From: “NEW YORK MILLS -75 Years of Progress 1884-1959”
Esaias (Esa) Johnson (Hyyppa) was born n Isokyro, Finland in 1867. His wife, Liisa
(Nikula) was born in 1866 also in Isokyro Finland. They came to America in 1886
and first went to live in Ashtabula, Ohio. From there they traveled to Duluth
Minnesota where they were married 30 May 1887. Esa changed his name in Duluth
because very few people could pronounce “Esaias Hyyppa”.
Esa was hurt in Duluth while working on the docks. A rock fell on his left shoulder
and injured him for life. He didn’t receive any compensation as an injured employee
would receive today. Instead, he was forced to change occupations.
The Johnson’s moved to New York Mills Minnesota in 1889 and bought a farm known
today as the John Fiskari farm in Newton Township. They farmed it until 1896 when
they sold the farm and bought their neighbor’s farm from Henry Hendrickson. The
Hendrickson’s had lost their house when a fire raged through the area in 1894. The
fire had started from a railroad engine. The Hendrickson’s had to pile their belongings
into a wagon and move it to a plowed field to be safe from the spreading fire.
Esa and Liisa had to rebuild the house, barn and garage from logs and lived in this farm
until 1910. All of their children, except Ida, who was born in Duluth, were born on
this farm in Newton Township. The Johnson children are known in the area by the
following names: Hilma Bjorn, John Johnson, Olga Nissi, Anna Patron, Lydia K.,
Andy Johnson and George Johnson. One daughter, Hilja, died
at the age of two years.
There were many hardships as the family grew. Olga Nissi remembers her father
rented the Gust Maattala farm for many years, and Esa’s children at the ages of
eight, nine and ten years had to shock the grain and be on the hay loads. She
also remembers her brother, John ill with smallpox but never seeing a doctor.
Another incident remembered is that of lightning striking the schoolhouse,
killing one child, Hilma Poti, and injuring many other children.
A visit from friends who lived in Brockett, North Dakota convinced the Johnson
family to leave New York Mills in 1910. They were told they could get rich in a
hurry. Instead they found a very dry summer with very poor grain and hay crops.
The Johnson children picked cowchips that summer to burn in the cook stove since
there wasn’t any wood available. There was very little money. Olga remembers not
having money to buy a two-cent stamp to mail a letter. The family sold butter
and eggs; but in the stores they could only exchange them for groceries….no one
gave cash. During that time, the Johnson family lost their farm although they were
allowed to rent it until 1919.
The flu epidemic in 1918 also swept through North Dakota. Funerals were held
everyday and this continued for weeks. The Johnson family lost their youngest son,
George, and a 24 year old brother-in-law. Then in 1919, Liisa died and the family
returned to New York Mills Minnesota. Esa married Mary Lind, the widow of Andrew
Lind, in 1920. They had two children: Roy Hendrick who died in 1940 and Irene
who currently live in Minneapolis. The only surviving child of Esa and Liisa is Olga
Nissi. She married Waino Nissi in 1920 and they lived on the Nissi Farm until 1952
when they moved into New York Mills due to Waino’s illness. Olga and Waino
had two children. Their son, Waino Jr. was killed in Germany in April 1945 while in
the service and is buried in Holland. Their daughter, Marilyn, is married to Thomas and
they live in Hibbing, Minnesota with her family of two boys. Since Waino Nissi’s death
in 1967, Olga has been living in her home in New York Mills.