The immigration of Finnish people to the Middle Atlantic colonies, primarily to the region of the Delaware River, is the subject of this volume. During the colonial period, Finnish immigration to North America took place under the auspices of Sweden, where a sizable Finnish population had been ushered in during the reign of the 16th-century Swedish monarch Gustavas Vasa. The Swedish Finns would fall into disfavor during the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) and, despite the fact that a number of them fought on Sweden’s behalf in that conflict, they faced persecution and deprivation on the home front. For some of these unfortunates, however, Sweden’s decision to establish a colony on the Delaware River would provide Finns with a haven from their mistreatment at the hands of their adopted country.
In this pioneering work, E. A. Louhi recounts the various expeditions of Finns to Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, and, to a lesser extent, the Elk and South Rivers in Maryland throughout the colonial period. Finns appeared for the first time among the passengers on the third expedition to New Sweden in July 1641–at a time when the Swedish government was finding it increasingly difficult to colonize its short-lived empire in the New World. The author identifies many of the Finnish passengers by name, occupation (soldier, farmer, prisoner, etc.), destination (Christina in Delaware, for example), and in some instances by place of origin in Finland. Succeeding chapters enumerate the Finnish participation in subsequent Swedish-sponsored expeditions through the tenth and final one of 1652-54. Later chapters document the arrival of independently financed Finnish expeditions and the growth of the Finnish communities on the Delaware under Swedish administration, through the period of Dutch control, and finally under English hegemony when, as late as 1760, Finnish churches numbered 3,000 members in the American colonies. Anyone possessing Finnish ancestors or an interest in Finnish pioneers and places of settlement in colonial North America need look no further for the starting point of their research.