Church and Parish of Durbe

Church of Durbe

When in the 14th century the stone castle was built in Durbe, it also embodied the Castle Church. It is known that in 1451 there was a church, because in the Museum of Riga Dom Cathedral there was a bell with the inscription of the year. In 1496 documents a Catholic priest was mentioned working in it. In 1525 a parsonage was established there. The decision of Provincial Assembly of Courland laid foundations to a new church building that was built with allowance of the Duke of Courland. It was finished with the parish funds and consecrated on 28th February 1651. The church was consecrated by Priest Herman Topiuss who was appointed to be Dean of Grobiņa.

A chandelier from 1609

In Durbe Church there are an altar retable with woodcarvings and a pulpit from the 18th century, a chandelier from 1609 and an antique font. The organ was built in 1834 and reconstructed in 1874. In the belfry there are two bells made in 1896. In 1903 a tower watch was installed there which worked until 1922, it was fixed in 1935. The antique clay floor-tiles have partially survived.

In 1770 the building of the belfry was finished. The church was expanded and repaired several times: in 1847, in 1872 and in 1908. Due to the rebuilding in the 19th century it lost its original slender tower. The vault above the altar was bricked up when the church was extended.

On the wall beside the pulpit there is a marble memorial plaque with the names of parishioners deceased in 1919 – during the Latvian War of Independence.

In 1872 a stone wall was built around the church. There was an old cemetery beside the church; a few graves have still remained. Priest Edmund Proctor is buried next to the church. Atis Kronvalds was a home tutor for Proctor’s family.

In old times the priests of Durbe served very wide region – from Aizpute (Hasenpoth) to the border of Lithuania. From 1573 Latvian and German inhabitants had different priests, but in 1857 the Parish was divided into independent Northern and Southern parishes. The church of Ilmāja (Ilmajen) belonged to Northern Parish, but St. Bartolommeo church (or the church of Ilzene (Ylse) or Bunka) belonged to Southern Parish. In 1857 the parsonage of the Latvian Parish was also built there, because the previous one burned down together with the church archive.

At the beginning of the 20th century there were approximately 6000 parishioners in each parish, but at the end of the century there were only around 1000.

From 2003 to 2005 the roofs of the tower and the main building were restored with the help of the United Courland Foundations in Germany (Vereinigte Kurländische Stiftungen), as well as von Bordelius family and Erfurt’s Parish of St. Thomas’ Church.

Priests

Northern Durbe

Johann Dimler 1557 – 1599

Heinrich Arends II 1599 – 1630

Adam Petzold (Betsoldus) II 1634 – 1636

Jakobus Lutter … – 1639

Mag. Hermann Toppius 1642 – 1655

Mag. Joachim Kühn 1656 – 1659

Herbert Ulrici 1660 – 1664

Johann Brockhusen I 1669 -1682

Jakob Meuter 1687 – 1712

Dietrich Stavenhagen 1713 – 1750

Adjunct: Joachim Baumann 1745 – 1747

Mag. Johann Wilhelm Hänselin 1752 – 1766

Adjunct: Paul Friedrich Reimer 1764 – 1766

Paul Friedrich Reimer 1766 – 1769

Johann Christoph Baumbach 1770 – 1801

Dr. Karl Christoph Schön 1802 – 1855

Karl Heinrich Edmund Proktor 1856 – 1865

August Friedrich von Johannsohn 1866 -1903

Adjunct: Oswald v. Johannsohn 1890 – 1891

August v. Johannsohn 1898 -1903

Christian Dexne 1904 – 1935

Southern Durbe

Mathias Neukirch 1581

Jeremias Hessing 1609 – 1611

Friedrich … 1624

Adam Petzold (Betsoldus) II 1624 – 1630

Johann Denniger 1634

Johann Petzold 1635 – 1639

Adam Prätorius 1639 – 1648

Wilhelm Reimer 1648 – 1703

Johann Friedrich Rhanäus 1708 – 1715

(Until 1742 the priest of German Parish served in the Latvian Parish, too.)

Johann Christoph Stavenhagen 1742 – 1779

Adjunct: Johann Bernhard Wolter 1770 – 1779

Johann Bernhard Wolter 1779 – 1809

Adjunct: Johann Friedrich Runtzler 1801 – 1809

Johann Friedrich Runtzler 1822 – 1844

Otto Bernhard Friedrich Runtzler 1822 – 1844

Ernst Ludwig August Bernewitz, Past. Designatus 1845

Dr. Hermann Ehrenfest Katterfeld 1846 – 1876

August Edmund Proctor 1877 – 1904

Robert Christoph Seezen 1905 –1934

 

From 1934/35 Latvian priests started to serve in Durbe Church: Teodors Aviks, Pēteris Auseklis Laiviņš, Jūlijs Martinsons (from 1938 to 1982), Pēteris Mednis. Later there were Juris Rubenis, Raivo Bitenieks, Ainars Jaunskalže, Atis Voickovskis, Juris Simakins, Jānis Pauļiks, and Pēteris Kalks. Now the priest of the Evangelical Lutheran Parish is Gints Kronbergs.

 

Durbe German Priests’ Contribution to Latvian Cultural History

Joachim Baumann (1712-1759)

He is known as an improver and a translator of hymns. In 1754 he published improved Courland Hymn Book. In Durbe period he published corrected Sermon Book by Georgius Mancelius.

Johann Christoph Baumbach (1742-1801)

He was an author and a translator of hymns and was fluent in Latvian language. He wrote for Latvian Annual issued by Matthias Stobbe, – the first magazine in Latvian. In 1800 he published Bible Stories “Small Bible”, where he retold the stories of the Old and the New Testament in an understandable way for peasants, adding counsels and short poems. He also worked on a Latvian – German dictionary, but it was left in a manuscript.

Dr. Hermann Ehrenfest Katterfeld (1797-1876)

He was interested in Latvian language and folklore. He collected the names of plants in Durbe area and folk songs. In 1835 he wrote a significant essay about Latvian folk songs. He wrote for the publication “Magazin der Lettisch-literarischen Gesellschaft” as well as for Latvian newspapers; he also wrote psalms. Katterfeld was a foster father of Atis Kronvalds, he took care of his foster son’s education.

Johann Christoph Wolter

He was born in 1773 in the family of Durbe Priest Johann Bernhard Wolter and received his first education there. His life was connected with Cirava (Zierau), where he was a priest. He made a major contribution to the promotion of education in his Parish and in entire Courland. He trained the first thoroughly educated teacher in Courland Andrejs Bergmanis, who in his turn taught teachers for other parishes. Wolter took a part in the organizing of Irlava (Irmelau) Teacher Seminary.

Dr. Karl Christoph Schön (1775 – 1855)

He served as a priest for 50 years. He studied natural sciences for his entire life and his library was one of the biggest private libraries of Courland.

 

Christian Dexne and Robert Christoph Seezen

They were the last German priests, who left Latvia in 1939 and died after the war in Germany leaving behind notes of recollections of their activities and life in Durbe at the beginning of the 20th century, which give us interesting evidences of past.

Durbe Gardener Sīmanis Klēvers

Sīmanis Klēvers was born in Durbe in 1834. He studied gardening in Kalēti Manor after the finishing of Gramzda (Gramsden)ChurchSchool. In 1855 he went to Rīga, where he acquired vast knowledge in gardening from the gardener Schreibart. He returned to Kalēti Manor and wrote the book “A Little Root-Crop Gardener”. Then he lived in Rucava. In 1877 he obtained a piece of land in Durbe, made an orchard and established the famousOrchardSchoolthere. Klēvers participated in the Courland Agriculture Exhibition in Jelgava with various apple and pear breeds and he won the Silver Medal. He continued writing books: “The Farmer’s Orchard” and “A Friend of theBalticGarden”.  In 1893, when Durbe gained town rights, he was elected as the Elder of Town. In 1912 he published another book, which taught the garden designing and how to grow exotic plants and recognise mushrooms. In 1922 he died and was buried in Priediens Cemetery. In 1997 the memorial plaque was unveiled on the wall of his house on36 Raiņa Street.

A lot of orchards were established in Durbe due to the contribution of Sīmanis Klēvers. Therefore at the beginning of the 1920s, an apple tree with 7 apples (one for each day of the week) was chosen as a symbol for Durbe Coat of Arms.

           Atis Kronvalds and Durbe

Atis Kronvalds

Atis Kronvalds was born on 3rd (new style 15th) April 1837 to a tailor Kristaps Kronvalds and his wife Margrieta. He was baptised by Latvian Priest Runclers and his godparents were a farm labourer Otto Lilientāls and a maid Jūle Norenbergs.

Atis Kronvald’s parents did not have permanent housing.  When his father had saved enough money, he became a leaseholder of livestock at Manor House. The Kronvalds made friends among the Germans on the country-side – German craftsmen and Germanised Latvians. Priest Hermann Ehrenfest Katterfeld was well-disposed towards Latvians. He persuaded the Kronvalds to send their son to the Springen’s Private School and promised to treat Atis as his foster son.

When Atis was 13 years old he moved into the Priest’s house and into new conditions and society. He saw that there were two social groups – the Germans and the Latvians. The Germans were positioned high on the social scale, they had better jobs, they were richer and they determined the destiny of this land. He noticed that people of low social rank accepted German lifestyle if they wanted to attain prosperity and education. In the Priest’s family he continued to learn the German language and refined manners and he regarded himself as a young German man. Priest Katterfeld was not so prejudiced against the Latvians as many Baltic Germans, but he did not believe in the development of Latvian culture. He thought that the educated Latvians should live as the Germans. Atis accepted this opinion and only later in his life he changed his mind. However, he respected his foster father and he was devoted to the Priest’s memory all his life.

When Atis turned 16, Katterfeld sent him to the HigherSchool ofLiepājaCounty together with other German children. That institution was attended by all children fromCourland of high social rank. At the beginning he was the best pupil among his class-mates, but soon he got carried away by reading books and activities outside the school. He also became highly critical of the teaching methods. He could not finish the school, so he had to become independent. Atis Kronvalds started working as a tutor for Doctor Pfeffer’s family in Darbenai inLithuania, not far away from theCourland border. Later he went toBerlin together with the Pfeffers’ son. He studied medicine for half a year. TheBerlin period was of big importance to his future. He attended the lectures of prominent scientists, met German students and participated in their debates, got acquainted with the national tendencies of the Germans and got better understanding of the history ofLatvia.

When he had run out of money, he came back to Durbe. He worked as a tutor for the Priest Proctor’s family. He stayed there for 4 years. During his free time he occupied himself with linguistic, pedagogical and natural science studies. Kronvalds was a social person, so soon he became acquainted with other teachers in Durbe. While living in Germany, he understood that the progress could not be reached, if the teachers did not cooperate. Soon after that he started to organise meetings for teachers, that he called conferences. They were attended by 6 -12 local teachers. He became a good friend of Schäfer. They discussed a lot of pedagogical and psychological issues. Teacher Bloom from Dunalka wrote in his memoirs that Atis Kronvalds had a great ability to gather people around himself. From theBerlinperiod Kronvalds thought a lot about the issues of Latvian nation. He came to the conclusion that the education can be acquired at best only in the native language. He started to learn the standart Latvian language with the help of grammar books and dictionaries. He noticed that there are no words in Latvian for a lot of concepts. Atis Kronvalds created, derived and revived a huge amount of words in Latvian. Priest Proctor started to use the words invented by Kronvalds during his sermons, e. g. līdzeklis (a tool). At the beginning teachers spoke German during their conferences, but then they started to use the Latvian language.

During his Durbe period he started his literary career. In 1863 he published “Mazā vācieša pirmie soļi” (“The First Steps of the Little German Boy”). The continuation of the book was published in 1865. Kronvalds understood that the knowledge of German was vital to get away from the country side and for acquiring the education. However, in the introduction of tat book he reminded that it is of great importancefirstly to learn mother tongue well. There are words of gratitude in the book to his foster father Katterfeld for a true support to the development of the education.

Kronvalds exchanged letters with the educated Germans inRīgaand Jelgava, who considered themselves as Latvian friends, and he started to understand their points of view toward the education prospects of the Latvians. His hopes were deceived and joined “Jaunlatvieši” (“New Latvians”) movement. He cherished positive feelings towards the newspaper “Pēterbugas Avīzes”, which published the works by Juris Alunāns, Krišjānis Valdemārs and Krišjānis Barons.

The tutor’s position was unenviable, without any prospects. He also was dependant on the employer’s whims. Moreover, Atis Kronvalds was secretly engaged to the doctor’s daughter Karolīna Rolova, but he did not have enough money to marry her. In the summer of 1865 he departed from Durbe to enter the Pedagogical Courses atTarbatuUniversity(now theUniversityofTartu).

In Tarbatu he lived next to the church and he had a garden in front of his house, and all of that remained him of Durbe. It was the beginning of a new period in his life.

Siegfried Anna Meyerowitz

Siegfried Anna Meyerowitz

In 1883 Hermann Meyerowitz started to work as a doctor in Durbe. A doctor was a well-respected person in a town and was always welcomed in high society gatherings in the palaces of German counts and barons. In 1885, when Hermann Meyerowitz was going to marry Anna Fielhold, he asked to be baptised as a Lutheran in St. Trinity Church in Liepāja. He was baptised by Grobiņa Dean von Johannsohn, who was also the Priest of Durbe Northern Parish. His godparents were Adolf von Bordelius and Arthur von Keizerling.

The next document which is linked to the Meyerowitz’s family is the record in the Church Book of Durbe in December 1885. It says that the doctor Hermann Meyerowitz, a son of the brewer Perec Meyerowitz, enters into the marriage with Anna Fielhold, a daughter of the teacher from Kabile (Kabillen) Ernst Fielhold. The doctor was 30 years old, but the bride was 25. The banns were called in Durbe Church on the 1st, 8th and 15th December, according to the traditions. They got married on 20th December in Līguti Palace.

On 9th February 1887, two records were made in the Church Book. The first: on 24th January (new style the 5th Ferbruary) when at 2 am Siegfried Anna was born. He was baptised at home. His godparents were Adolf von Bordelius, Miss Ella von Bordelius, Count Arthur von Keiserling from Vecpils and Baron Nicolay von Grothuss from Lieģi. The second record tells that on 4th (new style 16th) February at 10 pm the doctor’s wife Anna Meyerowitz died from the postnatal complications.

S. A. Meyerowitz’s father stayed in Durbe until 1892, but then his nerve disease progressed and he underwent the treatment cure in “Tabora”, the Nervous Hospital in Jelgava, where he stayed until his death. Siegfried Anna started to live in his uncle’s family in Kabile.

The first suggestions to make a memorial for Meyerowitz in Durbe arose in 1929. Apparently it was the Government’s idea to pay homage to the people who fought for the independence of Latvia. The memorial plaque was unveiled on the wall of Durbe Surgery. Liepāja Street was renamed S. A. Meyerowitz Street and a solid tombstone for his mother was erected in the Priediens Cemetery. But the Soviet Union authorities did not want to acknowledge his name; therefore in 1940 his street was renamed Raiņa Street, the memorial plaque was removed and his mother’s gravestone overgrew with bushes.

In the 90s the memorial plaque was reestablished and his mother’s tombstone has been looked after regularly. In 2007 Rihards Treija’s book about Siegfried Anna Meyerowitz was published and a year later there was a commemorative event dedicated to him, which was attended by the author of the book and by Meyerowitz’s descendants.

Walking Route around Durbe

Durbe Castle Mound

If you are on your way from Rīga to Liepāja or vice verse and you have a  bit of time, visit the smallest town in Latvia – Durbe, as Durbe is linked to great events and prominent people in the history of Latvia. Aside of the Rīga– Liepājaroad you can see Durbe Castle Mound with the ruins of the old German Order Castle. The castle was built in the 14th century; it was a simple square building with cellars on the Northern side of the Castle Mound. A high stone wall was around the castle yard, but only a small piece of the wall has remained on the South. The castle served for the protection of the main road from Prussia to Livonia. The castle was destroyed 300 years ago. From the road you can see the big memorial stone for the Samogitian’s victory over the Teutonic Knights during the Battle of Durbe in 1260. The memorial stone was brought from Samogitia and erected on the 750thanniversary date of the battle.

Durbe museum

Walking from the Castle Mound to the town you can reach the building of Durbe Museum. It is the renewed former Surgery building on17 Raiņa Street. In 1887 the first Minister of Foreign Affairs of Latvia Siegfried Anna Meyerowitz was born there; he has a great credit for the acknowledgment of the Independence of Latvia. In the Museum there are archaeological findings, the books written by well known local people, the national costume of Durbe and antique household objects.When you come out of the Museum, you get in Raiņa Street, which has been the most important road from Prussia to Livonia.  During the time of the Courland Dukedom and later during the time of the Russian Empire the street was called Jelgavas (Mitau) Street. For a short period it was calledLiepājas Street. And during the 1930s it was called S. A. Meyerowitz Street. The small village Durbe developed around this street. Craftsmen and innkeepers used to live in this street. There were smithies, workshops, pubs and shops.

Durbe Church

After some minutes you can reach the town centre of Durbe. There is Durbe Church, which was built in 1651. It is the oldest building in the town. The square in front of the church is the beginning of Skolas Street (the former Church Street). It is worth to visit the church, because its interior is well-preserved. There are the altar with woodcarvings and the pulpit from the 18th century, an impressive chandelier from 1609, ancient clay floor-tiles, an antique font, and the organ from 1834. Beside the church there is the former building of Springer’s School.

Springer’s School

Atis Kronvalds used to learn and later he organised Teacher Conferences there. Near the building there is the monument of Atis Kronvalds and on the wall – the memorial plaque dedicated to him. Now some of the Departments of the County Council are located there. Moving further along Skolas Street you go past an old apple-garden, which is a part of the famous gardener Sīmanis Klēvers’s orchard. After a few steps you reach the Old School.

The Culture House

The Old School

It was built in 1912 and it served as a school for the local children until 1979. Now there is the Post Office, but the guest-house located in the same building does not work. Up the street there is the Culture House, which was built in

the 60s. Behind the Community Centre on your left there is Atis Kronvalds Durbe Secondary School.

Atis Kronvalds Durbe Secondary School

It was built in 1979. Walking past the school you can reach Raiņa Street again. Go down the street in the direction of the town centre. Near the school at 38 Raiņa Street there is the house, which was built by the prominent doctor Jākabs Alksnis’s parents. But the house No. 36 belonged to the well-known gardener Sīmanis Klēvers. Opposite the church there is the Central Town Square.  In the square there is the stone with Durbe Coat of Arms on it. Mirdza Lukaža presented it to Durbe. Two dates are carved on the back side of the stone: 1230, when Durbe was mentioned in documents for the first time and 1893, when Durbe gained the town rights. Aizpute Streetleads toRīga-Liepāja Road. The building at 5 Aizpute Street is the old servant house of Līguti Manor. Later there was a pub and it was called Mazdurbe (the Little Durbe).

Mazdurbe (the Little Durbe)

First Records of Durbe

For the first time Durbe was mentioned in 1230 in the contract about the acceptance of Christianity between the Pope’s envoy Baldwin von Alna and the Couronian King Lamekīns (Lamekins). Couronian settlements, including Durbe (named Durpis) as a more extensive district were mentioned in the contract written in Latin. Text in Latin and German you can find in www.herder-institut.de

Name of Durbe

Lake Durbe has given its name to the settlement. There are a few guesses about the origin of the name Durbe: it is linked to the Liiv word tūrba (fish). Another guess is tied to an old form of the word kūdra (peat). In Courland there is another place with the same name – it is Durbe Palace near Tukums (Tukkum). Word Durben is used in the historical documents in German. It is interesting that in Baden-Württemberg State in Germany there is the Carnival Society NV Durbestecher Sauldorf (Sauldorf Peat Diggers).

Battle of Durbe

The name of Durbe has gone down the history through the Battle of Durbe on 13th July 1260. In the 13th century the German Order (also known as Teutonic Knights) had already subjugated a lot of Liiv, Selonian, Couronian and Semigallian settlements and was trying to conquer also the Samogitians, who were successfully fighting back. The German Order assembled the Crusaders from Livonia and Prussia, the conquered Couronians, Estonians and Ancient Prussians as well as the vassals of Denmark King from the Northern Estonia to attack the Samogitians. It became known that the Samogitians had intruded into the Couronian lands. Forces of the Order fallowed the Samogitians and the impact took place on 13th July 1260 on a field beside the River Durbe. (Historian P. Stepiņš has localised the battlefield near the estuary of the River Trumpe in Lake Durbe.) Two chronicles provide the most important information about this battle: the Livonian Rhymed Chronicle, which was written 30 years after the battle and Prussian Chronicle of Peter von Dusburg, which was written another 30 years later. The information given by these chronicles is contradictory about the behaviour of the Couronians during the battle. Either the Couronians left the battlefield or they attacked the forces of the Order from rear, because the knights’ allies did not agree to let free the Couronian wives and children the Samogitians had taken prisoners. At any rate, the Couronians’ actions affected the outcome of the battle. 150 knights, Livonian Grand Master von Hornhusen, Prussian Land Marshal Botel and a lot of warriors were killed in the battle. The Battle of Durbe is one of the most important events in the history of the Baltic Nations, and also in the German history it is known as a crushing defeat of the German Order.

After the battle the Couronians continued to fight back the German invaders, a rebellion in Prussia expanded into a war, but the Samogitians were never conquered.

Castle of Durbe

Lindale was the oldest German Order Castle in the area during the 13th and 14th centuries. Its name can be found in the document written in 1235, later it was renamed Oldenburg, Altenburg (Latvian – Vecpils). It was located 9 km north-eastwards from Durbe, in the former Vecpils Manor House on the left bank of the River Lāņupe (Lanupe). Lindale as the name of a Couronian County was known from the documents of land division between the Bishop and the Order. Year 1371 was the last time the name Lindale was mentioned in the documents.

The Order built a new castle beside Lake Durbe and named it after the lake and the river with the same name. The previous centre of the County had lost its importance, so it was called the Old Castle (Latvian – vecā pils – Vecpils). It is not known for sure, where Lindale was located. Behind Vecpils Catholic Church there is a Couronian Castle Mound, where later a cemetery was established. Researchers have been looking for Merķes Castle Mound there, but others have doubted it and suggested that the ancient Lindale was located there.

Durbe Order Castle was first mentioned in 1387. It was German Order’s Kuldīga (Goldingen) Commandery Household Castle located beside the main road that led from Mēmele (Memel) in Prussia to Livonia. It is believed that Durbe Castle was built between 1372 and 1387. On 11th November 1372 the Order’s vassal Winrich von Rommel became the suzerain of two villages Ilmāja (Ilmajen) and Okte (Ochten), but he was allocated a home-place in Kuldīga. Usually vassals settled in a place nearest to the Order’s castle. A plausible explanation is that there was not a castle in Durbe yet.

There was a castle settlement in Durbe in the 15th century, but in 1435 it burned down. It is known that in 1451 there was a church in Durbe, because in the Museum of Riga Dom Cathedral there was a bell with the inscription of the year.

During the time of the Courland Dukedom the town Durbe prospered, a lord (captain, Hauptman) nominated by the Duke lived in the castle. In 1701 Swedes broke in and ravaged the castle and the town.

In a description from 1809 it was mentioned that only pitiful ruins of the stone wall were left over from the castle.  There were 8.7 m wide residential complex all along the northern wall of the castle and cellars situated beneath it (nowadays cavities can be seen there). There were not any windows on the first floor of the outer wall.

Durbe – from Small Village to Town

A small village near the castle appeared at the beginning of the 15th century, but the buildings of the castle were mainly used as a storage place for goods, corn and taxes. It was confirmed by a document from 1555. When in 1560 Livonia as a country was near its breakdown, the Master of the Livonian Order Gotthard von Kettler pledged the castles of Kuldīga, Aizpute, Ventspils (Windau) and Durbe to the King of Poland. Polish garrisons were placed in these castles. When the Courland Dukedom was established, Durbe became the county of the Lord of Castle. The Duke’s garrison was located in Durbe Castle – musketeer and dragoon units.

During the first Polish-Swedish War (1600-1629) Courland was alternately conquered both by Swedes and Poles. After this war the Courland Dukedom experienced economic growth, especially during the rule of Duke Jacob Kettler. Also Durbe, where a linen weavers’ workshop was set up, was on the upbeat. The next Polish-Swedish war (1655-1660) was a severe blow to the economic prosperity. Taxes were imposed for Durbe both in money and goods. During the Great Northern War (1700-1721) Durbe Castle was destroyed and the small village dwindled. Courland became a province of the Russian Empire. The population of Durbe continued to shrink from 260 people in around 1720 to 130 people in 1843, when there were 22 wooden houses with straw and shingle roofs, one stone house, a church, a bell house, a school, a poorhouse and 3 pubs. Afterwards the population started to increase from 180 people in 1855 to 410 in 1881. But due to the development of Liepāja (Libau), the population of Durbe decreased again; there were only 360 people in 1897. In the 19th century the population of Latvians in Durbe grew. At the beginning of the century all free people were Germans, but in 1863 there were 60 and in 1881 – 180 Latvians.

In 1893 Durbe and 16 other small villages in Courland gained simplified town rights and on 20th November in the gathering of Durbe House Owners there were elected 12 authorised persons and 3 candidates. A gardener and an owner of the Orchard School Sīmanis Klēvers was elected as the first eldest of the town. On 28th June 1894 he gave the oath of office.

In 1929 in Durbe there were 12 shops, a post office, an infirmary and a doctor, a chemist’s shop, a 6 year elementary school with 8 teachers, the School and Education Association, which owned the school building and the library, the Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Volunteer Fire Association, 2 windmills, a carding mill, a dye-house, 3 smithies, 8 wood-working workshops, 1 leather-working workshop and 1 machine workshop, 10 vegetable and fruit farms, etc.

Additional information:

A.Caune, I.Ose „ Latvijas 12.gadsimta beigu – 17.gadsimta vācu piļu leksikons”, Rīga 2004

Karl von Loewis of Menar „Burgen-Lexikon für Alt-Livland”, Riga 1922