Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Vesten and Hvidsten Barrier

I thought I would post a piece that was written in Norwegian and translated by my father. The original piece is published on Odd Marthinsen's Web site -- http://www.oddmarthinsen.no/. Odd lives in Oestfold, Norway (Borge) and was instrumental in helping me find the real estate records showing the original place that gave birth to my surname, Haugen. I will share that exciting story on another day. In the mean time, here is the story written by Odd regarding the Vesten barrier. As you may recall from the poem I published the other day, written by my great-grandmother Joergine Amalie Ludvigsdatter, I have several ancestors who lived in Vesten and worked the timber on the Glomma.

Translated and used with permission by Odd Marthinsen.

The settlement which today is called Vesten and Hoellberje mainly dates from the era of timber floating and related activities. The place is called Vesten today but has gone by many names over the years --Weesteen, Hvidsten, Hvitsten. Hoellberje is named for the little farm of Hoelen. Its location was what today is Hoelsloekka or Hoelloekka, a meadow down toward the river, which was popular for ski jumping in times past when there was more snow during the winter. There was also a small settlement prior to the period of timber floating. Already before the year 1400 there were three or four farms by the name of Weesteen. But it was only by the middle of the 1800’s, with the timber floating, that Vesten became a lively place.

Already at the beginning of the 1700’s it was attempted to have the timber bypass the Sarpfossen by a duct, but with rather poor results. The reason was the big avalanche in 1702 when all of Borregaard slid into the river and killed 14 people. Many houses and equipment were lost. On the east side of the river, this catastrophe caused a flood which destroyed several mills, timber, and other goods belonging to citizens of Fredrikstad. There were several large mills on the Hafslund side.

New attempts were made to build a duct to bypass Sarpfossen (waterfall) in 1726 and 1742, but the work was postponed both times. During the winter of 1847 - 1848 the brothers Pelly & Co. built a duct at Borregaard for floating timber to its own mill, as well as floating for a fee to timber dealer P. Gellertsen in Fredrikstad. The income became substantial for Borregaard, who earned more than 2,000 specidaler in 1852 from floating timber destined for Fredrikstad. But it was only when the beam trade got its own representatives in Fredrikstad in 1840 that floating through Sarpfossen took on real importance. And this floating increased along with the growing timber trade in the Fredrikstad area. But, as already mentioned, the waterfall was a real problem, as the timber got bunched up ad led to much breakage. All kinds of solutions were discussed. The timber duct built by Pelly & Co. on the Borregaard side in 1847, and which operated for just a few years, was destroyed by a big flood. During the following years there was discussion of both a canal and of a railroad.

The timber destined for the mills in Fredrikstad was sometimes held above the Sarpfossen, but could not be sorted there. The beam traders in Fredrikstad, therefore, had to find ways to stop the timber below the waterfall to be sorted. This was for some time done in the so-called salvage barriers along the river between Sarpsborg and Fredrikstad. This work did not get properly organized until solutions were forced by the shipping in the river, which had big problems with the freely floating timber.

In 1854 a timber barrier was built at Vesten. It was initially only a collection barrier where the timber was separated and made into rafts. After a few years, a sorting function was added, using the same principle as that of the Nes barrier. Soon it became necessary to expand the capacity, due to the rapid growth of the timber trade in the Fredrikstad region. Now, people also started building houses at Hoelberje, because work was available. The wages were about 300 - 400 kroner pr. year.

In 1884 a completely new and technically superior sorting device was put into operation. The timber duct was built of wood and made independent of the speed of the river current, which could vary considerably at Vesten. It was in 1885 that the floating director, Richard C. Furuholmen, was given the assignment to rebuild the Vesten barrier, where he was subsequently employed. One of the new features was a machine he had invented which would layer the logs 9 high and tie them together with chains. These log piles were then floated to the respective mills along the river toward Fredrikstad. This machine could handle the entire quantity of timber being floated past Vesten.

The machine was in use from 1885 to 1908, when the floating stopped. By that time, the timber tunnel at Eidet was completed and timber destined for Fredrikstad was led through Lake Minge and the Isnesfjord, to Eidet. The type of stacking machine used at Hvidsten barrier was not used anywhere else in Norway, though possibly in Sweden and Finland. The Furuholmen stacking machine was awarded a prize at an exhibition in Stockholm in 1897.

These were the conditions that characterized Vesten and Hoelberje. People found work and they thrived. In the year 1900, about 40 of those living in Vesten worked at the timber barrier. A similar number were employed in Tune. Some were stone workers in the Tofteberg Stoneworks, and a few were sailors or servants at the nearby Amundsen farms. The latter were actually better off than the timber workers. They earned as much and had room and board in addition.

As one wanders around Vesten today one can still envision the past, with the timber barrier, the "Tripp boat" pier, the stacking machine, and busy ship traffic on the river. There was also ferry service across the river, up until 1967.


  1. Very interesting Astrid. Unfortunately I was unable to access Odd's web site which I wished to in the hopes that it might lead me to some information about the people at tha various Amundsen farms. My relatives are from the Hvaler Islands, from where the Amundsen family which settled in the area of Borge came. Since they docked and built ships and carried lumber on the Glomma Is the web address in your blog corrrect ???


    Doreen Riedel

  2. Hi Doreen,
    Yes, his Web site address changed. It is now: http://www.oddmarthinsen.no/ . I hope you find what you are looking for, Let me know if you need any help/advice.