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Articles --> Conference 2001

Wiesław Nowosad

Ethnographic Museum, Toruń

The Olęder colonization in noble estates of Royal Prussia. Condition of source materials and opportunities for research

Because of the significant role the Olęders played in Royal Prussia, the subject has been researched multiple times, both as separate studies and as part of works on colonization as a whole. While the colonization activities in rural areas of Prussian towns, starosties, and bishop estates has been relatively well researched, currently, there are no publications presenting the aspects of the Olęder colonization in private estates of Prussian nobles. A lack of studies prevents us from answering even the basic question regarding the number of villages that were founded under the Olęder law and belonged to the nobles. Another reason for difficulties is the lack of printed source materials, which would provide a foundation for research into this subject. This study is an attempt to describe scarce and dispersed source materials, which could fill the gap to a certain degree.

Preliminary research included primarily the study of aspects of the Olęder colonization at large. The goal was to gain insight into the state of knowledge about the Olęder colonization in Royal Prussia and to determine which villages, located along the Lower Vistula, were in nobles' hands during the discussed period (16th - 18th centuries). The next stage was a direct result of the previous one and its aim was to identify the noble estates included in the Olęder colonization. These studies were also in large part based on existing literature related to rural settlements at large[1] and to the Olęder ones in particular[2] as well as on publications regarding activities of Mennonites in Royal Prussia;[3] . As a result of these investigations, the author created a list of dozen or so settlements located in Royal Prussia along the Vistula, which were identified as Olęder villages (i.e. colonized by the Mennonites or founded under the Olęder law) and were hereditary estates of nobles[4] . The majority of these estates were located in Świecki district, which is geographically located in the Sartawicko-Nowska valley and in the northern section of the Fordoński basin. According to available publications, the estates included, looking form the north: the villages of Guldenfeld (currently Złotnica) and Bruk as well as Czerwony Dwór and Biały Dwór located in Żuławy in the former Malbork province[5] ; settlements located further in the Sartawicko-Nowska valley: Michale, Dolna Grupa, Górna Grupa, Sartawice, Fletnowo, Nowe Marzy, Stare Marzy, Czaple, and Mniszek. Another considerable group of the Olęder villages owned by nobles was located to the west and below Świecie. The group included: Niemiecki Konopat (very probably present day Konopat Wielki), Jeziorki near Siemków, Kosowo, Chrystkowo, and Topolinek[6] . The final group of the Olęder villages in Royal Prussia was situated in Ziemia Chełmińska. The villages of Gzin Dolny and Czarże are certainly among settlements colonized by the Olęders and owned by nobles[7] . Finally, based on the available literature, the author identified a total of 20 noble villages inhabited by the Olęders.
As for the publications, they were primarily based on commonly known and available royal estates surveys and bishopric records, where noble estates were occasionally mentioned, and also on the Gdańsk and Toruń town records, which have been searched through for years. Thus, all information related to noble villages was incomplete or even fragmentary. Archival materials of old noble families stored in the national archives have not been adequately researched, probably because nobles in Prussia, economically, were not in a position to carry out their own colonization campaign. It is without question that the colonization, which benefited both sides of the agreement, resulted in losses of revenue from temporarily rent-free land in the initial period of the contract. Only owners of vast estates, such as starosts, bishops, and large Prussian towns, for example, Gdańsk, Toruń, and Elbląg were able to afford such extravagancy. And yet, this group included wealthy Prussian nobles, who had extra income from other properties, leased land, and starosties.

This article was based on incredibly diverse and rich archival materials of one of the wealthiest Prussian families of the 17th century, the Konopacki, related families, and their heirs, the Kruszyński family. These materials have survived to the present day by a stroke of luck. A large part of the presented material comes from their records, which are currently stored in the National Archive in Toruń in the Szczanieckis from Nawra Archive. Examination of these materials presents considerable difficulty because they are scattered among different archival units, which is the result of inappropriate organization of the documents in the National Archive in Bydgoszcz, where these materials were originally stored. But what can we find in these materials?

The most important group of materials related to the Olęder colonization are the original settlement contracts or their certified copies. These documents themselves could enlarge the list of noble villages included in the Olęder colonization by several entries. Contracts for the following estates have survived to the present day: Skarszewy (issued by Jakub Oktawian Konopacki, the castellan of Elbląg in 1648)[8] , Guldenfeld (issued by Zygmunt Guldstern and Anna Guldstern, birth name Czerny, in 1650)[9] , Pęsławice (issued by Barbara Konopacka, birth name Kostka, in 1670 and extended for additional 40 years by Stanisław Konopacki in 1689)[10] , Lichtenfeld (issued by sisters, Marianna and Katarzyna Lukrecja Guldenstern in 1677 and renewed by Antoni Kruszyński in 1744)[11] .

A deed issued probably at the beginning of the 18th century by the Chełm castellan, Stanisław Konopacki seems particularly interesting. The castellan, out of concern for equal status of the villages in the Konopacki estate, granted equal rights to the village of Kozłowo and thus made its status equal to that of the Olęder villages, such as Konopat Niemiecki, Drozdowo, and Skarszewy[12] . An interesting detail is an agreement signed between the owners of Bystrzyca, Stanisław and Katarzyna Konopacki (birth name Guldenstern) and Kazimierz and Lukrecja Pyszkowski, according to which the Konopackis leased two and a half włókas of pastures adjacent to Bystrzyca to the Pyszkowskis (who were nobles) for 13 years based on the Olęder law "(...) with this condition that Your Lordship Pyszkowski erects buildings according to the Olęder law, and digs up all ditches on the land (......)"[13]

But certainly the most interesting document in our possession concerns the relations between the Olęder settlers and noble landowners in villages located in the Malbork province, on the Bystrzecki and Lichtenfeldzki estates. In the second half of the 17th century, the colonization campaign in this area was conducted by the Guldensterns - an originally Swedish family that settled in Prussia; the family was related to the Polish royal family, Waza. This colonization campaign was continued by their heirs, the Konopackis, the Kruszyńskis, and other families. According to the preserved source materials, villages in these estates were in large part settled by the Olęders. On the Bystrzecki estate, the settlements that were founded next to the existing villages of Bystrzc, Czerwony Dwór and Biały Dwór, were settled by the Olęders; so altogether there are Olędry Bystrzeckie, Olędry Białodworskie, Olędry Czerwonodworskie, Budzin, and Pastwiska Candrowskie. It is possible that other villages on this estate, such as Tychnowy, Irszewo, Dubiel, and Podgorzanie, were also settled by the Olęders. The Lichenfeldzki estate included at least three villages: Lichtenfeld (Jasna), Guldenfeld (Złotnica), and Grunfeld (Zielonka), of which the first two were certainly settled by the Olęders. The preserved material related to Lichtenfeld is particularly interesting. In our possession is a list of names of village residents from 1642 including the acreage of owned land[14] , a copy of the administrative code from 1682 (renewed in 1728)[15] , correspondence between village owners and the village leader, and oaths of allegiance to the estate owners[16] . Standard lease contracts or other legal deeds concerning this village or the entire estate constitute a large portion of the documents. This material is unrelated to the settlers, yet it provides a broader insight into the management of noble estates.

Archival materials from the Szczanieckis from the Nawra Archive are complemented by scarce documents dispersed across Poland. Two administrative codes of noble villages settled by the Olęders and owned by the Konarskis were found in the library of the Polish Academy of Science (PAN) in Gdańsk. The first code dates from 1692 and concerns the villages of Dolna Grupa[17] , while the second one is from 1719 and is related to the villages of Górna Grupa[18] . Both codes were thereafter confirmed: in 1723 by Stanisław Konarski and in 1757 by Ignacy Konarski.

Unfortunately, few source materials related to settlements founded under the Olęder law can be found in other family and estate archives. This situation, however, is not surprising. According to preliminary studies, only a few families in Royal Prussia introduced the Olęders onto their estates. In addition to the Guldenstern and Konopacki (including their heirs) families, which are described in greater detail, the list should certainly include: the Konarskis, with the villages of Dolna Grupa, Górna Grupa, and Topolinek; the Działyńskis, with villages Gzin Dolny and Czarże; the Żelisławskis, with Michale; and probably the Czapskis. But the archives of these families are fragmentary or do not exist. The wooden manor house of Topolno burned down in the 19th century and the entire archive of the Konarskis and related families was destroyed in the fire. Thus, all materials related to the family and its political and business (including colonization) activities were lost. Documents of the Czapski family, located in the Biblioteka Narodowa (the National Library) in Cracow, contain no materials associated with the subject. Almost nothing has survived from an enormous archive of the Działyński, which is stored in the Archiwum Państwowe (the National Archive) in Poznań and in a small part in the Archiwum Głównym Akt Dawnych ( the Main Office of Public Records) in Warsaw (AGAD). As a matter of fact, it is possible to find materials related to the estates of Gzin and Czarże among these archive records, but none of them discuss the Olęders that settled in these villages.

Browsing through various court records from Royal Prussia was also a disappointment. The scale of necessary bibliographic research is disproportionate to the possible benefits. Four books of lay justice court records from the town of Świecie have survived in the archive of the Chełm Diocese in Pelplin, which is the area with the greatest number of noble villages founded under the Olęder law, and yet only a few notes related to these settlements have been identified. Finding another unidentified settlement contract (actually a contract record in the court books) from 1733 for the village of Biechowo, which belonged to the Mława starost, Grzegorz Niewieściński, was the only success. In that contract, Niewieścicki renewed the pre-existing undefined privilege and preserved settlers' right to their own court, a church, and a school: "all cases are to be examined by themselves and only the outcome should be announced in the manor; all appeals are to be lodged in the manor; the Olęders are allowed to have a doctor, a teacher, and a church where they can worship, but will be under the authority of and pay taxes to the parish church"[19].
"Kartoteka materiałów do dziejów wsi (The catalogue of materials regarding the history of villages)", commonly known as "kwerenda wiejska (survey of villages)" slightly facilitates the search for materials associated with the Olęder colonization in court records currently located in the national archives. This survey was a nationwide project carried out by employees of all Polish national archives between 1951 and 1956. Its purpose was to extract and make available various information about villages while searching through piles of archival documents. Thus, the archivists created a catalogue containing over 150 thousand information cards that classify notes regarding different rural aspects according to a specific scheme[20] . In this scheme, the information related to the Olęder colonization was assigned a separate category ("46 - Wsie olęderskie (Olęder villages)), which facilitates considerably the quest for information. Nonetheless, the search should also include other categories, which may be associated with the Olęders, for example "3 - Inwentarze, lustracje wsi, rejestry ruchomości (Inventories, village inspections, registers of movables)" or "37 - Melioracje wodne, groble i mosty (Drainage works, weirs, and bridges)". A settlement contract from Olęders in Ostromecko, issued in 1621 by the landowners Jan and Jadwiga Ostromecki Doprowski, was found based on these guidelines. "A Survey of villages" should not be treated uncritically: Incompleteness of data is the primary reason. Putting aside the possibility that certain information may have escaped the archivists' attention or was misclassified, it should be noted that at the time of the survey, not all files had been organized. These files were excluded from the survey. Changes in catalogue numbers introduced into the archives over time is another drawback. New numbers were assigned to files, but were not updated in the catalogue. In order to find a relevant file, it is necessary to initially look up the group inventory and then check the juxtaposed numbers or simply find a specific book by carefully searching through the list entitled "Dawne sygnatury (Old catalogue numbers)".

The so-called "Ducal notes" from 1662, which preceded records of poll taxes stored in the Main Office of Public Records, can also be treated as auxiliary and complementary materials for researching the Olęder colonization in Royal Prussia[21] . These documents contain lists of settlements and towns with names of their residents and reflect their social and ownership structures. This is the only source among the treasure materials of the former Republic of Poland that comprehensively describes estates of Prussian nobles and therefore deserves particular attention.

In light of the presented material, unfortunately, we must conclude that traces of colonization campaigns carried out by nobles in Royal Prussia are scarce. Therefore, when conducting a more extensive research of the Olęder colonization, one should make an effort to complement the well-known materials of other landowners in the province with information scattered in various archives.

There is another question that needs to be addressed, that is: what research opportunities have been created by the presented source material? First of all, it should be emphasized that this material helps to fill the information gap in our knowledge about the Olęder colonization at large. Development of a nearly complete map of Olęder villages in Royal Prussia may enable research on, for example, the actual role of the Olęder settlers, and especially that of Mennonite communities, in formation of the social structure in the Prussian province. Since, as is commonly believed, the landowner him/herself was the active and deciding factor in drawing an agreement, how is it possible that the Mennonites were able to establish their communities above the ownership divisions? How did they manage to come to an agreement with all parties, that is: nobles, starosts, and the Church to, for example, establish a community near Świecie, where the village of Niedźwiedź belonged to the Chełmiński chapter, Przechówko and Dworzysko were royal villages, Konopat Niemiecki, Kosowo, and Drozdowo belonged to the Konopackis, and Topolinek probably to the Konarskis? The impact of starosties leased by nobles or royal tenancies and their Olęder inhabitants on nobles' colonization activities in their inherited estates presents an equally interesting subject of studies. These projects, however, await further research.

[1] K. Mikulski, Osadnictwo wiejskie województwa pomorskiego od połowy XVI do końca XVII wieku, RTNT, R. 86, book 2, Toruń 1994.
[2] K. Ciesielska, Osadnictwo "olęderskie" w Prusach Królewskich i na Kujawach w świetle kontraktów osadniczych, Studia i materiały do dziejów Wielkopolski i Pomorza, Vol. IV, book 2, 1958, p. 220-255; K. Mikulski, Zarys dziejów osadnictwa olęderskiego w Polsce (ze szczególnym uwzględnieniem terenu obecnego województwa bydgoskiego) [in:] Osadnictwo holenderskie Doliny Wisły w woj. bydgoskim (presentations form conference "Osadnictwo holenderskie w Dolinie Wisły", WDK in Bydgoszcz, December 14, 1992), p. 105-108.
[3] E. Kizik, Mennonici w Gdańsku, Elblągu i na Żuławach Wiślanych w drugiej połowie XVII i w XVIII wieku. Studium z dziejów małej społeczności wyznaniowej, Gdańsk 1994.
[4] In some cases, placing an Olęder village among a group of settlements owned by nobles was based on comparing the list of villages with the map of settlement network of the Pomorski province from the end of the 17th century, where each village was assigned a specific type of land ownership: K. Mikulski, Osadnictwo wiejskie..., mapa: "Sieć osadnicza woj. pomorskiego w końcu XVII wieku".
[5] K. Ciesielska, Osadnictwo "olęderskie"..., p. 222. The author translated the names of some of the villages quite literally, for example: Guldenfeld was translated as Złotepole or Weishoff translated as Biały Dwór instead of Bystrzec.
[6] K. Mikulski, Zarys dziejów..., p. 107.
[7] Op. cit., p. 108. The ownership of villages in Ziemia Chełmińska was determined based on: M. Biskup, Rozmieszczenie własności ziemskiej województwa chełmińskiego i malborskiego w drugiej połowie XVI w. (Map and materials), RTNT, R. 60, book 2, Toruń 1957, p. 37, 38.
[8] National Archive in Toruń [hereafter APT], Sczanieckis z Nawry Archive [hereafter [A.Sczan.], 24, p. 1, 2.
[9] APTor, A.Sczan., 129, p. 77-83.
[10] APTor, A.Sczan., 23, p. 67, 68; APTor, A.Sczan., 25, p. 33, 34.
[11] APTor, A.Sczan., 129, p. 149 -155; APTor, A.Sczan., 182, p. 53 -56.
[12]APTor, A.Sczan., 24, p. 293.
[13] APTor, A.Sczan., 23, p. 157, 158.
[14] APTor, A.Sczan., 181, p. 1-22, 25-60.
[15] APTor, A.Sczan., 159, p. 1-7.
[16] APTor, A.Sczan., 182, p. 1-2.
[17] Biblioteka Gdańska Polskiej Akademii Nauk (Gdańsk Library of the Polish Academy of Science) [hereafter: BG PAN], Ms 1324: Wilkühr Der Doerff Schafft Nider Gruppe Im Jahr Christi MDCLXXXXII den 4. Augusty.
[18] BG PAN, Ms 1323: Wilkühr der Dorfschafft Obergrop Im Jahr Christy dess MDCCXVIIII den 14. Appril.
[19] Archive of the Chełmiński Diocese in Pelplin, Lay Justices' Book, 3, p. 163, 164
[20] Przewodnik po kartotece materiałów do dziejów wsi, edit. W. Maciejewska, Warszawa 1959, p. 3
[21] Archiwum Główne Akt Dawnych, Archiwum Skarbu Koronnego (Royal Treasury Archive) , Div. I, 147.

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