Wednesday, April 11, 2012

J is for Jacob, my great grandfather. He was Finnish, so it was pronounced 'Yaycub"

He came to the US in 1872. For some reason, he spent a year in Titusville, Pennsylvania. I believe there
were Finns there who helped the newcomers. Perhaps he worked in the oil fields? Perhaps he learned English from these Finnish cousins?

The next fall he continued on to his destination, the mouth of the Columbia River.
I don't really know how he and the others in his group made their way across the continent.
Possibly they took the train to San Francisco and then took a ship up the coast to what
was then the state of Oregon and the Territory of Washington.

He was very young, perhaps about twenty years old. He was with a large group of Finns.
Later, several of his brothers would come to join him, as well as his parents. Two of his sisters
also came to live in the forested hills alongside the Columbia River.

Jacob was considered a hard working young man. He was a deacon in the Lutheran Church.
He married and started a family. In a few years, they started a homestead in Washington Territory.
Out of necessity, he must have often made the trip across the river to Astoria for supplies.

On a stormy day in January of 1888, he got on the little steamer to go back
across the river to his family. The steamer was probably overloaded and when
it turned to head across to the other side, a fit of wind and swell hit it and it capsized.

Jacob had taken cover under a tarp that covered  some farm machinery on deck.
The machinery likely trapped him and he could not save himself. The others were
picked up by a fishing boat that had asked to tie a line to the steamer for the trip over.
Only Jacob and one girl were lost. One of Jacob's brothers was also on the steamer.
He managed to save another passenger but he did not see Jacob anywhere.
His homestead was next door to Jacobs. Perhaps he had to go and tell Jacob's wife
what had happened.

The survivors would say the steamer had more people than allowed on board.
The authorities took the captain's word at how many people the boat carried.

Not much of that mattered once the ship capsized.
Jacob was lost. His widow had 5 children less than ten years old, 50 cents, and a
 homestead she could not inherit until she became a citizen.

In those times, it was often customary when a husband died, for a brother to marry the widow
to continue the family. One of Jacob's brothers had lost his wife back in Finland, and he
married Jacob's widow a year or two after Jacob's death.

They had seven children of their own plus the five who were Jacob's.
This made it rather confusing with being half siblings and cousins at the same time.
They considered it 'three fourths brothers and sisters'.

All of these children except Jacob's namesake survived to adulthood and went
on to have families of their own.

My grandfather watched from the window of the nursing home as they built
'the bridge to nowhere' that would span the river and make it no longer necessary
to take a boat or a ferry across the broad river. He was less than two years old
when his father drowned in a January gale.


  1. Such a sad story. Twenty years old and five kids?? I can't imagine. I guess it truly was a different day and age.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog.
    Catch My Words

  2. Oh no, not 5 kids when he was 20. He came to the USA when he was about 20. He got married a few years later and had 5 kids before he drowned. His first child was the first baby of Finnish parents born in Astoria. I believe she was born in 1879 and he was about 26 then. They had 5 children in about 7 years. He drowned at the age of about 34. My grandfather was the youngest child and was less than 2 years old when Jacob drowned.

    Actually, it seems like they waited to get married until they were financially established a bit, so they could support a wife and family. The men were generally several years older than their wives. I think my grandparents were about 9 years apart in age...9 and a half actually, and she was 18 when they wed. Not quite sure how far apart Jacob and his wife were in age.