2003 TRIP TO GERMANY AND POLAND                                              page 2 of 4

Braunsforth, Kr. Saatzig

From Hohen Schönau we headed east on Hwy.146 through Daber (Dobra) and then south on Hwy 145 to Braunsforth (Bród) where our great grandparents, Julius and Emilie Maass, lived for over 20 years.  It has a special attraction for Duane and me because it is where our grandfather, Carl Julius Franz Maas (who we both remember as kids) spent his childhood.  He was 16 years old in 1895 when he, his parents, and his siblings immigrated to the US.  Seeing the village today, we wondered if much has changed since they left 108 years ago.  I suspect the village has grown very little since then and its population 100 years ago might not have been too different than it was in 1939 when the village had 360 inhabitants. We stopped first at the church because like most villages in Hinter Pomerania, it often is the only structure one can identify with our ancestors. The church is a gray stuccoed brick building with a reddish tile roof.  Our timing was good because we arrived before Sunday services.  It was locked but a boy next door said his grandmother had a key so he and Anetta went off to get it.  I told Duane about seeing the church bell in 2001 and he was eager to see it.  The steps to the bell tower were in disrepair and the stairwell was pitch black so I was glad Duane had carried a flashlight with him.  We are not sure when the church was constructed but the bell in the church tower was cast for the church in 1855 and carries the following inscription on the bell. Duane's translation follows:

                                                      The translated inscription:

Gross ist der Herr                           Great is the Lord

Sein Ruhm Erschalle                       His Glory Resounds

Hugo V. Wedel als Patron              Hugo Von Wedel, patron

Adolph Karow als Prediger            Adolph Karow, pastor

Braunsforth no. 160                        Braunsforth no. 160

Gegossen von C. Voss                    Cast by C. Voss

in Stettin 1855                                in Stettin in 1855

Two other things caught our attention.  The beam holding the bell was clearly designed to hold two bells, although only one was there at the present time.  And still in place next to the wall was the very old clock-works that operated a clock on the front of the church.  The clock face and hands were no longer there and the opening where they would have been had been stuccoed over.  By the time we descended from the bell tower, parishioners were beginning to arrive at the church and so we headed to the old German cemetery, which is about one kilometer south of the church.  Unfortunately, we were unable to find any new artifacts or information.  Not a single iron cross or engraved headstone could be found in the now heavily wooded graveyard.  All that remains are broken bases discarded throughout the overgrown vegetation.  Two rows of large trees line the original road into the cemetery but until you’re lined up to look down the rows it is hard to find the path because of all the new trees and thick over-growth.

Braunsforth was part of a huge landed estate owned by the von Wedel family for several centuries. During the time the Julius and Emilie Maass family lived in Braunsforth, Hugo von Wedel was the estate owner.  Hugo and his wife, Bertha died in 1893 and 1897, resp. and are buried in a family plot about a block north of the von Wedel mansion.  Marble head stones lying in the brush and weeds are still readable. There are no surviving members of the Braunsforth branch of the von Wedel family.  Hugo and his wife, Bertha, had no children and left the estate to his nephew Busso, the son of his brother Rudolph. When Busso died in 1911, the estate was inherited by his oldest son Hugo, who died as a lieutenant in 1914 during World War I.  The estate then passed to his younger brother Rudolph (1897-1959), who married Margarethe von Campe (1894-1948). They had no children.

The manor house, which was built sometime between 1893 and 1911, is now owned by Arnold Dropikavski who is renovating the building. In 2001 Norma and I were privileged to see the results of his work on the second floor which had been completely refurbished.  The walls were not only painted but he had hand drawn and painted decorative borders and the von Wedel family crest on the walls.  The original wood floors had been refinished and newly varnished and they were spectacular glistening in the light.  We were also dazzled by the large modern bathroom that he had tiled with beautiful green ceramic tiles and elaborately furnished with a Jacuzzi tub, two sinks, and two toilets. Arnold agreed to give us a tour of the house again so Duane could see it and we were again impressed by his work.  He has plans for the first floor too but he hasn’t progressed far on that project yet.

The former mansion is still surrounded by a huge lawn and what appears to have been a wooded park-like area.  Just beyond the private grounds are several large barns that were part of the former von Wedel estate.  One is a huge 2-story white-stuccoed horse or cattle barn and the other is a red brick barn built in 1883 that is still in active use.  Potato harvesting appeared to be in full swing with equipment, bins and potatoes in and around the brick barn.  About two-thirds of a mile south of the village in the same grove of trees as the cemetery, one can still find remnants of the sheep barn foundations where Julius worked as the head shepherd; although the rock and brick foundations are hard to find in the undergrowth.  We did pick up a couple of broken pieces of red tile from the roof as mementos.  The sheep barns are exactly where they are shown on 19th century topographic maps of Germany.  [Look for the word Schäf (sheep) in the bottom left corner of the map.]

I’ve always hoped we might find where the Maass family lived in Braunsforth but I suppose it’s unlikely we ever will.  When I saw the remains of a stone foundation near the sheep barns in May 2001, I wondered if it could have been the foundation of the house.  We searched around for any artifacts hoping we might unearth some clue but except for a couple of pieces of unrecognizable rusted metal we didn’t find anything useful.

Click here for more photos of Braunsforth

More of Kreis Saatzig

It was well past noon when we finished poking around and we were all ready for lunch.  There didn’t seem to be a restaurant in Braunsforth so we drove into Freienwalde (Chociwel) and ate at the Palac or Palace on the Lake. The restaurant is in a large, red and yellow building about a block behind the church.  The food was very good and reasonably priced.  From there we went to Karkow (Karkowo) to see the village where our great grandmother, Emilie Koehler, was born.  The church, now known as St. Francis, is a small, but attractive, stone structure with a red brick steeple. As we entered the church, I took off my hat and laid it by the door.  Two young boys had followed us in and while I was taking pictures, the youngest, about four years old, put my hat on his head.  It was a too good a picture to pass up and he and his brother(?) happily posed for a picture.  I would love to put it on my website but for reasons of privacy I’ve decided not too.

Another place of interest in Karkow is the ruins of a 19th century castle.  Although the walls are still standing, it appeared as though the building had been heavily damaged during the war, but we learned otherwise.  While we were looking at it, a couple walked past who told us that after the war the windows were sealed with bricks and the castle had been used to store grain but otherwise it remained in relatively good condition until the 1970’s.  The incredible destruction one sees now apparently has all taken place in the last 30 years.  It is hard to imagine why anyone would vandalize and destroy such an impressive building.

Our great grandmother’s father was also a sheep herder and moved around a lot during Emilie’s youth but they finally settled in Steinhofel (Kamienny Most), a tiny village just east of Freienwalde at the other end of the lake, the Gr. Staritz See.  The church that was there was razed by the Russians in 1956.  All that remains is a stone or concrete monument. A mansion and several large barns belonging to the former estate are still standing but are not very well maintained. 

Our next stop was Vehlingsdorf (Wielen Pomorski ), a small village where Grandpa Carl was confirmed.  Since there was a church in Braunsforth, I’m not sure why he was confirmed in Vehlingsdorf, but it is possible the two classes were combined.  The villages are only about two miles apart.  This small church, like the one in Karkow, was constructed from various colored field stones with red brick bordering the windows and doorway.  Chiseled into one of the stones above the center window in front was the year, 1859. Adjacent to the church is the old Evangelische cemetery which like the other German cemeteries has been vandalized and abandoned.  It too is overgrown with brush and weeds but we did manage to find a couple of iron crosses, an engraved glass memorial plaque broken in too many pieces to decipher, and one engraved gravestone.  If someone had several days to uncover and clean the rusted and broken markers, I’m sure several could be identified.    

Vehlingsdorf was part of the huge land holdings of the von Wedel family.  A plaque inside the church indicates Ludwig von Wedell (1799-1831) and Albert Carl Hermann von Wedell (1830-1876) had been owners of the former estate (Rittergut).  It is interesting to note that the surname was spelled with a double “L”, unlike Hugo von Wedel in Braunsforth.  A large two-story stone barn belonging to the Gut can be found at the southern entrance to the village. There were 268 people living in the village in 1939.

Before heading back to Nowogard, we passed through Marienhagen (Oswino) on our way to see the lake, the Wothschwien See, where Grandpa Carl skated in the winter.  The lake extends nearly the entire distance from Teschendorf (Cieszyno) to Daber, about six miles long.  At its widest point it is about 1¼ miles across.  We spotted a couple of people fishing but otherwise there was no activity on the lake this Sunday evening.

By the time we got back to Nowogard it was already dark and time for a beer and some good Polish food.  Even though I had seen these villages before, it was a thrill to see them again especially when I could share the excitement with Duane.  Now I was eagerly looking forward to touring the county of Regenwalde where I hoped to finally see Ornshagen, the birthplace of our great grandfather, Julius.  But this would have to wait for another day because we were scheduled to spend Monday in the State Archive in Szczecin.

Click here for more photos of Karkow, Steinhofel, and Vehlingsdorf

Stettin (now called Szczecin)

Anetta met us at the hotel again and we left for Szczecin about 10 am. It took about 45 minutes to get to the city center and we found a guarded parking lot just a few blocks from the Archive.  It had been more than two years since we had been here and I was excited about the possibility of finally seeing the 1833-1848 books for the church in Regenwalde. Our great grandfather, Julius, was born in 1846 and I was hopeful his birth would be recorded there. [In May 2001, the Archive staff told me that this book didn't exist.  After returning home that year, I learned that the church book did indeed exist – another American couple had personally seen it in Stettin a year earlier.]  This time we were accompanied by Anetta, our translator, to ensure that there would be no communication problems.  But just as in 2001, the young man at the desk consulted his catalog that  listed the archive's holdings and explained that they didn't have the 1833-48 book.  Anetta and I tried repeatedly to persuade him that the book was there, even giving him the name of the couple who had seen it, but to no avail.  I then asked him if the catalog (Naczelna Dyrekcja Archiwow Panstwowych w Warszawie, Archiwum Panstwowe w Szczecinie, Szczecinsiki Informator Archiwalny, Nr. 7, Szczecin 1992) might have a newer edition but he insisted in English, "good book", "good book".  Finally after more than an hour, he saw three listings he thought might be what we wanted and we filled out the appropriate request forms.  It would be awhile before the books arrived from the stacks so Anetta and my wife left to go shopping.

An hour or so later the three new books showed up but it was soon evident that these were civil records or documents, certainly not church books.  You can imagine our frustration and disappointment.  While trying to explain to the clerk that these were not the records we expected, he was suddenly inspired to check his computer.  I was amazed that they had a log of all the patrons, and the materials they had checked out, as far back as 2000; and, I suspect, many years earlier.  As he kept repeating, “one moment”, “one moment”, I wondered why he hadn’t checked this file earlier.  In less than a minute he pulled up the American couple’s list of church books they had seen in August 2000.  Sure enough, besides the two books we had already seen, they had accessed three additional church books.  I was unable to see the computer screen from where I sat but he wrote down three numbers – 14, 17, and 20.  At last, I thought, we are getting somewhere.  However, my elation was short lived again because in checking the numbers in his catalog, we found that the numbers referred to villages some distance from Regenwalde, clearly not the missing 1833-1848 church books we wanted.

With the language barrier, it seemed pointless to continue trying to communicate with the clerk.  While waiting for Anetta to return to help with the translation, Duane and I spent our time reviewing  the 1824-1833 and 1849-1864 Regenwalde church books that I had seen two years earlier.  It was the first time he had ever seen these original church books and I was able to show him the birth record for our great aunt, Johanna Maass as well as two of her brothers, Gottlieb and Eduard.
When Anetta returned she suggested that we try to find Mr. Maciej Szukoua who works in another office on the same floor.  She explained that she had met him by chance during an earlier visit and he had been very helpful to her and perhaps he could help this time.  But, unfortunately, he had already gone for the day, so we left empty handed and drove back to Nowogard.  Needless to say, we were very disappointed.   I kept thinking, I’ve been waiting more than two years to see a church book that I know is in this archive and will I have to return to the states again without seeing it?  Anetta remained  hopeful and said she would call Mr. Szukoua from her school the next morning.  Her classes were through before noon on Tuesdays and she told us she would meet us at the hotel about 11:30.

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