Anders Petter Wahlström Bäckman was born on April 22, 1772 in Stockholm into a Swedish soldier family. His parents emigrated from Sweden with his brother, sister, and Anders Petter when he was an infant. They settled in Närpes, a parish located in the southern Ostrobothnian area of Finland, north of Kristinestad near the Gulf of Bothnia. When the Beckman family moved to Närpes, the Finnish people had been under Swedish rule for several centuries. During the Era of Swedish Rule from the 1100s until 1808, Finland belonged to Sweden and was not an independent nation. Swedish domination led to the installation of Swedish social and legal systems in Finland.
Sweden had been unsuccessful in its attempts to protect Finland from Russian assaults, especially in the 1700s, when many soldiers were needed to defend Finland from Russian incursions. Anders Petter's father Bengt Beckman was a soldier. Although it is conceivable that economic considerations contributed to the Beckman family's decision to immigrate to Finland, it is more likely that the Swedish authorities ordered him to serve in the Ostrobothnian Regiment in order to defend that area of Finland from an increase in Russian hostilities.
Bengt Beckman (who also used the surname Wahlström, Some Descendants of Bengt Beckman, pdf-attachment) and Maria Christina Ericsdotter immigrated to Finland in 1772, where Bengt was a soldier in Näsby (Näsby croft number 64) and subsequently in Finby (croft number 53), two villages in the Närpes parish. Bengt was born in Södermanland, Sweden in 1742. Maria Christina was born in Södermanland in 1743.
Bengt and Maria Christina had eight children:
Maria Christina died in Närpes on March 3, 1781 around the age of 37, leaving four children between the ages of two and 17. After her death, Bengt married Maria Jacobsdotter, who was born on June 8, 1748 and died on December 11, 1808. They had two children, who both died at an early age:
The soldier Bengt Beckman and his son Lars Bengtsson Joppas are discussed in the 1975 book The Joppas and Nygård Farm Families in West Yttermark in Närpes (2) by Johannes Åbonde.
Bengt and his family lived in a small structure known as a "soldattorp" or soldiers croft. He was listed as a soldier at croft number 53 at Finby, a village in the parish of Närpes, in 1785 in an article that was written by K. V. Åkerblom Soldiers and Soldiers Crofts in Närpes during the Swedish Time (3) - and published in Vasabladet (the Swedish-language newspaper in Vasa, Finland) in 1937. Åkerblom described the crofts and listed the names of the soldiers who were members of the Närpes infantry units in 1785. Åkerblom was widely recognized in Finland as one of the foremost authorities on Ostrobothnian local history. This article provides an interesting perspective about the lives of the soldiers who were stationed in Swedish Ostrobothnia in the late 1700s. The names of 149 soldiers were listed under the regional areas where each individual soldiers croft was located, including such places as Lappfjärd parish, Närpes parish, Övermark, Yttermark, Gottböle, Pjelax, and numerous others.
Åkerblom noted that the soldiers names might be of interest to persons who are involved in genealogical and historical research in the Swedish Ostrobothnian region because many of the soldiers surnames that were listed in the Vasabladet article are still found in the villages and towns in the Närpes area. The following entry referred to the soldier crofts at Finby:
51. Corporal Olof Nordman.
52. Johan Erik Sommarström.
53. Bengt Beckman.
54. Petter Frisk.
Bengt lived in the Närpes area at least until 1784, when his youngest child was born. Local church and civil records indicate that he drowned near the Baltic Sea harbor off the Sveaborg fortification in Helsinki in 1788, at the age of 46. His place of death was listed as the "Sveaborg Redd," which means the Sveaborg "road" (in nautical terms, "road" refers to a protected place near the harbor where ships are anchored, an area that is not as enclosed as a harbor). Sveaborg which means "Swedens fortress" is one of the best-known fortifications in Finland, perhaps in all of Scandinavia.
Sweden began the construction of Sveaborg in what was then the small town of Helsinki in 1748, as a large fortress to protect its eastern frontier and to prevent further Russian expansion. The construction lasted for more than 50 years. Thousands of soldiers built different types of walls and fortifications, buildings, and an expansive dry dock. At one point, Sveaborg was larger than the town of Helsinki. (4) One of the routine duties of soldiers in the 1700s was the construction of fortifications. Bengt was evidently working on the construction of the fortification when he died.
Bengt Beckmans surviving children ranged in age from nine to 25 years of age when he died. Anders Petter was only eight years old when his mother died and 16 years old when his father died. It is possible that his older brother Johan Eric, who was 25 years old when their father died in 1788, took the younger children in to live with him and his family, probably at the Benvik Estate in Kaskö, where he worked.
Church and civil records indicate that Anders Petter married Anna Lisa Mattsdotter Törndahl on December 12, 1802 in Närpes. She was born on August 15, 1774 in Gottböle, the daughter of Matts Törndahl (1718-1804), a drummer in the Ostrobothnian regiment (Närpes Company) and Maria Mickelsdotter Norrgrann (1736-1809) from Gottböle. Their children were Johan Henrik (5) (born February 28, 1798, died May 29, 1869), Maja Lisa Bäckman, (born August 12, 1803), and Anders Petter Bäckman (born July 28, 1805).
Finnish church records document that Anders Petter lived at the Benvik Estate in the early 1800s. The region around Benvik, or Bänwik, as the name was originally written, was largely a wilderness in the area of Kalax until the middle of the 18th century. The nearest settlement was in Knåpnäs, where farmers cultivated the earth as early as the 1400s, or in Kaskö, where there was a homestead as early as the 1500s.
Benvik is a sparsely populated and idyllic region that is not actually a village, but more of a group of estates or homesteads (gårdsgrupp) in the village of Knåpnäs. In the late 1700s, Benvik was the only homestead in the village of Kalax. The Benvik estate is well known throughout Finland because of two prominent persons who lived there - the quartermaster Johan Bladh and his son Peter Johan Bladh, the deputy assistant undersecretary in the 18th century and early part of the 19th century.
The Benvik Estate. Anders Petter worked and lived at the Bladh Estate. Närpes Parish records indicate that he lived at Kalax Number 16 Benvik, the estate of Johan Bladh, who founded the town of Kaskö, and his son Peter Johan Bladh. Benvik was the home of Peter Johan Bladh for more than 30 years from 1785 until his death in 1816.
Johan Bladh and Peter Johan Bladh. The Bladh family probably came to Finland from Södermanland (6) in Sweden. The elder Johan Bladh was born in 1682, did business in Nykarleby after his arrival in Finland, bought a shipyard in Jakobstad in 1706, and was a businessman in Vasa. His second wife Beata was the daughter of Vasa businessman Hans Liljelund. During the Great War ("Stora Ofreden") they moved to Norrköpping, Sweden, where Johan represented Nykarleby in the Swedish Parliament in 1719.
Johan Bladh (junior) was born in Norrköping in 1719. He was a successful businessman in Vasa and a quartermaster with the cavalry division of His Majestys Royal Lifeguard Regiment (7) . He purchased the Benvik Estate from Herman Ross, the chief judge in Korsholms southern judicial district, in 1774 and moved there in 1776. He founded the town of Kaskö, an island town that is known for its beautiful wooden houses with large courtyards and gardens. He died at the Benvik Estate on January 13, 1783.
Johan Bladhs son Peter Johan was born in Vasa in 1746. Peter Johan studied chemistry and mineralogy at Uppsala University. He traveled to Asia many times in his position with the East India Company. In 1776 he became the director of the companys Canton, China bureau, where he remained for 6_ years, a time when the company experienced a substantial expansion in business. His success in Canton resulted in his promotion to the position of "over director" of the entire operation.
Peter Johan visited his father frequently at the Benvik Estate, was familiar with his plans for Benvik, and moved there on June 19, 1785, two years after his fathers death. He was by then a mature man with extensive experience in international commerce and shipping. According to Nissén, Peter Johan Bladhs fluency in several languages along with his considerable property holdings that were worth about 100,000 "riksdaler" provided him with the opportunity to continue to pursue his extremely successful business career. Peter Johan erected a stately trading house at the Benvik estate beside the Kaskö Channel in 1788, surrounded by an expansive garden with paved pathways, an herb garden, and expansive rose gardens. Peter Johan Bladh died at Benvik on March 1, 1816.
Other articles by the same author on sydaby.eget.net
C. Arthur Appelö and Carlton Appelo: The contributions of two Swedish-Finns to Deep River, Washington and America
A dramatic series of events took place in Finland in the early 1800s. These events culminated in a state of affairs in Närpes, a coastal parish in Ostrobothnia, which forever changed the lives of many of its residents, including a young Finnish man, Anders Petter Bengtsson Wahlström Bäckman, and his family.
Because it is located between Sweden and Russia, Finland has been forcefully impacted by events in both countries. Finlands geographic location made it attractive to its western neighbor Sweden and its eastern neighbor Russia (known as Novgorod until the middle of the 12th century). In 1323, a peace treaty between Sweden and Novgorod assigned eastern Finland to Novgorod and the Russian cultural sphere. The treaty aligned the western and southern parts of Finland with Sweden and Western Europe.
The Era of Swedish Rule. Swedish domination resulted in the installation of Swedish legal and social systems in Finland. Åbo (Turku) was founded in the middle of the 13th century and became Finlands most important town. As a principal market town and summer retreat, Åbo has been an important cultural and artistic center of Finland for centuries with a well-known university, the Åbo Academy. When the Reformation reached Sweden and Finland in the early 16th century, the Lutheran Church replaced the formerly predominant Catholic Church.
Dr. Seppo Zetterberg, a professor of history at the University of Jyväskylä, presented an outline of Finnish history at the Virtual Finland website in 2001. He wrote that Sweden extended its realm around the Baltic Sea and succeeded in moving the Finnish border further eastward during its period as a great power (1617-1721). Life was extremely difficult for the Finnish people during this period. Although Finland was under Swedish rule at the time, Sweden offered no assistance to the Finnish people in 1696 when one third of them died after devastating crop failures.
Sweden was unable to protect Finland from Russian assault in the 1700s, and lost Finland (temporarily) in 1721 and 1743. Finnish men were forced to engage in ongoing battles with the Russians. From 1714 to 1721 (a period that was also known the "Great Wrath"), Russia attacked Sweden and occupied Finland. In 1721, the Czar returned much of the Finnish territory to Sweden, although Russia retained Eastern Karelia. After Swedens declaration of war in 1741 (an era that was known as the "Lesser Wrath"), Russia again occupied Finland. In 1743, part of Finland was returned to Sweden. Repeated attempts by the Finnish people to gain independence failed.
Sweden was at war for more than 80 years during the three centuries before 1809. Finnish men were forced to leave their farms. Taxes were raised, especially on farmers, to provide support for Swedish war efforts. Finns were an essential part of the Swedish army, comprising at least a third of the infantry and cavalry. Foreign trade became increasingly dominated by Dutch and German merchants. Foreign products and methods of conducting business became increasingly more significant. Sweden no longer dominated Finland completely after it lost its position as a great power in the early 18th century. As Swedish domination declined and Russian pressure on Finland increased, conflicts with Russia intensified.
Great Britain became an ally of Sweden in 1808. This alliance was seen as a threat by Russia, particularly with regard to Russian naval access to the Baltic Sea. Certain areas of Finland were impacted more dramatically than others by the increased conflicts with the Russians. One of these areas was Närpes. These hostilities led to a series of violent conflicts throughout the villages of Närpes that marked the beginning of the Finnish-Russian War of 1808-1809.
The Finnish-Russian War of 1808-1809. There were numerous reports of massive military exercises at the Russian border in 1807, reports ignored by Swedish authorities. On February 21, 1808, Russian troops invaded Finland without declaring war on either Finland or Sweden, marking the beginning of the Finnish-Russian War of 1808-1809. This Russian incursion also known as the Swedish-Russian War and the Final War signified an end to the 700-year alliance between Sweden and Finland.
This war was a striking conflict. There were hostilities in many areas of Finland, including Närpes. Karl Ivar Nordlund described the Närpes conflict in a book about the history of Närpes (1931, pp. 168-170):
One of the cannons - along with men to operate it - was placed at Kallmossa, to the east of Finby where the road continued toward Östermark. On the evening of July 13 a throng of local farmer-soldiers and new recruits from Närpes attempted to defend the area from a hostile procession of Russian soldiers. The men from Närpes had been provided with several cannons, but had little ammunition for their largely ineffective rifles. They erected a defensive obstacle that had been formed by felled trees with sharpened branches (that they hoped would be an effective defense against the enemy soldiers) south of the village of Pjelax, near where the main road from Lappfjärd opened out at Tjöck onto the road that led from Närpes to Kristinestad. The village corps also manned some weak entrenchments in the area.
Unfortunately, the men from Närpes were totally unprepared for the serious situation they would soon face. A squadron of Cossacks burst unexpectedly from the opposite side of the road. The enemy soldiers, who appeared in the woods on both sides of the main road, opened fire on the stunned farmers. These defenders of Närpes immediately fell into disarray and fled into the forest. Some of the cannon fire that they aimed at their enemies missed its target during the turmoil and chaos that ensued. A group of farmers and members of the village corps attempted to take a stand against their enemies in Härtsböle (8) , an action that resulted in another defeat when their cannons and ammunition fell into Russian hands. It is not known how many were wounded or killed in this action.
The Russians vented their wrath anew by plundering and setting fire to the villages of Pjelax, Ståbacka and Böle, reducing them almost completely to ashes. For some reason, the Russians did not continue to advance. After they captured the Finby Bridge, which for the moment had minimal surveillance, they withdrew to Lappfjärd and Kristinestad, taking with them confiscated cannons and numerous prisoners. Some of their prisoners were mercilessly tortured, including one prisoner who was beaten to death.
The people in Närpes were overwhelmed with confusion and alarm. Wild rumors abounded and everyone expected even worse treatment at the hands of their enemies than they had already experienced, enemies who had already shown their intentions by their destruction of property and their actions toward innocent people including women and children.
Unfortunately, Anders Petter was presumably one of the casualties of this battle one of the "defenders of Närpes" described in Nordlunds account of the military action in Närpes on July 13. Church and civil records document that he was shot by the Russians during the Finnish-Russian War of 1808-1809 on July 13, 1808 while attempting to defend Närpes from the Russian invasion.
Anders Petter was only 36 years old when he died. His children ranged in age from two to ten years of age at the time of his death. In addition to the emotional trauma related to losing their husband and father, his untimely death forced his wife and children to endure many years of economic privation.
The battle by the Finby bridge on July 20, 1808. Painting by O. Hjortsberg
Unfortunately, the conflict during which Anders Petter was killed was only a precursor of the hostilities that would continue to take place in the area. Shortly after his death, the Russian military plundered the Bladh estate, burning down a large house and stealing numerous items from the Bladh family and the other people who lived at Benvik. The name of Johan Bäckman (Anders Petters older brother) appeared in the following inventory of the losses of P. J. Bladh and his household workers caused by the plundering of the Benvik estate by the Russian military on July 20, 1808 (Nissén, p. 88):
Records available at the Kalax church office in Närpes indicate
that Anders Petters widow Anna Lisa died (destitute) in Pjelax on
June 1, 1866 at the age of 91.
Records available at the Kalax church office in Närpes indicate that Anders Petters widow Anna Lisa died (destitute) in Pjelax on June 1, 1866 at the age of 91.
Johan Henrik Bäckman. Johan Henrik Bäckman - my third great grandfather - was born in 1798 in Gottböle. Parish records indicated that he was living in Närpes in 1815. (9) He moved from Gottböle to Storå (Isojoki) in Lappfjärd in 1820, possibly to work at the Kienokoski farm in Storå that Carl Edvard Bladh, the second son of Peter Johan Bladh, had bought from his father in 1813, after completing a law degree at the Åbo Academy in 1810 and interning at the appellate court in Vasa. Carl Edvard lived at Kienokoski until 1821, when he relocated to Santiago, Chile, after the Kristinestad civil authorities refused to grant him a license to establish a business in Kristinestad. Carl Edvard had a successful political career in South America, where he was the Swedish Counsel in Rio de Janeiro from 1821 until 1828, when he returned to Sweden. After his return, he worked in Stockholm as a wholesale dealer until his death on April 6, 1851.
Johan Henrik married Catharina (Caisa) Henriksdotter Siiro on February 06, 1821 in Vesijärvi, Storå, in Lappfjärd. She was the daughter of Henrik Mattsson Siiro (1765-1836) and Lisa Paholuoma (1765-1846). She was born on March 06, 1795 in Vesijärvi and died on December 29, 1851 at Siiro in Vesijärvi. After his first wife died, Johan Henrik married Maria Malakiasdotter Siiro on June 11, 1854 at the Siiro Farm. She was the daughter of Malachias Jacobsson Siiro.
Maja Lisa Andersdotter Bäckman. Maja Lisa married (1) Johan Henrik Isaksson Brask in 1826 in Pjelax, Närpes. She married (2) Erik Eriksson Hannus (or Söderlund) December 30, 1850 in Pjelax. She married (3) Erik Johansson Åbonde in 1855 in Övermark, Närpes.
The children of Maja Lisa Bäckman and Johan Henrik Brask were:
Petter Andersson Bäckman. Finnish church records indicate
that Anders Petter relocated from Böle to Lappfjärd in the early
1820s, where he married Anna Cajsa Carlsdotter Stormahls from Lappfjärd
The Russian Years: 1809-1917. After Russia conquered Finland in the 1808-1809 war with Sweden, Finland was declared an autonomous Grand Duchy of Russia. Russian Czar Alexander I declared Helsinki which was a small rocky market town on the Baltic Sea at the time the capital of Finland in 1812 because it was closer than Åbo was to St. Petersburg. Alexander I, the Grand Duke of Finland from 1809 to 1825, granted extensive autonomy to Finland.
The Grand Duchy era was a period that was favorable in many ways for economic development, partially because Finland was allowed to abide by some of the old laws from the Swedish period.
The elimination of Finnish separatism, a policy also known as Russification, began in 1899. Finland remained under Russian rule until 1917, when Finland declared its independence from the new Soviet Union after the October revolution in Russia.
The Independent Finnish Republic. On December 6, 1917, the Finnish Parliament approved the declaration of independence that was drawn up by the Finnish Senate under the leadership of Pehr Evind Svinhufvud.
The Resilience of the Finnish People. In an article in the Gainesville Sun titled "On Finlands Royal Road," Jonathan Black describes the conversation that his wife and he had with a tour guide at the castle in Åbo (2004, Aug. 9):
We spent several hours prowling the castle chambers, the dungeon
and museum while our personal guide from Turku Touring declared, Like
everything else, this was first Swedish, then Russian, then Finnish.
The bravery and competence of Finlands soldiers on their treacherous terrain has been established throughout the past several centuries. Many lives were lost in the numerous battles for Finnish independence. After gaining their freedom from Russia, Finland and the Finnish people have assumed a higher profile in Europe socially, culturally, and economically.
Acknowledgments. I would like to gratefully acknowledge the contributions of Rafael Nissfolk of Västerås, Sweden (originally from Kalax, Närpes, Finland) to the research for this article. He provided useful resources about the military action in the Närpes area during the Finnish-Russian War of 1808 and genealogical documentation about my ancestors who lived there in the 1700s and 1800s.
Rafael provided valuable resources that described the lives of Scandinavian soldiers more than 200 years ago, including books and articles written by K.V. Åkerblom and Karl-Olof Reinlund. He obtained documents at the Kalax church office about Anders Petter Wahlström Beckman/Bäckman and his family, including early church marriage records and estate inventories. He also sent me Beckman/Bäckman genealogies prepared by Runar Finskas, Karl-Olof Reinlund, and Johannes Åbonde. He located several articles related to the history of Närpes and recommended other types of records that might be instrumental in locating additional Finnish genealogical information.
Rafael's kindness - exemplified by his willingness to spend so much of his time and energy for a stranger - epitomizes to me all that is good in genealogical research. His efforts are sincerely appreciated.