Maria Susanna Ytterberg—1892 to 1927

Maria Ytterberg c. 1910

My grandmother was Maria Susanna Ytterberg. She was born March 18, 1892 in Brookfield, Washington. Other than the family Bible page, there is no record of her birth, though it's likely she was baptized.

She was the second daughter and fourth child a a rather large family of girls. There were only two boys who grew to adulthood.

Maria's Family

Maria's parents were Karl Emil Ytterberg and Eva Kreta Kenttä, both of whom had emigrated from Alatornio, Finland.

Karl arrived first sometime between 1880 and 1884, when he shows up declaring his intention to naturalize. In Ilmonen's book listing Finns throughout the US, there is a Kalle Ydenberg shown for Deep River, Washington for 1884 and with him, his eventual brother-in-law, Emil Pongala, also from Alatornio.

Esther, Maria, and Ida Ytterberg

I don't know when Eva Kenttä arrived, but she married Karl in 1885 in Astoria.

Both Karl and Eva came from Tornio and Alatornio in Northern Finland ... the towns are literally on the Swedish Finnish border just south of the Arctic Circle. In 1870, Karl's father, Nils Ytterberg, remarried after the death of Karl's mother, Brita Gustafsdotter Rajala. His second wife was Maria Stina Kenttä, Eva's aunt, so it's likely that Karl and Eva knew each other from childhood. The Ytterbergs were bookbinders, a professional craft that was governed by a guild system.

Eva's parents were Nils Nilsson Kenttä and Maria Helena Nilsdotter Flygell. As far as I know they were farmers.

Eva and Karl first lived in Astoria, then moved across the Columbia River to a tiny town called Eden, where he became the postmaster. Many of their children, including my grandmother, were born in Washington. A couple of the children are buried in the pioneer cemetery in Eden. They moved back across the river with their children and continued to reproduce. By 1896, he and Eva had had 8 children (3 boys and 5 girls), but all the boys had died. From 1896–1904, they added another five children to their brood, including two boys, Adam and Oney, who did survive to adulthood.

In the 1900 census, Karl used "Charles Utterberg" as his name. He is shown living on a farm in Crooked River, Wahkiakum County, Washington. On an adjacent farm, John (Emil) Pongala lives with his wife, Ida Kenttä Pongala—later known by all the children and grandchildren as "Auntie Pongala".

After 1900, the family moved back to Astoria. Then in 1905, Karl got sick and died at the tender age of 48, leaving Eva, age 40, with 10 kids ranging in age of 16 to 1 year. I'm surprised Eva didn't give out first. It takes a lot of energy to produce that many babies. Eventually, the boys went to sea as fishermen and the girls, with the notable exception of Jennie and Louise who were tall, became the little tiny, round Finnish aunts of my childhood.

My grandmother was 13 when her father died. My cousin, Jeannette Riutta (Manzanita, Oregon) says that her mother, Marie's sister Ida, met her husband John Riutta, while working for Auntie Pongala at the boarding house. I believe Auntie Pongala was Ida Justina Kenttä, Eva's younger sister. Ida, arrived in Astoria around 1895, married John Pongala and set up housekeeping. (According to the Rippakirja for Alatornio (1859-68), Nils Kenttä had six daughters: Emma Karolina (b. 1859), Maria Amanda (b. 1861), Eva Kreta, Brita (b. 1866), Josephine (b. 1869), and the youngest, Ida Justina (b. 1873).

Eventually, Auntie Pongala pulled up stakes and moved to Yakima, Washington with her family. [Note: She was evidently something of a skinflint and not above taking advantage of having her many nieces and nephews come to their farm in Yakima were they would be expected to pick apples in the orchard during harvest. All of the Pongala family died out by the 1980s.]

Marriage & children

John & Maria Nyman

My grandparents were married right before Christmas, 1915. My grandfather, John Nyman, and Axel Wickstrom must have been doing pretty well, because he was able to buy the house on Taylor from his mother-in-law, Eva.

[Eva had remarried in 1906 a recent immigrant, a Finnish widower named Henry Krum, who had several children of his own. (The whole crowd is listed on the 1910 census.) The Ytterberg-Krum alliance was NOT well-regarded by the Ytterberg children. It was believed that Krum, considered aptly named, had sold off all Eva's possessions so by her death in 1922, the remaining 'children' were destitute.]

Mabel & Ray Nyman

Maria had three children: Mabel, Ray August, and George Henry. All were born at home at 465 Taylor Street.

Mabel Johanna was the oldest, born in 1916. August Ray, the oldest son, was born in 1917 about two weeks before John's run in with the law. [John was supposed to have registered for the draft, but didn't make the deadline. Front page articles in the Daily Astorian carry the account of his notoriety for "slacking". He was sentenced to 18 hours in the Multnomah County Jail by a Federal court judge in Portland.)

George Henry was the youngest born on January 6, 1920. The 1920 census taken on January 8 doesn't mention him, John's name is misspelled, and there are other small errors. It appears that the information must have been provided by neighbors or Maria's sisters, who were most certainly in and out.

George Nyman c. 1920

Illness in the 1920s

Maria's life in the 1920s was dominated primarily by illness. The cause of death given on her death certificate was chronic nephritis.

As her health declined, her sisters pitched in to do what they could to help. When she needed groceries, Maria would put a red handkechief on the clothes line and someone would be sent to fetch what she needed.

She was described as very sweet and kind. Her husband considered to be a bit of a crabby old man by the nieces and nephews, but he was probably under a fair amount of stress during those years.

As her illness progressed, the pain increased and her sister, Ida, told of how by the time she died, she had pulled all the curl out of her naturally curly hair.

The night before she died, Maria told Ida that she had a dream that Jesus was coming to get her on a "white ship". She died the morning of June 11, 1927 and was buried in the family plot at Greenwood Cemetery.

The Vacuum

Whatever else can be said about her, Maria's death left a huge hole in the Nyman family. John was devastated and though he took up with other women over the years, he never remarried. The children, left to their own devices, floundered painfully during adolescence and young adulthood.

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