map Nedervetil parish has the form of a rectangular square which is
about 16 kilometers long and over some 10 kilometers wide. The parish
bounds in the northwest to Karleby, in northeast and east to Kelviå
and Ullava, in southeast to Kaustby and in southwest and west to Terjärv
and Kronoby. It is thus on two sides surrounded by parishes with Finnish
home parish appeared in the light of history around 1500 as a village
of Karleby, which was detached from the large parish of Pedersöre
in 1467. The name Nedervetil occurred the first time in a court record
from the winter session in Karleby in 1551. There a Jöns Andersson
Wettela is mentioned, and in a tax book from 1553 Wettela had 18 farmers.
In 1556 Vetil was divided in two parts: Nedervetela with 14 farmers
and Öffervetela with 5 farmers. It is clear that Nedervetil arose
during the 1500's and 1600's, although previously an older population
was found here, but nothing is known about it. For ages the parish
has consisted of three villages: Nedervetil village, Överby and
groups of farms belong to Nedervetil village, and most of them were
already known in the beginning of 1600. Pelo
farm was mentioned in 1550, and Skriko is noted as 3/4 mantal (an
assessment unit of land = 1/16 of a mile) tax homestead in 1654. During
the Great Strife it became an abandoned homestead, but was resettled
in 1754 as a new settlement. Among the first inhabited places in the
parish was Murick farm. Also Tast and Kaino in Överby are of
an ancient date. The first buildings arose around the river or in
its proximity. About 10 farm groups are now in Överby or 'the
back', as they call it in daily speech. Tast has become another center
in the parish and is probably oldest of the settlements.
neighbor parishes Kronoby and Terjärv became independent parishes,
the former in 1608 and the latter in 1868. In 1753 Nedervetil had
its own district chapel and contributed to the support of 5 pastors.
They also had a church building and pastors' homes. In 1755 the expense
to the congregation was established at 14,420 copper coins, and the
remaining work demanded further payment of 11,160 copper coins. Only
8 homesteads gave a whole barrel of grain toward the pastors' salary;
most of them gave only a half-barrel.
Chydenius, who was then a chaplain, had to work with a 'splendid
population.' His brother Jakob wrote about Nedervetil residents in
1754 in this way: "Inhabitants are as a rule neat and clean in their
houses and clothing, sober, cheerful, hard-working, intelligent, polite
and thriving. As farmers they are energetic foremost for their indefatigable
diligence applied to the stonefields that are transformed to fertile
fields which, as a rule, give 11:23 of grain."
poverty was great. Chydenius sent a written protest of his distressed
situation to his cathedral chapter. He was not certain from where
he should get bread for him and his wife. The farmers who gave a barrel
of rye to his wages were: "Slotte, Murick Gabriel, Brännkärr,
Ålisbacka, Tast, Riipa, Skog and Viitavesi farms. 3/4 barrels
were given by Simonsbacka Erik and Nils, Pelo Johan Mattsson, Murick
Matts Johansson and Mats Hendricksson, also both Hästbacka and
Bastbacka farms, Kaino Erik, Saarukka and Jolcka farms. The remaining
gave 1/2 barrel," he wrote in his petition.
many hundreds of years our people have experienced need, famine, war
and many kinds of difficulties. The frost-ravaged winters were severe,
harvests were bad and people had to blend both bark and straw in their
bread. The following years for Österbotten have been particularly
unfortunate: 1600, 1669, 1695, 1697, 1710, 1731, 1740-42, 1821, 1867-68,
1917-19, 1940-44. They represented either a poor year, crop failure
year or war years. As example, in Gamlakarleby city and parish the
death total for 1697 was 814 and the births were only 131.
the years of the 1867-68 famine detailed notes about Nedervetil were
found. Homestead owner J. Venelius from Såka village in Karleby
has described the circumstances of those years in his diary. A part
of his report is reproduced:
trace of summer appears yet on May 11, 1867. The snow lays in over
an ell's drift on the ground and in the woods. The winter supply of
cattlefood was used up at nearly all farms. Men tore up the straw-thatched
roofs and fed the animals with that, but they starved to death. A
small supply was found for people. Likewise, lack of money is great,
and for many country people there is a spectre of hard famine.
25 - rye sprouts stick up from here and there in the fields, but the
woods are full of snow. The night of May 26 was the first night that
it did not freeze up. The bay is covered with ice and the ice is strong
enough to drive on. The day June started, Gamlakarleby River cast
off its coating of ice, but the snow lies yet on the north side of
the roof. The rye sprouts died. In Kronoby and districts south therefrom
it is still not as serious as in Gamlakarleby.
10 - a man went by foot on ice over Brednik Bay between Kvikant and
Knivsund, but thereafter the ice broke up, and on June 12 the bay
was navigable. The country people collected birch, spruce and lingon
twigs for cattle fodder, but could not keep the animals alive, and
as soon as the snow left here and there in the woods, the men let
the animals go on June 16 to pasturage. Two days later one and another
attempted to sow grain, but the fields are altogether too flooded
20 the first summer day came. Then some could set out potatoes. So
came the heat. Four days before Midsummer's Day the temperature was
+32 C. (90 F.) in the shade and in the sun +48 C. (118 F.). With incredible
speed the grass shot up, and in 4 days small leaves were next to full
size. The grain sprouted and the fields became green. June 25 saw
potato tops over the fields and ears of rye gave hope of harvest.
Immediately thereafter it became cold again. Up until July 5 there
was summer weather. During the rest of July and the first half of
August blustery wind came from the north and northeast and it became
cooler and cooler. On the 15th of August the wind swung to the south
and became milder. Serious famine prevailed in all the farms, but
hope stayed with the grain, although it still did not have spikes.
The grain deficiency was total and neither flour nor corn could be
purchased in Gamlakarleby nor adjoining cities.
weather was chilly one again. Toward the night of Aug. 21 there was
rime and on the night of the 23rd the frost was so strong that potato
tops were blackened to the ground. The grain stood green and unripe.
One after another men saw the rye die. On the 15th sowing the rye
began in Nedervetil, but only a few had their own grain to sow. To
the farmers who did not make brandy, the Crown gave a barrel of rye.
On the morning of Sep. 3 all stood frozen. The nights of Sep. 5, 6,
and 12 were also hard frost nights and thereby treacherous. Men were
hoping that the grain would reach maturity. The river and brook dried
out during the dry summer.
need drove people to try different replacement means for bread. They
collected different kinds of lichen that, together with straw, they
ground to meal. Meal of reed roots was a good substitute and people
harvested roots of bulrushes.
the need was serious, the farmers who had the ability, must pay the
tax. On Oct. 14 it was determined that for the community rate and
the right to vote, 1/96 mantal should form 1 vote or tax öre
for a mantal of ground. To get parish assessments for the poor from
the congregation, the price was 4 mattor of flour or around 200 marks
and 2 lisp. straw for each tax öre. The Church ruled that the
poor should collect lichen, otherwise they could not receive support.
Vasa's support fund was received for the purchase of flour that Juryman
Slotte distributed to 73 destitute people for Christmas.
also got grain for relief work. From Pedersöre the Crown storehouse
sent 13 barrels of rye to grind to flour. To prepare earnings for
the destitute the population purchased flax and hemp on debt. One
who sent 1/2 lisp. of hemp or flax, received the equivalent quantity
of grain. The hemp was ready to process and paid 50 pennis an ell
for the work with a reduction for the hemp price. The flax was ready
for thread and paid 10 pennis. People purchased wool that provided
spinning work to the destitute and the wurst produced shirts for the
most needy. A lowering of the church hill would occupy men with relief
work, but as that was so hard frozen, no work could begin so they
dug the ditch in the pastors' yards instead.
road from Ollisbacka to Murick also provided relief work and men got
25 mattor of rye as means of payment. The governor's office lent all
available grain from loan storehouses and directions for the making
of hay flour. The poor who could not provide room in lodgings were
given grain, milk or a portion of meat daily. All who owned cows must
take milk to lodgings for the poor at Ollisbacka. Two skins were purchased
for shoes for the poor. As relief work, the spring flow above Slotte's
meadow was regulated and for this work men got 5 mattor of grain.
Christmas 1868 grain rations were delivered to 40 needy people, and
the needy fund provided food, clothes, care and Christian upbringing
for 6 needy and defenseless children. In 1869 it cared for 9 children,
1870-for 10, and so on. In 1878 there were 40 people in the community
who were unable to pay their taxes and in 1880 there were 48. Later
a needy file was compiled. In 1897 there were 9 infirm and insane
to support. Compensation for the upkeep varied from 150 to 200 marks
oldest road in Nedervetil was the winter road. It went from Åbacka
(Göstas) to Såka in Karleby. They called it the Tar Road.
Because of the freight it carried, it was tarred out to the coast.
Another winter road united Gylling with Tast. The roads that were
in better condition were used also in the summertime. Men drove then
with a wagon train. A similar road ran from Pelo past 'Pjukkostein'
to Gunnars. A summer road also was the Notwagen between Loulus and
Göstas. Right on to 1700 there had been bad places in the road
in Nedervetil. In 1755 there was a road from the pastor's house to
the church, but there was no bridge over the river. Men had to ferry
traffic over the river until the first bridge was built around the
close of the 1700's. This wooden bridge was by no means a strong and
durable bridge, but it endured the light road traffic for a long time.
1879 the parish agreed that a new bridge should be built that winter
to the pastor's house in the same design as the former. The building
contractor was Jakob Kuorikoski. Anders Chydenius arranged for the
present national road to Gamlakarleby in 1779. It improved gradually
and during the war of 1808-09 both Swedish and Russian troops made
use of it. The State eventually took over all the village roads. It
took over the important thoroughfare from Murick to Brännkärr
to Kronoby in 1947. Newly built also is the road from Pelo to Skriko,
which was finished in 1948 with help from the government.
not more than 42 years since we got the first electric lights in the
community. Before that, petroleum lamps were used. The first oil lamps
brought huge excitement. The greatest wonder was how the light could
stay in the glass. Before oil lamps, people also used a lamp of simple
construction - the turnip lamp. It consisted entirely of a hollowed
out turnip with a simple wick soaking up the melted tallow. The light
was poor, of course.
was the great revolutionary invention that gave people a brighter
existence. Sandbacka, Kristoffers, Ahlskog, Pelo and Skriko got electric
lights in 1918. There were electric works in Sandbacka and Pelo.
natural that village settlements were always near water. Fishing was
an important part of nourishment and water was the the natural connection.
In our area, which earlier was an archipelago, there are traces of
each of the former islets built upon. There are a number of surroundings
of cultivation that were abandoned. With a clue to their height above
the sea, one can determine the time for the first village settlement.
first time a name from Nedervetil is mentioned was in 1551. There
is the name of Jöns Andersson in Wettella, and in the summer
of the same year Olof Riip was fined for usurping a plow of Anders
Olsson in Wettella. In the tax year of 1553 Wetele had 18 farmers.
In 1556 Vetil was divided in two parts: Nederwetele with 14 farmers
and Öfferwetele with 5 farmers. In 1559 Övervetil had 14
farmers and Nedervetil 9 farmers. Here is confusion, because of the
names given above, 6 of those 14 in Övervetil are in reality
Nedervetil residents. In 1549-1585 at the Tast homestead appeared
the name of Jöns Björnsson and in 1593 farmer Jöns
Jönsson. The Tast homestead was among the largest of the homesteads
found at that time in Nedervetil. In 1603 the burial book shows there
were 13 farmers in Nedervetil; in 1608 there were 19.
communal book of 1654 is notable because the homestead names are shown:
Simonsbacka 3/4 mantal; Ahlskog 1/2 mantal; Pelo 1 mantal; Murick
1 mantal; Jolcka 1 mantal; Riipa 1/2 mantal; Paasiala 2/3 mantal;
Tast 1 mantal; Ollisbacka 1/4 mantal; Kajnå 1 mantal; Ämmes
1/2 mantal; Skriko 3/4 mantal; Skog 5/12 mantal; Knächtilä
1/8 mantal, as well as Brännkiar 1/8 mantal. A total of 19 homesteads.
In 1693 the name Wijtawasi appeared, where there was a homestead.
community's present population has gone up to about 2,000. They are
partly descendents and partly incoming native Swedes, while some families
are quite Finnish. After the Great Strife when inhabitants fled from
the Russian hordes, there was occasion for a Finnish invasion. In
the middle of the 1700's Finns have comprised nearly 40% of the whole
population. Yet during Anders Chydenius' time the Finnish entry was
greater than for the present. Percentage-wise, the community is now
the community is a pure farm area, a settlement has not arisen outside
of the population distributed in small farm groups over the whole
territory, most close to the old watercourse. The roads from the farm
groups radiate usually toward the former crossing place, which goes
to two near-lying villages that often had a long roundabout way to
one another. With present day traffic, that became something of a
most of the ground divided to the utmost, emigration was a common
occurrence. Any great population increase during the near future is
not expected. When we see our children attempt to look backward in
time to our forefather's lives from the oldest times until our day,
we find that their workday was filled with worry and privation. In
these barren parts they have never known dreams of greatness and richness.
They have instead wedded their life to work that, together with independence,
will always be their noble birthmark. Convenience and idleness appeared
to them as the root to the world's malevolence. The inheritance they
gave us is one with sweat and labor breaking up turf, surrounded by
fields of stone. But they have put their love in that hard work, men
with sweat and spade and women with distaff and loom. Each stone that
waits has a loving thought from hand and heart that soars ahead to
an undetermined future. And it is to us, their descendents, that all
that care was devoted. It was for our best they worried and endured
many trials. Think of that before you exchange your nativeland for
an uncertain future at a foreign place. Learn to love your native
native region has undergone many destinies which react to population
frequency. Changes of the external conditions - from an archipelago
to an inland community - must have caused great changes in the settlement.
But still other circumstances such as good and bad harvest years,
war and epidemics as well as economical conditions have in a decisive
way reacted as well to marriage frequency and births and deaths as
well as emigration.
statistical material we have that supports us goes back 200 years
and already some of the changes in population development are clearly
discernible. Figures shown below give a picture of fluctuations. The
figures in parenthesis report comparison numbers for the whole province.
figures show that marriage frequency from 1800-1930 decreased at the
last half. During the 1700's and beginning of the 1800's the locality
experienced a rare high economical condition. It was the shipbuilding
and it united the need for material and working power, which to some
degree explains the high marriage numbers. Notable is that war often
caused an increase in marriage frequency. A completely faithful picture
of the true relationship is not given in these figures, however, During
olden times it was customary to marry several times which isn't shown
in these figures.
ca 20 (19.87)
have attempted to explain the high birth numbers during the 1700's
as a consequence of good harvests and early marriage, and partly because
mothers brought up children with cow milk. War and anxiety influenced
the birth rate. But it seems a cause lies in the large infant death
infant mortality during the 1700's was dreadfully high. In 1749 in
Gamlakarleby the number of dead children under 10 years of age was
76% of all deaths and in 1800, 61%. It is apparent that of the children
born in Österbotten, a third died at a young age. The cause is
considered to be that mothers participated in the heaviest work in
the fields and meadows, besides being uninformed, negligent and deficient
in hygiene. For the rest of the public, the cause of death was smallpox,
typhus, tuberculosis, dysentery, measles, whooping cough and ague.
failure, epidemics and war have, of course, had an effect to some
degree. Information shows that our country since 1750 experienced
17 difficult crop failures, 19 war years and 14 desolate epidemic
years. Nowadays only a few die at a young age and we have been able
to successfully combat epidemics. TB has been restricted through better
hygiene and sanitary care. Our district during later years has one
of the lowest death totals in the whole land.
question of emigration is divided usually between an internal movement
and direct migration. During the course of time Nedervetil has had
to bear both of these. We know through history that the Black Death,
great famine and the Great Strife emptied large territories. This
checked population growth, but new emigration gradually restored a
uniform weight. Direct migration has, on the contrary, left a deep
mark in population numbers. Usually emigration has been from the best
age group and home districts have missed the needed work power. Statistics
before 1893 are not available, but from that year until 1945 there
were 709 people, or nearly a third of the community, who emigrated.
This movement continues constantly.The main reason is economical,
and also political anxiety and oppression caused decreased comfort
and increased emigration. For a linguistic minority, a feeling of
insecurity lies near at hand.
367 persons 2.3 per kilometer
1,668 10.5 (4.9)
2,201 13.0 (8.0)
2.279 13.3 (10.6)
2.288 13.3 (12.0)
meager information was found of the earliest settlement, but one can
see that after the Great Strife (1721) the community was nearly extinct.
The province was thankful for colonization and up to 1749 the population
had grown to 367. Now a lively coming of both Finnish and Swedish
DEVELOPMENT IN NEDERVETIL
the Reformation was established in the North, it became an important
task for the Lutheran Church to inform people of the basic Christian
instruction. This was found in Luther's Little Catechism. But reading
ability among country people was almost non-existent. In such a widely
spread congregation with the poor communication of the times, the
pastor could not impart any teaching to the children and youth. The
church law of 1686 required the pastor to link his preaching to the
main parts of the catechism and in such a way instruct the parishioners.
People also began to question as to who should go to Holy Communion.
to a decree of 1644 the parish clerk should live in a parish cottage
near the church and read with the children. And the rector had to
see that the youth in his congregation learned to read. Also parents
had the obligation to teach their children to read the catechism.
But it was a long time before this decree could be followed.
the Uppsala Cathedral ordained that the pastor should travel through
his parish and gather the village residents to catechism examination,
and in 1686 church law required a reading examination. The reading
examination began with singing and prayer. The pastor went through
the important points in the Christian reading and held an examination.
After that a short prayer was said. Then a party was held with food
and drink, although it had been forbidden by decree since 1743. Both
parents, the master and mistress with all the house folks as well
as children, journeymen, and servants were obliged to attend the examination.
examination, reading examination and writing training were the first
form of teaching in Nedervetil in the 1700's. Young people were often
noisy and ill-mannered in church, so in 1781 the church was forced
to appoint a supervisor over the children during divine service. At
a reading examination in Murick the same year, farm hand Jakob Gabrielsson
was threatened with a school whipping. At a reading examination in
1775 Ahlskog's maid servant Karin Michelsdotter was warned about slow
book learning and laziness.
penalty for missing a reading examination and poor knowledge in reading
aloud was the log punishment. With legs firmly shackled in the logs,
they were punished by sitting outside the church door at the roadside
for public inspection. That was a great shame and far from pleasant.
For reading aloud poorly a sharp warning was often given. The log
punishment was used frequently (probably was what we call a pillory).
should also be knocked in with sticks to prevent lazy machines that
take supremacy," the saying goes. At a reading examination the young
people were threatened with whipping if they did not better themselves
in reading aloud.
end of the 1700's they began to require memorizing with the reading
examination, and the parents paid a fine for their children if they
had not learned their simple catechism part by heart. The fine for
this amounted to 4 skilling (or 90 öre or 12 pennis).
rule the parish clerk served as teacher and went from farm to farm
to teach the children to read. The parents could not teach, for they
were not able to do much reading. Minutes from a house examination
in 1774 says that Anders Mattsson at Pelo 'should put his daughter
Malin in school with Ängman's widow.'
of the first ambulatory school masters in Nedervetil parish was the
above named Ängman's widow. She wandered around the farms and
taught the children to read. Another school master from the same time
was Gabriel Rönnberg, born 1736 in Burtrask, Umeå parish
in Sweden and married to Magdalena Larsdotter Friis. He was a master
gardener and had reading and writing knowledge.
teachers were poorly paid. This consisted of monetary gifts, which
the wives paid to the church after each child's birth. This money
was mostly to help with teaching poor children, especially after the
1808-09 war, when orphan children were found in great numbers. In
1810 Nedervetil parish had 11 orphans. The parish school master was
the first pioneer in the teaching area. Poverty was their life. We
cannot fully appreciate nor set a value on their contribution in the
1700's and 1800's.
close of the 1800's several self-taught village scholars worked in
Nedervetil. Among them were Villiam Hästbacka, a talented young
man of 18 years of age. He held school in Hästbacka in 1888,
but emigrated in his younger years to America. Another talented young
man was Herman Liljander of Pelo. In 1886 he worked as a teacher at
Åbacka. His students came to his school in a boat across the
river. Selma Abrahamsson served as school mistress in Pelo and Skriko.
Under the signature "Flavia" she published a number of writings in
religious papers. She was characterized as a 'talented and fine person.'
feature in village daily life was the struggle with wild animals.
It was mostly wolves and bears that periodically made existence unsafe
for both people and cattle. Small children were never safe outside.
The family men were mostly out hunting or fishing, so the women often
met the danger. Preventive measures were taken. The early dwellings
were built with such a narrow entrance that one could only crawl to
enter. Then the men erected protection for the stock, and loaded the
barn roof with big stones to protect against the bears. Traps were
placed in surroundings and pitfalls dug in the beast's walkways. Protection
was provided by building in a square, forming an inner yard, where
the little ones were fairly well protected and under permanent supervision.
A similar construction can still be seen in several villages (Rippa,
Pelo). The last bear in the area was around 1825. Nowadays bears have
disappeared and only a few wolves are seen. The last wolf was shot
in 1950 in the borderline area toward Terjärv.
time the main road went past the cemetery and church, a wayfarer could
see spirits float over the cemetery during a dusky evening and night.
Sometimes the horses were forced to stop right in front of the church
and they would not be able to continue. They shook and trembled with
fright. If a person said a prayer or spoke God's name gently, the
invisible went away and the way was free.
more difficult for the farmer from Kaustby when he was driving in
the dark autumn from the market in Gamlakarleby. When he came in front
of the church, the horses sprang loose from the cart. The farmer hopped
off and tightened the harness but as soon as it was tightened, the
strap sprang loose again. That happened many times. As quick as the
farmer got harnessed and started to drive, the strap sprang again.
Then he realized that he had to go with the ghost and when he had
said a prayer, he could continue his journey.
a long time ago there was a bandit who died. When a man came to the
church to ring the knell for him, the bell stuck. No matter how the
man attempted, he could not get it to move or to ring.
brothers at Pelo one sunny summer day were occupied with laying a
straw-thatch roof on a barn. During a meal pause, when they sat at
a roadside ditch in the proximity of the barn, there came walking
from the past their late father's father. Both saw him clearly. He
was clothed in the same manner as he was when they last saw him alive.
Their father's father went inside the barn but he did not come out.
The brothers were not at all frightened. When they went to the barn
to see where he went, the barn was empty.
New Years evening a man saw two cows go out and scratch for food in
the snow. When the man went there to examine things, the grain turned
to two fellows who took him away to the edge of the woods. There they
disappeared as if swallowed up in the ground.
the Great War a Russian courier had been murdered at Tast. After that,
no one could live on the farm, for all who attempted to live there
electricity, motorcars, telephones and other modern inventions came
into man's ownership, the old customs and practices that left their
impressions on the countryside and its life during olden times disappeared.
The old customs were, to a great part, dependent on seasonal changes
and the work that was performed, of the life that was lived and of
the deeply rooted experiences in life's place.
old customs and practices were associated with festivals. Late in
October people began to prepare for Christmas. They slaughtered sheep
and cows and butchered enough animals to pro-vide meat for a whole
year. After butchering the meat, they salted it down in a barrel,
and part of it was smoked in the sauna. The blood was taken and baked
into bloodbread. The guts and bowels were cleaned and filled up with
sausage and roasted in the oven.
this followed the malting of rye and corn. They needed malt in great
quantities for the beer they would brew. The grain was soaked in water
until it sprouted. Then it was put in the sauna and fired so that
it became strong and the sprouts dried. Then it was ground in a mill
and the malt was ready to brew. There was a separate great vat for
brewing. The home-brewed beer was sweet and good. In large farms they
made a thousand liters which provided drinking for the whole year.
Yeast was not bought, but they took the sediment from the brewing
vat and saved it for use during the year.
weeks before Christmas, the baking was started for there were many
assortments of bread to have on the Christmas table. First they baked
hardtack (crisp hard rye bread). It had to be hard and dry and baked
in such an amount that it covered a whole year's need. Then they baked
sourbread, yeast bread and limpa (rye meal bread). The last day before
Christmas they tidied up. The floor and tables were scoured white.
Log walls in the house were decorated, benches fixed to the wall and
the fireplace opened. On the wall was an open shelf for vessels and
a bread pole was in the ceiling for the hardtack. In the 1700's it
was still customary to spread straw on the floor on Christmas Eve
Christmas greeted and brought presents. Then at six o'clock Christmas
morning they all drove with ringing sleigh bells to church - burning
torches shone here and there through the drifting snow. The torch
pole was dipped in petroleum and it burned until the return from church.
The days were very short at that time of the year, so it was dark
most of the time. On the return trip the men drove in competition,
for he that was first home from church also got his harvest taken
in first during the year.
the third day of Christmas the farmers were summoned to a parish meeting
where they jointly discussed the parish needs, and during Hilarymas
Day the youth gathered for a big dance.
Eve, young birches were tied to the farm staircase and the walls in
the big cottage were decorated with mountain ash berry flowers. Straw
was scattered on the floor.
first of May was the children's special festival day. Then children
jumped around in great flocks with bells and cowbells around the neck
and they had such amusement. Then the May fire was lit.
was a fire watch, and a sighting man carried a rod that was used year
after year. The old men of the village were always one of the sighting
men while the other was a younger apprentice.
search baliff had an important role in the old society. If he saw
a predatory animal, it was his duty to call together the farmers to
chase. And if some cows went astray and were left in the woods, it
was a job for the search baliff. When searching ended for the day,
a man called the folks together by blowing in a goat horn.
Hansén said that the area men on a certain day, probably during
the summer, used to ride in a big company around the church. They
were clothed in homespun attire, but the significance of the very
old custom is not known.
men always went black-clothed to Holy Communion, and during Sunday
forenoon the children had to stay out.
custom of cremation survived yet at the close of the 1700's and the
beginning of the next century. Men stated that it was a frightful
and unpleasant task. During the winter months all the dead bodies
were collected in the ash cellar that was found in the back slope
at the north side of the church. They did not dig graves when the
ground was frozen. When it first thawed in the spring, the men dug
a big common grave for all the corpses that collected during the winter.
They turned the bodies into the
and burned them. Then the men who performed the job got drunk with
brandy, for they could not bear the stench.
and weddings followed many customs that do not occur any more, at
least to the extent as earlier. On the Friday before Pentecost all
the couples who intended to take out banns traveled to the city to
go shopping. The fiance purchased the clothing and adornments for
his bride. To the city they rode in a long company with the escort
of the best horses leading the bridal pairs from all the parishes
in the neighborhood. On the return home the young people went to a
banns party. They were dressed in all conceivable manner and both
coffee and strong drinks were served right into the morning. Fights
also happened sometimes.
before the wedding a carriage boy traveled around with an invitation
bidding people to the wedding. And when the wedding day arrived, preparations
were made for a thousand persons, to lodge them and treat them with
food and drink for three days. The wedding was held on week days in
the middle of the week, and the marriage was performed in the wedding
yard. The wedding chamber was beautifully decorated with home-woven
bridal sheets. The guests were provisioned richly and between mealtimes
they found all kinds of jokes and pranks. One prank was to hold a
trial with a prosecutor, judge and jury. The one to be prosecuted
received a summons. He was prosecuted for a crime of a humorous nature.
The culprit could ask for a representative during the legal proceedings.
wedding in Pelo, "Hansas Kalle" (Karl Hansén) danced himself
purple with another's wife. Hansas Kalle was prosecuted for undue
advances to another's wife and was summoned to appear at legal proceedings.
He asked Emil Högnäs to be his representative at the trial,
and the judge was Judge Gustaf Bishop from Kronoby. Hansas Kalle was
taken in with handcuffs to the trial, but the judge acquited him and
he did not have to pay any fine.
mealtimes people played at different games and sports. They lifted
cart wheels, ran in sacks, ate white bread from a hanging cord and
ran races. Small prizes were awarded and there was great hilarity.
examinations could also be in progress for three days. He who held
the examination paid for both meat, coffee and strong liquids for
the reading examination guests. As soon as the pastor finished the
examination, a dance started. They could be in progress for two days
and nights with intermission only during mealtime.
Market Fair was an occasion to drag many people from all the surrounding
communities and from the far Finnish parishes in the country. Then
the servant's free week was held. Several days before the fair a long
caravan of carts and horses stretched along the main road to the city.
There one found thousands of horses during fair day and a gaudy folk
life with a strong element of gypsy. The first Saturday in Lent was
the young people's special Fair Day. In huge flocks young people strolled
around the city, and for a block in the center of the city they congregated.
There youths sought their future fiancees. The men treated the girls
to treacle. Both dipped their fingers in the treacle and sucked away
with daintiness. There was no coffee room. On Sunday afternoon and
evening people gathered in some yard and told stories. Then jokes
the most known story tellers was Matts Hongell, also called "Big Hongell"
owing to his tall growth. Countless amusing stories about him are
yet in vogue among the population. Other eccentrics were "Skriko-Alix",
"Smedas Liander" and "Pelo-Gambel Kalle".
people sometimes held the great dances at some farm. There were oil
lamps in a cross below the ceiling and four musicians played violins.
The boys brought brandy. At some big dances a "small bride" performed.
They were men who were dressed as a bride. The disguised charged 25
penni admission of each dance visitor. At some dances there were no
musicians, but some song-proficient girl on duty who warbled dance
melodies. "Juhos Tilda" in the Pelo community was distinctly remembered
as a good warbler.
time ago Nedervetil had its own native attire. Both men and women
wore their costumes. But the custom to wear native costumes in everyday
life has gradually disappeared. People wore clothes of homespun in
the winter and of wurst in the summer. They wove all that they needed
on the farm. During the winter the women sat with teasel, spinning
wheel and loom. And people made all they needed of furniture, household
utensils, sleds, carts, etc. Some people traveled a long way to find
work during the winter. They worked with shipbuilders in Kronstadt
and Petersburg, and many Nedervetil residents worked at church building
of their wages servants always got shoes and wool, and a year's wages
could amount to 30 marks. The servants got to sit at the same table
as the master's family and ate the same food. Therefore they could
serve many years in succession on the farm.
and shoemakers went from farm to farm and sewed clothes and shoes.
Hides and skins were smeared with tallow and pitch oil before shoe
makers began work. Also women dressmakers went around. But usually
women themselves sewed everything for their own farm's needs. Other
skilled workers who wandered around were the carpenter, watchmaker,
and tinsmith. Some people can still remember the Russian who sold
material, the itinerant peddlar with his geegaws, dish seller, basket
maker and also a part musician and neighborhood eccentric.
was an ancient practice of bleeding to purge the body of impurities.
A horn cup was made from the shaved tip of a cowhorn, and a bit of
calf bladder was tied over the small end. The afflicted part of the
body was lanced with a copper axe and the large open end of the horn
was placed over the wound, and suction was applied by drawing on the
small end of the horn with the mouth. This was usually done by an
old woman called Cup Woman who practiced this bloody handiwork. The
patient usually went to the sauna after bleeding, and then to bed
for a good night's rest.
farmers traveled to the city every Saturday to sell their products
at the market place - butter, meat, wood or hay.
a woman had a child, it was customary that the nearest relatives came
with a banquet meal. They came driving to the farm with butter, meat,
bread, raisin soup, wool, etc. The giver was in turn bidden to good
provisioning in the yard. Another olden day custom that people mention
was the family parties. When a man guested near-relatives, people
drove in on Saturday afternoon and left on Tuesday or Wednesday. They
were not in any hurry. Relatives were obliged to repay with a similar
in former times had a strong bond with old customs and outgrown methods.
A third of the ground always lay fallow. This was true particularly
of back fields where they would sow rye. Fallow acreage was grazed
over during the early summer by the sheep. Then it was plowed and
harrowed and during the whole summer it was kept black through industrious
harrowing. The 18th of August was when they sowed rye, with a spring
sowing day the following May 25.
form of work help was found when men were away in America. The "American
Widow" had to do both the reaping and hay making.
time between sowing and haymaking was no lazy man's time during olden
days. The men had long fences to repair and perhaps to build. Great
farms had many kilometers of fences to keep in condition. In the early
spring they hewed wood for the fences. They were held with split spruce
plants, or with spruce twigs that were heated in fire. That way they
got a sturdy fence that held for 30 years.
after summer came leaf taking time. They could not take the leaves
when the moon was waning, for in that case the sheep would not eat
the leaves. Sheaves of leaves were dried on drying hurdles and they
needed a thousand sheaves for the winter needs of the sheep. In earlier
days all hay was cut with scythe and corn was cut with the sickle.
How heavy and laborious all work was! We have only a weak conception
of how, days at a stretch from morning to night, men kept at it until
all was threshed. The most a man threshed during a day at Hansas Kalles
was 8 riar, that gave 25 barrels of grain. The men began at 5 in the
morning, requiring that they heat the sauna each day and bathed in
the evening. But when horses came into use, it became easier during
the above examples we see that our forefathers followed the same old
customs that their forefathers followed from the past. For them it
was natural to follow the rhythm that during many hundreds of years
stressed both work and lifestyle. The good old times are now a phrase
that we cite in our life of speed and hurry. We esteem our forefathers,
and if we maintain some of their old customs in remembrance, that
is also a brilliant statement of their work.
from Swedish by June Pelo, 1982, from "Nedervetil Kommun Hembygdsbok"
1958. Most stories were by Helge Skog.