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

Remembering Our Danube Swabian Ancestors

The Branch Community 1850 – 1921

by Dr. Viktor Pratscher
Translated by Brad Schwebler

  "The German Reformed community of Feketehegy was established in 1850.  At the time there were 64 couples, 45 homes, 43 quarter fields, and about 300 people.  There were 57 of both sexes of school children."  (Schenkenberger, S.1)  This small community took it upon itself to acquire a school and a teacher.  That was not easy and yet we were often ready and willing to make shameful sacrifices to meet the necessary means.  In a contract with the teacher the following salary was settled upon: "From each couple,  each house, and each quarter field (at the time 11¼ (kat.?) yokes, one half third (12.5 kg) of fruit (or wheat).  From each couple and each house every 26(xer) Kreuzer (money) in Austrian currency.  Then a vacant apartment with a cooking (kitchen) garden, a cord of hard wood, sufficient heating with straw, a ¼ session field (which was the teacher's own field, plowing and the fruits managed from the homes, 4 loads from 2 stations, 10(xer) Metzen of meal, and from each married couple and from each body 35(xer) stole fee. (Schenkenberger, S.2)  The fields, the loads, and the meals were redeemed each year from 1871 on for 60 Forints (Guilders).

   But not everything was done with it.  The teacher's apartment and school room must still be cared for.  So as all beginnings are difficult, it was also not an easy beginning for this community.  Poor, barren, still not healed from the wounds of the 48's Revolution and without funds they went towards the great building consoled.  In the first and second years (until the fall of 1852) they were interested in one room for the teacher's apartment and one room in which the children would be instructed at the home of Anton Kleb (Klepp, today the home of Adam Schwebler on Paschitsch Street, new house number 22, old number 167).  For three years the teacher's apartment was one room at the home of Johann Weismann (today the place between the two buildings is an orphanage at 31 King Alexander Street, old number 8) and at Jakob Zuschlag's home (today a play school stands there at 25 King Alexander Street, old number 4) interested in an instruction room.  Through the eager church executives Michael Orth, Jakob Schwebler, Philipp Blath, Nikolaus Orth, Gottfried Gutwein, A. Schmoll during the first two years the church members accomplished much in providing charity and contributions for the welfare for the community and they acquired for themselves in 1852 and empty house lot on the main street, the second place they could buy for themselves for the (Notatorial?) accommodations (today the house of Istvan Bajda, 32 King Alexander Street, old number 40).  Through the further contributions of the community members and the charitable gifts of the neighboring villages of Szivatz, Cservenka, Verbaß, Torscha and Sive the community was able to build a new schoolhouse on their empty lot in the fall of 1852.

 House lots could begin.  And so it was that the new construction was fortunately completed in the fall of 1853.  A beautiful spacious schoolroom also served as a place of worship at the same time and 2 rooms, a kitchen and a dining room, served as the teacher's apartment.  On the last Sunday in the month of October 1853 the first church service was held and on the following day school instruction began and continued in the peculiar locality of the German Reformed community.

   Although still not completely free of debt and demands were still not completely complied with in that the stables were completely missing at the teacher's apartment, yet in an intellectual respect things were already taken care of such as the children were instructed in their own school and could be educated in the Reformed religion. (Schenkenberger, S. 2-3)


   With the opening of the school and the school building was the school request for the desire of a community solution.  But there awaited still a satisfied solution to the question of other church concerns.  In this respect different attempts were made.  On the 6th of April 1851 the Hungarian elders of the church were asked by 9 German representatives for a German church service to take place on every second Sunday.  But they would no longer pay as the outgoing trustees for half of the pastors who held church service to receive pay.  On the 4th of May this request was rejected with the remarks that the Germans may also attend the Hungarian church service, but if every one of them desired a church function, a small tax must be paid to the Hungarian treasury by the Germans - double Stola paid.  On the 23rd of December the Germans were allowed to take part in the communion in the German language on the second Christmas day (Boxing day) but they didn't want this to ever happen again. - On the occasion of the canonical visitation of the 14th of April 1852 it was again stressed that the Germans pay no taxes.  The first school and place of worship to the Hungarian community since the church and teacher's apartment, built 1852-53, was not open for German sermons or communion services although they are welcome at Hungarian church services and may also hold eulogies, weddings, and school examinations in the German language in the Hungarian church. - Before Christmas 1852 the Germans again requested to be allowed to hold their own communion service.  This time their request was again turned down with the reason that they did not pay the Hungarian community the small tax.  However the reason was still mentioned that through repeated use of the church they could later lay claim in the sense of common law of completely free use, or even property law; they would like to go to communion together with the Hungarians.

   Szilady reported (S.27) that the Reformed Germans sometimes also held church service "in the first three years (1850-1853)."  This was probably held in a rented school by the teacher.  In this request the school building brought the desired solution.  The school room could also be used for church service.  Such was frequently the case for Reformed brothers who settled in Syrmia and Slavonia.  So did the Reformed Germans of Feketitsch also since their school was finished.  In one legal letter to the Senior that Rev. Kozma read from the 13th of March 1855 that the teacher Schenkenberger held church services every Sunday in the school in years past until now but the community paid him nothing for his service and he was not inclined to continue to do this for free.  However this was a temporary situation, after which the teacher would not perform this service without a special salary.  The community finally arranged it with Rev. Kozma.  Now (that the school question was finally solved) the parents also had the desire that not only their children but also they themselves receive religious lectures.  So they joined with the Hungarian Reformed pastor at the time, Kozma Lajos, and he performed a sermon for them on every second Sunday in the German language through his assistant and on festival days the Holy Communion was given.  For his service he was rewarded with one third of fruit (25 kg. wheat), one third of barley, and one Guilder from each couple. - and he received the Stola fee besides that since it was collected in the Hungarian community.  So in a religious respect the parents and children were cared for. (Schenkenberger, S. 3-4).  This agreement was met on the 29th of March, 1855 and on the occasion of the canonical visitation on the 12th of April it was confirmed and remained  valid until Rev. Kozma's death in 1868.

   So no an ever more orderly community life could be lead.  Since 1851 the yearly accounts were regularly compiled by the church fathers and they were examined by the elders, the community elected the church father and elder who led them and wherever possible they always settled matters in agreement with the whole community which was easily possible in so small a community.  Since 1855 minutes were regularly kept at the elder's meetings and community assemblies. 

   The chairman - and certainly also the community member - desired for a church service every Sunday.  On the 2nd of April 1856 they asked teacher Schenkenberger, if he was prepared to hold church services on the Sundays when the pastor held no church service with no additional reward.  "But the teacher did not want to take this on without payment."  On the 20th of April the whole community was asked if they would like to give a payment to the teacher for the desired service.  "Besides Philipp Blath they all answered . . .  that they would prefer there be no church service if the teacher did not want to hold it for them."  The behavior of the teacher and the community one can hardly look at as right.  A similar case also occurred in 1863 between Rev. Kozma and the community.  However, to the fathers it is also human, often all too human to go this way.  Fortunately, after all these inconsistencies no other bad consequences happened.


    Since 1855 the elders were often negotiating over the missing stall to be built on to the teacher's apartment in 1859.  The teacher could now satisfied with his apartment.  But the community could also be satisfied in one respect: They were free of guilt and could breathe easier. (Schenkenberger, S.4).  But that naturally did not mean that they were regarded as rich and when the elders gave the answer to the question of the church districts concerning the material state in 1861, they answered that they were poor rather than well-to-do and that was certainly a conscientious answer.  But in a few years their economical situation improved so that an ending balance of 307 Forints, 73 Kronen could be entered for the year's account 1865-1866.  The elders decided to lend 250 Forints to somebody who could give enough security.  So then from the elders, the pastor, and the majority of the community members a clock could be purchased in 1868 from an approved plan.  But because they could not get the clock they wanted with the money available, this plan was postponed until "better times."

   Soon the community could use the money for another purpose.  On the 28th of March 1868  the chairman and a few of the community members told the pastor of their desire "that they wanted to buy Johann Weidinger's house opposite the Hungarian Reformed church to use as a church, school, and teacher's apartment.  Of this comment the presiding pastor expressed his sincere joy and wished them luck."  Karl Schuh from Werbaß had (lizitiert?) the house for about 1108 Forints.  On the 2nd of April church father Theobald Hauser, jurors Jakob Orth and Jakob Schwebler were instructed to buy the house from him.  They were all given the same money with them for their service.  It is recorded that on the 20th of June they went to Werbaß to pay Karl Schuh the 505.90 Forints they still owed for his house.  On the 11th of May it states in the minutes: "it was told that the respectable Comitat juror Istvan Agoston has bought the prayer/schoolhouse for about 925 Forints of which he paid an amount equal to 550 Forints before those present, and the remainder was to be paid on the 29th of September.  So then the house and lot could be completely paid off in June, as mentioned.  It is the site on which all buildings of the community stand.  "Now the community had so much to do again since a new school must be built.  The site behind the thatched-roof building (this stands on the site behind today's church, where later the teacher's apartment (bezw.?) parsonage stood).

Where a brick shed stood at the time which was approximately 6-7 fathoms longer was to be used to build the new school and school roof from its tiled roof.  (So the school was built in the yard.)  The treasury of the community could not be claimed for it, so they had to rely on the strengths of each community member to provide all possible manual labor at the construction site.  It was covered with (Koth?) bricks, the walls formed, wound, and only the cabinetmaker, the glazier, and the locksmith of the manual laborers were rewarded.  In October the school was finished and instruction could be begun anew." (Schenkenberger, S.4)  The teacher received his apartment in the thatched house.

   From the old material it probably did not have a good foundation and without a master mason to build it the school caved in after a high water level on the 26th of February 1870, being completely together on Sunday evening "without which one could have contributed to the danger pertaining to the salvation of the building.  Fortunately the teacher and the students were not in the building, all of them and the relatives truly had reason "to give thanks to God."  On the next day the elders decided to rent a schoolroom.  On the 20th of March a community meeting was held in the Hungarian school which because the pastor was prevented from doing so "the office duty in the parent community" was led by the notary public Miklos Molnar, a seldom or only an isolated case.  "After more guidance it was decided: that the new school to be built would be placed on the south side of the street front, the foundation excavated down to solid earth and then with the prepared existing essential masonry stone which was intended for the construction a new place of worship was formed.  And then so was the school, which together with the (Kuchel?) kitchen had a length of 7 fathoms, throughout the summer it was built with God's help, and instruction could be begun in November of the same year." (Schenkenberger, S.5)  The construction was done by master mason Gottfried Gutwein.

   "In 1871 in the middle of January the community was once again afflicted by an accident.  Through the damp and wet year, which followed on top of the other, also moved the walls of the teacher's apartment.  The middle wall behind the living room caved in and the remaining walls were near the danger.  The teacher was put up with his household appliances in Agoston's house (in the former teacher's apartment); and the damp walls were then supported with masonry stone." (Schenkenberger, S.6)

On Georgi 1871 it was decided by the elders "that the floor of the living room would be paneled  from the community's account (the room had no floor until then); the teacher received the demand to be advanced 31 Florints for the boards with the condition that the 31 Forints in Austrian currency without interest remain in the community until his death or until he leaves from the community." (Schenkenberger, S. 6-7)


   In between there were also other difficulties.  "In this year the community also had the difficult loss to lament in that their generally beloved pastor Kozma Lajos, after a six week long heart condition he gave up his shepherd's staff and passed on to a better world on the 29th of September 1868.

   In 1869 the Hungarian parent community elected for the position of their dead pastor Kozma Lajos, his son Kozma Lajos to be pastor.  The joy of such a fortunate choice that the Hungarian community met and also found a large reception center for the German community.  They joined with him, and for his service to give the sermon and the Holy Sacrament on every second Sunday it was recommended that he receive 240 Forints in Austrian currency yearly and the Stola fee as it was collected in the parent community." (Schenkenberger, S.5).  This agreement however did not come about so easily as it first appeared.  It was discussed with the pastor about four times until it came about.  Also with it the plan for a church service on every Sunday, which was first raised as an issue in 1856, was newly considered.  On the occasion of the canonical visitation on the 19th of April 1870 the chairman expressed this desire again.  The pastor explained that it was impossible for him to serve every Sunday in the German community and advised the community to make an agreement with the teacher.  But this solution did not come about at this time.

   Some of the community members then had what was at the time a bold plan prepared for the community.  The community should request an administrator of their own.  In this sense they handed in an application to the superintendent.  But this plan was not approved by everybody and it caused disagreement in the community.  For this reason for a few months the pastor, who was also against it, held no church service.  From the 16th of May until the 30th of August there was also no elder's meeting, what the pastor gave as a reason for it, he wanted to convince the superintendent with the information that those who had requested an administrator had not gone about it the right way.  But then they arrived at the answer.  "After that this matter was not discussed by the Seniorat. - Also at the moment the regulation of the relationship between the parent and the branch communities - will block its completion there."  The pastor made the chairman aware that they had to go through the Seniorates to ask for an administrator, if they wanted to achieve something.  But one obstacle was that the community with the salary for the dead pastor was still in arrears.  The chairman decided to levy a tax to pay the balance.  On the 3rd of April 1871 the pastor suggested to the elders that if they wanted to undertake further steps for the sake of an administrator to do so through the Seniorates and wherever possible pursue a united and common cause.  On the 11th of April the yearly canonical visitation took place.  The chairman informed the Senior that they wanted to request the Seniorat for an administrator.  "The highly esteemed canonical visitation had the intention of taking notice, but advised for a consultation for the purpose of a  union with the parent community rather than forcibly urge the desire for detachment because the current circumstances demanded excessive sacrifices."  On the 16th of April it was questioned at the community meeting which under the guidance of the pastor, the chairman, the church father, and 33 community members took part."  The pastor presented the question of the appointment of an administrator and the suggestion by the canonical visitation of a union with the parent community; the possibility of the latter is extremely doubtful, so they did not desire to discuss it at this time."  There could be no question about it.  But on this question: "Should we request an administrator at this time?", 3 of those present voted yes and 28 voted no.  So for the time being everything remained as it was.  

[Published at 2004 by Jody McKim Pharr]

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