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About Woodcutters & Trophies
forestry in Austria a hundred years ago
Behind the scenes

About Woodcutters & Trophies

In this second part of the series, I’m going to look at the history of forestry and hunting in the Kleinarl Valley. In the first part we looked at the “Jägersee Estate“ and fishing. Click here to read. So it’s time to head for the forest and into the long and important history of the timber industry.

Thanks to princely gifts the forests in Salzburgerland landed in the hands of the archbishops. Due to increasing settlement, the rules of usage had to be waived, as forestry was so restricted. Already back in 1237 such a forest order was decreed. In Salzburg there was a great deal of mining – gold, silver, copper, iron and other metals and salt were mined too, for which a huge amount of wood was required. Therefore blackwood forest “has to be felled and hacked for the use of everyone, rich or poor.. The high forest, blackwood forest and those woods allocated to the subjects were declared to be salt mine and mine forest and separated using fences. Exact, updated and controlled border posts were erected, so the forests could be kept separated. Often the borders were changed by the farmers to their advantage. To protect and oversee, whether the decreed forest orders were kept, Masters of the Woods, Under Masters of the Woods, foresters, wood overseers and forest labourers were employed. By law two to three Under Masters of the Woods were employed, as the “Master of the Woods cannot do such a job alone“. In Kleinarl an Under Master of the Woods was employed, as the Master of the Woods himself was in Werfen.

in the woods in Salzburg

The woodcutters of the time had such tools as the corn axe, the branch axe, the pickeroon, foot iron and the snow shovel. With the corn axe there was a lot of loss. From 1785 the long saw was introduced, this however, encountered resistance from woodcutters and farmers as new innovations initially do. The wood was then transported by “log floating” along streams and rivers to the mines. There was a difference between “free streams and self waters“ which conducted so much water, that no locking (“jamming“ of the logs) was possible. In the main and tributary streams drift masters were employed. They mainly ensured that the floating logs from the secondary valleys came together in the Salzach river, to then swim on further towards Hallein.

The history of Kleinarl

Happy and well paid

The people in Kleinarl have always endeavoured to live in an environment in which they could happily and humbly earn their livelihood. They never needed great luxury to be content – a character trait, which has remained until today and back then even impressed the authorities. Canon, Count Spaur, described the following in 1805 with high regard: “These woodcutters are submitted to risking their lives daily to work for their earned gulden (=fl), and consider themselves to be happy and well paid. In Pliembach, I talked to a man, who was once a woodcutter and is now married with a small farm holding, upon which he can keep 7-8 cows. I asked him, if he or his wife inherited some money for this purchase. He answered: my wife only brought me 200fl. I was, however, a woodcutter for 14 years, God blessed me with strength and health, so that I could work every day and I could earn more than a Thaler, sometimes 2fl, as we were paid according to the amount of fathoms worked and in this way I was able to save so much, that I could pay half of my farm holding in cash. I tell you this anecdote, because I have not found a better living example for people’s fruits of labour and temperance..“  Indeed the monthly wage at the time was 6fl, therefore 2fl for one day were indeed very good earnings. As well paid the work was, as so dangerous. Often in impassable terrain on steep slopes, whatever the weather, with, for our understanding, relatively primitive tools and horse drawn carts, the woodcutters had a very formidable workplace.

forestry in Austria a hundred years ago

Farmers without rights

The coat of arms for the village of Kleinarl shows a stag‘s antlers, suggesting that hunting has a special importance in the valley. Let’s go right back in time now. Lots of findings from earliest times prove, that hunting has always played an important role in the life of the people here. The common law regarding extent and form of usage prevailed. At the time of Charles the Great, a rule of usage followed in order to call a halt to the destruction of the forest. Forest reserves and hunting grounds were erected and free market associates became subjects. Even in the 15th century a certain amount of freedom remained, however, in 1495 the recognition of the Roman right killed the farming community’s freedom anchored in common law. Freedom of fishing and hunting were over. Increasing suppression by landlords and overlords followed. The right to hunt as a royal prerogative (= a King’s entitlement), was transferred to the Counts, which they then transferred to large or small, worldly and spiritual men. Well into the 18th century the heavy burden of serfdom fell to the farming folk. An outrageous stately addiction to pleasure embodied hunting. An extreme stock of game, no regard for agriculture, enormous damage by game, set hunts, rounded up game in confined space and the disregard for farming folk, who were often treated like animals, fuelled the hatred for authorities and game itself.

The history of Kleinarl

In harmony with Mother Nature

Then however, in 1848, as part of the redemption of rent charge, hunting was an intractable part of ground ownership. Suddenly after many centuries of alienation and hostility, hunting was a matter for farmers. And unfortunately as in many situations in the past we have to realise, that oppression brought hate and stupidity with it. Without boundaries, large parts of wildlife stock were destroyed. On the one hand, hate towards the animals themselves, which for centuries had remained unavailable for the population, and the on the other hand, unscrupulous profit-seeking of the previously inaccessible, made hunting a trivial offence. Slowly over time, thanks to role models such as Erzherzog Johann and Kaiser Franz Joseph hunting traditions were observed and the attitude towards hunting changed. Thus, hunting has developed from originally being a means of survival and defence from wild animals, via the excesses of mediaeval times to its role today. Hunting is a useful means of preserving natural living creatures and their sensible accord to habitat requirements. The hunter is called upon to safeguard the richness of creation.

forestry in Austria a hundred years ago

Fourth generation estate manager

A fourth generation “Sepp Haitzmann“ is the caretaker of the “Jägersee Estate“. The 2776 ha large area is owned by noble Nesselrode-Reichenstein dynasty from the Eifel and it is hunted almost completely by today’s owner, Constanze Countess Nesselrode, and her family. In 1916 the first “Sepp Haitzmann“ was the estate manager. Today his great-grandson Sepp Haitzmann (IV) manages the estate and his family also runs the guesthouse by the lake.  Over the years all the Haitzmanns have encountered different problems: poaching in times of need after the First World War and the hunting ground infringements by hunting licence owners from neighbouring hunting grounds.  Countess Nesselrode fondly recalls the sounds during the rutting season, which you could hear from her bed, and that she could often see the deer in the moonlight standing on the meadows by the lake. Between 1960 and 1986 there were once again irregularities in the hunting grounds. A hunting tenant carried out wildlife feeding, not only during scarce times in winter, but the whole year round. In addition to hay and concentrated feed the animals were also spoilt with apples, glucose, sesame and sugar beet. The big game and the deer took up the offer in the summer too, they became less shy and there was fatal overfeeding. An attempt was made to create land for wildlife using fertiliser. Yet the measures led to nothing and showed how you can’t get away with interfering with the natural cycle.

History of Salzburg - Pongau

As history demonstrates, the preservation of nature in the Kleinarl Valley has been a topic for a long time. Today the forest and animals’ habitat is open to us humans, walkers and hikers. Mother Nature with its sensitive rhythm should not be disturbed. No matter where you are amid nature, whether on the mountain, by the lake or in the forest, please respect the signs, closed areas and the borders – thus preserving the richness in the Kleinarl Valley and ensuring all of us – locals, day trippers and holiday makers alike can enjoy its beauty.

forestry in Austria a hundred years ago

In the third and last part of the series we take a closer look at the story of the legendary Tappenkar. (Date of publication: 5th September 2019)

Tips & Info:

Information from the Kleinarl Chronicle. If you wish to find out more about the history of Kleinarl, you can purchase the Kleinarl Chronicle at the Gemeinde (Council Offices) in Kleinarl.

photo credits: TVB Wagrain-Kleinarl


Ich lebe mit meinem Freund in Goldegg am See. Meine Freizeit verbringe ich in der Natur und genieße die Aussichten der Pongauer Landschaften, am liebsten im Wald, am Berg oder an einem See – egal in welcher Jahreszeit.

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