|The former church building of Fort Bragg Apostolic Lutheran Church, erected in 1894, picture taken in 2007.|
I visited Fort Bragg, California, for the second time in October 2016. My aim is to write a few articles about the Finns, which lived in the city and its surroundings. Finnish immigrants moved en masse to Fort Bragg region in the 1880s. They were lured by logging jobs in local huge redwoods an d sawmills.. Solomon Ilmonen named the first Finns in his book History of American Finns III (1926). The earliest Finns in Fort Bragg were Johan Mulli (Jensen / Johnson) from Koivisto, Elias Johnson from Ikaalinen, August Grönberg and Jacob Kujala from Kemi, Herman Berquist from Ylistaro, William Rivert from Rauma, Kaarlo Rautio from Kukkola, Johan Saarijärvi from Kortesjärvi and Jacob Sillanpää from Ylistaro. South from Fort Bragg, in Noyo the first one Finns were Anders Anderson Muikkula from Pyhäjoki, Herman Nyman from Siikainen, Abraham Hendrickson from Muhos and Matti Vilppula from Rantsila. In Sointula, which was a agricultural village next to Fort Bragg the first Finnish settlers were August Kinnunen and Jonas Jacobson Hätälä. First, I will introduce those two congregations with Finnish background , which were set up in the city born in the city.
|The former church building of Fort Bragg Apostolic Lutheran
summer of 2007
|The former church building of Fort Bragg Apostolic|
Lutheran Church at Harrison Street, October 2016
In addition to the documents on establisment of the congregation, there is only little information about church activity. According to tradition, parishioners gathered almost every Sunday after church at John and Effie Westerberg's ranch. The yard was filled with horses and buggies as parishioners gathered for pot-luck dinner. Effie Westerberg had reputation of being a very good cook. The host, John Peter Westerberg was in its early stages, a lay priest of the church. This is a task he had performed already in the years 1890 - 1894 in the previously established Finnish Evangelist Lutheran church. In the notice drawn up for the state authorities in 1951 is given, that in August 1951 the church had 20 members. The parish was chaired by Charles Luoma, and the secretary was Jennie Luoma. Church's activity gradually waned away, as most of the member’s in America born and raised next generation didn’t share their parent’s faith. In addition, local Apostolic Lutheran church suffered also about strong internal conflicts. Congregation’s activity has already been long since ceased and the church building is now a private residence.
|Member of the Executive Board in Fort Bragg|
Apostolic Lutheran Church and church builder
George Eskola with his wife Mathilda
I have managed to find the following information about the founders of the church. The appilcant for registration and the church builder George Eskola was born on 08/22/1843 in Merijärvi in Finland and arrived in the United States in 1881. He was married 21/12/1873 with Mathilda Ponnikas. Mathilda Ponnikas was born on 10/21/1851 also in Merijärvi. George Eskola died 12/12/1918 in Mendocino County and Mathilda Ponnikas Eskola 09/21/1942 in Fort Bragg. They had eight children. Four of them birth as born in Albion, Mendocino County.
Personal data of the first chairman, Thomas Ellison, are contradictory. One data indicates that he was born in 1860 in Norway, the second, that he was born in December 1859 in Finland. His immigration year is in one document 1882, in the second one it’s 1887. Thomas Ellison entered into two marriages. The first spouse Annie Moilanen Ellison was born in May 1855 in Finland, and died on 14/04/1924 in Mendocino county. In the marriage was born at least seven children. After his first wife death Thomas Ellison Kauppila got married with Ida Maria Kauppila, who was born in Finland on 02/10/1865. She had at least two children from a previous marriage. Ida Maria Kauppila died in Mendocino County 10/14/1941. Thomas Ellison's life ended on 12/02/1937. He is buried together with his first wife, Annie, at Little River Cemetery.
Congregation’s treasurer, Charles (Karl) Jacobson, was born in 1851 in Finland. The census of 1910 names Jacobson's place of residence is in Caspar. Karl Jacobson was married since 1881 with Justina Jacobson, who was born in April 1858 in Finland. The family immigrated to the United States in 1885. In the 1900 census, Jacobson had four children. Charles Jacobson died on 24.01.1923, Justina Jacobson in 1929. Jacobson’s are buried in Ocean View's cemetery.
Peter Gustafson Hannu was born on 20/09/1856 in Finland, in Alkkula, Ylitornio. He moved to northern Norway and from there to the United States. Obituary gives year 1884 for immigration , but in censuses appear years 1882 and 1885. He married in 1881 in Norway with Anna (Annie) Kristina Gustafson. Anna Kristina was born 15.11. 1863 Norway. The place of residence according to censuses was Ten Mile River township. In obituary the place of death is Glen Blair, a village six miles east of Fort Bragg, where there was a sawmill plant. Peter Gustafson Hannu died 06/24/1937 and Anna Christina Gustafson 10/22/1948. Gustafson’s are buried at Rose Memorial Park cemetery in Fort Bragg.
To John and Effina Westerberg’s stages of life I’ll come back in a separate text.