The Power of Water and the Forest Gold

Rivers and streams have always been important. They have been used as roads for boats and sledges. There is a lot of energy in rushing water. That energy has driven mills where the grains are ground into flour. Hydropower has powered machines that treated flax so that it could be spun into thread. Linen thread was woven into fabric and beautiful tablecloths. The linen was sold by the farmers to Stockholm and Uppsala. With the money, the farmers could buy luxuries such as tobacco, coffee, silk, and silverware.


When timber was to be made, the trees were cut down in the winter and sawn by water-powered sawmills. The timber was then tipped into rivers and streams and collected down by the coast. After the steam engine was invented, the sawmills no longer needed to be positioned right next to the rivers and streams. It was better to send the timber on the water down to the coast.


In the mid-1800s, a lot of wood was needed throughout Europe. Lots of sawmills were built along the Norrland coast. In what is now Örnsköldsvik Municipality, there were approximately 16 steam-powered sawmills in the year 1900! People came from Värmland and Dalarna to work at the sawmills. Many young people who did not get a job on the farms sought work at the sawmills. Some of the sawmill workers were permanent employees and could live in workers' housing, while others worked extra and had to rent rooms to share with many other occupants. There were many children working in the sawmills. They were needed at the mill and their salary was important for the family's economy.