From the text of Paul STINZI

"La vallée de St Amarin au cours des siècles"

A Roman way forking off the one which is along the bottom of Vosges near of Cernay, was crossing the valley of SAINT AMARIN. In front of the textile mill of MALMERSPACH, it left the bottom of the valley and cut into the rocky promontory above the present tracks (roman way which was discovered in 1910 by Désiré Lutz and restored by secondary school students of Thann in 1966)

We can see two parallel ruts dug into the rock. This place was known in 1342 with the name of Hauwenstein (Christian WILSDORF In the Valley of the Thur during 13th and 14th centuries) in order to get into the valley of URBES and with the name of "alter Weg" in order to go to the Bussang pass, then to go back down to Saint-Maurice. The roman way joined the valley of the Thur to the valley of the Moselle. This way from the Bussang pass was also used after the great invasions.

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The beautiful valley of ST AMARIN (lithograph of Charles GRAD)

During the 7th century, it is mentioned of a little village called DOROANGUS on the banks of the Thur where a monk, come from Luxeuil built a monastery, situated on the place of the present cemetery of ST AMARIN (year 625). The chapel replaced later by the church of the monastery, was consecrated to SAINT MARTIN by the way of the cult widespread in Luxeuil. The building of the monastery was allowed by Warnaachaire, the lord of the valley, and the monks followed the very strict rules of Saint-Colomban. This place was covered with very large forests where were some farms near of DOROANGUS and on the Thur well stocked with fishes. The monk AMARIN, founder of the monastery, was recovered from an illness by Project or Projet, bishop of Arvernes, who was present at that time in DOROANGUS. Later, Amarin who went and met Project was murdered with the bishop in Volvic in Auvergne (year 676). Their relics were transferred to the church of Saint-Martin of DOROANGUS, the very beginning of the town Saint-Amarin.

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An old view of ST AMARIN by Hans KLAUBER (artist from Basel) 16th century

(coll. Ass.I.F.Arnold all rights reserved)

The monastery didn’t grow very much. Around 1191 it has been altered in a chapter of secular canons and a Romanesque Collegiate Church looking like the one of Vieux-Moutier of St Mihiel was built. In 1442, the chapter of Saint-Amarin was transferred to Thann where the church Saint-Thiébaud became a Collegiate Church. But the canons continued to provide the cult in the old Collegiate Church of Saint-Amarin and of Saint-Project. It was on the place of the present church Saint-Martin. And for the first shrine, it belonged to the Abbey of MURBACH.

By the Treaty of WESPHALIE (1648) ending with the War of Thirty Years, the Austrian lands in Alsace as Seigneury of Thann were transferred to the King of France as he wanted the Seigneury of MURBACH by the way of the Chambres de Réunion (1680-1684).

Built again after 1648, the castle of Saint-Amarin that we can see on the view of Hans KLAUBER was stricken again in 1665. Dressed stones were used to build the church of ODEREN in 1693. Just only one tower of the old castle still existed during the 13th century. It is mentioned by the historian SCHOEPFLIN. In 1807 was built a house called “Schlessel” on the rock where was before the old castle.

After the fire of the castle in 1665, the bailiff was living in a house near of the ruined castle. In 1737, the Abbey allowed the building of a new house for the bailiff near the high door.

The old collegiate church of Saint-Amarin, as ruined, was demolished around 1750 during the building of the present church (1757 à 1762) which was consecrated in 1786 by Casimir de RATHSAMHAUSEN, the Abbot Prince of MURBACH. It has been built on the place of the old collegiate church with the stones used for the building of the new shrine.  It remains a splendid Madonna coming from the old collegiate church. A beautiful chapel reminds the memory of Saint-Amarin. The old church in the cemetery of Saint-Martin was demolished in 1809.

Some villages were settled around Saint-Amarin all along centuries as: Hintervogelbach, Meerbaechle, Kattenbach, Breuil (a big farm of MURBACH) then on the 19th century the bleaching of the textile industry of Wesserling Vogelbach was set up in Saint-Amarin.

The town and the bailiwick of Saint-Amarin were under the rules of the Abbey of MURBACH until 1789. The bailiff who was living in Saint-Amarin gave some abbatial lands to aristocratic families (STOER - WALDNER families… and to aristocratic families from Wattwiller, Altenach, Schweighouse, and Hastatt). The bailiwick was divided in Town Halls (Meiertümer).

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The ABBEY of MURBACH (B.Lichtenberger’s picture all rights reserved)

The main resources of the valley were vines cultivated on the sunny sloping plots of Willer sur Thur, Saint-Amarin, Mollau and which are always on the sloping vineyards of Thann which is the beginning of the Wine Trail well known in Alsace.

Clovers, wheat, hemp, potatoes, were cultivated. Also arboriculture and distillation of gentian. The brooks were well stocked with trout and crayfishes. Each village had a mill. There were several sawmills. The inhabitants were Lumberjacks, Coalmen, Wood Carriers. A new wealth was discovered all along the centuries: the mining (G. SIFFERLEN La vallée de Saint-Amarin Strasbourg 1912) Priest Achatius de Grissen, allowed Pierre Schultheiss from Cernay to exploit the iron ore in BITSCHWILLER, called at that time "Burtzwilre". Murbach had until the 18th century seven very important mines in BITSCHWILLER, managed by the bailiff of Saint-Amarin. They are the origins of a foundry and of a smithy belonging to Joseph LAUENEN from Grandvillars in 1739 and of the metallurgical industry after 1800. In Willer, Murbach organized the building of a foundry and a tilt hammer which we still could see in the beginning of the 19th century. From 1508 near of MOOSCH people was searching for gold, silver, copper and iron ore.

Mines were rich but extraction of ore was difficult because galleries were flooded with water. Near from Urbès where Murbach had a large pond, mines of copper were exploited during the 18th century. Six are known and specially the one called "cuisine du diable" (devil cooking) in Bruckenbachtal. Copper mines were exploited near of STORCKENSOHN and MOLLAU.

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The beautiful village of MOLLAU 

The 19th century was the century of industrialization in the valley with the textile industry. Brothers KOECHLIN introduced it on the 18th century in Willer. Textile industry reached all the villages up to Urbès. Husseren-Wesserling became a large industrial centre of the valley and the name GROS-ROMAN was known everywhere in Europe. With its art schools, arithmetic schools, music and literature schools, this firm was influential also with its social insurance fund, savings banks, according to the principle of paternalism as many firms did during the 19th century. The railway Mulhouse-Thann was extended for trade agreement up to Wesserling in 1863 and Kruth in 1905.

Urbès, where was a restaurant was famous by the Bussang pass. In 1506, Murbach restored the way of Steige which from Urbès, was going to the bottom of the valley where it joined the pass. The way was dangerous: armed men hid in the ravines and the forests. Wolves were numerous and the mountain was naturally dangerous. Until the beginning of the 16th century, a hotel belonging to Murbach was in Urbès where a toll was asked from 1228 to 1550.

During the 19th century the way to the pass was improved. A tunnel 300 metres long joined the two sides which was less dangerous in winter. It has been removed after WW2.

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The old tunnel of Urbès never finished...

To finish this article go back to the High Valley of the Thur in these villages where lived our ancestors: The church of the valley was in ODEREN consecrated to Saint-Nicolas patron saint of Lorraine and protective of travellers. We discover this church from 1302. The present church was built on 1711. The bell tower is the work of the architect Gabriel Ritter from GUEBWILLER. Churches of FELLERING, KRUTH and WILDENSTEIN were built on the 19th century when the glass factory of WILDENSTEIN built on 1699 by the Abbey of Murbach was very famous and which stopped on 1884 but mentioned in the memories of François Antoine Robischung (1847-1923).

M.A.T.

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