Filed Under Religion

Long Valley Finnish Church

The Long Valley Finnish Church was a crucial meeting place for Finnish Lutherans. The building continues to serve and educate the people of the area to this day.

Following decades of struggle for independence from the Russian government and its anti-Finnish policies, numerous Finns left their homeland to migrate to the United States in search of religious and political freedom. Between 1900 and 1930, about 85 Finnish families traveled to Idaho and settled in Long Valley, southwest of Clear Creek and southeast of Hurday Creek. The Long Valley Finnish settlement became the largest Finnish community in the state of Idaho, centered around the Lutheran Church and celebrating Finnish culture.

These Finnish settlers took advantage of the 1862 Homestead Act, which allowed any adult citizen or intended citizen who had never fought against the United States government to claim 160 acres of land surveyed by the government. Contrary to popular perception, this land was not empty but had long been occupied by the Shoshone and Nimíipuu. The Homestead Act required the new property owners to live on and cultivate the land, leading most of the Long Valley Finns to become farmers or loggers.

The Lutheran Church was the foundation of the Long Valley Finnish community.  This community of worship established a physical location in 1917, when they built the Long Valley Finnish Church on an acre plot in Lake Fork, Idaho. The main hall of the church is forty-eight feet long and twenty-six feet wide, supplying ample space to worship and gather. The Long Valley Finnish Church was a cornerstone for the Finns as a place for the people to worship according to their Lutheran faith and come together as a community. People living in the area still use the chapel to this day for select worship services, funerals, and more.

Long Valley Finnish Church stands approximately 350 feet southwest of the Finnish cemetery where the majority of Finnish immigrants were laid to rest. Finnish Ladies Aid Society maintains and preserves the building, which today is one of the only remaining artifacts in Idaho representing the Finnish migration to the state.

Images

Lasting legacy
Lasting legacy The Long Valley Finnish Church in the twenty-first century. Source: “Finnish Church Lakefork Id.” PKOSKIE (pseud.), May 26, 2013. Via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0). https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Finnish_Church_Lakefork_Id.jpg.
Sanctuary
Sanctuary Photograph of the church’s interior. Source: Contributed by Cooper Leaf.
Life and afterlife
Life and afterlife Note the church’s proximity to the cemetery. Source: Patricia Wright, 1979. Courtesy of the Idaho State Historical Society.

Location

13734 Farm to Market Rd, McCall, ID 83638

Metadata

Cooper Leaf, College of Idaho, “Long Valley Finnish Church,” Intermountain Histories, accessed June 23, 2024, https://www.intermountainhistories.org/items/show/626.