primary sources of this family history
This district famous for its beautiful scenery was in ancient times settled by the tribe of Häme. Somewhere hereabouts the beacons and watch towers built by the tribal guardsmen of Häme must have been situated. The settlers were to have protection against raids made by the Carelian tribes living on the eastern banks of the Kymijoki River.
was part of Sweden and under the jurisdiction of the Roman Catholic Church
- this had been so ever since the thirteenth century, when in 1249 Birger
Jarl, Ruler of Sweden, went on a crusade to Häme, while the Carelians
had embraced the Greek Orthodox faith and came under the jurisdiction of
Novgorod. East and west as personified by the tribes of Häme
and Carelia fought for the souls of the settlers along Lake Päijänne
. Häme under the jurisdiction of Sweden became integrated with
the western sphere of culture.
The lineage of this family can be traced
into the sixteenth century, when
the first known ancestor
of the family of Virmaila,
Pietari Niilonpoika Saksa
lived and worked in Padasjoki. Pietari Niilonpoika served as a cavalryman under the colours of the Nyystölä cavalry, a unit comprising 300 horsemen, and as far as is known he took part in the quelling of the Club Uprising and the Battle of Nyystölä at Padasjoki, which ended in a bloodbath of the rebels. Local tradition tells us that the ditches of Nyystölä were so filled with blood after the battle, that you could float logs in them. The war of the Clubs (1596-97) was a fight for the Crown of Sweden between the contender Charles, virtual Ruler of Sweden, and the King, Sigismund, residing in Poland. The leading noblemen in Finland supported the Roman Catholic Sigismund, but Charles had the support of the free landholders and commoners in Finland, since he supported their demands to have the customof compulsory billeting of military abolished, a practice fiercely hated by all landholders.
This system of compulsory billeting forced the farmers to provide upkeep for discipliners and pillaging soldiers in times of peace. Since the farmers and commoners did not possess any firearms, they armed themselves with bows and arrows, spears and the spiked clubs, that gave a name to the rebellion.
Pietari Saksa was a locally respected farmer, since he also was employed as a sheriff. The sheriff was a local civil servant elected at the assizes. At his house the court sessions were held. The residence of the sheriff was ever since the Middle Ages also served as a hostelry for visiting civil servants, thus slowly developing into public inns. Pietari Saksa too kept an inn, providing lodgings, food, and transport to the next inn.
Pietari Saksa was an educated man, who had learned to write in Swedish. At that time the ability to write was not so very widespread in Finland. Not until the eighteenth century the ability to read of the horsemen is evaluated as fairly good, but even into the nineteenth century shaky marks and initials only are found in documents. This in spite of the fact, that the church had worked hard for centuries to improve the literacy of the people. In the eighteenth century the church tried to get the parents to educate their children by imposing a fine, if a child could not read or write.
the nineteenth century a child was supposed to be able to recite their
ABC-book in full from memory before their eight year. If the child was
unable to do so, a fine of one ruble was imposed. The sum was increased
as the child grew up, and so did the demands - a 15 year old had to be
able to recite the Cathecismus in full. If the parents failed to teach
their children, they faced pillory in form of the stocks in the open space
in front of the church. In order to get married, you had to know how to
read and write.
Of the sons of Pietari Saksa, Hannu and Heikki took part in the Thirty Years' War in Germany, and supposedly because of their services during the war, the family was granted the Virmaila lands as a family holding. Local tradition has retained the picture of a warlord, "who riding and in full battledress arrived at Virmaila, and drove the men from the main village away from the fields".
Heikki Pietarinpoika Wirmala took part in the creation of the Swedish-Finnish great power position by fighting against Russia. In 1614 this raid was extended to the outskirts of Novgorod and in the next year it led to the Siege of Pihkova. In the Peace of Stolbova in 1617 it was agreed by Sweden and Russia that Sweden-Finland could include the administrative district of Kexholm and Ingria. Thus the eastern border of the country was extended far towards the east.
peace treaty favoured Russia, since in the opinion of the next ruler, Gustavus
II Adolphus (king 1611 - 32), good relations with Russia had to be preserved.
In 1628 we meet Heikki Pietarinpoika participatting in the Polish War,
which had broken out in 1621. Poland was the main enemy from a Swedish
point of wiev - the King of Poland still insisted on his legitimate right
to the crown of Sweden. In the of Altmark Poland delivered Livonia and
Eastern Prussian ports to Sweden. Sweden-Finland was becoming a Baltic
power of some importance.
the military operations in Germany,
Alte Veste this cavalry attacked the command-in-chief of the Catholic forces,
Wallenstein. The King Gustavus II Adolphus fell in the disastrous Battle
of Lutzen 1632. Not until 1635 Heikki Pietarinpoika returned home to Virmaila
in Padasjoki. For his part a more than 20 year long service had ended.
Sweden-Finland had now reached the position of a great power. At home Heikki
Pietarinpoika had new challenges to meet: wars, epidemics and years of
famine had reduced the standard of living of the people. At Virmaila too
only four cows, two mares, one heifer, one goat and four sheep were left.
the manner of his father Heikki Pietarinpoika was an educated man and had
seen a great deal of the world. He had seen how people lived in Russia,
Balticum and Poland, from the Rhine to the Banks of the Danube. He became
known for his choleric temper. A proof of this temper is, that scarcely
home from the wars, he hit the mistress at the neighbouring farm, and furthermore
insulted her husband at the site of the Assizes.
Pietari Niilonpoika Saksa's children we have reason to mention also his
Pietarinpoika turned over
was considered a very enlightened and prosperous man. Being able to read
and write he was a layman member of the court for many years. He was a
Member of the Parliament from the constituency of Hollola representing
the farmers at the session in Stockholm in 1668. The Parliament of Sweden
comprised four estates: the nobility, the clergy, the burghers, and the
farmers. The Parliament or Estates did not have to be called by the King,
and at this time they gathered every five years in order to discuss matters
important to the realm and the greatest social evils of the times.
In addition to secular matters, Juho Heikinpoika was also interested in religious affairs. He was churchwarden of the Parish of Padasjoki between 1660 and 1680. Partly due to his efforts the Parish of Padasjoki built a new and bigger church of wood. Every member of the parish had to contribute logs for this project. The splendid new cruciform church was in use until 1924, when it was destroyed by a fire. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries burial in the church was a general custom, later abolished for reasons of health. (*look at the tombstone)
Juho Wirmala married twice. His second wife was the daughter of the owner of the Auvila estate and sheriff of Jämsä, and with her a great deal was added to the estate. One of their sons became a minister. Ericus Wirilander was ordained after three years of studies at Abo Akademi, the Swedish Language University of Turku. Ericus Wirilander was deputy for the chaplain of Padasjoki for almost ten years, but he was not appointed to the permanent post. The reason for this was that the members of the Parish of Padasjoki feared the increasing influence of the owners of Virmaila in all matters connected with their parish. When Ericus Wirilander moved away from the parish of his birth, it was found, that "he had lived a blameless life, carefully executed his duties, and that he had studied diligently".
Towards the end of the seventeenth century, all known ancestors of this family can be found. Most of them were landholders, owning the land they cultivated.
In their fields they grew rye and barley - the most important grains of the times. Barley was popular, because of its resistance to frost-blight. Frost was a steady companion to such an extent that on the outskirts of the villages pure grain was seldom used for bread, the flour mostly a mixture of bark and grain. This bread was called barkbread, in Finnish pettuleipä, or famine bread. Bread and homemade ale were the basis of the diet in the countryside. A welcome addition to the table came from fishing, those living along the shores of Lake Päijänne had a good opportunity to go in for fishing. The lake abounded in fish, and there was and still is a great deal of fish to be caught such as "muikku" (Coregonus albula), lake bream, pike, perch, whitefish, and burbot.
Also livestock were kept. The usual livestock was pigs, hens, sheep and goats. Most important was the manure obtained from the livestock, since this was used to fertilize the meager soil. The milk production of the cows was of practically no importance. The conditions were such, that for most of the year the cows were dry. Thus butter was a delicacy provided only for feasts. Peasoup was also a dish for celebrations. The only spice was salt, and there was a saying as follows: "Salt and thick are the sweets of the poor". Salt was a necessity to preserve the food.
The most important vegetable was turnips during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Turnips were used for human consumption as well as fodder for the livestock. Oil from turnips was used for lamps. Potatoes were more generally cultivated only in the nineteenth century. Potatoes were brought into Finland by the soldiers, returning from the wars in Pomerania towards the end of the eighteenth century.
farms were selfsupporting. Everything needed was produced on the farm.
Taxes were mostly paid in grain. If the crops failed, the people were doomed.
The years 1695 - 9 were years of famine in Finland - the population of
Finland was reduced by a quarter.
Lake Päijänne the famine years took a heavy toll.
There was no crop to harvest. The famine peaked in March and April 1697. Women and children gone begging were found dead of cold and starvation along the roads, and they were buried without a name in massgraves. Epidemics swept the country and in Padasjoki hundreds died from sickness and starvation. The landowners along the shores of Lake Päijänne were slightly better off, since they were able to fish and hunt. But their prosperity suffered, and in many cases blank destitution knocked at their door.
had the people recovered from the famine, when a new disaster hit. The
Great Northern War, that had begun in 1700 led to the fall from the position
of Power Sweden- Finland had held for a hundred years. The King of Sweden-Finland,
Charles XII lost his life in an unsuccessful foray into Norway. With this
raid, he tried to make up the losses suffered in the east. For Finland
the war meant occupation by the Russians, and this was a period of misery
for the country. Along Lake Päijänne the Russian occupants arrived
in 1713, when they also occupied Padasjoki. The intelligentsia, among others
most of the teachers and ministers, escaped to Sweden.
The wars and the occupation drained the resources of the country still further: many a village had been completely deserted, its inhabitants gone with the war, many a field grew trees instead of grain. Life had to be started all over again. A schedule of population made in 1722 mentions the names of the ancestors we are interested in: The owner of the Virmaila estate has been put down as destitue, the master of Kipaila at Maakeski, Jacob Ristonpoika, destitute, and the master of Lohtari at Maakeski, Kalle Jaakonpoika, is put down as very poor. The word destitute meant, that the estate in question had no means to pay the taxes. However, one must bear in mind, that all available means hardly were declared, since the people were afraid to excessive taxation.
master of Virmaila, Juho Wirilander, served as sheriff of Padasjoki and
a long time. His brother Heikki was the last owner of an undivided Virmaila
estate. Heikki Gabrielinpoika inherited Virmaila at the early age of 17,
because his father died. He had a court battle for the ownership of Virmaila
on his hands too, since his cousin tried to claim the ownership. The ownership
was not established until March 3, 1729, and the by a decision on appeal
to the Lord Lieutenant of the King. Later on Heikki decided to divide the
estate, and give a share to his own brother: he kept 2/3 of the estate,
the younger brother received 1/3.
Heikki Gabrielinpoika was married to Elisabeth Favor, the daughter of a well-known family of ministers and civil servants. Their marriage lasted for 58 years, and when her husband died, the only things Elisabeth wanted from his estate were the linen and bed sheets, two cows, a black heifer and one rixdollar, and one copperdollar.
The inventory of Heikki Gabrielinpoika's goods and chattels. made after his death, gives us a good picture of his estate. He left among other things: A new small building, with a chimney and two windows, built to accommodate travellers. Another building, not so new, also used as an inn and with a chimney and two windows. A residence with a big oven a chimney and one window and two window shatters. A big, old cottage with an oven and two shatters. A bakery, six storehouses of different sizes, a stable with lofts, a dairy, a new and long barn for the livestock, two older barns, a piggery, two old haybarns and a newer one, a big haybarn and an old threshing shed. A still of copper and candlesticks, two paris of ploughs, to big cauldrons, a washing tub, a homespun jacket and waistcoat, a leather saddle and stirrups, a wooden saddle, three pairs of bridles and reins and 20 barrels of rye. A brown gelding, a drakhrown mare, and a reddish stallion. Cows by the names of Ruskainen, Pilkkainen, Hermikki, Kestikki, Tilstikki, Tahdike, Mustikki and Veskuna. Three young cattle and one good and two not so good calves. 11 old pigs and five young ones, two hucks and one black and white she-goat. One books of sermons, a new church boat and one fishing boat.
Gabrielinpoika gave by a last will and testament made in 1756 all his estate
to his eldest son Juho, and left his younger son Heikki unprovided for.
However, the younger son challenged this will after his father's death,
and the estate was devided between the two brothers as decreed by court.
The court decision dated on the 1st day of March, 1783, has been signed
by none less than the King himself, Gustavus III.
Juho Heikinpoika Wirmala was a highly respected landowner. His pew in the church was on the first row in the northwing, in front of all the other landowners on the Virmaila Island. Once Juho Heikinpoika showed a rare piece of temper in church. Traditionally the altar was placed in the center of the church, but the clergymen had it transferred to the eastern wing as their tradition demanded. Some of the members of the parish, Juho Heikinpoika among them, opposed the moving of the altar, and they moved the altar back into the center of the church on their own.
The tale was brought to the ears of the governor of the province, and he threatened to send in military in order to prevent that kind of disturbances in the future. The governor decided, that the altar must be returned to the eastern wing of the church, and Juho Heikinpoika was fined 40 silver dollars. The influence of the church was great in the eighteenth century. Attending service was compulsory. If you neglected to attend a service, you were punished by pillory in the stocks on the open space in front of the church. Even in church the seats were exactly named in order to the standing and importance of each parishioner's social standing in the community. The social standing was Godgiven and ordained down to the last seating in church.
oldest list of the seating arrangements in the church of Padasjoki is from
1757. From this it appears, that the masters of Virmaila were seated in
the second pew in the northern corner behind the chaplain's wife; in the
eastern corner sat the masters of Kipaila in the fourth pew; in the fifth
pew were the masters of Lohtari placed. The sixth pew in the southern corner
was reserved for soldiers. The soldiers were given a Swedish name, often
translated into Swedish from the local Finnish name. The pew arrangements
placed the nobility and the landowners in the first pews, behind them the
tenants were seated as well as the artisans. The back pews were reserved
for the paid help, domestic servants and farmhands, and the vagrants.
Of the population in the Finnish countryside, the independent farmers cultivating their own land, were the most prosperous. The holdings were not as a rule divided, and if a landowner had several sons, normally one of them inherited the land, the daughters were given a cow or something similar according to the prosperity of the deceased.and the other sons could be provided with for instance the right to clear land for himself in some outlaying forest on the outskirts of the lands. This was the beginning of the crofter system in Finland. In 1743 the independent farms got the rights to establish crofts.
The crofters paid rent for their land to the landholders, mostly in form of work: the crofter worked a number of days agreed upon for the landowner. The size of the holdings decided the amount to be paid. The burden was heavy, since the crofter had his own lands to attend to too, his cattle and his fields.
In addition to the agricultural population, artisans lived and worked in the country. These mostly circulated from house to house and offered their services in exchange of food and lodging, grain, flax, or other produce. At the village of Maakeski in Padasjoki there lived many artisans in the beginning of the eighteenth century, among them a weaver in the thirties.
The youngest daughter of Juho Heikinpoika Wirmala, Maria, married Matti Grönlund, a tanner. Matti Grönlund was at the Assizes of Padasjoki in 1784 given the rights to act as the tanner master of Padasjoki and Kuhmoinen for 15 years. Later on he established himself at Karvali Croft on the shores of the lake at Nurmitaipale in Virmaila, the old boatyard of the village. Together with Matti Grönlund Maria had ten children. Of these children Leena became the mistress of Karvali. She married the tanner Emanuel Petterinpoika Laurell, who had moved to Nurmitaipale from Luopioinen. Emmanuel Laurell's parents lived in Asikkala, the parish next to Padasjoki. Of Leena Matintytär's and Emmanuel Laurell's children, Maija Stina became the mistress of Karvali Croft.
members of this family can be found all over Finland at all levels of the
society. They have, however, the same background, the same ancestors, and
here they are, the soldiers faithfully serving their king, the men who
carefully worked their fields, served their masters, and fondly raised
their children in the most beautiful parts of Central Finland on the shores
of Lake Päijänne .
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