Robertsfors Industrial History

It was Major George Vilhelm Palmstruch who first came up with the proposal to start operation in Edfastmark. When his attention began to be directed at this hidden farm village is not really known but in 1751 he became interested in a silver ore plant 10 km northwest of Bygdsiljum. It was perhaps when he settled on Edfastmarks very good conditions for a plant. The first steps for the mill were taken in the spring of 1756. Many projects were planned, but unfortunately Palmstruch’s financial resources were quite insufficient. His role in Edfastmarks history lasted only a few months before 1757 he was commissioned in the Pomeranian War, where he was captured and embroiled in financial difficulties which really put a stop to his youth’s dreams.

                                                                                                                           George Vilhelm Palmstruch

Then came the Stockholm trading company Jennings & Finlay as the new company’s leading and driving force. Thus, Edfastmark changed it’s name to Robertsfors. The mill has John Jennings and Robert Finlay to thank for their creation. Jennings married a sister to Finlay. Initially, it was the older and experienced brother-in-law Finlay who ruled, but quite soon Jennings also began to have a greater influence on the business.

At the same time that the trading company Jennings & Finlay was named as the nation’s largest iron exporters, the company entered into the largest capital investments in commercial property of the time. They speculated in the Roslagsverken and Roslags mines, as well as the Gulf ironworks.
Mechanical workshops
During the 1750s-60s, the company owned the following estates:
 Gimo, Forsmark, Strömsbruk, Gnurps blast-furnace, Schebo Mill, Österbo blast-furnace, Hedvigsfors Mallet, Norrtälje manufactory and Olofsfors blast-furnace.
In Finland they owned Anskog’s mill, Koski mill, Fiskars mill, Kulla mill, Kaimo mill, Oravais blast furnace, Men’s blast-furnace and Onsberg Mallet.
In 1758 Jennings received the privilege to build a smelter in Robertsfors. For the important charcoal supply, they bought some homesteads in the area. The iron ore was first purchased from Utö and Norbergs mines in Roslagen. The finished pig iron was sold for use in central Sweden. In 1759 a loading site was established in Sikeå to facilitate transport. In the summer of 1759, the mill began to be built. They built a pond with water channels, where they put in drive wheels and a smelter. The smelter was completed in 1760 and then the first pig iron was produced.

Since the Jennings & Finlay partnership dissolved in 1762, Finlay sold some of his mills, including Gimo and Robertsfors in 1764 to the mill patron Jean Henri Lefebure. After 3 years, Lefebure passed away but his 30-year-old son Jean took over in his father’s stead. In the end, it turned out that transporting the iron ore to Robertsfors was too costly. The ore transports were unavoidable because there were only iron-meagre ore in the vicinity of Robertsfors. On the other hand, the pig iron could be refined in the mill to bar iron and this in turn was forged into finished products such as nails and implements. As a result of such processing, transport from the mill became cheaper as these products weighed considerably less and demanded a higher price than the pig iron.

Lefebure therefore applied for a permit for such a production, which after many rejections was granted by the Mountain College. About 1780 the ore was taken to bar iron, manufacture, foundry and mechanical workshop from Dannemora and Utö.

In 1782 and 1783, the cast iron smithy and manufacturing works were put down opposite the blast-furnace on the other side of the bank of the Rickleån river. In 1783, production began in the cast iron smithy. The first manufacturing equipment was manufactured in 1785.

The capacity of the bar iron malletand the manufacturing plant became too small in relation to the blast-furnace roof production. During the 1790s, the bar iron mallet was expanded and a manufacturing plant was built in Sävar. The old blast-furnace was defective therefore it was demolished in 1799 and a new one was built out of wood.

When Jean Lefebure died in 1805, went to the inheritance of his wife, but she left Gimo, Robertsförs and Rånäs a year later to his son-in-law Axel Didrik Reuterskiöld. In the history of Robertsfors he became short-lived, in 1811 large losses of money forced him to sell the Robertsfors mill, Johannesfors mill, it’s associated properties and half of the mill in Kvarnforsen sawmill on April 8, 1811. He sold it all to Colonel Lieutenant Conrad Åkerhjälm, Elias von Echstedt and Captain Wentzel von Toll. They had an equal share in the mill all three, but Åkerhjelm was the one who became the company’s manager. In 1812 Åkerhjälm bought the rest of the Kvarnforsen sawmill and in 1831 he received a positive response regarding the application to move the saw to Mårsforsen. Åkerhjelm and his companions rushed to open a shipbuilding in Sikeå.

During the summer of 1811 the necessary material was obtained and a shipyard was arranged at Sikeåfjärden on Getskärsudden. In 1812, shipbuilder Per Burström from Umeå was hired along with the carpenters, soon the first bark ship “Oskar” was completed.
In 1832 Åkerhjälm withdrew from the direct management due to age reasons and disagreement with his companions. Instead of him, Lieutenant Carl von Echstedt (son of Elias von Echstedt) came in command. He was occasionally assisted by his brother, Lieutenant Johan von Echstedt. The brothers administration unfortunately became unhappy and provoked resentment from the other partners. In 1834, bitter processes were opened between the companies. The only salvation was that the people involved withdrew.