One of the religious/political controversies resulting from the 16th century Protestant Reformation and subsequent Roman Catholic Counter-Reformation involved a group of people who came to be known historically as “The Salzburgers.” The Salzburger Protestants were driven out of their homeland in the Tyrol region (Austria) by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Salzburg (Austria), the highest political authority in the land. He ordered their persecution and at his direction, a list of 17,714 names of Protestants was compiled. These people, mostly laborers and working-class people with wives and children, were forced to leave Salzburg in late November 1731.1
At the same time, but apart from this, other Protestants were seeking contact with Lutheran rulers. In April 1732 Friedrich Wilhelm I of Prussia (See Chapter 2.) issued a patent offering to take in the Salzburgers. 17,038 immigrants proceeded to Stettin on the Baltic coast, and then boarded ships which took them to Koenigsburg, East Prussia, the capital city and longtime home of the Teutonic Knights who had first conquered the Lithuanians and Poles after the Crusades. Other Salzburgers traveled in wagons across country. These Salzburgers settled in East Prussia for generations2 in the district (Regierungs-bezirk) of Gumbinnen with 16 Kreise (counties): Angerburg, Darkehmen, Goldap, Gumbinnen, Heydekrug, Insterburg, Johannisburg, Loetzen, Lyck, Niederung, Oletzko (Treuburg), Pillkallen, Ragnit, Sensburg, Stallupoenen, Tilsit.
[The district of Gumbinnen was also called Prussian-Lithuania. It was here that the Austrian Salzburger refugees were settled in 1732 after the plague of 1708.] 3
The term “Salzburgers” came to refer to all Germans in the area, regardless of where they came from or when they arrived.4 Lists of Salzburger expulsionists have been published.5 (Note: The specific researched –at name with all possible variations does not appear, nor do the names of those who married into the specific -at family). However, the Bonaker (spelled Bonacher, Bonacker, and Bonecker), Hilger, Keller, and Schröder (names of those also associated with the specific –at family name)6 do appear. Mariampol was established as a “daughter” colony of the East Prussian immigrant villages, so it seems likely that some family members may have come in contact with descendants of Salzburger immigrants or even been referred to as Salzburgers themselves.7
1 Jaekel, Bilder aus der Geschichte des evangelischen Deutschtums in Litauen, 21-25.
2 Jaekel, Bilder aus der Geschichte des evangelischen Deutschtums in Litauen, 21-25.
3 Ostpreussen/East Prussia, online .
4 Jaekel, Bilder aus der Geschichte des evangelischen Deutschtums in Litauen, 21-25.
5 Lewis B. Rohrbach, The Salzburger Expulsion Lists, (Rockport, Maine: Picton Press, 1999), 800 pages.
6 Some Surnames of East Preussen Exulanten (East Prussian Exile), online , surname data downloaded 2 March 2008.
7 Jaekel, Bilder aus der Geschichte des evangelischen Deutschtums in Litauen, 21-25.