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Surrounded by Maple Grove Township, the village of Kaleva is in Manistee County, in the Northwestern Lower Peninsula of Michigan.

Incorporated in 1948, Kaleva has always been a small town. First appearing on the census rolls in 1850 with a population of 346, its peak population was 509 in 2000, and the village currently has a population of about 460. However, despite its size, the community has stores, restaurants, churches, a barbershop, beauty shop, flower shop, school bank, library, lumber company, funeral home, telephone company, doctor's office, and a fire department.

Other villages within twenty miles of Kaleva include Bear Lake, Onekama, Copemish, Thompsonville, Mesick, Harrietta, and Eastlake, while the nearest incorporated city is Manistee, just over twenty miles to the northwest.

While the area was heavily logged prior to that time, the first European-American settlers in the area were Jaakko (Jacob) E. Saari, a Brooklyn, New York native, who was employed by the Michigan Land Society to found a Finnish settlement at this junction of the Pere Marquette Railway and the Manistee & Northeastern Railroad. The railroads had already established a station there, known as Manistee Crossing. John Haksluoto came with Mr. Saari, building a home there in 1894.

The Michigan Land Company employed J.E. Merritt to plat a townsite in on February 6, 1894, and a post office was established as Crossing on January 20, 1900, with Frank Schimmel as the first postmaster. At that time, a man by the name of J.T. White operated a store in the area, and there were a few log cabins.

The town became known as Kaleva after the Michigan Land Society's land agent, Jaakko E. Saari, became successful in his efforts to recruit Finnish immigrants to settle the area. Early Finnish settlers included the families of Jaakko Lemponen, Kalle Hendrickson, Matti Kemppainen, Antti Myllyla, and John Palomaki, and the first Finnish child born in Kaleva was Vieno Haksluoto Hagelberg Kaskinen. The town took its name from an epic Finnish poem, Kalevala. The post office changed its name to Kaleva on January 20, 1900.

The new immigrants were not thrilled with what they found upon their arrival. The land company had advertised Kaleva's productive land, the abundance of timber, lakes, and dairylands. What they found upon their arrival was that the land had been raped of its virgin timber, had become unproductive, and was a tax burden for the lumber barons who had taken all they could from it.

While the lumber companies had stripped the land of its valuable timber, they had left stumps everywhere. Even its streets were impeded by stumps. The land was not very fertile, as it was mostly covered by stumps, brush, or swamps.

Having, for the most part, purchased land sight unseen, many of those who could afford to do so left for better opportunities. Those who had spent everything they had to acquire the land and fares remained and built a town. They cleared their land, built their houses, and raised families.

The Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church, now known as Bethany Lutheran Church, was founded on January 12, 1902. Kalevatar, a Temperance Society, was founded that same day, with its Temperance Hall located next to the church.

Originally, Kaleva students attended a small school southwest of the village. The first school in Kaleva was built in 1904. It burned in 1912, and was rebuilt in 1914, at which time School District No. 5 in Maple Grove Township voted to change from a K-8 primary school system to a K-12 graded school system, and Kaleva High School was accredited on June 30, 1928. In 1935, several of the surrounding rural schools were consolidated into the Kaleva Rural Agricultural School, and the Kaleva School consolidated with the Norman Dickson Township Schools in 1963, becoming the Kaleva Norman Dickson School System, which is based in the unincorporated community of Brethren, about five miles south of Kaleva. Its combined middle school and high school is in Brethren, and there is an elementary school campus in Kaleva and Wellston.

Now a branch of FMB Security Banks, the Bank of Kaleva was established in 1912. Electric lights and electric power became possible in Kaleva in 1926, and the village was incorporated in 1948.

Although Kaleva is no longer primarily a Finnish community, several descendants of the early Finnish immigrants remain in the village.

The focus of this category is on the village of Kaleva, Michigan. Online resources representing the village or any businesses, industries, schools, churches, organizations, attractions, or events within the village are appropriate topics for this part of our guide.



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