by Alan Virta
A local newspaper in Idaho reveals why Antti Wilhelm Sivola was coming to America aboard the Titanic. On May 4, 1912, the Elmore County Republican, in Mountain Home, published this report at the head of a column entitled “Local Brevities” :
“The Republican has just received information to the effect that among the list of passengers aboard the Titanic was one, Andrew Sihvola [sic], a young man of Finland, who was enroute to Mountain Home where he was to have received employment with Mr. A. Honga, an old friend of Mr. Sihvola’s father.”
Three paragraphs down in the same column is a clue as to what sort of work was intended for young Sivola: “Adolph Lahtinen left Thursday morning for the sheep camp of Honga & Lahtinen, with supplies for the camp.”
Antti Sivola’s prospective employer, Andrew (Antti) Honga , was a Finnish-American sheepman who worked in partnership with his brother-in-law Adolph (Adolf) Lahtinen in the sheep outfit they named for themselves. They both immigrated to the United States from Finland in the 1890s, established themselves in the sheep business in Idaho, and then brought their families over from Finland to join them. Their wives were sisters.
The Lahtinens came to America aboard the S.S. St. Louis in 1901; the Hongas came a year later, also on the St. Louis. According to the U.S. census, they were the only Finnish families living in Mountain Home at the time. Adolph Lahtinen’s obituary, published in 1941, describes how he entered the sheep business:
“He was born in Finland 76 years ago , coming to the United States in 1893, working in various eastern and middle western communities in the lumber industry and also in the mines of Alaska. He came to Mountain Home about 1900 going in for sheep after some experience in that line in Oregon.”
By 1902 the Idaho Statesman newspaper in Boise listed the partnership of Honga & Lahtinen as one of the thirteen “most extensive” sheep dealers in Elmore County. Though their families lived in Mountain Home, a small railroad town in the midst of treeless sagebrush desert, Honga and Lahtinen kept their flocks in more hospitable forested lands that were at least one day’s horseback ride, if not two or three (depending on the season), from town. The sheep required constant tending by shepherds who lived with them for weeks and months at a time at remote camps. If Antti Sivola was coming to join his countrymen to work for them in their sheep business, he probably would have started as a shepherd at their sheep camps.
A year after Antti Sivola lost his life in the Titanic disaster, Andrew Honga and Adolph Lahtinen liquidated their sheep business. Honga and his family moved to the Pacific coast, eventually settling in Long Beach, California. The Lahtinen family stayed in the Elmore County area, engaging in cattle ranching and bee keeping.
Background of the Honga and Lahtinen families is found in the book Crossroads: A History of the Elmore County Area, by Sandra Ransel and Charles Durand (Mountain Home, Idaho: Elmore County Historical Research Team, 1985), pp. 239-241.
Elmore County Republican, May 4, 1912, page 6 (Titanic report); and its successor Mountain Home Republican, June 5, 1941, page 1 (Lahtinen obituary). On microfilm at the Idaho State Archives, Boise.
Idaho Statesman (Boise, Idaho) contains frequent news of the Honga and Lahtinen families of Mountain Home and their business enterprises. A digital version of the newspaper, the Idaho Statesman Historical Archive, is available via the Boise Public Library. Microfilm available at the Idaho State Archives and the Boise State University Library.