• Town where the information about the births, marriages, and deaths was recorded.
Location and Geography
The town of Wylkowiszki was located about ten miles from the East Prussian border. Wylkowiszki was the capital of the administrative district which bore its name and was located at 540.384 north latitude and 400.4145 east longitude. It was situated on the Szejnen River, an inlet of the Szyrwinta, near the mouth of the Wylkowiszki River and close to the Warsaw-St. Petersburg railroad between Kowno and Wierzbolow. It was three versts from the station in the Szelwa village, also known as Wylkowiszki, 15 versts from Wierzbolow, and 345 versts from Warsaw. (1) Neighboring cities included Mariampol, 13 miles southeast and Pilvishuk, 7 miles northeast. (2)
Name of the Town
According to legend, Wylkowiszki was so named because of the large number of wolves in the nearby forests. (3)
History of Wylkowiszki: 15th to 18th Centuries
15th Century: Wylkowiszki was founded at the beginning of the 15th century. (4)
16th Century: Like other towns in southern Lithuania, Wylkowiszki was settled in the 16th century. Because of the presence of the Teutonic Knights, (See Chapter 2.) most of the inhabitants of southern Lithuania moved elsewhere, and the region became a “forested wilderness.” Eventually the region became resettled, and a village grew up around a manor near the confluence of the Seimena and Vilkauja Rivers and along a forest road which connected Prussia to the west and Kaunas, 76 kilometers to the northeast. (5)
17th Century: Wylkowiszki was given its municipal charter in 1660. In 1697 the city received its coat of arms, a double red lily on a blue background. (6)
18th Century: During the last half of the 18th century, most of the residents engaged in crafts and trade. (7) Poland was divided up three different times in the late 18th century between Austria, Prussia, and Russia. (Poland ceased to exist as a country from this time until after World War I in 1918.) In 1795, when the Third Partition of Poland took place, Wylkowiszki became part of New East Prussia until 1807. (8) During the Prussian era many brick residences were built. (9)
19th Century: In 1807 Wylkowiszki became part of the Duchy of Warsaw, a protectorate of the French Empire. (See Chapter 3, “Napoleon’s Invasion.”)
Growth in the 19th Century
From the beginning of the 19th century, Wylkowiszki began to grow very rapidly. By transporting goods brought from Prussia and shipping them to other places, Wylkowiszki became a regional trade center. (10) Because of its location between Koenigsberg, Germany, and Kovno (Kaunas), Russia, many imports from Germany and Russia came through the city. Wylkowiszki remained an important border point between those two countries throughout the entire 19th century. Warehouses were built to handle the exports. In 1862 a railroad connecting it to Mariampol, Virbain (Virbaulis), and Kovno, increased its importance as an economic center. (11)
Russian repressive policies slowed down progress because of the 1863 uprising. After this time a large army garrison was stationed in Wylkowiszki. (12)
In 1881 there were three elementary schools, a court of peace district, an administrative district office, a city office, a post office, a telephone office, and a brewery. “There are 949 houses and 5,662 inhabitants, In the books of permanent residents there are 9,022 people, but 40% of them do not stay permanently. Among the inhabitants are 16 Orthodox, 595 Catholics, 693 Protestants, and 7,773 Jews.” (13)
(1) Slownik Geograficzny Krolestwa Polskiego, 94-96.
(2) Slownik Geograficzny Krolestwa Polskiego, 94-96.
(3) Stuart Schoenberg, Lithuanian Jewish Communities (No place: Scholarly Title, 1991), 344.
(4) Schoenberg, Lithuanian Jewish Communities, 344.
(5) A. Janulaitis, J. Baltakevicius, and J. Totoraitis, Vilkaviskis, Encyclopedia Lituanica (Lithuanian Encyclopedia) (No place: no publisher, 1953-1966), 131. Handout from the Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture, Chicago, IL, 10 August 1995.
(6) Janulaitis, Encyclopedia Lituanica, 132.
(7) Janulaitis, Encyclopedia Lituanica, 132.
(8) Schoenberg, Lithuanian Jewish Communities, 344.
(9) Janulaitis, Encyclopedia Lituanica, 132.
(10) Janulaitis, Encyclopedia Lituanica, 132.
(11) Schoenberg, Lithuanian Jewish Communities, 344-345.
(12) Janulaitis, Encyclopedia Lituanica, 132.
(13) Slownik Geograficzny Krolestwa Polskiego, 94.