The first thing that
comes to one's mind encountering the name of this people is the term
"the Anglo-Saxons". It was the Anglians and their Saxonian
neighbours who in about 450 AD began a migration to England that lasted some
100 years. The land they conquered and defended against the Picts and the
Scots was named after the land they had left: Angeln-land, land of the
Anglians, Anglia, England.
Back to the Anglians
themselves, as this judicial system was not specifically theirs, but was
applied in the whole duchy of Schleswig, to my knowledge.
Common surnames in
Anglia, with Danish influence: Ketelsen, Truelsen, Tychsen, Schwensen,
Ohlsen, Kallisen, Boernsen. With rather German influence: Bahnsen, Dierksen,
Lueders, Ivers, Tamm, Timm, Vollert, to name a few.
Names of places that end with -by or -up are common in Anglia, but not exclusively there.
Anglia covers an area of
only 850 sq.km, 60,000 people lived there in 1910. (Sorry, no more recent
figures at the moment.)
They live along the west coast of Schleswig-Holstein, the Eiderstedt-peninsula and on the North Sea islands. Archeological artefacts from the eighth century prove a close relation with the West- and the East-Frisians, who lived along the Dutch coast and the western half of the coast of what is now called Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen). The ever present threat of floods forced them to build dykes. The fertile but waterlogged marshes were drained by a sophisticated system of ditches and locks.
They were farmers, fishermen, boatmen, and apt whalers, some years ago. They also had a special method of extracting salt from the peat that falls dry in ebb-tide, a thick layer of ancient vegetation under the sea-bottom, of the times when the North Sea was a forest (ice-age).
Their language is almost extinct today. It is an old Germanic one, not a German dialect. Efforts are undertaken to preserve it. It is not understood by people from outside their culture.
The Frisians never seemed to have a political vein, and never thrived to establish a state of their own. One or two singular attempts, in times when tendencies of nationalism and independence prevailed in our country, failed due to the lack of enthusiasm in the Frisian population. They were known to very much mind their own businesses. Their orientation was towards the west, where the North Sea was, rather than inward, into Schleswig and Holstein. They paid their dues to the Danish king or his officials, expecting to be left alone in return.
The North Sea was the provider and the gateway for most of what they had and what they did, and for what was of vital importance to them: the trade with other people along the coasts, the fishing grounds, the arctic waters swarming with whales. It provided a job for many a young seaman, and the Frisians were not known to remain cabin-boys for a long time. Knowing the sea and how to sail a boat, they were sought after seafarers, and they brought riches back to their islands and their coastal harbors, as captains and owners of ships.
The North Sea was also a way of escape in harder times, and it was not unheard of that families left their home aboard their own vessels, emigrating to the Americas. Coming back the year after, for a visit, while "in the area". Or to pick up some relatives who may have taken a little longer to make up their mind. There is hardly a Frisian family on the islands without relatives in America. The Frisians living on the mainland were a bit more rooted in the soil that their forefathers had gained in continuous struggle from the sea.
The islands that have or
had Frisian population: Sylt, Föhr (Foehr), Amrum, Pellworm, Nordstrand,
Helgoland (Heligoland), and the ten so called "Halligen":
Langeness, Hooge, Gröde (Groede), Nordstrandischmoor, Oland, Süderoog
(Suederoog), Südfall (Suedfall), Norderoog, Habel, and the Hamburger Hallig.
Of the 150 000 people in
this district, less than half would call themselves Frisians. This is due to
the fact that the district covers large parts of the higher mainland, too, of
which only the fringes, overlooking the wide marshlands, were initially
places of Frisian settlement.
When around the year 800
AD most of the migrations of people in the area of today's Schleswig-Holstein
had come to an end, the Saxonian tribe that lived north of the Elbe-River had
split into three sections: the Holsaten (Holsten), the Stormaren, and the
Proud of their
achievements that no king nor other ruler had played a part in, it will be
understood that the Dithmarschers grew a strong sense of independence. Their
early masters, in the 11th to the 13th century, lived on the other side of
the Elbe-River, in Stade and Bremen. They were tolerated by the Dithmarschers
as long as the dues they had to deliver were not too heavy. The last duke in
Dithmarschen, Rudolf II, Duke of Stade, was slain in 1144 in Burg.
On three nameworthy
occasions, they defended their independence against the assaults of
Holsteiner and Danish nobility who claimed their right to rule over the
country: in 1319 (battle of Oldenwöhrden), in 1404 (battle in the Hamme), and
in 1500 (battle of Hemmingstedt). In particular, the battle that was fought
in the year 1500 near Hemmingstedt is commemorated and glorified. The Danish
and the Schleswig-Holsteiner aristocracy were shamed by an army of farmers,
who not only defeated a contingent of 4,000 experienced mercenaries, the
Black Guard, but also slew most of the knights of noble descent, a strike
that meant the end of many a noble blood-line. Hans, King of Denmark and Duke
of Holstein, had a narrow escape.
In 1825, another severe flood hit the North Sea coast, killing 500 people, 45,000 head of cattle, and destroying 2,400 buildings. Dithmarschen was badly struck, in spite of all efforts put into dyking. Many of the younger folks decided to emigrate. Was it maybe due to their letters home that, in the course of the century, Dithmarschen became a region with a percentage of emigrants far beyond the average ?
Of Dithmarschen's about
137,000 inhabitants today, more than 20,000 live in Heide, some 14,000 in the
industrial Brunsbüttel, about 8,000 in Meldorf, 6,000 in Marne, and 3,300 in
Wesselburen. Those are the names of the towns.
They live in a small area
east of Kiel, and 10 miles north of Preetz. Duchy Holstein, formerly.
The colonisation of this area began in the 13th century. Between 1246 and 1250, the provost of the monastery in Preetz , Friedrich, called settlers into the area. One theory goes that they came from around Harsefeld, some 20 miles southwest of Hamburg. Friedrich had been in office there before he was installed as provost in Preetz. The Probsteiers were known to speak a peculiar dialect of Low German (Plattdeutsch), and used words that were untypical of the area in eastern Holstein. Linguists would point to an area along the Elbe-river, which would strongly support the theory about Harsefeld as their origin. So I heard and read.
They paid their dues to the monastery in Preetz. As the provost himself was in charge of them, their region became known as the "Probstei". Surrounded by the waters of the Baltic Sea and the Kiel frith on two sides, their other neighbours were the inhabitants of large estates, where serfdom prevailed. They were looked upon with contempt by the Probsteiers. Intermarriage with any of them was unthinkable. That is the reason why only a dozen of names prevailed in that secluded area.
As the land they
cultivated was fertile, and the dues they had to pay were more than bearable,
the farmers ("Hufner") lived in good standards. Many children were
born and grew up healthy and strong. Overpopulation resulted. There was not
enough farmland for the boys to go round. Only the youngest son in a farmer's
family was eligible to inherit his father's farm. His older brothers were
practically disinherited through the birth and growth of a younger male
sibling. They would try to marry into a vacancy, a farm with no male heir, or
to buy a farm in the area. Needless to say, this could only be achieved by
very few of them. The others became cottagemen or dayworkers. A cottageman
Preetzer Wochenblatt Nr.
24, Sonnabend, den 13. Juni 1846
[summarized by Klaus Struve, www.rootdigger.de]
page 281 : Of the Probstei, belonging to the monastery in Preetz :
The Emigration to America
It must be seen as a remarkable process, given the affinity for their native land, that so many Probsteiers were the first noteworthy group of emigrants from Holstein to America. But taking into account, that, according to the 1845 census, there lived 7,681 souls on a space of merely 1 1/3 sqare miles, one has to wonder why not so many more have left their overpopulated homeland until now. In spite of the dense population, the majority of the Probsteiers have managed to get by, by working in different yearly employments as far away as the Eiderstedt-peninsula, and the Danish islands of Seeland and Fuehnen, keeping a low standard of living there while away, and bringing home some small savings. That yearly "emigration for jobs" is a trait that the Probsteiers have long since got used to. Only 50 years ago, many of them, called "Hollandgaenger", went to work in Holland even. Thus it does not seem to make too much of a difference for many of them, alienated of their native land by their long absence, whether they migrate to Denmark or to America. Many more would have gone already, if only they had sufficient funds to pay for their and their families' passage. Those who did go did so with hopes of being able to buy some land over there right away, or of finding a rewarding job, and making enough money to buy their own patch of land soon after.
Seeing public announcements and rumors that now around 150 Probsteiers are about to leave for America, one must say that this figure appears highly exaggerated. Up to date, only 37 persons have been known to seek a better fortune in America, 20 from the parish Schoenberg, and 17 from the parish Probsteierhagen. Seven or eight years ago, Hinrich Viet, a laborer from Prasdorf, emigrated, with his savings that he had gained by thrift and eagerness. It was due to his reports back home, and also to the report of a Holsteiner who had lived not far from him for 11 months, saying how well he was doing and getting on, that others were incited to follow his example. Hinrich Viet had arrived in Iowa, where already several Holsteiners had established their homes. The land there is very fertile and suitable for a great variety of crops.
In August last year, 9 people followed him into the New World, namely :
1-3) a young economist
named Hagge, son of the teacher in Prasdorf, with his wife, only just
married, and his sister
In March of this year, 5 people from the parish Schoenberg left through Hamburg :
1-3) Hinrich Mundt, a
cooper from Stakendorf, with his wife and his brother Claus
On the 10th of May this year, the largest group so far emigrated, consisting of 22 persons :
1-3) August Petersen, a
57 ½ year old laborer, with his wife and a daughter, 6 years old
Apart from these 15 of the parish Schoenberg, there were 7 more from the parish Probsteierhagen :
16-18) Hinrich Wiese,
tailor from Lutterbek, with his wife and a child
Our best wishes are sent
to accompany those who are leaving, and we extend them to those who have
already arrived in America. May none of them nourish sanguine hopes, and may
none of them build castles in the air ! May they take along with them into
the New World the diligence they know, and the good habits and moral values
of their native land. May they not forget the saying that is valid in
Holstein as well as in America :
With the last group of Probsteiers traveled, from outside the Probstei :
1-6) the farm-tenant
Schroeder from Matzwitz, with his wife and four children
So it is a total of 49 persons so far who have left the north-east of Schleswig-Holstein for the transatlantic mainland - a remarkable process in the life of our people, whose hearts and minds are touched and excited, and, should the news from abroad continue to be favorable, will entail a much bigger one of its' kind.