Schauers in the Frontier Zone between Polish and German Culture and Politics

by Norbert Luedtke 2004

At this time, the earliest we can directly trace the Schauer family is to Jacob Schur, born 1790.  His death is listed in the church records as February 24, 1846 in the farming village of Ploetzmin, Tarnowke Parish, in Deutsch Krone Kries (District), in the German Provence of West Prussia. This is an area that shifted political allegiance and cultural and religious orientation, throughout history.  Today it carries the Polish name Plecemin and is located in northwest Poland.

Ploetzmin: A village located on the east side of the Kuddow River, founded in 1586 as a non-estate farming village by the royal appointed “governor” of Usch, which was located down the river on the confluence of the Kuddow (Gwda) and Netze (Notec) Rivers.  The use of the Polish title Starostei, in the Norbert Luedtke documents, as the establishing authority in Usch suggests that the settling of Ploetzmin was part of a process later termed the OstsiedlungOstsiedlung was the eastward expansion of Germans into what is Poland today. It should also be noted that in the Luedtke document Ploetzmin was originally spelled in Polish—Plecymin—another indication that the Polish Crown established the village as an Usch outpost. 

Slavic nobles and rulers encouraged German settlements in an effort to strengthen and consolidate their position and to intensify land use for revenue. Peasants were attracted by the privileges granted them, including freedom from bondage under an estate. One can conclude that the Ploetzmin peasants were free tenant farmers who gave who part of their labor to the Usch royal governor. A contemporary writer, Kantow, states that the peasants of this area were relatively “rich and well to do; they paid a small toll and rendered some services, but otherwise they had no obligations.  Most of them paid money instead of services; such persons consider themselves entirely free and refuse to pay court to the petty nobilities.”

Although subordinate to Usch, Ploetzmin had its own village administrator who was favored with two plots, a mill with two plots, and eleven single farmsteads. The Luedtke document states that the mill stood “where the clear spring flowed into the Kuddow River,” and describes the village as prosperous with solid brick houses and well-kept fields.  Late middle-age farms used a three-field system–rotating one third for a winter crop, the second third for a spring crop, and the final third was left fallow to regenerate. The soil in this area is described as “clean valley sand,” or glacial alluvial soil, which is good for growing grains and would provide food for both animals and family.  Often the fallow field served as pasture for animals.

Above: Karen Erickson Lange Points to Village Sign, Displaying the Reinstatement of its Original Polish Name. Below: Site of the Ploetzmin Mill.  2004


Social Status: It has been repeated that the Schauers (Schur) were granted land ownership from military service.  Family lore is often hazy, and “military” might have originally been understood from the quasi-defensive nature of Ploetzmin’s origins as an outpost.  It is very possible that the authority in Usch granted them land in 1586 when it was recruiting peasant farmers to settle in its Ploetzmin outpost, which was located in a sparsely populated forested area up the river, much like America’s frontier outposts. An alternative might have been after the Swedish invasions between 1630-1706 when the area was devastated and depopulated.  Peasants were recruited to farm vacant properties and soldiers often given favorable land or local offices. Both alternatives could be true.

Genetic Origins: Testing of James Schauer’s (Great-great-grandson of Jacob Schauer/Schur b. 1790)DNAindicates that although the family was culturally German, they were genetically, Eastern Europeans.  The Schauer Y haplogroup is R1a1a and the most frequent Y haplogroup in Poland today.  It is 10 times more likely to be found in Poland than Germany.

It is recorded that by 1303 German settlements were evident in the district of Deutsch Krone, where Ploetzmin was located. Settlements slowed in the middle of the 14th century due to the plague, however, the Wends (Slavs) who lived around the early Germanic settlements were almost completely assimilated by then.  It is very possible that the Schauers (Schur) were also assimilation into German culture by the end of the 14th century, two hundred years before the establishment of Ploetzmin, and completely lost any memory of their Eastern European origins.

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Jim Schauer was the last direct descendant of Jacob Schur b 1827 to own and operate a full scale-farm, which was locate in Glendale Township, Monroe County, Wisconsin.  The farm was located in what was originally known as Schauer Valley where Jacob’s four sons owned farms at the end of the 19th century.   Jim died September 1, 2010 and is buried in nearby St. Lukes Evangelical Lutheran Church Cemetery.  All four of Jacob’s sons were among the original twelve founders of the church, still located on the hill at the end of the Valley in Glendale Township.  In 1898, Gustav Schauer and his wife Anna Mohns gave property to build the church.  Gus was one of Jacob’s four sons and a great uncle of Jim’s.

Jim Schauer

The Establishment of Surnames:  In remote areas surnames were not fixed until the 17th or 18th centuries.  In 1812 Prussia required the use of surnames.  Generally there were five categories used to establish last names—occupations, places of residence, places of origin, physical and character distinctions, and father’s name.  Schauer seems to be a late 19th century version of Schur, which refers to the “sheep shearing” occupation. Most likely, Jacob Schur born 1790 in Ploetzmin, or one of his ancestors was a sheep shearer or he was a farmer with a special talent for shearing.  At this time, it was common for peasant farmers to raise sheep for wool, cheese and meat.

Earliest Schurs Living in the Ploetzmin Area: The 1608 Church Records finds a Martin Johan Schur in Stabitz and Michael Schur in Jastrow, both villages in the Cammin District, not the District of Deutch Krone where Ploetzmin was located. However, these were adjoining districts and in 1773, there was a movement to place Ploetzmin in the Cammin District, as it was the only Usch outpost on the east side of the Kuddow River.

The oldest Catholic Church records in West Prussia (1669) lists a Schur in Freudenfiehr, and refers to a Schor in the Zippnower Church records.  Also mentioned was Elizabeth Schur who came from Ploetzmin.  Remembering that last names were just becoming fixed, it is likely that all of these people were somehow related even though the spelling of their last names differed, as all of these villages lay within a twenty-mile radius.  The Schur/Schor name is not common, which strengthens the probability of a family connection. These records suggest that the Schur family lived in the area for almost two hundred years before Jacob Schur was born in 1790.

The Reformation: The Reformation lead by a German priest, Martin Luther, was a 16th-century religious and political challenge to the Roman Catholic Church. The Thirty Year War followed, beginning in 1618 as a conflict between the Protestants and Catholics and ended in 1648.  One half of the greater Pomeranian population died from the war, disease and famine, which ravaged the land, leaving it barren. Anyone living through these time, whether in the war zone or on the fringe, experienced extreme misery and suffering.  Even today, some Poles describe the Thirty-years War as more destructive than World War II. 

Although the Reformation swept though Germany 1530, the church in Schmilowo, which served the farmers in Ploetzmin didn’t become Protestant until 1653 after the Thirty-years War.  The 1648 war settlement agreement gave Pomerania to Brandenburg-Prussia.   A hundred years earlier, the Augsburg Treaty declared, “ the religion of the Prince shall be the religion of the people.”  The Catholic clergy was likely expelled at this time.  The Luedtke document states, that a government inspector reported in 1653 that the Schmilowo Church had been recently taken from the “heretics” and all the residents were now Lutheran, and a Lutheran Pastor was performing baptisms and weddings.

Direct Linage:  The first mention of a Schur/Schoor living in Ploetzmin is Christ (Christian) Schoor in the 1772-73 Land Rental (Tax) records, where he is described as an Amt Krone (Crown Official), with two plots of land. Most likely he was the village administrator.  Often villagers chose officials for day-to-day governance, to be the intermediary between the village and the state official, and for the periodic redistribution of village land.  Although we can’t connect Christ Schoor directly to Jacob Schur (b.1790), it is possible that Christ was either the father or grandfather of Jacob.

West Prussia Land Rental (Tax) Records

Jacob Schur/Schuhr (b. 1790): A significant turning point in the family history was the process of emancipation unleashed by Napoleon’s domination of Prussia from 1806-1812.  The French began the process of modernization, which included breaking down traditional feudal systems, enacted government service “open to talent,” established civil records, and introduced the metric system to all of Europe.  Napoleon also began the consolidated of fragmented German principalities, which ultimately led to unification in 1871 and the establishment of the modern German State.  We do not know how these events effected Jacob Schur and his family, but we can assume that any service obligations they might have had to the Usch government were weakened if not eliminated.

When Prussia turned on Napoleon in 1813, it adopted mass compulsory military service for the first time. Ten thousand soldiers from the greater Pomeranian region, which includes West Prussia, were swept up in this mass mobilization.  The War of Liberation (1813-15) ended at Waterloo in 1815 with Napoleon’s defeat. Jacob would have been a young man in his early twenties during the War of Liberation.  It is hard to see how he and other ancestors escaped service. However, the family brought no memory of this to America.

Jacob married Anna Rosina (Rose) Frischke about 1823,  eight years after the War of Liberation and had seven children over the next 22 years.  According to one record, Anna’s father was Michael Frischke.  The 1772-73 West Prussia Land Rental (Tax) Records below list several Frischkes in nearby villages, with a variety of spellings.  Although there is not a Michael Frischke recorded consistent with the spelling of Anna’s last name, this doesn’t mean he is not there as last names were still somewhat fluid.  It was mentioned earlier that there was a Schur living in Freudenfeihr, Deutch Krone Parish in 1669.  It is possible that the two families were known to each other even earlier in history.

During Jacob and Anna’s lifetime, Ploetzmin was a self-contained, self-maintained, self-reliant community of peasant workers who led a hard life.  Mortality was high, often as a result of serious epidemics, famine and war. As a whole this area was not particularly prosperous.  In 1744, Friedrich the Great of Prussia ordered peasants to grow potatoes, which eliminated famine, until 1845 when the potato blight arrived in Europe.  The blight caused one of the most famous famines that led to starvation throughout northern Europe, including greater Prussia.  There is no family memory of this particular famine and how it affected Jacob and Anna’s family, however, it should be noted that Jacob died in February 1846 at the age of fifty-six, leaving behind a widow and seven children.

A positive impact on the Ploetzmin was the industrial revolution, which came quickly to western and southern areas of Germany beginning in the 1820’s, and created a strong demand for food in growing cities.  Greater Pomerania became the “rye-belt” giving farmers a cash crop, and as feudalism died, small independent landowners such as Jacob and Anna, were often able to acquire additional land. Family lore is that the Schauer’s had two farms, perhaps one on each side of the Kuddow River, as it is remembered that the Schauers had to “pay a toll to cross the bridge.”

The Next Generation: Jacob Schur b. 1827 had three brothers: Johann b. 1817, Christoph b. 1818 and Michael b. 1833.  Church records list the marriage of Heinrette Schur to Michael Schur on July 27, 1873.  The record describes Michael as a widowed labour from Tarnowke and son of deceased Jacob Schur, landowner from Ploetzmin.  It should be noted that as the youngest son of  Jacob (b. 1790) and Anna Schur, Michael left Ploetzmin and was a labour in Tarnowke.  Most likely upon Jacob’s death in 1846, his oldest son Johann b. 1817 received ownership of the family plots in Ploetzmin. Our great-grandfather Jacob b. 1827 also left Ploetzmin in 1858 when he married Wilhelmine Lambrecht Quandt, the widow of Christoph Quandt, six months after Christoph died.  Most likely he did not own property in Ploetzmin.

The oldest son typically inherited all the property rites upon his marriage. Marriages were thought of as a business partnership, often including various inheritance rights when there were no male children or the children were quite young.  Wilhelmine Lambrecht Quandt and her first husband Christoph Quandt had two daughters, Emilie and Augusta, and no male heirs.  Because they were married just seven years before his death, it can be assumed that the two girls were quite young.  It is likely that her marriage to Jacob Schur on April 5, 1858 was a business partnership, giving Jacob and their heirs land inheritance rights.

Unfortunately, it has not been possible to trace the origins of the Schur/Schauer farm in Brodden to determine ownership, but most likely Christoph Quandt had inheritance rights until his death, January 6, 1858. It is not known if the property was in the Quandt Family a generation earlier, or if Christoph gained inheritance rights from Gottlieb Lambrecht when he married his daughter, Wilhelmine Lambrecht in 1851.

There is evidence of Quandts in the Brodden area somewhat earlier.  A chronicle of the Guderian Family genealogy lists an Anna Quandt as the third wife of Martin Koepp (b. 1774 d. 1833).  The church records indicate that they were married in “Brodden bei Schneidmuhl, Friedheim Parish “ in 1810.  Martin and his father Gottfried Koepp were both shepherds. Their marriage record leads us to believe that Quandts were living in the Brodden area prior to Wilhelmine’s marriage to Christoph.  Although, the Quandt name does not appear in the 1772-73 Land Rental (Tax) Records, Wilhelmine’s father, Gottlieb Lambrecht b. 1797/98 married an Eva Quandt after the death of her mother Susanna Schauer on February 21, 1834. Susanna was 36 years old when she died and Wilhelmine b. August 22, 1828 was six years old.

Records indicate that there were many deaths and remarriages between 1831-34 when there was a terrible outbreak of cholera that left the village devastate. A special cemetery was laid out on the out-shirts of Brodden to bury victims. When four Schauer cousins visited Brodden/Brodna in 2004, they went to the cholera cemetery pictured below.  Although we have not identified any specific person who died during the outbreak we can assume that there were family members who succumbed to the disease. It is possible that Susanna Schauer, Wilhelmine’s mother died after contacting cholera, as she died in 1834 near the end of the cholera pandemic at the age of 36 or 39 years.

Cholera Cemetery
Brodden/Brodna cholera cemetery located in an isolated area.

Schauers in Gramtenbruck The 1772-73 Land Records land list a Hans Schauer in Gramtenbruck, where Wilhelmine’s mother, Susanna Schauer, was born in 1798.  Hans owned two plots.

West Prussia 1771-73 Land Rental (Tax) Records

Name                           Village                          Govern. Office              County             Section# Film

In 2004 first cousins, Marie Schauer Findlay, Karen Erickson Lange, Ann Teske Konlock, and Sigrid Erickson Knuti traveled to Poland to find ancestral villages.  While in Brodden, they were introduced to a local farm owner, Stanislaus Szauer, whose family was originally Lutheran and considered themselves German.  To survive World War II and the unimaginable aftermath, the family became Catholic, the religion of Stanislaus’s mother, and the family adopted the Polish spelling of their surname.  Stanislaus told of a great uncle who was deported by train to Auschwitz Work Camp. DNA testing later confirmed his relationship to James Schauer, who was highlighted earlier.  It is believed that Stanislaus may be related through Wilhemine’s mother Susanna Schauer, not Jacob Schur.

Wilhelmine Lambrecht Schauer: Wilhelmine was born in Brodden on August 22, 1828 and married Christoph Quandt on January 5, 1851.   It has been related that Christoph Quandt died suddenly on January 6, 1858.  He was found in the barn, sitting slumped-over leaning against an oat bin.  It is believed that Wilhelmine’s marriage to Christoph was her first, although it was his third marriage.  We know he had children from his previous marriages.  As mentioned earlier, Christoph and Wilhelmine had two daughters—Augusta and Emilie Quandt. It is not known how Jacob Schur and Wilhelmine’s wedding three months after Christoph’s death (April 5, 1858) was arranged, but we know from the 1772-73 Land Rental (Tax) Records that there was a Lambrecht who owned two plots of land in Ploetzmin, where Jacob was born and where his father had two plots of land.

Jacob and Wilhelmine had four sons: Christoph b. January 12, 1860, Carl b. September 23, 1863, Gustav b. May 5, 1866 and Friedrich b. October 14, 1868  and one daughter Bertha, Justine b. August 1, 1862.  We do not have a date of death for Jacob, but we know he died sometime after the birth of Friedrich (Fred) and the departure of the first family members to immigrate to Milwaukee in 1879.  Jacob’s death is also described as unexpected. The story is that he died suddenly while upstairs getting dressed for Sunday church services. It is remembered that he was wearing a white vest and a carriage drawn by a horse with a plumb was waiting outside the door.  Family member’s recently visiting Brodden have noted that today most of the farm houses are one story with a few exceptions. A second remembrance passed down generations, is that a shepherd hung himself in the barn.  These two incidents have lead the family to believe that Wilhelmine and Jacob were prosperous enough to own a two story house and to have someone other than a family member tending sheep.

Having horses and two farms is also part of the family lore.  Because we have not been able to locate land records for mid-nineteen century Brodden, we don’t know if the two farms refer back a generation to Jacob Schur b.1790 and his two plots in Ploetzmin or if Jacob and Wilhelmine had two properties in Brodden. Sometimes family memory is not entirely reliable.

Karen Erickson Lange, Marie Schauer Findlay, and Ann Teske Konlock stand by village sign.  2004

We do not know the reason Wilhelmine and her family sold the farm and immigrated to America.  One family member believes they left to avoid conscription. Perhaps they had seen advertisements for jobs in the Milwaukee Steel Mills or perhaps the prospect of each son someday owning a farm was a strong motivation.  It should also be noted that Wilhelmine’s first husband, Christoph Quant had daughters who immigrated earlier and were living in Wisconsin.

The expansion of the German railroads in 1851 brought trains to Schneidemuhl/Pila located ten miles west of Brodden and made travel relatively inexpensive and possible to travel to seaports for departure to America.  By the end of the 19th century Schneidemuhl/Pila had become one of the most important railway centers of the region and the biggest city in the Province of Posen. The historic roundhouse in Schneidemuhl/Pila, which still stands, would have been visible from the train station when family members boarded trains to begin their journey to Milwaukee, Wisconsin.