Finnish Idaho Preserved by Frank Eld

The story of Roseberry, Idaho is the story that got me to start this blog.  It’s not a unique story.  But I did think it was a unique location.  I had heard of “Finnish” settlements in the America but this was not one of them.  I started asking myself “Finns were really here?”  It is what led me to find that Finns were in St. Barts, too. Then what about …  So my inspiration for this blog is what another fellow Finnish-American, born in the Americas, was doing today to promote a culture that we both share.  He in the physical world and I in the virtual world.

Frank Eld’s father, Albin Eld, came to the United States in 1899.   His father probably came here for many of the same environmental, economic, and political reasons that brought Finn here in the late 1800’s.  I imagine his father settled in Idaho much the same way many other Finns came to settle along this path through the U.S., by the railroads.

What I don’t know yet is why stop in Roseberry.  It was 800 miles to San Francisco, where there were Finns in that day and age.  Most Finns were settling in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan 1800’s, 1,800 miles away.  Frank himself said it best, “My dad, Albin, and other Finns settled here because it reminded them of Finland.”

In January the average temperature is 20° (Fahrenheit) and in July it gets up to 64°.  Sure that sounds like Finland.  If Native American never settled in Long Valley, known before the 1880’s as Indian Valley, then Finns had to have sisu to settle here.  I think to live in Roseberry you had to have “sisu”.   

What Mr. Eld has done is to bring together buildings of significance to Finnish-American’s in Idaho’s Long Valley.  He started his collection with the acquisition of the 1905 Roseberry General Store.  Roseberry was an active town until 1914, when the railroad came in a mile and a half north of town.  Roseberry started its decline and the store closed in 1939.  It opened again in the 1970’s when Mr. Eld and volunteers reopened it as a museum and Finnish gifts store.

Today, 96 miles north of Boise, just east of Donnelly, Idaho from May to September, you can see the over 25 historic buildings of significance that he and his volunteers have brought together.  In the rebuilt Roseberry, you can visit a church, blacksmith shop, school house, city hall, and several homes and barns.

Frank Eld has authored a book “Finnish Log Construction – The Art.  The book presents how Finns used to build Log Houses, using the tools of the age.  It’s incredible to think that log cabins, like Lincoln’s birthplace, came to the new world by the Finns.

In 2003, I found myself driving through Boise.  Had I known only a few miles north I could have seen Finnish history, I think I would have.  Now we know.

Update May 1st 2015, The Roseberry General Store has been sold to the county to become a museum.


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