Maine’s Finnish immigrants settled in the Mid-coast region, in Oxford county, and in Piscataquis county, establishing homes, farms, and communities in towns including Waldoboro, Friendship, Thomaston, Rockland, South Paris, and Monson. Like most immigrants, they came seeking a better life, and despite some hardships in their new homeland, they found it.
Maine’s Finns have kept their heritage alive, passing down traditional recipes, music, and dances through generations. Local historical museums not only preserve the culture but also offer classes, programs, exhibits, and lessons to sustain it.
For a sampling of Maine’s Finnish culture, explore the following (note: most museums and events are seasonal):
- The Finnish Heritage House, in South Thomaston, has a small museum with exhibits, a weekly bake sale, classes and lessons in kantele (Finnish lap harp) and the Finnish language. It also hosts an annual Finn Fling celebration with Finnish food, live music, and other activities.
- The Finnish American Heritage Society of Maine, in West Paris, is located in the former Maple House, a boarding house for immigrant Finnish men. Visit the second-floor museum, library, archives, and a gift shop.
- Seek out a performance by The Maine Kanteles, a musical group formed in 2000 in South Paris, or a kantele-making workshop by Kantele Laulu.
- Step out in Monson, home to the Monson Historical Society, which has information on the region’s Finnish heritage, and the Finnish Farmers Club, which has held Finn dances since 1935.