Kinna Family

Jaak Kinna and his family homesteaded in the Eckville area. In 1914, he donated  land for the Gilby (Kalmu) Cemetery The Kinna's are another fine example of a pioneer family contributing to the development of the Eckville area in the early 20th century. John Kinna was born in 1854 in Waimela, Estonia. In 1903 John, along with his wife Marie and their five children, immigrated to Canada and settled on a homestead north of Eckville, adjacent to the Medicine River. John and his sons soon built a five-room, two-storey house from surrounding trees. John and Marie lived here until 1942 when they retired from homesteading to take up a quiet life in the town of Eckville.

In 1903, John and Marie Kinna settled on a homestead north of Eckville, Alberta. Here they are thirty years later. John's background as a labourer in Estonia facilitated the cultivation of land in Alberta's rugged wilderness. John was well trained in leather work and often repaired shoes, mittens, and harnesses. The topography around Eckville also provided ideal fishing locations. John's first significant purchase was in livestock when he bought four cows and numerous chickens. When Killick's General Store opened its doors, the Kinna family delivered butter and eggs in exchange for other groceries. To earn additional revenue, the Kinnas contracted a modest mail route and made three trips a week to neighboring towns and villages. A horse-drawn sleigh equipped with a tent, food and bedding was used to deliver the mail. The family's earnings typically went toward the purchase of farm tools and livestock.

Son of John and Marie Kinna, Fritz Kinna was actively involved in the community of Medicine Valley area of Alberta. He built windmills, dams, and served as a director for the Eckville Co-operative Association. The Kinna's often butchered pigs at home and produced a variety of pork products. Sausages, lard, smoked hams and blood sausages were mixed with barley to create traditional Estonian cuisine. Since canning had not yet been widely developed, root vegetables stored in the cellar were frequently used. Rye and oats were the first crops grown. Marie would use the oats to create "kiisla", another popular Estonian meal.

In 1909 John's son Fritz began establishing plans for building and operating a water-powered mill adjacent to the Medicine River. A dam and a 50-yard canal were also to be built. The project was successfully completed in 1912, and farmers soon arrived from miles around to pay the Kinnas to grind grain.

Jaak Kinna donated land for the Gilby-Kalmu Cemetery in 1914. The plaque was erected by the Medicine Valley Estonian Society in 1980 in remembrance of Jaak Kinna's donation. John and Marie died in 1950. They had six children, all born in Estonia.

Fritz was born 30 September 1881 in Waimela, Estonia. He was an active member of the Eckville community participating in school board functions and serving as a director for the Eckville Co-operative Association.

Olga was born 29 March 1883. She married Charlie Raabis and they farmed north of Eckville until Charlie's death in 1942. She later moved to Eckville, spending much of her leisure time oil painting.

Minnie was born 9 October 1886. She was a school teacher until she married Varley Buchanan. As a result of the union, they collectively became proprietors of the Benalto Hotel.

Arthur was born 31 May 1889 and quickly developed an aptitude for playing the violin; this later gave him the opportunity to travel to San Francisco. He homesteaded north of Eckville for a short period. Later, he operated the Benalto general store and post office.

Ernest was born 3 March 1901. He married Ena Woima and lived on their farm in the Kuusamo district of Estonia.

Alberta's Estonian Heritage