More than One “Arthur”

This week’s prompt for 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks is “Same Name”  and in our family, we have “Arthurs”.  There are at least 4 that I know of!  My Great-Uncle Kalle Arthur Knihtila, my uncle Arthur Richard Knihtila, my brother Arthur LaFon Lyons and his son, my nephew, Arthur Paull Lyons.   I guess it would be easy to call them Arthur 1, 2, 3, and 4 but you never know when another Arthur will pop up in my ancestry searchings!

Recently I had the immense pleasure of meeting two cousins who were visiting from Sweden, Borje and Leif.  As we were discussing our common ancestry, I could see that it was confusing to them as to which “Arthur” I was talking about!   So I am hoping this blog will help clear up the “Arthurs” in the family for them!  I would like to focus first on my Great-Uncle Kalle Arthur Knihtila and then his namesake, Arthur Richard Knihtila, my uncle.

The First Arthur

Arthur K, brother of John 001

Kalle Arthur Knihtila was a biological brother of my grandfather, Richard Knihtila, and Emil Arvid Knihtila.   (Emil is the grandfather of Borje and Leif).  Kalle Arthur was born on 24 March 1888, in Simoniemi, Lappi, Finland and was the second son of John August Knihtila and Maria Kaisa Paakkari.   According to the grave marker in the Simo cemetery, their mother, Maria Kaisa Knihtila, died in 1899 at about age 37 or 38.  Kalle Arthur was just 11 years old, Richard was 13 and Emil was only 9 when their mother passed away.  Then sometime between 1902 and 1904, their father Johan August, who was about 43 years old in 1902, married Maria Evaliina Hepola who was 22 or 23 years younger than himself!   The new stepmother was only 5 years older than my grandfather Richard and 7 years older than Kalle Arthur.  I imagine there certainly could have been some conflict in the household!

By 1905, my grandfather Richard and a friend of his decided to immigrate to America and leave Finland and family behind.  They sailed to Portland, Maine and made their way to Calumet, Michigan at first to work in the mines.  (See former blog on “Sisu”)  The next year, Kalle Arthur decided to follow his brother Richard to America.  Kalle Arthur immigrated in 1906 with 2 friends, arriving in New York from Liverpool, England on March 10, 1906.  Arthur, as he was now called in America, was only 18 and arrived with $12 in his pocket.  His two friends that traveled with him were Matti Ristimaki, age 19, and Juho Mattila, age 18.  They traveled to Republic, Michigan to meet his brother Richard.

In tracing Arthur’s whereabouts, I found a postcard dated 1909 that my grandfather Richard sent to his brother.   Arthur was working in a mine and living in Ironwood, Michigan in Michigan’s western Upper Peninsula.   The 1910 Federal Census for Ironwood Ward 8, Gogebic County, Michigan, confirmed that he lived in a boarding house run by  Trace and Mary Walquist in Ironwood.  Arthur was 22 years old, single, not naturalized, and there were 29 boarders plus a servant listed in the boarding house.  At that time, chiefly because of the mining industry for iron ore and copper, these towns like Ironwood and Bessemer in the Gogebic Range were boom towns.  Many immigrants of Finnish, Swedish and other Scandinavian countries flocked to this area for the jobs.  Working in the underground mines was dangerous and unsafe without any electricity.  Miners wore candles on their hats for light.

By 1917, Arthur had to register for the World War I draft.  His draft card showed he was still in the Bessemer area not naturalized, and single.  He was 29 years old and living in Bessemer, Michigan.  He listed his occupation as a miner employed by the Colby Iron Mine Co. in Bessemer.  He listed his father as a dependent but claimed no exemptions from serving.  He was described as medium height and build with gray eyes and gray hair.

Sometime before 1919, Arthur had moved to Duluth, Minnesota where he got another job as a miner.  I think Arthur was probably a fun guy as he like to get his picture taken and one was with a western outfit on!

Arthur Knihtila as cowboy 001
Arthur on right about 1914

In 1919, Arthur became ill and needed an appendix operation in Duluth.  Unfortunately, on May 9, 1919, he died after the operation at age 31.  The death report mistakenly listed his name as “Arlo Knihtila” but the rest of the information did match Arthur.  His brother Richard had his body transported back to Bessemer when he lived and Arthur was buried in the Knihtila plot in Hillcrest Cemetery, Bessemer on May 10th.

The Second Arthur

Art K young 001

My grandfather Richard named his son after his brother Arthur.   My uncle, Arthur Richard Knihtila, was born on January 2, 1917.   He was the second child of Richard and his wife, Alma Tusa Knihtila.  The first child was Elma Marie Knihtila, my mother.  He and my mom grew up in Bessemer and the family attended St. Paul’s Finnish Evangelical Church in Bessemer, where both were confirmed.  He finished his first year of high school before going to work as a sawyer in a lumber camp.

On June 15, 1942, Arthur is inducted into the U. S. Army when he enlisted in Traverse City, Michigan.   While stationed in Russell, Georgia, he married Gladys Aileene Thomas and their son, James Richard Knihtila, was born on December of 1943 in Nashville, Tennessee.   Arthur spent his 1944 furlough in Bessemer with his parents before being shipped overseas to Europe.  In February of 1945, notice came to Alma and Richard that Arthur was wounded in action for the second time and was hospitalized in France for wounds received in January.  He had previously been wounded in France in July of 1944 and was sent to England for 3 months to recover before returning to action in October of 1944.  Pvt. Knihtila served with an infantry unit in the 3rd Armored Division for almost a year.

In April of 1945, Arthur is wounded for the third time in Normandy and very severely.  He was found on the battlefield left for dead but was still alive.  He had 16 machine gun bullets in his body.  He was sent to England on a C-47 Ambulance Plane and then to a Scotland hospital where they later put him on a ship and he sailed for New York on the ship Queen Elizabeth. He was sent to the Hollaran General Hospital in Staten Island, New York and then to Schick’s General Hospital in Clinton, Iowa to recover.  He was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart and other citations for his service to the country.  He was discharged from the Army in November of 1945.

Art and Jim K 001
Arthur Richard Knihtila and his son, James Richard Knihtila

By this time, he was divorced from his wife Gladys and returned to Bessemer to live.    Eventually, he moved to Hurley, Wisconsin, about 10 miles from Bessemer and did earn his High School Equivalency Diploma.  He worked a lot of different jobs, some in Michigan and some in Minnesota, mainly in lumber camps.  He did buy a home in Ironwood and lived in it until his death on November 17th, 1997.   Arthur was cremated according to his wishes and buried in the Knihtila plot in Hillcrest Cemetery in Bessemer, Michigan.

Art K gravestone 001

I regret that I only have sketches of their lives but am happy to have known my uncle Arthur!  Bless them both!


New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957,

United States Federal Census, 1910, Index and Images, FamilySearch; Ironwood Ward 8, Gogebic, Michigan, United State, citing  enumeration district 84, sheet 9B, family 133, NARA microfilm publication T624, Washington, D.C.; FHL microfilm 1,374,660.

U. S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 for Arthur Knihtila; Michigan, Gogebic County, Draft Card K;

Minnesota, Deaths and Burials, 1835-1990, index,, Arlo Knihtila, 09 May 1919; citing Duluth, St. Louis, Minnesota, reference 25665; FHL microfilm 2,218,039.

Obituary of Arthur Knihtila, Ironwood Daily Globe Archives, Ironwood, Michigan.

Newspapers,com.; articles from the Ironwood Daily Globe, Ironwood, Michigan and the Bessemer Herald, Bessemer, Michigan.

A Tribute to My Dad, LaFon Lyons


LaFon Art and me in boat 001
My Dad about 1950 with my brother and I ( who can’t stay still!).


This week on 52 Ancestors is all about Father’s Day and I would like to share some of my favorite old photos and a bit of a story of my dad, LaFon Camlyn Lyons.   He was born the 30th of August in 1917 in Lynchburg, Virginia, the third son of Clarence Edward Lyons and Cammie Lyster Swanson.  He was really named Camlyn LaFon Lyons but always used LaFon as his first name.  Now “LaFon” is not an ordinary name!  I was told that he was named after a neighbor who was a relative and in my research, I found that to probably be true.  His family had lived in Sugar Grove, Virginia near the Blue Ridge Mountains in 1916, the year before they moved to Lynchburg and my dad was born.  A cousin of the family, through marriage, also lived in Sugar Grove and their son, born in 1916, was Randolph Lafon Huff.  This is likely the neighbor that my dad was named after!  Only, my dad’s name had a capital ” F” in the middle of LaFon.

I don’t know a lot about my dad growing up, just bits and pieces.  He had 2 older brothers, Bill (William Lilburn Lyons) and Eddy (Edward McWayne Lyons) and 2 younger sisters, Dreama June Lyons Cranston Schultz, and Coralie Jean Lyons Hearn.  He also had a sister named Rosemary who died at birth.  The family lived and worked on a large tobacco and sugar cane farm at one time, possibly his grandparents farm.  When they moved to Lynchburg, his dad Clarence was a carpenter at Jno. P Pettyjohn & Co.

Big changes for the family happened in 1923.  When my dad was only 5, his family, his uncle’s family, his aunt’s family and some of the cousins all packed up and left Virginia to move to Detroit, Michigan.  Here, most found work in the Auto industry and his dad worked first at the Packard Motor Company and later at Aeroplane Manufacturing as a mechanic.  I have an old letter to my dad from his first cousin, Roland Gilley where Roland talks about growing up in Detroit near my dad.  In the letter, he said, “Remember the time you got hit with a brick at school and broke your arm?”   There must have been a good story behind that one!

Then, of course, times got hard during the Great Depression.  In 1930, the family owned a home at 357 St. Aubins Street in the 9th Ward of Detroit.  His dad was working part time because of ill health due to tuberculosis.  My dad did tell me once that when he was 14, he had a job driving a bakery truck in Detroit and that would have been in 1931.  Later, I know he drove Semi Tractors.  My dad and brother Eddy quit high school to work and help support the family when their dad was ill.  Dad was a truck driver and Eddy worked as a paint sprayer in an auto factory.  When Dad was 22 in 1939, his father Clarence passed away at age 48 from Pulmonary Tuberculosis and heart disease.  Cammie was a widow at age 46 and went to work and the boys helped support the family.   My dad did work in the CCC’s (Civilian Conservation Corps) before the war in Paradise, Michigan.

When World War II started my dad was drafted into the army and met my mom, Elma Knihtila, while he was stationed in Fort Sheridan, Illinois.  He served in the Aleutian Islands at Attu and Kiska while my mom waited for him and lived in Seattle, Washington.  They were married May 16, 1944 in Bessemer, Michigan.  This part of their story is one I am still working on and piecing together.  But I have many memories of this handsome, caring man who was my father and want to share some of my favorite old pictures of  him.  All the pictures were rescued from a decrepit family album!


LaFon, his mom and baby art 1945 001
My Dad and his mom, Cammie Lyons.  My brother Art is the baby that wouldn’t hold still! 1945.



Dad, corlie, 1932 chev 001
My Dad, Mom and his sister, Coralie by Dad’s 1932 Chevy, about 1945.


mom dad art at deer trail sign 001
Dad and Mom and brother Art around 1950.  Notice how Dad reaches around and holds my brother’s head to face the camera!


LaFon and Elma & fish, Deer Trail, 1950 001
One of their favorite things to do – fishing!  Deer Trail Inn in summer of 1950 after a long day on the lake!


dad loading boat 001
Of course fishing wasn’t all fun.  Dad had to load this wooden boat on the car first!  

There is so much more that I could write about this wonderful man – he was my hero as I grew up.  He was a hard worker, loving and devoted to his family.  But more of his story will wait for another day.  I hope you enjoy the pictures!


dad and bobcats 001
Dad rescuing two baby bobcats he found in the woods.  Date unknown.


I found this picture on Ancestry of Randolph Lafon Huff, the neighbor and relative of my dad’s family whom my dad was named after.  He was born the year before my dad.  A great find!






Finnish Churches, Chapels and Ancestors

This is week 23 of 52 Ancestors and the theme is “Going to the Chapel.”  Years ago I was privileged to travel with my mother and sister to Finland and experience  a whole different culture.  We visited the places where both my grandparents grew up and many other areas.  One thing among many that stood out for me were the churches in Finland.  Not only the churches themselves that were so beautiful, but also the churches we visited each had a separate unique chapel in conjunction with it.   These small, ornate chapels were sometimes connected to cemeteries.  This was the case of the chapels we visited that were next to the cemeteries where our ancestors were buried.

The first church we visited was in Alavus, Vaasan-Laani, Finland and we found this grandiose Lutheran church.  Thinking that this was the church my grandmother, Alma Tusa Knihtila, worshipped at, we stopped for a visit.  We found out that this church was built in 1914 and designed by famous Finnish architect, Kauno Kallio,  and seated about 950 people!  But we knew Alma came to America in 1909 so this wasn’t the church she attended.   The original Alavus Lutheran Church, built in 1826. had burned down in 1912 after Alma left.  The belfry  and two of the three church bells from the early 1700’s of the original Alavus Church that survived now stand beside the new church.


Pic of Alavus church taken in Finland 001
Alavus Church, “Alavuden Seurankunta”


Next to the church was the cemetery where we found the graves of my maternal great-grandparents, Heikki Tusa and Sanna Puirola, Alma’s parents.

gravestone Heikki and Sanna Tusa 001

But where was the former church of Alma’s?  We found the site of the first church where Alma would have attended about a half a kilometer from this church and there we found a unique chapel!  This chapel was built on the site of the first “sermon room” that was erected in 1674.  There is a lot of history in this place!

Alavus Chapel of Memories 001

This is connected to the church by the cemetery and in the middle of the tombs there is a high stone and the remains of an iron relic.  Both of the are memorials of the Fenno-Russian War of 1808-1809.    To the left of this  lovely chapel is yet another  “Chapel of Memories” that is a remembrance of the war in 1918.  On the walls inside there is information on the history of the parish and names of those killed in the wars.  This little Chapel of Memories with the surrounding graveyard is the war memorial and a unique sight.


Alavus War Memorial Chapel 001
Chapel of Memories

Alavus war memorial cemetery 001


Alavus is in the southern portion of Finland called the lakes country.  We had to travel close to 500 miles north to Simo, Lappi, Finland to see the relatives and ancestral graves of my grandfather’s side.  Along the way were many churches and so many had these fancy chapels next to them.  We were amazed at all the different designs.  When we got to Simo which is at the northern tip of the Bay of Bothnia between Finland and Sweden, we were about 75 miles from the Arctic Circle.

The church of Simo, built in 1846, and the over 200 years old bell tower have their site in the fishing harbor at Simoniemi.  Our relatives lived just up the hill from the harbor for many generations.   There was also a homestead museum by the side of the church road in an old storehouse dating back to the 19th century.   We found this lovely church attended by my grandfather, John Richard Knihtila, and his family.

simo church 001

Next to the church was the cemetery with the gravestones of my paternal great-grandfather!  Johan August was my great-grandfather and is buried with his second wife, not my great-grandmother who died at about 37 years old.

John August grave 001

And, of course, a unique chapel in Ostrobothnian style stood near the church and cemetery!

simo chapel 001

I felt so fortunate to have visited the places where my grandparents grew up and see the churches and chapels that were once a part of their lives especially since I had to cross an ocean to find them!


Photos taken by self.

Historical information from travel brochures and Wikipedia