Notes from the North Country

by Lon and Lynn Emerick

It started out as a simple task: We were to transport composer/musician Jukka Linkola and his wife Marita from Copper Harbor, where they had been attending the annual art and music festival, to our home in West Branch Township. Linkola was in the U.P. for the premiere of his Bass Concerto during Finn Fest 2005.
The Linkolas were scheduled on a night flight back to Finland. Since we live close to Sawyer Airport, we could provide them a place to rest and have supper before the long journey to Helsinki. Little did we know we were to have an epic adventure and the seamless union of three European cultures that had a profound impact on the settlement of the Upper Peninsula.
Even though there was a language barrier—Jukka speaks accented English and we know no Finnish—it was a pleasure to share time with these talented people. Jukka and Marita were interested in the Keweenaw Peninsula and were surprised to see so many roads and mailboxes with Finnish names. “Korpi,” “Neimi,” “Maki,” they exclaimed as we drove along US-41.
As we approached the ghost town of Central Mine, we asked if they would like to see where Lon’s Cornish ancestors lived when they immigrated to the U.P. in 1860. They would like that very much.
After stopping at the new visitor center, we decided to show them the distinctive old Methodist Church. Although the church is only open to the public for the annual reunion of Cornish descendants in late July, a volunteer was busy painting the building exterior. Fortuitously, his name was Penrose, a common Cornish name, and Lon (a Trezona and Chewidden by ancestry) used his Celtic charm and common heritage to get us a look into the church.
Jukka was transfixed by the stark simplicity of the interior and explored eagerly. Then he spied the harmonium, donated to the church by Sacred Heart Parish of Laurium. Sitting down at the keyboard, he opened a hymnal and soon a wonderful melody enveloped all of us. Lon sat in a back row pew, thinking he might be in the exact spot where his great-great-grandfather, Samuel Satterly, listened to the very same hymn in 1870.
Hearing the sound of the lovely old harmonium, Mr. Penrose entered the church and was stunned. He swayed to the music and closed his eyes in delight. Later, when Jukka had finished the hymn, he and Penrose chatted and exchanged e-mail addresses.
Glowing from the experience, Lon impulsively stopped at Slim’s Café in Mohawk and purchased a bag of Scottish scones. Immigrants from Scotland also enriched the Upper Peninsula. As we happily sampled the scones, Lynn described her Scots-Irish grandfather’s experiences during the U.P.’s white pine lumbering era in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Although the afternoon was waning, we knew the Linkolas would want to see the historic Hanka Homestead north of Baraga, now a participating site with the Keweenaw National Historic Park. We arrived at the site just as the docent was preparing to leave. When we introduced Jukka to Reuben Niemisto and told him the reasons the Linkolas were in the U.P., the two men held an excited conversation in Finnish. The word poika kept rocketing back and forth between them—we learned later that it is Finnish for both “boy” and “son.” It seems that Mr. Niemisto’s son Paul had recommended Jukka for the commission of the Finn Fest concerto composition.
A blending of Cornish, Scottish and Finnish—we were overwhelmed at the synchronicity of our afternoon. The only sound in the car for the rest of the trip was munching on scones as we all meditated about the wonders that had occurred.
One of the joys of living here is that our heritage is close at hand—the history is still alive and dwells in us.
—Lon and Lynn Emerick

Editor’s Note: Lon and Lynn Emerick’s Upper Peninsula books: The Superior Peninsula, Going Back to Central Mine, Lumberjack—Inside an Era, Sharing the Journey, You Wouldn’t Like it Here and You STILL Wouldn’t Like it Here are available at area book and gift stores or by visiting www.northcountrypublishing.com

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