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The Grand Duchy of Poznan~

by Edward Callier, From the Sl~ownik Geograficzny

Population [Vol. 8, p. 955]... The population of Poznan is primarily Catholic. In some areas there are Protestant Poles, and in others German Catholics. Jews who have become wealthy move westward (see E. v. Bergmann, Zur Geschichte der Entwickelung Deutscher, Polnischer und Juedischer Bevoelkerung in der Provinz Posen seit 1824, Tuebingen, 1883). The [German] colonists brought in by Friedrich II and settled along the Notec~ river have become inveterate foes of the people they live among. The same attitude appears among German Protestants, both in the villages and in the towns. As of 1837 there were in the Grand Duchy the following numbers of townsmen: 142,812 Poles, 91,462 Germans, and 71,177 Jews. Later statistics do not differentiate the inhabitants on the basis of nationality.

In the opinion of those in government, there are no Poles within the borders of the nation of Prussia, there are only Prussians and Germans, differing only in creed. Of the towns of Poznan~, the following have predominantly German populaces: Bojanowo, Brojce, Bydgoszcz, Chodziez*, Czarnko~w, Fordon~, Kargowa, L~abiszyn, Leszno, L~obz*enica, Lutomys~l, Margonin, Miasteczko, Mie~dzycho~d, Mie~dzyrzecz, Ostro~w, Pil~a, Radolin, Rakoniewice, Rawicz, Rostarzewo, Rydzyna, Rynarzewo, Sierako~w, Skwirzyna, Szamocin, Szlichtyngowa, Trzcianka, Wielen~, Wolsztyn, Wyrzysko and Zaborowo.

The middle-class Poles of Poznan~ are improving themselves from the moral, intellectual, economic, and national standpoints. There is currently growth in the ranks of the Polish intelligentsia, consisting of priests, doctors, lawyers, literary men, merchants, tradesmen, and other such industrialists. The Germans recruit their intelligentsia mainly from the officials. The Jews form a separate circle of intelligentsia; comparatively more Jewish children go to institutes of higher learning.

History [p. 957]: The history of the Grand Duchy of Poznan~ - Polish name Wielkie Ksie~stwo Poznan~skie, German name Provinz Posen - begins with the year 1815; before then its territory belonged to various divisions of the Polish nation. The period from 1772 to 1815 was a state of transition. In 1772 the Prussian Army, on the basis of an agreement made with the Russian Empress Catherine, occupied the right basin of the Notec~ river and the northern extremity of Inowrocl~aw province from Nakl~o to Solec from above the Wisl~a sin of the Notec~ river and the northern extremity of Inowrocl~aw province from Nakl~o to Solec on the Wisl~a [Solec Kujawski]. The Commonwealth of Poland confirmed this partition; finding no opposition, the Prussian plenipotentiary, von Brenkenhoff, reached out along the left bank of the Notec~ and took Rynarzewo; encouraged by a request from Mrs. Sko~rzewska, he advanced the border of this partition through L~abiszyn. This course of affairs pleased the Prussian king. In February, 1773 he ordered the taking of 15 towns on the left basin of the Notec~, and the next year 13 more in Inowrocl~aw province. On 22 May 1775 in Inowrocl~aw his envoy accepted the required oath of allegiance from the assembled classes. The continued southward advance of the Prussian border finally awoke the tottering Com-monwealth. There was an uproar, which the King of Prussia soothed in 1775 by returning Powidz, while holding onto an area enclosed by a cordon: Wielen~, Radolin, Budzyn~, Margonin, Kcynia, Z*nin, Ga~sawa, Mogilno, Ge~bice, Strzelno, Gniewko~w. This was confirmed by an agreement in Warsaw on 22 August 1776.

Having secured possession of both sides of the Notec~ river basin by this treaty, Friedrich II undertook regulating rivers, draining meadows, digging canals, and attracting settlers. In January 1793 the Prussians seized the land known thenceforth as Southern Prussia, and the Grodno sejm confirmed this partition. The Rebellion of 1794 moved Great Poland as well, and Madalin~ski and Da~broski operated there at that time. The former defeated the Prussians at L~abiszyn on 30 September 1794 and captured Bydgoszcz on 2 October. The failure of the rebellion hastened the final collapse of the Polish nation and exposed many Poles to confiscation of their property. "A disgrace to the government," says Heinrich Wuttke, monographer of the Poznan~ region, "was the seizing of many estates that were torn away from their rightful owners and given to the unworthy gang that included Friedrich Wilhelm, or apparently sold at give-away prices." Several years later the Prussian government seized the estates of the clergy and created from them so-called "royal demesnes" (see "Gdzie sie~ podzial~y nasze kro~lewszczyzny?" ["What happened to our royal estates?"], Poznan~, 1879). So far no one has compiled a list of the estates seized.

The arrival of Napoleon in Poznan~ in 1806 put an end to the administration of Prussian officials, 7,139 of whom were removed from office. The next year, on the basis of the treaty of Tilsit, the Grand Duchy of Warsaw was created, into which was incorporated the entire area comprising today's Grand Duchy of Poznan~ [Translator's note: remember, this was written in the late 1800's, when the partitions were still in effect.] In 1813 the Russian Army occupied the Duchy of Warsaw, which was dissolved by the Congress of Vienna in 1815 and divided anew. The Prussian king got the Poznan~ region, seized by an occupation patent dated 15 May of that year. The detailed treaty agreed to on 3 May between Russia and Prussia promised the divided Poles they would retain institutions "qui assurent la conservation de leur nationalite" ["which assure conservation of their nationality"], that they would suffer no harm "a la pratique journaliĀ²re de frontiere entre les limitrophes," ["to normal activity between those on the borders"] and, in an attempt to settle all doubt, allowed the contracting parties "a l'avenir et pour toujours" ["in the future and forever"] unlimited circulation of all national produce and products in all sections of Poland that they acquired as a result of the divisions. The unimpeded transport in all parts of what had once been Poland was to be subject to only the most modest of fees. Shipping would be free in all rivers and canals of that expanse that existed then or might later come into existence, etc.

A proclamation by King Friedrich Wilhelm, dated the same day as the occupation patent, recognizes that the Poles also have a fatherland; that those incorporated into his monarchy had no need to renounce their nationality; that the Polish language would be used alongside German in all public activities; and that each of the Poles who were now his subjects would have access, in accordance with his abilities, to public offices in the Grand Duchy of Poznan~ and to high national office.

The populace of Poznan~ had no no-tion what awaited them under the apparently mild government of Prussia. Today Prussian men of state sneer at the treaties of Vienna, and the promises of the king are disregarded. The annals of the Grand Duchy of Poznan~ since 1815 record this or that royal decree, ministerial rescript, ordination of regulations, etc., monotonous as the grave. The nobles watched over the national spirit by neglecting, mortgaging and squandering away their estates. The Germans worked on settling down in the country they'd seized, and the Jews still didn't know exactly what they were in ethnic terms.

This sort of life was interrupted for a time by the events of 1830; the majority of Poznan~ volunteers served in the ranks. Of the most eminent figures, these natives of Great Poland drew attention: Umin~ski, Szczaniecki, Turno, Szembek, and others. The period from 1831 to 1846 was filled by the religious propaganda of Czerski, the matter of Archbishop Dunin*, the agitation of emissaries, and the plot of Mierosl~awski. [* Marcin Dunin-Sulgustowski, 1774-1842, archbishop of Gniezno and Poznan~ from 1831; he defended the Church's independence against Prussian authority.]

Events in Berlin in 1848 gave rise to an armed movement in the Duchy of Poznan~. During the first days of April there were Polish camps in the vicinity of Pleszew, Ksia~z*e, S~roda, Wrzes~nia, Mil~osl~aw, Trzemeszno, etc., including over 10,000 armed men. The Poznan~ Germans, recovering from their initial terror, took up an aggressive defensive position against the Poles. Bydgoszcz, Rawicz, Leszno, Mie~dzyrzecz, Pil~a and other towns with predominantly German populations joined forces, armed themselves, and called for help. The projected reorganization of the Grand Duchy of Poznan~ was shattered against the resistance of the German populace, which was ready to fight the Poles on its own. During parleys with the govern-ment, bloody skirmishes took place with the Prussian army: on March 25th at Go~rczyn near Poznan~, on April 10th near Trzemeszno, on the 19th at Gostyn~, the 22nd at Koz~min, the 26th at Grod-zisk, the 29th at Ksia~z*e. The two victories won by Mierosl~awski, at Mil~osl~aw on April 30th and at Sokol~owo on May 2nd, were the last effort of the movement, which persisted through all of May in the form of partisan activity.

Fairly significant encounters with the Prussian army came at Buk and near Kurnik. German residents of the Notec~ region, so-called Netzbrueder ["Brothers of the Netze," the German name for the Notec~] marched against the Poles and committed unheardof atrocities. Dur-ing these contests a line of demarcation was agreed upon, which was to divide the Polish section of the Grand Duchy of Poznan~ from the German (see: Dr. F. W. Streit, Die preussische Provinz Posen, nach der Kabinets-Ordre vom 26. April 1848). When the Germans protested against this division, this line was tight-ened, and the following towns and their districts were left on the Polish side: Borek, Czerniejewo, Dolsk, Gniezno, Gostyn~, Grabo~w, Jaraczew, Jarocin, Kl~ecko, Kobyla Go~ra, Koz~min, L~ekno, Mielz*yn, Miksztat, Mil~osl~aw, Nowe Miasto z nad Warty, Ostrzeszo~w, Piaski, Pleszew, Pogorzela, Powidz, Raszko~w, Rogowo, S~roda, Trzemeszno, Witkowo, Wrzes~nia, Zaniemys~l, Z*erniki, and Z*ydowo. The German legislature confirmed this division on February 7th, 1849, by a vote of 280 to 124. With the new constitution of Prussia dated 5 December of that year this line of demarcation disappeared, and finally all of the Grand Duchy of Poznan~ was incorporated into the German Reich.

In 1863 the Duchy furnished several thousand rebels, among whom Langiewicz, Taczanowski, Miele~cki, and others distinguished themselves. The Prussian-German success of 1870 brought with it to the Polish populace of the Grand Duchy a whole series of laws, those commonly known as "exceptional laws" [prawa wyja~tkowe].

L. Kurtzmann compiled an exhaustive bibliography of the annals of that area (manuscript). Materials for a description of the Grand Duchy in manu-script are found in the collections of the Poznan~ Towarzystwo Przyjacio~l Nauk [Poznan~ Society of Friends of Learning]. Of those that have been printed, the most important are: Opisanie histor. Stat. W. X. Pozn., ed. Bobrowicz, 1846; H. Wuttke, Staedtebuch d. L. Posen, Leipzig 1877; Dr. Chr. Meyer, Geschichte d. L. Posen, 1881; Zeitschrift fuer Geschichte und Landeskunde der Provinz Posen, 1882-84; Zeitschrift der historischen Gesellschaft fuer die Provinz Posen, 1887.

[The following information is from L~ukasz Bielecki's Webpage.] In 1815, the Province was initially divided into 26 districts. Their seats were in the following towns (German names in parentheses):

Babimost (Bomst)
Buk
Bydgoszcz (Bromberg)
Chodziez* (Chodziesen)
Czarnko~w (Czarnikau)
Gniezno (Gnesen)
Inowrocl~aw (Inowrazlaw)
Jarocin (Jarotschin)
Kos~cian (Kosten)
Krobia (Kroeben)
Krotoszyn (Krotoschin)
Mie~dzycho~d (Birnbaum)
Mie~dzyrzecz (Meseritz)
Oborniki (Obornik)
Odolano~w (Adelnau)
Ostrzesz~w (Schildberg)
Pleszew (Pleschen)
Poznan~ (Posen)
S~rem (Schrimm)
S~roda (Schroda)
Szamotul~y (Samter)
Szubin (Schubin)
Wa~growiec (Wongrowitz)
Wrzes~nia (Wreschen)
Wschowa (Fraustadt)
Wyrzysk (Wirsitz)

The northeastern part of the Province belonged to the Regierungsbezirk (administrative region) in Bydgoszcz/ Bromberg, while the rest constituted the Regierungsbezirk Poznan~/Posen. The division of the Province into Bezirke, though important in the structure of the Prussian administration, is of little meaning to genealogical research. On the other hand, the division to districts and parishes is very important, as in all documents the district affiliation of towns used to be provided.

[You might visit L~ukasz's Genealogy & Poland on-line guide , and the Discovering Roots Tour Guide & Genealogy service.]

Translated by Fred Hoffman, PGSA Rodziny Aug 1999

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