The family of Reuss consisted of several princes; the largest principality belonged to the elder branch; the younger was subdivided into several families, whose states were very unequal both in point of population and superficial extent.
Genealogists traced the origin of tbe family to the year 950, and they supposed it to be descended from Eckbert, count of Osterode in Hartz. It was affirmed that the name of Reuss or Ruzzo was originally a surname given to one of these princes, who accompanied the emperor Frederick the Second to the holy war about the year 1238. The same prince was taken prisoner by the Mussulmans, and sold as a slave to a Russian merchant, who conveyed him to Russia. After having past twelve years in a state of slavery, the Tartars made an incursion into the part of Russia where he resided, and brought him to Poland and Silesia, from whence he made his escape and fled to the court of the emperor. He retained a surname that reminded him of his misfortunes, and transmitted it to his two sons, from whom the two branches of the family arc descended.
Reuss consisted of three principalities of Central Germany, somewhat intermingled with other territories, but lying between Saxony, Bavaria, and the Saxon duchies, and belonging to an older and a younger line. The area of the whole principalities was 426 square miles. The representatives of the elder line were raised to the rank of princes in 1778, those of the younger line ranked only as counts till 1790 and 1806. Both lines, as well as the great majority of their subjects, were Protestants. The principality of Reuss-Greiz had a population in 1875 of 46,985; Reuss-Schleiz, of 92,375.
The territory of Reuss-Greitz, contiguous to the kingdom of Saxony, belongs to the eldest branch of the same family. Its surface may be equal to a hundred and twentyseven English square miles, its population amounted in 1830 to 23,000 inhabitants, its revenue to 140,000 florins, and its contingent for the Germanic confederation to 200 men. The territory of the older line, usually called the principality of Reuss-Greiz, consisted of the lordships of Greiz and Burgk, and had an area of 106 square miles.
These lordships were separated from each other, the one being traversed by the Elster, while the other lay along both banks of the Saale. The surface was better adapted for pasture than agriculture, rearing great numbers of horned cattle and sheep, but scarcely raising grain sufficient to meet the consumption. The most important crops were potatoes and flax; hops also are partially grown. The weaving of woollen, linen, and cotton fabrics was also among the principal occupations of the people.
The two younger branches of that house were the families of Reuss-Schleiz and Reuss-Lobenstein-Ebersdorf. It is perhaps unnecessary to mention the separate branch of Reuss-Koestritz, that possesseed under the sovereignty of Reuss-Schleiz, the territory attached to Markhohenlcuben, a small town of 2000 inhabitants [by 1830], and the burg of Koestritz on the Elster, that carried on a trade in ale and beer.
The territories of the younger line formed the two principalities of Reuss-Schleiz and Reuss- Lobenstein- Ebersdorf, and in addition to these principalities include the lordship of Gera and the domain of Sarlburg: they were formed into one state in 1848. The area was 320 square miles. These territories ware, on the whole, fertile and well wooded, raise sufficient grain to supply the consumption, and possess among their minerals iron, which was partially worked, and roofing slates, which were extensively quarried. The two principalities of the younger line, though belonging to two different branches, ranked only as one state.
The principality of Reuss-Schleiz, together with half the territory of Gera, was not much less than a hundred and sixty-two English square miles, and the number of inhabitants amounts to 28,000. The capital or Schleiz was built on the Wiesenthal, it containd 4600 individuals in 1830, and had its cloth, linen and muslin manufactories. Two small seigniories in Silesia, and some villages in the province of Brandenburg, and kingdom of Saxony, belonged to the prince of Reuss-Schleiz, their total population may be equal to 7500 souls.
A territory of a hundred and ninety-two English square miles, including the half of Gera, made up the principality of Reuss-Lobenstein-Ebersdorf. Although larger than the former, its population, according to the nearest approximations of 1830, did not exceed 27,000 inhabitants. The territory yielded a sufficient quantity of metal to supply several important iron works; it was also well supplied with alum and vitriol, the sale of which formed not the least valuable portion of its commerce. Lobenstein, or the residence of the prince, was peopled by 2800 inhabitants; the trade of the place consists in leather, cotton and woollen stuffs. Ebersdorf, though only a burgh, derived considerable wealth from its trade in cotton manufactures, soap and tobacco.
Gera, which together with its territory belongs in common to the two princes of the younger line of Reuss, may be called a place of some importance, when contrasted with the two capitals that have been last mentioned. The inhabitants were rich and industrious, and although the town was almost wholly destroyed by fire in the year 1780.
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