. Felix, was the 5th child of seven but only three of his siblings lived to adulthood. He was raised, along with his siblings, by his aunt (mother's sister) and her husband after his mother had passed away when he was only five. As he grew to manhood he started working around farms as a renki or hired farm hand. He ended up working for his sister, Hedvig = Hetviiki and her husband Samuel Konstantin Kujala, at the Kujala farm in Sikamaa=Sikakylä. When Hetviiki passed away on January 22, 1906 her husband remarried on November 4, 1906 and would later, in 1926, pack up his family and move to nearby Peräseinäjoki.

Felix was left out in the cold, so to speak, so he must of thought that there would be better opportunities in America for him. This, however, is all lost to history as Felix never spoke of his family back in Finland. He only mentioned that he had two living sisters when he had left Jalasjärvi. He also had his birth date off by one year and a month. The headstone at Roberts Cemetery reads June 14th, 1888. It has also been told to us that he was an orphan raised by a mean step-mother. He indeed was an orphan in the respect he had no mother but he didn't have a step-mother until after he moved to the States as his father re-married only in 1910 and assumed the surname of Puisto, his 2nd wife's name.

Felix received permission from the local magistrate on May 6, 1907 to apply for a passport to America for five years. He was 19 at the time. He had to travel south from Jalasjärvi to Hanko where he took a steamship called the Virgo, belonging to the Finland Steamship Company, Ltd., on 17 May 1907. The cost for the complete fare was 350 Finnish Marks. The Virgo sailed, more than likely, to Hull, England. He then boarded the C. F. Tietgen, belonging to the Skandinavien-Amerika Linie, which departed from Copenhagen, Denmark on May 23, 1907 and arrived at Ellis Island, New York on 5 June 1907. The C. F. Tietgen's manifest shows Felix listed as a laborer, age 19, having a ticket to final destination, having never traveled to the USA before, having $8.50 cash on him, not a polygamist, not an anarchist, in good health, physical and mental, not crippled or deformed, 5 feet 6.5 inches tall, healthy complexion, fair hair and grey eyes. No marks of identification and born in Jalasjärvi.

Felix lived in Calumet, Michigan from 1907-1909. A work card #10394 from the Calumet and Hecla copper mines lists the following info: Felix Kujala hired 7 June 1907 left 4 March 1909. Immigrated in 1907, doesn’t read or write English. Work history shows various laborer jobs paying from $52.00 to $60.00 per month. It also shows where he had been docked pay a few times for being late and disobedience! Felix is listed in the R.L. Polk register as boarding at 2555 D Calumet Township, Michigan. This was a mining house where workers shared the same bed with another. While the day shift person was at work the night shift worker would be sleeping and vice-versa. This same address (2500 D) is given on the passenger list as the final destination that Felix was headed for in the USA. So sometime after 4 March 1909 Felix made his way to Red Lodge, Montana where he worked in the coal mines a while then turned to farming.

Felix is listed in the 1910 Census as Felix "Kaulla", 23, coal miner, born in Finland, and one of 7 boarders living with the Finnish family of Martin & Greta Leeman at their boarding house on Platt Street (South Platt and 15th Street) in Red Lodge City.

Felix was married to Helmi Elizabeth Lampi by Finnish preacher, Nestor Tikkanen on March 19, 1912. Helmi was born in Red Lodge, Montana on December 18, 1895 to Matti Matinpoika (Kontolampi) Lampi and Serafiia Juhontytär (Honkola). Their marriage license was the key to my finding Felix's roots in Jalasjärvi. I was able to obtain the original copy in exchange for my signature in August of 1990 from the Carbon County Courthouse in Red Lodge. This beautiful, old and well preserved document lists the most important clue. That would be the name of Felix's father, Herman! His mother is listed as Fija Kujala but research shows that Adolfiina was his mother. I think he used his mother-in-law's name since he had no living mother at the time. Also interesting to note is that Herman never used the Kujala surname but as matter of keeping things simple I believe he attached the Kujala name rather than having to explain Lustila and such. Besides, who would know or ever find out? Helmi's brother Svante married Selma Elizabeth Hakala on the same day. Each couple acted as witnesses for each others ceremony.

After Felix and Helmi were married they purchased 160 acres of land in Roberts (Cottonwood) from Svante and Selma Lampi (his in-laws) on 11 April 1913 for the price of $3,000. On September 4th, 1919 Felix and Helmi sold the above land to Peter B. Gardetto of Roberts.

A bad jpeg image of Felix Kujala's W.W.I. Draft Card lists the following; 25-1-5-A. Name: Felix Kujala; Roberts, Montana; born June 15, 1888; Alien (Int. papers); Born: Wasa, Finland; subject of Russia (Finland had been an Autonomous Grand Duchy of the Russian Empire from 1809 to 1917); present trade: farmer; employed: self; wife and 3 children solely dependant on him; married, caucasian; no prior military service; does not claim exemption from the draft on any grounds. Signed Feelis Kujala. REGISTRAR'S REPORT: Medium height and build, eyes blue and hair is light, no disabilities. Signature of registrar: J. H. Lochridge; precinct 7; Carbon County, Montana June 15, 1916.

Sometime between 1919 and 1920 Felix and Helmi had purchased a house and lot in Red Lodge where they had lived for about a year. Felix worked in the coal mines during this time. The house is still there today. It is not certain where the Kujala's moved to exactly after this but is still being researched. This property was sold to one Matt Lyytinen for $1,300.00 on the 29th of June 1920. They did end up moving back to the Roberts area where they farmed. In later life Felix engaged in carpentry work and the last house they lived in was situated across the street from the Roberts school. It was the first house on the upper end of the block and next to this house was another identical in structure.

Felix and Helmi had a total of eight children with seven of these living to adulthood.

They were:

1) Melba Josephine, born January 16, 1913; died October 30, 1965; married Clifford Walter Lorash on February 28, 1934. They had seven children: Lloyd, Curtis Walter, Norman Ray, Gary Gene, Carol Charlene, Linda Lorraine & Kayla.

2) Matt Raymond, born December 20, 1914; died April 24, 1982; married Florence Evelyn Leimback on December 25, 1933. They had six children and stillborn twins: Mabel Helmi, Gladys Emily, Robert Mathew, Marilyn Kay, Carolyn Sue & James Edwin.

3) Johannes "John", born December 14, 1916; died of Diptheria on November 8, 1922. Buried in an unmarked grave in Red Lodge Cemetery.

4) Ina Elizabeth, born October 21, 1918; died July 11, 1988; married Leonard Hunter on March 20, 1941. They had four children: Betty Jean, Leonard Eugene, Marlene & Robert.

5) Elsie Elenor, born October 25, 1920; died February 17, 1992; married Albert John "Peewee" Slehofer on September 6, 1938. They had six children: Judy, Gerald A., Jack Ray, Richard Donald, Sharon A. & Steve Ronald.

6) Verna Virginia, born May 15, 1923; died November 16, 2006; married Theodore John "Teddy" Kansala on October 9, 1942. They had three children: James Theodore, Karen Ann & Hal Leslie.
2) 20 July 1971 James Joseph Allen.

7) Helmi Lillian, born September 18, 1927; died January 4, 1997; married 1) Ervin Emory Dempster on November 27, 1944. They had four children: Bruce Ervin, Lillian Darlene, Richard George & Jeffrey Allan.
2) March 31, 1972 to Max Sylvester Thomas.

8) Margaret Jane, born September 9, 1932; died December 31, 2000; married 1) William E. "Bill" Normile on December 19, 1950. They had two children: Elizabeth Dean & William Matthew.
2) October 27, 1956 Ramiro "Rod" Garcia.

Helmi Elizabeth passed away on July 12, 1952 at the age of 56 1/2. Cause of death was due to massive cerebral hemorrhage. She is buried beside her husband of 40 years in Roberts Cemetery, Roberts, Montana.

Felix Matias passed away on December 12, 1952, exactly five months after his wife, at the age of 65. Cause of death was coronary thrombosis. He is buried alongside his wife of 40 years in the Roberts Cemetery in Roberts, Montana.

I never had the pleasure of knowing my great-grandparents. In a way I feel like a reverse image of my great-grandfather in the sense that I left my home country to try life in another country. In this case I returned to his land of birth. I did so during the 83rd year that Felix left. I was nine years older (28) than Felix was (19) when he began his journey. I couldn't speak Finnish and I was coming over as a laborer. I came by plane rather than boat and I began work just a few days after my arrival.

I do not know the reasons for his leaving Finland nor why he never wished to speak about his family he left behind. I am told that he was a kind, gentle man and that he had a way with discipline by a look he gave. Relatives here in Finland, who knew his father, Hermanni, said the same about Hermanni. This page in Felix's life shall be lost forever to history. I am happy with my life here in Finland just as happy as Felix must have been in Montana. He had a much tougher time I am sure. I could get by with English right away as most Finns can manage one way or another. He, on the otherhand, had to learn from scratch. Times were also more "primitive" for him in 1907 than they were for me in 1990.

I have my great-grandfather to thank for allowing me to retain my Finnish identity. He could have just as easily changed it to something completely different and non-Finnish sounding. The name of Kujala was not so easy to pronounce when I was growing up. But I learned how to say it correctly from my grandfather. Now I live in a place where there is no need to spell it out every time I say it or have to explain what nationality it is! So far, as I know, I am the only one of his descendants to return to Finland not only to live but also for a visit. I wish that all of his descendants could make it over here at least one time. It saddens me that some cannot but that is the way of life.

I honor this day in memory of my great-grandfather Felix Matias Kujala for without those events that took place 100 years ago I would not be writing this. Paljon kiitoksia rakkaalle esi-isällemme Felix Kujalalle !!

I am, Matti Kujala son of Bobby Kujala, son of Matt Raymond Kujala, son of Felix Matias Kujala.


Nichole Kujala said...

This was great thanks so much!

Jemayá said...

How special to know so much about your grandfather - and how important for your children to find out about him and your history! My grandfather went to the states around the same time, but he is lost on the boattrip, boarding, but not being recorded arriving!! Anyway, he did return home, but strangely enough, his children knew very little about what he did in the States (apart form working in the mines for seven years I think). When I retire I might try to find out more about him :)

bob kujala said...

Very good Matti, I enjoyed reading it. Have a wonderful day and Happy Birthday..Dad

Anonymous said...

Hi Matti,

I came across this wonderful overview of Grandpa Kujala's life this AM. I didn't know all of this, but you can be sure I will share it with my sons and their children.

Your 2nd cousin,
Karen Kansala
Verna's daughter

Krystal said...

My Aunt Karen Kansala sent this to me. I am the daughter of Hal Kansala (Verna's son) Very fun to read and interesting. Krystal Kansala

Margery Kujala said...

Hi Matti! It was so exciting to read this! I've been wondering about you for a long time. This is your sister Margery. I just got a My Space account. Please write me back @ margery voiles On MySpace

Anonymous said...

hi uncle matti, loved the website

bill's son
zack kujala

suz59330 said...

Thank you for your interesting post! I am related thru Elsie Elenor - a Slehofer. I found your information tracing our Slehofer roots. We are also in Montana. My sister was living in Red Lodge - cousins of some sort, and perhaps your paths even crossed, since Red Lodge is not so large.

Anonymous said...

I finally got to read your website. Love the picture of Felix and his family. So awesome to see my Grandma Ina. I loved her so very much. Miss her greatly! Thanks for all your work on this. Beautifully done Matti.
Kim Houghton Cotta

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

Glen said...

Marttila is my last name and it seems some of what you say is so familiar as I visited relatives in the Red Lodge area years ago. I remember my father saying he fished a little water trough on the property for trout. The Kujala name seems familiar too. I am not sure whether it was a cousin of some sort we visited, but I know there are old photos in storage from Red Lodge. Unfortunately my father passed and this history is a little lost. We were part of the Berkeley Ca Finns

falishaflegal said...

This may seem a bit odd but my great grandmother's name was Senia Miljana Kujala and she is a piece of my family that I know nearly nothing about. Are you any relation to her or do you maybe know anything about her?