Villages in Ostrobothnia home


There are 12 villages in Pedersöre parish, the same number as the apostles on the parish church altarpiece. The most northern village is called Lepplax. For some reason, guidebooks do not mention this name. The railroad cuts straight through the wooded area to the east between the Kållby and Kronoby stations. A half mile of the coastal road, which loops through this area, is mostly a forest road east of the houses and fields. Along to the north, about 100 meters from the border toward Kronoby are two farms close to the road and a half mile from a signpost at the entrance to the village where one gets a westerly view of the settlement.

Near the southern end on a granite plateau a half mile above the pine forest is an outlook tower that was raised for geodetic measurements. From this platform one has a panoramic view of the nearest square mile of Pedersöre, Larsmo, Kronoby and Esse parishes. Straight to the west a mile away is the high tower of Pedersöre church, in the northwest Larsmo church, between them the factory chimneys in Jakobstad, and in the northeast Kronoby church. Through this sector can be seen a glimpse of the fjörds and straits of the inner archipelago and still closer, the scattered buildings of Lepplax.

Like Jakob's sons, there are also 12 homes in Lepplax. The magic has been obscured over the years, but the glory around the village shines with increased radiance. The springlike grove with trees and arctic raspberry blossoms, bird-cherry blossoms and lily of the valley; the warm summer shore with startled pike darting out to deep water; the clear autumn cowberry woods with large and noisy birds flying; the winter ice creviced with nettles from shore to shore, the sharpness of the cold - all of this and much more would take many pages to describe with affection the bittersweet fruit of being away for many years in a different country. But naturally it is not something remarkable. Similar sights are seen in hundreds of villages along the long and narrow coast of Österbotten. A thousand sons of the coastal land gaze at similar childhood memories during a quiet moment.

The names of the homes were earlier engraved in my memory. The stores were near the school in the village, where the road from the east branches off to other points of the compass. There were three branches. The first to Svensbacka, Bodö, Väll and Abbors and then went north. The second had a westerly destination to Klubb, Emtö, Södö, and Söderström, and the third went south to Skepparnabba, Riv, Lunabba and Finne. The distance from the center to all three terminal points was about two km.

Each house held more than one family, from 2-8, so the total number of families was 54. In addition, some well-to-do also lived on this land; they had the largest homes. The number of well-to-do has been reduced during the later generations and 20 small cottages have disappeared with them. The number of farmers has remained about the same, but a family of children the same size as patriarch Jakob's is presently a rarity. The following shows a substantial reduction in the total population. In 1917 there were 470 Lepplax residents living at home, but in 1943 only 344. The number of farmer families is 303, 88% of the population. The remaining 12% consists of 2 teachers, 2 shopkeepers, 1 sawmill owner, 1 fisherman, 1 blacksmith, 1 tailor and 1 laborer with his family. For a half century the list included a lot of crofters.

Several house names and many other names reveal their former villages. Abbors and Väll are near each other on the north shore of Abborsviken; Bodö is idyllically secluded not far from them. Bodö is to the south and Väll is to the north. Near the southern edge of the bay is Svensbacka and Emtö.

Tradition relates that other than simple city travel, there was another sort of travel involving shipping. Many old people still remember the last representative of the distinguished class of farmer skippers - "Captain" Julius Malmström. He was a home owner at Söderholm and in the 1800's used to travel to Sweden on his own ketch with potatoes and butter. According to tradition, shipbuilding was carried on in Lepplax. In later years rusty nails could still be seen in the water at Plassen in Söderholm. Surely there were many Lepplax residents among the 80 ships carpenters from Pedersöre parish at the shipyards at Karlskrona during the 1600's and 1700's. Jakob Simonsson Klubb was a worthy representative. He was familiar with many trades and in old age he worked at the shipyard in Kronstedt. In the autumn of life his deep and noisy laughter will live long in memory. "Klubbe" died in 1931 at age 91. The same year he died his colleague Jakob Riff "Riffen", who was seven years younger, built beautiful and seaworthy rowboats at Finnholm where his cottage still stands in peaceful solitude. There has been no large-scale boatbuilding in Lepplax for decades. Rowboats and motorboats are built for personal use.

It is true that we do not now find a counterpart to the known Rijf church building dynasty whose famous member was Jacob Thomasson Rijf. He was born in Lepplax 1723, the son of a Riv farmer Thomas Karlsson Rijf, also a noted church builder. Perhaps the time for rural architects is gone, but a roomy and respectfully solid house can still be built in Lepplax - from the ground up including painting, decorating and electrical installation, plus furniture, practical and tasteful - without the aid of help from outside the village.

A widely known blacksmith of his time was farmer Gustaf Vesterlund of Emtö (1862- 1918). His wheel harrow won great respect and is still in common use. Vesterlund sold his patent to the agricultural firm Björkenheim at Orisberg.

One can mention capable lathe operator Matts Englund as a representative of a dying profession. The serious and taciturn Englund, who died in 1926 at age 73, left opinions to his talented brother, Karlfeldt's known poet.

A yearly event that is part of history, was the big cattle drive to Hummelholm on15 August. In the early days the largest part of the holm was common grazing ground for all of the village cattle; they were driven out to the bridgehead at Holtos channel. Milk cows, which were driven each evening to the summer cowhouse near Bofjärds shore, took a shorter way by boat over the fjörd.

For many centuries plucky farmers cultivated in Lepplax. Their labor was a humble sight that inspires respect for the stone walls that surround the fields. Many village sons, who rest in Pedersöre church cemetery after a full life of work, deserve a memorial. Some time near the turn of the century Töysä resident Juho Rantaaho, together with a couple comrades, came to Lepplax to seek work, which was available. The comrades soon left, but "Jussi" had caught the attention of a village daughter and stayed for life. He learned Swedish and earned respect with his work. At his death in 1941 he left behind him reclaimed land without equal in the recent history of Lepplax village.

The thump of the flail has been replaced by the hum of threshing machines, oil lamps by electric lights, isolation by daily postal service and radio. To a large extent, Lepplax today is like Lepplax of yesterday when an emigrant, who returned after a quarter of a century in America, can soon recognize his home in his childhood village. But there are other changes in Lepplax and one dares to hope that the changes include, with all possible leniency, all that is beautiful and valuable of the olden days, and that the new changes will become as beautiful as the old, which is the best.


June Pelo

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DATABASE of IMMIGRANTS from Ostrobothnia, Finland