Previously published in PGS-CA Bulletin (July 1991)
Translated from the Słownik Geograficzny (1880-1902)
by Helen Bienick
Mielec, a village and a colony, lies on the river Naruszewka in the county of Płonsk about 10 verst from the city of Płonsk. There is a parish church built of wood in the village in 1786. There were two windmills and a small inn. In the late 1800s there were 46 houses with a population of 503 inhabitants. The area covered 1230 very fertile morgen of land, of which only 15 morgen were not in use. In 1827 there were 20 houses and 134 people.
The town of Mielec, the seat of Mielec county, is built on a sandy plain, 186 meters above sea level, on the right bank of the Wisłoka River; it is one mile from Przecław, two miles from Radomyśl and six miles from Sandomierz. It has a population of 3,177 inhabitants, of which 1,705 are Catholic, and 2,472 are Jewish. The center of town consists of one-story wooden homes in garden enclosures. A magnificent ancient church of brick (St. Matthew’s) stands out with its gleaming white tower. The center of town is built on the highest elevation, and when the Wisłoka River floods its plain, the town gives the appearance of an island sitting in a vast lake. In the first quarter of the 19th century, this very orderly and clean town did not differ any from the other small towns in Galicia.
One road exiting Mielec leads north to Baranów; another road following the Wisłoka River leads to the east and Dębica, a distance of 33 kilometers. The road westward heads to Radomyśl. These three roads lead to the neighboring villages of Podleszany and Wola Mielecka, where they branch out to the other settlements in the county. The Wisłoka River borders the town on the north and the west. On the east, it is surrounded by an immense pine forest, which is the northern portion of the Sandomierz wilderness. In the northern part of Mielec stands the Babia Góra farmstead. On the western bank of the river lie the ruins of an ancient castle.
The village is poor. Its municipal expenses are defrayed by taxes levied on the market place and the sale of cattle. In the year 1883, these taxes netted 4,674 żłoty. The county offices, tax bureau, and other governmental facilities are headquartered in a building which was formerly the monastery of the Trinitarian Fathers, which was built in the late 1700s. It also houses the court which consists of one judge, two assistants and two registrars. The court handles the affairs of 51 villages and 35 other settlements, encompassing 32,998 people. Mielec also has a notary, post office, telegraph office, county supervisor’s office, the farm bureau, and the school district offices for Mielec and Tarnobrzeg.
Mielec at all times has two doctors, two surgeons and a veterinarian. There is a drug store, as well as several shops well-stocked with groceries, cloth and other merchandise. There is a school with four classrooms.
(Note: A great-grandfather of mine, Josephat Kobany, was a “docent” (teacher) in this school in the 1820s.) Helen
The league of merchants and business men numbers 844 members. They invested 12,206 żłoty in the Austrian stock exchange, and maintain 2,494 żłoty in a reserve fund. In 1883 the city expenditure was 1,038 żłoty, and loans were granted in the sum of 91,815 żłoty for the year. For humanitarian purposes, there is a home for the poor with a capital of 2,063 żłoty, and a hospital funded by Pinkas Kranz.
Mielec was the family home of the Gryfów Mieleckis, whose family line ended in 1771. They built Mielec from a small settlement into a small city. In 1502, Mielec was destroyed by fire, and King Alexander issued a moratorium releasing the inhabitants from paying taxes for the next ten years. In 1516 the nobility met here to formulate defense strategy against the marauding Tatars. In 1522 King Zygmunt I, in Grodno, granted noble privileges to Stanisław Mielecki as the new proprietor of Mielec. For his cost in maintaining the roads, dams, river banks and bridges, he was allowed to charge a toll of four dinars per wagon traffic using these routes. By 1532, Stanisław and Sebastian Mielecki petitioned King Zygmunt I to increase the charge.
In 1580 the Tarnowski family acquired Mielec as part of the dowry of Sophia Mielecki. Later, Mielec became the property of the King’s chief commander, Karol Chodkiewicz. In 1610 it was acquired by Zbigniew Ossolinski, a chamberlain of the courts. It remained in the Ossolinski family for over 200 years. The present owner is hrabia (Count) Ludwik Starzenski.
The church dates back to 1826, and contains many monuments of the Mielecki families. It sustained four missions throughout the area. Until 1854, the church in Chorzelów was under its administration. It is part of the diocese of Tarnów, and serves the villages of Wojsław, Smoczka, Cyranka, Biesiadka, Rzędzianowice, Trzcianna and Złotniki. The combined population of these villages is 8,688 people; there are 5,948 Catholics, 45 Lutherans and 2,695 Israeli.
In 1611 King Zygmunt III permitted “market days” on Tuesdays, and fairs on the feast day of St. Jacob and Candlemas Day. Presently there are five fairs held yearly on Thursdays following the feasts of Candlemas, the Holy Trinity, the Assumption, St. Matthew and St. Martin. The chief items sold at these fairs are corn, grains, cattle, hogs and cloth.
One of the estates consists of 153 morg of farms, 26 morg of meadows and gardens, 16 morg of pastureland, and 27 morg of forests. Another of the manor estates has 510 morg of farms, 38 of meadows, and 87 morg of pastures. Southeast Mielec borders Wojsław, the northern part borders Cyranka and Złotniki.
Mielec county is surrounded by Dąbrowski county on the west, Ropczyce and Tarnów counties on the south, and Kołbuszowa, Tarnobrzeg and the Vistula River on the north. Its population numbers 66,264 inhabitants living in 106 settlements and 91 villages. It is one of the least populated counties, averaging 80 persons per kilometer. There are only four large towns, Mielec, Radomyśl, Rzochów and Przecław. Reportedly for the year 1869, statistics show a total of 56 marriages, 26 births and a high death rate of one out of every 29 inhabitants. There are no significantly large factories, no liquor or beer distilleries. In 1869 there was no railroad line traversing the county, making communication difficult. Transporting the main product of the county, lumber, is very costly and unprofitable.