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Finns of Michigan's Upper Peninsula

On Midsummer Eve, 1865, more than 30 Finnish and Sami immigrants disembarked from a Great Lakes ship to a place called Hancock, Michigan. At the time, Hancock consisted of nothing more than a small cluster of humble buildings, but it was here, on the outskirts of mid-19th-century civilization, that Finnish settlement in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (UP) took root. Much to the surprise of these new Americans, Midsummer was not a religious holiday marked by feasts in celebration of the season’s prolonged sunlight. Rather, the newcomers were immediately hastened into the bowels of the earth to extract copper in pursuit of the American Dream. In short order, hardworking Finnish immigrants became reputable miners, lumberjacks, farmers, maids, and commercial fishermen. A century and a half later, the UP boasts the largest Finnish population outside of the motherland and sustains the determined spirit the Finns call sisu—an influence that remains palpable in all 15 UP counties. 

 


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