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



Remembering Our Danube Swabian Ancestors
     
 

The Structure of the Village

by Josef Hoben
Translated by Henry Fischer

  As we saw in the work of Weidlein, many of the original names of locales, sites and street names indicate that there were not only farmers in the villages.  There were also tradesmen, artisans, merchants and other important "Herreleit" (the kind of people you had to call "Sir") that appear in street names such as "Herrengass" (where the teacher, Richter (local official something like a mayor) and doctor lived); the "Judengass"  (the Jewish Street); "Müllersäcker" (The miller's acreage); "Fleischhackerstal" (The butcher's part of town).  Even a portion of the names of the streets are family names of former inhabitants:  in Diósberény the following are some examples of that.  The names "Bojáshegy" and "Gellérthegy". 

  In Hӧgyész tradesmen and artisans were considered to be a highly desired settlers.  The conduct and behaviour of Mercy's agents at the time of the Great Swabian Migration demonstrates that by their deviation of tradesmen from their destination in the Banat to the Hӧgyész Domain.  Tradesmen were important in the life of the villages and provided more work opportunities for them to ensure them of a livelihood.  In addition to their trade they also did the unfamiliar work associated with farming.  Above all, those who were able to make a decent living by their trade were the merchants, traders, innkeeper and tavern operator and the butcher.  The others--the shoemaker, blacksmith, tailor, fuller or draper and the Klumpen maker (a type of wooden shoe) did not earn much more from their products than a day labourer.  Far better off by far, were the masons, as the example of Szakadát demonstrates which was known throughout the surrounding area. 

  The social structure of a village is not only determined by the social classes represented in its inhabitants but also through familial ties and neighbourly connections.  Because of its isolation from other neighbouring communities there were limited possibilities to marry outside of close family connections and within one's social class.  The custom of marrying among one another was simply presumed and the engagement of their offspring in childhood was widespread despite the threat of incest.  In this way, the village developed a social cohesiveness expressed in various ways by providing mutual help and neighbourly support to one another. 

  Neighbourliness along with friendship ties were developed and nurtured by "going to the Wirtshaus (the pub) on Sunday after church."  The Wirtshaus, the official pillar of Danube Swabian society had a rival in the "Keller" (wine cellar).  That is where smaller groups of neighbours gathered in seclusion away from the "  big shots" of the village to discuss the things that could not be spoken about out in the open at the Wirtshaus. 

  The "Weibersleit" (the females) discussed matters as they went about doing all kinds of household tasks and activities; shucking corn cobs; while darning stockings; spinning wool; all at group gatherings in the private home of a neighbour where the significant happenings on the street or in the village were shared (and of course every thing was significant). 

  The weekly markets also played the same kind of social function. 

  In 1753, Hӧgyész was raised to the status of a market town with the right to hold four market days each year.  Because of it, the community experienced an economic upswing because of its strategic geographical location in the hill country along the major highway that lay within its boundaries. (The Danube Line:  Esseg-Budapest and the Kapos Valley Line: Dombovár-Pincehely-Budapest)  The right to hold a market also brought with it a special title for Hӧgyész: "oppidum" (fortified town) even though there was never any walls around the town. The market in Hӧgyész served as an important centrally located grain market for the surrounding villages.  While Hӧgyész was raised to the status of a market town in 1753 it was not until 1780 that Bonyhád received its right to hold a market even though it lay at the very centre of agricultural production in the surrounding twenty-eight villages. 

  In those Danube Swabian towns and market towns where business and trade were developing and flourishing the Jewish population played a significant role in it.  Their percentage of the population was an indication of the economic importance that the community had.  At the end of the 19th century the Jewish population in Bonyhád was 30% of its inhabitants while in Hӧgyész it was always 10%.  Even before the Edict of Toleration of Joseph II in 1781 there had been a large-scale emigration of Jews to Hӧgyész and a synagogue had been built in 1755. 

  Despite of the steady impact that trade and business of all kinds made on Hӧgyész--that portion of the local economy rose to 45% in 1920--it did not lead to any industrialization as was also true of the other towns in the area (Szekszárd, Bonyhád, Szigetvár) so that their character as farming towns continued for a long time. 

  The rights of the individual villages were established in their settlement contract.  In these agreements it becomes apparent that although the settlers were not serfs on coming to Hungary (which was also the case in Hӧgyész) many of their rights were curtailed and they were legally subject to the Domain to a great extent. 

  A significant degree of self-governance was achieved in their local affairs even though the governing officials were de facto appointed by the nobleman who owned the Domain.  The highest organ of governance in the village was the "Gericht" (Council) in which the community Richter represented the people.  The Richter was elected by the members of the community (only the men were eligible to vote and among them only those with a certain amount of property) but the nobleman had the right to nominate the candidate.  The Council consisted of up to three members--without being nominated by the noble--who were directly elected by the community.  All of the necessary paper work with officialdom was done by the notary. 

  A person commanding even more respect than the Richter was the clergyman who was also more influential than he was.  In 1723, a year after the first settlers arrived in Hӧgyész, the parish was established by Peter Willerscheid a priest from Fulda, while another source suggests that he originally came from Trier.  Beginning in 1724 he began to keep the parish records of Hӧgyész.  In the year of the settlement in 1722 according to the report of the canonical visitor for the Bishop of Pécs he wrote:  "...in the wastes of Hӧgyész between Mucsi and Bereny...I found an old church with no walls standing with the exception of the threshold of the sanctuary."  The site of this Raizen church that the first settlers repaired and used as a place of worship was the courtyard of today's town hall.  In the same report the residence of the clergyman was fifteen strides away from the church, that the parishioners had built for him right after the settlement took place and--so complained the visitor--the noble landlord was content with the old church and had no interest in building a new one.  The contemporary knowledgeable citizen of today might well wonder, as did the bishop's representative did in 1729, why Claudius Florimundus d'Mercy who always retained a tolerant attitude when it came to the various confessions (denominations) did not extend this tolerance and liberal tendencies to questions dealing with church governance or got involved in church affairs since he had the rights of a Patron over all of the parochial churches on his Domain.  In 1733, a later legate of the Bishop of Pécs felt quite satisfied that he could report that during his visitation that Mercy had repaired the church in good order and had a sacristy built. 

  But Mercy interfered in church affairs--for the benefit of the priest-- to the extent that in his function as the spiritual overlord of his subjects on the Domain that in addition to the tithe of a ninth, he added the tenth of the all of the crop yields and gave the latter to the priest.  Mercy appointed the parish priest of Hӧgyész, Willerscheid, as the rector of all the German colonist villages that were then responsible to assume some of the costs of his support. 

  The village Richters were charged with the punctual and orderly payment and support of their clergy.  There was confusion about the rightfulness of the clergy's demands and they argued about it saying that they asked for more than they were entitled and gave them less than they demanded.  For that reason the priest in Hӧgyész could not pay his two chaplains.  The pastoral care he was to provide in a neighbouring village which was called a "filial" (daughter) was accordingly left unattended.  Quite often worship that was conducted in the filials took place only once a month.  The establishment of more new parishes made things more difficult because of the huge and constant changes as the numbers increased in the Mother churches.  

  How clever Mercy's decision was to settle only members of a common religious confession in each village can be fully validated by this example from the village of Kismányok where Lutheran and Reformed Swabians were settled together in 1720.   (Translator's note:  This was at the time when the Domain were owned by Count Zinzendorf prior to Mercy's purchase of it.)  When it came to the election of a pastor both confessions wanted one of their own.  Because the Lutherans were unsuccessful they left in 1721/1722 and settled in Nagyszékely and later moved on to Gyӧnk.  (Translator's note:  I am afraid that the author is in error.  It was the Reformed who moved on because it was a Lutheran pastor who came to serve the congregation.  There would never be a Reformed congregation in Kismányok.  Both Nagyszékely and Gyӧnk had Reformed congregations.) The clergy themselves sometimes demonstrated their intolerance rather than some kind of religious zeal.  The Swabian Lutherans in Szárazd who formed the vast majority of the village's inhabitants did not want to submit to the spiritual authority of the local priest and organized a "religious fellowship" under the leadership of the village notary who also taught the Lutheran children in their school.  Outraged by such "heretical activities" the priest, Michael Winkler, who had the Lutherans in Szárazd under his spiritual jurisdiction outlawed the Lutheran school so that the children had to attend school in a neighbouring Lutheran community.  To the contrary, a Roman Catholic from Murga in his request to leave the Domain of his landlord in 1776 gave as his reason for wanting to do so was the fact that he did not want to live among Lutherans. 

  But there was an example of tolerance that was spoken of and well known throughout the Tolna concerning the village of Varsád, where during the first years of its settlement the church that was erected was used by Calvinists, Catholics and Lutherans. 

  The piety of the settlers is a subject that was addressed extensively in the reports of the bishop's canonical visitors.  They gave expression to their faith in their cheerful giving towards the building of their churches and the furnishing of altars as well as their participation in pilgrimages.  A place of pilgrimage that attracted numerous pilgrims was the "Brünnl Mariae" (Mariae Bründl, two kilometres north-east of Hӧgyész in Csisko).  The chapel was endowed by Count Mercy-Argentau in which he was interred on March 10, 1767.  This information was appended to an authentic report by the Chief Chaplain, Father Felix Augustin Sporer, to the Bishop of Pécs, Georg Klimó dated January 23, 1767 following Count Mercy's death.  In his report Sporer indicates he spent some time in the vicinity and gave the Count absolution and the Last Rites.  The thesis that Anton Count Mercy-Argentau died in Esseg and was brought back to Hӧgyész (which would have taken up to six weeks considering the distance and the winter weather that was bad at this time of year) is no longer tenable.  Above all, an appendix to the report of Sporer puts an end to all of that. He reports that the mortal remains were kept in the house chapel in Hógyész until his only son and heir, Florimundus Claudius Count Mercy-Argentau arrived from Paris to pay his last respects.  That took six weeks.

Next: The Development of the Hӧgyész Domain in the 18th and 19th Centuries

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

 


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