Buddes in European Context


The area, which is now the Dutch-German border, has been a frontier area for over two millennia between:

( The links are to another Paul Budde publication: The Middle Ages from a North-Western European  Perspective)

The inhabitants of these lands have always lived far away from the power centre of their worlds; they were constantly threatened by wars and were accustomed to looking after themselves rather than depending on others – characteristics which can still be recognised in the current population.

The Germanic tribes were nomadic farmers. Slowly hamlets and villages started to emerge and several of these communities continued into the 20th century. The region that now includes  Wietmarschen, Nordhorn and Ootmarsum, important places in the history of the Budde family, have a long history going back to prehistoric times. occupation.

Serfdom in The Dark Ages

With the decline and consequent disappearance of the Romans, the monetary system collapsed. The European economic balance shifted to the Byzantine Empire. There were not many trading goods from western Europe that were in demand by this empire and trade in Europe virtually collapsed. The emperors and kings therefore had to pay their military and economic supporters, in land and titles. The same applied to the farming societies which made up more than 90% of the society, very large parts of them could not pay their taxes as a free persons and became serf to either secular or religious leaders. This became the start of the system of  serfdom that would continue in large parts of Europe for over 1,000 years.

Taxes to the princes, kings and emperors and tithes to the clergy couldn’t be paid in money any more and were paid in kind. Dukes, counts, kings, monasteries and dioceses founded courts (hoven) that could collect these goods in kind. Courts were typically established at a distance of approx. 10 kms of each other. Initially counts were appointed as administrators of the emperor’s properties, however, very quickly this turned into hereditary positions. It is also thought that this system of counts was an extension of the clerical system of canons (see chapter Jons Budde). During periods of imperial demise, counts operated totally independent and treated their lands as their own. A whole new administrative system includes major-domos (hofmeiers) and deans (proosts) develop over this period. This system was over time also used to administer and manage many of the feudal plights and rights.

While money starts to return into the economy during the 13th century the ‘in kind’ payment system remained the most important economic trading activity. However, some courts lost their administrative function and were turned into large farmhouses.

Germany was one of the last countries in western Europe to end this feudal system. While changes started to occur during the French occupation during the early years of the 1800s. It took another half a century to see a full implementation of a more modern society.

Cultural ties

The language and culture of the region from which the Buddes originated, including the areas where most of them lived in the following centuries, has been very strongly influenced by both the Saxons and Franks. For example, in both Wietmarschen and Ootmarsum they still speak ‘Platduits’, which has a very strong low-Saxon influence. This language dates back to a period that predates both the current Dutch and high-German languages. Among the writers that have published in this original language is my grandfather Theodorus Budde (Ootmarsum 1880-1959). The history of this region clearly indicates that over the centuries there have been, and still are, very strong political, economic, religious and cultural links.

Historians have indicated that the average size of villages in Germany during the Dark Ages was around 250 to 500 people. An average person would not see more than a 1,000 people in his/her lifetime and an average serf had a vocabulary of not more than 600 words. Serfdom kept the majority of Dark Age societies at a very primitive social level.

Further details are provided in the section: Ancestry of Paul Budde (Wietmarschen).

The age of chivalry

Over time the Frankish rulers lost their power to their military commanders and these people started to act as ‘little rulers’ themselves. This led, during the 12th and 13th centuries, to the start of what we now call the chivalry system. The term knight refers to a mounted warrior of secondary noble rank. Often the younger son of a hereditary peer (the knight), began his training as a young boy (page) by entering the services of an overlord. At the age of 15,16 he was raised to the rank of squire and began his period of trial.

There were literally thousands of these knights and squires scattered over the area. With their military background it comes as no surprise that they started to engage in an ongoing battle for power, wealth and territory. They often started under the excuse of defending the ‘honour of the knight’. The neighbouring counts of Bentheim, Twente, Tecklenburg and Lingen (often related to each other through marriage) all at one time or another and most probably at several occasions have fought each other, especially over feudal rights. In 1144 the Otto III of Bentheim was imprisoned in Ootmarsum by the bishop of Utrecht, a few year later however troops from Drente, related to Otto I from Gelre burn down the church in Oud Ootmarsum (see: Sünte Marienrode) during their rampage against the Count of Coevorden. The Duke of Brabant negotiated a peace treaty. Sophie van Bentheim marries Dirk VI from Holland who is involved in the crusades; he also included nobility related to Sophie in his followers. A stone engraving from the 12th century of Dirk and his mother Petronella from still exists in the Monastery of Egmond.

The Budde Knights played, as we will see elswhere, a key role in this system in their part of the world and became involved in many mini-wars between bishop-monarchies such as Munster and Osnabrück counties such as Tecklenburg, Lingen and Bentheim. In the north the Buddes from Pommern became a powerful family linked to the Danish Crown. The Buddes from Westphalen ventured even into Courland (Latvia). We have records indicating they had significant power, through the employment of soldiers.

The initial knight-wars had little to do with what we call war. Ordinary people did not participate; only the highly skilled knights themselves together with their professional squires. Class distinction was enormous during these periods and there was no respect from the knights – or compassion – towards ordinary people. These wars amongst the knights were conducted along strict rules and it was rarely that they themselves got killed. The knight armies were very small and these wars were mainly fought during the summer months only!

From the 15th century onwards power became more concentrated among a smaller group of leading rulers as well as powerful regents in the (trading) cities. They could afford proper hired armies. The invention of gunpowder ended the period of the knights. From then on wars became far nastier. They were mainly fought for two reasons:

  • war of independence against foreign rulers from Spain and Austria Habsburg
  • religious wars between the catholic rulers and the new religion (Reformation)

In this region they involved the many German states as well as Dutch, Swedes, Spanish and Austrian rulers. As we will see elswhere, both the farming Buddes and the Knights Budde were severely affected by these wars.

The system of serfdom

In the region where the Buddes lived in north Germany a relative mild form of serfdom existed. The serf (kötter – small farmer) was given the use of piece of land but in return had to provide services to the landlord. Nearly all farmers were, since the Middle Ages, serfs. In this way they did not have to serve as soldiers. The system of serfdom was maintained through birth and marriage, children automatically became serfs by birth. Engagements and marriages needed the approval of the landlord. The serf had the right to pass on the ‘kötten’ (farm) to his heirs (Colonatsrecht). Medieval law prohibited the division of the farm after the death of the kötter. The farm was undivided inherited usually, by the first-born son. Only with the approval of the landlord was the kötter allowed to provide his other heirs with a dowry.

The Death cow

After the death of the kötter and also after the death of his wife the heirs had to pay to the landlord a so-called death tax. The landlord set the height but usually they settled for the best cow. In case the kötter retired he received the usufruct and paid in advance his ‘death cow’.

The heir in his turn had to pay, after he took over the farm, a ‘dividend’ to the landlord, the height of this depended on the seize of the farm, the economic situation of the new kötter. Often such dividends were based age old traditions on how such situations had been handled in the past.

In 1770, the rights of serfs were for the first time officially regulated by law. (We do see some examples of this in relation to the Buddes in Wietmarschen – see: The Buddes in the history of Wietmarschen). Each serf had to be given a fixed set of tasks that he had to perform, some of them were regular tasks, others had to be preformed on an irregular basis. They had to do with activities related to death, funerals, or activities in relation to the property of the landlord such as the planting of trees, picking of fruits. Children were often involved in messaging services, shopping and berry picking. There were also certain rules to obey in relation to heritage, marriage, retirement, death, and so on. Certain payments also had to be made at special occasions in relation to the harvest (see: Schatzungsregister), heritage and the death of the kötter.

The system of serfdom was abolished during the French occupation in 1808. The farmers were given ownership over their farms. In 1825 they were further given the opportunity to also obtain the land as long as compensation was paid to the landlord. In 1850 also these obligations were abandoned and any other debt could now be paid off in order to obtain full freedom. The Buddes in Wietmarschen finally paid off the annual corn tax on 27 September 1854

The Bishop-monarchies

Most probably around the year 800 during the christianisation of the area, the first bishops of Munster, Ludgeris (Liudger), founded the first parish here. In 786, Charles the Great had appointed him as his Episcopal agent for this region. A number of pre-Christian neighbourhoods became part of this diocese. They would later on develop into places such as Nordhorn and Wietmarschen. After Charlemagne conquered the Saxons he granted the Diocese of Munster significant rights and powers. After his death the governing of these lands fell apart. The church flourished in this power vacuum and soon became the main political force. Bishops in i.e. Munster, Utrecht and Osnabrück quickly grew into powerful local monarchs. The main reason for their success was the many donations that were made toward the Church; the special tax system introduced by Charles the Great (right to levy the tithes); and the tax freedom they enjoyed.

Thus Munster became an important centre of the new religion, the power of this monarch-diocese reached well into what is now the Netherlands and included provinces such as Groningen and Overijssel. Wietmarschen, Nordhorn and Ootmarsum (this last town until 1597) all belonged to this diocese. The knights played a key role within these monarchies. Often under the excuse of defending the church, they fought their own wars for power, wealth and territory.

In the 1950s my grandfather wrote a poem (Mien oale hoes – My old house) about Bishop Berenken van Goalen  (Prince Bishop Christoph Bernhard Freiherr von Galen  (1606 – 1678) who travelled through Ootmarsum (perhaps after the siege of Groningen) and legend has it he stopped in front of the house were later the Budde family lived and where he received food from the lady of the house.

The Hanze, a very powerful trade alliance was formed in Lubeck in 1296. As mentioned above Budde’s were already living in this town at that time. Many cities in northern Europe became part of the alliance. A few centuries later Munster became a member town of the Hanze, further strengthening the economic position as this town as well as of other places under their control such as Bentheim and Ootmarsum. Through the Hanze system large amounts of agriculture produce, such as grain, were traded and it could well be that the farmers in these regions profited from the demand that the Hanze system created. In the archives in Munster are several reminders to the Budde’s. There is a Buddenturm in this town, but as far as I know, this bears no relationship with the Budde’s.

The County of Bentheim

One of the beneficiaries of the collapse of the  Roman Empire and the feudal system was the emerging county of Twente. This was the original land of the German tribe of the Tubants ( Tuihanti). The county is mentioned in 815 when it was given in fiefdom to Count Balderik from Kleve. His son Luthardis and his grandson Rixfridus continued as counts of Twente, while Luthardis son Boudewijn becomes the Count of Cleve. When Rixfridus dies in 828 the county of Twente gets divided into three parts:

  • The eastern part is inherited by his son Wolfgang and he becomes the first count of Bentheim.
  • The middle part between Bentheim and Goor, with Oldenzaal as its capital goes to his other son Balderik, who later on becomes the bishop of Utrecht.
  • The western part becomes the county of Goor.

If we now concentrate on the eastern part we see that Bentheim becomes an important stronghold between the powerful dioceses of Munster and Utrecht. The Counts were able to establish a very lucrative trade around the winning of sandstone. This made this enterprise the most important business venture of medieval Germany. Sandstone was exported to Flanders and Holland. The Royal Palace in Amsterdam, at that time the Town Hall, is built from Bentheimer sandstone. Already in the 11th century was Bentheimer sandstone used in the building of churches in the counties of Bentheim and Twente.

An important trading post and transhipment place for this commodity became Nordhorn, positioned on the bank of the river Vechte. For over 1,000 years this town would be the most important economic centre of this county.

On the border of the largest swamp area of northern Europe, the Bourtanger Moor, there existed – since living memory – a small number of pre-Christian neighbourhoods. Later on they became known as the Nordhorn – Bakelder Mark. The 100km-long (north-south) swamp was an impenetrable barrier. Because of this the important trading route between the Hanze towns Bremen and Munster on what is now the German side and Amsterdam and Zwolle on what is now the Dutch side, was directly situated beneath this swamp. There is even evidence that this route might have existed in Roman times.

There where the river Vechte crosses this trade route the Counts of Bentheim established a stronghold, perhaps as early as 800. For this they used the small natural island formed in between two arms of the river. This area was soon known as the Burginsel (castle island). See also ‘Burgstasse’, the street where the Buddes in Nordhorn lived. While the (pre-Christian) farming neighbourhood Altedorf was situated a few kilometres east, the city of Nordhorn started to evolve around the Burginsel.

The River Vechte

The Vechte rises from the hills in Munsterland, north from the city itself. It only becomes navigable at Nordhorn. The river, which is now the border between Germany and the Netherlands, crosses between Emlichheim and Gramsbergen. From here it continues to Ommen en Zwolle, where it ends in the river Zwartewater which flows into the Ijsselmeer. For some 1,000 years this river was the major transport line for the sandstone from Bentheim to its markets in the Netherlands, and from thereon to even further destinations.

Only after the Treaty of Munster in 1648 was the current border drawn between the two countries. In 1752 the Counts of Bentheim leased their county to the elector (Kurfürst) of Hanover, for the sum of 379,794 Reichtaler. With this the Counts lost their political powers over their land. Later on we will see that attempts were made to nullify this arrangement, but with the exception of a very short period between 1804 and 1806 these efforts failed.

Holy German Empire

One of the most powerful countries in medieval Europe became the north-German County of Saxony. The Saxon king Otto I established, after the fall of the Frankish ruled Holy Roman Empire, the Holy German Empire in 962. Apart from Saxony this included most of Middle Europe. Otto granted the county of Twente to bishop Balderik, who later became the bishop of Utrecht. This is seen as the start of the secular power of the diocese of Utrecht. Within the highly religious character of the empire the bishops of Utrecht and Munster were able to further expand their powerful roles. When in 1039 the House of Saxony died out, the Hohenstaufers came to power. King Frederick I (Barbarossa) very significantly extended the empire during his reign. The House of the Habsburgs took over in 1273. However, none of the leaders of these times were able to unify the numerous counties, duchies and kingdoms. Furthermore, in the 15th century cities were added to the political scene. Their economic powers, especially through the Hanze trade alliance, often far outstripped the powers held by the feudal nobility.

The Reformation

Mainly because of the power abuse of the church and the oppression it caused, people became increasingly frustrated with the system and started to revolt. In 1517, Luther nailed the doors of the church in Wittenberg and with this act he started the Reformation. This had an enormous effect on the political and social history of Germany. The Reformation ended the political hegemony of the Church. However, the area that is now the border region between Germany and the Netherlands, with towns such as Wietmarschen and Ootmarsum, remained Catholic enclaves.

Countries and cities with an important middle-class wanted to get rid of the oppression by the Catholic regimes of the Spaniards (Netherlands), the French and the Austrian-Habsburgs (Middle-Europe). Many of them used the Reformation as a weapon to obtain independence. Throughout the 16th and 17th century this led to many wars throughout Europe.

In the Netherlands the ‘Staatse’ (supporters of the republic of the Seven Provinces, ruled by the States General) used the Reformation to obtain their independence, which they finally obtained after the 80-year war (1568 – 1648). The various German kingdoms used it to rid themselves of Austrian-Habsburg rulers, during the 30-year war (1618 – 1648). These groups became known as protesters – Protestants.

We know of at least one Budde who claimed that he had participate in various battles of the Thirty Year War, especially in the Livonian expedition (see Courland – Latvia).

The town and monastery of Wietmarschen were hardly affected by the Reformation. They kept in close contact with towns such as Ootmarsum and Weerselo in the catholic region of Twente. The only town where Buddes lived that was affected by the new religion had been Nordhorn. Strongly linked with the county of Bentheim the town followed its ruler in 1544, when he converted the Reformation. Gerhard Hermann Budde, however who moved to Nordhorn in 1771 sticked to the ‘old’ religion and together with the other Catholics of this tolerant city, formed a close-nit community.

War, Poverty, the Pest

During a period of over 150 years the Buddes who lived in the border region between the various powers were confronted by many wars. First it was the Spaniards who crossed the border pursuing the Dutch ‘rebels’ during the 80-year war. Poorly paid, they relied on plundering and stealing and used ransoms as another way to obtain goods and money. In between the Dutch crossed the border and while they were strictly ordered not to steal and plunder they still needed food and shelter.

After the Spaniards and the Dutch, the Swedes arrived in the area. Together with various German kings and other rulers they fought the 30-year war against the incumbent Austrian rulers – these rulers were Catholics and they fought against anything non-Catholic that they encountered.

Key reasons for the Thirty Year War

  • Constant state of revolution in Bohemia;
  • Debilitating and sickly quest for independency of the 300 kings;
  • Political fractioning caused by the lack of unity – all fighting for their own independence;
  • Interference of the political international powers of those days;
  • Religious battles (Reformation).

The Swedes were billeted in Wietmarschen and the Catholic town, as well as the monastery, were held to ransom several times. Often their inhabitants fled to Twente, across the border in the Netherlands, and especially to its sister congregation in Weerselo. As we will see later it is during these wars that the Buddenburg in Vechta was destroyed (see: The Buddenburg in Vechta). In all a third of the German population lost their lives during these bloody years.

The farmers in this area, including the Buddes, lived in constant fear, great poverty, were regularly uprooted and subject to theft and plundering. The plague was an annual event and especially created havoc in times of hunger and neglect. Several centuries were to pass before it was understood that rats caused the disease, both in the cities and in the rural regions. The concept of hygiene did not exist. The same clothes were worn day and night and were only washed a few times a year. Food and utensils were cleaned in rivers and canals that were also used for sewerage and which were an important foraging area for the rats. The Church, however, had ‘the solution’. Pestilence was a punishment of God, because people lived in sin. Through a campaign of fear the Church used her powers to maintain the balance of power in favour of themselves and their secular patrons the Catholic emperors, kings, counts and dukes.

While in other chronicles from this period the cold winter periods are added to this list of misery, this might perhaps be one of the only things the people in Wietmarschen did not suffer. Fuel in medieval times, until the beginning of the 20th century came mainly from the moors in the form of peat. Being on the border of one of the largest swamps in northern Europe the people of Wietmarschen would have had plenty of the stuff.

The Treaty of Munster

In order to end the bloody European wars, kings, generals and politicians from all over Europe assembled in 1648 in Munster and Osnabrück where they negotiated a peace treaty. The key outcomes were:

  • principle of territory
  • principle of sovereignty

Together they became the basis for the borders of most European countries; most of them are still in place 350 years later. Within these borders the states would have full sovereignty regarding law making, religion, jurisdiction.

After the Treaty of Munster (Treaty of Westphalia), new countries where the reformists had overthrown their previous Catholic rulers were recognised. At this Congress also, as mentioned before, the official border between the Republic (Netherlands) and the German Empire were drawn. In a large area of Europe peace was restored, be it sometimes for a short period only. Slowly the livelihood of the citizens of these countries started to improve. In the tax overviews of that time we see a very slow but steady improvement of the economic situation of the Budde farm in Wietmarschen.

Bishop monarch Bernhard van Galen

In the diocese town of Munster, local citizens wanted to rid themselves of the Catholic yoke. However, the bishop monarch Bernhard van Galen wanted the opposite and went to war against the Dutch reformists. There were two wars between Munster and the Netherlands (1665-1666 and 1672-1674). Both Nordhorn and Groningen were besieged. However, in the end the bishop was forced to withdraw, but he was able to maintain power within the city of Munster.

In one of his poems, ‘mien ole hoes’ – my old house – Theodorus Budde tells the story of Bernhard van Galen visiting the house the Budde family occupied in Ootmarsum and giving his blessing to this house. However, Bernhard died in 1678 and the house in the story by Theodorus was only built in 1710 (see also chapter: mien ole hoes). Either the bishop visited the house that stood on that place before or there might have been another bishop from Munster that had paid the house a visit. However, it is definitely possible that Bernhard van Galen visited Ootmarsum during the campaigns. The old house was strategically situated next to the town-gate.

Further on we will see that there is second (indirect) link between the Budde family and this bishop (see: The Buddenburg in Vechta).

Over 300 German States

After the Treaty of Munster, the land was more divided than ever before and Germany contained more than 300 independent states and towns. Under the Treaty all of them were allowed to independently formulate their own foreign policies. France and Austria exploited this situation and were a constant threat to these independent unities. This situation only started to change after Prussia began to develop itself in the second half of the 18th century. Unfortunately for them, Napoleon spoilt this and occupied most of Europe, including all of Germany, from 1795 till 1806. However, the urge for German unity was seeded and Prussia would play the key role in this. It was however, not until the war of 1870/1871 that the various independent counties in Germany were united. It was only at that time that the many counties lost their political powers.

 Emigration to America

In the early 19th century, in the wake of industrialisation, famines, and with wealthier farmers accumulating land, many were forced to leave Germany, seeking opportunity in the American Midwest.

Poor farmers and their families read popular pamphlets describing cheap land available in America. Emigration agents traveled through towns recruiting immigrants on behalf of localities eager for settlers. Immigration was costly, involving equipment, provisions, and months of travel. To finance their transit, many immigrants became “redemptioners,” working for a set term in America to pay their travel costs. Others worked for relatives who migrated earlier to pay for the family’s transit costs

A large number of Buddes immigrated to the USA during the 1840-1870 period. This coincided with a very severe potato disease that spread through Europe in 1845 ands 1846, resulting in widespread starvation.

Buddes from our own branch in Wietmarschen as well from neighbouring Ahlde moved to America..

Diedrich Arnold Budde and his wife Christina Maria Stomp who emigrated from Amsterdam to North America in 1847 wrote down an interesting story about the hardships of emigration.

See also:

A relative large number of Budde researchers are in the USA. On the Family.com website I have established a researchers forum where information can be exchanged.