Category Archives: Schulz

German Settlers in the Netzekreis District of Prussia

My Schmidt and Winkelmann families settled in the Netzekreis district of Posen, Prussia sometime around 1875 or so, having moved East from the Brandenburg region near the town of Modderpfuhl. I compiled relevant information from various sources into this brief history of the region as it concerned the Kolonists like my family.

The Netze district had been only minimally affected by the first German immigration surge in the 13th century. This early colonization consisted of a few minor settlements near the manor-houses of some German estate-owners.

The second German immigration in the 17th and 18th century, however, included the Netze district to a much larger degree. The region received a great increase in population from immigrants from the west. Many Evangelicals, especially from Silesia, found themselves compelled to immigrate in the course of the Thirty Years War against religious oppression. Polish landlords in the mid 1600’s approved the Evangelical affirmations of their old laws and allowed freedom from taxes for 6 years for all new settlers. An enormous stream of immigrants poured into the south of the province and then gradually filled in areas more toward the north. Most were likely to have come from Lower Silesia, especially since there were many cloth-makers among them. In Silesia at that time cloth-making was in its golden age.

The first establishment was the village of Schönlanke in 1580 (the city arose only later), Lemnitz followed, then Putzig in 1586. The settlers there came mostly from Brandenburg and Pomerania.

The “Kolonists” were for the most part Evangelical. Although the intolerance against the Protestants was rising and the Polish landlords themselves were strict Catholics, they vested in the newcomers free practice of religion when new villages were being founded. In spite of the strong persecution of all Evangelicals beginning after 1717, the German settlement increased during the 18th century.

To draw them to settle on their lands, some estate owners set aside tax-free land for a schoolmaster. Land was also made available for a church and cemetery. Colonists were offered use of the land tax-free for 7 years. Nevertheless, it was not uncommon during the 18th century for Evangelical churches to be burned, robbed, or to have their lands reclaimed by the estate owners. Some estate owners also raised taxes through harsh methods and forced the setters to pay much more in money, labor, grain, and livestock than they had initially been promised.

In addition to the settlement and creation of new villages, there was an influx of Germans into many Polish communities. In certain formerly-Polish villages, the Germans began to constitute a not inconsiderable minority. Nevertheless, no resident Pole would be driven away by the gradual immigration of Germans into Polish villages, as each settlement could only take place with approval of the underlying Polish authority. Generally, the German farmers would only be settled on plots of land that were lying fallow or were left behind by their owners, so this settlement was generally encouraged by the resident Poles.

In the year 1768 the Warsaw treaties granted full religious liberty for Evangelicals. This was the cause for optimism, but residents of the cities reacted with fear. Entire villages were burned, and troops were assembled which robbed and plundered German towns. Evangelicals fled over the border in large numbers. Eventually West Prussia and the Netze district fell to Prussia on 13 September 1772. Money was made available to restore damages from the war. Within a few months many villages in the district had German mayors, and the Evangelical community began to re-establish itself in the parishes near Czarnikau.

The Prussian governmental colonization after 1772 had had only a minimal affect on the region. The majority of the settlers came from the Polish landlords enticing German colonists onto profit-poor estates. They would get settlers to take marsh-meadows overgrown with bush, and turn them into productive farms.

After the Vienna treaty of 9 May 1815 the area was back under Prussian rule after briefly having been under Polish control for about 8 years. There were about 2000 residents of the district at that time, roughly 44% Evangelical, 32% Catholic, and 23% Jewish. The main occupations were farming, lace-making, cloth-making, and yarn twisting.

In 1822 Russia closed its frontiers for imports and exports and the machine age began. This was the beginning of the end for the formerly thriving textile industry, and the next few decades saw a marked decline in the demand for textiles from the Netze region. The cloth-makers guild was dissolved in 1888. In its place more and more craftsmen immigrated to the region: bakers, butchers, carpenters, masons, blacksmiths and merchants arrived during the period from 1815-1850. The population of German settlers climbed.

A railroad station was built to support the industry of the region in 1851, but after that high point the economy stagnated until the “Gründerzeit” (the founder epoch about 1870), when the tobacco and timber industries resurged. Many sawmills, lumber mills, joineries (carpenter shops) were established around this time.

After that, however, the German population declined drastically. Between 1850-1895 many Germans left to come to North America where cheap land and greater opportunity awaited them.

Distilled from: and other sources.

FHC Files on Schulz/Schmidt/Winkelmann

Just a reminder to myself that the FHC has the following records on the Schulz home town of Jankendorf, Kreis Kolmar, Posen, Prussia:

Note Location Film/DGS
Taufen, Heiraten, Tote 1781-1793 Taufen 1816-1908 Family History Library INTL Film 1194720 Items 2-4
Taufen 1908 Heiraten 1816-1941 Tote 1816-1852 Family History Library INTL Film 1194721
Tote 1852-1866 Taufen, Heiraten, Tote 1781-1815 Family History Library INTL Film 1194733 Items 1-2

Germany, Preußen, Brandenburg, Friedeberg – Church records
Poland, Zielona Góra, Strzelce Krajeńskie – Church records

Film Notes
Note Location Film/DGS
Militärgemeinde: Taufen, Heiraten, Tote 1869-1874 Family History Library INTL Film 172439

“Kolonists” in Eastern Prussia

I received an email from the man I use for translation of historic German documents.  His name is Klaus and he lives in Florida.  In the most recent document, Auguste Bertha Schmidt’s birth record, I noted that her father Friedrich Schmidt was listed as a “Kolonist”.  I asked Klaus about these people who were sent to “Germanize” the eastern parts of Prussia, and this is what he wrote:

Not being a historian, I can only offer you a bit of the things I remember from listening to and overhearing my Grandmother (the mother of my stepmother) Emma Kopischke.

My Grandfather was a teacher, and the Kopischke’s had been lured (I do not know by which administration) to move into the Eastern Territory as part of the “Germanisation Effort” program of the Prussian State.  I believe the intent was to take German culture and preciseness there, to exploit the vast farmland areas and to provide the “homeland” with agricultural products.

Grandfather taught mainly the children of settlers (“Kolonists”).  From Grandmother I remember remarks about the Polish field hands and house helpers to be mainly negative or derogatory.  From her occasional talks I formed a picture of Wanda, the house maid (probably a kind of servant) as being lazy, dumb, uneducated and primitive.  She and other Poles had to constantly be watched or they would steal your shirt off your back.  Things like that.  I do not remember ever hearing a word of praise about the local population.  I assume the settlers suffered from adverse propaganda and/or were brainwashed and felt like the superior race or population.

The Kopischkes lived in the Posen (Poznan) area. I remember hearing of visits to settler friends in Gnesen, Tschenschstochau and other neighboring villages.  Those German settlers were driven out of the territory sometime around 1900 or so.  The Kopischkes moved to Goerlitz, (then Silesia), a city which today is split by the Neisse River, the new Polish/German border since 1945.  I grew up there, in the triangle where Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic meet.  One of my sisters and her descendants still live there today.

Your Schmidt family settled not far from the Poznan area, a few miles north-north-east in the direction toward Dansk.  They must have lived under similar conditions as my Kopischkes.

This portrait of the region was augmented by my friend Jörg, who lives in Germany

In the 16th century Polish landslords brought German settlers, mostly farmers, into the Netzekreis.  After the mid-17th century, German craftsmen were hired.  The town of Schönlanke, for example, [very near where the Winkelmann and Schmidt families lived] was famous for its textiles (draperies, weavers, clothiers).  In 1772 Netzekreis (including the city of Schönlanke) became Prussian. There were 220 clothmakers and many shoemakers, tailors and other craftsmen at that time. 

After 1822 Russia closed its borders for imports and exports and the machine age began.  It was the beginning of the end of the textile industry in that region.  Their guild was dissolved in 1888.But more and more craftsmen immigrated there, bakers, slaughterers, carpenters, masons, blacksmiths and merchants etc.   The town grew slowly but steadily, and a railway station was built there in 1851.  The economy stagnated somewhat after that.  

But after the “Gründerzeit” – the founder epoche in abt. 1870 – everything had changed.  There was a resurgence in the region in the tobacco and timber industry, and many lumber mills and joineries (carpentries) were established there during this period.

The word “Kolonist” came from the Latin “colonus” = farmer (Bauer in German).  So the “Kolonisten” were settlers… farmers from other regions, who reclaimed moorland, or in this case swampland, along the Netze river and cultivated it.

Zierke Family in Prussia

There are a few threads I need to tie together here about the Zierke family. It’s far from a complete story at this point, but the evidence is growing so I want to document some things I found today. First the backstory.  My great-great grandmother Ottelie Zierke’s parents were Friedrich Zierke and Wilhelmine Schulz.  That’s my connection to both families.  There is some circumstantial evidence that they knew each other in Prussia and after Friedrich Zierke came to Harris, Wisconsin in 1865, Wilhelmine Schulz came to Wisconsin shortly after, and they were married here in November of 1866 or 1867 (their obits disagree on the year).

We know the Schulz family came from Podstolitz (today called Podstolice, Poland), and the town we currently believe the Zierkes came from was called Jablonowo, which is about 18 miles to the West of Podstolitz.

My Zierke relatives landed in the US in 1865.  They spent up to a year in Waukesha, Wisconsin before settling down in Harris, Wisconsin.  I have spent a fair amount of time documenting another group of Zierkes who lived in Princeton, Wisconsin, which is only 18 miles away from Harris.  So far I have had no hard proof that the two families are related, but I am nearly certain that they are.  (For example, the brother of my grandmother Wilhelmine Schulz, Martin Schulz, spent years in Princeton, Wisconsin after coming to the US from Posen, and got married there.)  So I keep looking for evidence.

Today Jörg Schrick reminded me of a website I had visited before which does transcription of Posen, Prussia marriage documents.  I had looked there for Schmidt and Zierke records before and struck out, but I know they are always transcribing more records, so I looked there today.  I didn’t get a hit on my family, but I got a hit for one of the Princeton Zierke families:

Protestant community in Margonin, entry # 4 in 1858

Gottlieb August Zirk (24)

Wilhelmine Sommerfeld (22)

This is great for several reasons.  This is 100% certainly the family that I’ve been working on in Princeton, Wisconsin.   The marriage, while recorded in Margonin, actually took place in Siebenschlößchen.  That town is only about 5 miles away from Podstolitz, where my Schulz relatives came from.  This says to me that MY Schulz family and the Princeton Zierke family were all in the same area.  To me, it is strong evidence that this Princeton Zierke family and my Zierke family are the same.  I’m expecting to find out that all of them came from this basic area of Posen, and I feel it’s just a matter of time before I understand the connection between the Princeton Zierke clan and my family from Harris.

Here is a map showing the relative locations of Podstolitz and Siebenschlößchen:

Kreis Kolmar, Posen, Prussia

Kreis Kolmar, Posen, Prussia

Schultz Obituaries

I received a packet in the mail with several items from the Plainfield, Minnesota Historical Society.  Included were several obituaries for various members of the Schultz (Schulz) family who lived in and around Elgin, Minnesota.  They make for interesting reading!

Gustave Rudolph Schultz (the MN folks added a “t” to Schulz) was the son of Martin Schulz, who was the brother of Wilhelmine Schulz Zierke, my 3rd great grandmother.  Ferdinandine Ballewski Schultz was the wife of Gustave’s brother Wilhelm who killed himself in the haunted house.  (See this story for more about Wilhelm.)


Wilhelm Schulz – Suicide in “Haunted House”

Of course this is tragic, but it’s also pretty interesting.  This is the obituary for Wilhelm Emil “William” Schulz (1872-1932), who was the son of Martin Schulz.  Martin was the brother of Wilhelmine Schulz Zierke, and she was my 3rd great grandmother.  That makes Wilhelm my 1st cousin 4x removed.  Anyway… there is some great data in this obituary (like Martin and Wilhelm lived in PRINCETON, WISCONSIN, thus giving more evidence for the link between the Harris Zierkes and the Princeton Zierke clan).  But apart from that, it’s just intriguing.  Suicide?  Murder?  Accident? Haunted houses?

From the 20 June, 1932 issue of the Rochester Post Bulletin, Rochester, Minnesota.

Prussian Origins – Next Steps

Jörg Schrick sent me an email this morning:

Kahlen, Kohlen, Calem…..or Wandau, Wanden, Wansen….  that all are guesses, speculations, you need to know exact places of birth and marriage to find anything.

I agree with him  Perhaps the only way to be sure (unless someone has a box with documents from the old country) is to find the family in Prussia before they left.
  • The Zierkes arrived in 1865.
  • The Schulz siblings (Wilhlemline and Martin) came in 1866.
  • The Strehlow family came in 1868.
  • Heinrich Krueger got here in 1881 or 1882, his brother Carl in 1883.
  • The parents Wilhelm and Caroline Krueger came in 1883.
  • The Kamraths came in 1885.
  • Wilhelm Schmidt came in 1885 and his mother and five sisters in 1892.

So I think that about 1860 and 1870 are the best times to look for them.

In 1860 the ages would have been:
Friedrich Zierke Sr.    54
Dorothea Hardow Zierke  46
Friedrich Zierke Jr.    25
Anna Rosina Zierke      14

Martin Schulz           19
Wilhelmine Schulz       13
In 1870 the ages would have been:
Wilhelm Krueger                      35
Caroline Hoge Krueger                34
Heinrich Krueger                     13
Carl Krueger                          6

Ferdinand Strehlow                   40
Wilhelmine Schweitz/Schuriz Strehlow 40
Bertha Strehlow                       8
Hermann Strehlow                      5

Carl Kamrath                         38
Henriete Prinow Sense Kamrath        28
Bertha Kamrath                        6
August Kamrath                        5
Helene Kamrath                        4
Anne Kamrath                          2
Emma Kamrath                          0

Friedrich Schmidt                     Unknown
Wilhelmine Winkelmann Schmidt	      32
Carl Ernst Wilhelm Schmidt             8
Alvine Schmidt                         4
Amelie Schmidt                         1
So now I guess the best thing is to look for census records for the “Candidate Towns” and try to find them.