Noteć (Netze) River Village Photographs

by John W. Teske

In early 2005, I commissioned photographing certain villages along a stretch of the Noteć (Netze) River from Szamocin (Samotschin) to Osiek nad Notecia (Netzthal), Poland where it is known that Teske family members lived in the late 17th and 18th centuries. Some Teske families immigrated to Russia in 1809 or later to America. Others remained for several generations until 1947 when the country was returned to native Polish citizens. In 1944, many Teske families living in Russia joined a trek to refugee camps near Wielun’ (Welun), Poland. Ironically this was only 150 statute miles and 123 years from where they started in 1809 when they immigrated from Żulawka Mala (Zeckwerder), Poland to Neudorf and other villages in Russia. In 1947, an agreement between Allied governments to re-establish the country of Poland resulted in a second trek to send Germans residing on Polish lands to the west to post WWII Germany. I was interested in what remained today of family villages in Poland.

Photographers were two young ladies Kasia Grucza and Magda Smolka who along with their colleagues provide photography, genealogy and guide services in Poland. They are headquartered in Posen. Pictures provided in this series were taken May 11, 2005, which in the spring of the year shows scenes with little green vegetation. In each photograph, I identified the location first in Polish and then German in parenthesis, and provided a short description of the scene. This narration is based in part upon the photographer’s observations. You can explore more at

Szamocin (Samotschin)
The town today is neat and orderly. Traces of Germans residing there can be seen in the architecture. As with most photographs in this series, a distinction between early 18th century and later construction is evident in the type of construction. Early construction would be clay and timber which is later covered with stucco. Later construction is brick. In Szamocin, there were both Catholic and Lutheran churches. Today there are almost exclusively Catholics, the predominant religion in Poland. Pictures will be seen of a Lutheran church c. 1825 which has been converted to a Catholic church. Two of the photographs are of a German cemetery. Green paint on the fence indicates that it has been recently cared for. It could not be learned for sure if records exist of those buried there. Johann Christoph (Johannes) Teske, son of Johann Teske and Anna Marie Wert was born and baptized here in 1805. Anna Marie and Johann Christoph emigrated in 1809 to Neudorf, Russia where she married Christian Bischke.

Heliodorowo (Helldorf)
The current Polish cemetery is interesting. Village streets appear to be compacted dirt which most likely follows the same routes as when German colonists resided here. A combination of old clay and timber and new brick construction can be seen. A blacksmith Martin Eldor Teske and family lived here along with other Teske families. Martin and his family emigrated from here to Wisconsin in 1864 where he continued his blacksmith trade.

Żulawka Mala (Zickwerder)
When villages were renamed after 1947, both Zickwerder and Friedrichshorst were combined and named Żulawka . However, to differentiate between them, the photographer added the word Mala (small) and Dura (large) to make the distinction. Zickwerder is the village where Christian Teske, his wife Anne Christine Henke and family lived. Born in Zickwerder were Karl Ludwig in 1802, Johann Friedrich in 1804, and Anna Marie in 1807. The family emigrated from here in 1809 to Neudorf, Russia in the Glückstal colonies.

Żulawka Dura (Friedrichshorst)
Many Teske families lived here, and as with all Teskes living along the Netze River, they are believed to be related. Early architecture is distinguished by clay and timber construction with stucco overlay as well as later brick construction. Roads are compacted dirt to this day.

Polanowo (Eichfelde)
It is not certain if this village of Eichfelde just south of Wirsitz, or a second Eichfelde south of Zickwerder is where Christian Teske and family might have lived for a short time. The second Eichfelde appears in early 1878 atlas, but not on later maps. The truth may never be known. These pictures are of the first Eichfelde, just south of Wirsitz. The second Eichfelde of a few houses apparently no longer exists. Christian Teske, son of Christian Teske and Anne Christine Henke, in 1799 was born in one of the Eichfeldes.

Noteć (Netze) River
These pictures are of fish ponds and the Netze River. The fish ponds are at the intersection of routes 191 and 194. They are a later addition. They do not appear on 1878 maps but provide a good source of food for residents. Several pictures are of the Netze River showing dikes built by German colonists to contain the river for low land reclamation. The bridge over the Netze River is in the same location as shown on early maps, but probably of more recent construction.

Wyrzysk (Wirsitz)
This town was important to German colonists and their descendents since records were kept in a Lutheran church built here in 1772, the year of the first partition of Poland. That is also the year used to estimate when German colonists first settled along this stretch of the Netze River to build dikes, construct the Bromberg canal and establish new villages. The Bromberg canal to this day connects the Netze and Wista (Vistula) Rivers. The Lutheran church no longer exists. Disposition of their records is not certain, but current genealogy research seems to indicate that at least some of these records survived. The Catholic church shown in the photographs was built in 1859 on the site of a previous one.

Osiek nad Notecia (Netzthal)
This is the largest village in the area. Most of the photographs are of a museum showing typical houses (German) of early settlers along the Netze River. Photographs are not clear, but there are two windmills on the museum site. This would indicate that early settlers arrived from northern Europe such as Pomerania, Mecklenburg or Holland where windmills and land reclamation is commonly used as it was along the Netze River.