Situated on the Biała River, the town of Bobowa is one of the oldest settlements in this region. Local legends have it that Bobowa had been a populated settlement as early as before the Tatar invasion and was completely destroyed in 1240.[1.1] It cannot be determined whether the story is true or not, for there are no historical documents that could confirm it.
The first historical mention of Bobowa dates from the beginning of the 14th century. A charter document concerning the village of Jakubowice near Nowy Sącz issued in 1339 by Jadwiga, widow of King Władysław Łokietek, for the benefit of the Poor Clare Sisters of Sącz, states that the inhabitants of Jakubowice were obliged to pay rents “according to the customs of the town of Bobowa”, [1.2] which meant that Bobowa was chartered on Magdeburg Rights prior to 1339.
The town was an economic center of the estate owned by the Gryfit family of Bobowa, which is proved by a number of trade and transportation routes around it. By chartering the town, the family intended to gain greater prestige and increase the town’s economic significance. Soon, a Roman Catholic parish, mentioned in the 1346-1358 Peter’s pence registers[1.3], was founded in Bobowa
Interestingly, during the Battle of Grunwald (or 1st Battle of Tannenberg) in 1410, the Gryfit family put out their ”banner” (a basic unit of the Polish army) commanded by Zygmunt Bobowski.[1.4] Since the family grew large in the 15th century, the town belonged to a few owners[1.5]. This led to a strong fragmentation of land which impeded the economic growth of Bobowa. It was no exception in Poland as there were many small towns chartered on Magdeburg Rights that[1.6] shared the same fate. The inhabitants of Bobowa dealt mostly with trade, craft and various kinds of agricultural activities. Although trade and craft were already quite developed, Bobowa had to wait for guild privileges until the reign of the Jordan family in the 16th century.
The first head of the town (wójt) of Bobowa known by name was Jan Lempart and in the early 16th century, Mikołaj Gliński became its new owner, however, no historical documents say how big the land which he acquired was. What we know is that soon thereafter, Achacy Jordan from Zakliczyn, the horns coat-of-arms, took over the town (around 1520) [1.7]. The Jordan family owned the town until around 1625, when it came under control of the Tarnowski family, which, after a short time, handed Bobowa down to the Laskowskis. Ultimately, around 1740, Stanisław Łętowski from Łętów became the owner of Bobowa, which belonged to the family as late as until 1806 when it was sold to Michał Miłkowski, an heir of Siedliska. Since 1872, the owner, and then governor of the town, was Aleksander Kossakiewicz, after whose death his successors sold the town (in 1887) to Bolesław Wieniawa-Długoszowski, an insurgent of the January Uprising of 1863. The last owner of Bobowa was his son, Kazimierz, because the estate was confiscated and parceled out by the communist authorities.[1.8]
Slowly but systematically, the number of the residents of Bobowa increased and it can be presumed that Bobowa was rather a big town at the turn of the 14th and 15th centuries, since, apart from brick All Saints Church, it also managed to build two wooden churches (St. Cross Church and St. Sofia Church). Not only was the fact that the buildings were erected the evidence of the piousness of the inhabitants of Bobowa, but also of their prosperity. However, the documents referring to this period give only the number of houses, without quoting the number of residents.[1.9] Some more precise information concerning demographical development and statistics that are based on credible empirical data (e.g. censuses or parish books) refer to the 19th century. At the beginning of the 19th century, 1,100 people inhabited Bobowa, while before 1914 their number had grown to 1,800 residents.
Throughout the 19th century, high fluctuations of the town’s population were observable. The reason for the drop in the number of inhabitants of Bobowa in the first half of this was that natural disasters haunted Western Galicia at that time. Between the years 1835-1870, famines and cholera epidemic in 1847 caused a drastic decrease in the population of Bobowa and its vicinity. Two factors that caused emigration, and thus reduced the number of people living there in the second half of the same century, were a fire in 1889 and a chase for money that led people to the USA. [1.10]
In the medieval times, Bobowa’s population was ethnically and religiously homogeneous: Roman Catholic Poles. The situation changed in 1732 during the reign of the heir Michał Jaworski when the Jews were brought to the town. After they had settled down, the successors granted them a number of trade privileges which enabled them to grow and create a wealthy religious community. The fields in which they were most efficient were home craft business and trade[1.11].
After an administrative reform in 1934, Bobowa lost the town rights which it regained as late as 2009 in honor of the 670th anniversary of its existence.
- [1.1] Bobowa. Historia, ludzie, zabytki, K. Majcher, W-wa 2008, p..6.
- [1.2] Codex Diplomaticus Poloniae, vol. III, W-wa 1853, p. 201; B.Kumor, Kolegiata WW. Świętych w Bobowej [in:] Currenda pismo urzędowe diecezji tarnowskiej, Tarnów, 1958, p.561; F. Kiryk, Z dziejów miast zachodniej części ziemi bieckiej (book in this publication) [in:] Z. Tabaka, Zarys dziejów miasteczka Bobowej do 1914 r. [in:] Z. Tabaka (ed.), Nad rzeką Ropą. Szkice historyczne, Kraków, 1968.
- [1.3] Acta Camerae Apostolicae, ed. J. Ptaśnik, Kraków 1913, pp. 185, 195 [in:] Z. Tabaka, Zarys dziejów miasteczka Bobowej do 1914 r. [in:] Z. Tabaka (ed.), Nad rzeką Ropą. Szkice historyczne, Kraków, 1968, p. 310.
- [1.4] Z. Tabaka (ed.), Nad rzeką Ropą. Szkice historyczne, Kraków, 1968, p. 309.
- [1.5] Michalak J., 2002, Gorlice. Biecz. Wysowa Zdrój i okolice, P.U.W. Roksana. Krosno, p. 98.
- [1.6] K. Majcher, Bobowa. Historia, ludzie, zabytki, W-wa 2008, p. 14.
- [1.7] Z. Tabaka, op.cit., p. 314.
- [1.8] Ibid, pp. 22-27.
- [1.9] Jagiellonian Library, MS 5,484 III. Podymne tax (paid by each dwelling house) in Kraków Province. Taryfa podymnego w województwie krakowskim.
- [1.10] Z. Tabaka, op. cit., pp. 324-325.
- [1.11] Ibid, p. 326.