In this article (*) I do not intend to give any general picture of emigration to America, but only to record some recollection of two emigrants from the time of the first World War, namely the brothers Selim and Lennart Nybond from Sideby, the former now 85 years old and the latter 83 years of age. (in 1980/Ed.)
He departed from home on 12 October with a horse-drawn conveyance to Björneborg. Traveling with him was his cousin Hemming Grönlund who was two years older and had worked as a farm hand at a neighboring farm. They were good friends from earlier times. In Björneborg they took the train to Hangö the first train trip for both of them.
Finska Ångfartygs Aktiebolaget's (FÅA) emigrant ship Titania took them from Hangö to Hull in England. The Finnish steamship Titania is not to be confused with the ocean liner Titanic that had gone to the bottom of the Atlantic on its maiden voyage in the spring of the same year. It was a stormy trip during the two days over the Baltic and North Seas. They couldnt keep food in their stomachs and it was difficult to sleep at night. The inexperienced landlubbers spent the time discussing the journeys troubles, expenses and expectations. The cost, yes! Five hundred marks for the journey, including 30 marks as landing fees. Five hundred marks was a lot of money at the time. In todays money it calculates to 5,000 marks.
The Atlantic journey began in Liverpool and took ten days to Halifax in Canada, no quick trip compared with our present travel time. It became a dream journey; walm weather, good food on the boat and comfortable berths. At least these two travelers were not spoiled with great claims of comfort. The reason for the trip was that they had relatives in Ontario. The nearest city was Minden (The Township of Minden Hills Minden Hills Museum).
They were well accepted and found work immediately in the woods. It was an old rough decidious wood that they cut. That area lies on a latitude with Middle Europe, where the hardwood forest is prevalent. Work as a lumberjack was not unknown for the Ostrobothnian farm boys. A large number of giant trees were cut down and cross cut with axe and handsaw, and the timber was dragged by horses to a collection place. Life in the lumber camps was unknown to them: overcrowded, the cold, the darkness, wet smelly clothing, card playing and unsatisfactory nights rest. The cousins didnt stay long in the Canadian woods before they decided to go over to the USA. In the States earning possibilities and also better working circumstances were tempting. In the state south of Lake Ontario, i.e., Michigan, they had heard about someone from their home area Artur Långfors from Skaftung, who had settled down as a farmer in Foster City. An uncle to both cousins, Axel Gustafsson Hedkrok, also worked there as a lumberjack.
The newcomers also went to work as loggers and in the sawmill. Soon Hemming Grönlund met and married a farmers widow and he became a farmer. As time went by, he became a well-to-do farmer with a truck and automobile and farm machinery, horses and cattle. It was a stroke of luck for the farm boy from Sideby.
in Foster City in 1900s. Photograph
of Foster City residents returning from a picnic at Norway Lake. The cone-shaped
sawdust burner from the Morgan Lumber and Cedar Company's sawmill can
be seen in the distance between the heads of the two horses at the left.
Houses on Boarding House Hill can also be seen in the background with
the little schoolhouse barely visible at the upper right. Credit: The
Making of Modern Michigan Upper Peninsula Regional Digitization Center
Selim Nybond continued with his logging and sawmill work until the spring of 1916 when he began to long for home. Perhaps the increasing unrest for the US to take part in the first World War contributed to the thoughts of a journey home. It certainly was good times in the US. There was more than enough work. Production in all areas was in full swing. But Selin had no inclination to go to France to end up as cannon fodder for the Germans, and thought he would return home. He thought about it and then decided to go. He packed his new American trunk and suitcase, took his savings from the bank, bought a ticket and boarded the nearest train for the trip to New York and the overseas trip to Europe. His cousin followed Selim to the depot. They said farewell and the train moved away.
But now what is this? There stood a suitcase on the platform after the train left. Cousin Hemming saw it there. It was Selims suitcase! He opened it and there was Selims passport. He would obviously also soon notice it was missing, but it was too late to turn around. He trusted in God and continued.
In New York Selim boarded a Norwegian steampship Oscar II and traveled to Oslo. There was a war raging in Europe and the Germans made ocean travel risky with their U-boats. Many merchant ships belonging to hostile countries were sunk. But Norway was neutral and the passenger steamer Oscar II sailed peacefully. In England there was a meticulous examination of the boat and passengers. From Norway the journey home continued by train through Sweden to Haaparanda. Selim had come so far without his passport remarkably enough. But in Torneå he was stopped on Easter Saturday when he went through Customs. The Customs officers, the Russian border police and military police thought it was a coarse joke when he said that he had lost his suitcase at the station during departure. It was illicit crossing of the border and suspicious espionage. He landed in cage with long cross-examinations during a week in Uleåborg and as a consequence was sent to Vasa County prison. Finnish citizens were not considered very trustful in Russian eyes at that time. The Governor of Uleåborg County is said to have been willing to let the "border defector" travel home, but that was not the case in Vasa. And when Selims father came with a Pastors certificate which testified his sons peaceful intentions, that did not free him either.
However, his passport came from America. Cousin Hemming had been hastily notified of the awkward situation. After the passport arrived, it was a week before Selim was released from prison. Three months had passed from that fateful Easter Saturday until Selim arrived at home. He had expected to escape conscription for military service in the US. One and a half years later he went voluntarily to war to cast out the Russian police state and oppression of which he had personal knowledge.
We follow here Selim and Lennarts journey with the help of the Migration Institutes online database on the Internet (by the Editor).
S/S Oscar II in New York
It is said that the masters step fertilizes the fields. Selim Nybond has taken many steps over his piece of land since he came home from America.
Brother Lennart Nybonds story of two trips to the land in the dreams of the emigrant in the West 1916-1925 is a chapter in itself.
After all the both with customs and passport authorities, the older brother had at last come home. Now came the wanderlust of the younger. He also wanted to travel and try to get some dollars and then return home and settle down. In fact, there were not many emigrants who traveled and intended to stay for good, but the idea was to come back with a large amount of money, a little broader view and some "well" and "yes" in his speech as a sign of American influence.
In the fall of 1916 the first World War was in its third year. It went on and on and became merciless. It was rumored that the USA would enter the war soon. It was also said that Russia could call up Finnish men to fight on their side in the war. Surely it was similar prospects like that for the future that gave many young men reason to want to take their country back. But the border was closed and no passports were given. The only possibility was to find a secret path. A first search was done one evening immediately before Michael's Day. It was a big company of men in an open fisherman's boat who put out in the dark from Kilen. Besides the spokesman, there were some boys from a waterside village, also policeman John Storsjö (now 85 years old and retired) and Einar Hed. The attempt failed. A storm blew up and the skipper decided to turn around. It became urgent. Many people hid their food sacks with waffles and pancakes in the woods and would look for them later. The Hed residents went home through the woods via Storkärren. Some of the others went directly to the market in Kristinestad.
But the secret about the trip leaked out and came to the ears of the police. It resulted in cross-examinations at the sheriff's office in Lappfjärd. He would readily have remained silent but could not because a report had been made. When he confidentially asked who had reported them, John Storsjö answered: "Those damned Russian birds in Sideby". Thanks to the sheriff's sympathy the punishment was not harder than two weeks' digging of trenchs in Virdois, where the Russian military built defences against a presumed attack by the Germans across Vasa. The job was actually not much punishment as men other than our travelers were also chosen, and they were decently paid four marks a day, which was a real day's wages at that time. One late autumn at the end of November the men were ready for a new journey. It was better prepared and successful.
On this trip Lennart Rosendahl was the skipper, Verner Grankvist and Josef Abrahamsson, all from Långviken and Fladan and experienced with the sea, and Lennart Nybond and Lennart Hedkrok from Heden were included. They had bought a fisherman's boat which they later sold in Sweden. The company left from Kilen on a dark night on a course to Härnösand. Lennart Rosendahl sat at the helm and sheet and let the boat sail at full speed. Lennart Nybond took care of the stone last. When the water licked the upper board, he placed big stones at the opposite side and was quick to lift them down if the boat heaved over. Night came and the voyage had its points. They warmed up the pancakes in butter on a primus stove they brought to have warm food and exchanged many interesting jokes during the journey. On the evening of the next day they saw the Swedish coast at Sundsvall. They didn't land there but sailed farther to Härnösand. The travelers had no difficulty on landing and they were also without passports. They were fugitives on their way to America. Two of the company had instructions to sell the boat and they later cheated the others out of the money. Respectability as well as solidarity was not especially strong.
Lennart Rosendahl and Lennart Nybond went as quickly as possible over to Oslo in Norway to continue to the USA. The rest sought work in Sweden for a while. Lennart Hedkrok visited in Vallnäs for a year. Later he went to America, became a gold miner and prospector and lived the life of a Bohemian bachelor until he died rather wealthy some years later.
On the same steamer Oscar II, the ship on which brother Selim had returned home, Lennart Nybond now traveled from Oslo, north of Scotland to New York. On the way the boat faced danger from mine fields and the German U-boats. All the money he had on arrival was $15 landing money and 75 Norwegian öre. But he had a ticket to Escanaba, which was west of Chicago, where he could look for acquaintances from his home area.
York swarmed with immigrants from central Europe, Polish and others.
Lennart had Einar Berg from Uttermossa as a traveling companion. Train travel to Escanaba ended with a mishap that changed to a lucky hit. They missed the station where they should get off and went past Escanaba. At the next small station, the conductor indicated they should wait for a train going in the other direction. But it was late so they began to trudge along the roadbed. The evening became dark. But they saw a farm near the railway station with a light in the window and they decided to stop there. And who lived there? Yes, a Norwegian farm family! They were invited to come to the Christmas table because it was Christmas Eve. So strangely, fate linked their way. Both of the comrades celebrated Christmas several days with the Norwegian family and then continued on to their destination.
Lennart Nybond later went to Foster City to his cousin Hemming Grönlund and his mothers brother Axel Gustafsson. Together with them he worked in the woods and sawmill. But when their employer dropped the days wages from $2.25 to $1.80, he decided to leave the job. He went to work in an ore mine and earned a lot of money which he sent home it exchanged for 5 marks. He was satisfied with the work. After peace in Finland there was heavy inflation that favored the emigrants with dollar exchange. The last amount sent home amounted to $1000 exchanged for 22 marks.
in Foster City. Photograph
of the Morgan Lumber and Cedar Company's sawmill in Foster City, Michigan.
Buildings pictured include the sawdust burner, company store and boardinghouse.
"Sawmill - Foster-city-Mich." is printed on the photograph. Date of Original:
ca. 1910. Credit: The
Making of Modern Michigan Upper Peninsula Regional Digitization Center
In the spring of 1921 Lennart Nybond thought it was time to go home. In four and a half years he had earned a neat amount of funds and felt secure. Following him on the journey home were his mothers brother Axel Gustafsson and his wife Maria, also Viktor Karlsson (Öman) from Ömossa. Axel had been in America for 25 years.
I well remember the day when, as a 12-year-old, I waited with excitement for the arrival of the emigrants. My brother Lennart had written in a letter that he was bringing me an American clock. The travelers came at Pentecost in the springtime and the clock came. It was a shiny American pocket watch in rolled gold. The watch is still kept in a drawer as a dear treasure. Lennart was home only a few weeks when he became of age and was reminded that he had left his military service undone. He got on his bicycle and pedaled to Vasa to report and be examined. After a short time he reported for duty with the Infantry Regiment in Tavastehus. And there he wore the Crowns uniform for a year.
After he returned to civilian life, Lennart settled down and worked at home on the farm with his parents and siblings. But he didnt feel at peace. Conditions had changed so much in the home since he traveled to America, because of sickness and death, and in the country through war and inflation. During his visit to the States he had seen so much of misery and abundance but above all, he knew it was easy to earn money there. In the fall of 1922 Lennart packed his suitcase and traveled again. His mothers brother Axel went with him.
The second American journey was unsuccessful. During the time Lennart was home, the US had tightened its immigration regulations. It was not possible to go there if he wasnt an American citizen. But that didnt deter him. He changed his course to Canada and thought that he would find some way to cross the border. He took a secret way to the USA and sought the known areas in Michigan and Cousin Hemming in Foster City which he knew as well as his own pocket. He had no difficulty on this trip because he could speak the language well. And he found work with ease at the old work place. He worked part time in the woods but worked most of the time in the mine.
Eventually it came to the attention of local authority that Lennart Nybond had come illegally from Canada. He was slandered by envious workers who said he had something to hide. Counterfeiters were around in the vicinity, and the police thought they had caught an ugly customer. Lennart said that it was "jealous women" who had reported him. Anyway, he landed in a cage. He was released on bail waiting for judgement and his judgment was a passport to Canada. He worked there for a while until late winter 1925 and then returned to his homeland. The trip didnt give much in exchange for dollars but Lennart said he gained much more experience when he looks back on his eventful life, which he found interesting, exciting and fruitful.
To strive for a safe livelihood and tolerable circumstances has been the foremost incentive for the young people who left our village for another place in the homeland or to a strange land. But in the end is the understanding that many writers have given expression to that Ostrobothnians have an innate longing and inclination to try something new in life. When I sought for a closing to my notes about emigration, I thought of Ernst V. Knape's poem "Men from the Plains and the Sea" where in the last stanza he said:
Lennart Nybond. who in his youth crossed the Atlantic Ocean four times, spent his last retirement years at Åldersro in Lappfjärd and helped his house fellows as a bicycle relay.
* The orginal text in Swedish is contained in Gunnar Nybond's book "Soldater, torpare och bönder. Släkt- och bygdekrönika från Sydösterbotten.". - Vasa 1980, published by the author and is republished on WWW by courtesy of Trygve Nybonde.
In Swedish: Amerikafeber - Selim och Lennart Nybonds Amerikaresor
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