Remembrance of the Past; Building for the Future." ~ Eve
Remembering Our Danube Swabian Ancestors
The Farm Homestead and Agricultural Pursuits
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"
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