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Social Structures

by Alexander Sohm last modified 2007-01-08 13:37

Like the way that the Ill power plants and tourism influence the social and economic situation today, mining influenced the social and economic structures for hundreds of years in the Montafon.

The increasing use of miners from other countries, who were probably “dirty foreigners” to the locals, as well as the immigration of German speaking settlers from Wallis, led to the ancestral population becoming a minority.  What linked the “Silberers” to the Walsers was the language, the privileged rights, like tax rights, the right to choose a successor, and for about 100 years a common court which was responsible for the lower jurisdiction.  What separated them were their different ideas about land and property.  The mining industry bought tools in order to dig and forests to keep the mines running, while the free Walsers, even though some of them worked in the mines, were mostly interested in buying up land to settle and then to farm the land as free farmers.

The old settlers, who still spoke Rheatian-Romanian were linked to the Walsers at the beginning by their common interest in farming and Alpine dairy farming, while they had nothing in common with the miners.  You can imagine how these differences and unequal economic and legal levels were responsible for a lot of tension between the different groups.  The miners often led lives that the local population didn’t agree with.  The hard work in the dark mountain didn’t have much variety and it was understandable that when they went to the guest houses, they wanted to forget the hardships at work.  The miners were tough characters who supported their arguments with their fists.  On the other hand, most of them were religious and they were always happy to fulfil their Christian duties.

Because of all the fights going on in the Montafon, the government in Innsbruck was asked to send them a brave, impartial man.  As a representative of the mountain judge, he would be expected to make peace between the farmers and the miners.  In 1524 the Knight – Anstatt Waldner von Frundstein who came from Alsace, died in Schruns.  He was probably the man that was sent to keep the miners in line.  His tomb can be seen at the back of the church in Schruns.  

Many old documents and letters from mining times in the Montafon are in the archives of the Montafon museum of local history in Schruns.  Unfortunately, the reports about production results are missing.  Of course they wouldn’t come anywhere near the results from the Schwazer Mines that had their best year in 1523 with 15,695 kg of Silver and 1,098 tons of copper.  A letter from the year 1523 is very informative when it comes to the relationship between the authorities and the common folk where we read “the workers in the smelteries for Bludenz, ask the government of Innsbruck for remittal of a debt of 89 Florins.


P11-3 social structures.mp3

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