(by Cees van Halem, based on origional research carried out by W. Schmitz, keeper of the records, Burggeeste, Germany)
Before the periode that the Von Halem family was found in the region Oldenburg (f.i. in the city of Delmenhorst and Aurich), they where living in the surroundings of what's called Quakenbruek nowadays. In order to give an impression of their local importance, we give a description of the early mediaeval society in general and that of the city of Quakenbruek in particular.
The origins of Quakenbrueck
At the place we find the city of Quakenbrueck nowadays on the map there is since ages a crossing of a main highway with the river Hase; a highway of trade and of war. This highway connected the city of Osnabrueck with the delta of the rivers Weser and Ems. Near to the bridge (which presence can be found in the name of the city) was a manor that was owned by the bishop. This manor had to pay taxes to its governor (i.e. the bishop), according to an agreement.
The bow in the river was very important since ancient times. Since the decline of the German Emperors several regional administrators where in conflict at this place. The bishop of Osnabruek owned here a big array of land. To the north of Quakenbrueck we find Essen; an area that was inherited by the counts of Tecklenburg. Their influence was later enlarged over the regions Cloppenburg and Friesoythe, as over Hummling. In the east we find the county of Vechta (under control of the counts of Ravensburg). Both families had also important pieces of land to the south of Quakenbrueck; in Vangau and in Wittenfelde. The counts of Oldenburg had a manor in Menslage and some scattered properties.
Since the fall of Henri the Lion, the counts of Tecklenburg took over the administration of the castle of Osnabrueck; with the bishops the counts have had conflicts for many years. In 1225 the archbishop Engelbert of Cologne was murdered by count Friedrich von Isenburg. His family member, Otto von Tecklenburg, gave him refuge in his castle. In 1227 the archbishop of Cologne started a battle against Tecklenburg, together with the Osnabuecker bishop. This had as a result that in the year 1236 the castle of Osnabueck was freed from the administration of the counts of Tecklenburg.
The origins of the castle Quakenbrueck
In order to maintain his rights in the region governed by the counts of Tecklenburg, bishop Konrad I established in the Hase region a settlement; simply by fortifying the existing farmhouses; so the city of Quackenbruck was established. In terms of strategy this place was very well chosen. The castle Quakenbrueck was on a natural hill in the east of the city and surrounded by water (the big and the small Hase). The fortifications were simply of wood. Around the castle there was a big marketplace; also to give room for tournaments. We don't know how long the duration of the castle lasted; probably not so long because the city itself was not long thereafter fortified. In the 16th century the castle was occupied by the local administration of farmers. Nowadays we can't find hardly anything of the castle except an indication of the place where it was ever situated.
The local civil administrators of Quakenbruck ('Burgmaenner' or Knights)
In charters the castle is mentioned in the year 1279, but castlemen are mentioned since 1248. In the first two centuries of the existence of Quakenbrueck, the administration of the Burgmaenner was fully in charge. The ordinary civil people had in fact no significance role. The clerical administration was settleled around 1257 in Quakenbrueck but decided to move to Bramsche in 1276. As stated in charters, due to lack of income the clerical administration could not remain in Quakenbrueck. The main cause that the administration could not exist in Quakenbrueck was the rapid growth of the number of Knights. In the later Middle Ages a greater fortune and a bigger influence could only be gained by more land. Because of the growtht of the population this could hardly be achieved.
The administration of the castle Quakenbruek was in the hands of the Knights. The college of Knights was first mentioned in a charter of September 23rd 1248. In that statement count Otto von Oldenburg transfers the cloister of Bersenbrueck to Quakenbrueck. As a witness is mentioned:Henrico von Halen.
In a charter dated November 24th of 1278 the Quakenbrueck Burgmaenner are mentioned as they are inaugurated as members of the congregation of Osnabrueck knights. In total 13 Knights are summed up among them also Heinrich (Henrico) von Halen. In the following years the name Von Halen is mentioned:
Conrad von Halen; 1281, 1286 and 1290
Gerlacus von Halen; 1293, 1294 and 1297
Engelbertus von Halen
In the year 1323 (16th of April) a member of the Von Halen family was mentioned as a witness in the region that they would inhabit later (Oldenburger Land): Knappe Johann von Halen.
Charcsteristics of Burgman/Knight
According to the Saksen moral rights the Burgmaenner had the duty to:
A college of four men was elected from their midst. Nobility from the Nordland participated also. In a letter containing 61 articles they gave themselves the right to act, without permission of the bishop. Because of this the Burgmaenner could play an important role in de regional administrations (Landesvereinigungen) which were controlled by the bishop. In agreements (d.d. 1279 and 1343) the Burgmaenner had mutual duties to defend and support each other in case of external threats, with 10 saddled horses. The Osnabruecker Knights and the city of Osnabruck had to participate to the same extent. The Burgmaenner of other castles where obliged to participate to a smaller extent.
The positioning of inflexible and self-assured Quakenbrueker Burgmaenner was the reason behind the fact that the bishops were seldom seen at their castle since the 14th century. The Quackenbruek castle is the only castle among the Osnabruck castles that was not seat of a guardian. The reason was that nobility (i.e. Burgmaenner) prevented that the guardian could act.
The Burgmaenner were independent and ‘free’ in many respect. In a letter dated 1492 was declared that in case a Burgman was murdered, his relatives should chase the murderer on behalf of vendetta. The relatives of the murderer were forbidden to support or defend their family-menber. Property rights were protected by articles in de mentioned letter. More than half of the content of the letter refers to penal legislation: murder, injury, abduction, offence. There were no articles concerning theft and perjury.
Public robbery was not forbidden in all cases. The bishop even stand for robbery of the Burgmaenner.
When the Burgmaenner where not at their horse, they were gaming. Normally the game of playing dices was forbidden. The letter mentioned earlier sais than nobody in Quakenbrueck could be set in the pillory because of gambling.
It is clear that the interests of the citizens as a whole, where not always save in the hands of the local administration (i.c. Brugmaenner or Knights) because the latter acted mainly in her own military and economic interests. Until the year 1350 there is only limited information available about citizens, simply because they where no factor of importance. In that respect it is understandable that Quakenbrueck until the end of the Middle Ages was primarily know as a castle and not as a city. The seal of the Burgmaenner –the fortified door of the castle with two towers- has been the weapon of the city until the 19th century.
The typical activities of a city, trade and handicraft, had only limited significance. The majority of the population was engaged in agriculture. The landed estates of the manors of the bishops, were given in lease to the citizens. One-third or one-quarter of the harvest had to be paid to the bishop; for new developed landed estates one-tenth had to be paid.
At the end of the Middle Ages where the conditions for the lower nobility worsened. The Knights loosed their significance for the bishop because the latter hired his own army. So no longer benefits could be realized sitting in the saddle. The general conditions for living for the population became better, while these conditions for nobility became worse. At the beginning of the 16th century was nobility only a few families. Under these families we doe not find the Von Halem family. They had withdrawn themselves on there properties in Ammerland and Oldenburg. Some members of this family had left nobility and became citizens, partly because of extreme taxation, partly because of facts that were out of their control.
Van Halen members mentioned in charters
According tot the research carried out by Mr Schmitz, the following members of the Van Halen family are mentioned in the charters of Quakenbrueck:
Hilmann van Halen or Hilmann von Halem is born around 1560 in Delmenhorst and died in 1620 in the same city. He is probably a decendant of Dyderke because Rastede is in the neighbourhoud of Delmenhorst. The relation of Hilmann with the numbers 9 to 13 is until now unclear.
The first names of the persons mentioned under the numbers 1 to 5 could refer to origins in the south of Holland (i.e. Belgium nowadays).