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

Remembering Our Danube Swabian Ancestors

The Living Quarters
of the German Settlers

by Dr. Viktor Pratscher
Translated by Brad Schwebler

          The dwellings of the German settlers were exactly the same as that of the Hungarian colonists in Feketitsch.  One house was just like another.  The very strong walls over 2 feet thick were thicker below than above.  Everything was pounded from earth which was dug up next to the house.  On such a house there was a large spacious room facing the street (inside it was easily 16 × 14 feet), with a little simple window, - with 4 panes - facing the street and the same kind of window facing the yard.  The room facing the yard was a large 12 × 14 feet with a window facing the yard.  Between these two rooms one would find a 14 × 11 feet large kitchen with an entrance door from the yard.  This door was divided in the middle into two equal parts, forming half a door above and half below.  From the kitchen a one-winged wooden door led into the room and this was opposite one just like it in the chamber.  The kitchen was provided with an open chimney which rested on an enormous vault which took up the rear half of the kitchen (plafonds?).  Through this chimney one has an open view of the sky.  Under the chimney - in the middle - there is an open stove and under this is the baking oven.  The cover, called the (Plafon?), is made of clay-covered boards in the whole house and rests on 4 inch strong diagonal beams which lay 2½ feet from one another on enormous crossbeams.  These crossbeams were 6-7 inches thick and stretched the length of the whole building.  Between the crossbeams and the (Plafon) a large recess was formed since the diagonal beams were thick.  This niche served as a storage space for some books and papers.  In the room behind the door there is a little tile oven which rested between the walls and on 2 footboards and was heated from the kitchen.  

          The roof was covered with thatch which were layered on top of each other but not stacked.  The gable was also made of thatch which was then smeared with clay on the outside.  The (roof chair?) together with the beams were all made from wood which was split with the ax, which gave no promises at the time.  The colonist was a farmer so the buildings included a 13 × 14 foot large stable and a 14 × 6 large open barn.  In the barn one found the floor stairs (Bodensteige?).  The stable had a door just like the kitchen.  The walls were 7 feet high and essentially wider below than above so one could see with their eyes open that the walls were not perpendicular.  At the demolition of such homes in Feketitsch huge (Kotsteinen?) mudstones? were found inside the walls which are called "Emperor Josef Kotsteinen" by us today.  According to tradition these fell into a wheelbarrow, so they are also called "wheelbarrow Kotsteinen."  On the outside a 50-60 cm higher earth wall was put on the whole building.  The terrain of the street and the yard were about a half foot higher than the trampled floors of the rooms.  Inside everything was whitewashed, but outside frequently there was only a hand width white strip painted around the windows and doors.  There was no corridor, only a two foot wide canopy.  The extent of the yards was different in each community, so that in Sekitsch it was 600 square fathoms, in Torscha 750 square fathoms, but in Feketitsch it was only 300 square fathoms.  The yards were soon surrounded by thatched fences but the street front was cordoned off with boards (palisades). 

Settlement House No. 128

The doors were held together with wooden bolts.

          The genuine farmhouse of today is the longhouse just described with a corridor on which a square row of columns rest.  In some cases the courtroom was not followed by the "Kammerche" (small room), but by another separate kitchen and room; wherever possible a cellar is put underneath the house so that the cellar neck came to stand at the Kammerche. 

Old German farmhouse of the 1870's.
House No. 310.
Owner:  Jakob Weißmann Sr.
(Judge 1903 to 1911 and 1927 to 1933)
and wife Theresia nee Bellmann.

The same farmhouse seen from inside.  

Before the walkway one finds a one meter smaller strip with fruit trees, vines or roses, and flowers.

          On the other side of the plastered entrance way there is a 4 to 6 fathom wide fenced in vegetable garden.  Often there was a summer kitchen here or the outside container of the above mentioned house.  Before the stable is the yard with a (Tschardak? - corn trellis standing crosswise and with a fence separated into two parts.  Diagonal construction is peculiar to the farmers of Feketitsch and this construction always adjoins a longhouse in the yard.  The diagonal buildings are also different, so for example Adam Bittlingmayer and Anton Scheer have a dry entrance in the middle, Adam Ludmann had a dry entrance on the side, and Philipp Weber and Christian Gerber have no dry entrance. 

          Cabinetmaker Karl Spangus has compiled a graphic illustration of the whole community of today's Feketitsch where the differences in terrain are portrayed with plaster but the homes were depicted with the appropriate  little wooden blocks.  One work their master praised.  

          The house of the small homeowner and the businessman consisted of a room and a kitchen, for the most part also a yard room with a corridor.  From the corridor there is also often a detached anteroom, kitchen or dining room.  The stable is under a small roof.  A two fathom long Tschardak and a pig stall under it is in almost every yard.  The yard is often only half of a lot of 150 square fathoms, yet whenever possible there is a detached vegetable garden.  

          There are no villas in Feketitsch.  The largest private buildings of the Germans are: Jakob Gutwein's two steam mills, Joseph Schmidt's guesthouse, and Johann Schwebler's lumber trade, as well as the above mentioned diagonal buildings.  The smallest dwelling about the enormous progress made in science that are still deep dark secrets to us today.  It is the witness of such a world view which we cannot grasp today.

     It is still worth mentioning that the Germans did not prefer the corner homes.  So where Germans live far and wide on the street, of the four corner homes at the street crossing there is not a single German home.  On the main street this is not the case.  Although the streets never had official German names, the following street names were generally used by the Germans: Hauptgasse (Main Street), Neue (New) or Jammergasse (Misery Street), Äußerste Reihe (Outermost Row), Kirchengasse (Church Street), Apothekegasse (Pharmacy Street), Herrengasse (Gentlemen Street), Postgasse (Post Office Street), Deutschländergasse (German Street), and Friedhofgasse (Cemetery Street).  A genuine German quarter was over in the Bara situated in the "Banat."  Formerly there was also a "rich corner" but this title is no longer used today because unfortunately they have lost their right to use it.  12*

From the migration of the Germans we have the exact results of the first official census - in the year 1857 - which was punctually tabulated this year per decree.  

   In 1857 there were 162 German homes with 619 Evangelicals, 377 Reformed =  996

   In 1936 there were 419 German homes with 1314 Evangelicals, 549 Reformed

      + 15 Catholics, 8 Baptists, and 8 Nazarenes                                          = 1894

      besides these there are in foreign lands 87 Evangelicals, 32 Reformed

(who have there house and field here) = 119                          

[Published at 2004 by Jody McKim Pharr]