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The Korpilainen Home in Korplax, Karleby. Part I

Hans-Erik Krokfors

Together with the Huhta, Präst and Vitick homes, the Korpilainen home belongs to the oldest in Korplax [a village in the Parish of Karleby (Kokkola)l. It is maintained that the village name "Korplax" (Korpilahti) is a derivative of the home name "Korpilainen". Korplax lies north-east of (Gamla) Karleby, north of the river Perho/Vetil/Rödså [the same river with different names depending upon which parish/village it is floting through], and borders on the Parish of Kelviå (Kälviä). The homesteads represent a settlement said to have originated in the 1400s, if not earlier.

In the combined maps from 1776, "Korpilain" famlies near to and south of Heickilä. The Hauhtonen homestead, which lies close to Vitick near the public road was occupied in the list of homesteads from 1547 but periodically (1635, 1696, 1742) was vacant (in 1729, Erick Vitick used it to thresh hay).

During the 1400s and 1500s Korplax Bay separated the residences around Vitick-Korpilainen-Huhta and Räbb-Kauko (Lower Korplax). [Korplax is no longer a bay because the land has risen as the result of glacial subsidence.] Toward the close of the 1500s and at the beginning of the 1600s Korplax was a more extensive village than in our time. All of the pioneer homesteads which were established in Peldokorpi and Rita Villages in the Parish of Lochteå (Lohtaja) and Jolkka in the Parish of Nedervetil (Alaveteli) were also included with Korplax. At the close of the 1500s an intensive pioneering activity took place in the wilderness area southeast of Korplax and Peldokorpi. In the tax records from 1698, it is noted there were 15 permanent farmers in Korplax Village. In 1605 there were 24 farmers, but 8 of the homesteads were registered as empty. Of the 24 houses, 12 were in such poor condition that they could not pay komålssmör [a tax], 11 homes could not pay näbbskattsmör [another tax], and 6 homes could not pay land taxes because there was not enough information on the number of grain fields. [These taxes were paid in butter, depending on how many cows, etc., one had. If one could not pay with money, which was very usual, one paid with butter, fish, corn, etc.] When money for livestock was reported in 1622, lists of domestic animals were made. In the list for 1641, Anders Mickelsson Korpilainen had 2 oxen, while 31 farmers in Karleby had only 1 ox each.

The first known owner of the Korpilainen homestead was Anders Andersson, appearing in record books for over 60 years (1548-1611). It has been thought that his predecessor was Olof Olofsson but both are listed for the years 1548 and 1558. In 1608 the owner was named "Anders Karpilain", while in the same time period church records called him "Anders Andersson".

Olof Mickelsson (Huhta), Erik Henriksson (Heikkilä), Anders Andersson (Korpilainen), and Per Persson (Präst) had a little mill on Korplax Creek, and people paid 2 öre [Swedish coinage] per person in mill taxes from 1568-1571.

Anders Mickelsson (Korpilainen), who probably was born in 1578 since he was mentioned as being age 59 in 1637 and his son Erik Andersson (Korpilainen) was 42 (consequently born in 1595), was shown as owner of the home from 1619-1675 (55 years). For the period 1611-1619 no special owner was named, but it is possible that Anders Michelsson's father Mickel had taken over the home either as heir (Andersson?) or son-in-law. After Anders Mickelsson and Erik Andersson (1619-74), owners of the home are mentioned as Lukas Matson (1679), Johan Lukasson (1695-96), Mats (1713), Mats Mattsson (1724-26), a young girl named Lisa (1728-30) and again a Mats (1737-42).

Lukas Matson (Korpilainen) was skilled in iron works. It is noted that it was Lukas Matson who, among the workers for the parish church from 1649-82, made a gräfta (a new axe); also he steel-braced 2 old axes for the church. His son Johan Lukasson (Korpilainen) was then head of the homestead at least until 1696.

In the Karleby area during the 1500s a trading center developed where citizens from other places and merchants from Karelia gathered. Merchants in the Karleby area were not content with passive business in the home area but also undertook business travel to the south, west, and north. In 1500 at least three Karleby parish merchants met in Kemi: Erik Smed from Kvikant, Olav Smed from Korplax, and a Bråto resident.

After the Club war from 1570-90, the troops left in Ostrobothnia were maintained by the country people. The war and conscription of farmhands and farmers' sons for military service continued. In 1611, there were 35 soldiers attached to the large Parish of Karleby, according to the riksdag [governmental meeting] decision made earlier at Örebro, Sweden, as to how many soldiers each parish should supply to the crown. In the same year (1611), 41 additional men were attached of whom 14 were from the present Karleby. In 1612, 34 new soldiers were attached. Of these 9 were from Karleby, but surely some came from Rödsö and Korplax since it is said that from Rodsal (Ruotsalo) 12 country soldiers were attached but names were not mentioned.

During Duke Karl's time a new payment system began with freedom from taxes for homesteads that included a soldier. For example, in 1602 caretaker Nils Jönsson's wife, Valborg Henriksdotter, had freedom for all the annual outlay at the Prest homestead in Korplax while her husband was away at war.

In February 1637 conscription of men from ages 15 to 60 was held in the parish. A division was established in Djupsund, and every tenth man was registered as a soldier. The rotar system was further developed in the 1600s. Farmers were bound to contribute to the maintenance of a soldier or sailor. When the permanent draft system was introduced in 1733, the homesteads of Karleby were divided into equal rotars that put a croft at the soldier's disposal. Korpilainen, together with the Lillåla and Tylli homesteads, formed Rote [Squadron] No. 13 which croft was at Träsk Common, probably in Kåustar.

The cottage was inhabited (1750) by soldier and carpenter Anders Enmark from Fredrikshamn, age 21 and single, and later by soldier Nyman. Even after 1733 the farmers supported and arranged for conscripting a soldier, and some installed a farmhand who was later conscripted as a soldier in the rote. Soldier conscription was a heavy burden for the farmers. Many were forced to go from their homesteads and leave them empty.

In the early 1600s Ostrobothnia's commerce was so lively that the Swedish government saw it was to its advantage to get into the act and began to set up cities to better supervise and draw the benefits of stricter toll supervision. In 1605 and 1606 Vasa and Uleåborg (Oulu) were established as commercial centers in outlying areas. In 1620 Nykarleby and Gamlarkarleby were established to satisfy middle Ostrobothnia's demand for goods (Jakobstad was established in 1653). Gamlakarleby was one of the cities King Gustav Adolf II established at the initiative of Karleby Parish residents to build farm trade. The founding letter for "Gamble Carleby" was drawn up 7 September 1620 by 25-year-old Gustaf II Adolf on Kvikant and Ristrand soil. The early inhabitants of the city were mostly emigrating rural residents. Among the first åldermen in the city were Lukas Mattsson (1626-31) and Matts Lucasson (1645-50 married to Beata Sigfridsdotter) and an Eric Olofsson Prest (1649).

It became an up and coming city with the exclusive right to trade at Stockholm and Åbo (Turku). Within the country each town had its commercial territory, which for Gamlakarleby included the Parishes of Karleby (Kaarlela) and Kronoby (Kruunupyy), with parishes north of Karleby (Lochteå in Vasa Province, and Pyhäjoki and Kalajoki in Uleåborg Province). The shore road north went via Ventus - Linuspera - Kåustar (Inn) - Jubbil - Gunnars - Kalluoto - Rajaluoto over Kauko bridge - Räbb - Lövbacka, past the fork in the road to the houses in Korplax alongside Vitick (Inn), via Kelviå - Peitso and Lochteå to Kalajoki and from there further north to Brahestad (Raahe). The commercial farmers from the north, as well as Kelviå and Korplax residents, traveled thus over Kauko bridge, around Palo Fjord and via Kåustar when they went to the "city".

The bridge that led over the channel in Gamlakarleby was a continuation of the approaching road from Ventus and Kåustar (through Narvila). Another incoming road went via the church (around Kåustar Creek). The "coffee road" from Ventus to Heinola was first build in the 1700s. In the summer when moving troops, the public highway was used. In the winter people traveled along the waterway over the ice. In the 1700s Karleby first arranged to plough snow at public expense.

The public highway bridge over Vetil river has, for several hundred years, crossed over from Rajlot (Rajaluoto) in Vittsar (Vitsari) to Kauko in Korplax. In 1559 there was a ferry, and some time thereafter a bridge was built. At least by the year 1661 there were suspension bridges in the parish which had to be repaired. Kauko Suspension Bridge was not the only one, because in 1679 Kelviå residents committed themselves to helping with the maintenance of the suspension bridges in Karleby, although they maintained their own roads despite the fact that there were more and larger bridges in Karleby than in Kelviå. The area with its public highway, Kauko Bridge, and the City of Gamlakarleby with its craftsmen and harbor certainly had great importance also for homesteads in Korplax.

During the war-filled and restless years in the 1700s and 1800s, when crops failed, the taxes and military conscription heavily burdened the homesteads already impoverished by the maintenance forced on them by the almost perpetually present Russian or Swedish soldiers. But the nearness to the public highway was not only connected with tribulation. As a channel of communication which formed for farmers doing business and other travelers, it was at the same time a connecting link to the neighboring communities. Kauko Bridge especially had great social importance for the unity and kinship of the community, where young people from the nearby villages gathered to meet their friends, to play and watch passersby. The break-up of the ice was one of the occasions when the parish people gathered to keep watch on the bridge. The young people and adolescent boys were also drawn there at the same time so that it became a kind of "folkfest" that people took for granted. Nearby in the Finnish-speaking parishes, people expressed themselves freely in both languages. Some of the girls from Korpilainen married into the Finnish-speaking parishes of Lochteå and Kalajoki; others into the Swedish-speaking homes in Karleby and Kronoby.

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Hans-Erik Krokfors is Assistant Professor of Marketing at Åbo Akademi in Åbo, Finland. His special hobby is genealogy in Karleby Parish and he has a database of over 85,000 people. This article was published in Österbottningen, 21 September 1993. Translated by June Pelo.

Published by The Swedish Finn Historical Society Quarterly, Volume 7, No.1, January 1998.

© Hans-Erik Krokfors

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