When the mining companies first arrived to the Keweenaw Peninsula they found a landscape dominated by vast forests of White Pine, Oak, and Maple . These forests would prove to be an incredible asset to these early mines, providing an almost never-ending supply of timber for not only the construction of everything from shaft-houses to miner’s houses, but also to help support the unstable hanging walls within the mines themselves. For some mines – especially C&H and Quincy – a vast underground forest was necessary to keep the drifts and stopes open. Very quickly this resulted in the almost complete deforestation of the entire peninsula.
This massive deforestation had one positive consequence – thousands of acres of practically cleared land that could now be used to grow crops. This was great news to majority of Finnish immigrants, who quickly left the harsh underground conditions at the mines to move out into this recently cleared countryside to began farming – a traditional Finnish lifestyle. Soon small farming communities popped up such as Paavola, Salo, and Waasa. Named after the Finnish town of Vaasa (which was originally spelled with a “W”), the Waasa Cemetery was established after the turn of the century to serve the Finnish population of these farming communities.
NOTES: The Waasa Cemetery sits just off a paved road, accessed by a short length of dirt two-track. Though the cemetery is surrounded by trees, there is no shade provided along its length. The older graves are sprinkled throughout the grounds which are still used today.
DIRECTIONS: The Waasa Cemetery sits along Waasa Road north-west of Hancock. From Hancock, follow M203 out of town for 7.5 miles until arriving at Waasa Road on the right. Turn down the road and follow it for two more miles. The cemetery is on the right about one half mile past Salo Road.
FOR MORE INFO: A complete inventory of the Waasa Cemetery can be found at the Michigan Tech Archives website.