Historically speaking

White Country Church recalled

The Community Lutheran Church is pictured. (Photo courtesy of the Negaunee Historical Society)

NEGAUNEE — During this Holy season I thought I would share with you the history of a little white church in Suomi Location, once called Uusi Suomi, meaning “Little Finland.”

Located in Richmond Township, Community Lutheran Church is about 3 miles from Palmer Michigan. It currently is a community church that was formed in January of 2010 by the consolidation of Concordia in Palmer and Our Saviors of Suomi.

But this church has an earlier beginning. The founding generation organized the Suomi congregation, under the name, Uusi Suomi Evangelical Lutheran Church, in March of 1910.

A group, of about 29 attended an organizational meeting. Antti Kulalahti, chairman, Israel Moilanen, treasurer, Antii William Korpi, Secretary. Also Mrs. Kulalahti, Mrs. Korpi, Sanna Kangas, Joshphine Harskainen, Pauline Lemberg, Impi Pyykkonen were among those 29 who had the attributes of vision, faith and hard work to make it happen. Worship services and meetings were held in homes and at the Suomi schoolhouse, which was across the road from where the church stands today.

Dues were established at 25 cents a month. The church building was erected in the summer of 1912, with the property donated by Israel Pyykkonen with the members donating the building material, money and a week’s labor. Additional funds were solicited from Christian friends in Negaunee and Ishpeming.

The church was dedicated in 1913. Antti William Korpi constructed the pews in 1917 and they are still being used today. A quote from his son Bill Korpi, ” there lies the energies and dreams of a strong man, the only visible signs of his handiwork, the pews in the Suomi church which he built in his haybarn between planting and haying season, with simple hand tools.”

The original church was rotated in 1924 to face M-35. A partial basement was constructed and stained glass windows were added. In 1929 a steeple was added with the addition of a bell that came from the Palmer School.

A bell once used to begin a day of instruction was now used to call people to worship.

A rededication was held in 1931and the church saw the second generation emerging. The second generation refinished the interior of the church with panel board in 1945.

The basement was excavated and enlarged in 1948 under the supervision of John F. Larson. A kitchen was partitioned off and a new stairway built and knotty pine walls finished off the basement. The third generation became active in church affairs in the middle 1950’s

This generation once again saw a need to expand the church. In 1956 the men of the church cut logs at the Larson sawmill from timber that was donated by Peter Luuci of Palmer to rough in a new addition which added 20 feet to the back of the building and created a larger altar area to the interior of the building.

This was done under the supervision of Edwin Larson, the third generation member of the Larson, Korpi families. A wooden hand hewn cross adorns the altar area made by Emil Larson. The 1940’s brought a change to the church. In as much as Suomi was primarily a Finnish community, the schools were teaching in the English language and if the church was to grow it would be beneficial to have worship services in English. Pastor John Hattula was instrumental in this endeavor.

In the early years auctions were held to raise money to make sure the church would survive. Aprons, doilies, quilts, mittens, breads and jams and birch bark baskets were auctioned off at a social event.

The women of the congregation made pasties to sell at the Empire Mine, about 200 of them. The Suomi church was not always a single entity.

It was yoked with Immanuel Lutheran Church in Negaunee and also the Gwinn Lutheran parish. It served as a three point parish with Palmer, Suomi and Faith National Mine.

Its first affiliation with the larger church was with the Suomi Synod and later with the Lutheran Church in America and now is associated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Over the years the village of Suomi has changed. The small neighborhood store is gone, The sawmill and Miljour Marine and Harju Logging are no longer visible but the church still stands as a landmark serving the community with a place of worship. It is part of the history of hard working people who have passed on the heritage of a Christian faith.


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