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Ch. 19-History of Oppau/Edigheim

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  • meinhartstock
    CHAPTER NINETEEN The Clearing How they had to take with difficulty their Fertile Soil from our Old Fronts In the early days our lowland region was dying of
    Message 1 of 1 , May 1, 2002

      The Clearing

      How they had to take with difficulty their Fertile Soil from our Old

      In the early days our lowland region was dying of thirst because of
      forests and scarred through with nasty swamps, a swampy wilderness in
      the common lands, which today still gives evidence of lots of
      relevant fieldnames. The transformation of the soils from the
      Creator's hand was that work of the countrymen, they had to clear
      first the whole settlement area, ready to live in and capable of
      civilization. Not one pasture, no farm, was given our ancestors by
      nature. Step by step they had to wrest it themselves all from the
      Rhine and its old waters and swamps. From the French Period up and
      ito the previous century worked generation after generation on that,
      developed the civilized landscape completely little by little and
      achieved here a tremendous work of the cultivated country
      For the modest number of the first settlers, more shepherds than
      farmers, it still had not been necessary, to penetrate into the
      country clearing in remote marshy forest. They cultivated now for
      the moment the regions lying close to the village and attempted to
      protect it through "Land dikes/dams" against water damage. The first
      Alpine pasture of the Old Oppau lay still right before their farms on
      the "uppermost meadow", but was already in 1467 like large and small
      alpine pasture lanes for the largest part built over with houses.
      Local residents spread themselves still from different plowed lands,
      but then mainly with abounding in water pasture places or forests.
      When this already shared land reached into the vicinity of the
      villages no more, one snatched from the territorial region of the
      rivers step by step further new land. That plenty of water altitude
      of the soils determined for that bit by bit further clearing
      woodland, that work was linked for a primitive culture still with
      causing great problems. In the great clearing period of the Middle
      Ages our farmers themselves were to conquer in silent heroism already
      cleared surfaces up to the limits of the parish land, which revealed
      to us the list of properties. About the applied working methods the
      documents from this time give us still no information.
      As in the Eighteenth Century both of the villages were considerably
      richer people and always the inhabitants still claimed to be and had
      to be "from the farming person life", the districts had make use
      thoroughly of and more and more pasture- and forest plots to be made
      into and shared farmland.


      The overpopulated home town was keen on new land. The community
      put of necessity rich to be cultivated ground at one's disposal and
      called foreign "Sea trenchers or Friesen" [from Holland] to come
      here to help, especially for the restoration of withdrawal trenches.
      (That neighbouring Friesenheimwas supposed to have thanked the
      immigrated Friesian for its name.) Disposing of shrub woodlands and
      meadows were transformes in joint work by being destroyed or burned
      down into productive building land. Ground for the filling in was
      taken from the Harschwegbuckel.
      So developed initially from the Eighteenth Century in Oppau the
      Rottstücke, the Brandhecken, the Meizgewann, the Jakobgärten and so
      on, see Chapter on Field names. Many ground owners acquired
      themselves still a "Rodage [cleared piece]" enclosed adjacent piece
      of the joint border for their own place. But always remained low
      lying places left over, of which by itself no clearing was worthwhile.
      About 1760 in the three Rhine villages Edigheim, Oppau and
      Friesenheim was settled in through immigration at times into a
      substantial population increase. Those land hungry were no longer
      able to be pleased and with new leases the supplies were overhunted
      themselves. Everyone immigrant searched for lack of other earning
      opportunities a spot of land to take for himself, with it he was able
      to plant that necessary for his family. Above all things desired
      that hardly established new citizens a just distribution and
      profitable use of the swampy common lands pasture. Shortly we were
      to hear about everywhere of quarrels between the old established and
      the "coming in to move up", of the well-to-do and not well-to-do
      inhabitants, the put to the carriage service and the hand service,
      between the property tenants or "horse working farmers", that in
      their work utilized draft horses and draft oxen and were permitted to
      graze on the community meadow, and the day labourer or "not put to
      the horses farmers", that were allowed to plough their common land
      farm with the hoe or with the help of a work cow or through horse
      working farmers, but the common land pastures were not able to profit
      by this. The horse working farmers, on the site of the village
      rulers, looked to twart frequently each reform, that according to
      their opinion now diminished their right in favor of the not horse
      working one's. (Compare my dispute "between the horse working
      farmers and the not horse working farmers in Friesenheim because of
      reclearing of the community pastures", History-Newspaper, Lh. 1928,
      Number 5).
      In 1767 the Electoral government of the Rhine villages called for,
      their damp and swampy pasture district in the interest of the
      livestock breeding, particularly horse breeding, to do better
      cultivation, to achieve healthy, stronger and more powerful
      livestock. The Village Mayor Riede from Oppau replied on July 16,
      1727 to the Upper Office in Neustadt: "That pasture- and meadow
      district situated here, more than one thousand acres together, would
      not be possible to be improved even if with large costs, while such
      all the time low and even lower like the Rhine itself lies, from
      which the test at present was to be seen delivered little inshore
      water. It is also not to hold out any hopes for better grass, even
      though in the swamps was dug out different trenches or canals.
      That's why to improve it is unbelieveable after all, since it lies
      all too close to the Rhine." Also from Edigheim came the Village
      Mayor's announcement, that already for some years nothing for the
      improvement of the common land had been able to be done, since the
      inshore waters flooded farms as well as meadows.


      One improvement was now to be done, when through construction of
      dikes and locks the common lands were to be safe.
      But a number of poorer Edigheim's citizens travelled themselves in
      repeated petitions to the higher officials and asked for the
      immediate reclearing of all productive swampy pastures into farmland,
      for them "to be able to improve their life's ambition". So they
      wrote on February 19, 1783 for example to the Upper Officials in
      Neustadt: "We poor subjects beseech you on our knees. You must have
      mercy on us and help us to deal with our pasture. It has been well
      known, that most of our common lands were devastated through the His
      Lordship's canal (Frankenthal's canal, built in 1773 to 1777). But
      when you had mercy on us, that we were able to acheive the same (new
      common lands through clearing), so we are able still further as
      honest/good people continue to exist and we were able to pay to our
      merciful Elector our due taxes. Then we were about to think a lot
      about acres for farming, which we had to pay to our merciful Elector
      for his Noval- (new breaking) Tenth. We hoped, we were also our
      merciful Elector's own family like his children, that had the use of
      the pasture. We have nothing and will remain and die in deep
      reverence, Lorenz Gropp, Johann Hermann, Andreas Schmitt, Daniel
      Wolf, Velten Gropp, Jakob Krauß, Abraham Ihle, Abraham Wolf,
      Benedikt Reidt, Andreas Ballinger, Valentin Ohlinger, Johann Philipp
      Dreher, Johann H. Pfarr, Johann Böhmer, Michael Weiler, Michael Kalb,
      Hieronymus Ballinger.
      There from the Upper Officials following the blocking and delaying
      attempts of the horse working farmers was to be fulfilled not any
      distinct reply, two months later on April 11, 1783 the petitioner's
      took their problem before the Elector himself. "That the citizens of
      Edigheim", that is to say in their record, "have one common day- and
      night pasture. Up to May 26 they used by dint of an ancient right
      the livestock drive on the Mörsch's meadow, then on the joint pasture
      in their own border, so that all livestock were able to be pastured
      adequately; in addition they had still one other pasture entrance
      into the forest. On this pasture entrance now each citizen had the
      same rights. Nevertheless many drove with ten or fifteen head of
      livestock, another one with some or none whatsoever according to the
      proportion of the financial circumstances of each one. From that
      inevitably followed, that the poor citizen was not able to use his
      right and always remained behind in his financial circumstances. The
      humblest subjects (under signers), all poor, helpless citizens,
      beseeched here, that the day pasture at once be settled and each
      citizen be allocated his share; after those signed on were able to
      further operate on the pasture as formerly. Further they asked about
      the order, that the night pasture be cleared for cultivation and each
      citizen be earmarked for his share, then also the devastation was to
      come to an end, which the horse be employed seldom on the field
      during the care time not at night time. Even measured from our
      district was material in front of the old dike and a dispensible
      path, from which each citizen further still was to be able to be
      assigned one half of a fourth for one's farm."


      The horse working farmers had sense once more, in the interest of
      their pasture to block that longing of the not horse working farmers
      or to delay at least the carrying out as long as possible. As on
      June 28, 1784 the Upper Village Mayor therefore was to personally
      complain before the Lay Assessor, he declared, before due to the
      formerly hard years (flooding with ice drifts on February 29, 1784)
      the distribution had to be postponed upon next Spring. At the given
      time they found further reasons, to put off the case. But those
      without means sticking to one's guns, appealed themselves to the
      official resolution of July 26, 1784, concerning "that better
      establishment of the pasture system and respectively draining of the
      swamp in the Upper Village Mayor's Oggersheim" and to achieve in the
      end through vehement pressures a Court ruling on February 19, 1787,
      after which that clearing system in Edigheim was supposed to be
      started forthwith. Already on February 22, 1787 appeared in Edigheim
      a committee, existing from the Government Councillors Dyckerhoff,
      Maubuißon and Dawans from
      Mannheim, to have a close look with the Upper Village Mayor and his
      Lay Assessors at that controversial area. According to the committee
      findings the low lying common lands pastures, like the Kranichhecken,
      Multh, Pfingstweide, Münchbusch, Spitzenweg, Leimlöcher, Rhine- and
      Farrenwiese, Bewig, that area left of the Frankenthal's Chaussee,
      Kälberau, Hengststall and Weidenklauer, were not to be completely
      cultivated" and were supposed to be kept in present condition. That
      livestock were supposed to until May 26th go on the Mörsch's meadow
      and then further on the Pfingst pasture, then on the Kranichhecke and
      the Multh at least until June as long as they still were searching
      for food in its vicinity, until the harvest was to taken in. The
      rest of the plots were to be cared for until the first hay and then
      likewise the livestock were to abandon the pasture; as long as the
      community had debts, the hay outcome had to be auctioned off for the
      benefit of the community account. The high lying district of the
      Kälber meadow was distributed among the village people, as well as
      each on the Heenen (hen) wandering about also high district, as well
      as the plots not supposed to be broken up, to make farming land.
      From the night pasture one was able now to gain a fifth for a farm
      field, that formerly one had to let go to meadow due to all too low
      of a location. On individual places was a replenishing of the soil
      at least around two and a half feet. As a frugal reprisal for the
      damages of the Edigheim's fields through the building of the
      Frankenthal canals the clearings of the new fractioned tenth were
      supposed to be remitted [to refrain from exacting, as a payment or
      service] for twelve years.
      All interested people were now in agreement with this decision and
      the Electoral Government issued the granting of the plan. When also
      the obstacle of the forest agency, which had not wanted the pair of
      trees on the Kälber meadow sacrificed, was removed, to be able to
      begin that commending [entrusted/recommended] clearing.
      The Court Councillor's Junior and Senior Maubuisson and the Upper
      Renovator brought the same plot in the plan, calculated it, divided
      it once and raffled it, per lot for fourteen Birch switches, but when
      such [place] came under a low location, he still was given two to
      three Birch switches for that. Ninety two raffle tickets (for the
      good part of the Kälber meadow and Henne) were distributed among the
      oldest citizens and for the common land well-to-do forenses (back-
      sitters), that inferior district in the Henne, as well as that
      smaller district on the Hengstpfech but,


      together sixteen agreed to tickets, that in the older following
      detailed citizens among the sixteen. Then the remaining six youngest
      citizens without tickets one gave the choice, whether their share in
      the plots or on the excavated part of the Kälber meadow, or the
      Dreispitz, towards the canals to, want be dependent on. With that
      either all the more for the best establishment its tickets were
      shifted, that draw was intended to be for life and allowed the first
      ninety two tickets not any entry into the best, besides only one now
      of the sixteen younger and six youngest citizens according to their
      position in the civil rights were left. For widows that in the
      village customary joint decrees was valid. There that clearing with
      trenches in the gained plots, Kälber meadow, Dreispitz and Nachtweide
      [night pasture] gave rise especially to many efforts and work, one
      made that search, voluntarily to be encouraged at the same time,
      whilest one was promised close to twelve years of tenth [property]
      and also life long use of a dwelling still for one upto five
      Guilders. Towards that volunteered at once and in the next days
      again and again voluntarily people and asked for assignment of such a
      ticket for the clearing towards the promising terms. The zest for
      the pretty state of things was held to and already after a short time
      the Village Mayor received an official instruction, which he through
      small bonuses was able to make demands for also the cultivation of
      the Münch thickets and others or swampy pastures.
      As annoyed horse working farmers started up a invented gossip in
      circulation, that the "Rotter [crowd/mob]" were given their piece/lot
      now temporarily in use, many were suppressed in their eagerness, but
      further boosted in their courage, as a rushing over Court Official
      assured, the government guaranteed for that, that not only was it for
      their person, but also for their possible widow allowed to keep this
      so laboriously cleared up common lands herself for the rest of her
      life. Now each beneficiary had to contribute to the considerable
      restoration costs of the main withdrawal trenches through sea
      trenches a singular payment of six Guilders timewise.
      Every pair of weeks the Upper Renovator appeared as a Government
      Representative, "to give a scrutinizing look to", inspect the
      advancing works and for protection from disturbances. With pleasure
      he noticed, how itself alone in the swamp twenty nine claimants in
      the sweat in the presence of their wrestle with, converting wasteland
      places into resplendent gardens. Now several negligent needed a
      rebuke. In the next Summer that clearing of the divided district was
      nearly completely carried out and each clod of earth with great care
      planted on. The mental state of the developers grew
      together "completely with its farming heart and each took and each
      gave, that nothing was lacking of the other". "Never was it brighter
      in Edigheim than at that time", declared later a Edigheim'er before
      his moving away to America. High- and presserized water and the
      Revolution's War of the next following years prevented the planned
      continuation of the so promising cultural work begun.
      Also in Oppau with aid of the government shortly before outbreak of
      the French Revolution significant clearing happened under the same
      opposition like in Edigheim. Also here the estate- and horse working
      farmers believed, the merciful government had to be important to them
      after all more than to the day labourers and looked initially that
      mutual benefit of the public undertaking was to make a place to go
      back to in their supposed interest like the horse working farmers in
      the neighbouring Sandhofen and especially in Friesenheim,


      but their incorrect opinion about the worth of the livestock pastures
      was defeated through the succession of rich harvests in these
      villages. One official, expert report about farm building and
      livestock breeding in the still backward Friesenheim from 1793
      described relationships, how they still ten years before endured on
      the whole also in Oppau and Edigheim and partly still remained in
      existence all year long until 1800. "The richest farmer", wrote
      among other things of the expert, "possessed now twenty acres of
      one's own farm, no one only a fourth acre of good meadow. He drove
      horses and oxen by the plow day and night on the wretched pasture,
      and cows and pigs in the common forest, grazed and cut still
      constantly through those of the greatest shadows of the young
      undergrowth of Oaks and Elms, to reach to the poor stocks for Winter
      feed, out of which the young, thick plumaged branches of the grafts
      were able to be lifted out in a hand full manner withered. He
      cultivated not a single one clover or seldom and this contrary to all
      healthy farmer's jokes about the nearest and best farm in the
      village. He produced wretched horses- and horned cattle. No healthy
      straw grew from its swampy pastures. There was endured in the farm
      building as necessary manure, that nourished livestock poorly, fed
      little, but was plagued by insects more and still almost yearly were
      overcome with diseases and deadly epidemics. But through the
      reclearing of that farming field was to have reproduced, so this
      through reasonable taxes helped the community out of debts, the
      horses- and cattle farmers to that sufficient feed, for producing the
      best cattle, for bringing upwards the farm buildings by upkeep of the
      stables, that common well-being of all inhabitants was promoted and
      with it invigorated the state."
      About the reclearing-quarrels in Oppau not any thorough news
      remained preserved. That most horse working farmers appeared to have
      abandoned soon here their opposition. We were to hear nothing but
      some of their complaints about the loss of the becoming marshy
      pasture places. So Valentin Gönnheimer for example was brought
      complaining on behalf of the Teutonic Knight holdings on April 6,
      1788 for the Orders authority in Weinheim before, the Court Chamber
      that bare strips of land had been recleared and had been allowed to
      be sowed with wood seedlings, that had broken up the small ponds and
      was planted with pastures and Alder woods. Also the community had
      already taken away so many pasture places and made farm fields out of
      them and allowed them to be left empty-handed. On the dividing up of
      the border thickets they had not been taken into consideration. They
      had lost annually to the pasture- and forest right exceeding one
      hundred Guilders. What had gone away also with the pasture, so was
      to have happened about its right. But when it was not possible again
      to attain their rights, it was impossible for them to keep the
      Under the new relationships in the French Period (1798 to 1814) the
      soil improvements without restraints made good progress. Still in
      1804 the larger part of the pasture leased in Oppau stood as a
      swamp. More National - woodlands were now recleared, but contrary to
      the Forest Officals plan of calling for the population (with
      reference to its old traditions) to lay out more as a forest. In
      1807 the community of Oppau went to the Prefect in Speyer
      successfully about the permission for the reclearing of the
      Trappist's garden. This district of twenty hectare belonged earlier
      (according to the account of the Maire [Mayor?] K. Schmitt ) for the
      pasture exit,


      but was not usable for that any more. It carried only here and there
      nothing but a thornbush, so also not able to be looked at as a forest
      any more. Due to its higher location it was suitable at best for a
      farm field. The community was able then annually to receive yearly
      quite a few hundred Franks income through it, whereas in its present
      condition it barely was to bring in 100 Franks in fifteen years. The
      lowest lying places had to be planted with pasture seedlings. By the
      breaking up of this area the Rotter [one that clears property] had
      for three years many troubles and expenses, without being able to
      recover use, that's why after their death their bequeath heir was
      allowed to build further the acquired piece unhindered still for
      three years.
      Also that gained in those days from marshy river wildernesses and
      after the small amount of ground taxes known as Dreibatzen {three
      silver coins]- and Franks coins were only under long-term
      application and with the great difficulties was "to be brought into
      a respectable condition." Like already in 1819 with other community
      property it had to be sold for the War liquidation of debts, that's
      why one left it to give preference to the valiant former dwellers
      without exception and itself without guarantees.
      Edigheim requested and received already in 1801 that with generally
      awaited eagerly permission for the clearing of one's further pieces
      of the common pasture, the thirty acres large Mulde ("Multh"). But
      pasture were small in this district and that growing grass for it was
      consomed in a few days. " As seen in the reforesting" it also
      carried not one worth mentioning use anymore, as that pastured
      livestock were not allowed to come into any one's hedgerow. That
      still standing on top of it, left wood stumps were auctioned off,
      that region was broken up into mutual work and was farmed out yearly
      under the citizens towards a annual owners tax. That likewise in
      Edigheim Kranichkecken used as a pasture belonged at first to the
      protected forest of the well-to-do. In 1803 that well-to-do in that
      remaining wood split up the cleared forest and the Edigheim community
      seized the land on the basis of forest traditions (that not any new
      planting of forest was allowed and assigned the deserted forests to
      the community) and converted them into farm land. The French
      Province Collector did not remember the legal relationship or was
      allowed to close one's mouth through bribery.
      The perserved annual report was to allow the Edigheim community to
      known, which of the farmers also in the next decades still were
      impeded by pressurized- and high water of the grounds improvement.
      In its yearly report of 1817 that Village Mayor in Edigheim to that
      Land Commissioner's department in Frankenthal among other
      things: "The woodlands during the Revolution's years were completely
      destroyed. The local hard working inhabitants in that civilization
      never were backward. But their willingness to work was spoiled
      through the water years, through that extremely detrimental effects
      of the Rhine, Canal and Old Rhine. For the future existence it was
      absolutely necessary, that the higher authority of the Reparations
      decreed without delay the dike and floodgates on the Frankenthal
      Canal, as a result the inhabitants themselves were able to enjoy
      further a harvest and were saved from total destruction." (Chapter
      XIII.) In 1818 in the cultivation of the soils not any particular
      progress was made.


      In 1819 the Edigheim's hoped, "still to gain considerably in the
      cultivation". In 1820 was claimed, that through the erection of the
      floodgates by Roxheim and the so-called Canal floodgates, which in
      this year were newly built, protected for the most part the borders
      from water and their expectations were to rise. The lowest places
      were also little by little heightened through the work of the owner.
      In 1821 it was expected, that after completion there in the building
      of the understood underground drain through the Frankenthal's Canal
      to be able to commence with the development of the last swamp. In
      1822 and 1823 it was told joyfully, that "in these sections daily
      progress" was made. The lower fields were to be situated to dry out
      and to be converted into good fields. That Roxheim's flood gate were
      to be locked up completely before each large scale water.
      Then the great flood of 1824 brought a relapse. It ruined houses and
      fields and placed the inhabitants back for many years in their family
      circumstances. We learn in the discouraging Village Mayor's official
      account about this unfortunate year: "As long as concern on the part
      by higher officials was not taken, that invested on the Rhine dike
      was durable and the Frankenthal Canal, that whole year throughout the
      neighbouring fields were surrounded there with spring water, was
      completely demolished, so suffered the standing and the immigrations
      were inevitable." The cultivation undertakings were able to be
      limited for the next years only on the restoration of the devastated
      agricultural lands.
      The following years report had to "unfortunately again and again
      announce, that every year at least a third of the nicest fields had
      sat under water. The completed flood gates were not durable and the
      newly invested in underground drain on the Canal was perpetually
      silted up. Always emergencies were requested repeatedly, finally
      once a complete repair was carried out, with it the hard-working
      farmer was deprived of his bread no more." Finally in the fortieth
      year of the good deeds following the considerable Rhine Correction,
      with the water level of the river also the ground water level sankin
      the vicinity about 1.50 meters and gradually the swampiest work from
      previously was conquered according to planned inplemented draining
      through completing with fascines [a long fagot for lining trenches,
      filling ditches, etc.] and planting of the pastures with plows. From
      1798 to 1835 the Edigheim's in spite of all difficulties had already
      cultivated 22,600 rods of land. Its public's administration account
      for 1834 until 1840 was able to state already: "Abandoned land exists
      here no more. Through the yearly becoming improved drainage measures
      was the earth's local boundary productive and the fields laid down
      were freed from spring water, when not completely, however little
      So these years account preserved for us a view about the last stages
      of the struggles for the conquest and defense of the development area
      of Edigheim. Unfortunately teh relevant records for Oppau from this
      period wer missing, as the great former wilderness land Hehn, Wealthy
      forest and so on were robbed of their last characteristics and
      completely were developed into agriculture. That generally
      reasonable ground location was sold here after the easing of the
      burden through the river correction for the quick and thorough
      completion of the cultivation work.


      Then Oppau's were to acquire, in that time from 1798 to 1833
      altogether two hundred forty three hectare lying empty cultivated
      land, so that from then on no more wasting violated their fields.
      For the lastest concerning those works of the previous centuries
      belongs the clearing away of the weed and pond gardens from the
      village picture. The Southern boundary of the lowest lying village
      lane in Oppau, the Kissel Land (today's Friedrich Street) was
      formerly community property and stood in the swamp, in which was
      found a pond according to a Village Mayor's official description of
      1846, that in ancient times in that very place was set up for the
      taking away of the waters from the village. This site, which had the
      name Pond Garden, often came under water also and that is why it laid
      empty. In time now, as the building places in the village plan were
      scarcer, that community gave this pond garden in hereditary lease to
      a foolish builder, who so then as a result filled up the pond again
      and again and used it as a garden, that water coming from the
      remaining roads was diverted into a withdrawal trench.

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