Copyright © 2001. 2013
® Canada Copyright Registration  No. 490341
to William J. Milner, March 8, 2001.



Background of the Altwasser Family

Five Generations of Millers in Poland and Volhynia

Volhynian Flour Mill
Artist: Les Ollenberg, all rights reserved.

Johann Friedrich Altwasser

Selected text from "A Journey of Discovery", (2005)
Karl A. Lenz.

Johann Friedrich Altwasser was born about 1775 and neither the location of his birth nor the names of his parents are known. He seems to have arrived in Czepow Dolney in the Dabie area of Poland with his wife Anna Wiesner in about 1812 or 1813. Anna was born about 1786 and no other information is available about her birthplace or the names of her parents. Friedrich was a master or a journeyman miller in in Czepow Dolney and both he and his wife lived the rest of their lives in this village. The birth years were derived from the ages listed in their death records. Following are the oldest recorded births of the Altwasser family found in central Poland.

The Children of Johann Friedrich Altwasser and Anna Wiesner

  • Friedericke Wilhelmine Altwasser was born May 18, 1813 in Czepow Dolney, Poland. She married Michael August Kohlman on February 8, 1830. He was the son of Christoph Kohlman and Anna Catherine Rollof and was born about 1798. They had six children, four girls and two boys. It is not known where or when Wilhelmine died, or whether she or any members of her family immigrated to Volhynia or Canada.

  • Friedrich Ferdinand Altwasser was born August 13, 1815 in Czepow Dolny Poland. He was married at the age of 25 years to Catharine Karo, daughter of the miller Francis Karo and his wife Elizabeth of Chorzepinie, Dabie. Like his father, he was also a miller and he worked at Rozniatow, Czepow Dolney, Koscielnica and Biernacice, all in the Dabie area of Poland.  On January 15, 1856 his wife Catherine died and Friedrich was left with 6 children, three boys and three girls. On June 16, 1856 Friedrich was remarried to Caroline Schultz. There were no children from this second marriage.

  • Johann Adelbert Altwasser was born March 24, 1818 in Czepow Dolney, Poland.  He was also a miller and worked at places such as Spiceymierz, Drzewa and Gaj in the Dabie area of Poland.  On September 25, 1851, he married Carolina Pelzer, the daughter of Gottfried Peltzer of Chwalborzyce, Poland. Carolina was born about 1826 and no record of her death was found before 1884, the last year that records for the Dabie Lutheran Parish were available. The family had moved to Chwalborzyce in 1874 where Johann died on September 17, 1882. There were seven children from this marriage, six girls and one boy.

  • Karl (Karol) Altwasser was born November 4, 1820 Czepow Dolney, Poland and died on March 15, 1855 in Ladowy, Dabie, Poznan, Poland. He married Anna Christine Frieske on October 26, 1840 in Dabrowa, Rozniatow, Poland.   Karl Altwasser and Christine Frieske had eight children, five boys and three girls. This family is a key link to Destination: Yellow Grass. Christine remarried after Karl's untimely death and had several more children with her new husband, Daniel Hiller. One of their daughters Louise Hiller, also has a Yellow Grass connection

  • Gottlieb Wilhem Altwasser was born about 1825, at Czepow Dolney Poland. He worked as a miller in Czepow Dolney and Rozniatow and was also working as a blacksmith in Wielamow, Brzezinie, Boleszczyn and Biernacice, all in the Dabie area. He married Anna Charlotte Kohlman on October 13, 1845 in Czepow Dolney, Poland. His occupations were listed in his marrieage record and in the birth records of his six children, four girls and two boys.

Central Poland

Central Poland image adapted from a present day map.

The first mention of the Altwasser family in the records in central Poland is on May 24, 1813 when a daughter, Friedericke Wilhelmine, born May 18, 1813, was registered by the mayor of Uniejow, Department of Kalish, whose duties included that of Registrar for the Civil records for the community and district. Uniejow is located about 13 kilometers south of Dabie, Poznan, Poland. The record was written in Polish and indicated that the parents were Jochan Frydych Altmanser and Anny Lenory of Czepow Dolney. Czepow Dolney, is located 4 kilometers south of Dabie and 9 Kilometers north of Uniejow. Further, it was noted that Jochan was a miller, that the family lived in an unnumbered house, and that the family was of the Evangelical (Lutheran) religion. The witnesses for the above registration of birth were a Wojciech Festele, 42, a miller at Brzowowka also of the Evangelical religion and Bartolomiej Leznazazska, 48 a farmer in the Czepow Dolney.

Unfortunately, none of the civil or church records indicate where the Altwassers lived prior to this 1813 date, or when and where this Johann Friedrich Altwasser, (b. ca 1775, d. 1833) and Anna Wiesner (b. 1786, d. 1854) were married. Information handed down through the Ernest Altwasser family of Yellow Grass SK indicated that the family originally lived in Silesia, Prussia before moving to Poland. On a detailed turn of the century map of Silesia there is a small city called Altwasser located 60 kilometers southwest of Breslau (Polish Wroclaw)

The Dabie Region

Image adapted from a 1936 German map of the Dabie area.

If this family came from Silesia, they must have been exposed to the Polish population within Silesia or must have lived previously elsewhere in Poland, since at Czepow Dolney the records indicate that there were no other Germans living in this Polish village in the early years. This would have meant that Johann Friederich Altwasser was able to speak Polish to deal with the Polish people in the grain milling business. There were Germans in the district or surrounding area. However, they lived at Brzozowka (near Wilanow), about 3 kilometers west of Czepow dolney, at Dabrowa-Rozniatov also located about 3 kilometers but southeast from Czepow Dolney, and at Chwalborskie Holendry located 3 kilometers north of Czepow Dolney.

Edouard Kneifel and The Dabie Region

In Edouard Kneifel's history of Die Evangelische-Augsburischen Gemeinden in Poland,1555-1939, he mentions that the oldest German community in the Dabie region was located across the Warthe River from Dabie, and was called Wladyslawow (or Rostershutz). This community, which consisted mainly of German garment makers, clothmakers, linen weavers and parchment makers, was established in 1727 and was the oldest clothmaking town in central Poland. An evangelical (Lutheran) house of prayer was established there in 1748.

Late 18th and early 19thcentury German Villages.
Image adapted from a 1936 German map of the Dabie area.

In the area immediately around Dabie, the village of Chwalborskie Holendry was founded by Germans in 1770 and the villages north of Dabie such as Grabina Wielki, Sabotka and Dembinie were founded by Germans between 1779 and 1782. Although these were the earliest established German farming villages near Dabie, Edouard Kneifel indicates that within the first decade of the 19th century, that the villages of Rozniatov, Chruscin and Wilanow were established by German colonists. Since Czepow Dolney was not a German village, no mention is made of this village in the Kneifel document. The essentially Polish village of Dabie grew rapidly after the turn of the century and became the clothmaking center dominated by the German weavers and clothmakers. An evangelical congregation was formed in Dabie in 1806, and it was this church that served as the religious center for German Lutherans and in the surrounding area.

In Albert Breyer's The German Settlements in Central Poland, 1935 as translated by Siegfried Ragoss and Ewald Wuschke and as published in the September 1991 issue of the Wandering Volhynians Magazine, it mentioned that the Germans in the Warthe River Villages such as Wilanow and Brozozowka originated mainly from the Neumark (East Brandenburg), Prussia and also a few from the province of Pommerin, Prussia. The area immediately west as well as south of the Warthe River villages was referred to as the Kalish district. The Germans who colonized this district were mainly from the Silesian Province of Prussia. Since the Czepow Dolney and Dabrowa-Rozniatow villages were borderline to these two districts or regions, it is very possible that the Altwassers and Wiesners originated from Silesia as mentioned in family sources.

The vital statistics records for the Germans living in the area south of Dabie are recorded in the Dabie Evangelical Church from 1826 onward. Prior to this time some death listings are available for the Dabie parish for the period 1809 to 1825. Birth, marriage and death records are available in the Civil records in many of the surrounding communities for the pre 1826 period. These civil records are associated with the Catholic churches in the area and most records are available for the period 1806 onward. However, some of the civil and catholic records such as those for Wilanow and Wielenin (near Rozniatow-Dabrowa) do not start until 1819 and 1817 respectively. The Catholic records for Chwalborzyce (located near Chwalborski Holendry) start in 1752. However, the first German Lutherans are first recorded within these documents in 1785. These Lutherans lived either in Chwalborski Holendry or Chorzepina. The early civil records for Czepow Dolney are included in the records for the town of Uniejow. These records are available commencing in 1808.

On a detailed map (Scale 1:100,000) published by the Army Map Service, Chief of Engineers, U.S. Army in 1944, all the mills in the Dabie area are identified as either a watermill or a windmill. If this map reflects the conditions that existed in Poland in the 1800's, then all of the mills that he Altwassers would have operated were windmills. For example, windmills are shown on the map for the following places where the some of the Altwasser family members worked: Czepow Dolney, Rozniatow, Ladawy, Chwalborzyce, Brzeziny, Wilanow, Koscielnica, Karzew, Drzewce, Kadzilowa and others.

There is no mention of any other Altwassers in the civil or church records in Central Poland. One other family of Wodnicki lived in Klodawa, north and east of Dabie, but this family was Polish-Catholic and hence is unlikely related to the Altwasser (Wodnicki) family of Czepow Dolney.

In October 2004, Karl Lenz wrote:  "I recently came back from a trip to Poland with my sister Elsie. We visited all the old villages of our ancestors. The villages were still there, but there were no cemetery markers or ruins of the old windmills".





Copyright © 2001. 2013
® Canada Copyright Registration  No. 490341
to William J. Milner, March 8, 2001.

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