Saturday, July 9, 2011




                My grandfather, Johannes Eriksson Holms was born 29 May, 1878 on the Holms Farm in Rokio village, Vora, Vasa, Finland.  He was the first born and only living child of Brita Hermansdotter Murkais Hagglof-Kneck and Erik Johansson Kock-Holms.  His other siblings had died soon after birth, Lisa born 28 May,1879 died 16 June, 1879 and Erik born 12 Sep 1881 died 15 September, 1881.

                Soon after the death of his last child,  Erik left for America to obtain money needed for the Farm and his family.  He successfully returned but in a few years he would be going again.  The next time when he returned he was suffering from the effects of mining, that he would soon die from.  According to Vernon Hjoyer/John Holmes either Grandpa John or Grandfather Erik lost or had the money taken from him.  This must have been a terrible loss.   Also there would be no more children born to them.  During the Russianication of Finland there were other large land owners who came looking for money to save their farms.  Taxes on the farm and bribary to keep out of the Russian army as well as hard times.

                Johan Simonsson Kock and Anna Lisa Andersdotter Kajser were grandpa’s grandparents he had sixteen children by three wives.   These sixteen children would be Grandpa's aunts and uncles and their children would be his cousins.  A few would stay in Finland, many had immigrated to America and most of these would live and die in Bingham and Eureka.   We have found many other Holms (Holmes) here and in Bingham.  We know little of Grandpa Johannes childhood.  All we know is that he had a good education, and learned the art of cabinet making and carpentry.  Fourty years after his death is a long time to begin writing about his life. 

                We know more about Holms because we are in possession of a history of the Farm and have many pictures of it.  It had rows of birch trees leading up to the entrance and consisted of many homes and two large buildings.  The largest was the estate home and the other housed the peasant farmers.  Edith said, "We lived in a separate part of the large house with my Grandmother."
                Most every picture shows the beautiful windmill (grist mill) on the property.  Gunnar Norrgard called it the "Weather Mill" and it is still standing on the Holms Hill.  It was used to grind up grain and to saw and plain lumber. 

                Vivian in 1970 brought back two pictures of the many carding combs used on the farm.  Each Holms family designed and displayed their comb in the Vora, Folkhogskola. 

                I have been told many times of our Swedish heritage but until recently little has been told of the Finish side, or if there is a Finish side?  Raili Fuller, from the  Karelian Tribe said, "Your Grandpa looks like a Pohalla to me."  I can,t tell the difference,  Grandpa and all his Kin said, we are "Swedes".   My dark skin matches the many dark skinned Swedes in Vora, we are what they are. 

                In 1807 Finland became a Grand Duchy with allegiance to Russia, but it wasn't until under the reign of Nicholas II, during Grandpa's time that life would become harsh and unbearable.  He had to live under the threat of serving in the Russian army and endless wars. 

                These years were hard, the people were poor, and now subject to a "Period of Oppression."   We had the War of Hate, the Great Wrath, the Great Slumber and the Dark Days.   Times seemed to always seemed to worsen even all of the freedoms granted to them by Alexander the Great were now taken away by Nicholas II, the last Russian Czar.  Finnish customs, monetary systems and an illegal draft into the Imperial Russian Army.  Many died including Russians but it wasn’t until the Bolsheviks revolution in 1917 that Finland went to war and expelled the Russians.  Nicholas II and his family were executed in 1918.  

On the 28th of June, 1896, John married my grandmother, Lisa Jakobsdotter Antbrams, he was 18 and she was 23.  She was a daughter of Maria Mattsdotter Ohlis and Jakob Jakobsson Antbrams.  There was one child born before marriage, yet the Church would not allow them to marry until John became of age (18).  This was quite common in those days.  Many of my Danish relatives were late getting married too.  Lisa was working as a maid at the Holms estate at the time.  Her picture is on the front of the book, she was a very beautiful lady.   Young single maids (piga is the Swedish name) looked forward to marrying the landlords son just as the Drang (single boys) tried to marry above their station. 

                She signed her name Lisa Jakobsdotter Holms (eller Antbrams) in a book we have.  She was apparently proud of her heritage and wanted to preserve it.  John always called her "Lizzie".  Even on official papers such as Naturalization papers for citizenship, it was Lizzie Jakobsdatter Holms.  Her death certificate that was sent to me from Finland has her name as Mrs. Liza Holms.  They had two children here on the Holms Farm in Rokio, Edith Marie, born 14 May 1896 and Werner John, born 20 February, 1899.


1st--MAJA KAJSA JOHANSDOTTER ENGES:  Lisa's father was married three times.  Her father Jakob Jakobsen Antbrams was previously married to Maja Kajsa Johansdotter.  They had nine children, but I believe only the 9th child, Erik, lived.  He was born 25 March, 1866 and died here in Utah 9 October, 1896.  (There was also an Eric A. Eriksson Antbrams died from consumptionin Bingham Canyon, Utah in 1924.) 

2nd--OHLIS:  Several months after Maja died Jakob married my Great Grandmother, Maria Mattsdotter Ohlis.  They had five children.  Their two sons both died young, Matts at age six and Johan at six months.  Their daughters all lived long and productive lives.  When their mother (Maria Ohlis) died in 1882, she left three daughters;  Brita was ten, Lisa (my Grandmother) was nine and Anna Beata was two years old.  

3rd--KNUTS:  Jakob then married his third wife, Anna Jakobsdotter Knuts.  They had a daughter, Lovisa, who was born September 20, 1884.  Jakob died two months later, at the age of 55.  The children had now lost both parents, orphaned at such an early age would cause the them to suffer many hardships. 

                Lisa spoke fondly of her sisters and step sister.  This is the reason for looking for them.   Brita Iso-Aho, Forsamlingsseker said Maria and her brother Gunnar are alive and well and both are living in Vora.  They are children of Anna Beata.  Maria said she looks just like the "Holms Moster" (maternal aunt).  This is a new and wonderful opportunity to unite the family and to share experiences.  We may now learn how these little orphans survived and something about their lives.  My Mother tried to make contact with our relatives in Finland, but was unsuccessful.  It has been over 50 years now since letters have been sent. 

                I wrote a letter (in Swedish) to Maria but she did not write but her brother Gunnar did.  Gunnar in his 7 March 1993 letter to me said "My mother Anna Beata used to tell how she came as a four-year-old on a moving load to her maternal Uncle Ohlis."  She lived here until she could earn her own living working as a maid for some of the farmers.  She married Mickel Ericksson but took Nygard as their name when they bought part of the Holms farm in 1903.  Nygard means New Farm.  Now their name is Norrgard (North Farm).  The three daughters of the oldest sister, Brita, played with Anna Beata's daughters.  Lovisa was their half-sister, a happy and fun person to be with.  She married Matts Ohlis.

                We have learned many things but it is still a mystery which home John lived in.  I believe it to be the large one because Edith told us about it.   The large country estate home (the Folkhogskola's main building), or one of the many two story buildings on the farm.  After 1907 his mother, Brita Murkais Holms lived in a Stuga (cottage) on the Holms Hill, near the weathermill in her later years.  I have no idea what property she owned or if she was a part of those who in 1907 donated the land and buildings to create the Vora Folkhogskola (the Peoples School).

                Grandpa left Finland and never looked back.  I don’t know how big a part of Holms our family ever owned.  When Erik died in April 1900, John's mother Brita Murkais Holms would have inherited this portion.  All I know as of now was that she lived on Holms Hill until it burned down in 1934.  She died on the Farm Dec. 27, 1939 during the last Finnish-Russian War.  Most all of his Grandfather’s children and grandchildren also had left the farm to go to America.  My mother and her father, John, talked about the Old Country but only bits and pieces of the puzzle has been passed down to us. 

                By 1900 all of our side of the family had either died or immigrated to America except Brita Murkais Holms.  On the 1st September, 1900 we find grandpa John on the steamship Cymric on his way to New York.  Grandpa on his naturalization papers listed himself as a subject of the Czar of Russia, Nicholas II, the future looked more promising in America. Three months after grandpa left for America his two-year-old son, Werner died on 19 December 1900.

                Both my mother and her sister's children tell of Grandpa being stranded in New York without any money. Some believe his money (inheritance) was lost or stolen going to Finland but I believe the  story is told by his cousin John W. Holms where one of the returning Holms lost all of his money in New York while returning to Finland.  Our family still remembers stories about Grandpa returning to Finland but there are no records in Vora or passenger records that we know of to verify this.  (there were many John Holms coming and going, but which one was Grandpa?)  Did he only get as far as New York?  Did the loss of money caused him to stay in America?

We believe he stayed with his Aunt Maria and her husband living in New York.  All of the Holms immigrating to America seemed to have stopped here.  Maria visited them in Eureka at times.

                Later we find John in Michigan where he joined other Swedish Finns working on the railroad for fifty cents a day.  As soon as he saved enough money, he left for Frisco, Utah to work in the mines.

                Lisa stayed with her mother-in-law at Holms and apparently this was satisfactory for both of them.  She talked about how well she was treated and how much she loved her mother-in-law, Brita.  It was a happy day to go but a sad day to leave when Grandpa sent the money to bring Lisa and Edith to America.  They arrived in August 1903.  Edith was seven when she left and she remembered running and playing on the ship and watching the ocean waves.  She told of going to Liverpool and New York and seeing the slums of the waterfronts of both cities.  She remembered boarding the train for Frisco, Utah, and picking wild flowers at the train stops. 

                Lisa and Edith had seen some terrible sights and places to live in their travels but  none was worse than Frisco, Utah.  This was a desolate and wild area.  The land was almost barren with a few Juniper trees and sage brush, rocks and blowing sand.  This was the end of the world.  The only thing green was their drinking water.  This was a foul smelling and tasting water that sold for five cents a bucket.  What made everything seem even worse was the Horn Silver Mine had caved in sixteen years earlier crushing part of the town.  Hundreds of vacant homes, saloon, and stores were left to rot or to be burned for firewood.  Only a few dozen dwellings were occupied, there were two stores open.  Grandpa worked in a new 900 foot shaft to reach the ore body covered by the cave-in.                This is where my mother, Signe Elizabeth, was born June 21, 1904.  The following year, the family moved to Eureka and bought a home there.  Three additional children were born in Eureka: Vanner Herbert, 16 March 1906; Nester Conrad, 26 Feb 1908 - April 1908; and Conrad Hjalmer, 13 Dec 1910. 

Recently I have discovered many relatives of both grandpa’s and grandma’s families living in Bingham Canyon, Utah.  I have been sent a book “Kippiga Bergen” from Finland that tells about Edla Antbrams, grandma’s sister or niece and an uncle Erik Antbrams who were living in Bingham at the time.  Grandpa worked at sometime in Bingham too, where I don’t know but he wouldn’t work for the Utah Copper mine because they wanted him to work for stock and money and grandpa wanted all money.  He didn’t trust them.

                Grandma Lisa was always homesick for Finland and often told her children how green and beautiful her Finland was.  She talked about the farm, the lakes and the water.  First of all Finland isn't the land of all the Finns.  It is the land of Fens and Marshes.  Finns call their country Suomi which means swampy and themselves Suomalainen.  This was far different than the part of America Lisa moved to.  She missed her sisters and step-sister.  It wasn't until they moved to Eureka that she felt comfortable and happy.

                SISU, was a part of Grandpa it allowed him to endure many of his loses with a smile and a resolve to go on.  "What must be done, would be done."  Grandpa had more sisu than any Finn alive.  He suffered thorough so many disappointments and hard times, its almost unbelievable. 

                Never once did he look back and wonder if he was on the right course.  I have never heard him talk of the good old days in Finland, I wish that I had bothered to ask.  He learned the English language soon after arriving in America.  He discouraged his wife and children from speaking Swedish, but Grandma was a Swedish Finn until she died.  She could speak some English but not much, she had difficulties making her grandchildren understand her.   Grandpa had an accent and like other Swedish Finn's, he just couldn't pronounce the English "J" or "V".  We all laughed when he tried to say "jumping jimminy" and it came out "eumpin eminiee".  He pronounced his granddaughters Vivian's name as "Weefyun".  Lisa preferred to communicate in Swedish and since most of their friends and relatives were Swedish-Finns, this did not pose too much of a problem for her.

                They lost their home in Eureka due to hard times during the 1912 strike and moved back to Frisco.  John went to work as a boss in the Horn Silver Mine and Lisa ran a boarding house.  Edith remembers watching her dad working in the Payroll Department so he must have worked outside the mine as well as under ground.  They worked very hard for the next few years before moving back to Eureka.

                It was good to return to Eureka, it was like a reunion.   Most of his uncles, aunts, and cousins had left the Holms Farms years ago and they all came here.  These were his father's family.  They were Josef Holms, Lovisa Holms and Herman Snell, Karl (Charlie) and Mary Holms, Jakob and Marie Holms and Wendla Holms and John Eriksson.  Edward Holms, his brother Alfred and John W. Holms were his cousins, grandson's of Maria Back.  The amazing thing about Grandpa and all of his uncles and aunts, and cousins, was that they were nearly the same age.  The Holms name was changed to Holmes here in America. 

                Many of Grandpa's Mother's family the Murkais-Hagglof's were also here. They took the Holms  (Holmes) name too.  They were Viktor August, Alfred, Johan Erik, and son Johan Erik, Viktor Albert, Aina Maria and child Maj Lis. 

                Christmas times were always happy times with trees lighted with candles and presents for everyone.  On New Year's Eve, John would predict each family member's futures by melting solder and interpreting the symbols in the melted drops.  Traditions brought from Finland would always be a part of the family. 

"Mosida by the Lake" dreamed up by the Curtis brothers was a going venture at this time.  Grandpa's Uncle Charles was very involved with the company.  Grandpa John, with his newly earned wealth bought one of the farms.  He lost it a few years later when after a drought, the land company couldn't pay the power company to pump water from Utah Lake to irrigate these farms situated twelve miles north of Elberta.  Eight thousand acres of wheat, oats and barley were planted and 50,000 fruit trees.  There was a post office, school, store, silos, homes and a hotel.  The town covered 800 acres and had a population of 400 people.  Its doubtful if Grandpa ever started building here, but both of his uncles, Charlie and Josef had built and were living here. 

My Translation of a Paragraph in Klippiga Bergen

A group from Osterbotten gladly joined in an experiment to own and drive a mine south of Salt Lake City.  To form a business or company called the “Wasa Mining Company”.  A company organized by the Swedish and Finnish speaking working class.  For the purpose of joint ownership.  Out of a total of one million shares in a corporation 400.000 is to be removed for compensation for work in the mine.  Each claim or share shall have a value of ten cents.  This Finish, Swedish and American security therefore accordingly because of value be sold in Utah even in Idaho, Minnesota and Michigan.  There is a history of a fall or failings of the business partners in 1909.  Ande Soderlund, Andrew Strom, August Johnson and Verner Bergstrom.  Fred Sundell was selected as the business president and John E. Holms its secretary.   corporate business possesses cause ten bribery in North Tintic Mining District.  They have devoloped a certain shaft 272 feet deep and begin extraction out of the lode such as silver and gold.  Wasa Minings was deserted and lonely and its fate was unclear a business venture that could grow. 

Life was more pleasant here in Eureka than other mining camps in the west.  The many Swedish Finns and other old timers were Socialists and voted that way until the groups split, with one becoming too radical for the old timers.  Four Socialist Mayors along with their councilmen ran the Eureka government from about 1910 until about 1925.  They had union recognition and did have a strike or two but mostly the mine owners found themselves alone against the whole town.  They did talk both sides did settle for a fair settlement.  Jessie Knight (who paid off the Mormon Churches debt) pretty much set the standards for the other mine owners.  He always paid good wages, watered the mines down so his men didn’t die of silicosis and he shut down the mines on Sunday.  The other mines, railroads, mills, smelters and power plants tried to shut him down.  So, he built all these things and beat them at their own game.  All the people loved him and even Grandpa called him “Uncle Jessie).  Then there was the Beck Mine (also a Mormon mine) was the one all Eureka hated.  Beck put farmers from Payson to work as scabs during strikes causing a Mormon Gentile war.  The Bishop of Payson sent his people to Eureka to help Beck.  Beck tried to get the governor to have the State Militia stop the strike but he refused because there was no violence to warrant it. 

About 1918 or later the family lived in Dividend Grandma loved it here.  This was truly a company town.  You couldn't live in Dividend unless you worked for the Tintic Standard Mine.  The Mine owned the stores, school, church, houses and the hotel.  If you didn't buy from the store or if you became a problem in any way, you would lose your job and be moved out of town.  Dividend is now a ghost town.

                Grandpa worked as a carpenter in the Tintic Standard Mine during its hey day.  He was an expert in the framing and cutting of frames for the mine.  These frames were cut by hand saws, axes, and adzes.  These heavy timbers were used to hold up the roof of the mine to stop cave-ins. 

                In time Grandpa moved back to Eureka and rented two or three other houses before buying the one on the hill which became their permanent home.  One of the houses was right next to the Snells.  When the boys grew older, John and his sons leased mining rights from various mines companies.  Signe remembers her dad taking the family to many vaudeville shows and the Ringling Brothers Circus.  Signe said her mother always had a dog.  Most of the photographs we have of her all include her dog.  Lisa owned and milked a cow and always wore clean, starched apron.  Some of the other relatives owned cows, just as they did in the old country.  

                There was always something to do at the Finn Hall, there were many dances and gatherings.  The whole family would come at times even the little children.  John and Lisa would often take drives around town and down into the valleys.  We have many pictures of them in many different automobiles, they were always going some place.  A popular place for the Eureka Swede-Finns to go was Geneva where there was a hotel and resort almost as large as Saltair.  In Geneva they could swim, dance and race.  There was also Saratoga and the Holmstead on Utah lake.  Another favorite spot was the Finn Hall, where the whole family was welcome and everyone dressed in their finest clothes.  The Provo River was another place where these celebrations took place, this was Mother's favorite.  These Swedish-Finns did love to party and enjoy themselves but never seemed to mix with the other miners or other people. 

                In her later years, Grandma Holms (Lisa) began having severe headaches.  The children did their best to make life easier for her.  Many of her grandchildren knew how much she suffered from a mastoid for many years, but I have also been told that she died from an aneurysm.  She was 56 when she died and she still had dark hair with not even one grey hair.  I have a letter from the Vora Church in Finland that said, "Mrs. Liza Holmes died in her home in Eureka on the 16 day of March 1930, and was buried from the M.E. Church on the 19 day of March 1930.  The funeral was conducted according to the rites of our faith, and the deceased was personally known by me as Pastor of this Church, I officiated at the service,"  Reverend Wm. Tracy, Box 818, Eureka, Utah. 

                Walter Swenson, her grandson 8 years old, walked for many miles all the way to Dividend to bring Grandpa and Vanner home from the Tintic Standard mine in Dividend where they were leasing. 

                                Margaret said, "Grandma was a very special lady and she dearly loved her, dearly".  She kept everything so clean and nice.  When the children would come into the parlor, they would walk on the paper she would lay on the floor.  They still felt that they were very privileged to come in this room.  Grandma couldn't speak much English and the children couldn't understand Swedish but they tried.  If they couldn't communicate, they would go down into the basement and get her some potatoes but no one really believed that she needed so many potatoes.  

                I know I was too young to ever remember my grandmother Lisa but I have always felt a special love and bonding to her.  The first four months of my life were spent in her home in Eureka.  Born premature and losing weight, my mother took me to her mother's home where I was loved and cared for until I was strong and healthy.  All of the photographs taken during the two years our lives overlapped, shows Grandma either holding me or watching someone else hold me.  These photographs are very special to me.

                Grandpa John lived on for another 24 years after Grandma died.  He was very active and hunted deer until he was 74 or 75 years old.  He could climb mountains with the best of us.  He wasn't affected by the toxic silica dust that killed so many of his uncles and friends nor did he seem to receive any of the arm or leg injuries that were so common.  Many of his uncles and friends died in the mines either from the dust or from cave-ins.

                Grandpa worked in many mines and leased many others, but we do not have all his history.  Where or when he worked or who all he worked with.  We know he helped drive the Holden Tunnel for the Blue Rock mine because we have a picture of him and some of the other miners in front of the mine soon its completion. 

                Grandpa and  Raymond Archebal (his son-in-law) were leasing from the Blue Rock Mine.(leasing was permitted by the companies when they were not mining in certain areas.  They wanted these leasers to find ore bodies they couldn't find)  Sometime during their explorations the two had found a cavern and crawled back into a large natural opening where they were standing on high-grade silver and gold, the walls and ceilings shined and sparkled.  "WE ARE MILLIONAIRES", they said, they made one shipment from the mine.  The mine owners found out about it and shut them down, they wanted it for themselves.  They did pay expences and had a little left over.  We are told about another leaser who lost his mind when he discovered a vein like this and had it taken away. 

                Another time just after reaching a large ore body, they ran into water and could no longer follow the ore vein. 

                In 1936 Grandpa worked for the Rio Tinto and the Mountain City Copper Company in Nevada.  Both were underground mines.  Little else is known of the time he spent in Nevada or if he was alone.

                John worked in a number of mines.  He also worked as a carpenter, on and off for about three years, in Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho.  This was after the start of World War II in Europe about 1938.

                In 1926 John, his son Vanner, and Herbert Eriksson were leasing in the Apex #1 mine.  One day Herbert drilled into a "hot hole", one filled with dynamite.  Herbert was killed instantly.  Herbert was an emigrant from Finland and family friend was still in high school.  The accident happened just before he graduated from high school.  A vacant chair was left for him on graduation night.

                All my memories of Grandpa are happy ones.  I still remember the many times Grandpa Holmes loaded us grandchildren in the back of his old car.  Over the hills and down the valley we would go screaming with delight with the wind in our faces.  We have many pictures of Grandpa and Grandma in many of these old automobiles, they loved to drive them around. 

                He was always working on an automobile.  He would tip the car over on it side to work on it until he made a pit in his garage for this purpose.

                Grandpa was always pleasant to be around.  He was a very honorable and dignified gentlemen.  He suffered many disappointments and losses, but always went on as if nothing had happened.  He used to say "If you made a nest, you have to lie it in". 

                He was only eligible for a small amount of social security benefits so his old age wasn't a prosperous one.  He used to raise rabbits and chickens to sell.  At times, he would kill quite a few.  If a chicken didn't lay an egg when it was supposed to, it wouldn't live very long.  Most all of his grandchildren remember him loading his little car up with eggs and taking them to the Inter Mountain Farmer's Coop. down in Payson and bringing feed back for the chickens.  I don't know how many chickens he had or how long he raised them but it was a while. 

                I remember one day mother and dad came for a surprise visit.  Grandpa went into the shed with his cat and came out with a skinned rabbit.  I was sure that everyone except me ate the cat that evening.  The cat did return later that night after dinner was over.

                When he became old and could no longer care for himself, his son Con and daughter-in-law, Dorothy, cared for him in their home.  One day they had to take him to the hospital.  Grandpa believed that hospitals were only to die in.  He was 76 years old when he died in 1954.  He was laid to rest next to his wife and baby in the Eureka Cemetery.  Edith said,  "I remember he had the same problems that I am having now.  He must have died of heart failure."

                We will probably never really know all there is to know about Grandpa, he lived a very private life.  We know he would write to Finland but we don't know who he was writing too.  He would read the letter think awhile and then go read it again, never saying what was said, and we were to dumb to ask.  We have no idea what these letters said, they were probably from his mother.  Most of these old Finns lived very private lives, that neither family nor friend could breach.  Many times I have been told by them the past is for the dead and we should leave them alone, but it is good for us to know who we are and where we came from. 

                Grandmother had this beautiful old antique picture album but no one knew who they were, not even my Mother.  Relatives and friends of the family have identified many of them, why didn't we know them?  Even my cousins who lived in Eureka didn't know them. 

                Time is rapidly passing, only a few of the grandchildren, friends of the family and cousins who knew Grandpa and Grandma are still alive.  I have found many versions of the same story, but at least we have a story.  I am proud of my Mothers family and I hope my children and grandchildren will all know who they are and where they came from. 

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