This is a translation of excerpts from the article on
West Prussia printed in the late-19th century Polish gazetteer Slownik
geograficzny Kr—lestwa Polskiego. Remember that these articles contain
information "current" when they were written, sometime after
1885 and before 1902.
by Rev. Frydrychowicz
West Prussia, formerly Royal Prussia, part of Pomerania, currently
one of 12 provinces of the Kingdom of Prussia, has already been partially
discussed in the articles on Gdansk and Kwidzyn, and from an ecclesiastical
viewpoint in the article on Chelmno. Here we will give only complementary
Surface formation. West Prussia occupies part of the Sarmatian
plain. Its distinctive trait is the Baltic Heights, called the Pojezierze
[German Seenplatte, English "lake district"] due to
the numerous lakes scattered across them. These Heights, stretching
from the east to northwest, divide the Wisla [Vistula] into two parts.
The eastern part extends to the Drweca river, the western to the valleys
of the Notec river. In Kartuzy powiat the Heights reach their
greatest elevation in the peak Spiczasta g—ra [German Thurmberg
or Spitzberg] in the band of the Szymbark hills near Kartuzy,
elevation 1,020 feet above sea level. Toward the Wisla and the
Baltic the highlands fall sharply to the extent that lower-situated regions
on the water have to be secured with dikes... Across the whole lake district
are scattered numerous erratic boulders, pushed across from Sweden by
The most fertile lowlands are those located along the Wisla, especially
the so-called Zulawy by its outlet. On the other hand Tuchola Forest
[Tuchler Heide], between the Czarna Woda and Brda rivers, is
not at all fertile and is largely covered with pine forests....
Climate. West Prussia's is a sea climate and therefore damp,
variable, and harsh. Western winds are most frequent, southern
and northern winds fairly frequent, and eastern winds are the rarest.
Summer lasts a short time, the hot season gets on average to 86 degrees
F, on occasion 95 degrees F; winter is long and quite cold. On the
shore winter begins later but lasts longer. Spring usually begins
no earlier than the end of April. Northern winds and night frosts
lasting to the beginning of May delay plant development. In mid-May
the temperature suddenly drops again 6-12 degrees... Storms and lightning
are frequent in June. Fall is sunnier than in northern Germany.
According to 20 years of observations, the mean temperature on
Hel Peninsula is 45.5¡F, in Gdansk (9 m. above sea level) 45.99¡F, in
Szymbark in Kartuzy powiat (250 m. above sea level) 42.24¡F in
Chojnice (155 m.) 44.04¡F. Next to Orzysz in East Prussia, Chojnice
is the coldest point in the whole province. Yearly rainfall in Gdansk
is 475 mlm., in Chojnice 487 mlm. The growing season lasts 4ý to
History, area, and division ... [As of 1773] Warmia was incorporated
into East Prussia, and Gdansk and Torun still belonged to Poland, whereas
the East Prussian cities of Kwidzyn, Prabuty, Susz and Ilawa and their
districts were made part of West Prussia, as was the Notec region [Netze-distrikt]
in 1775... As a result of the second partition in 1793 Gdansk and
Torun were incorporated into West Prussia, and from then to 1807 there
was no change in the province's territory. The Peace of Tilsit in
1807 created the Duchy of Warsaw and took away from West Prussia the greater
part of the Notec region, namely the entire powiaty of Inowroclaw
and Bydgoszcz with the greater part of Kamien and Walcz powiaty,
as well as the ancient province of Chelmno, i. e., the newly created powiaty
of Chelmno and Michalowo, except for Grudziadz and three villages between
the fortress and the outlet of the Osa river, and finally Gdansk and its
district... When in 1815 the Duchy of Warsaw was dissolved by the treaty
of Vienna, Chelmno province and Gdansk were re-incorporated into West
Prussia. In addition to the districts of Lebork and Byt—w, which
were split off in 1803, the province of West Prussia was divided into
two regency districts, Gdansk and Kwidzyn, and the border that had existed
up to that point was established so that West Prussia occupied all of
Royal Prussia, except for the Duchy of Warmia and four powiaty:
Zlot—w and Walcz, seized from Great Poland, and Kwidzyn and Susz, previously
part of Ducal Prussia. In 1824 West and East Prussia were made a
single province, but in 1878 they were divided again....
West Prussia lies between 52 degrees 50'24" and 54 degrees 50'8"
north latitude and 33 degrees 38'1" and 37 degrees 38'55" longitude
(Ferro), and borders to the north on the Baltic, to the east on East Prussia,
to the south on the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Poznan, and
to the west on Brandenburg and Pomerania. Its area covers 25,584
sq. km. Gdansk regency district was formerly divided into 9 powiaty,
and Kwidzyn contained 14. In 1827, to strengthen the German element,
a new powiat, Wabrzezno, was created in Kwidzyn district; Gdansk
district was split into upper and lower powiaty, and new powiaty
of Tczew and Puck were created.
Population: According to official statistics in 1867 West Prussia
had 1,282,842 inhabitants; 1,343,057 in 1875; 1,405,898 in 1880; 1,408,229
in 1885; so in those last five years the population grew by only 2, 331,
or 0.15%, while in the Kingdom of Prussia as a whole it grew by 3.79%.
The rural population has diminished even in the last five years, caused
by emigration to America - 13,749 left West Prussia for America in 1883;
by the search for work in Westphalia and Saxony; and finally by expulsion
of Poles not possessing Prussian naturalization- official lists give their
number as 28,965 by 1 January 1887....
As for religion, in 1784 West Prussia had 203,721 Catholics and 122,201
Protestants. In 1817 according to official statistics there were
31,463 more Protestants than Catholics. In 1864 the Protestants
outnumbered the Catholics by 25,553. But in 1880 the ratio changed;
there were 693,719 Catholics, and only 682,735 Protestants... In 1880
there were 26,000 Jews. Mennonites, who in 1875 numbered 12,300,
were included with the Protestants. The 1 December 1885 census showed
that of the total of 1,408,229 inhabitants, 701,842 were Catholic, 667,255
Protestant, 24,654 Jewish, and about 1,000 of other faiths.
As for ethnic origin, according to official statistics in 1885 there were
137,000 Poles in Gdansk regency, in Kwidzyn 280,000, for a total of 417,000-but
that figure is too low, we can boldly state that the Polish population
exceeded half a million.
West Prussia has 55 towns, among them 7 with more than 10,000 inhabitants.
As of 1880 the population of Gdansk was 108,551; Elblag 35,842; Torun
20,617; Grudziadz 17,321; Tczew 10,939; Malbork 9,559; Chojnice 9,096;
Chelmno 9,937; Kwidzyn 8,238; Walcz 6,568; Starogard 6,253; Orunia ws
5,513; Brodnica 5,801; Wejherowo 4,715; Jastrowie 5,456; Lubawa 4,857;
Nowe 4,947; Lubawa 4,857; Gniew 4,715; Wabrzezno 4,498; Koscierzyna 4,283
Industry. Agricultural industry employs 30.7% of the population
of West Prussia, manufacturing 17.7%, trade 6.7%, and 44.9% work in other
fields. The area devoted to agriculture, gardens, meadows and pasture
is 71.5% of the whole territory. Poultry farming is highly developed,
as is the dairy industry... [Other occupations discussed at some length:
beekeeping, fishing, milling, the sugar industry]... In Gdansk and
Elblag locomotives and ships are built. Only Gdansk has a foundry
for bells, but relatively numerous are factories for tobacco, vinegar,
soap, and wood-distilling. Other flourishing trades are: tanning,
dyeing, printing, distilling, brewing, metallurgy, and pottery... At Nierzeja
Swieza amber is found; some of the raw material is sent to Vienna and
Constantinople, some is used for various ornamental items, especially
buttons, cigarette-holders, and necklaces.
Source: Slownik Geograficzny
Krolestwa Polskiego - Warsaw
Submitted by: This translation, by William F. Hoffman,
first appeared in the August 1996 issue of "Rodziny, The Journal
of the Polish Genealogical Society of America" (Feb 1999).