John A. Falk was born on a farm in Dalsand, Sweden, on February 6, 1864; the son of Andrew Johnson Falk and Maja Lisa Eriksdotter. John grew up in a family of ten children and attended school in his home village of Grinstad. A family crisis occurred when John was 15 years old which changed his life forever. His father encountered severe financial reverses including the loss of the family farm. John and his siblings, who were old enough to work, were forced to fend for themselves.
Though a mere youth, he was lucky enough to find a job on a neighboring farm watching cattle. John must have impressed the farmer as a hardworking and reliable employee. The following year he was hired on as a regular farm hand. He earned 48 kroners per month which amounted to about $12.00 in American money.
Longing for a better life and a chance to help his parents and younger siblings, John resolved to immigrate to America. He received letters from friends in the United States telling him of the wondrous opportunities for advancement there. They were earning up to $27.00 per month or the equivalent of 100 kroners. However, there was a major barrier to John’s plans to come to America which must have seemed almost as large as the Atlantic Ocean. That obstacle was the cost of passage on a ship bound for the United States. Then John remembered that he had a maternal uncle who had been in America for several years and lived in Corning, New York. John wrote to his uncle and asked for assistance. His uncle responded by sending him a $29.00, one-way ticket on the White Star liner Adriatic, bound for New York City. John arrived in New York on April 1, 1882, and three days later was visiting with his uncle in Corning. John’s first job in America was as a railroad construction worker earning $1.50 per day, but he did not stay in New York long.
Eighteen year old John Falk arrived by boat in Manistique, Michigan, on September 28, 1882. He soon found a job as a mill hand in the Chicago Lumbering Company sawmill earning $1.62 per day. Falk worked in the mill for approximately three years before moving on to work at the Weston Lumber Company General Store on Deer Street, remaining there for ten years. Along the way, Falk took advantage of an opportunity to increase his education. In the fall of 1899, he traveled to Chicago and enrolled in a business course. After completing the course, Falk returned to Manistique and the Company Store in the spring of 1890.
In 1895, he resigned his position at the Weston Lumber Company General Store and went into partnership with John Anderson forming “Falk and Anderson Grocers.” This partnership lasted until 1899 when Falk sold out his share of the company and entered a new partnership with E. W. Miller in another grocery. This grocery was located in the former Weston Lumber Company General Store building on Deer Street.
Falk became the sole owner of the grocery soon after and continued in business there until 1918. Retiring for a few years, he opened a hardware store in the same location on March 15, 1923. His was the only hardware located on the west side of Manistique. Falk continued in the hardware business until 1939 when he retired for good.
Falk was married in 1904 to Elvira Backwell and the couple had two children, Paul and Elizabeth. He also owned a 160 acre farm about four miles east of Manistique. He passed away on July 15, 1945 at age 81.