Interesting Ancestors

by June Pelo

A relative in Gamlakarleby, Finland sent me a document about my mother's father's Warg family which contained some comments and information from court records. I'd like to quote a few of the more interesting entries:

My 9th great grandfather Joseph Hindersson Warg, b. 1592, was a farmer in Kaustby and from 1636 to 1652 there were a number of entries in court records about him. When he was 24 in 1636 he was fined for damaging some property at Huntus. The following year, 1637, he had to return to Johan Henriksson a year's harvest that he had taken illegally. And in 1643 he was in court over a dispute with Per Knutsson Kaustinen. In 1647 he owed money to an heir of Knut Henriksson. That same year he and Sigfrid Tast were fined concerning a bank balance due Jakob Haakonsson's widow. Then in 1648 Joseph and Lars Johansson Löija had a fight. In 1651 he had a quarrel with Matts Olofsson Kortjärvi over some property.

 

He got into trouble again in 1652 when he became angry with Matts Granö of Terjärv whose tar pit was too close to his land. Joseph attacked Granö and gave him four bleeding wounds, gave Granö's son Hans three bruises, and his son-in-law, daughter and a servant girl one bruise each. Joseph had to pay considerable fines and reparations. Then at the next court session, Hans Granö complained that Joseph had driven him from his tar pit, burned the wood and kept the tar. The court ordered Joseph to pay fines, but at the same time the lay jurists were ordered to decide on a boundary between the properties. (Extracting tar from split pine wood and slowly burning it in pits was a major cottage industry in the days of wooden sailing ships. Tar was used to waterproof the ships, ropes, etc.) By the time he was 60 he seems to have settled down and there were no more disputes for a while. But in 1673 Joseph was fined by the court concerning the suspension bridge over the Vetil River. He was responsible for maintenance of the bridge which probably was near his home.

Joseph's son Erik, b. 1616, was my 8th great grandfather who moved to Dunkar and took the surname Dunkar. Erik had a son Matts, b. 1649, and in 1678 there was an interesting case concerning him. He said that in recent years his horses had been wandering from his farm and he blamed that on a witch. Many witches, nearly all woman, had been beheaded or burned because they were believed to be in league with the devil. The worst witch was active in Upper Karleby and aroused fear, especially in Kaustby, before she was brought to justice in 1678.

She was Kreeta Prott from Pedersöre, in her 50's, and it was believed she caused much illness, death and arson, plus injury to farm animals. She had treated Matts badly because she felt she was not adequately entertained at his home. One time she had gone there hoping to get some wine, but the mistress gave her bread and milk instead. The witch was angered and put a curse on the livestock. At first the cat twisted its leg and then two heifers died and sheep's tongues rotted in their mouths. The horses became so wild that every summer they wandered far from home.

When Matts complained to officials about Kreeta's witchcraft, she vowed to take revenge on his grandchildren. Matts denounced her to the pastor and the sheriff and she tried to escape the clutches of a merciless government. At court she was sentenced to be beheaded and burned. She was put into irons pending the decision of the Appellate court and kept in prison in Karleby for eight months. Results of her imprisonment are not known because pertinent documents are missing. After she was sentenced to death, the church and courts ceased to persecute witches. But the farmers still believed in the power of witches into the 20th century.

Matts' brother Hans had a son Hans Hansson Warg-Varila who was sent to Viborg to fight the Russians in 1710. Many men of the Ostrobothnian regiment died in the siege of Riga, which ended in 1710 by surrender to the Russians. The Russians began to encircle Viborg. To save this important location, 2400 men from south and central Ostrobothnia were sent to Viborg without any training. Their morale was low - the expedition was poorly planned, famine was in the land and Viborg fell before they arrived. Even the inexperienced farmboys knew they would be of little use in re-capturing the fort and their mood changed to rebellion. On 28 June Hans Hansson Varila and six others took provisions, rifles and ammunition, their own horses and left for home. They did not hide when they reached home, but worked more diligently than before and at the Fall court session they bravely explained their desertion to care for their homes because they were the only adult men at home. Their punishment was to run a gauntlet of nine men wielding clubs.

Erik Josephsson Warg-Dunkar also had a son Johan, b. 1645, whose descendants were the progenitors of several members of the Swedish Finn Historical Society. They'll be the subject of a future article.

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