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400 years on the Isle of Fehmarn, the Hofeldt family

By Karin Kleingarn

The isle of Fehmarn is in the Baltic-sea between the peninsula "Wagrien" belong to Holstein and the Danish isle of Lolland.

The isle of Fehmarn is without forest and flat. The land is fertile and is suitable for agriculture (wheat, oilseed rape, barley). Agriculture and stockbreeding have been the main source of income. Today the tourism is an important part. Megalithic graves and tools out of stone indicate settlement 4000 years ago.

Between the 8th and 12th century the island was inhabited by the slaves ("Slawen"). The priest Helmold of Bosau mentioned in his chronicle of the slaves ("Slawenchronik") in 1170 the settlement of the slavish "Wenden". After changeable and armed conflicts with the "Slawen" the colonization began. First the "Schauenburger count Adolf 11" let have them the northeast comer of Holstein and the isle of Fehmarn. But shortly afterwards also this region became a colony of the "Saxons". Settlers of Holstein, Westfalen and Friesland came to the isle of Fehmarn. Then the Danish duke "Waldemar" defeated the duke of the saxons. In 1202 he became king and was accepted as "rex slavorum". 1231-1254, an expert opinion of Fehmarn, named " Waldemarsches Erdbuch" was delivered.. In that time only IO villages, are inhabited by the slaves, the others are Saxons. Today, some of the names remind of that time. Schlagsdorf - Slavesdorf-> village of the slaves Dänschendorf -> village of the Danish. Today, some of the places have slavish names: Püttsee, Presen, Puttgarden.

Around 1230, the church of Landkirchen was built. It is the oldest church on the isle of Fehmarn.

Between the Danish king and the counts of Holstein, Fehmarn was bone of contention for centuries. The continuing fight over the power had a disastrous effect on the island-people from time to time.

Fehmarn belonged to the counts of Holstein. But the Danish king "Erich der Pommer" wouldn't accept that. 1416, June 6th, he occupied the island. The people living on Fehmarn had to pay homage to him. He demanded a lot of money. The people couldn't pay. Then he took away twenty hostages, altogether men of noble birth. He let them be tortured to death. Now, Heinrich III, count of Holstein, would win back the island.

What should the "Fehmaraner" do? Since they had paid homage to the Danish king, they were swearted enemies of the Holstein. But they had to capitulate and pay treasure of fire. 1416, Oct. 23rd, Fehmarn belongs to Holstein again. In 1420 king Erich came back. He was unsuccessful landing on the island twice. The inhabitants ridiculed the Danish army.

They called: "When a cow can spin silk, then king Erich shall win our land!" Because of that the Danish got furious. Finally, king Erich succeeded by using a trick. He landed on the island. Now a terrible massacre began. People were tortured and killed, buildings were set on fire, and churches were devastated. This incident is the saddest in the history of the isle of Fehmarn.

Even today, people tell the legend of it: At last, when the whole island burnt, king Erich came into the church of Landkirchen. The organ played for itself and the "Marienkrone" sweated blood.  Now the king got anxious.  He changed his mind and stopped murdering. Many people had died, many had fled.  The isle of Fehmarn was almost deserted. At last the fighters made peace.

In 1424, the count of Holstein got Fehmarn back. The count called for settlers. They didn't have to pay tax for five years.

Claus Hogeveld lived in that time. The oldest tax-list named "Settinghe der Kirche Landkirchen" in 1552. "De olde Clawes Hogeveld" of Lemkenhafen payed one "Gulden". Since he was called "the old", there must have been also a young Clawes Hogeveld. The old must have been older than fifty years, the younger about 20 years old.

Claus Hogeveld owned a house and a few acres. Not many farm land belonged to Lemkenhafen. This settlement wasn't mentioned in the "Waldemarsches Erdbuch 1329". The place was the harbor of Lemkendorf the inhabitants lived as sailors, fishers, labors, boatswainers. Because the water there is very shallow, the ships couldn't land. The laborers and boatpeople had to bring the grain in flat boats to the ships, lying in the roads. In the Lübecker-time and after until 1510 the little place Lemkenhafen had rights of a town and an own signet with a lambkin.

Many ships sailed from Lemkenhafen across the Baltic sea to Norway, England, Spain.

But Lübeck and the Hanse lost their importance. The Hollandish became rivals in the trade with Russia.

In 1492, Columbus discovered America. Spain and Portugal dominated in world trade. The Baltic sea lost it's importance.

In the church of Landkirchen the oldest bell is dated 1494. It's inscription says "O Jesu, König der Ehren, dein Augen du nach mir kehre. (= 0 Jesus, king of honour, your eyes look at me)".

In his life, Clawes Hogeveld experienced many changes. He belonged to the Roman catholic church like all people. In 1517, Martin Luther pinned up his 95 theses at the castle church of Wittenberg.

In 1542, Luther's doctrine was introduced in Schies-,Aig-Holstein. Often, the last catholic priest was the first lutheran pastor. Luther didn't only have his importance for the church, but also in a different respect: Only priests could read the bible in Latin. Luther translated the Holy Scripture because all people should read it for themselves. But first he had to found a standardized language. In Bavaria, Sachsen or on the isle of Fehmarn people spoke very differently. Luther is the creator of the German standard language.

On Fehmarn the people spoke low-german. The name Hogeveld means "dat hoge Feld = the high placed field". After Luther, the name Hogeveld changed into Hochfeld (high-German).

We don't know anything about the next descendants of Clawes Hogeveld.In the 30-year-war (1618-1648), in all places in Germany, the parishbooks were destroyed.

In 1580, the Danish king Friedrich 11 had a "Lehnstag" in Odense/Fiinen. He gave the isle of Fehmarn to the counts of Schleswig and the dukedom Schleswig as a fief. In a contract, the counts committed to serve him in war with soldiers. In Odense, the king gave the rules the document of fief. He also gave the isle of Fehmarn a banner- the golden crown in blue damast. It shows, the Danish crown.

In 1581 in Italy they had a high cost of living. Trade with grain brought riches to Fehmarn. Farmers with a lot of farmland participated in speculative operations. In 1610, there was a monetary reform. It released on Fehnarn a wave of bankruptcies. Out of that time the "Wardierungsprotokolle" are preserved ["wardieren" means to tax the procession).

 In 1610, Hans Hogefeld in Sulsdorf is mentioned with his fields as a neighbor of an indebted farmer. He was also mentioned in 1621 until 1643 in Sulsdorf. He was buried in Petersdorf March 29th 1658. In the parishbooks of Petersdorf Feb. 5th 1651, there is written “Hans Hogefeldes Frau von der Wasserburg begraben = The wife of Hans Hogefeld, living on the watercastle, buried in Petersdorf”. Watercastle also today is a place near Sulsdorf at the way to the harbor of Orth.

In Oct 5th 1621, Dorthe Hogeveld was buried and in 1622, an illegitimate child Hogefeld was christened. It might be that Hans Hogefeld had one or two sisters and one brother. In a remainder of the oldest parishbook in 1617 you can read "Claus Hogefeldes had his son Claus christened." The father Claus H. is mentioned in Sulsdorf in 1615, in 1618 only his spouse.

The son was born in a very important year. On July 13th 1617, the count Johann Friedrich hevested in his "confinnatio libertatis" that the aristocracy never be allowed buying land and buildings on the isle of Fehmarn. He would protect the privileges and freedoms of the inhabitants of Fehmarn. Because of that the future of Fehmarn got a different development from many other parts of the continental of Holstein. Never the Fehmaraner became serfs as in Großenbrode, where later on Chr. Reis was born, near Fehmarn. Serfs couldn't change their job and couldn't move to another place. They couldn't marry without permission of their ruler. They lived like slaves.

The isle of Fehmarn remained free! In harvest 1661 Christian Albrecht, duke of Schleswig, let registered all men in the villages of Fehmarn (out of Burg) older than 18 years. In this list there were only one person named Hofeldt: Claus Hogefelt, 45 years old in Sulsdorf. Claus Hogefelt married a daughter of Marx Hintze (Hinz). We know about that because he brought in action against his father-in-law in 1654. On Sept. 16th 1657, he is mentioned as a godfather by Anke, daughter of Marx Hintz (a brother-in-law?).

In Feb. 1625 they had a dreadful storm.  The water of the Baltic Sea caused a lot of damage in the villages near the coast, also in Sulsdorf.  The 30-year war caught the isle of Fehmarn in 1627 until 1634 – a bad time with poverty, misery and epidemics.

In 1637 the winter was very cold.  The Baltic Sea frozen between Kiel and Fehmarn. On June 29th 1644 the Swedish navy landed near Puttgarden and attacked the 400 Danish soldiers and the army of the farmers.

All the church bells were ringing for calling men who were able to fight. When the fighters of the Westerkirchspiel (= parish of Petersdorf) arrived at the battlefield, the Swedish had already won. Many Fehmaraner died. The Swedish mayor demanded war taxes, wheat and horses. After the Danish king Christian appeared near Fehmarn on July 1st with his ships, the Swedish left the island. In Sept 1644 the Swedish were already back on Fehmarn. They remained the winners. In 1645 Denmark had to cede the isle of Gotland and other areas. The 30-years-war was at it's end but the people of the isle of Fehmarn went on living with war. War between Sweden and Denmark. The German emperor sent troops helping the Danish king. After that the king of Denmark and his brother-in-law, who had been duke of Schleswig, had an argument about their heir. Duke Christian Albrecht had to acknowledge the sovereignty of the king about Schleswig and the isle of Fehmarn.

 In 1683 the Danish king occupied the isle of Fehmarn. On January 16th 1648 Jürgen Hochfeld - son of Claus - married Gardrut (Drütje) Micheel in Petersdorf. We know about three children: Claus, Drewes and Carsten. The widow Drütje Hochfeld was mentioned on June 25th 1712 as a godmother of Tilje (Mathilde), daughter of Claus Hochfeld in Püttsee. Drütje Hofeld died on Oct 5th 1721 in Sulsdorf.

 Again there was war between Denmark and Sweden named the "Nordische Krieg war of the north". The Fehmaraner had to pay a lot of tax for war. In that time of plenty of war-burden, Claus married Antje. We don't know her surname. We know about three children:

 a) Jürgen born Dec 3rd 1712 in Sulsdorf. He was a weaver of linen in Püttsee. There he died Sept. 23rd 1764. He married Nov. 11th 1737 Telsche Stockfisch. They had six children.

 b) Carsten born Sept. 25th 1716 in Sulsdorf. He died May 11th 1785 in Dänschendorf as a farmhand.  He married June 1st 1746 Trinke (Catharina) Rahmberg, born Jan. 23rd 1719 in Vadersdorf. They had five children.

 c) Antje born Nov. 5th 1721 in Sulsdorf

 Carsten and Trinke Hofeldt in Dänschendorf had five children:

 1) Claus born March 16th 1747 in Dänschendorf. He died July 26th 1786 in Dänschendorf.

 On Nov. 2nd 1779 he married Dorothea Prüßing in Petersdorf, born in Niendorf as a daughter of a farmer. They had three children. After Carsten's death the widow married Nov. 4th 1788 Marx Brügger in Vadersdorf.

 2) Hans born Jan. 1st 1750 in Dänschendorf. He died Dec. 30th 1807 in Landkirchen.

 He married 1. Nov. 8th 1785 Anna Carbuhn, daughter of a weaver Lemkendorf, born March 17th 1762. She died March 8th 1786 - childless.

 Hans married 11. Nov. 2nd 1787 Gerdrut Maas, bom Dec. 6th 1752 as a daughter of a farmer in Gammendorf. She died in Bisdorf June 5th 1782. She was the widow of Melchior Serck. They had one son.

 3) Jürgen born Nov. 26th 1751 in Dänschendorf, laborer, fisher, boatswainer in Lemkenhafen. He died before Feb. 18th 1812.

 He married first Dec. 18th 1787 Anna von Rehn, daughter of a fisher in Albertsdorf. She was a widow of Lorenz Muus in Lemkenhafen and died in Lemkenhafen April 28th 1802.

 He married next June 20th 1803 Margaretha Fürböter, born June 12th 1776 as a daughter of a smith in Gammendorf. They had three children, only one is grown up. The widow married the miller Carl Wordag in Sartjendorf.

 4) Christian born Sept. 18th 1753 in Dänschendorf. He died in Dänschendorf in 1754

 5) Christian born Oct. 12th 1759 in Dänschendorf. First he was a shoemaker.

 He married first in Oldenburg/Holstein April 12th 1787 Hedwig Cath. Margaretha Kühl, widow of Mr. Tanck in Oldenburg. She died April 9th 1793. They had one son, Anton Johann, born Jan. 23th 1788.

 He married next in Oldenburg/Holstein Aug. 22nd 1793 Anna Catharina Elsabe Plambeck. They had one son, Joachim Wilhelm (Oct. 27th 1794 - June 7th 1802).

 In Oldenburg he worked as a servant of the police. 1795 and 1796 they had eight fires in Oldenburg with robbery. The chief culprit was the wife Hochfeld. Her husband was an accomplice. The woman was arrested for life, but pardoned in 1817. Christian Hochfeld was sentenced in Rendsburg to hard labor of one year. When he returned, the inhabitant of Oldenburg was allowed to banish him from the town with an animal relief. Nothing further is known about him.

 His son Anton Johann was a tanner in Oldenburg. He was married twice. In his first marriage he had two daughters and one son (stillborn). He died Feb. 27th 1836. The second marriage was childless.

 Hans Hofeldt worked as a farmhand. When he married the widow Gertrud Serck in Bisdorf, he was called a "Hauswirt". That's a little farmer. Now he worked at the place of his spouse's first husband, named Melchior Serck. On Oct. 10th 1787 Melchior was born. One day later they christened him in their house because he was very weak.

 On June 8th 1789 the spouse of Hans died. Now he had to take care of his little son, also of his stepchildren Dorothea and Hans Serck. It had been a hard, worried time.

 In France the revolution began. In America the United States got a constitution of their own. In 1789 George Washington became president.  

In 1804, Napoleon Bonaparte put on the imperial crown in France. He defeated Austria and Prussia. In 1806, the emperor Franz II. abdicated under the pressure of napoleon. It was the end of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, which had existed since the 10th century and consisted of several German territorial principles.

Now Napoleon wished to defeat England with a trade blockade named “Kontinentaisperre”. Napoleon forced Prussia and Russia for participation. Nobody was allowed to buy English products. English goods were confiscated. Now an English squadrom appeared near the Fehmamsund. The English envoy Jackson demanded the extradition of the Danish flat. Now the Danish government began with armament. Also on Fehmarn the people had to guard the coast. Then England bombed Copenhagen. As a reaction on that, Denmark entered into alliance with France. England declared war against Denmark. The English marine controlled the Baltic Sea.

Norway belonged to Denmark. They didn't have grain. Ships tried to bring it through the enemy fleet to Norway. Many ships, also from the isle of Fehmarn, were stolen, burned, displaced by the English. In this time, Melchior Hofeldt married Sara Margaretha Meislahn (Meuslahn). She was born Oct. 10th 1774 in Gollendorf. Her father Carsten Meislahn was a shipper, also his son Hans. In 1808, Hans should be employed for transporting Danish troops from Fehmarn to Lolland. But he said he couldn't because he had to take care of his old father, the mother and some brothers and sisters. His father died Dec. 11th 1808.

It was a poor time. Nobody had cash. The government produced notes. But it was valueless, because you couldn't change it. Because of the war they didn't have any trade and traffic on the island. The taxes went up. Navigation was impossible. Traders, craftsmen and farmers became poor. In this time, Margaretha's brother Hans Meislahn returned from Lübeck with his ship. During this travel, he crossed the English control. He arrived on the isle of Fehmarn with an iron chest. And now Hans Meislahn was a rich man. The chest was filled with gold and silver. Nobody knew the truth and where it came from. On Aug. 9th 1810, Hans Meislahn became godfather of his nephew Hans Hofeldt in Landkirchen. Now Hans Meislahn stayed. at home. He established a trade of grain. He was owner of some ships. He bought the farm ,Flügge" and later on the farm “Bellevue”. There he built a respectable house. There he lived like an aristocratic. He died in 1852 at “Bellevue”. When the port of Burgstaaken was built, his son Nikolaus opened a grain store there. Joachim Wilhelm Beyer, great-great-grandfather of Karin Kleingarn, managed this part of the trade.

People said: “No luck in unjustly earned money”. The son Hans Emil was missed in America since 1852. His successor Nikolaus died in 1866, also his grandson. So the company was closed. Nobody of the family was interested in “Bellevue”. Nobody of the family was living there. The house went to the bad, the garden ran wild. In 1896, granddaughter Mathilde Friederike Wisser-Meislahn sold “Bellevue”. She founded the ,Meislahnsche Familienstiftung". In memory to Carsten Meislahn, who died Dec. 11th 1808, poor members of the family should be supported.

Hans Hofeldt was born Aug. 4th 1810. In 1812, Napoleon had to withdraw from Russia beaten. Napoleon experienced a military disaster. Now the states of Russia, Prussia and Austria began the war of liberation against Napoleon. In that war soldiers fought for the first time not for their sovereignty, but for liberty and patriotism. In Oct. 1813 (”Völkerschlacht bei Leipzig”), they defeated the French troops. Now the Swedish prince Bemadeotte with German, Russian and Swedish troops fought against the Danish king because he had been in alliance with Napoleon. So the Swedish and Russian soldiers and “Kosaken” arrived on the isle of Fehmarn on Christmas 1813. In the winter of 1813/14 named “Kosakenwinter”, Fehmaraner had to pay a war-tax. But they didn't have enough money. so they had to give silver also horses. Behind peace negotiations, Denmark had to acced Norway to Sweden. Denmark experienced a bad time. In 1813, there was the Danish government bankruptcy. It was a result of the “Kontinentalsperre” and war.

Melchior and Margaretha Hofeldt had four children. a) Hans born in Landkirchen Aug. 4th 1810

b) Nicolaus Christian born in Landkirchen Nov. 10th 1812, died Landkirchen Nov. 20th 1812

c) Gertrud Margarethe born in Landkirchen April 13th 1814, died in Landkirchen April 26th 1815

d) Catharina Margaretha born in Landkirchen May 26th 1817, died Landkirchen Jan. 22nd 1818

After the war against Napoleon, the people were more patriotic. People in Schleswig-Holstein looked south. Their culture and language was German. They wished to have an own state of Schleswig-Holstein in an fuederalism Germany. The Germans became more German, the Danish became more Danish. - Hans Hofeldt became a wheelmaker. On May 19th 1837 he married Martha Claussen in Burg.

They lived together in Ostermarkelsdorf Martha (or Margaretha) was born Oct. 17th 1815 in Vitzdorf Her father Hinrich Claussen was a laborer and came from Rantrum near Husum (North Sea).

On Aug. 26th 1814, Hinrich Claussen and Elsabe Catharina Weiland married. She was born in Presen on March 30th 1771. She first married March 28th 1794 Claus Venninghausen. He descended of a noble family. On Dec. 3rd 1788, his father went from Vitzdorf to Burg in the afternoon. In the evening he didn't find the way back, because they had a snow-storm. The next day his family found him. He was frozen to death. His family got poor. Claus Venninghausen died May 26th 1809. His widow worked as a midwife. She died Jan. 15th 1833.

The grandfather Johann Joachim Weiland of Elsabe Catharina Weiland was a lutheran pastor in Bannesdorf.

His father Joachim Weiland was pastor in Wolgast/Pommem. Johann Joachim studied in Kiel in 1719. The people in Großenbrode wanted to choose him to be their pastor.

But they lived like slaves and their landowner wished to have another candidate. So Weiland crossed the Fehmamsund and became pastor on the isle of Fehmarn.

 His son Jacob married Gertrud Schmidt on Nov. 16th 1758. His father-in-law, farmer Jürgen Schmidt in Puttgarden, gave him a farm of his own in Presen.

 Godmother of Martha Claussen was Margaretha Weiland from Presen, a sister of her mother.

 The winter 1837/38 was long and hard. The Fehmamsund was covered with ice. You could cross it with a horse-drawn vehicle. Many people were freezing to death because firewood was scanty and expensive. In this winter Margaretha Sophia was born in Ostermarkelsdorf on March 8th 1838. Her godmother was Margaretha Meislahn from Bellevue. Her godfather was her grandfather Hinrich Claussen in Vitzdorf.

 The family now moved to Landkirchen. There the other seven children were born. Later on, they lived in Gammendorf and then near Albertsdorf.

 The tension between Denmark and Schleswig-Holstein became stronger. There was war in the time of the birth of Hans Wilhelm and Carl Heinrich Ferdinand.

 The Danish government planned the separation of Schleswig and Holstein. Schleswig with the isle of Fehmarn should be a part of the Danish kingdom. In the agreement (contract) of Ripen in 1460 was written that Schleswig and Holstein were never to be separated. It was said in low German: “Dat se bliven ewich tosamende ungedeelt.”

In March 1848, the Schleswig-Hoisteiner called out an own government in Kiel. In the whole district the people rejoiced, also on the isle of Fehmarn. There they prepared for an offensive of the Danish.

 Armed conflicts followed and in 1851 Danish troops occupied Fehmarm. In the whole land of Schleswig-Holstein, patriotism people had to leave their homeland. The Danish government didn't give up 1st plans. Schleswig-Holstein protested against it in Copenhagen and by the German Union. In 1864, the war began. Prussia and Austria helped the Schleswig-Holsteiner. The Prussian troops defeated the Danish near Düppel in the dukedom of Schleswig. But still Danish soldiers stayed on the isle of Fehmarn. In March 1864, Prussian troops landed on the isle and took the Danish soldiers by surprise.

At the same day the Fehmaraner payed homage to the prince of Augustenburg.  He was an ancestor of the Danish king. Most people in Schleswig-Holstein wanted him as their ruler.

But the Prussian Bismarck didn't. In peace negotiations, Denmark lost the Dukedomes Schleswig and Holstein. Prussia and Austria were the winners. They were the new rulers. But they couldn't agree on that. In 1866, they fought against each other. In the end, Schleswig-Holstein became a province of Prussia.

 Many people were very disappointed by that. In the war France against Prussia 1870/71, men from all parts of Germany (but not Austria) fought, also Fehmaraner. Now the Germans experienced patriotism and solidarity. In the Baltic Sea, a French fleet appeared near Fehmarn. But they didn't land.

On Jan. 18th 1871, the Prussian king Wilhelm was crowned in Versailles near Paris as the emperor of the new German empire.

But industrialism began. Hans moved. First he lived in Ostermarkelsdorf with his family, then in Landkirchen, Gammendorf, Albertsdorf - a sign, that he didn't make enough money anywhere.

The 19th century brought some progress in medicine. Life expectancy became much higher.

Look at the family of Carsten and Trinke Hofeldt. How many marriage partners died! Look at Melchior and Margaretha Hofeldt. They had four children, but only one grown up. Hans and Martha lived together for a long time. All their eight children grew up.

Out of economical misery, the family emigrated to the U.S.A.

Some old traditions and rights of the community of the isle of Fehmarn were lost. But now the most people were satisfied.

In that time, the Hofeldt's left the isle of Fehmarn. Through the centuries, the members of this family worked in agriculture. They had horses, gardens, small fields and some cows of their own. Hans Hofeldt had no existence in agriculture. His son Emil also learned to be a wheelmaker. Wilhelm was a cooper.

First, daughters left with their families.  Ferdinand followed, because he didn’t want to become a soldier.  The parents followed with the reis family.  In 1881 Emil and his family followed, at last Wilhelm.

400 years before, a Hofeldt had come to Fehmarn, in hope for a better existence. Now, part of the family left to start a living in the “land of the unlimited possibilities”, to start a much better life.



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