On January 18, 1904, St. John Finnish Lutheran Evangelical Church was formed in Peabody. That was 120 years ago today!
Like many other immigrant groups at the turn of the 20th century, the Finnish people came to Peabody for better opportunities in the leather working factories. Forming a church was an important first step in establishing the Finnish community.
The first officers of the Church were Antii Hiltunen, Kustaa Kleemola and Antii Venalainen. The members of the council were Vihtori Make, Johan Martiila, Werner Peura and Victor Laakso. The first pastor, Gabriel Lipsanen, served at multiple Finnish churches in Massachusetts at the same time: in Peabody, Quincy, Allston and parishes in the Cape Ann area.
St. John’s Church itself was built through the collective effort and money of Finnish immigrants. In April of 1915, construction was complete on their church at 32 Ellsworth Road.
In 1936, due to the financial uncertainty of the time, the congregants came together and built their own parish house with their own hands. Once completed, they held a two day festival to celebrate.
Church services were conducted exclusively in Finnish until 1955. In the 1960s census, there were 252 first- and second-generation Finnish people living in Peabody.
Today, St. John’s Church is still at 32 Ellsworth Road.
John Wells, The Peabody Story, Essex Institute, 1972, page 488.