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



Remembering Our Danube Swabian Ancestors
     
 

The Farm Homestead and Agricultural Pursuits  

by Josef Hoben
Translated by Henry Fischer

  Before the settlement began the individual Domain owners established the exact number of house lots for each village for an average of 25 to 35 sessions of land for each.  These sessions consisted of 24 to 28 Katastral Joch based on the size of the family involved and their financial situation and divided some in half so that initially there were only full and half session farmers.  Those who came later had to make do with what was still left over.  The cotter had three to four Katastral Joch at his disposal or received meadowland.  Next to the "Herreleit" (the full and half session farmers) also called "Hausgesessene" (house possessors) and the poorer element, the cotters, there were two additional classes:  a middle class of tradesmen and artisans who were also farmers with an eighth of a session who made their living with their limited farming and their trade and then there was the poorest class of all, the day labourers known as "Beisasse" (inhabitants). 

  At the time of settlement each family received a "Einschreibbüchel" (a regulation booklet) that guaranteed the possessor a house lot, garden and yard as well as a stated amount of land that would be apportioned to him.  But the theoretical formulation of the principle was one thing; the rights of the settlers and how they were treated was another so that a considerable number of the settlers in the early period of the settlement had to endure great privations.  In a letter written in 1771 by the settler, Georg Adolf Schäffer--he lived in "Gallas" (Kalaznó) a tenant farmer of Count d'Mercy--to his brother-in-law in his old homeland (in the Kassel area) it documents the harsh difficulties that had to be overcome in the early period of settlement but following that life for the emigrants to Hungary was quite tolerable if not favourable to what they had known back home. In a very short time the emigrants following their departure from home were able to fend for themselves quite well.  Above all that meant their living accommodations. 

  The homesteads were laid out in equal proportions alongside each other on the streets and lanes on which their houses were erected most of which also had a fence along the street.  Likewise a large vegetable garden was laid out towards the street.  In the yard between the house and garden there was a well.  In back of the house there was a stable, hayloft, press-house (wine making), sheds and other outbuildings that were attached to it.  Depending on the location of the settlement, the arable land formed a loose chain around the village and sloping terrain became the site for wine cellars and "press-houses" in the wine growing areas. 

  The settlers had to forget about replicating the wood frame houses of their old homeland because of the costs involved.  And the lack of skills to do so.  To fashion the first "Kurzbauten" (literally short built but best described as being squat) houses, the cheapest and most readily available building materials was used:  loess.  This "small colonist's house" that was built at the outset was of the type associated with Franconia and built quite simply.  It did not have a walkway alongside of it as would be common later.  The straw covered roof had only a bit of an overhang and several small windows were inserted into the thick walls. 

  Because of the notable increase in family size in the years ahead it was often necessary to make additions so that over time the squat house developed into the now common long rectangular house.  From the time of construction in the beginning, in addition to living space in the house there were also agricultural buildings:  the stable, hayloft and sheds.  The building material that was used was the same that served in the construction of the squat and later rectangular houses made of stamped down or air dried mud (made out of earth, clay, water and chopped straw).  (Translator's note:  we would refer to it as adobe.)  In more mountainous terrain the houses had foundations with a base formed out of stones or bricks.  Because the straw and reed roofs were a fire hazard, over time, roof tiles replaced them on the house as well as the stable and outbuildings to even out the outward appearance of the rectangular house.  Later, due to a need for expansion a third section was added to form a U shaped building and even later it became four sided. 

  With the lengthening of the house it became necessary to provide a walkway from one room and one section to another, the so-called "Gang".  It also became necessary to extend the roof overhang over the Gang and supported it with wooden pillars to provide a covering over it.  (Translator's note:  It is very much like a roofed side porch.)  Doors were added on the street side of the house.  The covered walkway was separated from the yard by a low wall and was integrated with the rooms of the house and the agricultural buildings.  It also served as cool sleeping place on hot summer nights and also a place to hang and dry tobacco, corn and paprika. 

  The cellar at the rear of the yard served as a summer kitchen and a small cattle stall but also as a place for cotters to live as was the case in Mucsi. 

  In the early settlement years, parallel to erecting the necessary living accommodations the settlers also undertook the cultivation of their fields that differed according to whether their landholdings were large or small and depending on their status.  Meadow and forestry work was carried out alongside of clearing and cultivating their acreage.  These were the major tasks of those with the larger pieces of land, while those with smaller holdings established their vineyards, meadows and pastures alongside of working the land.  Winter wheat was planted along with winter rye, beets for fodder, corn, potatoes, hemp and tobacco and in some areas rice as well.  A great deal of tobacco was cultivated in Fadd, Bonyhád, Izmény, Nagyszékely and Pari.  But the major centre for "Swabian Tobacco" growing was Hӧgyész in which thousands of Zentner (hundredweights) was grown annually in the 1780s. 

  Due to the intensive farming of the land and the methods used it led to the doing away of the fallow ground.  In its place new methods of cultivation were introduced that were familiar to the settlers in their former homelands, the improved three field system.  Alongside of this their use of the iron plough that was then unknown in Hungary at that time they introduced the fertilization of their fields with manure from their stables.  Straw was no longer burned as it had been by custom by the Raizen in the past but rather was spread on the floors of their livestock's stalls. 

  In addition to tobacco growing the cultivation of silkworms was carried out in Hӧgyész as it was in other parts of Swabian Turkey that supplied a flourishing silk industry in the Tolna.  The centre of silkworm cultivation was Szekszárd where a "microscopic institute" provided further research in silkworm cultivation and employed over one hundred people.  By government decree mulberry trees were planted in cities and villages and the leaves served as fodder for the silkworms being raised as a household industry in special chambers that were specially designed for them.  

  Cattle rearing which was more familiar to the Hungarians and which they pursued more intensively than the German settlers who were engaged in the cultivation of the land was still of great deal of importance to them.  It resulted in the crossbreeding of the cattle they brought with them to Hungary with the Hungarian "Simmentaler" breed which produced a highly productive, brown spotted milk cow that was named the "Bonyhád Horned Cow" that soon replaced and eventually vanquished the Hungarian "Steppenrind".  The herding of swine, sheep and geese is another characteristic of all of the settler villages.  The wool from the sheep understandably was spun and used in making various knitted items including the famous "Batschker" (a kind of slipper).

Next: The Structure of the Village

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

 


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