Finland’s forest industry took its first steps in Lapland, and is therefore an important area for history of forest work for the whole Finland. Commercialization of forests begun in Lapland when the first water sawmills were founded at the end of 18th century. The operation of sawmills was, however, relatively small-scaled.
Since 19th century growing demand for timber in Europe paved the way for forest industry in Finland. Forests in the Southern and Central Finland had been burnt over for centuries, which is why forest reserves in these regions were in short supply. Lapland’s large, untouched timber reserves attracted the interest of both domestic and foreign investors.
The attention of the sawmill industry focused on Lapland and its large untouched timber forests. In 1860-1870 steam operated sawmills were founded in various parts of Lapland near water ways. They generated plenty of economic activity in forms of forest trade, logging and timber floating. In 1893 the first timber company, Kemi Oy, was founded in Lapland.
At the beginning, logging was concentrated in Rovaniemi region. At the turn of 19th and 20th century the focus of logging had shifted towards the region of Kemijärvi. Gradually logging reached the municipals of Muonio, Kittilä, Sodankylä, Pelkosenniemi and Salla - just about the whole Lapland.
Forestry offered work and prosperity
Logging, timber floating and sawmills offered work and income for thousands which resulted in growing prosperity of Lapland. With the income, magnificent houses were built, farming was improved, schools and libraries were founded. Especially Rovaniemi, the centre of many timber companies, received a large portion of booming economy and became a lively town. The number of inhabitants grew as many of work seekers settled down in the province.
In Lapland there were many pioneering experiments and inventions carried out. Perhaps the most famous of them was the first attempt to haul timber with the aid of a machine in Savukoski between 1913-1916. As a remnant of this, Hugo Richard Sandberg’s steam locomotive is on display at the Forestry Museum of Lapland.
Thousands and thousands of inhabitants received their daily bread from Lapland’s logging sites for nearly a century. What remain left from the era of handwork intensive times of the log floaters, female cooks are only stories, historic photographs, documents and objects on display. The Forestry Museum of Lapland exists exclusively for telling these stories.