Crofts were rented farms usually situated far from village centres, in the hinterlands of the main farms. Farms usually had a single cottage in the grounds, which could be extended by the tenants, and storage buildings could be added to the rented grounds as well. In addition to the rent, the crofters had to take care of the buildings on their grounds and possibly of the road leading there.
The crofters paid the rent to the landlord as prearranged days of work and possibly also as produce such as wool yarn or lingonberries. Contracts were signed on the rights and duties of the crofters. The contract was often effective until the death of the crofter, but there were also evictions, especially in the beginning of the 20th century. At that time the farmers of Jämsä were anticipating the realization of the land claiming right.
The crofts started gaining independence after the law of 1918 was passed. The law was the so-called 'crofter law', which gave crofters, cottage tenants and farm tenants the right to claim the rented part of the farm from the owner. The condition was that the grounds had to have been rented for five years prior to the claim. Claiming got off to a vigorous start, but the last crofts were still being claimed in the 1940s. In addition to this, the Lex Kallio or the law of inhabiting forest areas owned by the government, from the year 1922, helped the farm tenants to become small farmers themselves.
Claiming of crofts led to a large number of small farmers whose farms were often quite far from old village centres. Former crofts could also form their own villages in previously uninhabited areas. These villages are usually in the form of scattered single houses without a clear village center.
Jämsä as well-known crofter parish
A large part of the crofts of Central Finland were in the Jämsä area: crofts were not as popular elsewhere in the province. The first crofts were founded in Jämsä as early as the 1720s. The number of crofts in the area increased rapidly from the middle of the 19th century, and by the year 1860 Jämsä already had 385 crofts. Few crofters lived in village centres; their farms were situated in the hinterlands of the large main farms. Crofts sometimes formed scattered village communities in previously uninhabited areas, which formed the basis for present villages.
There were no crofters in Seppola or in the village centres of Jämsänkoski or Halli. Instead, there were other small rented houses on the edges of the village. These single cottages did not really need land to farm, as the occupants made their living as farm workers, cottage tenants, and factory workers, or were self-employed. A small potato field or a rented patch of land might have been kept to supplement the family income.
In addition to crofters, another landless group was the cottage tenants, who worked for the main farm for the right to live in a cottage in the grounds and made their living from occupations such as forest work. The cottage tenants did not have as much land to farm as crofters; they usually had small patches of about two hectares. Their lives were usually more unstable and mobile than those of crofters, who might stay at one croft for their entire lives, working for the same main farm.
In addition to the two already mentioned, there was a third tenant group, the tenant farmers. A tenant farmer would rent an entire farm with all of its land. In Jämsä, the Vitikkala farm was an example of a farm run by a tenant during the time that it was owned by the Taubens. Tenant farmers usually had a Crown farm or similar, with the owners living outside the area or with another profession aside from farming.
Copy: Saija Silén
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