First chemical pulp mill

The sawmill and mill works with their water power, established in Jämsänkoski since the end of the 1700s, was purchased by businessman Elieser Johansson in 1887. He established a chemical pulp mill on the site together with Per Benjamin Köhlin, the sawmill superintendent. Köhlin's technology graduate son, Per August, had studied sulphite cellulose manufacture on a trip to America, and he became the first superintendent of the new factory.

The company function was to engage in "operation of sawmill and industrial manufacture of paper and paper pulp by the Jämsänkoski waterfall". Setting up a factory in Jämsänkoski was economical due to water power provided by the rapids and the abundant forest resources in the area. However, connections to railways and export harbours were poor. The finished products had to be transported on waterways to Lahti, or by horse to Vilppula to the nearest railway.

The factory produced unbleached sulphite pulp, the raw material of which was spruce. Because there was no paper mill, all the pulp was sold on, mainly to England. The output of the first full operational year was about 1,000 tonnes of cellulose.

Pulp mill on right, sawmill in centre and Viiala mill on left. End of the 1880s.Construction was begun in 1888 on the east side of the old sawmill. It is said that the factory was modelled on the Nokia cellulose factory. One of the builders was a building engineer, Skogster, who had previously worked at Nokia. Other experts were building engineer Rosenius and building contractor D. Laulainen. Superintendent Köhl and the factory technical engineers moved into Sahala, the former house of the sawmill owner, where the works office was also located.

The first pulp mills were usually built of wood, as was the case also in Jämsänkoski. The material was cheap and there was plenty of it available. Timber construction was based on traditional building methods. Only the steam boiler room and chimney were made of brick.

Power for the factory and sawmill was obtained from the rapids, which powered a 150 horsepower turbine. The power axle originating from the turbine room led through the ground floor of the sawmill to the factory. Individual machines were connected to the axle with leads and belts. The steam required for the cooking section and the dryer was produced in the steam boiler room. It housed two fire-tube boilers with flat grates and a locomobile.

Working in the old pulp mill

Working conditions in the pulp mill were very primitive. Lighting was by oil lamps and lanterns. The floors were earth or wood, which was slippery when wet. The cooking section floors were wet even in winter. There was always more or less of a smell of sulphur wafting around the factory. The acid plant suffered from gas leaks which caused the vegetation in the environment to wither, and on one occasion even the death of the superintendent’s calf. It had been sniffing at the cooking room extractor pipes too closely.
There were no guards on the machines, and the employees were largely peasants unaccustomed to factory work. There were two fatal accidents during the operation of the old factory. An exploding boiling kier killed a boilerman during pressure testing. On another occasion, the discharge valve of a boiler opened in the middle of cooking, and the hot pulp drowned the man working in the pulp container.

Pre-treatment of the logs was particularly heavy work. Standing in water, men lifted the pulpwood floated to the factory onto land. A few years after the operation began, a track was built from the drying shed to the sawmill. Wagons were hauled along the track manually.

The work was in two 12-hour shifts, in common with other pulp and paper mills. A man's daily wage averaged 1 markka of the day, and a woman's 50 pennis. A man with specialised skills might have earned 2.25 markka. In its first year of operation, 51 people worked at the pulp mill. In 1894 the number of employees had risen to 240, of whom 30 were women and 14 minors. One of the jobs for women was cleaning at the sorting table. Maintaining the factory oil lamps was also the responsibility of a female worker.

The pulp industry was only in its early stages. Both technical and operational problems had to be solved without outside help. The role of a pioneer was not easy, and thus the first superintendent of Jämsänkoski, Per Köhlin, left the factory as early as 1889. His successor, engineer Hugo Kauffman, was not content at the factory for long either. It is said that internal conflict of the company affected the functioning of the factory to the degree that a boilerman renowned as a highly skilled worker resigned his job.

In the early 1890s the company's operation was constantly hampered by financial problems. In the end, the company drifted into insolvency in 1894. The activity continued under a new company, and the following year pulp bleaching was begun. The pulp was bleached in chloride of lime solution in three hollander beaters. Operation of the first pulp mill was ended by a fire in June 1896. Only the brick bleaching plant remained.