Sawmills and mills in Partakoski and Kärnäkoski

Partakoski sawmill was founded in 1750 on the Partakoski rapids between Lake Kuolimojärvi and Lake Saimaa. The sawmill was founded by Jobs Fabritius, Mauno Giösling, and brothers Juho and Erik Bruum, who were all merchants in Hamina, a town by the Gulf of Finland. Permission to establish the sawmill was issued by Kyminkartano Provincial Office on 18 September 1750. An inspection was held beforehand, during which it was observed that Partakoski consists of three rapids. The two upper rapids, Ahvenkoski and Siikakoski, are located side by side and are separated by a small island that is today known as Ahvensaari. Downstream from these two rapids is Saunakoski. In the past the road between Savitaipale and Suomenniemi passed by the top of Saunakoski rapids, but it was later diverted downstream. The founders of the sawmill reclaimed fishing rights to the rapids from the landowners. They also rented land for the sawmill, timber storage, and workers housing from local farmer Lauri Lahemies. The annual rent was 12 jugs (around 55 litres) of salt a year.

It was also noted during the inspection that the shores of the rapids and Lake Kuolimojärvi are so rocky that flooding would be unlikely. Permission was granted to the founders after they pledged to compensate the farmers for any damage caused by rising water levels. A few years later, the vicar Pietari Heintzinius and a group of local farmers complained to the court about the sawmill owners, because the damming had caused water to flood their fields, resulting in significant losses for the landowners. Based on the available documents it is clear that the court refused to pursue the case, as no legal proceedings were ever undertaken against the sawmill owners. It seems that the matter was settled between the parties out of court.

The sawmill owners built a small mill downstream from the sawmill in 1752, where locals could have their crops milled for their own use. At that time mills were few and far between, and requests were received from as far afield as the parish town of Puumala in Sweden to have their crops ground. The owners sought for the mill to be subject to taxation, which would allow for them to open up the mill to persons other than the local farmers. The mill was inspected in 1755 to assess the feasibility of extending its operations. It was observed that that mill only has one pair of grindstones and four huskers. The owners informed the authorities that they were planning to install another pair of grindstones and more huskers. The authorities calculated that even if the farmers would continue to grind some of the crops at home using handheld grindstones, there would be enough grinding work to keep the mill in operation for ten months each year, amounting to 1200 barrels of grain a year. An annual tax of 10 roubles was imposed on the mill, and 49 roubles for the sawmill.

In the early years, Partakoski sawmill was very successful. The landowners were paid for the timber and for transporting the sawn timber to Hamina on the coast of the Gulf of Finland. In addition, many of them worked at the sawmill. In 1798, the forests of “Old Finland” were placed under the management of a special forestry authority. This covered areas in present-day Karelia and southeastern Finland that Russia seized from Sweden in the Great Northern War and in the Russo-Swedish War (1741–1743). The aim of the forestry authority was to maintain the forests to meet the needs of the State, for which reason the sale of timber was completely forbidden in these areas. This caused the sawmill to be shut down, a situation that lasted until 1812.

The aim of the owners of the Partakoski mill was to establish a second mill on the Kärnäkoski rapids between Lake Kuolimo and Lake Saimaa. Landowners gave their consent to the project on the condition that they would be allowed to grind crops and saw timber for their own needs free of charge. The Cameral Palace of Vyborg granted a permission to establish a new mill and a sawmill in 1787. But because the Russo-Swedish War began the following year and the construction of the Kärnäkoski Fortress soon after, establishment of the mill was postponed well into the future.

In 1815, local farmers Pietari Kärnä, Pietari Parta, Tuomas Pylkkö, and Matti Koskimies applied for permission to build a windmill with two pairs of grindstones at Kärnäkoski rapids. The owners of the Partakoski mill at that time, the Buun, the Steven, and the Nacht families, prevented construction of the windmill based on the old construction permit. Documentation from 1818 describes the mills in Savitaipale as follows: “The Partakoski mill had 3 huskers and 5 pairs of grindstones, and was able to grind 300 barrels of crops a year”. Based on the archives of the Vyborg Province from the 1820s, the shareholders of the Partakoski sawmill had a mill at the Kärnäkoski rapids that was still in operation at the end of the century.

Industrial activity intensified in the Partakoski-Kärnäkoski area in the 1900s.

In 1922, Myyrä and Savikurki established a sawmill and an adjacent javelin factory in Siikaniemi. The javelin factory had its own power unit and a large, concrete-built power room. However, the production facility soon faced bankruptcy. One of the founders, Jonni Myyrä, was born in Savitaipale and later won the Olympic javelin gold medal in 1920 and 1924. At present, the Partakoski Village Association has rented the mill and the sawmill from the heirs of the Väinö Hakuli estate. The association maintains and treasures the old cultural heritage sites of the mill and fortress.

In the early years, Kärnäkoski mill got its power from the flowing waters. Later, a traction engine was added as a secondary power source. The traction engine was made by machining shop Porin konepaja, and was designed mainly for agricultural use. The engine consisted of a steam boiler and a piston steam engine with a capacity of 5-10 kW. In agricultural use, wood was by far the most common fuel used in traction engines in Finland. Diesel engines were first introduced in 1952, and rotary sawing began in the early 1940. Before that, the production of shingles had already started. The manufacture of boards started in 1950 using a steam engine. The operations of the mill and the manufacture of shingles ceased in the early 1950s, while rotary sawing and planing of boards ended in the early 1960s.

Source: Murto, T.G., Savitaipaleen pitäjän historia (History of the parish town of Savitaipale), 1939.
Author: Rauni Lallo
A list of the owners of the Kärnäkoski mill and sawmill in the 20th century
The owners included Antti Karhu before 1913, Iivari Karhula in 1913, Taavetti Koskimies in 1924, Juho Pylkkö in 1930, and Väinö Hakuli in 1937.