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"A Remembrance of the Past; Building for the Future." ~ Eve Eckert Koehler



Remembering Our Danube Swabian Ancestors
     
 

Claudius Florimundus Count Mercy and the Hӧgyész Domains 

by Josef Hoben
Translated by Henry Fischer.

  Mercy's settlement policy in Swabian Turkey must been seen in connection with his function as the Emperor's appointed Governor of the Banat.  He was an estate owner in central Tolna County with Hӧgyész as the centre of the Mercy Domain.  He was also appointed by the Emperor to be the official colonizer of the Banat which had not been reunited with Hungary after its liberation from the Turks on the recommendation of Prince Eugene (of Savoy) but had been placed under the military and civilian authorities in Vienna.  In his dual role he wore two hats and was forced to deal with issues with which he had a conflict of interests. 

  In 1722 Count Mercy began the colonization of the now expanded Banat.  For that purpose a settler recruitment centre was established in Worms that was directed by Johann Franz Crauss, the appointee of the Emperor.  Charles VI requested that the Roman Catholic prelates in the cities of Würzburg, Fulda, Mainz, Speyer, Trier as well as the Lutheran pastors in Hessen-Darmstadt and the Calvinist divines (Reformed) in Hessen-Kassel support the emigration of those who desired to leave for Hungary.  The recruitment agents were also active in Lorraine, the homeland of Mercy.  These regions were the catchment area for the recruitment of German settlers for Hungary:  the Rhineland, Franconia and Hessen. 

  At the same time, Mercy began to fill his private domains in Swabian Turkey with German settlers. 

  In the settlement history of the Danube Swabians, Mercy counts as the most important estate owner in the new settlement of Swabian Turkey.  In 1723 he received the title of Hungarian Indigenat (he had all the rights of a Magyar noble) for his military services in the war against the Turks.  Before that occurred, he had purchased the entire estates of Count Zinzendorf, the Domain of Hӧgyész and all of the villages and undeveloped prairies in central Tolna County.  The Bill of Sale was dated April 24, 1722 and was ratified in Pressburg.  His holdings included:  Nagy-Székel, Kiss-Székel, Muscy, Závodt, Apar, Palffalva, Egres, Csetey, Szentlӧrincz, Ban, Udvary, Kӧlesd, Kis-Tormás, Nagy-Tormás, Nána, Dӧmӧr, Kapü-Apathi, Kismányok, Izmény, Alapsa, Mucsfa, Varasd, Nagy-Veike, Kis-Veike, Csókafó, Bolyata, Csék, Papd, Dusz, Csekfӧ, Hegiesz, Rekettye, Berény and Kalasznó.  The purchase was confirmed on August 27, 1723 by Emperor Charles VI (at the same time he was King of Hungary but his title was King Charles III). 

  Mercy filled the villages and prairies with German immigrants.  In doing so he established a policy from which he seldom deviated.  In each village he settled people of the same nationality and same religion.  The Protestant villages were as follows:  Kalaznó, Varsád, Kistormás, Felsónána, Keszӧhidegkút, Apáti, Muscfa, Izmény and Kismányok.  The Roman Catholic villages were:  Szakadát, Hӧgyész, Duzs, Mucsi, Závod, Nagyvejke, Apar, Hant and Varasd.  On the whole, on the Mercy estates there were entirely Magyar, entirely Catholic, entirely Lutheran and entirely Reformed communities where Mercy settled his less numerous Magyar peasants on his lands at Palfa and Szentlӧrincz (Lutheran), Kӧlesd (Reformed), Diosbéreny and Kisvejke (Catholic).  He secured his settlers from the convoys heading for the Banat.  For that purpose he sent his adjutant, Captain Vátzy, to Vienna where he attempted to talk to the waiting colonists onboard the ships and invited them to settle on the Tolna estates of Count Mercy.  It must be noted that we cannot with a great deal of certainty determine that the first settlers in Hӧgyész were bound for the Banat.  Nor can we reconstruct where the first German inhabitants abandoned the ships and moved into the central Tolna with their "things".  It is reasonable to assume that Mercy's, Adjutant Vátzy, had made some kind of contact with them in Vienna and accompanied them onboard the ship to Paks or he had his new recruits get off sooner at Dunafӧldvár, Vác or even Vienna.  If so the settlers had a to undertake a several weeks journey on foot.  Disembarking from the ships prior to reaching their planned destination was an attempt to avoid running into agents of other landowners.  The entire 1,000 kilometre journey lasted between four to eight weeks (depending on the destination).  From Vienna to Pressburg took three days; then from Pressburg to Gran (Estergom) another two days; from there to Buda two more days. 

  Mercy decimated the not insignificant highly-financed State convoys of settlers heading for the Banat by his recruitment policy.  It is possible that the Emperor could deal with these losses better than live with the fact that the "stolen" colonists were overwhelmingly Protestants.  He was determined to build a "bulwark of Christendom" in the Banat with Catholic settlers to ward off the ongoing threat that the Turks posed.  Yet on the other hand, the fact that the Lutherans were settled on Mercy's estates in Tolna permitted him not to have to deal with the matter had they reached the Banat.  The issue about the Catholic settlers who left the Danube convoys going to the Banat in response to Mercy's invitation to settle on his domains was a more ticklish matter.  In this connection we can accept the thesis of some, that Mercy sought to protect the Catholic settlers leaving the convoys by settling them closer to his residence in Hӧgyész to keep them from the clutches of Imperial authorities who would not be as benevolent as he was. 

  To a great extent, the settlement contracts between Mercy and his colonists are much like those of the other landlords.  He did not require robot (forced work levies) of his subjects and tenants.  For the Protestants who settled on his estates he guaranteed them unrestricted religious freedom.  In some of the contracts it is stated this way:  "You may worship in the manner of your religion and will be protected to do so as much as it is possible for the Domain to defend."  Several German families had settled in the villages of Závod, Kismányok, Varsád and Felsӧnána prior to Mercy's purchase of the Domain but it was only under him that their legal status was assured.  Hidegkút (Kaltenbrunn), Mucsi (Mutschingen), Szakadát (Sagetal), Kistormás (Kleintormas), Kalaznó (Kallas), Duzs (Duschau), Nagyvejke (Deutsch-Wecke), Varasd, Izmény, Apáti (Abtsdorf) as well as Hӧgyész were all newly established villages under Mercy's direction.  In 1728, Diósberény received its first German inhabitants after the major portion of its Magyar population had left. 

  Mercy contracted a so-called Settlement Agreement with his settlers that are all quite similar to the one he signed with the settlers in Hӧgyész on July 27, 1722 which was written in Latin.  According to this agreement, the settlers were granted the lands within the boundaries of Hӧgyész as well as Csefӧ entirely for the purpose of growing crops.  After the termination of the five year exemption they were responsible to provide the precise established levies in the agreement as follows:  The peasant who had a full session of land (30 Joch) paid an annual sum of 15 Reich Gulden and surrendered a large bucket of wheat and a bucket of feed grain.  In addition he had to deliver three wagon loads of hay annually.  A "half session" farmer provided half of the above and a "quarter session" farmer or cotter paid appreciably less.  One portion of the levy had to be paid or delivered on St. George's Day (April 24) and the other half on St. Michael's Day (September 29).  There was also the responsibility to pay an annual fee in lieu of providing Robot (free days of labour service) and provide one ninth of his crops and the income from the community pub.  The settlers in Hӧgyész were given wood for building purposes and heating at no cost.  The revenue from the fish pond and the yield from hunting were at the Domain owner's prerogative.  The settlers were not only free to let their swine range for acorns in the forests within the old boundaries of Hӧgyész and the open prairie of Csefӧ at no cost to themselves but also had the freedom to let them graze in other territory within the Domain.  Once they had laid their vineyards and planted their vines they would be exempt from all levies for the first six years.  If someone wanted to leave the settlement, he was free to do so, but only with two thirds of his possessions and the Domain would receive the other third.  And those who did not meet their obligations could be driven out of the village. 

  The settlement obligations of the inhabitants of Hӧgyész compared to those settling on other estates and domains in the area were far more favourable.  But it appears that in general, the conditions and terms that the first settlers had to meet were more favourable than those that were offered to those who arrived in mid-century as the number of settlers became more and more numerous.  That becomes obvious in the letters of complaint of the villages of Cisbrák (January 29, 1749) and Murga (October 30, 1766 and March 5, 1767) directed against their Domain owner, the Jeszenszky family.  As a result, the Jeszenszkys felt less bound by the agreement with their settlers and constant revisions of their agreements became necessary.  The village of Murga was a party to five different agreements in the space of 21 years that were dictated to them by the Domain owner the last of which had to be violently enforced. 

  At that time, these kinds of measures and such situations were totally unknown on the Hӧgyész Domain.  Not only Claudius Florimundus Count d'Mercy (1666-1734) but also his adoptive son, Anton Ignaz Karl Augustin Count d'Argentau (1692-1767) as well as his son, Florimundus Count d'Mercy-Argentau (1727-1794) lived up to the agreements made with their tenant subjects.  It was hardly any wonder that the Mercys were honoured and even loved by their settlers and that was not just the case with the Germans.  A Serbian tradition from Kisvejke has it this way:  That at the time of campaign against the Turks in which Mercy served as an Imperial Colonel--he was taken prisoner by the enemy and dragged off to Bonyhád.  Several men who gave the Turks the slip, hid in the Kisvejke forest including:  Hangya János, Kispál Mihály,  Vércse Mátyás, Tӧró János, Tülӧp Mihály and a man known as Káloczi.  These men freed Mercy and he later settled them in Kisvejke. 

  Even more so than Claudius Florimundus, the second of the Mercys, Anton Count d'Argentau did a great deal for he inhabitants of the Hӧgyész Domain.  In his funeral oration on the occasion of the death of Anton Mercy d'Argentau, the Lutheran pastor from Varsád, Szenitzei-Bárány, cited his role as a hero in various military campaigns for which he was famous as well as his position as governor which was also given special attention.  In respect to the latter, he emphasized especially, "the major increase in the population of a great part of Tolna County and the new settlements that had come to birth and the erection of the princely manor house in the centre of his Domain in Hӧgyész and the transformation of swamps and bramble-ridden meadows and dense forests into fertile fields.  Furthermore he was honoured as a "useful citizen" because he had become an  indigenous Hungarian.  Among his numerous deeds were the granting of countless benefits to his settlers and subjects; the generous distribution of the fruits of the earth both among his own subjects and those who were in need scattered all across the land.  In the funeral address he was praised as a "Father" of his subjects who had been just in all of his dealings with them.  "Above all, his love of justice that was the holy right of every man which gave every man his due was the reason that he was both feared and loved at the same time."

Next: Where Did the Settlers in Hӧgyész Come From?

[Published at DVHH.org 12 Sep 2011 by Jody McKim Pharr]

 


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