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

Remembering Our Danube Swabian Ancestors

The Settlers Patent and the Old Homeland

by Dr. Viktor Pratscher
Translated by Brad Schwebler

    If we look deep into our past of nearly 150 years, we see in the great distance of 1200 kilometers, in the area of the Rhine, the Mosel, and the Main, at the western border of the great German-Roman Empire, our ancestors.  They have the power over themselves, which means, they are willing and able.  In most cases those in power were not Protestant, so people were persecuted because of their beliefs and were put through hell.

   At this time Emperor Josef proclaimed that he wanted his empire settled far into the southeast in the Batschka with members of the empire without regard to religious denomination.  He promised never to favor any one settlement.

   According to the contents of the Settlement Patent the emigrants would be promised:

  1. Religious freedom, provided with clergy and teachers.

  2. Each family would receive a house and a garden, supplied with the necessary household appliances.

  3. Each field hand would be presented with cattle and equipment together with field and meadow.

  4. Professionals would receive 50 Guilders for the purchase of tools.

  5. The eldest son is military free.

  6. Ride free from Vienna.

  7. Hospitals would be erected to fight against illness.

  8. 10 years tax free.

   On the 21st of September 1782 Emperor Josef II enacted this Patent, called the Imperial-Royal Assurance.  A thousand copies of the patent would be printed and distributed in the upper Rhine.

   The "Upper Rhine" was one of the ten areas of which the Holy Roman Empire was divided into by his resolution in 1806.  The inhabitants of this area named the patent: "Empire Song" and the settler-ancestors say in their records that they are born in the "Empire."  In any case, under this patent all of Germany is to make out, without the area of the upper Rhine, of the upper Danube (that is the Black Forest), of the Main and of the Mosel.

   "The Empire" embraces the lands: Swabia (that is Wurttemberg and Baden), the Pfalz, Zweibrucken, Hessen, Nassau, Mainz, etc.

   The Empire Song seems especially suitable to the Emperor for the execution of his plan.  As the western border of his empire through most of the wartime hardened, he could entrust them at the outposts of the troubled southeastern border of his lands from the Turks.  He selected them because he had known them to be an especially diligent people by their many children and poetic population as only with diligence that is most necessary to raise their family.

   In the Batschka, here in this unpopulated wilderness region, the emperor needed the worthy, never-tiring Swabians.  Here was the greatest family desire.  About the cause of the emigration K. J. Weber reported in his "Letters of Traveling Germans in Germany" the following: "The Pfalz (from which very many settlers descended, mainly the Protestants) is the most fertile land of Germany under the most peaceful climate.  The farming is established on artificial fodder.  Surprisingly it is a marvelous fruit growing area, rich in tobacco, corn, chestnut, and cherry harvests.  The diligent Pfalzer (from their Pelzer dialect) are content and happy and they are quick to help strangers and speak to them.  It is the law.  Men and women have fallen in love with the sky blue color, as the genuine tranquilizer, of which one is often accused of carelessness or light-heartedness.  Well now!  Without the light-hearted, one true gift of God, in conscious circumstances, and without the Kerwen (church celebration), under the old rule perhaps half the poor Pfalzer's of the Rhine became paupers and the other half fled to Pennsylvania (America) or Hungary and as well one could use these colonists in Bavaria.

   This paradise, the whole Pfalz, 100 square miles, had only 300,000 souls and they were mainly guilty of religious pressure and bureaucratic fervor!  The Protestant religion should have ruled but the ruler was Catholic, so consequently the Catholics ruled.  Only they could hold civil servant positions.  A village lackey (beggar), whose children begged, would become sheriff or mayor or judge because he was the only Catholic in a village of 1000 citizens.  Low level officials often had hardly any compliance and high level civil servants would have their offices bought.  Slave driver!  Criminals were pardoned when they were Catholic and naturally found few days in prison with the pious drive to conversion.

   The Pfalz remained the eternal, living example where religious intolerance and official pressure reigned.  The Eden of Germany was for thousands of modest and hard working Germans a hell during the rule of Karl Theodor (1743-1792) who spared no expense.  His court was splendid.  He did everything for the arts: foreign actors, dancers, singers, and pipers were rolling in dough while the useful Pfälzer had hardly any potatoes!"

   With it came the devastating flood, poverty, and misery in the years 1784 and 1785.  In such a sad affair our ancestors were affected by the imperial patent which promised religious freedom and farmland in southern Hungary, known as the Swabian Turkey.  It is understandable how this publicity of the topic  of the day swayed our ancestors.  The talk brought about bets and dares, about winning luck.  There was advising and thinking it over.  It dealt with so many.  It brought about the separation of families and acquaintances in the homeland, never to see each other again.

   Reverend P. Weimann wrote, "So many people in those days were tired of the many hardships and had forsaken their beliefs and it is better that he went and stayed there than his father is here.  His fathers have left the house and the yard and have become homeless but they  have kept faithful to their beliefs.  They are won at great cost.  Hold fast to the beliefs!"

   The following can be established from the archives about "the motives for the emigration from the back of the county Sponnheim:"*  The conditions of the settlement patent were so favorable *) from Robert Karius, Partenkirchen.  That at the time the serf farmers who were still almost tied to the soil could hardly comprehend that this was something unusual.  As they began to half empty the villages and because of it the tax revenue of the independent government in the Rhineland quickly declined, the rulers saw reason to enact a strict ban on emigration.  The success of it was that now the people, despite the imposition of their bans, secretly escaped.   

For that reason it was graciously prescribed that:

   1. the emigration would be banned once and for all.
   2. the ones who still emigrated would have all of their fortune confiscated.
   3. to await the disposition of a just life sentence.
   4. emigrants who were found in the land again should be imposed with a six month
       "wheelbarrow" sentence, etc.

   So the emigration was finally brought to a standstill.  Then the lords of manors, indebted through carelessness and extravagance, increased their demands because a tenth part of the yield of the farms was no longer enough.  For protection and insurance grain, oats, governor chickens, Shrovetide chickens, Thomas pigs, Jakobs' geese, Vitus' sheep, etc. were demanded.  From each chimney three kegs of smoked oats  must be paid.  Through a yearly estimate the financial circumstances would be determined.  A duty was imposed on calves, pigs, meal, beer, wood, etc. 

    Burdensome and much hated was the principal that the gentlemen had the right to a part of the estate of one who died.  Usually the best cattle were taken away from the surviving relatives.  Then there was the maintenance tax for the young princes, (Wittums?) and loyalty tax.  Permission to enter and leave cost a tenth part of the fortune.  Almost everything was squeezed out of the people from taxes leaving an almost comprehensive list.  There were many factions involved in these submissions.  The achievements were not restricted just to the agriculture, meadow, and forest factions but also would be expanded for building, preparation of raw materials, and the supply of materials for errands and day service.  Acts of violence from the ruling power were allowed.  Young people fir for military would be sold in masses to foreign princes for military service.  The despair of the farmers at the time is reflected in the song:

   Not! Not! Nix wie bittri Not
   Vun Kindheit uff dis an de Dod;
   Des Baurevolk, des bleib dei Los
   Kee Freed im Lewe, Sorje bloß
   Un schaffe, nix wie schaffe
   For Herre un for Paffe.
   In cases where someone took in a runaway, he was promised six Reichstaler for a man, four for a woman, and three for each child.  Each recidivist should receive thirty lashes and those who repeatedly fled would be branded.  It was ordered that this prescription would be openly read aloud once a year and on the Sundays of Misericordias Domini by all of the preachers of the council.  People were extremely hostile of the pastors' input, who in any case claimed a tenth of a third for themselves.  From the following comes the expression that one does not always take away the best fruit from their barn.
  Do schlah en Dunnerwetter drin,
  Der Deiwel mag eier Parre sin.
  Dorn, Rad un Vogelwicke,
  Die sollt'r nit dem Parrer schicke.
  Der predigt das Wort Gottes rein
  So soll aach eier Korn un Hawer sein.
   The Reichenbacher pastor mourned that because of him in the year 1785 nine families emigrating to Hungary were fined eleven kegs, 2 (Sester?), and 2½ quarts.  These families included Georg Nickel Schmidt, Philipp Müller, Georg Jakob Heintzen Wittib, Johann Nickel Beckhäuser, Christian Heintz, Jakob Gðttgen, Melchior Schmidt, Johann Loch and Philipp Jakob Heintz Melchior's son, who all came from Frauenberg village and settled in Crvenka and Sekitsch.  Others received punitive charges, etc.  When these people continued to be poor under the everlasting pressure of hardship, they did not remain the rejects of the nation for very long.  In some cases they were rough as the climate and as hard as the rocky ground.  They had from the very start of their new existence the possibility on foreign land that their ability really was not seen in a bad light.  And splendid are the words of  the Augsburg pastor:
   "Not with the sword, but with plowshare conquered,
    Children of the peace, heroes of the work."

*) Weimann: History of Ujverbasser Reformed church community 1785-1912. 

[Published at by Jody McKim Pharr, 2004]

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