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When a stranger asks about the church village in Vörå, he probably has been told that Vörå has a village known as the church village. In Rökiö the farms are not grouped around the church or near it, the nearest is about 200 meters from it, but with its dense settlement and commercial center it could be called a village. The few farms and the homes of the priest and sexton that lie closest to the church use the name Myrbergsby, but there is no reason for this designation.

Sketch of typical old farm buildings in Österbotten.

The population of Rökiö is one of the largest villages in Vörå. It extends in area and dwellings in a northerly direction of the Vörå river. The border villages in the south are Mäkipä and Miemois, in the west Myrbergsby and Lålax, in the north Tuckur and in the east to Oravais is the village Komossa.

Of the village's meadows and arable land, about half are cultivated batches of bogs and swamps in the forest area, and the rest is the so-called Vörå plain. This narrows north of the village into a strait between Myrberget in the west and Folkhögskolbacken in the east, but widens further north and goes between the river and hills of Kråkberget - Kärrberget - Bodberget for the meadows that are called Åkroken, Åholmen and Tukurängarna. The fields lie closest to the village and have an area of ca 190 hectares. They bear the names Norråkern, Överåkern, Söderåkern, Barkaråkern. They are limited by hills of which the highest is Furuberget of ca 30 m. and Baggberget of ca 25 m. which give the landscape a very different look than what we are accustomed to with the Ostrobothnian flatlands.

The villages of Eastern Bothnia (The settlements of the west coast in Finland)

Part of the village is located near these hills. There are groups of farm houses but also small cottages which lie scattered on the hillside. During the time that elapsed since the turn of the century, this village has remained as it was. Farms remain in their places, but several of them have been enlarged. The homes of the landless that were hidden behind the hills have disappeared. Others have been rebuilt and undergone beautification with red and white paint.

Most of the village farmhouses lie on either side of the creek which flows in a westerly direction and ends up in the Vörå river near the church. The dwellings here are very close together. In an area which is about a half kilometer long and a hundred yards wide, we count about 35 farm houses with all of the outbuildings a well-stocked farm has.

At the turn of the century Rökiö village had 16 numbered homesteads with a total of 10 mantal, and the free-holding farms numbered 49. The numbered homesteads were as follows:

# Name # of homesteads
10.Nygård 6

The total number of homesteads was 54. Some farmers had more than one homestead.

The landless cottages numbered 52. Rökiö also had torps in Kalapä, 17 in Röukas and 7 in Komossa all of which later became independent homes.

Let us go around through the village to learn how it looked a half century ago. We begin our wandering in the north toward Kråkberget where Johan Påhls and Isak Nygårds farms are located. The latter belongs to the homestead with the same name, called Klemitus and is located in a beautiful aspen grove. In 1912 it was converted to a tuberculosis dispensary, but after 1917 it was changed back to a farm house. Of the two other cottages at Kråkberget, one belongs to the church watchman and is called Vektaris in daily speech. Directly to the south from Klemitus and away from the road lies Holms farm with five farmers, of which three inhabit the yellow mansion-like main building and a farm building. These have both been rebuilt and expanded with a third; then in 1907 Vörå high school had a comfortable and beautiful home. The Holms homestead was a squire's property in previous centuries, but was sold by constable Solvin in 1875 when it went over to farmers. The two beautiful oak trees from 1700 were protected from the north wind and grew up to become of interest in this northern latitude. The mill at the crest of the hill and another at Knutsbacken are the only ones remaining in the village of eight from 50 years ago.

In the northeast from Holmsbacken we have Nörrbakkan with 5 farms belonging to Nygård's homestead. Four of these are near each other and are visible from the road, the fifth, Nygåls Erkos, is a little farther east. There are eight cottages belonging to the landless. The little gray cottage that is closest to Holms is occupied by Åppigålsmåors. The name reminds us of a farm house that formerly stood near or was just south of Holms oaks. In another cottage at the top of the hill lives the happy and humorous old man Löfdahl with his jovial wife. He is a butcher in the village and his wife is a popular party chef.

On a footpath that winds around Vargdalen we meander through a field of boulders until we come to the cottage of carpenter and former schoolmaster Helenius, and below the hill we come to two old Nybond farms. A stone's throw from them is the cottage of the tailor and school master Janne Vestberg in which the village children learned to read and write from 1872 to ca 1896. Vestberg, usually called Vesti-Janne, was a popular teacher and together with Skägge-Matt of Andiala and Jarola, they were the only teachers in the parish that rector Durchman approved of when he demanded improvement in the ability to read. Prior to Vesti-Janne, sheriff Solvin's overseer Vest at Holms held school in Jakåpos cottage in Norrbackan for a year. Each school was visited by people who had already gone through writing class but wanted to learn to write in writing school. After Vesti-Janne died, three carpenters kept school in his cottage: the above mentioned Helenius of Vargdalen, Achrén near Vesti-Janne's cottage and Hellström near Riberget.

Teaching at all of these began a few weeks before Christmas and went on to 1 May. School fees were one half peck of rye per child for the entire school year. In the winter of 1900-01 school was held in farmer Johan Berglund's attic near Baggberget with farmer's daughter Beata Nygård, who earlier worked as a village teacher in Röukas, Kalapä and Tuckur. Years later a school was built at Furuberget near Nybonds where young children were taught until 1910 when it was demolished. This was a cottage of the typical type with benches fastened to the wall and an open fireplace. There were no desks. In the middle of the room stood a table at which the students sat while they were instructed in writing. The energetic Beata Nygård taught them to read, and after the beginners had learned their letters and spelling, she gave homework first from the spelling book and then from the Catechism. The students had to read these lessons aloud to themselves until they knew them and could go forward for questioning. The murmur of 20-30 boys and girls was deafening and could be heard from a distance when approaching the school. It was maintained that from time to time Beata dealt a blow lightly with a book to each student's head.

We continue our wandering along Furuberget in a southerly direction and pass some cottages near Brams farm, which is adjacent to the intersection where the village road Rötjitovvi branches toward the southeast to Pytarbacken and then east to Knutsbacken. We choose the later course and immediately on the left we come to an unpainted farm house belonging to Mårten Knuts. On the hill we see two small cottages which are further east, accompanied by several so that we go along the slope in this direction until we see 15 different people belonging to the cottages. They are situated in a landscape filled with granite boulders and devoid of all other greenery except creeping juniper bushes. There are three houses among the last farm houses. One of them is called Håovslagaris and belongs to Mårten Bergström who treats animals. He continued his father's and mother's activities, treating sickness and accidents in the village barns. He is also joint owner of the water mill that we passed at Knutsbacken on our way to Pytarbacken. A short distance from there to the southeast is another mill that is owned by J. Höijer. Besides these two water mills there is one at the Rex farm and another at Svens. At Pytarbacken we come first to a farm owned by church sexman Mårten Höijar, Sjettis. Then Kullas tenant house which was the official residence of the company commander of Livkompaniet av Österbottens regemente. South of there we come to Pytars homestead belonging to farmers Backman and Pytar. In the hills east of them we come to the 16 cottages that belong to the landless population.

Now we go west of the village where the houses lie next to each other on the side of the hill. First is a group of two farms at Rex, one at Antus and two at Hoijer homestead. The one at Antus is called Klockars after Mårten Wörgren who was sexton in Vörå from 1770 to about the 1800s. He was the son of surveyor Mats Wörgren and inherited the farm in 1803.

At Brams we are inside the village train on the highway that is covered with round tree trunks and in prior times offered a dry drive. The first farms we come to belong to the Gammal homestead: one at the back and two diagonally across the road. The farm by the creek is Smårus' long two-story building that is occupied by two farmers. The east room on the top floor of this house was used as a school room for a year by the Rökiö elementery school when it began in 1898. Then comes Antbrams with two farms, one north of and the other south of the road, and also Baggas with three south of them. A fourth Baggas house is next to Baggberget owned by Johan Berglund. The last houses before the highway, on the north side of the road, are two Smårus houses; also on the south side are four at Påhls, one at Svens and one at Klärckas homestead.

Fire 1897

On a midsummer afternoon in 1897 a fire began that burned 7 farm houses and 14 other cottages. Altogether 94 houses burned. The fire began for some unexplained reason in a shed belonging to Johan Klärck and spread by a strong west wind with lightning speed. Despite the lack of fire equipment people successfully managed to save several houses. Also young people from the school who were in church preparing for confirmation came to the rescue. A large group of houses and outbuildings at Baggas, Anthrams, Gammal and Smårus were saved. With the wind blowing sparks and shavings more fires were ignited farther along at Furuberget as well as a house at Brams. The following people were owners of houses that burned: Johan Klärck, widow Greta Klärck, Johan Smårus, widow Lisa Smårus, Johan Påhls, Beata Bagg and Matts Brams. After the fire Johan Påhls moved to Kråkberget and Johan Klärck moved to Kyrkåbron. The rest of them rebuilt new houses on the ravaged site.

We can find no consistent plan for the placing of the houses along the village road. In some places the houses are near the road, while in other places the outbuildings are next to it. By and large, the houses today are located the same as at the turn of the century. However we see some gaps where none were there then. Gone are the mailboxes at Antbrams and Gammal (Gästas), two houses at Antbrams, one at Smårus, one at Påhls and one at Klärck. At Smårus and Påhls they have built new houses in a slightly different location.

New construction has been active near the road. All the houses west of the road have been built since the turn of the century except for Vestin's house, as well as all others to the east except for Lång's, now a cafe, Klärck's, Hildén's and Nordstedt's houses. Clockmaker Åkerblom's cottage that stands where the village road begins, and the house near the mill was a dairy at one time.


How did the people live in the farm houses and what were the conditions of life in the village a generation ago? We know that the people in the country lived a much simpler but poorer life than they do now. The earnings potential of farmers with agricultural and forest products was far from being as good as now. The money he needed for necessary purchases was spent with the utmost frugality. The dairies were a money mill then and the monthly payments saved many a farmer and his wife from a temporary shortage of money. So they sold almost all of the milk to them, usually more than was good for their health. Many farmers thought they could not keep the meat they slaughtered for their own personal use. They were satisfied with blood bread and intestines they cooked and salted to preserve. The daily diet was simple and monotonous. Breakfast at 7 o'clock consisted of blood bread cooked in water together with a knob of butter, and at dinner at 12 o'clock of boiled potatoes with salted herring and sour milk. For Sunday dinner they had peeled potatoes with boiled herring and some barley gruel. In the summer they added filé to their morning meal. This could also be embellished with other dishes, such as beer with cheese, beef soup, black pudding, etc.

Interior of the houses

The interior of houses 40-50 years ago were unexceptional for a farm house: open fireplace, seats fastened to the wall, two high beds, curtains and brilliant wallpaper, clock cabinet at the end of the table and a shelf for vessels. The big houses were not very warm so at night people covered themselves with sheepskin that was furnished for each bed. There was a sleeping room for the husband and wife and it was furnished with one or two sofas or, in later times, with a sofa, bureau and chair.


In the clothing line people had what holiday finery they already had some 10 years before the turn of the century when clothing changed from that of olden times. The gaudy Vörå costume had disappeared from the women's attire and the red vest and buckled belt for boys was seen no more in Vörå. Manufactured suits for men were a rarity. For holy day use the women had a black muslin dress. It was still customary for the shoemaker and tailor to go to the farm and make the clothing that was needed. Factory made boots were only an American fashion. No changes in fashion were made during our time. There was sort of shoe that was used by men, women and children. Each head of the family had a pattern for them, and he sewed them himself. They were not beautiful, but were spacious and were protection in the winter against the cold.

Habits of life

Habits of life were extremely simple. The plain way of life was acquired through very hard work. All harvest work was done by hand. In all of Rökiö village, before the fire, there were only three mowers. There were no horse rakes nor threshing machines. Harvesting was a strenuous time. People arose at sunrise and worked until late in the night or later during the summer, as long as one could see. The women worked along with the men. If there was a shortage of men, as happened during these emigration years, the woman did all of the work, even threshing by hand. Some farm chores were designated for women.

After the summer corps were harvested, hemp and flax dressing, wool carding, spinning, weaving, and knitting kept the women busy for the winter months. The hemp was made into sacks and the lower part of shirts, while the upper part was of cotton. Weaving of wool into cloth began to die out, and factory spun and hand-woven dress fabrics began to be sold in stores.

During the winter men were busy with necessary household work and making all sorts of work equipment. The work bench was moved into the house and with a light from an oil lamp handicraft work was carried out during the long winter evenings. At the turn of the century there were six carpenters in Rökiö to do construction work. Other craftsmen in the village were: four painters, two bricklayers, one dyer and a tanner.

Villagers and village life

Relations between the inhabitants in the village was good and characterized by mutual helpfulness. This was also true among the farmers as well as between the farmers and the landless. If someone was in difficulty and needed help, it was an old custom that he received help from the village residents. For example, if a landless or poor person lost his house due to a fire, the farmers went to the forest for logs to build a new house. According to an old custom, the landless were given permission from the farmers to cut winter fuel from their forests, without payment. A special right for all villagers was that they could get wood to make a coffin. In each farm this kind of wood was available because one could never know when the uninvited guest, called death, would appear.

After the long work-filled days, Sundays and church festivals were a long awaited break. On Saturday evening when the church bells rang their solemn tone that decreed the weekend was here, after the courtyard was swept and the body received its renewal in the sauna, they were ready for their day of rest. For Rökiö residents church going was something they seldom neglected. During the summertime the boys gathered on Sunday afternoon for all sorts of sports, such as skittles.

Burial customs

On Sundays those who were separated from their lordly life came to their final resting place. Relatives and neighbors were invited to the house of mourning for coffee for an hour before the deceased was carried to the cemetery. There was no hearse at that time. After returning home from the cemetery, guests were invited to eat good soup, eaten out of a common stone dish, together with freshly baked bread, butter, home-brewed beer and a sip of vodka from a copper bowl. In the evening they ate barley porridge or rice pudding.

Wedding customs

The monotonous life in the village could also be broken by a happy event such as a wedding. It was a rule that when it was held in a farm house, the bride wore a crown and it lasted two or three days. The entire parish took part in the preparation and celebration. Decorating the bridal house where the ceremony took place was always the same. For example, they improvised by using silk ties and rattling brass flowers. Without going into details, we can mention that it presented amusement and good cheer for the period of two or three days that it lasted.


Ostrobothnians have a mixture of healthy reality and deeply rooted religious interests in spite of retaining a lot of superstition and disbelief to this day. Older people talk of a remarkable little revelation in human guise called a house goblin. There is no doubt that each farm had its goblin. In Rökiö people said they had seen the male goblin at Svens talking with the female goblin at Klärckas. Baggas had a nervous goblin. He made a frightful noise in the hayloft after 9 o'clock in the evening. When Johan Berglund from Baggas in the village moved to Baggberget he heard the same goblin crying behind a wagon. He had told him stay behind, but there he was at the new location.

Household animals have always been the victims of malicious humans and demons. People protected them in various ways. In the spring when cows were put out in the field, a man put a cross of tar on the left thigh of a cow. One could also drill into a crown coin in the threshold of the stables or barn. If a man got a new cow it must first step over the wife's widespread apron before going into the barn. If it was not happy in the new surroundings, it was necessary to fix a few hairs from the cow into the gate latch. One time a farmer went into the stall in the morning to calm his horse, and found it shaking and wet with sweat. The goblin had ridden the horse and the best he could do was to nail a calendar in the ceiling over the stall.

With the progress the world has witnessed since the turn of the century, many of the old rural customs have disappeared. In Rökiö as in other villages in which the new land reform had not broken up the old farms, we find much that gives us a fair idea of the conditions under which the olden families strived and toiled for their daily bread. We could follow them in their pursuits in the fields and in the house. And we could find that a great many could not feed all the mouths. Our ancestors were contented people. They overcame difficulties with thrift and diligence. With tenacious energy they broke new ground and planted new fields. From generation to generation they improved and secured the inheritance to their sons.

Hjalmar Hildén

Den Österbottniska Byn

English translation by June Pelo

See attached sketch of typical old farm buildings in Österbotten.

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