Mining in the Kappler Valley (Satis Shroff)
In an old German song there is mention of the flood of silver-ore from the Schauinsland hill, of Kappel’s small church, where the traveller finds rest and peace. The stream, and the green meadow, and the song of the shepard boy. The hill-stream flows, the wooden mill-wheel creaks and moves, and the pine forests echo with the chirps and tweets of the bird songs. The countryman struggles on the steep hill, the hard-working mountain man uses his drill to dig for ores in Schauinsland. The baskets, heavily laden with ores moved down to the valley along the ropeway. In the deep Black Forest the axe was swung and giant trees felled. The son of Kappler Valley sojourns afar and has longing for his home. His eyes become ultimately tired and close. The Kappler Valley should be his last home of rest and he greets it a thousand times.But today, the poisonous depotits from the mining industry is causing a lot of protests from the people who live in the vicinity of the olde mining area in Kappel and Neuhäuser.
Mining in the Kappler Valley (Satis Shroff)
The Kapplerlied tells us about the hamlet of Kappel, which lies below the crescent of Black Forest peaks.
O lovely Vale of Kappel,
I think of you.
O my Heimat,
I greet you
A thousand times.
There is mention of the flood of silver-ore from the Schauinsland hill, of Kappel’s small church, where the traveller finds rest and peace. The stream, and the green meadow, and the song of the shepard boy. The hill-stream flows, the wooden mill-wheel creaks and moves, and the pine forests echo with the chirps and tweets of the bird songs. The countryman struggles on the steep hill, the hard-working mountain man uses his drill to dig for ores in Schauinsland. The baskets, heavily laden with ores moved down to the valley along the ropeway. In the deep Black Forest the axe was swung and giant trees felled. The son of Kappler Valley sojourns afar and has longing for his home. His eyes become ultimately tired and close. The Kappler Valley should be his last home of rest and he greets it a thousand times.
The first historical certificate to prove that there was a mining area in the Kappler Valley dates back to April 24, 1452 in which a certain Heinrich Knöringen from Imrenbach is mentioned.
It was Emperor Maximilian I who introduced the Hill Mining Order for Hofsgrund in 1517 and its modification in the years 1520,1523 and 1525. During the Thirty Year War the mining activity in the Schauinsland and Kappel came to a stop.
After 1731 the silver was brought from the hills to the Münzamt in Hall. Melting huts, and other houses were built and a colony of workers was settled, which led to protests from the local farmers because the melting ovens led to more use of wood, and the miners began using the meadows which resulted in court cases.
As early as 1751, the Community Administration Kappel finalised an agreement to avoid the damage to the soil in the concerned area. In 1754 the Kappler farmers sought the solicitor’s assistance in Oberried, and delivered a complaint about the negligence in the handling of protective measures on the part of the mining workers. The Letter of Complaint was addressed to the local Austrian government .Another major argument was about the poisonous substances that damaged the soil and endangered the farm-animals. In a directive addressed to Caspar Berger (Mining Judge) by the directors of the Hill Mining Society in Schwaz stated that in no case should the washed-water containing arsenic and other ‘wild’ elements.
Nevertheless, there were a lot of differences between the miners and the farmers. On July 18, 1761 the silver mining industry had to pull its brakes because a fire a fire destroyed the houses and a nearby forest. The following year Beroldingen fired the mine-workers. The miners had to look for jobs elsewhere.
In the early days, the mining activity centred on excavating and exploiting lead and silver ores. Lead was used for rifle cartridges and cannon-balls, and the silver in lieu of currency, and as jewellery. Freiherr von Roggenbach, a silver-mining engineer trained in the USA and who fought in Mexico, started mining for zinc-blende in 1876 with success.
The mine-workers lived under the poverty-level in those days, as they didn’t have many rights. Many of them were from Tyrol, Austria and went home when they lost their jobs.
When you cross the bridge where the river Brugga flows in Kappel, and walk towards Maiers’ Hill, you’ll see a sign with the word: Erzwäscherei. After the washing, the ores were transported by train and the railway-station of Kappel was a mere 500 metres.
There used to be an administrative office at the Neuhäuser Strasse, near the railway-station. 120 miners used to live above the Herder-hut and they had to pay 3 Marks per month for bed, towels, electric light and water.
On March 1, 1900 the first ropeway was put to use from the Leopoldstollen to the ore-washing unit below the north spur of the Bannwald.
The first miners who died in an accident on January 21, 1902 were the Italian bachelor Luigi Marzada and Domino Fozza (married). They were the victims of a stratigraphic movement in the hill, which illustrated that the hilldside wasn’t, and still isn’t, stabile.
In recent times, the Storm Lothar is still in our minds, when the pine trees in the Black Forest were destroyed as though they were made of match-sticks. The damage it caused was enormous.
Another Italian, who lived in Kappel, met with an accident and died while he was about to ignite a dynamite fuse. In the home for Hill Miners, most of the workers were from either Italy or Tyrol.
Whereas Mr. Baumann from Freiburg reported on September 15, 1903 about a flourishing mining industry in Schauinsland, by 1905 the price of the ores sank and hard times began.
It was in 1908 that the Oberrieder Stollen produced 1444 tonnes of Zinc ores, 325 tonnes lead and transported them to Stolberg.
World War I needed raw-stuff and as a result the price of metal shot up in Germany. The extraction of ores in Schauinsland began to bring profit. The wagons on rails were drawn by horses then. A lot of miners had to join the War Service and this was compensated by the use of prisoners-of-war (POW). The metal-price plummeted at the end of the war in 1918.
In 1920 there were 223 miners working in the ore-washing lines. Only silver was worth digging for. The silver-content then was 400g / tonne.
Stolberger Zinc AG Aachen (1934-1956):
It was decided in the days of the German Reich that the enormous joblessness and deficiency of raw materials could be solved by financially supporting the hill-mining industry. The Stolberger Zink AG located in Aachen showed interest in buying the mine at Schauinsland from Bergbau AG (Lothringen) and an agreement was finalised on May 31, 1935. The Stolberger Zink AG was obliged to pay a sum of 100 000 Reich Marks.
Since Stolberger Zink AG had financial resources, it introduced a new ore-washing method using the pneumatic flotation principle. The ore-mixture was brought together with chemicals in the flotation-baths.
The ambitious Third Reich needed the ores and metals for its armaments industry. The railway reduced its rates for the ore transport. At the end of 1938 there were 314 miners and office-staff.
On the side of the Neuhäuser street new Schlamm-ponds were set up. Today, you see only wild grass and flowers in this place. In winter, when the leaves fall and the trees and bushes are deprived of their foliage cover, you see the mess left behind by the ore and mining industry. Even small children play and do ice-skating gleefully on the frozen ponds, underneath which lies a pool with cadmium, lead, arsenic and zinc. How carefree is this world.
The World War II commenced on September 1, 1938, a fateful day. Besides the ore-mining, all work was brought to a standstill. If you weren’t a miner, you had to join the Armed Forces. The mining work was started when the first POWs arrived, and later the so-called East-Workers. The deeper mine shafts reached a depth of 2000 metres in 1941, and the people were numbered at 360-men.
Among them were many Italians, French, Russian and Polish POWs. The Third Reich lost the war. The work had to be stopped in May 1945. The Allies were victorious and the foreign workers and the POWs returned to their home countries.
In the autumn of 1946 the mine-workers commenced work with 52 miners and 11 office-staff.
In 1950 the price for lead and zinc fell and the workers lost their jobs.
In 1952 the price for the ores of Kappel and Schauinsland reached a new low, probably as a result of the Korean War. Plastic was the new product in the world market which replaced metal to a certain extent. The industry reacted fast and switched over to plastic product manufacture.
On the night of September 15, 1956 a major fire broke out and destroyed an important part of the mining works and caused a damage of 400,000 Deutsche Marks. On November 1958 the last mine-worker and craftsmen lost their jobs.
‘What’s left of this historical mining industry?’ you might ask.
What you find today are old tumbled walls to the northern part of the Bannwald, the Steiger house, the old transformator-tower, and remains of the tracks at Bremsberg. The store-building and the saw-mill building still exist. The barracks and tracks in the Neuhäuser strasse were stripped away. A lot of old buildings were removed and new ones built.
Where the hill-pond was in the Neuhäuser strasse, you see flowers, thick bushes upto the Kappler hillside. The White Farmer’s House was been sold. Most of the outlets of the mine-shafts leading to the mining area have been closed.
The Stolberger Zink AG brought money to the community in Kappel in the former days, between 250,000 to 280,000 German Marks in taxes. Today, the main problem is the poisonous depots of the ore-cleaning ponds in the Neuhäuser strasse and Sternenpeterhof.
In this context, I’d like to mention Mr. Ernst Ehemann, a Kappler gent who was instrumental in starting a Bergbau Museum at the town-council in Kappel, and one day it is hoped that the visitors can see the exhibits in a real museum, which is of historical and pedagogical value for the people of the Dreisam valley and beyond.