The beginnings of today's Dzierzgoń dates back to the 6th-9th centuries. By the 10th century, there was probably already trading settlement on the River Sirgune (Zirgun in Prussian langauge and now Dzierzgoń). In 997, it was in the vicinity of Dzierzgoń where the famous missionary, St Adalbert of Prague, was killed by the Prussians. The settlement was on the territory of the Pomesanian tribe. 

In 1234, the Teutonic Order allied with the Polish troops under the leadership of Konrad I Mazowiecki and defeated the Prussians on the Dzierzgoń River. The Teutonic Knights built a strongold In Old Dzierzgoń called Christburg and, following its capture by the Pomesanians, they build another called New Christburg (New Castle of Christ). In 1249, the Prussians made peace with Swietopelk of Pomerania, after which the Pomesanians promised to rebuild churches damaged in Old Dzierzgoń and New Dzierzgoń as well as to convert to Christianity.

Many privileges are known to have been granted to the town by the Teutonic Knights in 1288 (the Provincial Grand Master, Meinhard von Querfurt), in 1290 (again Meinhard von Querfurt), in 1316 (the Grand Master, Luther von Braunschweig) and in 1451 (the Grand Master, Ludwig von Erlichshausen). The town certainly already existed before 1451[1.1]. A 1288 privilege designated an area of 51 włóka (about 916 hectares). The village leader's name at that time was Bernard. In 1290, the Provincial Grand Master, Meinhard von Querfurt, granted the town the Magdeburg law status.

Many privileges allowed for the fast developement of the city, funded with money from such trades as, for example, the river trade on the Dzierzgoń River, across Lake Druzno to Elbląg and the Wisła Lagoon. The castle, which belonged to the extensive Teutonic command, was burned down twice by Poles during wars with the Teutonic Knight Order in 1410 and in 1414. The 1451 privilege exchanged Magdeburg law status to that of Culm law.[1.2]. After the Second Peace of Thorn signed in 1466, Dzierzgon was annexed to Poland.

During the period of the Republic of Poland, the town was also known as Kiszpork and Christburg. The castle, formally the headquarters of the starost, still existed but was in very bad condition. It was only in 1689 that a sum of 10.000 zl was allocated for its renovation. The starosts were members of the Czema family (1526-1607) and from 1611 the starost's post was combined with that of the Malbork provincial governor (the last was Michał Augustyn Czapski in 1660). Members of the Czema family were supporters of the Reformation. They led the complete confiscation of Catholic places of worship. Guilds began developping. Trade expanded (inter alia with Bydgoszcz). Flax, processed in flax mills and by clothiers, was the main source of income. Tanneries operated. The town was regularly destroyed by fire - in 1638, 1647, 1698, and 1730. The worst was the fire in 1638, when the parish church and the town hall were destoyed. Terrible losses were inflicted by the Swedes who occupied Dzierzgoń in the years 1626-1629 (when they retreated, they plundered it completely). In 1647, 78 houses,4 barns and 2 granaries burned down. The bubonic plague, which wreaked havoc in Ducal Prussia (1709-1711) struck the town and, in 1730, the parish church and the town hall burned down again.

In 1678, the provincial governor in Malbork, Ignacy Bąkowski, founded a Reformati monastery, the main aim of whoch was to take care of the Catholics dispersed in Ducal Prussia, who did not have access to education and church services. The relationship between the monastery and the Lutheran bourgeoisie of Dzierzgoń was not good. There is evidence of monks being beaten by Protestants in 1709, by the Protestants. There was outrage whenbricks from theh castle chapel were used for the building a smithy (with the Provincial Governor's consent).   

In 1772, the town came under Prussian rule. At first, Prussian administrators linked the town, in 1772-1815, with the seat of the vast district which covered the districts of Malbork, Tolkmicko, Dzierzgoń and Sztum. The castle, however, had only one chamber which was fit for use. So documents were stored, first, in the chapel and were then taken to Kwidzyń. In 1804, in the town had 233 houses, inhabited by 2,104 "Christians". There was a considerable cloth industry, as shown by13 clothiers, 6 weavers, and 6 cordovan-makers. On January 1807, Dzierzgoń was the scene of another battle in which the Napoleonic army defeated that of the Prussians. During that period, Dzierzgoń played host to Napoleon several times.

In 1818, the seat of the Sztum district was changed. The castle was completely destroyed. The Prussian authority cut off the Order of the Reformati from further vocations. In 1828, two of the three monks died and, in 1832, the last one also passed away. The monastery was then converted to school.

The turn of the 20th century was a period of intense developement of the town. In 1874, a sewage system was installed. In 1880, there were 488 buildings (including 169 residences) inhabited by 1,974 evangelicals and 977 Catholics. Four cattle and horses markets took place, one two-day flax market and one foal market[1.3]. In 1886, the town was bisected by a road from Malbork to Prabuty. In 1893, the railway from Malbork to Małdyty was started. In 1905, a new gasworks was opened and supplied gas for domestic us as well as for lighting. A town newspaper, the "Christburger Zeitung", was published between 1906 and 1909.

On 11th June 1920, a poll took place in Powiśle, Warmia and Masuria. In Dzierzgoń, there were 13 votes for Poland and 2.571 for Germany. During the years 1929-1930, the town obtained its own water supply system. In 1939, there were 3.604 inhabitants with only few Poles. In 1920, that number barely reached 100. 

In 1945, the Red Army entered the town. Only about 100 inhabitants and less than 25% buildings survived the War. On 7th July 1945, the Soviet army ommander handed the town over to the Polish administration. Dzierzgoń was soon populated by migrants from eastern and central Poland, gaining a new, ethnically homogeneous nature. The post-War period was devoted to the town's slow reconstruction and rebuilding. In 1972, the centre of the town was developed creating the Plac Wolności[1.4]. The railway line, connecting Malbork and Maldyt,y was closed in 2000 and was then dismantled.

Bibliography:

  • Dzierzgoń, [w:] Słownik geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego i innych krajów słowiańskich, vol. I, edit. F. Sulimierski, B. Chlebowski, W. Walewski, Warsaw 1880, pp. 280-284.
  • Korczowski M. K., Dzieje Dzierzgonia od X wieku do 1990 roku, Dzierzgoń 1990.
  • Namenanik J., Dzierzgoń. Szkice z dziejów miasta, Warsaw 2013.

 

 

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Footnotes
  • [1.1] Dzierzgoń, [w:] Słownik geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego i innych krajów słowiańskich, vol. I, edit. F. Sulimierski, B. Chlebowski, W. Walewski, Warsaw 1880, p. 280.
  • [1.2] Dzierzgoń, [w:] Słownik geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego i innych krajów słowiańskich, vol. I, edit. F. Sulimierski, B. Chlebowski, W. Walewski, Warsaw 1880,p. 280.
  • [1.3] Dzierzgoń, [w:] Słownik geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego i innych krajów słowiańskich, vol.I, edit. F. Sulimierska, B. Chlebowski, W. Walewski, Warsaw 1880, p.281.
  • [1.4] Materials of the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage have been added to the text.