Walden's Past Is Slipping Away

by Jim Fortin, Curator, Anderson Farm Museum - November 1996

Last week the town of Walden lost two links with our past. Oiva Santala and Laura Jacobson died within hours of each other. For residents of Walden who are new to the area or perhaps are on the young side, these two names have little or no importance. If you have lived in Walden all or most of your life, these people were more than just names.

One afternoon some seventeen years ago, I spent some time with Laura, her sisters Nancy Jacobson, Eva Kallio, and Sally Dingwall. It was one of my first real contacts with the "true history of Walden." I had the good luck to be able to setup this meeting through Sally's daughter Meribeth. l was not prepared for what was confronted with. For the first part this meeting I was put on the hot seat. Who was I? Who were my parents? What did l think I was doing planning to run a Finnish museum and not even being Finn? I suspect that what saved me was that Meribeth had put in a good word somewhere. That and the fact that I had taken history courses with Eva‘s son Norman at Laurentian University. I was impressed with the deep feeling that these women felt for their heritage, and community. I will always remember the family photograph which included what seemed like 100 people. Pride in heritage, community, and family, it was a lesson that has stayed with me to this day.

Laura Marie Rauhala was born in 1908, in Perho Finland. She came to Canada and the village of Creighton Mine in 1924. She married William Seppala. a son John Seppala who had come to Canada in 1894. William died in of 1928 leaving Laura a young widow of just 20 years old. She soon caught the eye of Niilo Jacobson and they were married. The Jacobson family had come from Finland in 1867. Niilo's father, Thomas Jacobson, ran a boarding house in Copper Cliff until the family settled in Waters township in 1901. Thomas sat on the very first Waters Township Municipal council in 1903.

Laura was an active member of St. Timothy's Lutheran Church, where Niilo's father had been a founding member. Laura was also an early member of the Waters Women's Institute that was observing its 60th anniversary on the day she passed on. Laura's pride in her family, heritage and community was no doubt important in shaping the personality of her daughter Judy, who became a Federal member of parliament for the area.

Oiva Santala was another loss lto the community. He was the son of Finnish immigrants William and Tilda. 0iva's parents met and were married in Creighton Mine in 1914. Oiva was born in 1916. I remember visiting Oiva and his old friend Arne Niemi one hot summer afternoon. I was working on the hay hinder at the museum and wanted to see one it work. Oiva and Arne had a binder in operation and were harvesting grain on Oiva's farm. They agreed with some amusement to let me watch as long as l did not get in the way. As I think about it now I really did not realize that both of these individuals were in their seventies at the time. Oiva showed me how the binder was setup and proceeded to take a swath of grain. The binder twine was just a little rotten and I learned I whole new set of Finnish phrases.

Oiva’s family was recognized by the municipality with the road named "Santala" in their honour. 0iva's beliefs and determination are carried on with his family. Doug Santala is a respected and dedicated teacher at Lively High.

Our loss lies in the life experiences and attitudes that these two individuals look with them. They reached out into the community, and helped where they could. They were not members of the first wave of settlers in the Walden area, they were the second wave, or generation. and now they are gone. With the passing of each member of their generation, we lose eye witnesses to the beginnings of our community. The pride that they had for their community, heritage, and family are an example for us all. This pride is not gone, it will live on through their families.