Sigrid Ekehielm was one of the most eminent works owners in Värmland during the later 1600s.
Sigrid Ekehielm was born in the 1640s. Her mother Eva Eggertz was a physician’s daughter from Stockholm. Her father Bengt Baaz, ennobled with the name Ekehielm, was a higher state official in Stockholm. He had been the tutor of the royal heir Karl Gustav and attended him on his journey in Europe. For that and his political support, he was rewarded shortly before his death with nobility and property. Sigrid Ekehielm’s father died young in 1650, only 37 years old. Sigrid Ekehielm was then at most 8 years old. Her mother remarried five years later. Her new husband was Henrik Wulf, ennobled with the name Ulfvenklou. He was a merchant and senior official. The mother’s third husband was Lars Larsson Eld, ennobled with the name Eldstierna. He was another high state official. Sigrid Ekehielm had one brother, Carl Ekehielm, who reached adulthood, and one sister, Eva, who died when she was only 8 years old.
The family inherited properties in the province of Södermanland from their father, with Ekensberg in Överenhörna parish as their manor farm. In 1669, Sigrid Ekehielm married Christian Stiernflycht, a court official. The marriage was very short. Her husband died in Stockholm after three months, only 25 years old. A daughter was born seven months after her father’s death. Two years after her first husband’s death, Sigrid Ekehielm married for a second time, this time the general inspector of rural customs Crispin Flygge who had been ennobled with the name Flygge. Crispin Flygge was very wealthy and owned great estates. They married at Ekensberg in 1671. That marriage did not last long either. Crispin Flygge died in 1673 in Stockholm barely 45 years old. When he died, he had no direct heirs. In connection with the distribution of Crispin Flygge’s estate, it was announced the Sigred Ekehielm was pregnant. This was bad news for his siblings and their spouses who had counted on a rich inheritance. A son who was named Crispin was born eight months after Crispin Flygge’s death and he thereby became the heir. Rumours that the child was not Crispin Flygge’s now came into circulation.
Sigrid Ekehielm married for a third time in 1675. Her new husband was Marcus Kock ennobled with the name Cronström, an assessor in the Svea High Court. They had three children, all of whom died in infancy. Several others in Sigrid Ekehielm’s closest family died around 1680. Her third husband died in 1679, her son Crispin died in 1680 at only 6 years old and her daughter Eva Christina died in 1681 at only 11 years old.
The matter of her son Crispin’s descent, that had been questioned by her husband’s relatives ever since his death, now surfaced again. The rumours and mudslinging against Sigrid Ekehielm continued, orchestrated by the deceased’s siblings and their spouses, and all their children. The main accusation was that the child had not been born to Sigrid Ekehielm, but bought from an army wife called Svala in Stockholm. It was also asserted that Sigrid Ekehielm’s husband had been impotent. The whole issue aroused enormous attention at the time and led in 1681 to a court case in Stockholm, in which Sigrid Ekehielm sued her husband’s relatives for their gross accusations. They in their turn sued her for fraud. The trial, with a large number of witnesses, was carried out in a manner that awoke a great deal of attention and was almost a scandal, and the case was then tried in Svea Court of Appeal. That the case was considered to be important can be seen since the court of Appeal was augmented by two extra counsellors. Sigrid Ekehielm was totally exonerated from all accusations. The Flygge family was on the other hand sentenced to heavy fines. In the follow-up to the trial, Sigrid Ekehielm’s opponents, Olof Persson, the mayor of Kristinehamn, Börje Carlberg, a clergyman and Theodor Bertram, an auditor, were sentenced for injurious protests against the sentence. They were sentenced to death at first, but later pardoned by the king. However, they lost their official positions and their honour, and were punished by heavy fines. That famous trial has been written about by Carl von Linnaeus, who used it as an example of “divine retribution” in the pamphlet Nemesis Divina.
Sigrid Ekehielm, who had previously inherited properties from her father, now became the owner of great properties concerned with mining, inherited from her second husband and son, among them six ironworks in eastern Värmland. She owned the manor estates Ekensberg and Friggestorp in Södermanland, Kimbramåla gård in Vissefjärda parish in Småland, and Aspenäs manor estate in Östervåla parish in Uppland. She owned houses in Stockholm and Kristinehamn. In Värmland, she owned the following: the manor estate Västervik (later Gustavsvik) with 26 small farms in Varnum parish, Lassegård, Niklasdamm works, Älvbro works and Spjutbäck works; in Lungsund parish she owned Ackkärr works and Matlång works; in Karlskoga parish the Bo manor estate, Bofors works, Björkborn works, Tvärå smeltery and shares in Hållsjö smeltery. She owned four blast furnaces in Karlskoga and Grythyttan parish, shares in Persberg mines and Torskebäck mines in Filipstad’s mining district, and also several farms in among other provinces Värmland, Närke, Västmanland, Småland and Västergötland. She lived partly in her stone-built house in Trädgårdsgatan in Gamla stan in Stockholm, partly at Ekensberg manor estate between Södertälje and Strängnäs that she had inherited from her father. She also spent time at Västervik manor estate and Bo manor estate or at Bregården near her estates in Värmland.
Sigrid Ekehielm was very interested in economy and business, and as a widow, she ran her works enterprises with energy and developed them. She was combative, went to trial against other works owners and was also diligent in her many contacts with various state authorities. She also participated in person at trials that concerned the interests of her works.
In the 1680s, Sigrid Ekehielm established the Niklasdamm works for which she acquired privileges in 1687. She also had a blast furnace constructed on the Kungsskogen property to provide the Niklasdamm hammers with their own pig-iron. She acquired the privileges for that in 1678. Five years later, she requested the right from the Bergskollegium to purchase a hammer in the vicinity with the aim of pulling it down and thereby getting better access to charcoal and wood for her new blast furnace. The right to the metals in the mines in the region was also something she contacted the Bergskollegium about.
A common subject of dispute was access to coal forests. She went to trial against among others her brother-in-law and the mayor Olof Persson, whose works Spjutbäck bordered onto her works properties Älvbro and Niklasdamm. She also paid attention to the access to watermills for her works and protested to the Bergskollegium when any new construction threatened her own.
As early as the 1670s, she made large deliveries of iron to the crown and also to traders in Gothenburg. Her production at her iron works placed her among the foremost in Värmland. From tax documents, the production at her works can be estimated at between 3,500–4,000 ship’s pounds of bar iron (524–598 tons) in privileged yearly forging. She took large loans to finance and develop her enormous property complex, partly from Riksens Ständers Bank and partly from private persons. Part of her properties were thereby in pawn and mortgaged. She also had to take over the loans that her husband had taken with his properties as security. She balanced some of the claims against counter-claims, in which her husband had lent large sums of money to the crown, and some she succeeded in getting written off.
The reduction during the 1680s hit hard against the properties of the nobility. It also hit hard against Sigrid Ekehielm. One difficulty was that the state laid an embargo on certain income from a great proportion of her estates, while awaiting the investigation of the reduction authorities, since they were considered to be properties purchased from the crown. She questioned the investigations of the reduction authority in several missives in the 1690s. She protested especially against the state’s planned withdrawal of the manor estate Västervik, which she succeeded in stopping after several years’ struggle. She seems to have come through the reduction relatively well.
Sigrid Ekehielm was an enterprising landowner and a colourful personality. She still had many properties like works and manor estates when she died, but she also had large debts. Her brother’s children inherited her. The estate sold off the properties in Karlskoga mining district alone for a more than respectable sum.
Sigrid Ekehielm died in 1700 and lies buried in Kristinehamn.