Origin and landscape
The market town of Weilmünster is situated in the northern “Taunus“ mountains. This mountain range is part of the “Rheinisches Schiefergebirge“ which was lifted up from the sea by enormous powers about 350 million years ago and then formed a relatively even truncated upland.
30 million years ago huge muddy swamps extended on the plateau upland of our region. A slight slope tipping caused a gradient to the north. The flowing waters cut valleys in the rocks. These movements made the rivers change their course. It was then that the River Lahn, which originally ran eastward, flowed west towards the River Rhine. It was the same with the River Weil. Coming from the highest peak in the “Taunus“ mountains it flowed north and joined the River Lahn near Weilburg.
The history of the settlements in our region goes back to the late neolithic period (about 2000BC) when the Celtic people living here started making convenience goods, weapons and jewellery from metals. The local region had large ore reserves. The Celts used lead, copper, silver and iron in the first pre-Christian millennium. There are traces of Celtic settlements in our villages. You find the remains of a ringfort near Rohnstadt and gravesites in a maar near Dietenhausen.
First mentioning of Weilmünster and economic development
The increasing use of water for the powering of iron hammers and grain mills forced the settlers to descend into the valleys. The village of Weilmünster is first mentioned in a document of 1217 which does not really explain the foundation of a village. The village was situated at a crossroads where the trading routes from Höchst in the south and Wetzlar in the north and Kassel in the northeast and St. Goar in the southwest met. The ores mentioned before were the reason for the development of the community in the Middle Ages. In the year 1355 the village was given a large forest, „Buhlenberg“, by Count Johann of Nassau-Merenberg . This forest provided the charcoal for the melting process, the casting and the forging; a hundred years later the people of Weilmünster were so wealthy that they were able to buy several forest districts near the well of the “Möttbach“ from overindebted noble families. Thus the iron processing business as well as the mining were florishing industries in Weilmünster. These were joined by slate opencast mining and the roofing trade. At the same time there was busy trading of wool, soap and hides mostly run by Jewish merchants.
Dispute with the Count of Nassau
It is no wonder that the growing wealth of Weilmünster was the target of Count Albrecht of Nassau’s greed. Albrecht had not only inherited the new palace of Weilburg but high debts as well. That did not prevent him from enlarging the palace and having a deer park designed. However, the farmers, miners, craftsmen and merchants of Weilmünster stubbornly refused being in charge of balancing the count’s budget. Though being terrified by brutalities, dirty tricks and other breaches of law they set marks themselves. They pulled out each single hair of the sheriff’s well-groomed beard and threw the poor wretch into the River Weil. Later they accused their landlord of 46 breaches of law at the Imperial Court in Speyer.
Dissolution of bondage – Weilmünster gets market rights
Under the rule of Count Ludwig II (1565-1627), Albrecht’s son, the dispute between the Counts of Nassau and the village people of Weilmünster had its happy ending. Ludwig filed an application for the right to hold markets in Weilmünster directly to Emperor Rudolph II in Prague (1601). This legal and economic reassessment enabled the people of Weilmünster to get the dissolution of bondage from Count Johann Ernst of Nassau –Weilburg which freed them from bondage. This privilege was very expensive, the Count demanded the magnificent sum of 12 000 fl (about 600 000 €).
In the 19th century the building of the railway net meant the end of the old trading routes and Weilmünster became less important. The delayed building of the “Weiltalbahn“ in 1890 did not improve the situation. The commodity flows shifted elsewhere because of modern road transport infrastructure and new urban centres. The iron and steel industry moved to the stone coal areas of the “Ruhrgebiet“ and the “Saarland“. In the course of time cheaper ores from abroad led to the abandoning of the local mines (The last one closed in 1983.) and to the closure of the “Weiltalbahn“.
The municipality of Weilmünster - today
Today Weilmünster is the largest municipality within the administrative district of Limburg-Weilburg in the federal state of Hesse. About 9000 people live in Weilmünster and its surrounding villages. The inhabitants are well provided for because most of the shops, trade and repair businesses and service companies concentrate in Weilmünster. The market town is a popular local trading centre again. Several small and medium-sized enterprises have adjusted to the structural change and provide jobs for skilled workers and technicians. The “Vitos Klinik“ (local hospital) and both elementary and secondary school are of main importance for the municipality. A large number of people commute to the Rhine-Main-Area. Being mobile is absolutely necessary for the people of Weilmünster, and particularly for those living in the smaller villages the possession of a car is a necessity.