Banat | Village Coordinator: Nick Tullius


Alexanderhausen – A Contractual Village

Summarized by N. TULLIUS

      The Austrian Military Border (Militärgrenze) was a territory subordinated directly to the Ministry of War (Hofkriegskammer) where the language of command and administration was German. It stretched from the Adriatic along the Sawe and the Danube to the Carpathians. The border guards were soldiers and farmers at the same time, Slovenians, Croats, Serbs, Romanians (around Karansebesch) and Germans (around Pantschowa).

      As part of a reorganization of the Military Border that took place around 1778, some estates belonging to the Agram (Zagreb) diocese were expropriated and incorporated into the Military Border. In exchange for the expropriated estates, the bishop of Agram received the government-owned estates (Kameralgüter) Billiet (Billed), Gertianosch, Kleinjetscha, Perjamosch and Pakatz in the Torontal county, as well as Warjasch in Temesch county. The settlement of these estates had been completed by the time of the Second Great Swabian Migration (Schwabenzug 1763 – 1773), with the exception of Prädium Pakatz, which was an uninhabited grass and pasture land.

      In the decades after 1800, the bishop of Agram decided to open up Pakatz for agriculture. From this development, he expected not only a higher profit, but also improved security of the state highway Temeswar-Szeged.

      The chronicles of Alexanderhausen report that settlers from 26 neighboring villages were willing to acquire land and settle in the proposed new village. Their representatives signed a "contract of unlimited duration" i.e., a perpetual lease, in 1832, which was ratified by Alexander Alagovich, bishop of Zagreb, on January 1, 1833, at the session of the legislative assembly in Preßburg/Posony (today’s Bratislava).

      The contract, as illustrated by its first paragraph reproduced above, is hand-written in German, using the gothic alphabet, except for its title and some proper names, such as the proposed Latin name of the village – Alexandria, which use letters of the Latin alphabet. A full text of the contract is reproduced in the Heimatbuch Alexanderhausen (Ref.1).

      Every one of the 100 farmers (Bauern) received a total acreage of 30 Joch, including a one-Joch* village lot to build his house, yard, and garden. Tradesmen and landless workers (Kleinhäusler, Inquilinen) received only a one-Joch village lot to accommodate house, yard, and garden.

      According to the Contract, the settlers received the properties in lifelong lease, with limited property rights. Their arable fields could not be subdivided, sold, gifted, or even used as collateral for loans. A father could leave his undivided land to one of his sons. An exception was the house, which could be sold, but only with the permission of the feudal landlord.

      The Contract prescribes the obligations of the new settler in great detail. They had to build their own houses; make yearly cash payments; deliver specified quantities of wheat, oats and corn; and perform manual labor (some with their own horses and carts) for the feudal landowner. The feudal administration reserved for itself the exclusive right to sell alcoholic beverages, operate butcheries, produce bricks, operate mills, distil brandy, control hunting, and take a ten-percent quota of lambs and honey. In addition, the feudal administration reserved for itself the supreme jurisdiction and the right to nominate or approve the village administration: the usually elected reeve (Richter) and the appointed Notär. In any dispute between the village or a villager and the feudal administration, the administration was as much the accused as it was the judge!

      The feudal administration had its seat in Billiet (Billed) where the chief administrator (called "Prefect") resided in castle-style building. The compound included a jail and it is said that villagers were held there when they could not meet the heavy obligations arising from the Contract.

      The Bishop built the church and appointed the priest, but the villagers had to maintain the church and the school, as well as pay the priest and the teacher. The villagers had to maintain the parish house, provide the priest with fire wood, hay, and grains, and cultivate the 6 Joch belonging to the priest and 8 Joch belonging to the church.

      On June 26, 1848, 51 villagers signed a petition (actually a letter of complaints) addressed to the Hungarian Ministry of the Interior, describing their ongoing heavy burden resulting from the Contract (the Hungarian text of the petition is reproduced in Ref 1).

      The revolution of 1848 shook the feudal system to its foundations and the Hungarian government was preparing to pass legislation for ending the untenable situation of the contractual villages. In anticipation of such regulation, the bishop of Agram produced a redemption contract (Ablösungs-Vergleich) on June 28, 1868. The villagers finally became free citizens and owner of their land – but only after paying to the Bishop the hefty sum of 262,960 Gulden!

* 1 Joch = 1.422 acres = 5755 m2

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Last updated: 26 Aug 2020