Discover the history of Sahanlahti
Sahanlahti is an old sawmill complex that was built around a water-powered sawmill, which was established in the 1740s but has since been demolished. The sawmill was known as the Puumala, Miettula sawmill and, in the province, it was known as the Puumala industrial village. This is one of the oldest sawmill establishments in the Lake Saimaa area.
The last sawmill in the area was demolished in 1936, so sawmilling was a feature of the Sahanlahti landscape for almost 200 years. The valuable cultural-historical surroundings continue to exude an atmosphere of times gone by.
The old water-driven sawmill was located on the rapids that traverse the area, connecting Lake Niskalampi with the upper waterway to Lake Saimaa. The old log-floating chute in the rapids remains as a reminder of the former sawmill, in addition to the ruins on the site.
The first owner of the sawmill was Provincial Secretary Johan Wilhelm Weinander. Over the centuries, the sawmill changed ownership numerous times. The final owner was Enso Gutzeit Oy, which took over the sawmill in 1910.
The present reception and restaurant building was built as the home of the mill owner. Sawmill workers and their families lived in cottages built on both sides of the rapids. Each cottage housed two families. The remains of the original settlement include the mill owner’s house and outbuildings, the present museum and its grounds, and Jallun tupa, a building on the Mikkeli side of the rapids.
The old log-floating chute in the rapids remains as a reminder of the former sawmill, in addition to the ruins on the site.
Work at the sawmill in the early 20th century
When the loggers arrived in Sahanlahti in the spring, it was a major event. Timber was transported to the sawmill along the upper waterway of the rapids, and it was then floated down chutes to Lake Saimaa. When logs were being floated, the gate at the top end of the timber chute was opened, and the water carried the logs down.
A barrier was placed at the bottom of the chute to keep the logs trapped together, forming rafts, which were then taken by Enso-Gutzeit’s tugs to the Kaukopää mills for sawing. Timber floating eventually stopped as motor vehicles became more commonplace and timber was transported along roads.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the sawmill employed six or seven people; two men on the frame, two sawdust sweepers, a floater and a miller. The sawmill operated over two shifts and a normal working day lasted ten hours.
The machine set the pace of work – it took about four minutes to saw one log. Despite the long working days, the pace of work was quite relaxed by modern standards and the men had ample time to smoke their pipes while working.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the sawmill employed six or seven people; two men on the frame, two sawdust sweepers, a floater and a miller.
Sawmill surroundings fascinated children
There was no shortage of play areas for children at the sawmill. The timber chute was an exciting – if rather dangerous – place for the sawmill children to play. Water could be let into the chute by lifting the gate, and children could sit on cardboard and slide down the chute.
Another favourite, though similarly dangerous, place to play was the old boat pier. Tracks were built into the long pier so that goods arriving by ship could be transported ashore by trolley. The children played at pushing the trolley at speed along the rails. Occasionally, the trolley would end up in the water, and the guilty party would rush off in search of a hiding place.
The S/S Wenno (formerly known as Wetehinen) is an iron-hulled tar steamship – a dirt mill. She is the only remaining iron-hulled ship in the large fleet of Saimaa tar steamships. S/S Wenno is now almost exactly as she looked in the 1930s, she has the original steam engine and is registered with the National Board of Antiquities as a heritage vessel.
S/S Wenno was built in 1907 to transport timber for the Miettula sawmill in Puumala, also known as the Sahanlahti mill. Wenno changed hands a few times, and became the property of Enso-Gutzeit in 1934. In 1966, the ship was left anchored at Laitaatsilta until she was purchased by the municipality of Puumala in 1972, when she was in scrapping condition and some parts had been looted.
The Puumala boat club restored the vessel to seaworthy condition, and volunteers have worked with the municipality of Puumala to keep her in working order.
S/S Wenno makes chartered cruises in the summer to ensure that she remains in working condition and that the steam ship culture lives on in Puumala.
S/S Wenno, registered with the National Board of Antiquities as a heritage vessel, keeps Puumala’s steam ship culture alive and kicking.
Elsa Heporauta (1883–1960)
Author Elsa Heporauta was the daughter of Johan Koponen, the owner of the sawmill. Elsa was born and raised in Sahanlahti and she founded the Kalevala Jewelry company and the Kalevalaisten Women’s Association. She also celebrated her wedding at the sawmill. Elsa was a multitalented and influential figure in cultural circles, and she wrote about her childhood memories in her books named Ursula Keivaara. She was open-minded and warm-hearted, a helper to her nearest and dearest.