Out of the Ice and Water Rose Ostrobothnia

Up until about 3,000 years ago, all of Ostrobothnia was still under water long after the ice age. As the land slowly rose back up, people began to settle as islands emerged from the sea. This post-glacial rebound continues still in the Kvarken area. Signs of a bustling Iron Age settlement have been found in the Vähäkyrö area where the then extremely important route of the River Kyrönjoki joined the sea. Numerous signs of settlement have also been discovered in Vörå, Isokyrö and Laihia. In the Middle Ages, the village of Mustasaari (also known as Mussor) became the centre for trade and administration in the area due to its sheltered harbour and good connections by sea.

The Korsholm Castle was built in the 1360s. This mainly wooden castle stood on a hillock on the southern side of the Mustasaari village and was governed by a castellan who acted as the king’s governor.  The administrative district of Korsholm Castle was extensive, reaching all the way to Northern Ostrobothnia and North Sweden. In 1441, Västerbotten, on the Swedish side of the Kvarken, was sectioned off into a province of its own. After this the Korsholm Castle area covered Ostrobothnia, which still extended to Kainuu and Southern Lapland. In the 16th century, Korsholm Castle became a royal estate, which acted as a model farm for the region’s peasants, while collecting taxes from the population. The first stone church in Vaasa was built in the late 15th century on one edge of the Mustasaari trading point. It was preceded by a wooden chapel.

Kaarle IX_760x940In 1606, King Charles IX of Sweden decided to give the village town privileges and called it Mustasaari stadh. In 1611, the town was chartered with the right to trade and its name was changed to Vaasa (Wasa) in reverence to the Swedish royal family Vasa. Vaasa became a lively trading town from which goods produced in the province were transported to Stockholm and elsewhere. Its most important export was tar. A high wall was built around the town and its toll gates were kept closed at night. Town privileges also meant that peasants who transported agricultural and other products to nearby towns and beyond by ship, or people who practised trade in the countryside, had to move to the town, because otherwise they could not have carried on their trade legitimately. In practice, the change occurred very slowly. The number of craftspeople in the town and plot ownership were also closely regulated. In 1765, the town was given staple rights, i.e. the right to overseas trade.

Kirkontornista luoteeseen_760x600Vaasa’s population in the 15th century was fairly modest: in the middle of the century, the town’s population register listed 500 residents. Numerous hardships, such as famine years, reduced the population, and in 1698 the town only had 393 registered residents. The actual population, however, was much greater because people with no means were not included in the population count. In the 18th century, the real number of inhabitants rose to a little over 2,000.