Mennonites of the Obernessau congregation in Prussia

Compiled by

Mennonites in the Vistula valley near Thorn-Torun in Prussia are documented before 1600. Their history has been summarized in Mennonitische Lexikon, Vol. 4: 320-323. The big river (Latin: Vistula, German: Weichsel, Polish: Wisla) had always been fateful in the lives of settlers of the valley who were affected by annual spring floods caused by the melting snow in the south and the blocking ice in the north. The river flowing south to north by periodical flooding provided rich sediments for the soil, but also often placed the lives of farmers and their lifestock in danger. Failure to recognize Mennonite non-violence by the Prussian administration and the peril by the river were the cause of decrease and final doom of Mennonites in the Obernessau region which was also known by its Polish name Niszewke or Nischewken. When engineers finally were able to control the river by dikes during the last decades before 1900, the emigration had run its course, notably under the leadership of Elder Wilhelm Ewert to Bruderthal in Kansas in 1874 (1). The numerical decline of Mennonites is shown by the Prussian census for Kreis Thorn (2) : 1816 - 272; 1840 - 199; 1861 - 130; 1895 - 100; 1910 - 36. Vital statistics records of births-marriages-deaths had been kept by the ministers since 1739, but have not surfaced after 1945 (3) Since Obernessau was not annexed by Prussia during the first partition of Poland in 1772, we do not find the families listed in the Mennonite census of 1776 (4).

Village archives in Archiwum Panstwowe in Torun, Poland may give names of land holders during this time. As an example, the names of families at Korzeniec are listed as follows (* designates names presumably Mennonite) :

1737:
1. Jakuba Brant*; 2.Heinricus Jantz*; 3.Widowa Melerowna;
4.Marcin Polloc; 5.Jedrzi Ewert*;    6.Jacuba Polloc

1766 - 7.August                     Morgen-Ruten
Abram Jans*                         19     32
Krystian Sztefan                    14      7
Jan Derks*                          18     10
Jan Harm*                           24     63
Hynrich  Jans*                      21    163
Jan Rynwans                          8    103
Piotr Szroeder*                     14    219

1775, 26 Junius:
Names of "Wirte" 1.Christian Lau; 2.Christian Stefan; 3.Johan Dercks*; 4.Johan Harm*; 5.Heinrich Jants*; 6.Johan Renwans; 7.Jacob Bartel*
    signed: Carl Gottlieb Zumpe, Schulmeister.

In 1793 Prussia annexed the Thorn region as part of the newly formed province of South Prussia. The Prussian administration conducted the first complete census of Mennonite families in 1795 (Table 1) according to the same format which is known for the 1776 census of the rest of West Prussia.

  Table 1:Mennonite Census in South Prussia in 1795
  Verzeichnis saemmtlicher im Radziejewoschen Kreise befindlichen Mennonisten,
       aufgenommen und gefertigt im Monath Mart.1795 - Kienast
--------------------------------------------------------------------------
(M=Man;W=wife;S=sons;T=daughters;K=Knechte;Mg=maids)
                                              M   W  S   T  K  Mg     Total
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
 1.Kl.Niszewke

1.Wirt Jacob Adrian                           1   1  -   1  -  -      3
2.Gaertner Peter Jahns                        1   1  -   -  -  1      3
3.Wirth Heinrich Adrian                       1   1  1   2  1  -      6
4.dito Johann Ewert                           1   1  -   1  -  -      3
5.dito Heinrich Jahns                         1   1  2   -  -  1      5
6.dito Abraham Nickel, Prediger               1   1  2   2  -  -      6
7.dito Abraham Bartel                         1   1  3   -  -  -      5
8.dito Zacharias Bartel, Prediger             1   1  4   1  -  -      7
9.dito Abraham Eck                            1   1  1   2  -  -      5
10.dito Jacob Bartel                          1   1  -   -  -  -      2
11.dito Peter Bartel, Prediger                1   -  2   2  -  -      5
12.dito Leonhardt Bartel                      1   1  2   2  1  -      7
13.dito Jacob Jahns                           1   1  1   1  -  1      5
14.dito Johann Schroeter                      1   1  1   2  -  -      5
15.dito Cornelius Bartel                      1   1  -   1  -  -      3
16.dito Heinrich Voht                         1   1  -   1  -  1      4
17.Gaertner David Kliewer                     1   1  -   1  -  -      3
18.dito Kuhnert Rosenfeld                     1   1  -   1  -  -      3
19.Schulz Heinrich Bartel                     1   1  2   -  -  1      5
Summa:..................................     19  18 21  20  2  5     85
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 2.Gr.Niszewke

1.Wirth Gerhard Bartel                        1   1  1   2  -  1      6
2.Wirth Jacob Jahns                           1   1  1   1  -  -      4
3.Einlieger Leinweber Hein Casper             1   1  2   2  -  -      6
4.Wirth Hein Schroeder                        1   1  1   -  -  -      3
5.Wirth Andr.Jahns                            1   1  1   3  -  -      6
6.Wirth Johann Hermann                        1   1  -   2  -  -      4
7.Gaertner Jacob Bartel                       1   1  1   1  -  -      4
8.dito Cornel. Kliewer                        1   -  -   1  -  -      2
9.dito Heinr.Schroeder                        1   1  2   3  -  -      7
Summa:...................................     9   8  9  15 -   1     42
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

 3.Dulinow

1.Einlieger Jacob Bartel                      1   1  -   -  -  -      2
2.Gaertner Franz Bartel                       1   1  3   1  -  -      6
3.Gaertner Jacob Eck                          1   1  -   -  -  -      2
4.Wirth Andr.Bartel                           1   1  -   1  -  -      3
5.Gaertner Joh.Kerber                         1   1  -   1  -  -      3
Summa:...................................     5   5  3   3  -  -      16
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

 4.Kozibor

1.Wirth Andr.Ewert                            1   1  2   -  -  -      4
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

 5.Kozienic Kemp

1.Gaertner Joh.Dirks                          1   1  -   1  -  -      3
2.Wirth Cornel.Balzer                         1   1  1   -  -  -      3
3.dito Cornel.Bartel                          1   1  -   -  1  -      3
4.dito Jacob Bartel, Prediger                 1   1  -   -  1  -      3
Summa:...................................     4   4  1   1  2  -      12
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

 6.Stronsker Kemp:

1.Wirth Peter Bartel                          -   1  2   2  -  -      5
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

 Recapitulation:

1.Kl.Niszewke                                 19  18 21  20  2  5      85
2.Gr.Niszewke                                  9   8  9  15  -  1      42
3.Dulinow                                      5   5  3   3  -  -      16
4.Kozibor                                      1   1  2   -  -  -       4
5.Kozienicer Kaempe                            4   4  1   1  2  -      12
6.Stronsker Kaempe                             -   1  2   2  -  -       5
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Summa Summarum:...................            38  37 38  41  4  6     164
Between 1806 and 1815 the Thorn region with Obernessau became part of the Duchy of Warsaw, a creation of Napoleon Bonaparte during his European wars. The Code Napoleon was introduced in 1808, and civil registration of births-marriages-deaths would be very detailed, if they can be located in archives today (5).

In 1815 the new Prussian administration incorporated the Thorn region in the West Prussian district of Marienwerder. Land reform changed the ownership structure of the rural populace which is reflected in the records of the General-Komission set up for this purpose and a prime genealogical source available in the archives at Bydgoszcz. Additional untapped genealogical sources are the Grundakten, Erbrezesse, Erbvergleiche(probates) and Pupillenakten (orphan records) of Amtsgericht Thorn (and Dybow) since 1793, which usually start with a land title history (=tituli possessionis) going back 50 or more years from its beginning.

The restriction of Mennonite landholding explains why separate lists of Mennonite farmers were kept in Prussian state archives. Tables 2 and 3 give these lists for 1824 and 1839 from the Berlin-Dahlem archives (6).

=============================================================================
Table 2: Mennonite possesions in Kreis Thorn in 1824  M   -  R M=Morgen=300 Quadrat-Ruten; R=Quadrat-Ruten
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
   1.Klein Nieszewken, Int.Amt Dybow
1.Jahnsche Erben                                      2   -  183
2.Heinrich Adrian                                     161 -  146
3.Heinr.Bartel sen.                                   83  -  157
4.Heinrich Bartel jun.                                140 -  96
5.Jacob Funck                                         87  -  180
6.Joh.Nickel                                          61  -  81
7.Peter Ewert                                         100 -  149
8.Corn.Janz                                           98  -  123
9.David Bartel                                        146 -  197
10.Gerhard Bartel                                     73  -  160
11.David Bartel                                       181 -  178
12.Heinrich Goertz                                    139 -  88
13.Heinrich Nickel                                    53  -  103
14.Zachar.Bartel                                      53  -  172
15.Heinr.Guhr                                         36  -  175
16.Heinr.Foth                                         56  -  197
17.Peter Eckert                                       46  -  290
18.David Klewer                                       13  -  140
19.Konrath Rosenfeld                                  6   -  176
20.Andr.Knels                                         2   -  148
21.Peter Goertz                                       70  -  131

   2.Stronsker Kaempe, Int.Amt Dybow
1.Widow Bartel                                        35  -  65

   3.Grosz Niszewken, Int.Amt Dybow
1.Heinr.Janz                                          7   -  95
2.Joh.Balzer                                          105 -  137
3.David Balzer                                        58  -  154
4.Corn.Janz                                           89  -  178

   4.Korzinicier Kaempe,Int.Amt Dybow
1.Heinr.Adrian                                        31  -  124
2.Corn.Bartel jun.                                    43  -  137
3.Corn.Bartel sen.                                    66  -  38
4.Jacob Nickel                                        36  -  101

   5.Duliniewo, Int.Amt Dybow
1.Jacob Schroeder                                     5   -  24
2.Jacob Adrian                                        27  -  36
3.Heinr.Janz                                          40  -
4.David Adrian                                        8   -  10
5.Corn.Janz                                           6   -  90
6.Heinr.Bartel sen.                                   17  -  30
7.Heinr.Bartel jun.                                   5   -  15
8.Peter Ewert                                         18  -  20
9.Peter Goertz                                        ?   -

   6.Kozibor, Int.Amt Dybow
2.Peter Gertz

  7.Jesuitengrund, Int.Amt Dybow
1.Isaac Adrian

=============================================================================
 Table 3: Mennonite land holders in 1839
  Kreis Thorn                       Bezirk Dybow
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
  1. Klein Niszewken                 Land contract 1763 - 1803
1. Jacob Bartel                     2.Heinrich Bartel
3. Jacob Bartel                     4.Cornelius Goertz
5.Cornel.Bartel senior              6.Cornelius Bartel junior
7.Cornelius Jantz                   8.Johann Schmidt
9.Cornel. Bartel junior             10.Jacob Goertz
11.Cornelius Schroeder              12.Heinrich Nickel
13.Johann Goertz                    14.Abraham Guhr
15.Andreas Knels                    16.Peter Bartel in Kozibor

  2.Gross Niszewken                  Land contract 1763 - 1803
1.Heinrich Jantz                    2.Johann Balzer
3.David Balzer                      4.Cornelius Jantz

  3.Korzenitz                        Land contract 1784 - 1824
1.Heinrich Adrian                   2.Peter Ewert
3.David Adrian                      4.Jacob Nickel

  4.Stronsker Kaempe
1.Peter Ewert, Grosz Stronsk         2.Peter Ewert, Klein Stronsk

  5.Dulienewo                        Land contract 1780 - 1820
1.Jacob Adrian                      2.Abraham Bartel
3.David Adrian                      4.Cornelius Jantz
5.Jacob Bartel                      6.Heinrich Bartel,Kl.Niszewken

  6.Kozibor, Schloszgrund            Land contract 1784 - 1834 1.Cornelius Bartel junior

The decrease of Mennonite possessions sold to non-Mennonnites between 1803 - 1856 is given in Table 4 (5).


=============================================================================
 Table 4: Mennonite possessions sold in Kreis Thorn, West Prussia
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
   cf.  GStA PK Berlin-Dahlem, Rep.181 Nr.31520,fol.144
 H= Hufe= 30 Morgen; M= Morgen= 300 R= ca.0.56 acres; H M    R  Year Rtr
 Year of sale;  Rtr= price in Prussian Reichsthaler
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
1.Jacob Adrian            Kl.Niszewken 1              1 8      1816 2300
2.Peter Janz              Kl.Niszewken 4                2      1825 250
3.Cornelius Eck           Kl.Niszewken 6              1 4      1838 2333
4.Gerhard Bartel          Kl.Niszewken 18             1 2      1830 1733
5.Jacob Bartel            Kl.Niszewken 20               18 150 1823 1333
6.Dietrich Gerbrandt      Kl.Niszewken 27               16     1834 775
7.Heinrich Kliewer        Kl.Niszewken 28               16     1839 950
7a.Heinrich Voth          Kl.Niszewken                  2  112 1839 300
8.Johann Gerbrandt        Kl.Niszewken 30               14     1837 750
9.Abraham Guhr            Kl.Niszewken 31               5      1838 400
10.Johann Balzer          Gr.Niszewken 7              1 19     1848 5000
11.Jacob Bartel           Gr.Niszewken 24             1 3      1811 2166
12.Gerhard Block          Duliniewo 3                   2      1834 333
13.Johann Nickel          Duliniewo 5                   5      1816 350
14.Heinrich Janz          Duliniewo 7                   10     1834 700

=============================================================================

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footnotes:
(1) A.Goertz:Westpreuszische Mennoniten in Bruderthal,Kansas,in:Ostdeutsche
Familienkunde 1979, 277-278.
(2) Menn.Lexikon,Bd.4,p.322; Mennonite Life,April 1969,pp.83-86.
(3) The Menn. Quart. Rev. 1981, p.379.
(4) 1776 Census of West Prussian Mennonites, cf. (2), p. 373 (K.H.Ludwig;
G.E.Reimer)
(5) A.Goertz: Geographical Primer of Prussia,in:Mennonite Family History,
lverson PA, 1984, 58-61.
(6) LDS Film #529615, Family History Library, Salt Lake City,UT.
  H= Hufe= 41.5 acres;  M= Culm.Morgen= 300R
Corrected 30 April 2002


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