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[Page 13]

Chapter 1

Brief Overview
on the General History of Białystok


א    A

The earliest epoch (till 1665)

Translated by David Horowitz-Larochette

Before the [first world] war Białystok was a county seat of the Grodno Governorate. The town lies in the great forest-region Polesia. It is built up on both banks of a small river called Bialy, which is a tributary of the Suprasl river. This small river starts a few kilometers from the town and flows into the Suprasl which connects with the river Narew. The town Białystok, which means “White Stream”, is actually named after this little river Bialy.

  • According to what is mostly accepted[1], Białystok was established in the year 1320, as a village. The founder, supposedly, was the Lithuanian Grand Duke Gediminas. Whether this is true or not, the town Białystok is definitely located in the territory that belonged to the Lithuanian Grand Duke.

  • The first definite historical information about Białystok comes from a much later time, the year 1514[2]. This first piece of information is very small and limits itself to stating that the settlement in Białystok in the year 1514 belonged to a certain royal tenant named Mikołaj Michnowicz Raczkowicz or “Bachelor”, marshal and secretary to the hospodar (King Alexander Jagiello, translator's note). He received it as a gift from King Sigismund. Later it belonged to the Bakałarzewicz family. In the year 1547, it passed to Piotr Wiesiołowski who received it as a dowry when he married a widow from the Bakałarzewicz family. The Wiesiołowski family were the first to become rigorously involved with Białystok and thus from the first half of the 16th century we begin to receive more information about this place.

    [Page 14]

    The first Piotr Wiesiołowski came from a larger area. After his death his inheritance passed to his son Piotr Wiesiołowski II, who can rightly be considered the founder of the shtetl Białystok. In the year 1581 he started building a castle, which he completed in 1589. But Białystok still belonged to the parish of Suraz.

    In the year 1620 Piotr Wiesiołowski died and Białystok passed by inheritance to his youngest son Krzysztof, who was a high-ranking official of King Sigismund III and fought together with him in the great wars. Krzysztof Wiesiołowski had his residence in Tykocin. He therefore annexed Białystok to his beloved residence-town. In the year 1637 Krzysztof died childless and before his death gave Białystok up in order to maintain the castle at Tykocin. Białystok was from that time on managed by Ostrowski, the governor of Tykocin, who seized it but in 1658 the Polish king Jan Casimir reclaimed it and gave it to the Polish noblemen.

    In the year 1661 King Jan Casimir issued a privilege, by which he gave over the government of Tykocin with all its dependent noblemen and heirs as a contribution to the governor of Kiev, the later Field Hetman Stefan Czarniecki (1599-1665), the infamous “hero” in the history of the Jews (details on this in chapter two), as a prize for his heroism and profits he brought the crown. The village of Białystok is specifically included in this. The Warsaw State Council established him on a permanent basis over the Tykocin region with all its villages, amongst them also Białystok. After Czarniecki's death[3] the government of Tykocin, together with Białystok, passed to the count Jan Klemens Branicki, who received it as a dowry when he married his wife Alexandra Katerina, Czarniecki's daughter. He hardly even noticed Białystok because he was occupied with high affairs of the crown.


    1. This is the opinion of Baprawski, Balinski and Lipinski in Starozytna Polska, V.3, Slownik Geograficzny, V.1; Moszczycki holds that the date is doubtful. Return
    2. Encyklopedia Powszechna, wyd. Gutenberga; Slownik Geograficzny Krolewstwa Polskiego by Sulimierski- Chlebowski for the word Bialystok. Return
    3. Czarniecki was born in 1599 and died in 1665. Return

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