In the 1880s large numbers of Finns immigrated to Hancock to labor in the copper and lumber industries. One immigrant, mission pastor, J. K. Nikander of the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, headquartered in Hancock, wanted to ensure seminary training in America. He observed that Swedish and Finnish along the Delaware River did not train new ministers and he feared a loss of Finnish identity. In 1896, Nikander founded Suomi College. The college's role was to preserve Finnish culture, train Lutheran ministers and teach English. During the 1920s Suomi became a liberal arts college. In 1958 the seminary separated from the college. Four years later the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church of America merged with other mainstream Lutheran churches.