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RUMSISKES is a town in central Lithuania, thirteen kilometers east of Kaunas, on the right bank of the Nemunas River. It had 922 inhabitants in 1971 (1,010 in 1923, 1,192 in 1938, and 446 in 1959). The town sustained heavy damage during World War II (1941). When the Nemunas was dammed in 1958 for the Kaunas hydroelectric power plant, the town's buildings, including St. Michael's Church (1859-60) and the three-story wooden bell tower, were relocated to a higher elevation of the river valley. At the new site, thirteen streets were laid, and over one-hundred houses and a high school were built.
The fortress hills and the barrow graves in the surrounding countryside indicate that the locality has been inhabited since ancient times. Numerous bronze artifacts were discovered in the cremated and non-cremated barrow graves (13th-16th centuries) during excavations conducted in 1953-63. The earliest mention of Rumsiskes in historic sources goes back to the 14th century. The township, one of four in the province of Kaunas, is mentioned in 1508, while in 1557 there are references to the town and to the royal tcwnship, also called eldership. In 1792 the town received the rights of municipal self-government and a town crest — three white 1ilies on a red background. The townspeople made their living mainly from the transit trade along the Nemunas and the land route from Kaunas tc Vilnius with another branch leading to Gardinas. A school for township clerks was founded to the middle of the 19th century. The poet Antanas Baranauskas (q.v.) was one of its students. In 1897 the town had 1,180 inhabitants. During Lithuania's independence (1918-40), it served as the township seat.
Prior to the construction of the Nemunas Dam, which has resulted in the formation of the so-called "Kaunas Sea" on which the town borders, the river bed was noted for its reefs named Devil's Bridge (Veinto Tiltas) and Devil's Bathhouse (Veinto Pirtis). Various legends about them have survived to this day. According to one, the devil offered his hand in marriage to a beautiful nnhle [sic] lady who lived on the Ibe shore of the Nemunis. She agreed, on the condition that he build a bridge across the river. But as the sinister suitor was not able to complete his work by midnight at the cock's crow, the stones remain scattered in the river. In actuality, the reefs were given their names by raftsmen, wno cursed the difficulties they experienced in navigating through them. From the 14th century on, attempts were made to clear the river bed. The last such undertaking occurred in 1874-75.
The Nemunas River at Rumsiskes was a favorite fording place for foreign armies in their quest eastward. It was through there that the Teutonic Knights marched to Trakai and Vilnius in 1381 and in 1385. In 1812, Napoleon's armies crossed the river there on their way to Russia. Clashes between the Russian and German armies took place near the town in 1941 and in 1942.