Isaac and Valpuri with son Eino.
Photo dated June 5, 1911.

Click Here for Isaac's chart

Click Here for Valpuri's chart.

Isaac Hill (Palosaari in Finland) and Valpuri Niska (Polojärvi in Finland) were homesteaders in Gackle, North Dakota. They died premature deaths in the Influenza Epidemic of 1918. The 1918 Swine Flu was the worst public health crisis in United States history 1. Their four young children were separated and adopted by different families. Isaac and Valpuri are interred in the Homola Old Finnish Cemetery south of Gackle.

Isaac came to the United States on a White Star Line vessel and arrived in New York Cityon June 24th, 1905. He was 21 years old. He emigrated from Finland via the port of Hamburg, Germany. He was born on Perälä Farm 22 in Lämsä village, Kuusamo parish.  His naturalization form confirms his birthplace as being in Oulu Province with a 22 August 1883 birth date. It is not known why he changed his name to Hill. It appears that Isaac emigrated by himself.  I still have not found a marriage record for Isaac and Valpuri, but they probably married in North or South Dakota.

Valpuri Niska left Finland for England on April 19th, 1909 on the ship Arcturus. She set sail from England to America on April 28th, 1909 on the Virginian, an Allan line vessel. On her Finnish passport, her destination was Gackle, where she met her sister Greta Marie and brother Gust.  Valpuri, or Lizzie as she would be known later in life, was born on the Niska estate in Taivalkoski, Finland on 28 March 1881, though her family went by the name Polojärvi.  In the very early 20th Century the Polojärvi family sold their estate to loggers/land speculators, which was a common occurrence for that region and time period.  The size of the estate was probably about 800 hectares. The house was sold to relatives.  Valpuri, her sister Greta Marie, and brother Gust used the money from the sale of land to immigrate to North Dakota and become homesteaders. The other children purchased an estate called Haapovaara nearTaivalkoski village.  The emigrants used the name Niska in America while the siblings in Finland kept the name Polojärvi.  Homesteading in North Dakota proved to be very difficult. Gust Niska eventually settled in Seattle, Washington.

Isaac and Valpuri left behind 4 small children, all of whom were adopted by different families. My grandmother, Elma Rauha (Ruth) Hill, was adopted by the Lang family. (Rauha means 'peace' in Finnish.) Like many families, the Lang's lost all of their money in the stock market crash of 1927.  My grandmother was working as a maid in Calumet, MI. when she met my grandfather, who would bring her food because her employers did not treat her well.

Elma's sister, Esther, was adopted by the Orrinen family. In the book Finnish Settlement, Brown and Dickey Counties 1881-1955 Matti Orrinen is said to have "much trouble and struggle with poverty" and his place of birth is Taivalkoski. The same book goes on to say a "cousin," Esther Hill, lives with them.  It is not know how the Orrinens were related to either Isaac Hill-Palosaari or Valpuri Niska-Polojärvi. The name Orrinen was surely the Swedish soldier-name Orre in Finland.

After her parents' death, Edna Hill lived at the farm of her uncle, Gust Niska.

A fourth child, Eino Hill, served in the Army in World War II and faught in the Aleutian Islands of Alaska. It is not known where he lived when he became an orphan.

  John and Harold Niska with "Vaino" and unknown person in Gackle.

Picture of members of my grandmother's family from Gackle, ND. Possibly brother Eino and sister Esther or Edna. However, this picture could also be of adopted siblings.

My grandmother is on the right. The other people in the picture are unidentified, but they may be her adopted brothers and sisters.  The boy does bear a resemblance to Eino Hill.

This is the Arcturus 2, ship that Valpuri took from Hanko, Finland to Hull, England in 1909. The Arcturus was at sea from 1898-1956.

                                                                                   The Hill farm in Gackle, ND.

                            Niska family in Gackle, ND. 1916. Valpuri Niska is the woman in middle holding the butter churn.


Taivalkoski is a young parish situated between Kuusamo and Pudasjärvi. It used to be part of Pudasjärvi parish, and in old records the area of Taivalkoski is called Kurki village.  Taivalkoski became an independent parish in 1879.

Jokijärvi village in Taivalkoski is the birthplace of Kalle Päätalo, Finland's best-selling author.  He is best known for his autobiographical, 17,000 page, Iijoki series of books. He also wrote the five part "Over The Land (Koillismaa)" series, which claims to be 'fictional' though Taivalkoski residents may tell you otherwise. The "Over The Land" series is available in English translation.  Päätalo's childhood home is now a museum.

Taivalkoski Official website (in Finnish)

Päätalo Institute (in Finnish)

Pudasjärvi Kurki (Taivlakoski) farm list from the 1854-1861 communion books. Compiled by myself in April of 2004.

Kuusamo is a large parish located on the northeastern edge of Oulu province, bordering Russia and jutting into the Lappi province. Kuusamo village, which sits on serene Kuusamonjärvi (Lake Kuusamo), is at the coordinates of 65°N and 29°E. The town of Posio, birthplace of Jennie Karjalainen's mother, is now its own parish.

The entire town of Kuusamo was rebuilt after World War II due to the Nazi's burning of Lapland. Only a small handful of original structures remain.

Kuusamo is known for its fishing and hunting, as well as cold temperatures and snowfall. It is an internationally known destination for its hiking in the summer and skiing in the winter. There are large parks north of the town.

Kuusamo Official website (in English)

Posio official website (in Finnish). This site has a web-cam and current temperatures. Find out about Kuusamo's outdoor activities.


This is my grandmother's birth certificate.  Here her mother's maiden-name is clearly Niska. I have seen her first name spelled as Lizzie, Valpuri, Falpuri, and Vappu.

Valpuri's age is listed here as being younger than Isaac, while her age on her headstone is 6 years older than Isaac.

According to the document, the birth was attended by Isaac, without a midwife or physician.


    Isaac Hill's naturalization document.

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Kent's Genealogy Page (in case you've come here from someplace else)

compiled Nov 2003 / Updated Nov 2004  by Kent Randell