Vittisbofjärd kyrka

Vittisbofjärd in Satakunda -

A Journey along the old Post Road

by Gunnar Nybond *


Vägvisare av Georg Biurman

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 1776

 

Postvägen

Part of the map above between Christinæstad and Björneborg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Old connections

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.

Hwittisbofiärd

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, and Vittisbofjärd.

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.

Jordebokskarta Öfre By

Hwittisbofiärds Öfre By. Part of the land survey map of Vittisbofjärd by Daniel Ekman 1730. Source: 1600-luvun maakirjakartat

Vittisbofjärd klockstapelVittisbofjärd kyrka

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 regiment’s 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, and Tylty.

 

Majors and "Captains"

Källfjärd’s 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 [5]). 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 1701.

In addition to all of the "rusthålls," officers, dragoons, farmers, and crofters, who supported themselves through the estate’s production, there were also many maids, farm hands, craftsmen, boarders, and paupers to support. As an example of how the society’s lower strata were treated, women who had illegitimate children were listed in the church records in a separate register after the estate’s "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 were located.

With this I have given at least a partial answer to my question at the beginning of this exposition.

A person’s need for freedom and independence is a powerful inner force that can defy outrage and oppression, even if they seem hopeless. We don’t 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.

 

Karta 1898

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 authority’s 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 place-names.

Drive further through the villages of Kasaböle and Risby to the Sastmola church village. Sastmola kyrka

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Sastmola church, construction by J. Nordstrand, built in 1899.

 

 

Don’t 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). Aren’t the original Swedish names worth remembering? Safeguarding the Swedish place names is certainly not meant to represent negative policy of language.

Persons who belong to a particular ethnic group — or even an entire people — cannot become a civilized community through renouncing their history.

           

Notes:

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

3. Storskiftet: The term signifies an amalgamation of small holdings into larger production units.

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. - Vasa 1984

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

7.History of Finland: A selection of events and documents by Pauli Kruhse

WWW:

 

 

 

Books by Gunnar Nybond

Ahlainen in Finnish

 

 

 

 


* 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

 

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editor: Staffan Storteir