Bilgoraj was founded by Adam Gorajski on the route from Przemysl and Jarosław to Lublin[1.1]. The name of Bilgoraj is probably older than the settlement itself. It consists of two parts: “Goraj” (hilly place) and „Biel” (white)[1.2]. It seems likely that the heights on the Lada River were called „Biały Goraj”. Initially that name was spelled “Bielgoraj”, and then Bilgoraj[1.3]. Thanks to the founder’s merits, in 1578, Bilgoraj was granted a city charter based on Mageburg Law[1.4]. The town was granted a privilege to organize fairs each Saturday and three big fairs a year[1.5].
It was mainly its favorable location on the trade route from Tarnogrod to Bilgoraj that added to the development of the town [1.6].
After the death of Adam, the owner of Bilgoraj, the town was transferred to his son – Zbigniew[1.7], who, in 1611, asked the king to certify the location privilege. The new owner wanted to tidy up all the matters related to the town. In 1628 a privilege was granted in favor of craftsmen skilled at wood processing, ceramics and metal works.
The 17th century was a period of Bilgoraj’s prosperity[1.8], mainly due to the development of trade [1.9]. After Zbigniew’s death the town was transferred to his son – Teodor, and afterwards to his sister – Teofilia Rej[1.10]. The next owner was Stanisław Antoni Szczuka, who was succeeded by Konstancja, the widow of the deceased, as well as his minor sons [1.11].
The first records of fires which destroyed Bilgoraj come from the middle of the 17th century. It was at that time that the town was burnt by Tartars and Cossacks. During the Northern War Biłgoraj was plundered by the Swedish, Russian and Sass soldiers. Despite all the destruction, it was soon rebuilt to be destroyed again by the fire of 1748.
In 1726 Marcin Leopold Szczuka became governor of the town and on July 26 he determined the amounts and types of levies imposed upon the townsmen, Jews as well as the inhabitants of the neighboring villages, payable to the local parish priest. The next owner of Bilgoraj was Marcin’s sister – Wiktoria (1733), who was succeeded by her adolescent daughter – Marianna Katska. Bilgoraj became part of the Potocki family’s estate after Marianna was married to Eustachy Potocki. The owners did not take much interest in the town, which was governed by administrators[1.12]. In 1779 the estate was divided among Eustachy and Marianna’s sons. The governor of Bilgoraj was the youngest son – Jan, who, in 1786, renounced his rights to the estate to his brother – Stanislaw Kostka Potocki.
In 1795 Bilgoraj was overtaken by Austrian rule and in 1809 it became part of the Duchy of Warsaw. In 1815 the town was incorporated into the Kingdom of Poland [1.15].
From the middle of the 19th century the gradual development of Bilgoraj started[1.16] , it was hampered, however, by the fires of 1819 and 1834[1.17]. The town suffered most as a result of the fire which broke out on May 28, 1872 [1.18] to be followed by two more fires in 1875 and 1880 [1.19].
In 1907 Bilgoraj was in the central part of the so-called Battle of Galicia. In its first days the town was seized by the Austrian army. In 1915 the Austro-Hungarian Army reentered the town and, consequently, Bilgoraj fell under Austrian rule. A year later, in 1916, the occupiers built a narrow-gauge railway line, which connected Bilgoraj to Zwierzyniec. In the same year a municipal school was opened by the town community. In that school the language of instruction was Polish[1.20].
[1.1] R. Szczygieł, W dawnej Rzeczypospolitej (1578 – 1795) [ed.:] J. Markiewicz, R. Szczygieł, W. Śladkowski, Dzieje Biłgoraja, Lublin 1985, p. 12.
[1.2] S. Warchoł, Nazwy miast Lubelszczyzny, Lublin 1964, p. 26.
[1.3] R. Szczygieł, W dawnej…, p. 25.
[1.4] R. Szczygieł, W dawnej… p. 12.
[1.5] R. Szczygieł, W dawnej…p. 16.
[1.6] R. Szczygieł, W dawnej…, p. 23.
[1.7] J. Niedźwiedź, Leksykon historyczny miejscowości dawnego województwa zamojskiego, Zamość 2003, p. 42.
[1.8] R. Szczygieł, W dawnej…, p. 31.
[1.9] R. Szczygieł, W dawnej.., p. 47.
[1.10] R. Szczygieł, W dawnej, p. 32.
[1.11] J. Niedźwiedź, Leksykon historyczny..., p. 42.
[1.12] R. Szczygieł, W dawnej..., p. 34-35.
[1.13] R. Szczygieł, W dawne...j, p. 41.
[1.14] R. Szczygieł, W dawnej..., p. 43.
[1.15] J. Niedźwiedź, Leksykon historyczny..., p. 43.
[1.16] W. Śladkowski, W latach zaborów (1795-1918) [in:] Dzieje...,p. 79.
[1.17] W. Śladkowski, W latach zaborów (1795-1918) [in:] Dzieje..., p. 79.
[1.18] W. Śladkowski, W latach zaborów...,, p. 79.
[1.19] W. Śladkowski, W latach zaborów..., p. 80.
[1.20] W. Śladkowski, W latach zaborów..., p. 148-149.
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