Peter Niemela and Maria Pietila of Kemi, Finland, were married in 1864 during a severe famine in their region. They soon moved to Hammerfest, Norway, one of the most northern towns in the world. In a place known for spring cod runs and northern lights shows, the Niemelas lived in Hammerfest for eight years and began a family with their firstborn daughters, Ida and Catherine.
News of Michigan's employment opportunities brought the young family across the Atlantic to Calumet, Michigan in 1873. There, daughter Ida married John Limatta at age 17 just months before most of her family moved to Klickitat County, Washington in 1883.