Finnish Headstones and Saunas in Scofield

Like many other mining districts, the town of Scofield went through a boom and bust cycle that effectively created a living ghost town. Despite the town’s current state, the Finnish immigrant community in Scofield left a lasting impact. Headstones and saunas are Scofield’s two most prominent visual features that tell the story of Utah’s immigrants from Finland.

Although Scofield, Utah is not a booming community anymore, the town still retains remnants of immigrant life. According to the 2010 US Census, Scofield housed only 24 people. However, 120 years ago, Carbon County boasted a booming mining community. While most of Utah’s Scandinavian population came in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century as Mormon converts, Finland contributed only 14 people to those early groups of Mormon migrants. Instead, the year 1890 brought most of Utah’s Finnish immigrants to Utah as miners and railway workers. By the year 1900, there were over 200 Finns in Carbon County with most of them living in a small community in Winter Quarters, a suburb just outside Scofield.

The Finns brought with them to America a desire to preserve their Finnish culture. This resulted in the building of many public and private saunas throughout Scofield. Saunas work by running water over hot stones to create steam. The saunas helped the Finns to teach their culture to the young in their company. The principle of “sisu” or internal fortitude was taught through the sauna as the Finns used the steam baths to provide both physical and spiritual cleansing.

Disaster struck Scofield’s Finnish community on May 1, 1900. An explosion in the WInter Quarters Number Four mine marked the largest mine explosion in the United States up to that point. Over 200 were numbered among the dead and many others lost that remained unaccounted for. The Finnish lost 62 of their fathers, sons, and brothers. Hit specifically hard was the Luoma family. Abe Luoma lost six sons and three grandsons in the destruction of the mine. Most of the Finns who died in the explosion were buried in the Scofield cemetery and Reverend A. Granholm, a Finnish Lutheran minister from Wyoming, came down to Scofield to dedicate the graves of the fallen Finns.

After the explosion, a majority of the Finns stayed in Scofield until the area’s mines began to cease operation in the 1920s. Even after the decline of the Scofield Finnish community, the Finns in Utah were some of the frontline advocates for greater safety for mine workers. The strikes of 1903, 1922, and 1933 featured Finns who desired to keep the period of unions alive. Despite the hardship that Finnish immigrants faced, their hearty spirit left a legacy of preserved culture and a new culture of defending and protecting their families and other immigrant workers.