Sunday, December 28, 2008

Wolcottsburg Wolcottsville

A small article in the Buffalo News caught my attention Friday:

BERGHOLZ — The Historical Society of North German Settlements in Western New York is trying to help a German man get photos of clothing worn by Germans who came to the United States during the 19th century.

Elaine Timm, of Niagara Falls, said Werner Karsch, of Schmolin, Germany, is looking for photos of clothing worn by those who left the Uckermark region of Germany in 1860 or earlier. Ancestors from that region now live in areas that include Wheatfield, Martinsville and Wolcottsville, Timm said.

Call Timm at 716-421-2217. She said she will take a photo of the articles and forward it to Karsch.

First I'm trying to remember if my mom has any old pictures. Then I look up the history of photography and find that modern methods didn't really start until the 1880's, so now we're talking daguerreotypes most likely.

Then I started thinking about the "Wolcottsville -Wolcottsburg" names, and how I keep forgetting which one is which. I spent a lot of time in Wolcottsburg in Erie County, not Wolcottsville in Niagara County...Yes, I had to look it up.

I don't feel bad about not remembering the name, because even those charged with recording and photographing historical buildings, cemeteries and other resources in Clarence called it Wolcottsville. Having spent an hour skimming through the PDF file I can truthfully say that I'm almost nitpicking.

A lot of work went into this presentation. Even though I thought some valuable places were missed, there is so very much included. After the history is presented the photographs start. You can scroll through by street name & number and do the "I remember" or the "I didn't know that" thing frequently, especially if you no longer live in the area.

Immigrants from the Uckermark area settled in Erie County too, in Wolcottsburg (also known as West Prussia, back in the day). According to Sue Roll, the Hartwig family came from the village of Bergholz near Löcknitz. These towns are north-northeast of Berlin in the province of Bradenburg, located in historical Prussia.

The history of settlers in Wolcottsville (in Niagara County) can be found via the Moll Brothers site, as they thoroughly researched their family history. The Alfred Moll family ended up in Wolcottsburg in later years.

A different article in the News is about a visit to Germany by a Niagara County group, which is interesting from their perspective. I can get huffy about the Clarence Germans being ignored, but why continue in a divisive tradition...

At first glance it would seem curious that 2 similar groups would not have merged. But back then there were no cars, no fast and easy way to stay in touch. This is assuming they would have wanted to. Far from banding together, they were noted for digging their heels in at the slightest difference of opinion and forming new communities. In Wolcottsburg the church split for a while, with the breakaway faction building a new place to worship right next door.

It is an accurate stereotype that Germans can be stubborn, which can be a plus or a minus, take your pick:
  1. Unreasonably, often perversely unyielding; bullheaded.
  2. Firmly resolved or determined; resolute.
If I've lost your attention, try to at least check on the Historical Resources file (takes a while to fully load) and the Moll Brothers history.

And If you have any pertinent photographs of clothing from the 1860's, give Ms. Timm a call!

2 comments:

Jill said...

Great post - a lot of interesting information here... I love learning about the history of our area. I'm always amazed when people can find such detailed information about their family history and where/how they lived.

I had to look up 'daguerreotypes' :)

Susan Roll said...

I visited the village of Bergholz, in Brandenburg province (yes, formerly Prussia) in May 1995. It's a sleepy village of two main streets and very modest homes (though I had to smile when I saw a dish antenna perched precariously on the roof of a dilapidated cottage -- this was some five years after the Berlin Wall came down, the village is probably fully wired by now!)

I remember two indications that I had found in the place my ancestors had come from: a World War I memorial in the town square that listed three Hartwig men, and a number of Hartwig and Muchow graves in the churchyard. I also took note of a tombstone for Milleville, a French name, because of the Millevilles in Bergholz in Niagara Country and Pastor Randy Milleville in Clarence Center. I spoke to a local historian at the town library in Prenzlau and he told me that when the Huguenot Protestants were facing persecution in France, the local duke/prince had invited them to settle in Protestant Germany. He added that as a result, the normally fun-loving German Lutherans took on a more sober Calvinist lifestyle under the Huguenot influence.

Sue Roll
Clarence Center NY and Ottawa, Canada