Althütte (English)

The first German-Bohemian Settlement in the Bukovina

Norbert Gaschler

 “200 Jahre seit der Gründung von Althütte: Der erste deutschböhmische Ort des Buchenlandes,
in Erinnerungen an Althütte, Bukowina” (Recollections of Althütte, Bukovina)

Augsburg—Querfurt: Landsmannschaft der Buchenlanddeutschen e.V., 2002: 29-36.
Walter Ernst, Ed.; Sophie A. Welisch PhD, Trans.

Posted 26 July 2006


In the decade before the outbreak of World War II the Germans of Bukovina could celebrate three events, which had transpired 150 years earlier: in the summer of 1932 they started in Czernowitz-Rosch and Molodia with the 150th year celebration of the settlement of the first Swabians in Bukovina since it had come under Austrian sovereignty; in the summer of 1936 a great ceremony took place in Jakobeny in commemoration of the settlement of the first Zipsers in Bukovina; and in the summer of 1937 there followed a general fest in Radautz commemorating the settlement of the endowed settlers (Swabians) in the eight Swabian villages of Bukovina.

A half dozen years later marked 150 years since the founding of the first German Bohemian village in Bukovina, and the German Bohemians would surely deservedly have celebrated this event. However, as a result of the outbreak of war and the1940 resettlement the celebration never took place. Perhaps a homeland researcher would have written a “History of Althütte” for this jubilee, and there would at least be accounts on hand from newspapers and periodicals about the founding and development of this oldest German Bohemian village in Bukovina as was the case with the celebrations in Rosch, Molodia, Jakobeny, and Radautz.

If one attempts to reconstruct this narrative now, the undertaking is from the start doomed to incompletion, since it can only be constructed from second or third-hand accounts and therefore again only from limited sources. The chronicle, therefore, is damned to become a torso, a comparatively meager work, which the author has been able to assemble from the still available sources. It moreover appears belated since for him and others the year 1793 has faded from memory. He only recalled it after the resettled villagers from Althütte held their first homeland reunion in their new federal state of Saxe-Anhalt on September 18-19, 1993.

The Krasna Glass Works

1. Reasons for the first settlement of German Bohemians in Bukovina

The main reason for calling the first glassworkers from the Kingdom of Bohemia to Bukovina rests with the principal resource of this region, the forests. There is no book and no major writing about the land, which does not comment on the extensive forests of Bukovina. In 1775 they were almost exclusively owned by the Orthodox bishops of Radautz and the Orthodox (also called Greek Oriental) monasteries. With the consent of Bishop Cherescul of Radautz the majority of these real estates were put under state administration in April 1783 and from April 25, 1785 were taken over by the newly-established Greek Oriental Religious Foundation. This Foundation eased the administration of the former estates of the bishops and the monasteries, which at that time had owned half the land surface of Bukovina, in that it leased them to financially powerful men, who often sub-leased the individual properties. Thus, for example, in 1791 Baron von Lezzeni, who at that time lived in far-off Lemberg (Lviv, Galicia), leased the extensive estates of the Religious Foundation in Kuczurmare Domain (near Czernowitz) and the one in St. Onufry near Sereth for the duration of thirty years without the slightest thought of working them himself. Accordingly, he sub-leased them the same year to Abraham Kriegshaber, who not only must have been wealthy, but also must have had influential friends and patrons in the district office of Czernowitz, with the government in Lemberg or even at the Court of Vienna, since in 1794 he was ennobled and then on December 14, 1818 raised to knighthood as Anton Adam.

In Kuczurmare Kriegshaber created his own lending institution and leased individual estates to sub-leaseholders. For the estates, fields and meadows he found lessees without difficulty but not for the large forested areas. These included the widespread forest west from Czudyn (Romanian Ciudei), which adjoined the estate of the boyar Alexander von Ilski and which later got the name Krasna, then Krasna-Ilski. The lessee could not afford to allow these lands to remain unused. The need for wood for buildings, fireplaces and ovens, for tools and household furnishings could be covered everywhere in Bukovina by the vast forests. Thus he accepted the suggestions of the first two military governors of Bukovina. Count Splény had already expressed in his memoir from the year 1775 and his successor Count Enzenberg in 1779 that it would be reasonable to establish one or more glass works. Raimund Friedrich Kaindl wrote about this in his book about the settlement of Bukovina [Das Ansiedlungswesen in der Bukowina seit der Besitzergreifung durch Österreich, 1902], (p. 343): “Thus without previously informing the Council (in Vienna, NG), Kriegshaber summoned glassmakers from German Bohemia, who in 1793 built the first glass works in Bukovina.” For two decades all official sources referred to it as the “Krasna glassworks.”

2. Its Development

 About the operations of this glassworks there is little that is known, Kaindl continues. He could only state this in comparison with the two other glassworks, in Putna and Fürstenthal (Romanian: Voivodeasa), about which he wrote in some detail. He, as well as Wickenhauser, whose collected manuscripts and notes Kaindl obtained from his estate, knew nothing about the sources for these two contemporaries, since these lay in the Vienna archives. It is to the credit of Dr. Rudolf Wagner that he had them published.

a) According to the treasurer Johann Modes from Radautz who on April 30, 1794 wrote to retired treasurer Ferdinand Dans: “that the glassworks in Krasna produces the loveliest glass and that the demand is so strong that one cannot fill the orders to satisfy all the buyers. . .” (Dr. R. Wagner, p. 186)

b) The cameral director in St. Illie, Albert von Kugler, wrote to the same treasurer Dans on October 10, 1794: “The glassworks in Krasna has a hollow and a plate glass oven. These two ovens together consist of sixteen earthen vessels or crucibles . . . The produced glass is very nice and clean although the gravel or vitreous sand is not near the glass works but rather is brought at a high cost from Uhrynkowce, District of Zalesczyk as is also the crucible glue (Tiegelleim) from Dziewieczicz of the Lubaczow Domain. Only the dense forest and the ease of making potash have produced a glassworks in Krasna” (Wagner, p. 141). Kugler maintains that it was only the forest that had enabled a glass works to be established in Krasna. The acquisition of gravel and crucible glue over great distances for those times from neighboring Galicia confirms the sentiment of Baron Enzenberg that through his many travels through Bukovina he very rarely found the necessary ingredients for glass production, namely the fine white pebbles in the mountain streams.

If the raw materials for glass production had to be transported from so far a distance involving additional expenses, then the glassworks could not have generated a very high profit for the lessees; nonetheless, they provided the salaries and thereby the livelihood for the glass workers and their families.

That the lessee Kriegshaber was satisfied with the development of his new enterprise is confirmed by the fact that as early as 1799 he began recruiting “available lumbermen” from the region of Trenczin (at that time belonging to Hungary, now to Slovakia), from whence especially in the spring of 1803 several hundred Slovaks came to Bukovina, some of whom were hired by the Krasna glassworks (Kaindl, p. 179 and Church registries).

Although it is asserted that sales were insignificant and went primarily to Lemberg, there was at least no threat to the continuation of the glassworks for additional ten years. It was not so bad as to render the “ovens cold,” as the shutting down of a glass works was termed at that time.

3. Its transfer

In the region of the central Bohemian Forest the circumstances which befell the Krasna glass works had already existed for more than 200 years, namely, the surrounding forest was slowly but steadily cleared and the glass works had to be relocated. Josef Blau devotes a special chapter, ”Glashütten wandern” (glassworks wander) to this phenomenon in his book, Die Glasmacher in Böhmer- und Bayerwald  (The glassmakers in the Bohemian and Bavarian Forest). On p. 27 he notes: “The initial glassworks was almost always a roaming enterprise. When the supply of wood in a valley was exhausted, the glassworks ate its way ever further and higher into the forest, similar to the nomadic wandering shepherds, who with tent and herd always traveled further, looking for patches of grass.” And he complained to the central government that from 1651 the glassmasters from Bohemian Seewiesen had twice penetrated the forest. This was likewise noted in 1599 of the Schönbrunn glassworks in the Bavarian Forest, which in about 1650, i.e., forty years later and again seventy years afterwards, had had to ”move on” to richer stands of wood.

The same thing happened to the Krasna glassworks after the gradual depletion of the wood supply in close proximity. Glass production began to decline between 1812-1814 and closed down between 1814-1817. Finally the building collapsed (Kaindl, p. 346). For this reason in 1816 a new glassworks was constructed in the dense forest in the area of Czudyn, about a half-hour away. It was simply called Neuhütte  (new glass works) to distinguish it from Althütte (old glass works). Consequently a new settlement arose, at first officially called Czudyner Hütte. A number of workers from the old glassworks moved on to Neuhütte. In that many of the original 1793 settlers or else their descendants were no longer alive, unable to work, did not want to relocate, or in the meantime had changed their occupation, the number of specialists did not suffice for the new glass installation. Lessee Kriegshaber had to renew his recruitment of glassworkers from Bohemia.  Their number is not noted; in any event, the population of Neuhütte increased substantially through migration. The new names are later recorded in the Church books and affiliated records.

4. The end of the new glass works

In 1821 the thirty-year lease had expired and the owner, the Religions Foundation—Kuczurmare Domain, reclaimed the glassworks’ buildings in order to run them itself. For this purpose, the Domain signed a contract with the residents of Althütte and Neuhütte for 1821-1827.  Relatively speaking, much is known about the conditions of ownership, property taxes and corvée labor during this period but nothing about the glassworks itself. Therefore, nothing more can be reported about it. This also holds true for the next decade. Before Kaindl concludes his chapter about Althütte and Neuhütte with the number of residents, the historian notes in 1902: “The glass factory in Neuhütte has also been closed for many decades. The colonists turned to other pursuits; only a few found employment in the glass factory of Lunka Frumosa, the last of the Bukovina glassworks.” (Kaindl, p. 353; The yearbooks of the Bukovina Industrial Council and Commercial Council, founded in 1851, have not yet been researched.)

5. The origin of the settlers

a) The Bohemians.  Old extant reports about the first settlers of Krasna, respectively about Althütte and Neuhütte, state that they came “from Bohemia,” more specifically “from west Bohemia.” A reason for this vague reference to the region of origin lies in the fact that the researcher had no access to the parish records for Althütte until the 1820s, although they had already been maintained for the earlier years. More about this elsewhere.

Based on names which have sustained themselves in the community for over 150 years and also on the few references to the place of birth of individual persons, we can assume that they all came from the central Bohemian Forest (illustrated through recent research by Michael Augustin at the 2002 convention of the Landsmannschaft der Buchenlanddeutschen [Regional Association of Bukovina Germans]), where there had once existed a long chain of glassworks, among them two which by 1793 had fallen into economic distress. Two of the grandchildren of glassmakermaster Johann Georg (Hansjörg) Hafenbrädl (died May 5, 1769 at age eighty-five), who had risen in wealth and prominence, were in a state of indebtedness. One, Hans Wenzel Hafenbrädl, glassmaster of the Gerl glassworks near Seewiesen, had incurred debts of 9,000 florins and 15,000 florins, i.e., 24,000 florins for delivered potash, which he had received from two firms. He hoped to recover financially by building a new crystal glass works in Rozineczka near Lubaczow in Galicia and to take a number of his glassworkers with him. This happened in 1793. Six years later he had incurred a debt of 10,000 florins and declared bankruptcy. His possessions in the old homeland were also auctioned off. The proverb, “glass and luck, how easily they break!” became harsh reality for him personally and for his compatriots. The latter sought new luck and in 1797 came to Krasna, where the second glass works of Bukovina had been constructed.

In 1788 the second grandchild, Felix Hafenbrädl, acquired the Storn glassworks near Eisenstein. He had connections to firms in Milan and Amsterdam and was the first in the family known as a manufacturer. As his cousin, he, too, incurred debts, but not in the same dimension, and likewise for potash, which a commercial firm in Prague delivered to him. While staying in Amsterdam in the winter of 1791-1792 in order to sell the glass that had been sent there, he was arrested for indebtedness and unable to sell his glass. His mother-in-law no doubt bailed him out because in the spring of 1792 he was free. But his Storn glassworks in the meantime lay inactive. The enterprise again resumed production and continued until 1808.

The “cold oven” in Storn in the years 1791-1792 was perhaps a suggestion that the unemployed glassmakers of this glass installation had accepted Krieghaber’s recruitment and came to Krasna. Thence arises the thought that the first settlers near Krasna-Althütte hailed from the vicinity of the Storn glassworks north of the Spitzberg near Eisenstein in the Bohemian Forest. If this is only a speculation, then their economic need, on the other hand, is a certainty they led them to take this step. They namely came based only on oral promises of salary as well as lodgings and without written agreement. At home they were without work and bread, but they had their little home or at least a place to live, which they now surrendered based on oral promises; nor could they take their household furnishings and utensils on the long trip and moreover on foot through “virgin forest” to Krasna. This was a huge gamble to which the people committed themselves 200 years ago, since one thing they knew with certainty: all that awaited them was forest, otherwise nothing. But their hopes for a better life were stronger than all other considerations. It can be assumed that they were primarily young people, who are generally the most mobile of the population when it comes to migration.

b) The Slovaks.  In 1803 this hope also motivated Slovaks to come to Bukovina when the lessee Kriegshaber solicited them. For them the same proverb held true: “He who travels with hope, has poverty as the coachman.” We know of no other reason why they may have left their homeland. They came from the administrative district of Trenczin in former Upper Hungary, Trentschin, today officially Trenčin in the Slovak Republic, which lies about 100 kilometers northeast of the capital city of Pressburg/Bratislava. Of the several hundred Slovaks, some came as lumbermen for the Krasna glassworks. As with the German Bohemians who had arrived a decade earlier, a more exact number is likewise unknown. Thirty years later fifty-one Slovak families (between 1835-1841) were recorded for Althütte and Neuhütte at which time most of them were lumbermen. According to official records these Catholic Slovaks were recorded as residents of these villages, although in actuality they were living elsewhere in the domain of the Religious Foundation in Kuczurmare.

After their unsuccessful 1821 petition to Emperor Francis I for allotment of properties, forwarded on January 25, 1822 by the Court Council in Lemberg  to the Bukovina authorities, about forty families from Krasna settled in the new community of Pojana Mikuli in 1841. The negative reply of the district inspector, Franz Schubert, is noteworthy. On June 29, 1822 he wrote that there is no longer a domain that has more land on which to settle about eighty or 130 families (from Krasna and Tereblestie) as a compact group and continued: “They settled near the glassworks near Krasna where the lessee assigned them forested lands for building purposes and where they could use the wood. The German Bohemians are also there but do not consider asking for settlement since they know that they can sustain themselves by the exertion of their energy and have no fortune other than their healthy arms” (Kaindl, p. 213). A recognition and official praise for the German Bohemian co-residents.