Patrick Driscoll. 12/10/17
So this was probably one of the best classes I have ever taken. But when I first starting taking this course I did not think that that would be the case. The reason I took this course was because I had WordPress experience. I had created another WordPress site for another course on The Reverend Crocker, who was a Freedom Rider from Boston and Providence. I figured that because I already knew how to create a good WordPress site I would find the class to be very easy. Interestingly enough the work itself wasn’t the hard part, it was the massive time commitment that was required to getting the WordPress site up and running. But I’ll start from the very beginning.
The first week of class I was very nervous. For one thing, I did not realize until the last second that the class started a week before my other classes, and I was not on campus yet. I had not tested my headset microphone in weeks, so I had no idea if it still worked or not. I also had no idea what the course was actually going to be about, or what I would be expected to do in terms of coursework and homework. I just checked my student email account, found the code for zoom, and then I realized I didn’t know the name of my partner and got her confused with one of the students from Massachusetts Public College of Liberal Arts. In my defense I got Kaitlyn and Kerrin confused, so I was at least on the right track. They are both from Massachusetts, so I had my states correct. My problem was and still is to this day a bad memory for names and faces. I honestly did not know much about Kerrin before I did COPLAC’s migration and immigration class, so I felt bad that I did not know her name when she knew mine. After the initial embarrassment I felt I introduced myself and the general introduction continued.
The first few weeks of class I felt like I was not really doing anything in the course nor outside of the course. I just showed up, clicked on the Zoom class ID, and listened for 75 minutes. Then we were told about the project websites and that we had to build a site that discussed past migration and/or immigration into our local region. My first thought was, “well this is going to be impossible” Keene is a town in Western New Hampshire, surrounded by hills and nothing really surrounding it, minus Swanzey to the South and Marlborough to the east, and those are small towns. I thought I would have a really difficult time finding any history of any kind of migration or immigration to Keene. Turns out I was right.
Kerrin and I went to the archives at Keene State and we had no idea what we wanted to do for a topic. The hotbed of immigration in New Hampshire was Manchester, (and really the only known center of immigration in New Hampshire) so we figured we might find out something about Manchester. We did see quite a few books about Manchester, one that caught my eye was a book about Lebanese immigration to Manchester. However a book that caught my eye immediately was a book by Olli Turpeinen called The Finns in Newport. I have no idea why, but I immediately wanted to do a project based on this book. Something about it spoke to me, maybe it was the fact that it was bigger than the other books we were presented, maybe it was because I never heard of Newport (I have lived here for twenty-one years and somehow in this small state there was a town I was still unfamiliar with). Whatever the reason I was convinced almost from the get-go that this should be what Keene State’s project was about. It also happened to be about twenty minutes closer than Manchester, so it made for a better argument as well that it was closer to our college. Kerrin was not convinced at first, and was interested in looking into the Lebanese community or the Hispanic community of Manchester. I argued that the Hispanic community was already well-known, if not as thoroughly researched as it should be, and the as for the Lebanese community they were a little outside of what we should be studying. Nothing against the Lebanese, but Manchester is a bit over an hour from Keene (, so it seemed a little too far to be studying. If we were doing this project from where I grew up, I would have been convinced by Kerrin and agreed to do the Lebanese.
Kerrin agreed with me, and we both decided to do the Finns. We now had a topic but we still had a problem. Someone needed to go to Newport and find more information. Kerrin and I both decided to do the first trip together and see what we could find about sources. To our profound relief, there was quite a lot of information available that would later end up creating the project website. However, we would need a lot of research days, and Friday was the only day that worked for me because it is a fifty minute drive to Newport. I don’t know how many times I wished Newport was about fifteen minutes closer. Because if it was it would require zero planning, and I could travel there any day of the week. It was just far enough away that I could not go to it long enough to make the day productive if I went on a Tuesday for example (all of my classes are 2pms 4pms and a 6pm). Weekends were off limits because the library was not open for very long on Saturday, and as for Sunday it was closed. So Fridays became a ritual of travelling to Newport for research. Kerrin had to work those days, and quite frankly had a much busier schedule than I did, so I went by myself.
Those research days in Newport were both very fun, and very stressful. There was so much information to digest, and only so many hours in the day. The library closed at 6pm, and I usually arrived around 11am so seven hours should be enough to get all the information I need on one trip right? I ended up doing three of these six to seven hour trips in total, and I spent my entire workday on the road and in that library. I’m not complaining, it is what had to be done. I met on my first personal trip alone Mary Lou McGuire, to whom I owe all of the visuals for this project. Without her, the website would be a wall of text. Parts of it still is due to lack of visuals about Newport (it’s a small town). Anyways, McGuire was very interested in my project with Kerrin and I talked to her about what we were doing. I mentioned the photos I was finding, and she offered to scan them. I owe her as many thanks that are humanly possible.
Kerrin was extremely useful when it came to making timelines, figuring out what we should do with visuals, and the overall organization of the website. I may have done most of the research, and the pages that have walls of text, but she organized all of it into timelines someone can read and actually understand what the website is about. Without Kerrin, this project would be very bland looking, and there would not be any timelines that digest the information I found while researching. She also created the wonderful introduction page that will actually catch the attention of some people into reading my paragraphs of research that only a handful of people are even aware exists. I just checked, as of 12:03 12/11/2017, the words Finns, Finland, and Finnish do not exist on the Wikipedia page for Newport, New Hampshire. Kerrin and I have truly made something special.
A lot of our information comes from our initial source, so I think the biggest challenge for Kerrin and I was justifying why anything we were doing was important, new, or why it mattered. What Kerrin and I did was we put Olli Turpeinen information on the internet for anyone to read. We did not just do that however. What we have done indirectly is gotten Newport’s history before the Finns to talk to Newport during and after the Finns. I could never find direct evidence about this on the website, but something Kerrin found in her research is something I have noticed as well. She commented on her timeline that Finns needed to be declared white by a US federal judge, and his name is William A Cant.
Turpeinen does not talk about this much, but I got the impression that Finns were separated from the rest of Newport for decades. He talks about how the Finns “discovered” tomatoes, ketchup, and pizza, and various other foods and condiments throughout his book. He says it was because of the language barrier, and while that is a part of it, it just feels incomplete. They were also from another country, which is certainly part of it. Turpeinen does not want to talk about anything negative about the Finnish community nor Newport’s other residents, they might as well not exist when the Finns are around. Other than the fact he admitted that they were poor and that there were massive political debates between Socialists, Communists, and the Finnish temperance movement, everything seems too perfect. It is my personal belief, (although I don’t have proof) that there was more prejudice than Turpeinen lets on between the Finns and the other non-Finnish resident of Newport. I wish I could of expressed this, but I had no sources other than instinct and a general understanding of American history of anti-immigration.
I have run into quotes saying that everyone loved the diversity, according to Finns, or people of Finnish descent that were not adults during the time of the Finnish community, which heavily declined after World War II. This is the United States during a time period of intense Nativism and anti-immigration policy, and yet other than the fact that less Finns started arriving, everything still seems okay. It paints the best picture of the Finns in Newport, and rarely mentions the other people in Newport even for a moment. There’s little evidence that the Finns ever existed in Newport, most of it is in Turpeinen’s work and the Richards Free Library. It might just because Newport is a small town, and that might be all there is to it. One thing is clear, and that this Finnish community was at least one third of Newport’s population at its height. There is no way residents were not aware of this. Yet, it is now a forgotten memory, preserved by Turpeinen, and my website that I created with Kerrin. Hopefully, this project will inspire a few to look into their own local history. If Newport has history, anyone’s town has history.
 Turpeinen, 6.
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