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 journali²re 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
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