Chojnice, German name Konitz, a district town in the West Prussia, in the Kwidzyń regency district, located in the valley with the rich soil, one mile distance from the River Brada, between two lakes (According to Dłudosz near Chojnice and Tuchola is Stworzonagać Lake?), Gelenc (German name Ziegelsee) from north and Selon (? Zielone, now German name Münchsee) from south, from the lakes tiny brooks flows to Charzykowskie Lake (Müskendorfer See). The name Chojnice was derived from the (choina-pine) trees growing in the Tuchola Forests. Chojnice is one of the oldest towns of the East Pomerania dating from XII or XI century. It has the church now made of brick which was built in 1205. Far back in time as it is remembered in History, the town belonged to the Pomeranian princes (Sambor the First who had founded the aforesaid church). In 1310, the town was under the rule of the Teutonic Knights; Poland got it back under the terms of the Treaty of Toruń in 1466; since 1772, the town is under the rule of Prussia. During the Teutonic Knights rule, and before it, during the Polish rule, the town was fortified: surrounded by the two rings of moats, strong walls and mounds of earth, the town was called the key or gate of Pomerania. Often, the bloody battles were fought near Chojnice. When Hussites invaded Pomerania in 1433, the first castle they attacked was in Chojnice. At that time, in the town stayed the Komtur of Balga (Balga was the castle near Królewiec), together with the chaplain who, it was a rare case on those days, distinguished himself with accurate shooting from a pistol. Hussites tried all possible means to conquer the town. In order to approach the less defended side of the town walls, they drained the north lake using deep trench. But they were too impatient, starting assault too early, when swampy bottom of the lake was not yet dried: many of the attackers drowned. Some Czech count (according to Długosz, the person was Pole, Piotr Oporowski) who was almost drowning near the wall, in despair asked the town defenders for mercy then after the rope was pull down he was rescued with the four other noblemen; next they were washed, and komtur thoughtfully gave them fresh cloths and allowed them to go back to a camp. In return for such courtesy Hussites freed 500 captives. The same day, in vain attempts, three times in different places, Hussites tried to conquer Chojnice. They started to shoot at the town and dig under the town’s walls; in the attempt to destroy the town they kept it under the cross fire from the four sides. In the great fear, inhabitants of the town went to the place where the icon of the Saint Mary was brought shortly before Hussites were approaching Chojnice, and they prayed. Luckily, the town did not suffer under intensely fired projectiles. A chronicler wrote that one time during the artillery assault, the stone projectile of the size bigger than a bucket hit a church full of people and did not make much damage landing with spin in the middle of the church floor. When defenders were able to nail down one of the cannons belonging to attackers, Hussites started digging the underground passage but the operation was interrupted by burghers of the town. The above mentioned chaplain helped breaking the siege by shooting from the walls at places where enemies gathered in a great number killing many of them. The siege lasted 6 weeks. Even the soldiers sent by Jan Ostroróg in support of the attackers did not break barricades. In the consequence Hussites moved farther north leaving the town alone with almost one thousand of dead corpses lying near the fortress. However, invaders killed all inhabitants from the town’s surrounding areas. (see »die aeltere Hochmeisterchronik") in »Scriptores rerum pruss." III 634, as well by priest Kujot titled “Opactwo pelplinskie" 463). Far more bloody battles took place near Chojnice during the 14-year Prussian war, when in 1454 almost all the towns of the Prussian Confederacy surrendered to the Polish king. Chojnice were the only exception. It was decided at the rally in Iłżyca to take the town by force before the 1st May of that year. Many soldiers were brought from the Great Poland; the King took command of the assault. When the attackers approached the town it was advised to let the Teutonic Knights heavy cavalry into the town, then starve the besieged town surrounded by the Polish regiments. However, after five thousand strong Lithuanian troops arrived, and the troops from the Great Poland commanded by Jan Koniecpolski started mocking the defenders of Chojnice saying that they would be able to defeat them using just whips, in a buoyant mood the original plan was changed and the orders for the battle with Teutonic Knights were issued. The bloody battle started. At first, Poles were winning. However, when defenders from Chojnice undertook counter attack the Polish army was taken by surprise and eventually defeated on 18th September. Among dead were: Piotr from Szczekociny, Second Chancellor, Jan Zawisza, son of Zawisza Czarny, Jan Rydzyński, Leliwa and Jan Dąbrowski, a great number of attackers was captured and became prisoners. Entire wealth of the camp; up to four thousand carts loaded with expensive things was captured as well. The king Kazimierz Jagiełło, endangering himself, hardly escaped imprisonment! For the second time the King with his army tried to conquer Chojnice in 1461, but after 14 days he had to go back to Poland due to his mother funeral. Finally, on 28 September, 1466, the third attempt by the king was successful and the town was conquered. This time attackers had shot the projectiles with flames, in consequence one forth of the town houses were burned down. Schonenberg, who with his army was going to help prince Alberta of Prussia to regain Pomerania, when he found no crew in the fortress, overtook the town in 1520.
Soon after that Mikolaj Firlej along with troops did not meet with much enemy resistance and subdued the 300 strong, fortress crew. The Chojnice town suffered a lot from Swedish invaders. In. 1656, Horn, the Swedish general, conquered the town when he burned down suburbs and there two presbyteries the one of the Holy Spirit and the other of Saint Jerzy. In the same year, Poles, under the command of the king Jan Kazimierz, regained control of the town, but in the next year 1657, Karol Gustaw with his strong Swedish army conquered and mercilessly burned down it, including the beautiful parish church. Soon, the plundered by Swedes town went back into Polish hands back again, however, after they left in 1658, Swedes returned and robbed of whatever had been worthy had been left in the town. In 1707, the tiny Russian army unit tried, unsuccessfully, to conquer the town. The assault broke up thanks to a heroic effort of the town fortress crew. However, when Colonel Schultz came with the substantial reinforcement, Russian conquered the town. For two week, they had been plundering homes and granaries of Chojnice.
Since the Teutonic Knights era, the population of Chojnice has consisted of Germanic nationals mainly. The polonization process of the Chojnice population has been hindered by plaques. During the period between 1352 and 1711, there were eleven outbreaks of plagues in the town. In 1657, from the Whitsunday feast to Advent, 3000 out of 3500 people had died in the town. In such cases, they were replaced by German colonists.
Since the earliest times, Chojnice has been known for the fabric manufacture. In 1348, Jan von Barkenfeld, Komtur of Człuchów granted separate privileges to the local fabric manufacturers.
Following are the most important information about churches and monasteries located in Chojnice:
The parish church (fara) is spacious, built of stone, called by the name Saint Jan Ścięć. It is one of the oldest churches in the East Pomerania, funded by Prince Sambor in 1205; the church used to be splendorous; the ceiling was in the form of arches, on the sides of the church were two Dorengowki and Maria Magdalena chapels. Before the Reformation, the church had had 10 priests; additionally, members of the religious society of Our Lady Mary Immaculate were attached to the church; It lost its splendor under the custody of Evangelists who used its premises almost 60 years, as the inscription in the church says: “ Templum hoc a secta Lutheri a. 1555 occnpatum, reeuperatum a catholicis a. 1616." Stanislaw Latalski, chief of the człuchowski district had been supporter of Protestants in the area. The fire set by Swedes in 1657, damaged beautiful ceiling in the nave of the church. Another fire, set by Protestants in 1733 destroyed the ceiling in presbytery. The church has the one important monument of Dorengowski.( the judge of Tczew) who took back the custody of the church from Protestants in 1616. Jesuits received from Dorengowski brothers substantial land properties. He brought members of Jesuit order and gave them financial support. On the Człóchów suburbs, the presbytery called in the name of the Holly Spirit had stayed before, founded by the Teutonic Knights. In 1555, its premises went into Protestants custody. In 1656, the presbytery was burned down by Swedes; had been rebuilt and is used by Protestants as their church building nowadays.
The second presbytery was on the Gdańsk suburbs, called by the name of the Saint Jerzy, founded by the Teutonic Knights. From 1555 till 1616 the presbytery was in the Protestants then in Catholics custody. In 1656, it was burned down by Swedes. It was never rebuild again. Jesuits came to Chojnice in 1620 founded by two Dorengowski brothers; the first, Jan who was the head of the church court of Kamieńsk and the rector of the Chojnice parish, and the other who was the judge of Tczew who after his death was buried near the Chojnice parish church (fara). The school organized by Jesuits in Chojnice received college status from archbishop Wężyk in 1630. In the college, the sons of the noblemen from the Chojnice area were studying. The residence for seven poor students, founded by Dorengowski brothers, was setup near the college. In 1718, after cassation of the Jesuits order their beautiful church and monastery was changed into catholic high school (gimnazyum).
The Augustinians monastery was established in Chojnice in 1265, during the reign of Pomerania Princes. The monastery almost ceased to exists in the later period of wars and instability. In 1358, the monastery was renewed and financially supported by the Grand Master Winryk von Kniprode who in his document states that the islet called “Mönchswerder” became the property of the Augustinian fathers. The Augustinians by their own choice lived in very poor and hermitic condition. Like Jesuits, Augustinians in Chojnice were Poles. The local population liked them very much. The icon of Our Lady of Consolation in the Augustinians monastery was famous for having God’s grace and was a purpose of pilgrimage of thousands people. The government of Prussia closed the monastery in 1819 and changed it into residence for poor high school students and the teacher of religion.
In the latest time when Prussian government attitude towards religious orders had improved, the St. Francis sisters abbey was established where 12 sisters who came from Capellen in the Netherlands lead their religious convocation. They were German women. They established the high school with bursary for girls, hospital, sawing manufacture and elementary school for the town girls. The sisters visited local sick people in their homes frequently. As a result of the political struggle so called “Kulturkampf”, the St. Francis sisters were expelled by Prussian authorities in 1875.
Schools in Chojnice: The Royal Catholic Gymnasium was established in 1815 as the continuation of Jesuits schools. It had 20 teachers, 455 students: 239 Catholics, 175 Protestants, and 41 Jews. All classes including religion were taught in German language. There were, 2 hours weekly, non obligatory classes of Polish language. Polish language was not a part of regular curriculum, Protestant high school for the girls which had 3 grades with 80 female students,
Elementary town school with 12 classes, 13 teachers, Protestant children 518, Catholics 256, Jewish 42, predominantly Protestant school employing also Catholic teachers. In. 1870, there were 2450 Catholics in Chojnice, Protestants 3500. The Rectory serves, additionally, two its branches in Mośnicy and in Szenfeld; total population 6370. In last years, the economy and social life in Chojnice revived substantially thanks to the construction of railways: Tczew -Pińsk, Chojnice - Węgorzyn and Chojnice - Jabłonów; graveled roads lead from Chojnice to Berlin, Nakło, Tuchola (Terespol), Bytów, Kościerzyna, and Królewiec. There is in the town: 1 printing house, 1 German newspaper., machinery manufacture, gas-works, 3 brewery, post office 2nd class., railway station, telegraph station, 4 marketplaces, the land court (Landgericht) and the office of the Lutheran Superintendent; presently the number of the town inhabitants is close to 10,000. Prior to the Reformation, mainly Catholics lived in the area; there was separate deaconate in Chojnice, which together with entire archidiaconate of Kamieńsk was attached to the archdiocese of Gniezno; in 1410, deacon Mikolaj, called all subordinated to him priests and priests in the township, to give one tenth (dziesięcina) of their land fruits to archbishop; Pogge his successor in 1415 who got his education at Paris Academy where he received his Doctor of Theology degree , was highly respected for he was chosen Vice President of Synod Council in Kostnica. Following churches belonged to the Chojnice deaconate in 1410: Szenfeld, Brzeźno, Jęczniki, Wierzchowo, Blumfelde, Buchholc, Mośnica, Sztynborno, Marienfelde, Ohristfelde, Barkenfelde, Heinrichswalde, Prützenwalde, Krumsee, Powałki, Doręgowo , Chojniczki, Breitfelde, Strzeczona. The aforesaid names represent townships as well, which were Germanized during the Reformation period and in consequence the Catholic influence diminished and the deaconate of Chojnice was attached to the Człuchów deaconate. The district of Chojnice. In the past, Chojnice did not represent a separate district under Teutonic Knights as well Poland’s authority, but belonged to the district of Człuchów. After Prussia’s occupation, Chojnice became a district. It borders from the North with the Bytów and Kościerzyn district, on the East with the Starogród and Świecie districts, on the South with Świecie and Człuchów; it borders with two provinces: Pomeranian Poznań, with the three regency districts: Koszalin, Poznań, Bydgoszcz and with the seven aforesaid townships. The length of the district Chojnice from the East to the West is 8 miles, the width from the North to the South 9 and 3/8 miles, 36 miles in the perimeter; the second biggest district in Prussia with more than 41 miles square of area, with more than 65,000 inhabitants, on the average, 1580 people lives per one mile square; the government statistics shows that 34,000 Poles lives there, however, in reality the number is higher. Catholics population amounts to 49,000, Protestants 15,000, Jews 2300. In the North-West part of the district live Kaszubs, in the Tuchla forest live Borowiacy (see Tuchola), in the area with rich soil, south of Chojnice live Kosznajders who are Geramn Catholics. The Etymology of their name can not be explained; they do not know where their ancestors came from; the most important villages of Kosznajders are: Silno (Frankenhagen), Gronowo, Piastoszyn (Petztin), Ostrowite (Osterwick), Lichnowy, Sławęcin (Schlagentin), Geran Ciechocin and Obrowo (Abrau). The most important river is Brda, flowing through the middle of the district across Oharzykowo, Karsin and Witoczno lakes. The Black Water flows only in the North, starting from Wdzidzkie Lake then near Wieck flows farther to the Starogard district. Smaller tributaries are: Niechwarz tributary of the Black Waters, Kamionka tributary of Sępolna, Dobrzyca, Kłonisznica and Kicza are tributaries of Brda river. The important for the region lakes are: Wdzidzkie in North-West part of the district, 3/4 miles long; Oharzykowskie (Miiskendorfer See) on the West border 1 and 3/4 miles long; Karchin on the North of the previous one 1/3 miles long; then on of the bigger Pelplińskie Lake, Smińskie, Wielkie near Stara Laska village and others; one might wonder why, almost all of the lakes, have elongated from North to South. Beside Chojnic there is another town in the district, there are 387 villiges, 18 Catholic parish churches, 10 affiliated churches; 5 Lutheran parish churches and 1 affiliated; Catholic churches are located in 3 dioceses: Chojnice, Tuchola and Człuchów; the Lutheran churches are supervised by superintendent. There are 2 Members of Prussia Parliament and 1 of Federal Parliament are elected together from the Chojnice and Człuchów districts; Before there was a Member of Parliament Leon Ożarlinski, nowadays a German as the result of Poles being in minority. Industry and Market, in general, are not developed in the region; in the hole district there are: 13 lime furnaces, 3 glass furnaces, 38 water mills, 25 saw mills, 11 coal tar factories, 2 flour factories, 5 breweries, 1 machine factory, 40 bakers, 39 butchers, 24 fishers, 21 potters, 18 glass makers, 151 smiths, 23 locksmiths, 6 watchmakers, 4 gold smiths, 298 shoe makers, 7 hat makers, 96 tailors, 56 carpenters. Railways were built lately: w with the following junctions: Tczew-Piła, which is shortest one, connecting Królewiec and Berlin, Chojnice-Wegorzyn going to Szczecin and Chojnice-Jabłonna passing by Grudziądz leading to Poland. There are 7 Graveled roads: the older one Berlin-Królewiec finished in 1829 and the newer one build after 1854 leading from Chojnice to Bytów, to Nakło, to Kościerzyna, to Tuchola, from Tuchola to Terespol then to Bydgoszcz. The following Polish Noblemen names could be met in the area: Łukowicz, Sikorski, Dobrski, Piekarski, Główczewski, Kliński, Ostrowski, Lipiński, and Sarnowski. Notice: In 1875 the Tuchola district was separated from the Chojnice district therefore Tuchola district could not be included in the chapter since all statistical data are not yet available.
Source: Slownik Geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego - Warsaw [1880, vol. 1, p. 617-620]
This translation, by Jarek Gajewski, is used by permission.