It is known that from 500 BC, for approximately 300 years the Rhoen was inhabited by Celtic Tribes. However after
300 years of dominant rule, starting 200 BC advancing Germanic tribes intermixed
with the Celts and at times fearful battles were fought. The Celtic tribes
built Ringwälle (fortified walls) in the Mountains and hills and for
about 100 years they managed to fight off the Germanic tribes. It was however
a loosing battle and eventually they withdrew in westerly direction establishing
their new domain in France and Spain.
Germanic tribes, Chatten and Hermunduren now occupied the Rhoen. The Chatten controlled the north west part and the Hermunduren ( believed to be our ancestors) the eastern part. Salt deposits around Voelkershausen however caused bitter battles between the two tribes. Salt was required for their own use and also gave them excellent trading opportunities and greedy as human nature is, every tribe fought for control of these commodities.
Völkershausen is located on the foothills of the Öchsenberg and its elevation 630 Meter (2067 feet).Some of the Ringwälle (fortified walls) can still be found there.
Most of the mountains and hills like the Öchsenberg came into being during volcanic activity when eruptions occurred pushing rocks (Basalt), not as much lava, to the surface. Most of the hills are formed out of boulders. However it should also be said, that the area prior to that must have been flat and covered with ocean water since salt deposits, several hundred meter below surface, could only have been deposited by saltwater evaporating. The first salt mine was opened in 1901 and production, now in several mines, is still ongoing.
It is also recorded that when Napoleon's Army invaded Germany in their march towards Russia, (1812), where of course they were defeated, the villagers found the Öchsenberg an ideal place to hide and watch their homes being burned to the ground.
In 1902 a mountain lookout and clubhouse was built on the peak of the Öchsenberg. The Innkeeper of this clubhouse, by the Name of Hans Koch, was soon known all around as the lying innkeeper. Hans Koch has done his best to live up to his reputation for more than 30 years. All his supplies at that time had to be brought up to the mountain with a Mule until a road was builta few years later.
A cable car transit system from the Öchsenberg to Vacha (2½km.) was built in 1897 to haul crushed stone to the railroad for shipping. By 1978 the rock removal had advanced to the point where the Mountain lookout and clubhouse had to be abandoned and was eventually destroyed.
Archeological findings indicate that the Rhoen was already inhabited since the stone age.
Stone age (Steinzeit)
Early Stone age : (Altsteinzeit) From the beginning until 8000 BC
Middle Stone age: (Mittelsteinzeit) 8000BC to 5000 BC
Late Stone age:(Jungsteinzeit) 5000 to 1800 BC
Archeological Discoveries :
Stone axes in Völkershausen, other stone tools in Wölferbütt.
Findings document the inhabitants of the Öchsenberg at the Early Stone age.
Bronzezeit : 1800 to 800 BC.
Burial grounds of the Bronzezeit were found and excavated.
Eisenzeit : From
Celtic tribes settled in our area about 600 - 500 BC
In the second century BC the Rhoen and areas South of the Thüringer Wald developed into a celtic stronghold. Ringwälle (fortified walls) from the Hallstatt time ( 8. to 5. century AD) were improved and extended.
The Öchsenberg held the largest celtic Ringwälle and was the most northerly of all Rhönburgen.
It is assumed that the fortified Öchsenberg served for the protection of the river Werra crossing and the east west trade route and the protection of army and peasants at times of war.
The Dynasty of the Thüringer.
In the 4th century
AD, the Hermanduren, Sweben, Angeln and Warnen united to form what we today
know as Thüringen.( A state of Germany)
531 The Franken King Theoderich with the help of the Saxonians defeated the Thüringer. They came as conquerors, introduced christianity and established settlements. Many village names such as hausen (hus or huson) can be traced to the Franken. The name for our village is one of them. Völkershausen (Voulfricheshuson)
741Governing districts were established ,Buchonia,Gau Tulifeld, Baringau and Aschfeld.
Völkershausen was located in the district of Buchonia. It is assumed the name Buchonia was chosen because of the many Buchen (beech trees) Each district was governed by an Earl.
744A monastery was build in Fulda, and in 769 in Hersfeld and from that day forward written records were kept in the monasteries.
750 Christianity was introduced in the Rhön and the districts again subdivided and were ruled by a Vogt.
768 The first written documentation of the area surrounding Völkershausen is found in the monastery archives.
Farmers worked their own fields as free farmers until about the year 1000. After this time they were dependent on the landowners - that is they were taxed in the form of supplying the landowners with most of their produce (such as livestock, eggs, potatoes and grain). They could also be called upon to perform physical labor for the landowner.
In the 11th century farm equipment was introduced such as the wheel plow, harrow, sickle, etc. and farm production increased.
Tradesmen evolved from the farmers and in the 10th and 11th century one could find different trades such as cartwright, shoemaker, blacksmith, etc.
874 First entry of Völkershausen (Folegereshuson) in the archives of the Monastery in Fulda
No further entries were found until 1214 and it is assumed that during this period the Burg
(Castle) in Völkershausen was build.
In a document from Kaiser Friedrich II. of Dec.6th,1214 it is said that a Eberhard von Voulfricheshuson and a Heinrich von Voulfricheshuson appeared as witnesses. Völkershausen itself was mentioned again in a document of March, 25. 1276.
Die Burg (Castle) was owned at times by as many as 20 Earls and Lords. It appears that he owners at that time had money problems too and sold shares of their estate.
1348 Ritter (Knight) Friedrich von Völkershausen was mentioned as Burgmann from Vacha.
The residence of the Herren (Masters) of Völkershausen was a small castle and some out buildings. The castle was surrounded by a Wallgraben ( deep trenches), fortified stone walls and a drawbridge. The castle itself had 3 stories and there were entrance buildings on both sides of the drawbridge. Leibeigene ( peasants and farmers ) that the masters owned, lived outside the castles stone walls but would seek protection there during attacks. Some small surrounding villages such as Wölferbütt, Willmanns, Martinroda , Mariengart, and isolated farms Rodenberg, Kohlgraben, Luttershof, Busengraben and Poppenberg also belonged to their ruling domain.
The Masters of Völkershausen played a leading role in the area.
1369/70 A new monastery is built in Vacha, 5 km. north of Völkershausen.
1376 The Lord Heinrich von Henneberg appointed the first minister by the name of Dietrich Heyse for Völkershausen and he assumes office on March 13th of that year.
1513 Political and religious activity and rivalry caused unrest among the peasants. Earls, Lords and knights made sure to keep all the peasants on the loosing side.
1525 Bauernkrieg ( Farmers Revolt) The castle in Völkershausen withstood the attacks and the farmers were defeated. Their levies were consequently increased. 23 Farmers from Völkershausen took part in the revolt.
1534Hans von Völkershausen introduces the reformation in Völkershausen changing the church to the protestant faith.
1581 The first schoolhouse is mentioned in Völkershausen. The teacher was a Johann Deisenroth (1581 to March 11. 1602)
1599 The first mail service in Germany between Kassel and Ansbach is established
1605 An army, consisting of 250 men, were stationed in the castle of Völkershausen.
1618/1648The 30 year war.
In the first 4 years our area was spared, but by 1622, 1300 soldiers were stationed in Völkershausen, taking from the peasants as well as the Masters of Völkershausen whatever they could. Rape and torture was a common occurrence. Most of the peasants and the minister sought refuge in the woods of the Öchsenberg.
1629. The monastery and the Abbot of Fulda outlawed the protestant faith and replaced the minister Ref. Conradus Limburgius with a catholic priest. When people resisted they brought in an army of croats to enforce their demand. However the resistance did not weaken and Ref. Limburgius returned 1631 to Völkershausen. Since then Völkershausen remained protestant.
1635 An outbreak of the plague killed half of the population and many homes stood vacant. No
birth were registered in Völkershausen from 23.Nov.1637 until 16.June 1639.
1680Old records tell us of the amounts of levies the farmers paid to their masters (Herren) Friedrich Caspar and Ludwig von Völkershausen. Since 1658, property registers and evaluations were kept.
1702 Friedrich Caspar von Völkershausen is married to Juliane von Buttlar and in 1703 a son, Emil Friedrich Ernst was born.
1706 Emil Friedrich Ernst von Völkershausen dies on Sept.14.1706 at the age of 3 years. He was the last of the von Völkershausen. After the death of his father Friedrich Caspar von Völkershausen the Land grave Karl von Hessen purchased the estate for 16.500,- Gulden.
1717/20 The Land grave Karl von Hessen orders a new church to be built and 16 gravestones of the family von Völkershausen are incorporated in the church walls. This church remained until 1989 when it was destroyed by an underground explosion in the salt mines.
1739 The last known execution took place on June 5th. A girl was beheaded by sword for mistreating a child.
1756/63 The 7 year war.
Our area was not directly effected by this war, but the absence of the landowners had its negative affect on villagers that were dependent on them, as well as the castle and neglected gardens. French troops occupied the city of Vacha 5 km north of Völkershausen and confiscated whatever they needed.
1771/72 Bad weather conditions and poor harvests caused many peopleto go hungry.
1776 Between February and May, the land grave of Hessen assembled
several regiments of soldiers in our area, men were picked up of the street
never to see their homeland again. They were then hired out to England and
shipped to America to fight for the British. The poet Gottlieb Seume was
picked up while he took a stroll across the Werra bridge.
1813 Napoleons retreat from Russia takes him through Vacha where on November 26th he spent the night. The next day Russian arrive.
1828 A one room school is built near the church and one teacher is lectured 200 students.
Jewish children attend a jewish school at the village square.
1841 239 families lived inVölkershausen. (579 male- 595 female)
1839/1866425 people left over the period of 27 years to immigrate to America and other parts of Germany and the world.
1850 Farmers were set free and the use of now available farm machinery and artificial fertilizer increased their production.
1862 Several homes and barns were destroyed by fire caused by carelessness.
1868 A second school was built which contained one classroom and living quarters for the teacher.
1870/71German French War.
1880 A horse drawn pressure pump, manually operated by the firemen, was purchased and a fire department established. Prior to this fires were fought with water pails.
1880/90 Immigration to America continued. A threshing machine and a steam engine was purchased. Prior to this all threshing was done with a flail.
1889 During the harvest celebration 5 young men die in a barn fire. Two make it to safety. It was said that the fire was caused by careless smoking.
1897 A quarry and crusher plant was built on the north side of the Öchsenberg. A 2½ km long cable car system to transfer gravel to the railroad in Vacha, was also built.
1900Several more underground salt mines were developed, creating more and better working opportunities for local people. Also the railroad lines were extended, providing better transportation.
1903 The Municipality of Völkershausen purchased the caslle, associated buildings and attached farmland.
1905 The population of Völkershausen was 990 and there were 161 residential homes. A new railroad line , Gerstungen Vacha Bad Salzungen was put in to service.
Farmer Stub purchases the first horse drawn mower in Völkershausen
1907 Fire again destroed 4 residential homes and 5 barns. Construction wages are 42 Pfg. per hour and there was a 60 hour work week.
1908 A fresh water supply and sewage system was built in Völkershausen. Water from springs in the mountain was collected and funneled into the piping system. Until now all the water had to be picked up in pails from a fountain at the village square.
1912Construction of a new school commenced.The schoolcontained central heating, shower and bath facilities. All facilities were made available for the general public.
By this time almost everyone was involved in farming. There was what they called the horse farmers, medium size farmers with two horses, cows, sheep and pigs, then there were those farmers that only had one cow and in order to work the fields they teamed up with a neighbor.Then there were those farmers that only had some goats and usually raised a pig, some geese and chickens for personal consumption. Smaller farmers usually had a job in the mines or hired themelfs out to larger farmers as well as doing their own farm work. Working for other farmers they were usually paid 8 Pfg. an hour for a 10 hour day and got their food. There were now 5 flower mills in and around Völkershausen
Until 1912 a night watchman was employed. His shift was from dawn until 2 PM. Every hour on the hour he would blow a horn in every street and announce the time in the following manner "Listen you people and let me tell you, the time has just been x O'clock, turn out the fire and the lights so no one will get hurt and sleep real tight"
1914/18World war 1
Many young men were drafted in the army and many of them lost their lives.
1915 Electricity was introduced in Völkershausen and electric street lights were installed. Prior to this every street had a 8 foot Kerosene lantern wich would be lit by a municipal employee carrying a ladder. At 2 am he would then go around again and turn them off.
1919 All little kingdoms of the earls and lords united into Thuringia with a central Government. A
revolution in Germany by the labor movement occured. An 8 hour workday, six days a week and other benefits were negotiated.
1923 Inflation hits Germany and it was said that a weeks earnings would at times not buy more then a pound of lunch meat.
1925 The first diesel powered tractor was purchased by a farmer. Unemployment rose and unemployment money of 20 - 30 DM per week was being paid.
1933 Hitler assumes power and established a Dictatorship in Germany.
1937/38Farmer Mahret purchases a Lanz tractor and a combine.
The population of Völkershausen is 1350 and the Fire department purchased a gasoline powered fire pump. Jewish merchants (Lichtenstetter and Simon Hirsch) that used to sell there products from door - to - door suddenly did not show up any more. Word had it that Jews are being deported or imprisoned, but no one dares to talk about it. Hitlers ears were everywhere and no one knows who is an informer. People voicing their opposition were quickly arrested, never to be heard from again.
1939/1945 World War 2
The German army conquers one small country after the other, defeats France, declares wa on England and Russia and many young men had to give there lives. There are those that enjoy the glory and the power, and others that , with a little common sense, could see the outcome of this terrible war but are afraid to speak up. At times the skys were blackened with allied planes and many German cities were destroyed. Then came the turning point, the retreat of the German armies, the arrivals of refugees, attempts to assassinate Hitler and finally the unconditional surrender of Germany in the spring of 1945. By that time most of the German soldiers had only one thought, where can I hide and when I am taken prisoner then let it be by the Americans and not by the Russians. Some fanatics, mainly from the SS Stormtroopers would still rather die then surrender and isolated fighting took place. Some residence had put up a white flag on the church tower when a group from the SS appeared, tore it down and threatened to shoot a dozen people if the flag went up again. However once they were out of sight, the white flag did go up again. On April 13rd 1945 American troops moved into the village and took quarters in the local school.
In August the American troops moved out, for they had agreed that all of Thuringia was to be occupied by the Russian forces. Contrary to when the American troops moved in, this time all the villagers buried their treasures. When a few days later the Russian army moved in at the middle of the night, not like the Americans, motorized, but with horse and buggies and a lot of loose horses that just followed the column, every one was in hiding, for they were singing and screaming and obviously had a little to much to drink. Their preceding reputation was that they were good natured people but watch out when they were drunk - which in those days, they were most of the time.
Whatever they wanted they just took and they had use for everything.
Under Kommunist Rule
The Army settled down and many times one would see an officer horsewhipping a soldier for disobedience or bad behavior.
At first all farmers with more than 100 hectare of land were disowned , their land divided into small parcels and given to anyone interested in farming with the stipulation that 10 % of their yield was to be given to the government. This however proved to be a bad move, for a lot of them did not even bother working their land so the Government now took possession of all farm land and all farmers now worked as Government employees for hourly wages. New central locations were established to raise cattle pigs or other livestock. This however took away the incentive from the farmers and production was never at its best.
Factories and all stores were taken over by the government, thereby eliminating all privat ownership. In the first few years many people left , what they called East Germany, to make their new home in West Germany or immigrated to other parts of the world. To stop the exodus all borders were tightly sealed off and guarded, high fences erected and even land mines placed along the border.
Border guards were instructed to shoot and kill anyone attempting to escape. A 5 mile nomans land zone was created along the border and only people with special passes were allowed into it. Houses that stood too close to the border were demolished and the tenants relocated to the interior of East Germany. Völkershausen is located 5 km from the border and was, for a number of years, within the nomans land zone. The Stasi ( States Security Service) appointed informers that had to watch and report on assigned citizens. No one is allowed to visit in the west and all correspondence with friends or relatives in the west is opened read and photocopied. Technicians were sent around to disable all reception of western T.V. stations in the homes. Having a T.V. antenna pointed towards a western station brought in the Stasi and an investigation with consequent punishment. The waiting period for the purchase of a car is 10 to 15 years. Several years for the purchase of a TV ,appliance or furniture. There is always enough food and no one goes hungry, but the food only consisted of the basics. Monday and Tuesdays there may have been pork on the shelfs, Wednesday nothing , Thursday beef and whenever some food came in people are waiting in line. Whenever a fresh shipment of tomatoes arrived there were peoplelining upin no time flat. One would go on a Monday to the local pup and ask for a soft drink or a beer and the Innkeeper would say, the delivery did not come in yet. Beer would spoil within a few days or a bottled soft drink could suddenly explode.
1989 Disaster hits Völkershausen. On
March the 14. at 2 PM, an underground explosion, in the mines directly below
Völkershausen, measuring 5.8 on the richterscale is set off during regular
blasting operations. 80 % of all buildings were either destroyed or damaged,
some beyond repair and it is later discovered that the whole village
dropped down by about one meter. It seemed unbelievable that considering
the walls and whole houses collapsed and chimneys toppled over, no one was
The area was declared a disaster area, the army and contractors from all over the state were called in. Demolition and reconstruction started immetiatly but many mistakes were made. The church had to be demolished and a new one was built.
At the village square
farmhouses and barns were demolished and new stores and doctors offices
build. No consideration was given to who owned the properties. New
homes were built for the owners of those properties at other locations,
again without consideration of ownership of the land. The state had the ultimate
say and no one dared to object. Historic buildings that could have been saved
were demolished. This all proved to be a big problem a few months later when
the East German State ( The German Democratic Republic ) collapsed and Germany
was reunited. Of course everyone laid claim to their properties and the big
question was , who owned the building that was built on someone else's property?
Some of these cases are still in the courts today.
Most farmers that were used to an 8 hour day and a paycheck every week, were reluctant to start farming again. They did not even have the money to start all over again and buy new farm equipment or they just were too old for a new start and the children did not want any part of farming.
So some of the farmers got together, purchased the buildings and equipment at a preferred price from the state, rented the land and continued farming.
Prior to the collapse, one could stand at the border in West Germany and observe nicely painted houses and a colorful landscape in the west , but turning to the east, a dark and gloomy panorama would appear with black smoke rising from the chimneys and the old railroad steam engines. Houses had not been painted in 44 years and very little maintenance was done since building material
was just not available. People living near the border in the east used to say, even the grass looks greener in the west.
So one can imagine, how those people felt, when the borders opened up after 44 years and they could finally freely travel and speak their mind. Everything looked better, tasted better in the west and above all was the abundance of merchandise available in the stores.
Today, 10 years later one can not see a difference any more but the old expression " In the east or in the west " signifying the difference that once was will still be around for generations. People from the west are refered to as Wessies and those from the east as Ossies.
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