Whether you talk about gold prospectors today or during the time of Grand Duchy of Finland under the rule of Russian tsar, human destinies are the most fascinating topic in colorful gold history of Lapland. Stories tell about failures, tremendous luck, not forgetting about tragicomic and romantic features.
One of the characters of gold history by the turn of 1910s and 1920s was Charles Hill aka Kaarlo Sjöblom. He was American Finnish who had born in Finland in 1881 and moved to Americas in 1902 to avoid illegal military service call-ups (by Russian Empire). Charles succeeded especially in the goldfields of Alaska. He returned to Finland in fall 1919 as a rich man and headed towards River Ivalojoki gold area. He used the experience he had gained in Alaskan gold fields. He also was initiative when a gold company was founded and claims bought in the area of River Ivalojoki and Palsioja. Base was at Ritakoski and during winter 1920-21 test drilling was started and research was carried on.
Story tells Charles Hill left on horseback towards Ivalo village and hospital in April 1921 to get treatment for the bad infection in his hand. Right after Ritakoski the ice broke under the horse and its rider and Charles drowned meeting his destiny in the icy waters of the river. His horse returned to the base and thus brought the information of sad accident. Hill’s workers found his body in water couple of days later and pulled it up. Later, it has been told the horse is occasionally still haunting at the valley of River Ivalojoki, galloping restless and looking for its master. Photo: Archives of Gold Prospector Museum.
Sylvia Petronella Antoinette van der Moer arrived in Finland early summer 1949. Dutch journalist spent her time first in Helsinki area and then headed northwards. In Rovaniemi she met geologist Klaus Säynäjärvi and his French colleagues on their journey to northern Lapland and goldfields. Petronella got interested in northern prospecting and prospectors and she ended up to be part of the geologists’ group. They went all the way to Lemmenjoki through Pahaoja and Ivalojoki Kultala. In Lemmenjoki, Petronella was helping the regular cook Tyyne Tähti in cleaning, cooking and other daily chores. In the end of September Petronella, together with few prospectors, left to Ivalo to get more supplies. However, she never returned as police arrested her in Ivalo due to unpaid bills in southern Finland and expired passport. There were also other accusations such as her being a spy but those never appeared to be true. She was expelled from Finland 8th of October 1949 due to expiry of her passport.
Despite her short time in Lapland gold prospectors never forgot Petronella. They tried to get short-term visa for her in summer 1951 but did not succeed. Even after that, prospectors tried to contact her without luck but it was known Petronella moved later to USA and had a daughter. Things cleared up in spring 2014 when Jennifer O’Connell, artist and wilderness guide, wrote about Petronella’s decease in her blog. Jennifer got to know Petronella as her neighbor and also Petronella’s daughter Solange. One of the last wishes Petronella had was a part of her ashes should be scattered in Lapland, Lemmenjoki area. In summer 2014 Solange and Jennifer came to Lapland and together with couple of today’s gold prospectors they scattered Petronella’s ashes on Lemmenjoki fjelds and the urn with rest of her ashes was placed in certain part meant for gold prospectors and special persons in gold history at Inari cemetery. Petronella had returned for good in the place where she had left part of her heart decades earlier. Photo: Gold Prospector Museum, the collection of Mr. Viljo Mäkipuro.