The Slawic settlement in the County of Altenburg

Since the sixth century the Slavic settlement area expanded to the rivers Elbe and Saale. In this time Slavic tribes settled in today’s County of Altenburg, too. In the following time Germanic farmers, who already had settled in the region, were absorbed by the Slavic tribes.

The Slavic tribe, which settled most in the West, was called Sorbs. Their settlement area reached from the upper river Mulde and the river Elster to the river Saale. They structured their land with the help of natural forest borders in so-called “Gaue” (districts). In the centre of a Gau there was a Gauburg, a fortress. The county of Altenburg belonged to the districts Geraha and Plisni. Close to the villages Löbichau, Nöbdenitz, Vollmershain and Thonhausen there was the border between Plisni and Geraha.

Rittergut Meuselwitz / Meuselwitz Manor (c) Museum Burg Posterstein

The place name Meuselwitz reveals the town’s Slavic origin (Picture (c) Museum Burg Posterstein)

Place names and the form of a village reveal Slavic settlement

Almost 70 percent of all place names in the County of Altenburg have Slavic roots. Typical for Slavic place names are their endings: Former Slavic endings as –ici und -ovici are preserved as –itz (e.g. Raudenitz, Sommeritz) and –witz (e.g. Meuselwitz) in today’s place names, while villages that once ended on –ovo, -ova and –ove, today end with –a and –au, as for example Lohma, Kosma and Löbichau. Slavic place names that originally had the endings –ine, -ina and –ino, end today normally on –eu. With this knowledge today’s villages’ origins can be traced back by their names. While the villages Nischwitz, Nitschka and Zschernitzsch obviously have Slavic roots, their neighbour villages Grünberg, Heyersdorf and Weißbach originally were Germanic settlements.

Also the form of a village can give a hint on its origin. While the German settlements in the region often are a kilometre long row of houses and farms, the Slavic founded villages have a rather round centre, called „Rundling“.

Excavation in boxes

A part of Posterstein castle’s permanent exhibition deals with the region’s archaeology. To the collection belong for example potsherds from the Neolithic, hand-axes and querns from the stone-age as well as different other tools. As a part of the museum’s children’s program, children can learn about archaeology and try to be archaeologists themselves in the museum. With trowel and pencil they can search for archaeological artefacts in boxes with sand. Have they found something, they identify their find with the help of the museum’s collection. Afterwards they’ll write an archaeological report on their find. The program lasts about half an hour and is dedicated to children between eight and twelve years, for example for school classes and as a part of a birthday party in the museum.

Slawische Funde (Bild: Museum Burg Posterstein)

Slavic finds (picture: Museum Burg Posterstein)

Current archaeological research in the County of Altenburg 

In spring 2012, from March 4th to April 30th, Museum Burg Posterstein will show a special exhibition on recent archaeological research in the County of Altenburg. The focus will lie on the last years’ finds and the exhibition will be made in co-operation with the Thuringian department for archaeology and preservation of monuments (Thüringischen Landesamt für Archäologie und Denkmalpflege).

(by Marlene Hofmann)

Moving from Altenburg to Altenburg

How German settlers in 19th century founded a new hometown in Missouri

A motley group of emigrants from Saxony-Altenburg, Dresden region and Hannover stranded on a rock in Mississippi river in 1839. Right beside the river the strict Lutheran settlers founded the town Wittenberg. Frequently the legendary river carried Wittenbergs houses away – that is why only the Wittenberg Boat Club and a crumbling old post office remind of the town today.

rock in Mississippi
After a long journey by ship a group of German emigrants from Altenburg County stranded at this rock in Mississippi in 1839.

The emigration was organized by different clergymen, under the leadership of reverend Martin Stephan from Pirna near Dresden. As a result of social problems after the Napoleonic Wars and tightened taxes in the countryside, parallel to first revolutionary riots, a lot of people in Altenburg region considered to try out their luck in the „new world“. In the beginning they considered Australia as a new home as well, but south from St. Louis in Missouri they were offered 10.000 acre land to a cheap price.

Wittenberg Boat Club
Wittenberg Boat Club

In Winter 1838/39 five ships with settlers from the kingdom of Saxony and the duchy of Saxony-Altenburg headed for the so called „new world“. The devotional emigrates took 900 copies of Luther’s catechism with them on board of the ships. Even during the long crossing the children were taught. All ships reached the US, except for a small boat called „Amalia“, which apparently collided with a bigger ship near France.

Altenburg, Dresden, Wittenberg, Frohna, Paitzdorf and Seelitz in the „new world“

As mentioned before, the settlers arrived in Missouri in 1839. At that time this region still was a nearly uninhabited wilderness. The newcomers probably wouldn’t have survived the first winter, if they wouldn’t have been supported by the Lutheran community in St. Louis. In today’s Perry County the German settlers founded towns, which they named after the regions and towns they came from – like Dresden, Seelitz, Johannisberg, Altenburg, Frohna, Paitzdorf and Wittenberg. Dresden, Seelitz and Johannisberg were later on suburbanized by Altenburg, Missouri. Of course the emigrants only reported the best things to their friends and families in Germany and in the following years a lot of other people from Altenburg region moved to the new founded Altenburg.

You don’t need to fear Indians, wild animals and Mexican soldiers in Altenburg

Reverend Martin Stephan lived a very little moral life in the new world, while he let himself celebrate as a king. When the community finally had realized how badly their spiritual leader had betrayed them, they dismissed him. The first president of the Missouri synod, which has two million members today, was Ferdinand Wilhelm Walter from Langenchursdorf. Gotthold Heinrich Loeber from Kahla overtook the job as reverend in the new founded Altenburg. In a letter to Germany on September 10th, 1839 he described the life in the new world, where the most people at this time did still not live in houses, but in temporary sheds. To comfort his reader he added that one did not have to fear Indians, wild animals or Mexican soldiers in Altenburg.

school building from 1839 in Altenburg Missouri
The school building from 1839 is the oldest house in Altenburg, Missouri.

As one of their first projects, the settlers built a school in august 1839 to provide grammar school education for the children: Religion, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, German, French, English, history, geography, mathematics, physics, natural history, philosophy, music and drawing were on the schedule. The goal was to prepare the pupils for later university studies. In the first year seven boys and three girls were enrolled.

Welcome to Altenburg, Missouri!

In October 2010 historians from the German Altenburg travelled to the American Altenburg to take part in an international conference named „Home is where our story begins“. Already decades before the genealogist Wilfried Piehler from Gera (Thuringia) established first contacts to Missouri. Inhabitants from Altenburg, Missouri, have already a few times visited Altenburg County in Germany. Some of them surprised the Germans by speaking German with Altenburg dialect from 19th century.

Altenburg Missouri
The American Altenburg is a gemuetlich small town with a living Christian community.

On the two-day conference local historians and genealogists from Missouri presented their research on the history of the town. German historians, as Sabine Hofmann from Lindenau Museum Altenburg, described the history of the German Altenburg. On Friday, March 18th, 7pm, Wilfried Piehler and Klaus and Sabine Hofmann will present the results of this conference at Posterstein Castle. To learn more about the history of Altenburg, Missouri, you should take a look at the book „Altenburg Missouri and the surrounding Parishes” (editor: Mary Beth Mueller Dillon, Lynhorst, Indianapolis, 2010).

(by Marlene Hofmann, also published in Ostthüringer Zeitung, March 16th 2011, http://www.otz.de/)

Loebichau Manor – occasionally 300 guests

Loebichau castle, postcard from 1904 (Museum Burg Posterstein)
Loebichau castle, postcard from 1904 (Museum Burg Posterstein)

Loebichau was mentioned for the first time in the13th century as a moated castle. The old manor house dates back to the 16th century and was rebuilt in 1908.

The neo-classical castle was built in 1796/98 on behalf of Anna Dorothea of Courland. In the castle’s park stood a small theatre at that time. The duchess’ cultural salon had illustrious international visitors; the most famous among them was probably Tsar Alexander I. of Russia. Occasionally more than 300 guests stayed in Loebichau at the same time. The guests were free to time their day at the „court of muses“; and the highlight of the day was the tea time in the evening hours in the grand hall of the castle. Then there was time for small-talk, philosophy, poetry, dance and music – sometimes the guests played theatre plays themselves; also in the smaller castle Tannenfeld, close to Loebichau.

Tannenfeld castle in 2000 (Museum Burg Posterstein)
Tannenfeld castle in 2000 (Museum Burg Posterstein)

As a result of the East German land reform in 1945 the manor’s owners were expropriated. The castle and the economical buildings were strongly modified after 1945. The buildings are housing a nursing home since DDR time. In 2009 the castle and the manor house were pulled down to make room for a new nursing home building of the operating company from Schmoelln. The remaining economical buildings are restored and host the communal administration.

View the about 60 manors of the county of Altenburg on our google map: http://tiny.cc/o27p6.

A part of the museum Burg Posterstein’s permanent exhibition is dedicated to the court of muses in Loebichau and the museum has published the following books, which can be bought in the museum or ordered per e-mail to info@burg-posterstein.de:

Das alte Schloss sehn wir noch heut…
Aus der Geschichte der Rittergüter im Altenburger Land (Teil II)
© Museum Burg Posterstein 2010

…Und nachmittags fuhren wir nach Nöbdenitz segeln!
Rittergüter im Altenburger Land und ihre Gärten
© Museum Burg Posterstein 2007

Text: Marlene Hofmann / Museum Burg Posterstein

Who was buried under a tree?

Die 1000jährige Eiche von Nöbdenitz / the 1000 year old oak of Nobdenitz (c) Museum Burg Posterstein
Die 1000jährige Eiche von Nöbdenitz / the 1000 year old oak of Nobdenitz (c) Museum Burg Posterstein

In Nobdenitz, a small village in Eastern Thuringia, stands an old oak tree. People say that it is about 1000 years old. Last year the local authorities fitted the tree with further support columns to match the requirements of the German traffic regulations. The so called “1000 year old oak” is hollow inside – and houses a minister’s grave.

Nobdenitz once had a manor, which in the 12th century was mentioned fort he first time. The former medieval mouted castle was later converted into a castle. Awhile manor in Nobdeniz was owned by the minister Hans Willhelm von Thummel (1744-1824). Between 1803 and 1808 he was – with diplomatic mission – travelling to Denmark, Berlin, Königsberg (Kaliningrad), Dresden and Paris. As a friend of the duke Ernst from Saxony-Gotha and Altenburg (1745-1804) his influence on court was huge. Today he is still known because of his engagement in the county: He founded one of the first banks (Kammerleihbank), supported the building of roads, mapped the region and founded the local hospital in Altenburg.

East from Nobdenitz castle Thummel had a pleasure garden. From here visitors had a straight-lined view alongside a way to a summer house. A path along the lake invited the guest to dander. Friends of the family, as the duchess Dorothea of Courland (http://www.facebook.com/burgposterstein?v=app_2344061033#!/event.php?eid=166366573376663&index=1), who had a castle near-by in Lobichau, liked to visit Nobdenitz to sail on the lake and to enjoy the view of the old and the new castle.

Before his dead Hans Willhelm von Thummel decided to get buried at an inconvenient place – under the oak of Nobdenitz. He bought the tree from the local church and let arrange a grave between the trees roots. This grave was inspected in 1959 by the local teacher and historian Ernst Braunlich. He documented that there was a small oratory with a wooden bench inside the hollow tree, to commemorate the death. The body lies in a coffin parallel to the street. Today one can only look at the 1000 year old oak from outside. A tablet tells its story.

As a consequence of the East German land reform in 1945 the Nobdenitz Manor’s owners were expropriated. The new castle and large parts of the economical buildings were pulled down. A mausoleum from 1782, the Thummel’s family grave, was pulled down in the end of the 1960s. The manor house, dating back to 1692, still exists and is now used as the communal administration department.

View the about 60 manors of the county of Altenburg on our google map: http://tiny.cc/o27p6.

Read more about castles and manor houses in Altenburg region in the following books, which can be bought in the museum or ordered per e-mail to info@burg-posterstein.de:

Das alte Schloss sehn wir noch heut…
Aus der Geschichte der Rittergüter im Altenburger Land (Teil II)
© Museum Burg Posterstein 2010

…Und nachmittags fuhren wir nach Nöbdenitz segeln!
Rittergüter im Altenburger Land und ihre Gärten
© Museum Burg Posterstein 2007

Text: Marlene Hofmann / Museum Burg Posterstein

What does a sphinx in the county of Altenburg?

Die Sphinx von Prößdorf / the sphinx of Proessdorf (c) Museum Burg Posterstein
Die Sphinx von Prößdorf / the sphinx of Proessdorf (c) Museum Burg Posterstein

In the 15th century a knight’s residence in Proessdorf was mentioned in the records for the first time. The manor’s high period started in 1818, when Carl Heinrich von Tettenborn bought the property. He was said to be a strong admirer of fine arts like architecture, sculpture and painting. He decorated the buildings and the park according to his taste. That included enlargement and rearrangement of the park. After Tettenborns treatment shady access balconies decorated the pleasure garden. An antic pavilion invited the guests to stay. Grots, a number of statues as lions and a sphinx as well as small fountains decorated the park. Exotic plants of all kind blossomed in beds and flower buckets.

The castle Proessdorf, dating back to 18th century, was converted into an apartment building in 1969. The estate buildings, which were built in the 19th century, were expanded in 1906/07. As a consequence of the East German land reform the manor’s owner were expropriated. In the following time the farm buildings were pulled down bit by bit, lastly in 1998. By the installation of apartments between 1969 and 1973 the castle was strongly deformed. Rests of the impressing port are still remaining.

View the about 60 manors of the county of Altenburg on our google map: http://tiny.cc/o27p6.

Read more about castles and manor houses in Altenburg region in the following books, which can be bought in the museum or ordered per e-mail to info@burg-posterstein.de:

Das alte Schloss sehn wir noch heut…
Aus der Geschichte der Rittergüter im Altenburger Land (Teil II)
© Museum Burg Posterstein 2010

…Und nachmittags fuhren wir nach Nöbdenitz segeln!
Rittergüter im Altenburger Land und ihre Gärten
© Museum Burg Posterstein 2007

Text: Marlene Hofmann / Museum Burg Posterstein

The muses’ place in Romschütz

(c) Museum Burg Posterstein: Romschütz
(c) Museum Burg Posterstein: Romschütz

Johann Friedrich I. Bachoff von Echt, since 1700 owner of the Romschütz manor, let construct a baroque pleasure garden in 1712. Admirers describe him as a „man of seldom supremeness of mind and heart“. He let construct an alley that lead from the castle to the so-called “Parnass”-mountain. From the richly decorated rococo hall guests could enjoy a great view over the garden with water basin all the way to the top of the hill. This hill got its name after the second highest mountain in Greece. The over 2000 meter high Parnass mountain is in the Greece mythology considered as the seat of the god Apollo and the muses – a place, where nature, culture and legend meet. In the middle of the 18th century a pavilion in Chinese style stood on the top of the hill in Romschütz.

The Romschütz manor, an earlier medieval mouted castle, was mentioned for the first time in the 13th century. The manor house dates back to the year 1712. The rests of the mouted castle were declared a listed monument in 1960. In 1972 the castle was pulled down and the stronghold lake was filled with the boulder. The economic buildings are still preserved.

View the about 60 manors of the county of Altenburg on our google map: http://tiny.cc/o27p6.

Read more about castles and manor houses in Altenburg region in the following books, which can be bought in the museum or ordered per e-mail to info@burg-posterstein.de:

Das alte Schloss sehn wir noch heut…
Aus der Geschichte der Rittergüter im Altenburger Land (Teil II)
© Museum Burg Posterstein 2010

…Und nachmittags fuhren wir nach Nöbdenitz segeln!
Rittergüter im Altenburger Land und ihre Gärten
© Museum Burg Posterstein 2007

Text: Marlene Hofmann / Museum Burg Posterstein

Vollmershain manor – „with writer and horseman“

Vollmershain 1965, (c) Museum Burg Posterstein
Vollmershain 1965, (c) Museum Burg Posterstein

Vollmershain manor, a former moated castle, could for the first time be documented in the 12th century. In 1580, for example, the manor was owned by Otto von Weissbach. Besides the owner “with writer and horseman” (as cited in the documents), his brother Wolf von Weissbach with “praeceptor” (tutor), his wife, five children, three maidservants and two farm labourers lived there. The manor’s owners shifted quickly during the following decades. For a long period it was owned by the landlords of the neighbouring castle Posterstein.

After fires and reconstruction works the manor today is conserved as a four sided farmyard, which is typical for the region. During DDR-time the farm was used by the LPG (East Germany’s collectivised farms). After 1990 the former owners bought the farm back.

View the about 60 manors of the county of Altenburg on our google map: http://tiny.cc/o27p6.

Read more about castles and manor houses in Altenburg region in the following books, which can be bought in the museum or ordered per e-mail to info@burg-posterstein.de:

Das alte Schloss sehn wir noch heut…
Aus der Geschichte der Rittergüter im Altenburger Land (Teil II)
© Museum Burg Posterstein 2010

…Und nachmittags fuhren wir nach Nöbdenitz segeln!
Rittergüter im Altenburger Land und ihre Gärten
© Museum Burg Posterstein 2007

Text: Marlene Hofmann / Museum Burg Posterstein

Who had a Chinese bath house?

Rittergut Untschen (c) Museum Burg Posterstein
Rittergut Untschen (c) Museum Burg Posterstein

In the 18th century Untschen manor was owned by the minister Hans Wilhelm von Thümmel, who made his mark in the Duchy of Saxony-Gotha-Altenburg by founding one of the first banks, developing road building as well as land surveying. In 1796 he opened the guesthouse “The Golden Dragon” in Untschen, although that was against the next bigger city Schmölln’s laws on fringe area. On the south side of the street, the manor’s brewery was placed in a hop garden. To the manor’s lands belonged a number of lakes, too. Aesthete Thümmel established a project on floating of timber in Untschen as well. Close to the floating lake and the mill he had a Chinese bath house build in 1796. It was called the “temple of Untschen”.

The about 800 year old manor was disappropriated with the land reform in 1945. During the next years a big farm building (1945) and the brewery and the brickyard (1960s) were pulled down. A former administration building served as a guest house up to the 1980s and a former horse stable today rooms a small shop.

View the about 60 manors of the county of Altenburg on our google map: http://tiny.cc/o27p6.

Read more about castles and manor houses in Altenburg region in the following books, which can be bought in the museum or ordered per e-mail to info@burg-posterstein.de:

Das alte Schloss sehn wir noch heut…
Aus der Geschichte der Rittergüter im Altenburger Land (Teil II)
© Museum Burg Posterstein 2010

…Und nachmittags fuhren wir nach Nöbdenitz segeln!
Rittergüter im Altenburger Land und ihre Gärten
© Museum Burg Posterstein 2007

Text: Marlene Hofmann / Museum Burg Posterstein

Poelzig manor – About a noble castle’s continuous decline

Rittergut Poelzig (c) Museum Burg Posterstein

Two thirds of the mediaeval moated castle and church, dating back to the 12th century, still were surrounded by water in 1800. At this time there still existed a four winged access yard and a castle from 1686/87. During the centuries the castle was owned by a great many of dukes, earls and even princes. In the first half of the 19th century, Poelzig was owned by the brothers Prince Ernst and Prince Albert of Sachsen-Coburg-Gotha. The latter was married to Queen Victoria of England.

Slowly disappearing

After a few fires, the access yard and a mausoleum with a half-round altar niche were re-build. In 1936 the castle’s tower was blown up and the castle’s walls except for the still existing first floor were broken off. Only three years later the manor’s owners were expropriated because of the land reform in 1945. As a consequence of that the manor house, the access yard, the barn and the brewhouse were broken off. Today only the castle’s ruin, the gate lodge, the washhouse, the bakery and the carriage house are remaining, as well as parts of the cots for horses, cattle and sheep.

View the about 60 manors of the county of Altenburg on our google map: http://tiny.cc/o27p6.

Read more about castles and manor houses in Altenburg region in the following books, which can be bought in the museum or ordered per e-mail to info@burg-posterstein.de:

Das alte Schloss sehn wir noch heut…
Aus der Geschichte der Rittergüter im Altenburger Land (Teil II)
© Museum Burg Posterstein 2010

…Und nachmittags fuhren wir nach Nöbdenitz segeln!
Rittergüter im Altenburger Land und ihre Gärten
© Museum Burg Posterstein 2007

(c) Marlene Hofmann / Museum Burg Posterstein