“Executed by the State of Iowa, 1935”

One of the recent prompts was “Black Sheep” and I am certain we have more than one in our ancestry.  One can’t choose their ancestors, good or bad, but all of them had a story and their stories need to be told.  The “Black Sheep” I chose to research is Patrick William Griffin.  His mother was Susan Jane Lyons, the sister of George Lyons, my great-grandfather making Patrick Griffin my 1st cousin 2X removed.  So why did I pick Patrick?  When I found his death certificate on Ancestry.com, I was shocked – the cause of death was “Death by hanging by State of Iowa!”   The Nature of Injury portion of the certificate just stated “Legal execution.”  Now this is not an usual way to die and I knew I had to find out more.  What happened and how did one come to such an untimely end at age 37?

Griffin death cert 2 001

Patrick’s mother, Susan Jane Lyons, was the daughter of Joseph Cloud Lyons and Mary Lavalett Dudley and she was born 07 March of 1855 in Pulaski County, Virginia.  On September 11 of 1890, Susan, at aged 36,  married John Griffin.  John was born in Michigan in either 1854 or 1849 to Maurice Griffin and Elizabeth Cunningham.  John’s parents were both born in Ireland, County Mayo, married there and immigrated to Michigan, later moving to Minnesota.

Patrick was born on January 7th of 1898 in Michigan.  When I found their 1900 Federal Census records, I was surprised to find that Patrick wasn’t their first child although he was the only child listed.  The Census listed that Susan had borne 4 children but only one- Patrick- was living. The family lived in Gladeville, Wise, Virginia where John was a “Day Laborer”.  They owned their home and had a mortgage.  From my other research, I see they lived in the same area as Susan’s parents at that time.  In 1902, another son was born and named Raymond Griffin.  By 1905, the Iowa State Census listed John, Susan, Pat and Ray Griffin living in Emmetsburg, Palo Alto County, Iowa.  That was quite a move- they moved from Virginia to Iowa in that 5 year period.

By 1910, the family moved again to Fern Valley, Palo Alto, Iowa and this Census stated that Susan had borne 6 children and only 2 were living.  It must have been a strain on the family to lose 4 children, but more tragedy was to come.  In 1914, John Griffin passed away.  Patrick was 16 and Ray was 12 when their father died.   The 1915 State Census for Iowa showed widow Susan and the 2 teenage boys living in Walnut, Palo Alto, Iowa and Susan was already 60 years old.  Patrick was employed as a painter and earned $300 in 1914.  He had an 8th grade education.  The family was listed as Catholic – not surprising as their father John was Irish.

By 1918, Patrick had to register for the World War I Draft at age 20.  His occupation was listed as “Thresher” and probably found work on a farm.  His personal information listed him as medium build and height with brown eyes and dark hair.  The 1920 Federal Census listed them still in Walnut and Patrick, 22, and Ray, 18, are laborers.  By 1925, Patrick moved out and lived in Graettinger, Iowa according to the Iowa State Census.  He was single and could read and write.  Ray stayed with his mother and they also moved to Graettinger and took in boarders to get by.   Susan, now age 76, was found in the 1930 Federal Census as a Lodger with the Eastman Family in Waterloo, Black Hawk County, Iowa.  No 1930 Census data has yet been found for Patrick Griffin.

The country was in the throes of the Great Depression by now and work was very hard to find.  Bread lines and soup kitchens were all over.  This was a bad time in our history.  If a man couldn’t get a job or support his family, what could he do?  How many turned to crime in desperation?  Did this happen to Patrick?  Of course it would be no excuse for the crime he did do but did it contribute?  We will never know.  Here’s what happened.

On Friday, December 16 of 1932, Iowa Deputy Sheriff William Dilworth of Black Hawk got a call when decorating a Christmas tree for his 6 year old daughter.  He was sent to a home belonging to Mrs. Frank Graves about 1/2 mile from town.  Deputy H. M. Mitchell accompanied him.  They were to talk to Patrick Griffin and Elmer Brewer about a statutory rape case.  The two had just come into town from Chicago.  Upon entering the shack where the two were hold up, Deputy Dilworth was shot in the head by Elmer Brewer and died instantly.  Patrick Griffin shot twice at Deputy Mitchell and the deputy was able to get away and drive to a nearby inn for help and was sent to the hospital.  Elmer and Pat took off into the woods despite the bitter cold.  The City Detective, Hugh Crumrine,  aided by R. V. Stealy who happened to be out in the woods hunting rabbits nearby, tracked and captured Brewer and Griffin who were about frozen and readily gave themselves up.  They were taken to the Black Hawk County jail.  They confessed their crime and stated they fled to Chicago after committing a robbery in Kansas, buying a new car and driving to the area.  They thought the deputies were coming to get them in connection to the robbery.

capture of brewer and griffin 001

griffin picture 001
Patrick Griffin

There is a wealth of newspaper articles that I researched on Newspapers.com about the pair.  They give lengthy details about the capture, the trials and the executions of Elmer Brewer and Patrick Griffin.  In January of 1933,  Elmer Brewer was convicted of first degree murder of Deputy Dilworth.  “Patrick Griffin was found guilty of first degree murder in a verdict returned at 2:43 p.m. Thursday in Black Hawk district court.  The jurors recommended the death penalty…Altho evidence established that Brewer’s shot was the cause of Dilworth’s death, the jury held Griffin equally guilty of the murder…The jury, which deliberated only four hours, including lunch time, included 10 men and 2 women.” (The Courier, Waterloo, Iowa, 05 Jan 1933, page 1)

Both were given the death sentence and sent to the state penitentiary at Fort Madison to await execution.  Appeals were made to the State Supreme Court and Governor Herring but all were denied  and only served to delay the execution that was originally set for January of 1934.

Brewer and Griffin to pen 001

Two of Griffin’s childhood friends stood by him as he mounted the gallows on June 5th of 1935.  One was Rev. Leo McEvoy, pastor of Ruthven, Iowa Catholic Church who also administered the last rites.  The other was Attorney James Fay of Emmetsburg, Iowa who was also Griffin’s lawyer.  Patrick’s brother Ray also stood by him.  Their mother Susan had passed away in October of 1934 in the Black Hawk County Home at age 82.  It was probably a blessing that she did not live to see her son hanged.

march to the gallows 001

Patrick William Griffin, age 37, was laid to rest in Saint Jacobs Cemetery, Graettinger, Palo Alto County, Iowa.  May he rest in peace.


Virginia, Births and Christenings, 1853-1917, Database, FamilySearch, Mary L. Lyons in entry for Susan J Lyons, 07 Mar 1855; citing Pulaski County, Virginia, reference 13, FHL microfilm 2,046,959.

Virginia, Marriages, 1785-1940, Salt Lake City, Utah: FamilySearch, 2013.

State Historical Society of Iowa: Des Moines, Iowa; Iowa Death Records; Reference Number: 101821054.

Microfilm of Iowa State Censuses, 1856, 1885, 1895, 1905, 1915, 1925 as well as special censuses from 1836-1897 obtained from State Historical Society of Iowa via Heritage Quest.

Certificate of Death for Susan Griffin, Waterloo, Black Hawk County, State of Iowa, Registered No. 397, October 2, 1934.

United States Federal Census 1900; Gladeville District, Wise, Virginia; Page 18; Enumeration District: 0124; FHL microfilm 1,241,732.

United States Federal Census 1910; Fern Valley, Palo Alto, Iowa; Roll: T624_417; Page: 1A; Enumeration District: 0176; FHL microfilm 1,374,430.

United States Federal Census 1920; Walnut, Palo Alto, Iowa; Roll: T625_505; Page: 1A; Enumeration District: 200.

United States Federal Census 1930 for Waterloo, Black Hawk County, Iowa for Susan Griffin;  Ancestry.com.; Ancestry Operations, Inc.; Provo, UT, USA. 2009.

United States, Selective Service System.  World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918; Washington D.C. NARA: M 1509; Registration State: Iowa; Registration County: Palo Alto; Roll: 1643218.

Find A Grave, Findagrave.com; Patrick William Griffin, Memorial # 114182649.

Newspapers.com:  Des Moines Tribune, Des Moines, Iowa:  05 June 1935, Wed., p. 4 and 17 Dec 1932, Sat., p. 1.;  The Courier, Waterloo, Iowa: 04 Jan 1933, p. 2 and 05 Jan 1933, p. 1 and 17 Jan 1933, p. 3 and 05 June 1935, p. l;  The Daily Times: 05 June 1935, pp. 1, 2.









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 Kestala (or Paakkari – some confusing records on Maria).   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 Scotland where they 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, Ancestry.com

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; http://interactive.ancestry.library.com.

Minnesota, Deaths and Burials, 1835-1990, index, FamilySearch.com, 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




So Far Away – One Mystery Solved Leads to Another!

This is week 22 of 52 Ancestors and the theme is “So Far Away”.  This stirred a memory from my childhood!  I remember going to the cemetery with my mother, Elma Lyons, and bringing flowers to the graves of my grandmother, Alma Tusa Knihtila and 2 other graves in the same plot.  (I wrote about my grandmother Alma 2 weeks ago.)  The other 2 gravestones at that time belonged to Arthur Knihtila , my grandfather’s brother, and Richard Hendrickson.  My mom told me that Richard was my grandmother’s brother but I knew her name before marriage was Tusa so how could this be her brother?  I also knew that they all came from Finland – how could they have come from “so far away” to this little town of Bessemer, Michigan where we lived?  As a child, it was always a mystery to me how someone could leave their family and go to a new country to live.

R Hendrickson grave 001

It wasn’t until a couple years ago that I was starting to unravel the stories of my Finnish ancestors buried in the little plot in Hillcrest Cemetery in Bessemer.  By this time, my grandfather, Richard Knihtila (see blog “Sisu” last week), and dear mother were also buried in the plot along with a veteran’s plaque for my father, LaFon Lyons.   I was trying to research Richard Hendrickson and I felt “so far away” from discovering his story but I was still intrigued by the name of “Richard Hendrickson” who didn’t seem to fit in the family.   But of course, he did!

I started my research with what I knew – the headstone.  Since it was a military headstone, I knew there had to be some record of the application for it.  Searching under “U. S., Headstone Applications for Military Veterans, 1925-1963” with his name, I found one for Richard Hendrickson!  And here was a bonus – the application was made by and signed by my grandmother Alma Knihtila.  Alma died when I was 6 years old and this was the first time I saw her actual signature!  Now I had more leads to discover Richard’s story.

Hendrickson, Richard, gravestone application 001

He was born Rickhard Tusa on December 2, 1988 in Alavus Vaasan Laani, Finland – just 2 years younger than my grandmother Alma.  Their parents, Heikki Tusa and Sanna Puirola, had seven children.  Victor was born in 1880, Edward in 1883, and Arne in 1884, and all three immigrated to America.  Alma was born in 1886 and immigrated with Arne in 1909.  Besides Richard, there were two older sisters, Hilja and Hulda (1878) who stayed in Finland.

So why was Richard’s surname “Hendrickson” instead of Tusa when he came to America?  I think I may have solved that mystery.  In Finland, children are given a middle name that identifies their biological father’s name followed by “poika” meaning “son of” or followed by “tytar” meaning “daughter of”.  Richard was the son of Heikki Tusa.  Heikki is also written as Hendric (both mean Henry in English)  and Richard’s middle name would have been Heikkinpoika or Hendripoika meaning “son of Hendric”.  When he arrived in America, he took the name Hendrickson (Hendric’s son) as the best translation into English!

To verify that Richard Hendrickson was really the brother of Alma, I was extremely lucky to be given a photo postcard from Finland around 1913 that was sent to my grandmother Alma.  My brother found the picture among others photos from our old house after my parents passed.  The back was written in Finnish and I had it translated, “Here is your brother Rickhard Tusa.”  The front was a picture of Richard, finally, a face to go with the grave marker – the face a young man!


Richard Hendrickson @1914 in Finland 001

So began the hunt to piece together Richard Hendrickson’s life.  It seems he came to America around 1911 or 1912 which would have been before his mother sent his picture to his sister Alma around 1913.  Richard’s 1920 Census listed his arrival as 1911 but I have not verified his date of arrival.  He lived and worked for several years in Amasa, Iron County, Michigan as his brothers Victor and Arne lived there.  The next record I found for him was his WWI Draft Registration Card dated June 5, 1917.

R Hendrickson WWI Draft card 001

From examination of the information on the Draft card, Richard was 29 years old and living in Alvina, Minnesota working on a farm employed by Wm. Carlson.  Richard was single, no dependents and not yet naturalized.  He was classified as an alien and citizen of Finland.  His date of birth was listed as February 2, 1888 instead of December 2, 1888 as listed on his gravestone.  Richard was described as tall, medium build, light brown eyes and brown hair and having a disability of “one poor eye.”  Two things stood out to me on the card.  One was his signature where he used the Finnish spelling of his name, Rikhard.  The other important thing was that he claimed exemption from the draft as a “conscientious objector!”   Going back to the headstone application, I saw he was enlisted in the Army on April 26, 1918, just 10 months later.  Did he enlist voluntarily or was he drafted despite his claim to exemption?

Richard’s place on enlistment was Alvina, MN, and he entered as a Private in Company M, 360th Infantry.  His obituary was found in family papers and describes his military service.  “During World War one he served in the European Theatre where he was wounded in Germany.  Since his discharge from military service, he had been confined for extended periods of time in the Veteran ‘s Hospital of Woods, Wisconsin and at Minneapolis where he received treatment for complications of war injuries.

Now that I knew he was in a Veteran’s hospital, I found some records of him in the U. S. National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers 1866-1938.  He received an Honorable Discharge from the Army on 14 January, 1919 at Camp Grant, Illinois.  His disabilities when admitted were “Cholecystitis not ruled out; Psycho-neurosis hysteria.”  I am guessing that the hysteria label at that time would be likened to the current diagnosis of PTSD.  The records further revealed that he was admitted and treated at least 2 more times to the Veteran’s Hospital in Woods, Wisconsin.  One stay was 14 July 1932 to 02 March 1933 and again from 19 April 1936 to 13 May 1936.   Despite being a conscientious objector, he did serve in the army and was seriously wounded which sorely affected the rest of his life!

I was able to piece together more of his life with Census records.  In 1920 United States Census for Perch Lake, Carlton County, Minnesota, Richard was listed as a lodger in the household of Jesse and Annie Kulenla.  He is single and his immigration year is listed as 1911.  Parents both born in Finland and his native tongue is Finnish but able to speak English.  Richard was naturalized in 1918, most likely in the Army, and can read and write.  He works as a laborer in a Lumber Camp.

After much searching, I was unable to find a 1930 Census for Richard but know he was in the VA hospital in Wisconsin in 1932 and 1936.  In 1932, Richard was 44 years old and in Milwaukee WI (Woods WI Veteran’s Hospital) for treatment.  His height was listed as 69 1/4 ” tall, gray eyes, brown hair and his religion was Lutheran.  His residence was Superior, Wisconsin.   On this record came a surprise – Richard was listed as married but his wife’s name is unreadable and she lived in Finland!  So sometime between 1920 and 1932, Richard married and his wife was in Finland.  Did he return to Finland to marry?  Did he marry here and his wife returned to Finland? So far I am unable to locate any records to solve this mystery.  If he was in Finland in 1930, that may account for a lack of a 1930 Census record.   I will continue to research this!

My next information on Richard came in the 1940 U.S. Census.  He was living in Superior Town, Douglas County, Wisconsin and was age 52 and married.  His wife and any children are not listed on the form.  He is head of household and born in Finland in 1988, which is correct.  His occupation is Janitor at a rural school.   In 1942, Richard , age 54, registered for the World War II Draft and he was living in Superior, Douglas, WI.  He was unemployed and gave his friend, John Nurmi, as a person who would always know his address.  He signed the Draft Card as Richard R. Hendrickson.

In January of 1948, Richard was in the Veteran’s Hospital in Minneapolis MN.  His sister Alma, my grandmother, and her daughter, Elma Lyons, were called because of the seriousness of his condition.  It was winter but Alma and Elma traveled to Minneapolis, arriving on Thursday, January 15th, to see Richard but as they were walking up to the hospital, Richard passed away.  They never got to say goodbye to him.  His remains were brought to Bessemer for burial in the Hillcrest Cemetery.  Richard was a member of the American Legion and of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.  Military and religious funeral rites were conducted at the J.J. Frick Funeral Home on a Tuesday following his death.  The Rev. Arnold Stadius of St. Paul’s Evangelical Church was in charge of the religious rites.

From his obituary, found among family papers, I found that Richard was survived by a wife, one son and one daughter, all who lived in Finland.  (His wife and children never got to say goodbye to Richard either.)  His wife and children were not named in the obituary so more research is needed.  Further survivors besides his sister, Alma, were two sisters in Finland, Mrs. Hulda Luhtala and Mrs. Hilja Thalainen and two brothers Arne and Victor Tusa, both of Amasa, Michigan.  This obituary gave me some valuable clues to find other family members.

I was given another photo with Richard Hendrickson in it.  He is seated in the middle.  The picture postcard was sent to Alma Tusa from Finland when she lived in Amasa so it had to be taken between 1909 and 1912.  The back, translated, reads: “Greetings from here.  Here the brothers are with their girls.  Kivi ___ is the third girl.  There is a mark.”  I was not aware that there was another brother in Finland!  His known brothers were Victor, Arne and Edward and they all were already living in Michigan at this time.  So far I have not found records of the other brother.  There is no signature or date on the back of the photo.   Could this be his future wife to the left of him?  More questions!

Richard Hendrickson @1910, Finland 001

So I leave you with another mystery concerning Richard Hendrickson – perhaps a missing brother!  But at least I know that Richard Hendrickson was truly a part of our family and has a story that should be told and remembered!

Richard Hendrickson @1914 in Finland 001 (2)




U. S., Headstone Applications for Military Veterans, 1925-1963, for Richard Hendrickson.

U. S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918, for Richard Hendrickson. [database on-line] Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc.

United States National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, 1866-1938, index and images, FamilySearch, Richard Hendrickson, 1932: citing p. 41026, Milwaukee Wisconsin United States, NARA microfilm publication M1749, roll 185, NARA microfilm publication T1749, National Archives and Records Administration Washington D. C.; FHL microfilm 1577540.

Year: 1920, Census Place: Perch Lake, Carlton, Minnesota; Roll: T625_824; Page: 20B; Enumeration District 12; Image: 626; Also, FHL microfilm 1820824.

United States Census, 1940, index and images, FamilySearch, Superior Town, Douglas, Wisconsin, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 16_45, sheet 5B, family 107, NARA digital publication T627, roll 4475.

U. S., World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942 for Richard R Hendrickson. [database on-line] Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations Inc.

Minnesota, Death Index, 1908-2002, index, FamilySearch, Richard R. Hendrickson, 15 Jan 1948; Ancestry; citing Hennepin, Minnesota, record 1056546, certificate number 005787, Minnesota Department of Health, Minneapolis, MN.


A Memorial Day Parade of Ancestors


Our prompt this special week is “Military”.  I first tried to choose an ancestor who served our country but couldn’t choose just one without slighting others who served!  I decided this week to name the ancestors I discovered throughout the last few years who served in various wars.  By naming them, I feel I can honor their memory and acknowledge their service and sacrifices.  That is what Memorial Day is really about.   I realize that I am missing many ancestors who I have not yet found but hope to add them to the list as they are discovered.  We always had a big Memorial Day Parade in the little town where I grew up and I do miss the parades.  Without further ado, here is my “Parade of Military Ancestors.”


Col. James Lyon, Pvt, Capt. Robert Wade’s Company, Washington County, VA, 1758

Col. Nicholas Perkins,  Halifax County, VA Militia

Capt. John T “The Ranger” Taliaferro, (7th Great-Grandfather)



Col.  James Lyon, (5th Great-Grandfather) commissioned Lt. Col of Henry county VA Militia, fought in the Battle of Guilford Court House.  Listed as “distinguished officer of the Revolutionary War and trusted conferee of George Washington.”

Lt. Stephen Lyon, ( Son of Col. James Lyon, 5th Great-Uncle) First Lt. in Henry County, VA Militia; fought in the Battle of Guilford Court House under the command of his father, Lt. Col. James Lyon.

John James, (5th Great-grandfather),  Muster roll May 18, 1777: Capt. William Croghan’s Co. of the 8th Virginia Regiment commanded by Col. Abraham Bowman

William James (Son of above John James, 4th Great-Uncle), Pvt in Capt. John Camp’s unit of Virginia Militia under Col. John Peyloks.  Enlisted at age 16, in 1781, went to sea and captured by British, kept in confinement  in West Indies until 1782.

James Spencer James (Son of above John James, 4th Great-grandfather), served in Capt. William Love’s Militia in Montgomery County (now Smyth Co.), VA, 1781.

Catlett Spencer James,  (Son of Samuel James, 4th Great-Uncle) Pvt. in the First and Tenth Regiments of Virginia: Capt. John Willis’s Co; Col. Alexander Spotswood, Sullivan’s Life Guard; Capt. Richard Taylors Co.; Col. Daniel Morgan and Capt. Gabriel Long’s detached Co. of Riflemen; Capt. Callohill Minnis’  Co.

William James ( son of Sherrod James, 5th Great-Uncle), Pvt in Capt. William Love’s Co., Col. Cloyds’ Regiment.

Samuel James, Served as a drummer in the 4th Virginia regiment in Capt. Walls Co. Listed on “Deceased Officers and Soldiers of the 4th Virginia Regiment”

Joseph Cloud Jr., (4th Great-Grandfather, son of Joseph Cloud Sr. and Nancy Moore), Pvt with John Fields “The Cherokee Expedition” Regiment of Lt. Col. Joseph Williams and  Capt. William Dobson.  They joined the Virginia troops of Col. William Christian at the Long Island of the Holston River and proceeded to the Indian Nation.  He was appointed Capt. in 1778 or 1779.

William Cloud  (younger brother of Joseph Cloud Jr and 4th Great-Uncle). Pvt and Lieutenant in the Virginia Militia under Capt James Lyon and was in the “Cherokee Expedition” for 4 months.  Also served under Capt. John Allen and Capt. Eliphaz Shelton.

Benjamin Taliaferro (Taliaferro lineage). Second Lt. in 6th Virginia Regiment; Was Lt in rifle corps commanded by General Daniel Morgan, promoted to Capt.;  captured by the British at Charleston; served in the Battle of Princeton.

Thomas Porter Jr. (married Lucy Baker Ashlin, widow of Christopher Ashlin) Pvt in Capt. Wm Taylor’s 2nd Virginia Regiment; Cpl. in Same regiment and Capt. Francis Taylor’s Co and Capt. James Upshaw’s Co, 2nd VA Regiment.

William Porter (brother to Thomas Porter Jr.) Taylor’s Company, 2nd Virginia Regiment under Christian Ferbiger in 1778.

Charles Dudley (5th Great-Grandfather, son of Thomas Dudley and Hannah Keeling)

Lt. Humberson Lyon Jr. (5th Great-Uncle), Killed in the Battle of Kings Mountain at age 19-20.

Philip Taliaferro, Capt. in the 1st Regiment of the Virginia State Line.

James Davis (5th Great-Grandfather)  3rd Lt. of Marines and Officer in Capt. Wallace’s Co. in the 3rd Virginia Continental Regiment.  Promoted to Capt.

Sherrod or Sherwood James (5th Great-Grandfather), Pvt in the New York Continental Troops.

William Taliaferro, Capt., Virginia Service 2nd Regiment.

Thomas Catlett, Ensign, 2nd Regiment, Virginia.

Robert Dudley, First Lieutenant, 5th Regiment, Virginia.

Stephen I. K. Smith, Orange County Militia served under Col. James Madison (father of President James Madison).

Charles Smith, 6th Regiment of South Carolina, 1779-1780.

WAR OF 1812

War 1812 001

Wiley James (grandson of Sherrod James and Nancy Walker), Pvt. in Capt. Lynn West’s Co., 1st Regiment of Kentucky Volunteers.

William Lewis Anderson (Taliaferro Lineage). Capt. John Coles Co of the VA Militia; 1st Sgt. in Capt. Key’s Co. VA Militia.

Capt. Benjamin Phillips (3rd Great-Grandfather), Virginia Militia.

Simeon Burch (3rd Great-Uncle), Pvt. in Capt. Cornelius Sale’s Co., VA Militia.

Jonathan Burch, Pvt. Capt. McMahon’s Co, New York Militia.

Robert Dudley Foster, (Taliaferro Lineage)  Pvt. in Capt. Smith’s Co., VA Militia

John Conway, Pvt. in Capt. Hoomes’ Co, VA Militia.

Isaac Cloud, Pvt. 4th Regiment VA Militia; 1st Sgt. in Bunch’s Regiment, mounted East Tennessee Volunteers.

CIVIL WAR 1861-1865 (Confederacy)

civil war 001

Joseph Cloud Lyons (2nd Great-Grandfather), CSA,  Cpl., Co. C, 86 Virginia Militia; 198th Regiment VA Militia; Also, 166th, 188th, and 190th  VA Militias; Promoted to 2nd Lt.

John A B Swanson (2nd Great-Grandfather), CSA, Pvt. 2nd Col. C, 10th Virginia Infantry; 10th Regiment, VA Infantry Co. C and 2nd Co. C; Co. B Marion County Battalion

William Porter James, (1st cousin 3X removed), CSA, Sgt.,  Co. A, 8th Virginia Cavalry. Was in Prisoner of War Camp.

William Swanson, CSA, Pvt. Co. H of A Militia, Listed as missing.

Edmond Pendleton Lyon, CSA, (3rd Great-Uncle), Pvt. in Douthat’s Co., VA Light Artillery (Botetourt Artillery).

James L Lyon, CSA, (3rd Great-Uncle), Pvt. 63rd Regiment VA Infantry (McMahon’s); 3rd Regiment North Carolina Artillery Co. G; Cpl. North Carolina, 13th Battalion and N. C. Light Artillery Co. E.

Col. Waddy Thompson James, CSA, (1st cousin, 4X removed), Lt. Col., 57th Virginia Infantry, Co. B, Franklin Sharpshooters,  wounded in Battle of Malvern Hill, 1862.

George A. W. Lyon, CSA,  (3rd Great-Uncle), 4th Infantry VA Militia

Ransome Dudley, CSA, Pvt. 4th Regiment VA Infantry; Enlisted 1861 as 3rd Cpl. ; elected Sgt.; elected 2nd Lt, Hale’s Ford Franklin Guard.; wounded at Gaines Mill in 1862, fractured left arm..

Dr. Ezekial Martin James, CSA (Great Uncle, 2x removed), Assistant surgeon in 4th Regiment, VA Infantry.

German Baker Ashlin, (3rd Great-Uncle), CSA, Co. A 8th VA Cavalry, wounded at Woodstock, VA.


WW I 001

Richard Hendrickson (Great-Uncle), Pvt. US Army Infantry, 360 Infantry 90 Div., Co. H.

Lewis Evert Ashlin, (Cousin), Gassed during the war and suffered rest of life.  Died in 1946 of Pulmonary Tuberculosis in Hayes, North Carolina.


WW II 001

LaFon Camlyn Lyons (Father), S-Sgt U. S. Army, Tec 3 CAC Battery B, 701st AAA Gun Battalion. 1941-1945.

Charles Daniel Pawlak (Father-in-law), Cpl. 2nd Battalion Headquarters Co., 3rd Armored Division ETO.; 36th Armored Infantry Regiment. 1941-1945.

Arthur Richard Knihtila (Uncle), 3rd Armored Division, ETO; Military Police 677. 1942-1945.

Henry G. Tusa, (Cousin), Hq Btry 582 and AAA A.W. Battalion, U. S. Army. 1943-44..

William T. Lyon, (cousin, son of great uncle), Enlisted 1942, U. S. Army, Pvt. Warrant Officers.

Joseph J Lubinsky,  U. S. Army Air Corps, enlisted 1942.

Francis Edward Lubinsky, U. S. Navy, Ships: USS Arthur L Bristol and USS Daniel, 1945.

Edmund J Lubinsky, U. S. Army Air Corps. , enlisted 1943.

Roland S Gilley, (cousin to father), U. S. Navy: Ships, USS Vulcan., enlisted 1940.

Nicholas Homick, Pvt. U. S. Army, Medical Administrative Corps., Air Corps, Regular Army.

Charlie Ross Ashlin, (cousin), enlisted 1942, Abingdon VA, U. S. Army.

Bert C. Ashlin, (cousin), enlisted 1942, Camp Lee, VA, U. S. Army.


A big THANK YOU AND GOD BLESS YOU to all who served.















Week 20 of 52 Ancestors is about “another language”  .”  It immediately reminded me of my maternal grandparents, both who immigrated from Finland and had to learn English in their new country.   Last week I wrote my “Mother’s Day”  blog on my Finnish grandmother who came to America in 1909.  She met and married my grandfather, Richard Knihtila, in Michigan.  This week, I would like to share a bit of his history in coming to America, which was quite different than my grandmother’s story.  My grandfather had “Sisu”!  Read on and see what I mean!

Grampa Richard Knihtila 001
Richard Knihtila  Circa 1906

Johan Olli Rikkard Knihtila, or in English, John Olli Richard, was born on the 26th of February, 1886 in Simo, Lappi, Finland.  He was the first son of Johan Augusti Knihtila and Maria Kaisa Paakkari.  His mother’s name is listed as “Kestola” in another source and she was possibly from a town near Simo called Kuivaniemi.  The family appeared to be quite well-to-do and lived on a huge farm with many buildings and just up the hill from a prominent fishing harbor and marina in Simo.   It was located on upper tip of the Bay of Bothnia which divides Finland and Sweden about 79 miles from the Arctic Circle.  You could look across the bay and see Sweden.  The Knihtila home was built by Richard’s grandfather or great-grandfather. It seems, Richard (as he chose to be called) had a good home and childhood, but that was to change.


Knihtila home in Finland 001
The big red Knihtila Home in Simo, Finland on the Bay of Bothnia.  The harbor and Marina are down the hill from the home.  The Knihtila’s owned many acres and had tenant farmers. 


On March 23, 1901, when Richard was only 13 years old, his mother, Maria Kaisa Knihtila, died.   His father remarried somewhere between 1902 and 1904 to Maria Evaliina Hepola, 18,  who was 22 years younger than himself!   She was only 5 years older than Richard!  There had to be conflict between Richard and his new step-mother as he sometimes spoke of it in later years.  Could she have been one of the reasons that he decided to immigrant to America?  If his mother had not died, would he have stayed in Finland where he would have been fairly well off and inherited a rich property as the first born son?  Of course, we will never know.  But lucky for me, he did emigrate and become my grandfather.   His father and new wife had 7 more children, half brothers and sisters to Richard,  three died young and the rest remained in Finland.

Richard didn’t stick around long after his father remarried, and at age 19, he and a friend, whose name I haven’t yet discovered, made their plan to get to America in 1905.  First they had to travel from Simo which was near the Arctic Circle to Hanko, the southernmost port in Finland.  This entailed a trip of about 495 miles.  From Hanko, they boarded a ship named Polaris on Feb. 22, 1905 to get to Liverpool, England.  A few days later, on March 2nd, they  were on their way across the Atlantic Ocean on a ship named “Canada” bound for Portland, Maine, a trip of over 3,000 nautical miles!  It was challenging to find this information as Richard’s name was so misspelled on the passenger list and came up as “Kucktela”.    My grandfather often told the story of how his father bought him a pair of brand new boots for his journey and the boots were stolen along the way on the ship.

SS Canada 001

After landing in Portland they had to travel to Hancock in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, around 1300 miles, where they heard of jobs.  I am not sure how they got to Michigan as it could have been by train or boat on the St. Lawrence Seaway or both.  From Hancock they went 12 miles to Calumet, Michigan where they got jobs in the mines in the area.  However, they worked in different mines.  Richard’s friend had some bad luck as the mine he was at had a fire and all the timbers were burned and the mine had to close.  Four miners from Australia were killed in that mining disaster.  It was winter and his friend heard of work in the iron ore mines in Bessemer, Michigan.  Not having any other transportation, his friend skied all the way from Calumet to Bessemer, about 120 miles, to get a job!  Hardy Finnlanders!

Richard’s friend later sent Richard a letter telling him to come to Bessemer as there were lots of jobs in the mines and in the woods.  The next summer, Richard moved to Bessemer and stayed in the same boarding house as his friend and got a job in the Colby Mine in Bessemer.  My grandmother, Alma worked as a cook in this boarding house and that is how they met!  They married in 1913.  While working in the mines, Richards learned some English and the mining company helped with his naturalization.  Although they lived among other Finnish immigrants, they had to learn their new language in order to get along in the new country.

Conditions in the mines were dangerous and unsafe with no electricity.  They wore candles on their hats for lights. My grandfather Richard told stories of how mules were used for hauling the ore cars underground.  The mules were born, lived and died underground and eventually became blind never seeing the light of day.  Once, Richard had an accident in the mine and broke his leg.  He had to stay underground and wait until the end of the shift to be hauled up on top of a load of ore on the ore skip.  The skip was a cage to haul ore to the surface.  After they got Richard home, Dr. Pinkerton, the mining company doctor, came and set his leg at home.  Actually, Richard was never in a hospital his whole life until a few weeks before his death in 1979 at age 93!

Colby Mine 001

One of Richard’s brothers, Kalle Arthur, also immigrated to America in  March of 1906 and went by the name of Arthur.  Kalle Arthur traveled to New York with 2 of his friends when he was 18 years old.


Arthur K - Granpa's brother 001
Arthur Knihtila Circa 1908

The records state Arthur had $12.00 when he arrived and he was traveling to Republic, Michigan to meet his brother, Richard.  I am sure Richard was happy to have one of his family with him.  Arthur lived in Ironwood, MI, near Bessemer, and worked in the mines in  1910 and later worked at the Colby Mine in Bessemer.  Before 1919, Arthur had moved to Duluth, Minnesota to work in a mine there.  Then, sadly, Arthur needed an appendix operation in Duluth but died during the operation at age 31 in May of 1919. .  Richard had his body brought to Bessemer for burial in the Hillcrest Cemetery in the Knihtila plot.  Richard kept his brother’s appendix in a jar in his cupboard for years and would bring it out to show us at times.   Richard and Alma named their son Arthur and eventually, his grandson and a great-grandson bore the name of Arthur.   Richard’s other brother, Emil Arvid , stayed in Finland, married Fanni Katariina Siira and raised a family of 6 children.

Emil Arvid Knihtila 001
Emil Arvid Knihtila at about age 20

Recently, I came into a photo postcard that my grandfather Richard sent to his brother Arthur on July 8, 1909.  It was from Bismarck, North Dakota and the photo is of Richard and Antry Kauppi, a friend.  The message on the back is in Finnish but translates to “Greetings from Dakotas.  We are now in Bismarck but we will be going somewhere else and I don’t have time to write an address but I will when we meet.  Best wishes, Richard.”  Evidentally, my grandfather did travel around!  Maybe lookin for work?

Richard K with friend 001


It must have been difficult for my grandfather to leave Finland, family and a comfortable life behind to face a new life, learn a new language, and have to work so hard for a living.  It took a lot of stamina and courage to do so.  My grandfather had a word in his language for it – SISU – pronounced See-Sue, which means “guts” or courage!  Grandpa Richard had Sisu!


Alma and Richard grave 001
 Hillcrest Cemetery, Bessemer, Gogebic County, Michigan



Stories from conversation with Arthur L Lyons as told to him by Richard Knihtila. 12/23/2016.

Information from heir list of Juho August Knihtila as transcribed by Elma Knihtila Lyons

Finland, Select Baptisms, 1657-1890, Ancestry.com, Provo UT. FHL 55,686.

Passenger Records of Finland Steamship Co., Book 39, page 20, Library of Ebo Akademi, Turku, Finland.

Ancestry.com. UK, Outward Passenger Lists, 1890-1960.

Ancestry.com, New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957.