A love story from the 1600s Älvkarleby

The maiden Anna Leijel’s marriage to the Mine Bailiff Holm put the vicar out of office.

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Sågarbo mansion or the "Ankarströmska farm"

Every year, when spring winds play in the birches at Älvkarleö mill, they bring with them the memory of Anna Leijel’s love story. I heard it in my childhood and the narrator was the curate of the congregation, Benjamin Vestman, the last priest in Västanåi. Events of the love story are also reported in contemporary Uppsala documents, diocesan protocols, minutes of the Meeting, church books and manuscript collection, "From old Älvkarleby".

Älkarleö mill, which is the centerpiece of the events, was built in the years 1659 - 1662 by the Mining Inspector in Västerbergslagen Claes Depkenii and the Leijel brothersiii, the latter of Scottish origin and merchants in Stockholm. Of the three Leijel brothers, David was married to the virtuous and noble maiden Catarina Honon, who was of Scottish descent and the daughter of Hans Honon of Gefle. This Leijel settled himself as director of the mill at Älvkarleö.

The Assessor and director Claes Depken, later ennobled Ankarström, lived at the time of the events, on the farm Sågarbo, also located in Älvkarleby. In 1660 he married the widow Helena Futtie from Falun. She was the sister of Catharina Honon and the two directors, Leijel and Depken, were thus brothers-in-law.

Director David Leijel had three children, his daughter Anna and sons David and Johan. The sons spent most of their time in Stockholm, but the daughter liked it best at the mill. After his wife’s death in 1670, the director also preferred it that his daughter was at home at Älvkarleö. She was also very often at director Depken’s house at Sågarbo and it was after a Christmas party there, when the young mill bookkeeper Anders Holm drove her sled, that rumours began to spread that dear Holm was courting the maiden Anna.

Holm, who was the son of the tenant on Holmsångers farm in Västland, Markus Sigfridson, had, after studying in Uppsala and Gävle, been employed at several mills in Västmanland, when in 1672 he was offered the position of mill accountant by the directors of Älvkarleö. At the same time his parents also moved to Nedergården in Gårdskäriv. Holm received not only his job as accountant but also the appointment to bailiff for the mines of Uppland. After two years of service as acountant the directors ceded tenancy of the mill to Holm.

Now financially secure, Holm could think of marriage and the maiden Anna, the mill owner's daughter, had also responded to his love. The young people courted and dreamed in the manor park and the future seemed bright and hopeful. The director also appeared to have nothing against his daughter's party. In a letter to Holm from a trip in Dalarna, where he writes about his impressions of the countryside with a businessman's eye, he calls Holm "his beloved child who will be his heir and inherit the same as the other children". Shortly thereafter, however, was an event which Holm called "a quarrel over my lease" and this bickering also affected his love affair with the director’s daughter. Some female Misses from Stockholm also stirred up enmity, by stressing that the former accountant merely was, according to church records, "all too simple a match for a director’s daughter" and after his return home from a Stockholm trip in early March 1674, there was a stormy scene between the director and daughter.

The father demanded that she would immediately stop all relationship with Holm. The Misses would take her to Stockholm, where she would soon forget her "first love". But the girl refused and begged her father to have mercy and that he should keep his previous promise to Holm. Father Leijel did not let himself to be persuaded, and in the evening of March 15, 1674, as is stated in the diocesan Minutes dated April 22 of the same year, the maiden Anna, who had long held Holm dear, was sent away by her father against her will to virtual imprisonment.

It was at dusk that the beautiful maiden was picked up by her stern father and placed in the director’s racing sled, harnessed by his best steed and with Henrik Håkansson "hundsvotten" as driver. Amongst the virgin's companions there was also one of the Misses from Stockholm. She would ensure that the girl was in the right hands on arrival at the capital. So began the romantic journey, whose consequences would bring many tears and many bitter moments, but also become a witness that love triumphs and overcomes in the end.

When these events took place at the mill, Holm as the mine’s bailiff was visiting the Dannemora mines. The maiden Anna had, however, before his trip, told him of her father’s and the Misses’ attempt to get her to leave her first love and their suggestion that she should comply to go to Stockholm. The two young people had therefore agreed that Anna, if anything occurred, would notify director Depken at Sågarbo. This honest Dalecarlian secretly stood up right behind Holm and had sought to help him in his love affair with the pretty maiden. Thus, when the sled with its passengers began to move from the mansion stairs, a courier started with letters in his pocket from the maiden Anna to director Depken. When the messenger arrived at Sågarbo Depken had as guest one of Holm's best friends, Isac Mackeyv (well known to the mill owner's family). "You shall ride through the night", said the director to him, and the friend was not slow to follow the call. He mounted the director’s best steed and in the evening the day after he put the letter in Holm's hand. The two friends took counsel about the measures that should be taken.

The sleigh ride to Stockholm was not fast for the maiden Anna, for spring thaw had begun and made the ground soft. She had time to think. Girl’s dreams about love and adventure had hastily become reality. Here she was in the spring night taken away from her home and beloved and facing unknown fates. But it was not only that which pained and tormented her. How would it go when the father and the family found out that she bore a child under her heart? Arrived at Gyllbyvi in Tegelsmora parish, the road was suddenly blocked by two horsemen. It was Holm and Mackey. The maiden Anna was now placed in a sled borrowed from a farmer in the village, despite the protests of the coachman and the Stockholm Miss. The riding horses were fastened to the sleigh and the return journey to Älvkarleby started. They travelled now on forest roads and paths off the main road, as perhaps the director himself was following to Stockholm and a meeeting with him would not be desired at this time. The journey was harduous, it is said, but eventually they reached Holm's parents' home in Gårdskär.

In Älvkarleby at this time the priest, vicar in the parish, Olaus Martinus Hedsinius, Mr Olof as he was called in the diocesan records, was already in 1646 chaplain for the parish's first vicar after the assembly in 1641 was excluded from Tierp, Lars Lemmius. When Reverend Lemmius died in 1653, the assembly asked the Cathedral Chapter “to be spared from Mr. Marten in Hållnäs, and if possible would best be able to enjoy their chaplain Mr Olof, both for his teaching and for his skillful living and the Reverend Lemmius widow and children's sake". Hedsinius was in fact married to Lemmius daughter Margareta. The Cathedral Chapter also appointed Mr Olof as vicar, as Älvkarleby is a small and poor community “and no one else asked for it”. The vicar was an intimate friend of mill tenant Holm.

On March 24, 1674 a sled stopped at the steps of the Överboda rectory and Juryman Jöns Andersson of Gårdskär stepped over the threshold. He had message from mill tenant Holm, who was currently in the parental home in Gårdskär, that he wanted to speak with the vicar "in an extremely important and urgent business". During the mile-long journey down to Gårdskär the vicar tried time and again, pumping the Juryman as to what it was, "but his mouth was closed in this business" it was said.

In Nedergården where the vicar eventually arrived, a distinguished company had secretly assembled. Director Depken and his wife, Matron Helen, Anna Leijel’s aunt, had thus arrived at the nearby Sågarbo and in their company was the lecturer at Gefle School and high school Jonas Pragmenius and, not to forget, tenant of the salmon fishery, right honorable Mr. Lejonkrona. Isac Mackey, who was involved in "rescuing" the beauty, was of course also one of the guests. After the vicar got some of the events that had happened regarding the girl's "imprisonment" departure from the mill to the "save" at Gyllby, the reason why the vicar was called to Nedergården was discovered. Holm requested that the vicar would marry him and mill owner's daughter. Hedsinius refused, stating that a marriage without banns could cost him the loss of his office.

After the learned Pragmenius’s expositions and then the youngsters, as the vicar later tells the Senate: "with earnest prayers they requested that he would marry them, for it was that the maiden Anna was pregnant, and otherwise there would be a danger that she made off with the child", the vicar officiated the ceremony. The next day, the newlyweds traveled to the home in Älvkarleö and Holm announced to the father director about the wedding and the daughter asked for his blessing. About the visit the books mention nothing of interest but that Holm and the daughter were measured bushel full is understood by the events that subsequently occurred.

Director Leijel "delivered" namely a few days later, in person to the Cathedral Chapter in Uppsala, a letter of complaint over vicar Hedsinius "tremendous prank" to wed the same Holm and his daughter "without recourse to the statutes of the Church Order and KF 1655”. The Cathedral Chapter also explained the ceremony dismissed, unless the maiden's father subsequently could be induced to give his consent.

The vicar, Mr Olof, was summoned to Uppsala and after a hearing was performed, the Cathedral Chapter explained to the unfortunate cleric, that due to the illegal marriage he was suspended from his office. Now the priest had placed his feet deep in the mess. For Holm and his wife the priest’s suspension from his office was a new misfortune. They felt strongly affected by this incident and Holm made repeated attempts to persuade his father-in-law, to get the marriage recognized and cleric thus the grace to regain his office. But the director was adamant. And the Cathedral Chapter attempts by the notary Noreus in Stockholm to appease the stern father, gave no results. Neither director Depken nor lecturer Pragmenius’ joint efforts of the same were crowned with any success. We understand by the Leijels’ speech, that permission is impossible it is said, among other things in both the men's letter to the Cathedral Chapter the 25 of August 1674. Yet in the beginning of the year 1676 apparently no change in the relationship between Leijel and his son in law had occurred, but in early March got a message from the director, that for some years was living in Stockholm, that he wished to see his daughter, son-in-law and grandson, because he felt mighty frail, impatient and emaciated. It may well be supposed that the director before he on March 26, 1676 blessed deceased, had pressed his daughter's and son-in-law’s hand in reconciliation and forgiveness.

Anders Holm, who after Leijel’s death became director of Älvkarleö mill, died as early as in February 1685, when his spirit was delivered in the hands of his highly deserved Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 37 years 10 weeks and one day old. He was buried by the vicar of Gefle, George Vallin. At the grave was read among other things, a poem, dedicated to the memory of Isac Mackey’s deceased friend. Holm's wife and children were, after the husband’s death, one time resident in the Ytterboda farm, but the virgin Anna's fate I have not been able to follow. According to pastor Vestman she lies buried in the tomb of Leijel at Älvkarleby church.

Vicar Hedsinius, who considered his case just before God, had several times requested to the Cathedral Chapter to be reinstated in service and also for the group had asked for his reinstatement in office. On October 21, 1674 the national council also sent a letter to the Cathedral Chapter of intercession for Mr. Olof, on the grounds that the punishment should now have been done. The vicar was also restored to office at the beginning of the year in 1675, but died in February 1676, a month before director Leijel. He was buried in the church on March l by the curate John Örmark, who gave the vicar the obituaries, that he was revered and loved by all.

I shall conclude with some verses from the manuscript collection "From old Älkarleby". Leijel Anna is standing at the window of the mansion, overlooking the mill, as she sings: My childhood countryside I bid tender farewell. You own half of my soul! The other half belongs to you, who taught me to love and who love me! You fair birch, which bears his name, do not reject a maid's tender arms, and tell future young couples, how big and rich my love was.

The above is translated to English by Peter Leyel and Mats Eriksson from a story in “Gestricia”, a membership magazine for Gästriklands Genealogical Association, published in August 2009. The original article was published in GD, Gefle Dagblad (newspaper), April 20, 1945.

iVästanå is a place west of and near Älvkarleby.

iiClaes Depken (1627-1702) was ennobled as Ankarström in 1676 for his work of manufacturing anchors for the Swedish warships at his foundry at Söderfors, Uppsala county.

iiiBrothers James, David, Adam and Henry Lyell, all born in Arbroath, Scotland emigrated to Sweden in 1638, where the family name became spelled Leijel.

ivGårdskär is situated in Älvkarleby Municipality, Uppsala County, Sweden with 348 inhabitants in 2005.

v Kratte blast furnace, a substantial works in Torsåker, was built in 1672 by Isaac Mackey. The foundry, which mainly worked for Hammarby mill stood at the dam with Krattdammens north end at the top of the stately 25- meter falls. Isaac Mackey married Catharina Collyn on 11 Nov 1702 in Torsåker, Gavleborg.

viGyllby is approximately 50 Km due south of Älvkarleö.