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

The history of the Walichnowy Lowlands is connected, in many places, with the area of the Kwidzyn Lowlands. At the beginning, an explanation is necessary with regard to the administrative division. Over ages, the villages situated on the right bank of the Vistula, such as, for example, Janowo, Pastwa, Gniewskie Pole, Jarzębina came under the authority of, first, the Gniew Commandment, and then under the poviat of Tczew, Pomeranian Voivodship. Due to the division of the history of settlement to two separate chapters, those villages will be presented together with the presentation of the Kwidzyn Lowlands. Here, in turn, the history of settlements situated on the right bank of the Vistula will be presented.
The area of the Gniew land is a part of Pomorze Nadwiślańskie (Pomerania on the Vistula). After partition of Poland to regional principalities, this land came under the rule of secular dukes. They granted the area to the Cistercians of Oliwa. In connection with that event, the village of Kuchnia44 was mentioned already in 1245. Taken over by the Cistercians, the whole area finally became a property of the Teutonic Knights in 1282 r.45.
In 1297, the newly established town of Gniew was granted the right of fishing in the Vistula, in the area adjacent to what would be known later as Gniewskie Pole46. In the times of the Teutonic Knights, in the Lowlands there operated a manor farm at Międzyłęż. It was the seat of an alderman subordinated to the Malbork Commandment47.
Due to frequent floods, the floodland, which the Walichnowy Lowlands were already from the middle of the 14th century, was subjected to regulation attempts. In 1379, a flood was recorded, which broke some of the floodbanks, i.e. at Walichnowy Wielkie48.
Beginning from the 14th century, the area was covered by the operation of the Floodbank Union - Deichwerband der Falkenauer Niderung, which was granted, in 1593, a "Floodbank Law"49. This lowland, as the only one in the Vistula Valley, was provided with complete floodbanks at once50.
The conflicts between Poland in the 15th century significantly impoverished the rural areas. The 13-year-long war recorded an event concerning the inhabitants of Wielkie Walichnowy. In 1458, they attacked 13 boats carrying food to Gdańsk51.
Under the provisions of the Toruń Peace Treaty of 1466, the Gniew land came under the Crown, becoming part of the poviat of Tczew, Pomeranian Voivodship. The time of peace and improvement of the economy which were expected in the century to come, favoured the re-settlement of the abandoned villages and establishment of new ones in places so far inaccessible. That was connected with the settling of Mennonites under the right of a long-term lease. In the Kwidzyn Lowlands, situated closest, they appeared already in the 1570-ties. As regards the Walichnowy Lowlands, the process of settling under the lease right was somewhat delayed. It is known that the starosts of Osiek and Międzyłęż settled the village of Old and New Międzyłęż52. It must have taken place probably about the middle of the 17th century, as those villages were mentioned in 166453. The first mention concerning Małe Walichnowy dates back to 1640, where olęders were settled under a privilege granted by the Royal Court Marshall54. The new settlers were obligated to repair the dam, ditches and riparian sluices. In return, they could take wood from the Osiek Forest for construction and renovation of old houses.
In Wielkie Walichnowy, the situation looked slightly different. In 1566, the starost of Międzyłęż, Franciszek Żelisławski55, introduced Lutheranism. That was connected with a take-over of the church which was re-gained by Catholics only in 1596.56. However, an information about the Mennonites themselves comes from as late as 1651, when the dean of Gniew and the parish priest of Wielkie Walichnowy, Paweł Ignacy Hromdzik, complained on the Dutch and the peasants having grabbed 40 morgas (56 acres)of land owned by the church.
In 1624, Wielkie Gronowo57 is mentioned. An interesting information concerning the village comes from 1726, when 8 Mennonites got their rights renewed due to a bad running of the farms and ruining of the farms, as the inspector puts it58. Mennonites appeared at the land belonging to the Gronowo manor farm in 1655. In 1614, they settled in the Gutts pastures. They also settled the Groszkowo, Lignowy and Małe Pólko pastures59.
In the 18th century, the settlement Kuchnia60 was developed again. The area was embraced by the activities of the Floodbank Union already in the Middle Ages, however, it was not sufficiently protected against big floods. That forced an application of new solutions. In the middle of the 19th century, in the area, there functioned a windmill which drained water61. The status of the established Floodbank Union of the Walichnowy Lowlands was granted by Frederic Wilhelm IV on the 4th of August 1854.
Under the Treaty of Versailles, the whole area, including the settlements which earlier belonged administratively to Gniew, found itself to be within the borders of the Polish state.
It can therefore be concluded that the settlement of the Walichnowy Lowlands, also had already been developing before the 16th century, was only completed thanks to the settlement contracts under the right of a long-term lease. The main settlement action took place in a somewhat later period than that of the Kwidzyn Lowlands - namely, in the 17th century.
Not many wooden homesteads have preserved until today. The presence of the Mennonites and evangelicals is witnessed by spruced and orderly cemeteries, such as in Wielkie and Małe Walichnowy and Międzyłęż. In Małe Walichnowy there is also a monument to the floodbank starost of the Walichnowy Lowlands, Peter Rudolf Dirksen. Numerous information boards and charts show in a clear way the history and specificity of the region. This is an ideal example of how inhabitants can take care of their own local history.

44 In 1253, Sambor II granted this property to the Teutonic Knights. It was of a strategic importance, as post which secured the neighbourhood against the stronghold of Zantyr on the opposite side of the Vistula. See SGKP, v. 4, p. 839.
45 In that year, also Międzyłęż is mentioned for the first time. See SGKP, v. 6, p.376.
46 A. Lemański, W. Odyniec, J. Powierski, op. cit., s. 247.
47 The known aldermen in office were: Henryk z Leydenstein 1394-1403; Jan v. Hohenkirchen 1411-1413; Iost v. Gehewolf 1413-1417; Herman v. Gans 1417-1418; Iost v. Gehewolf 1481; Konrad v. Helmsdorf 1419-1427; Helfrich v. drahe 1427; Eckart v. Bucheim 1441; Henryk v. Richtenberg 1441; Piotr Hebicher 1445; Wilhelm v. Hundenborn 1445-1447; Egloff v. Rosenberg 1447. Zob. Ibidem.
48 Zob. SGKP, t. 12, s. 910; J. Makowski,op. cit., s. 59.
49 Ibidem, s. 76.
50 Ibidem, s. 79.
51 The loot which got into their hands included 400 łaszts (łaszt - a volume unit used in the Northern Europe from the 14th to the 19th century) of corn, 400 large cuts of meat, 90 oxen, 600 grzywnas (monetary unit used in old Poland) as well as one and a half barrel of fat, 4 barrels of wine, 11 barrels of honey and butter, a lot of cheese, millet and peas. See SGKP, v. 12, p. 910.
52 K. Ciesielska, Osadnictwo..., op. cit., s. 222.
53 Zob. K. Mikulski, op. cit., s. 179; Lustracja województw Prus Królewskich 1765..., s.118.
54 Opis królewszczyzn w województwach chełmińskim, pomorskim i malborskim w roku 1664, wyd. J. Paczkowski, Fontes 32, TNT, Toruń 1938, s. 329.
55 SGKP, t. 12, s. 910.
56 Ibidem.
57 K. Mikulski, op. cit., s. 110.
58 Lustracja województw Prus Królewskich 1765..., s. 110.
59 Zob. Opis królewszczyzn w województwach chełmińskim..., s. 88; K. Ciesielska, Osadnictwo..., op. cit., s. 222.
60 H. Wiebe, op. cit., s. 40.
61 W. Dirksen, Historia Związku Wałowego Niziny Walichnowskiej, http://informator.pelplin.pl/?id=418, 07.09.2009

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