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Dutch colonists settled in Ziemia Łęczycka in royal, church, and private (i.e. noble) estates.

In royal estates, they appeared in the Kłodawski starosty and Sobótka manor, which were located in the northern and central areas of the Łęczycki district[1]. Precisely this starosty initiated settlement of the colonists in this area. This resulted from the fact that this starosty included the Dobiegowo estate (far removed from the estates of the Kłodawski starosty, and, in reality, situated outside of Ziemia Łęczycka), which was located on the left bank of the Vistula river across from Dobrzyń; that is, in the area that was colonized earliest by the Olęders. They were very successful in that area, developing lands typical for this type of colonization, such as land subject to flooding. Thus, when it became necessary to develop areas of Ziemia Łęczycka that had been destroyed by the 17th century wars and 18th century natural disasters, the landowners readily employed Olęders. A second reason was the fact that this area abounded in fertile soils that required clearing. Earlier attempts to settle Polish peasants had been unsuccessful; they were unable to deal with the oppressive environmental conditions, and admittedly, they did not receive the benefits of settlement under the Dutch law, for example, the concessions and tax exemption granted to Olęder colonists.

The first Olęder settlements in Kłodawski starosty were founded ca. 1780. Dębno was one of these, and the settlement was founded by 14 colonists on 14 Chełmiński włókas. The second settlement was Wzgórze (located near the town of D±browie) established by 10 colonists, and the third settlement, Ostrów, was settled by 5 Olęders. They all constituted a single incoming group, which was spread across a large area due to the fact that there was no suitable area that required drainage and clearing and was large enough to accommodate them all. Also, this approach was dictated by the specificity of Olęder villages: in order to be able to pay rent, the farmer needed to cultivate a large acreage of land. An Olęder farmer invested part of the revenue in the farm, while the second part was set aside for financial obligations. Therefore, the Olęder villages had larger areas than the serfs' villages, but fewer homesteads and, in consequence, smaller populations.

Circa 1790, two additional Olęder settlements were founded: Lipiny and Mała Nowa Wie¶. Both of these settlements were established on land that belonged to the cities of Kłodawa and D±browice. The landowner starost Kossowski also reclaimed forests and pastures from both towns for his private use. In this way, he was trying to obtain new rent and increase the revenue from his estates at any cost[2].

The Olęders also settled in Dierżawa Sobótka. The settlers were brought into this ploughland, which was deserted in the 18th century, in 1783. A group comprised of 35 families settled in four villages (leased by Franciszek Jerzmanowski), due to the absence of sufficient land acreage in one location. The settled villages included: Rochów, Rochówek - 12 farmers (total of 81 individuals) as well as Ksawerów and Ksawerówek - 23 farmers (total of 133 individuals)[3].

The Olęders were also settled by leaseholders of single royal villages from the Łęczycki province. For instance, in 1781 the Łęczycki ensign Rupert Dunin settled colonists near D±bie. In the year 1789 ten Olęders settled in the village of Swędów in the Brzeziński district. On royal estates, the Olęders inhabited a total of 11 villages.

On church estates, the settlements founded under Dutch law played the most prominent role in estates of the Gniezno archbishopric. J. Topolski states that in the 18th century, the largest number of Dutch settlements was founded on church estates located in Ziemia Łęczycka[4]. For example, 10 Olęders settled on 10 włókas of land in the village of Kobyle, which had been desolate since the 16th century. The village was leased by Hilary Zabokrzycki. Other colonists settled in the village Chojny situated in the Grzegorzów parish in 1789 (8 families with 38 individuals). Circa 1790, colonists settled in the villages of Smardzewice, Pieczew, and Budy Przybyłowskie.

The colonization was also organized by other ecclesiastical institutions that owned land in Ziemia Łęczycka. In 1789, the Sulejowski abbey settled 5 Olęders in the village of Pustkowie; furthermore, in 1784 the Norbertine convent from Łęczyca allowed 7 colonists to found the village of Pustkowie Górne in its estate.

However, in Ziemia Łęczycka, the largest number of Olęders settled in noble estates, which at that time included nearly 70% of the total acreage of farms. The majority of the Olęder villages were founded on forested land, in order to clear the areas of trees and bring the land under cultivation. The first villages were established on areas bordering the royal estates that had already been settled by the Dutch, because private landowners were able to see for themselves the benefits of this type of colonization. Józef Skrzyński was the first landowner who brought in Dutch colonists. In 1779, he settled 10 Olęders in the practically uninhabited village of Besk. Other settlers established the village of Gać. In 1783, Benedykt Olszewski settled colonists near the village of Srebrna, where they initially established three farms.

Other villages were founded in the 1780s, when wastelands near the village of Chojny were colonized (1783). At that time, the settlers established the village of D±browskie Holędry, which includes two settlements with the same name. This was not an isolated case; due to the specifics of the environment, settlers could not establish a compact cluster of buildings. A similar situation took place in the village of Mileszki, where establishment of one village was prevented by "forests, woods, and thickets"[5].

Żabieniec near ŁódĽ was the last established village; it dates from 1793 and was founded thanks to Mateusz Strzałkowski. On this area, settlers cleared the forest and developed overgrown meadows.

Olęder villages can also be found in the vicinity of Zgierz. The village of Słowik was established in 1782, and, with 95 residents, it was the largest Olęder settlement on Ziemia Łęczycka. The village of Bugaj had 27 residents and was founded in 1788.

Altogether, 90 Olęder villages were established in Ziemia Łęczycka, including settlements founded before the partition of Poland, during this process, and when the country was no longer independent. Owing to their existence, another historical region experienced the Olęders' perseverance and skill in developing those lands seemingly unfit for cultivation.


[1] B. Baranowski, Położenie i walka klasowa chłopów w królewszczyznach woj. łęczyckiego w XVI-XVIII w, Warszawa 1956, p. 12-13.
[2] J. Goldberg, p. 82.
[3] Ibid. p. 83.
[4] J. Topolski, Rozwój latyfundium arcybiskupstwa gnieĽnieńskiego od XVI do XVIII w., Poznań 1955, p. 70.
[5] Ibid. p. 87.

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