Villages in Ostrobothnia home


Following are recollections of two settlements in Malax by former residents of long ago.


Bränno was part of Yttermalax which was in the south along the road to Petalax. In the north Bränno adjoins the Askus farm (Ahlskogs), to the south Koppar village with Gambäl Tuvas as the nearest neighbor. Udd, Sperring, Brännback (Punipä) and half of Bonn belonged to the 22 farms in Bränno. The other half of Bonn had moved from Bränno at the turn of the century. The remaining half was called Brennbånn.

At the close of the 1800's the settlements were so close together they seemed to float over each other. In everyday speech people referred to them as Uddisgåla which was south of the road, Sperringsback and Brännback up on the ridge. In daily speech the old homesteads had a name other than the official name. Brännbacka was Benjas, Udd was Hansas. On the south side of the road was Länsmansbacken which was named after constable Vaselius who lived there in the first half and middle of the 1800's. On the hill one could still see the remains of a tannery that was owned and managed by Silander, a tanner from Nyland. All the farm buildings were gray except Storis and Svedi which were red. The only two-story building was Bonnas-Villas.

Emigration began in Bränno by 1870. The first emigrant, Uddis-Jock, left as a seaman but landed later in America. Bonnas-Villas Isak left in 1882. He did not come back. His brother Hannes came home ca 1890 and aroused great curiosity with his big hat and his long mustache. The first returning emigrants were not particularly accepted by the people. Gradually emigration became so common that each farm had some or all men in America. The torps and cottages gradually became empty. When I worked in the mine in Norway, Michigan in the 1890's, at one time there were 17 Bränno men there.

Many had been in the settlement originally. Some had lived there before my time and I heard them mentioned. There was Spärrings Finne, a Finn from Haukipudas (Rautila farm, he bore the name Rautelin) in Ijo, who served as a farm hand in Vasa and married the widow of a deceased Storis farmer. He learned good Swedish. It is said that he was with the farmers at the defense of Toby bridge during the war of 1808-09. In the church book it is noted "shot dead 20 Jul 1808." Other farmers were one-armed Bonnas-Vill, the daring and bumptious Benjas-Vargen and others. Among the crofters at Kaskoje were Kalmar-Matt, Vispel and many others.

At Brännbonnas near Ahlskog lived Nissi (Jonas Nilsson, b. 1820, d. 1906). Nissi originated from Storsjön. He was, along with crofter Johan Israel Moberg, (b. 1830, d. 1892), one of the last sealers in Malax. It is said that these two during the oriental war lodged at Sillgrund with loaded guns as guards for the village. They are now neighbors up at Kaskoje, dead for a long time, and their descendants live in Worchester, Muskegon and other places on the other side of the ocean.

By M. Edv. Bonns from "Den Österbottniska Byn"


The Havras settlement was northwest of the large village of Övermalax. In my childhood there were 9 Stolpas farms. In the main Havras settlement there were 24 farm homes and 13 back cottages. There were 16 farmsteads at Stavasbacka to which belonged Stav, Storm and Fiskars farms. Baddars farmsteads were to the south and included 7 farms from Storm, Fogde and Baddar. At the edge of the woods toward Havras stood an unoccupied cottage and Hinders farmhouse. Evidently the oldest was Stav. In the land records from the 1500's the farmer bore the name Haffre and accordingly gave the settlement its name. Stolpe, Storm and Fiskars are also old. In the mid 1700's Baddar and Fogde moved from the river to Havrasgränd. As much as I remember, the farm buildings in the settlements were painted gray and were one-story. The only two-story house was Gambäl-Namdis at Stav and it was painted red. The best carpenter and wood carver was Baddars-Backen who made the lyre in front of the church organ loft.

The largest farms in the settlement during my time were my home and Isak Fiskar (Bessi). At the former farm there were 3 horses and over 10 cows. Fiskar was a very industrious farmer and land reclaimer, who produced much milk for the city. My father's father Gambäl-Nämbdi, Jonas Staaf, was old when I remembered him. He wrote very nicely despite the fact that he, because of his quick learning, went to school only three days. He was quiet and considerate, read and wrote a lot. I can still plainly hear the sound of his scratchy goose-feather pen. A third prominent farmer was the one-armed Simus-Simon at Fogde who lost an arm in a cogwheel at the mill.

The back cottagers had many professions. The lathe operater sold his products in Vasa. Each city journey closed with a big drinking spree and his loyal wife Ana-Stin came home lugging her tall husband, who was lying on the hand cart with his feet dragging on the road. Flanders-Jåss was another of the settlement's settlers. He was a soldier's offspring and strong when working with a hand saw. Jåsip was a third familiar person in the settlement. He forged horseshoe nails and shod farmer's horses. Children's teacher Erik Fogde, quiet, friendly and gentle in emotion and speech was another of Havrasgränd's old settlers that people remember. Oldest among the inhabitants that I can remember was Ålderman at Lattas. He was sickly and regularly used vodka as medicine with the result that he became alcoholic and was permanently seen in pursuit of the beloved drink in the settlement farms. He belonged to an older time when they still had village aldermen in Övermalax.

By Hugo Staaf from "Den Österbottniska Byn"

Translated by June Pelo

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DATABASE of IMMIGRANTS from Ostrobothnia, Finland