Vittisbofjärd in Satakunda -
A Journey along the old Post Road
by Gunnar Nybond
Carl Bergqvist's "Wäge Charta öfwer
Finland och Norrland" från
1757 i "Vägvisare til och ifrån
alla städer och namnkunniga orter, uti Svea- och Götariken,
samt Stor-Förstendömet Finland" published by Georg Biurman
Part of the map above between Christinæstad
On January 1, 1973 the southern Ostrobothnian communities
of Sideby, Lappfjärd
and Tjöck were incorporated into the city of Kristinestad. On the
same day the parishes of Hvittisbofjärd and Björneborg were
united to become the city of Björneborg. Sastmola was left as a "buffer
zone" between the two newly incorporated cities. The old name "Hvittisbofjärd"
is still used in bilingual context in its modernized form Vittisbofjärd,
but this place is today more commonly known as Ahlainen, just as Sastmola
is known as Merikarvia.
Before the road between Lappfjärd
and Björneborg was built (it was approved after a final inspection
in 1801), the population in the southernmost part of Ostrobothnia had
more active contact with the villagers in Sastmola and Vittisbofjärd
than after the road was completed. The only navigable road to Björneborg
and further to Åbo namely the old Post Road from the time
of Per Brahe (1) passed through these places.
The population in the villages along the coast was predominantly Swedish
speaking. When a markedly strong immigration from the south to Sideby
and Lappfjärd occurred, there were no obstacles related to language.
Family ties to the home villages were long preserved, and there were
frequent visits to Björneborg. The church records from the turn
of the century in 1800 provide evidence of how frequently the residents
moved between locations. Many people came as farmhands and maids or
craftsmen. Some began new lives as crofters or settlers. Some had the
economic means to buy already claimed land. Among the new
settlements in Sideby that were populated partly or entirely from
Vittisbofjärd were Kallträsk, Hedkrok, Storsjö, and Norrback.
Why was it Vittisbofjärd in particular
that contributed to such a population increase in Sideby?
I addressed this question in my book Soldiers, Crofters and
Farmers.(2). I suggested the possibility that the
parishes in nearby Björneborg were by that time somewhat overpopulated
and had a shortage of land for settlements, while in Sideby there was
a surplus of land for settlers after the "storskiftet"(3)
in the 18th century that was available for settlers looking for land.
Let us consider these circumstances a little more closely.
A rare parish name
In days of old Vittisbofjärd belonged to the larger Ulvsby parish,
as did the Sastmola and Sideby church villages. While Vittisbofjärd
had "chapel rights" by 1693, it did not become an independent
parish until 1908. In the intervening period, the parish chapel had
to abide by the rules of the Norrmark rectory for a time. The Vittisbofjärd
municipality was about the same size as the Sideby municipality before
merging with Björneborg, 185 square km compared to 205 square km
for Sideby. The number of inhabitants in each place was also similar,
approximately 1,500 persons each.
The name Hvittisbofjärd in its old written form is directly
related to the name "Hvittis," or the Finnish designation
"Huittinen". As we know, Huittinen was located east of the
present-day Kumo or Kokemäki (further up along the river with the
same name), which is presently a community of approximately 10,000 inhabitants.
Kumo was probably already an important central location in the
river valley when the population was converted to Christianity, which
ostensibly occurred during the second half of the 1100s, according to
the legend about Bishop Henrik and the farmer Lalli. The division of
Kumo, the mother parish, in the 1300s resulted in Hvittis (Huittinen)
and Ulvsby. Ulvsby subsequently gave rise to other communities; e.g.,
the city of Björneborg and the parishes of Norrmark, Nakkila, Sastmola,
The new way of spelling Hvittis in Swedish was "Vittis."
During the Middle Ages, the residents of Vittis maintained their sea-fishing
grounds outside the mouth of the Kumo River. It was only natural that
the villagers of Vittisbofjärd used the name of the "bay ("bay"
is "fjärd" in Swedish) of the villagers of Vittis"
to designate the collective name for the settlements in the region when
the new parish was organized.
"The original population"
It is unknown if the original population along the coast and in the
archipelago spoke Swedish, Finnish, or both languages. But as the Swedish
sovereignty gradually took form after the time of the crusades in religious
and financial as well as in judicial and military matters,
Swedish became the dominant language. The farms and villages were given
Swedish names, as were the islets, skerries, bays, and straits in the
archipelago. This would hardly have happened if the coastal population
at that time had not been Swedish speaking, presumably even before the
Catholic Church and Swedish sovereign state authority entered the arena.
Swedish was the official language during the entire Swedish time and
even during the period of Russian rule for more that half of the19th
century. In Vittisbofjärd as elsewhere all of the
church books, minutes, official reports, and different types of registers
were recorded in Swedish until the 1860s.
Villages, farms and crofters holdings (4)
The names of the villages in Vittisbofjärd
were (according to the old writing conventions) Öfverby, Nederby,
Kjellfjerd, and Lampis. Only Lampis had a Finnish name in the Swedicized
form. The names of these villages were later changed to Ylikylä,
Alakylä, Kellahti, and Lamppi.
Hwittisbofiärds Öfre By. Part of the land
survey map of Vittisbofjärd by Daniel Ekman 1730. Source: 1600-luvun
Vittisbofjärd bell tower based on a construction
by C.F.Engel, built in 1832 and the church in Nederby built under the
direction of Salomon Köykkä - Köhlström in 1796.
Very few of the homesteads in Vittisbofjärd in the 1700s and 1800s
were owned by independent farmers or so-called "bördabönder",
who could leave their land and their inheritance to their children.
During the Swedish Time, the largest portion of land was acquired by
the estate owners, the commissioners of the military "rusthålls,"
and the civilian class. Farms exempted from land dues to the Crown ("frälsehemman")
and the so-called "augmentshemman" (homesteads that supported
the "rusthålls") further served the purpose of the Crown.
A large part of the Björneborg cavalry regiments officer
corps appears to have lived in Vittisbofjärd.
The largest of these cavalry freeholds
( "rusthålls") were the Malmgård rusthåll
in Överby, the Nedra rusthåll in Nederby, and Källfjärd's
rusthåll. At least 5,000, possibly closer to
10,000, hectares of the land in Vittisbofjärd
belonged to and were administered by the cavalry freeholders and
landowners association. The land was cultivated by tenants
("landbönder") and crofters, who supported themselves
through paying a large part of their daily wages to the estate owners
for their tenancy. Some of the farms in the Malmgård "rusthåll"
(fi. rustholli) were the Marcus farm, the Påhls farm, the Smeds
farm, Ollgård, Pelitgård, Bengtsilä, and Tykilä.
The Zachris farm was a farm that had been exempted from land dues to
the Crown ("frälsehemman") and the Heikkilä farm
was owned by an independent farmer. A few of the many crofters
holdings in Malmgård were Bergnäs, Hallonäng, Haraholm,
Norrland, Oxjärvi (now Uksjärvi), Pirttijärvi, and Haapajärvi.
The Finnish crofters holdings were built further inland in an
area that is traversed by a highway that is now known as Road 8.
As its Swedish name indicates, Nederby
was located further down toward the sea than Överby. In addition
to the mainland territory, a large portion of the extensive archipelago
was under the jurisdiction of "Nedra Rusthållet," except
for the pilots homesteads at Lambaluoto, Bastuskär and Antora.
Most of the crofters holdings that were located on these islets
bore Swedish names, some of which are still listed on maps and nautical
charts. The following can be named in alphabetical order: Björnö,
Bockö, Busö, Emtö, Enholm, Fiskö, Giselö, Halsö,
Rankö, Risö, Räfsö, Sandö, Svartö, Tahkoluoto,
Majors and "Captains"
Källfjärds rusthåll comprised 2 1/12 mantal (assessments
of land) in the1700s and 1 1/2 mantal in the 1800s or an area of around
1600 hectares. Majors and captains including Weissman and Taube
and their families lived there. The territory that is now Kellahti
was a cavalry freehold. It was from here that one of the first two settlers
came to Storsjö in Sideby in the 1790s via the Bodman homestead,
where he had evidently first served as a farmhand. (refer to the family:
Storsjö 2, tab. 1 ). The one previously
mentioned also came from Vittisbofjärd to be the first settler
at the Kallträsk homestead then belonging to the large Lappfjärd
parish. His name was Zachrias Michelsson and he was born in Zachrisgården
In addition to all of the
"rusthålls," officers, dragoons, farmers, and crofters,
who supported themselves through the estates production, there
were also many maids, farm hands, craftsmen, boarders, and paupers to
support. As an example of how the societys lower strata were treated,
women who had illegitimate children were listed in the church records
in a separate register after the estates "respectable"
inhabitants. Even they had to live, but what type of life did they have?
Class distinctions must have been enormous and the lack of freedom oppressive
for those who lived in positions of dependence as a result of rental
agreements, crofter contracts, and regulations for the farmhands.
People had heard and read about the serfdom in Russia and slavery
in North America that existed at that time and boasted about the land
of Sweden a part of which included Finland as "the
place where freedom originated on earth." But they had ignored
and forgotten the feudal landownership issues and social rifts between
the classes that prevailed between estate owners and the agricultural
workers and between the masters and farmhands in southern and southwestern
Finland during the time of the Swedish empire. Incongruities lasted
during the 1800s from the Russian "parentheses" (referring
to the short Russian period) until the time of independence with the
crofters law ("torparlagen") and Lex Kallio, who liberated
some of the semi-enslaved farmers and crofters on the large estates.
But it was actually only after the last war that democracy became a
reality in our country.
It has been contended that crawfish and
nobility (6) were not to be found in Ostrobothnia.
This can be due to the fact that the Ostrobothnians did not learn to
stand with their hats in their hands before oppressors because their
county was spared in large part from the feudalism and associated social
disparities that were found in the south. It was no coincidence that
the initial front between the so-called "whites" and "reds"
in the Satakunta sector was formed precisely between Sastmola and Vittisbofjärd
during the 1918 rebellion. Nor was it a coincidence that the people
who loved freedom and strived for self-determination long ago in Vittisbofjärd
relocated over the county border to Ostrobothnia, where Sideby and Lappfjärd
With this I have given at least a partial answer to my question
at the beginning of this exposition.
A persons need for freedom and independence is a powerful
inner force that can defy outrage and oppression, even if they seem
hopeless. We dont need to look out from our calm corner of the
world for long to see how freedom and human dignity can be suppressed
by rifle barrels and trampled under boot heels. But when this defiant
power appears to be the most subdued, it may be only temporarily lying
dormant and biding its time.
The memories of my journey along the old coastal Post Road
Those of you who are interested in the historical countryside have
traveled in your thoughts through a few centuries along the old Post
Road that connected Ostrobothnia with Satakunda, "Egentliga Finland"
(Finland proper) and Åbo, the capital of the eastern half of the
realm. Go on your trip today and you will encounter pure reminiscences
from former times. In particular, you will notice the names of the historical
villages. The road has changed; it has been straightened, widened, and
certain sections have been permanently paved. But there are long sections
that still meander along the bays. There are also sudden curves over
hills and through woods, the same stretches where the post riders
horses rode along the national highway centuries ago.
Part of "Suomenmaan Kartta" by I. Uschakoff
1898 which shows the coastal area between Lappfjärd and Björneborg
traversed by the old coastal Post Road. . Source: http://www.histdoc.net/uscha/
courtesy of Pauli Kruhse (7)
Begin your old Post Road journey in the village of Träskvik
in southern Lappfjärd and drive through Härkmeri, Skaftung,
and Sideby. When you come to Högbron in Sideby, you will surely notice
the bilingual road sign SASTMOLA MERIKARVIA. The ancient name Sastmola
has been restored here to its former place of honor. The name "Sastmola"
had been struck from the road authoritys list of names long ago,
and was about to disappear as a well-known name in the awareness of the
local people. But an official resolution on December 23, 1982 approved
restoring the old names of many of these communities as the official Swedish
Drive further through the villages of Kasaböle and Risby to
the Sastmola church village.
Sastmola church, construction by J. Nordstrand, built
Dont turn off toward Tuorila (Torsby) on the E-8 highway or at
the Harvala crossroad to Lan(g)koski (Långfors). Instead, follow
the old coastal road further through Köörtilä (Gördböle)
to Vittisbofjärd. Travel through Sörmark, Norrmark, and Rosnäs
to Björneborg. You will have completed an interesting and informative
tourist journey while at the same time enriching your knowledge of geography.
Even if the population in the villages south of the county line can
speak only Finnish, the old Swedish place names should not be abandoned.
Bilingualism in general is indeed a great asset. With regard to place
names and road signs, bilingualism promotes tourism to an important extent
and provides more information than single-language displays in the region
through which we are traveling.
The Finnish place names for the region around Björneborg have
in many cases Swedish counterparts that should not be forgotten. Many
of these Swedish names were indisputably the original names; e.g., Ulvsby
(Ulvila), Friby (Friitala), Ytterö (Yyteri), Källfjärd
(Kellahti), Lyttböle (Lyttilä), and Torsnäs (Tuorsniemi).
Arent the original Swedish names worth remembering? Safeguarding
the Swedish place names is certainly not meant to represent negative policy
Persons who belong to a particular ethnic group or even an
entire people cannot become a civilized community through renouncing
1. Swedish Count Per Brahe (1602-1680)
served as governor general in Finland, where he reformed the entire governmental
administration, introduced a postal system, built 10 new towns, improved
and developed commerce and agriculture, and promoted education. He was
the founder and first chancellor of the University of Åbo, which
opened in 1640.
2. Nybond Gunnar: Soldater, torpare
och bönder. Släkt- och bygdekrönika från Sydösterbotten.
- Vasa 1980
The term signifies an amalgamation of small holdings into larger production
4. Torpare: crofters or tenants;
Crofters were required to do a certain number of full days' work for the
landowner each year as a payment for their tenancy on the land.
5. Nybond Gunnar: Gränsmark.
Släkt- och bygdekrönika från Sydösterbotten 2. -
6. Nybond's sentence "Det
har sagts att kräftor och adelsmän inte trivts i Österbotten
refers to an idiomatic expression that can be traced back to the Finnish
writer Zacharias Topelius (1818-1898) in his novel Fältskärns
berättelser [Barber-Surgeon's Tale (1883) Stockholm: Bonnier]. The
term "Adelsmän" refers to one of the four estates (nobility,
clergy, burgers, peasantry) of which the Swedish Riksdag (Parliament)
was comprised until 1866
of Finland: A selection of events and documents by Pauli Kruhse
Books by Gunnar
* The orginal
text in Swedish is contained in Gunnar Nybond's book "Gränsmark.
Släkt- och bygdekrönika från Sydösterbotten 2",
Vasa 1984, published by the author and is republished on WWW by courtesy
of Trygve Nybonde.
Translation to English by Sandra
Johnson Witt 2003
editor: Staffan Storteir