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The Kwidzyn Lowlands over ages (with particular focus on development of settlement under a long-term lease)

Traces of settlement in the area in question date back to the Roman period. Artefacts from that period have been found, inter alia, at Korzeniewo and Okrągła Łąka villages. In the times of migration of people, the settlement movement slowed down. In the early Middle Ages, these areas were settled by the Slavic people from the South and from the West, and from the North and East by the Prussians who reached the Vistula in the beginning of the 13th century. Fortified towns were situated in Sadlinki, Wiśliny and Kwidzyn in that period. Their distribution was connected with the main route connecting the Chełm land with Gdańsk and a town in Zantyr situated in the Lowlands. At the beginning of the 13th century, the place became the first seat of the missionary bishop Chrystian. However, historical events which were of a decisive importance for those lands in the Middle Ages were connected with the arrival of the Teutonic Knights. Already in the beginning of the 1230-ties, the first troops entered the area, occupying the town of Kwidzyn. Numerous Prussian uprisings devastating those regions lasted until 1249, when both sides made peace. Since then, the land became a part of the bishop's dominion and Kwidzyn, under an agreement with the Teutonic Knights, was its capitol. The oldest sources from the middle of the 13th century mention settlements which were parts of the Pomezanian Bishops' properties. One of them was Grabowo village. In 1381, its leader was known, which may certify that it was established under the German law. A similar situation was at Wiśliny and Wielkie Nebrowo24. Another known settlement was Rusinowo which, in 1365, was granted by the chapter, together with 40 łan (672 ha) of land, to Jakub. Out of that, 4 łan (67.2 ha) belonged to the free village located under the Chełm law. The oldest mention concerning mechanical devices is also connected with that settlement. In 1394, the chapter granted to the village of Rusinowo a place for erection of a windmill25. The already mentioned Sadlinki, where the Slavic town was situated, also came under the Pomezanian bishops. There probably existed a mansion, here, which constituted a centre of the economic administration of the adjacent properties of the bishop, and which was probably destroyed in the 15th century.26 A similar role was also played by Nowy Dwór, known in 1338 as Nova Curia, and later as Neuhof27.
The bishop's properties were managed by aldermen recruited from among the Teutonic Knights. The Order also established manor farms. They were at Benowo, where there also was the forestry office, and at Ryjewo and Szałwinek28.
As, already from the middle of the 14th century, the Lowlands were in fact floodlands, attempts were made to tame the element by way of building and taking care of floodbanks and dams. Those initiatives underlay the establishment of the Floodbank Community - Deichsozietäten, Nämlich die Wolzer Niederung, die Marienwerderische Stadt-Niederung, die Östlisch Mewische - Niederung und der Runderweider Niederung29. In the middle of the 14th century, floodbanks surrounded Rusinowo, Nebrowo and Wiśliny settlements30. At the end of the 14th century, the floodbanks stretched up to Korzeniewo31.
In the today's landscape one can still find fragments of old floodbanks, which are also an evidence of the change of the river channel. Such a location is typical for, inter alia, Gniewskie Pole which is situated, now, between two floodbanks - the old one and the new one.
Successive historical events reflected on the development of settlement of the Kwidzyn villages. It was the great war against the Order. The Pomezanian bishop took sides with the Teutonic Knights, just to pay homage to the Polish king after the lost battle. That did not prevent further conflicts in which the town often took the side of the Order. The thirteen-year-long war caused a lot of destructions, too.
As a result of the second Toruń Peace Agreement of 1466, the administrative borders changed. A part of the Lowlands found itself to be within the borders of the Royal Prussia, the Malbork Voivodship, Malbork Economy and Sztum Starosty. Villages subordinated to the Gniew Land were included to the Pomeranian Voivodship and went under the rule of the Gniew Starost, and then, under the rule of the Poviat of Tczew.
Successive armed conflicts, and especially the last war with the Order in the years 1519-1521, as well as the big floods taking place at the end of the 15th century, led to serious destructions. Grabowo was used as pastures, the Nowy Dwór manor farm was deserted, and Benowo and Gniewskie Pole were described as emptiness. In 1542, Kaniczki was inhabited by only two farmers, the remaining part of the settlement also was used as pastured.
In 1525, the homage paid by prince Albrecht to the Polish king caused the creation of the Ducal Prussia which included areas still belonging to the Order. That diminished the role of Kwidzyn itself, which became the seat of the royal starost.
The period of stabilization coincided with a new wave of settlement in the land of the Republic. Beginning from the 1530-ties, peasants from Holland and from the northern Germany started to arrive at Gdańsk and Elbląg. They were members of Mennonite communes - one of the branches of Protestantism.
In 1547, Wielkie Nebrowo was settled again under the Chełm Law, with an obligation to repair the destroyed floodbanks. The person appointed to be the village leader was Szymon Kusch32. However, it was only the system of long-term lease applied in case of Mennonites contributed to reconstruction of the destroyed settlements.
In 1575, Mennonites are mentioned in the villages of: Bronisławowo, Olszanica33, Grabowo34 and Kaniczki, for which the oldest settlement contract has been preserved. In case of the two latter ones, it is known that the settlers came from the area of Żuławy Malborskie. In Kniczki, a 30-year long contract for 37 włóka (622 ha) was concluded by Dirick Johansen, Hansen Siebelmann, Johan Classen, Lorenz Persen, Joahim Witten and Joahim Witten senior35. In 1576, in the 30 łan (500 ha) separated from the part of Nebrowo, there appeared new settlers who established the village of Glina36. In 1580, in Wielkie Nebrowo, 21 Mennonites got a contract for 45 włóka (756 ha). In the same period, 13 settlers arrived at Wiśliny, where they got 28 łan (470 ha). About 1581, Okrągła Łąka gets separated from the part of Rusinowo village, and in 1584, Nowy Dwór was re-installed and the place called Małe Sadliki gets separated. Gniewskie Pola which still in the 1570-ties were described as deserted, were settled by Mennonites in 1593.
An event which is worth mentioning in the history of the land was a march of Stefan Batory's troops, which made their way to Gdańsk. That is connected with establishment of several forge and blacksmith?s shops, in which cannons were cast on the basis of local beds of ore. One of them was situated in the Lowlands, in a later established settlement called Hammerkrug37.
The settlement movement was also continued in the 1st half of the 17th century. In 1624, Małe Nebrowo was mentioned. In 1664, 5 Dutchmen settled 24 włóka (403 ha) of pastures, creating a settlement called Szkaradowo Wielkie. The Sztum starosts also gave away for use the village of Benowo38, also situated in the Lowlands. That period should be accounted for as the first phase of settlement. It must be noted that the action of settlement under the emphyteusis right concerned to the same extent both the Royal Prussia and the Ducal Prussia. Most of the contracts concerned the already existing settlements, although partly abandoned.
The Swedish invasion in the 1st half of the 17th century, as well as the other invasion (called "Swedish flood") which took place in the years 1655-1660, led not only to another looting of towns and villages, but also to breaking by the Elector to independence from the Polish Crown. Further destructions were caused by the northern war in the years 1700-1721 and also the 7-year-long war of 1756-1763. Tributes, marches of troops and looting were made worse by epidemics. In that period, further flooding by the Vistula were observed, i.e. in 1715, 1768 and 1786. The period from the middle of the 17th century would belong to the second phase of settlement, then, in which, based on a long-term lease, the villages of the Lowlands were settled again. Contrary to the first phase, this time the settlers were not only Mennonites but also Polish and German settlers, creating a group which based on the obtained contract rather than nationality was called olęders [archaic Polish for Dutchmen].
The villages of Grabówek and Jarzębina were settled by Mennonites in the beginning of the 18th century. In 1748, inhabitants: Martin Zimen, Wilhelm Unrau, Hendrich Gertzen, Heinrich Frantzen, Tobias Ecker and Martin Simon39 were mentioned as living in the latter.
The villages which were embraced by renewed contracts included Bronisławowo, where the lease system was reinstated in the years 1701-1711. Gniewskie Pole was settled again in 1726, when it was granted to 8 Mennonites. A similar situation was at Szkaradowo, where in 1758, Tekla Bielińska, the starost of Sztum, granted 7 włóka (117,6 ha) of land to settlers for 30 years. They were: Stephan Balzer, Wilhelm Unrau, Heinrich Kwap and Cornelius Jantzen. It was the starosts of Sztum, who were leaders in granting of settlement contracts, especially in the areas which had not been developed earlier. In 1713, in the pastures leased by the gburs (gbur - a well-off land holder) from Tragamin, there settlrd 9 Mennonites, establishing the village of Tragheimerweide. In 1765, Tekla Bielińska leased land to Mennonites for 30 years, thus creating Zwanzigerweide40. About the middle of the 18th century, Jacob Nickel, Hendrich and Cornelius Penner were given land called Schinkenland41, for 50 years. Mątowskie Pastwiska, Małe Szkaradowo and Rundniki were created in a similar way in 1742, on the basis of a contract granted by the starost of Sztum, Michał Bieliński, to 7 Mennonites for 30 years.
Already in 1752, the areas of the Lowlands being part of the Ducal Prussia were organized into the Kwidzyn poviat. In 1772, the first partition of Poland took place. The whole discussed area fell under the rule of the Prussian state as the Western Prussia. All the land was included into the boundaries of the Kwidzyn Regency. The town itself, as a capital, gained much in importance. In the beginning of the 19th century, the final division was made, based on which the poviat of Kwidzyn embraced the towns of Kwidzyn, Gardeja and Gniew. A part of the Lowlands which used to belong to the Sztum starosty found itself within the borders of the newly created poviat of Sztum.
The period of the 19th century brought about the biggest changes in villages. It was connected with the granting of freehold to peasants. And although regulations in that respect had started to be issued already in the beginning of the 19th century, they started to be implemented to a wider extent in the middle of the 19th century. In most of the villages in that area there prevailed population of German origin. The Prussian government was not favourably inclined towards the Mennonites, imposing on them various taxes and barriers in trading of land, which caused their numerous migrations to the territory of Russia. It must be noted, however, that for example, in Kaniczki village, they got the right of hereditary lease still in 1788, and when freehold was granted, they were the first to be taken into account42. Up to the 20th century, they lived in Rudniki, Mątowskie Pastwiska, Walichnowy, Ryjewo or Szkaradowo.
Apart from the freehold, a strong influence on the development of the Prussian villages had the progress in development of cultivation and fertilizers, switching to the system of crop rotation, introduction of mechanical equipment. The sales market extended to the whole Reich, also thanks to the building of railway lines - here "the Vistula towns railway". This line went into operation in 1883 and connected the following towns: Malbork, Sztum, Kwidzyn, Gardeja, Grudziądz, Chełmża, Toruń. Between smaller towns, there also operated a narrow-gauge train.
Also, the landscape of the Lowlands got changed. The system of floodbanks was heightened and extended. A floodbank constitution was adopted by the Prussian parliament for the Kwidzyn Lowlands on the 15th of December 1713, while on the 12th of December 1866, it granted a statute to the Union, which specified its tasks and obligations43.
The activities of the World War I, although bypassed the land of the poviat of Kwidzyn, opened way to a number of changes. Following the decision of the Treaty of Versailles, the destiny of the area of Warmia, Powiśle and Mazury was to be decided by way of a plebiscite planned for the 11th of July 1920. Plebiscite centres were established in Olsztyn and Kwidzyn. A prevailing part of the population voted for belonging to Germany. Only the region of Janowo, together with Korzeniewo and Opaleń, were included into the Republic, administratively belonging to the left-bank poviat of Gniew.
The break-out of World War II became the beginning of the end of the 400-year old history connected with olęders. In 1945, all the German speaking inhabitants left these areas. The buildings left by them were occupied mostly by people displaced from the eastern regions of the Republic. The witnesses of the history of this land, apart from a few homesteads, are neglected cemeteries situated on the outskirts. They can be found, for example, at Okrągła Łąka, Kaniczki or Barcice.

24 Por. E. Wernicke, Kreis Marienwerder..., op. cit., s. 133; A. Lemański, W. Odyniec, J. Powierski, op. cit., s. 270.
25 R. Flans, Das ehemalige..., H. 34, 1896, s. 79.
26 A. Lemański, W. Odyniec, J. Powierski, op. cit., s. 286.
27 W 1414 r. biskupim włodarzem w Nowym Dworze był Mikołaj Kluger. Zob. Ibidem, s. 274.
28 The manor farm at Szałwinek, existing in the years 1399-1446 belonged to the commandment of Gniew. Ibidem, s. 288.
29 Ibidem, s. 89.
30 R. Flans, Das ehemalige..., H. 35, 1897, s. 54-55; A. Lemański, W. Odyniec, J. Powierski, op. cit., s. 285; J. Makowski, op. cit., s. 91.
31 Ibidem.
32 Zob. E. Wernicke, Kreis Marienwerder..., op. cit., s. 135; A. Lemański, W. Odyniec, J. Powierski, op. cit., s. 271.
33 It is about 21 settlers installed on 54 włóka [907 ha] of land. The contract covered a period of 30 years, in this, 6 years were free of charge. Zob. R. Flans, Das ehemalige Amt Marienwerder..., H. 35, 1897, s. 16.
34 W 1581 r. (łącznie z Grabówkiem) teren ten zamieszkiwało 26 oczynszowanych osadników na 45 łanach. Ibidem, ss. 18-19.
35 E. Wernicke, Kreis Marienwerder..., op. cit., s. 61.
36 R. Flans, Das ehemalige Amt Marienwerder..., H. 35, 1897, s. 58; A. Lemański, W. Odyniec, J. Powierski, op. cit., s. 247.
37 See the catalogue of Borowy Młyn village.
38 As regards the territory of the starosty, Mennonites appeared also at Pułkowice, Szropy, Nowa Wieś and the manor farm Łaza. Zob. K. Ciesielska, op. cit., s. 222.
39 H. Wiebe, op. cit., s. 39.
40 Nowadays, both places are part of Barcice village. See B. Schmid, op. cit., p. 325: H. Wiebe, op. cit., p. 40.
41 Klein Schardau was established in 1756, when the starost of Sztum, Tekla Bielińska, granted those areas to Mennonites.
42 A. Lemański, W. Odyniec, J. Powierski, op. cit., s. 256.
43 J. Makowski, op. cit., s. 91.

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