This translation by Henry A. Fischer of Book One of A Former German Communilty in the Tolna: Contributions to Its Village History” by Georg Müller of Pécs, 2002 is presented with the permission of the author.
One can only really write accurately about the history of a village, if one is familair with its contemporary history. Significant and vital decisions that people had to make and deal with and then carry out in terms of their own lives can only be understood if we have a basic understanding of the situations in which they found themselves. I will occupy myself with the details of the early years of this settlement by the Germans, because they would prove to be of great importance in the subsequent decades of the history of the village. I also consider it essential to provide certain views and aspects of Hungarian history that in many respects had an impact on Izmény, its general vicinity as well as Tolna County. I am not a historian, and for that reason my presentation is thematic in nature, because I would like to inform the reader of what has become clear to me in my reading of the literature dealing with the subject as well as my research and investigations.
The Earliest References and Circumstances Involving the Village
The entomology of the word “Izmény” is unclear. In all likelihood the name is of Slavic origin. It is similar to other Slavic geographical designations such as “Bolsoj Izmany” and “Izmeny”.
In what follows I would like to provide a short summary of references to the village taken from various sources.
The village is located in Tolna County in the southern part of the former Tal District (with Bonyhad as its capital) on the northern edge of the Mescek Highlands. The neighboring villages include Mucsfa to the north, Aparhant to the north east, Györe to the south and Tófü to the west.
The environs of the village were already inhabited early in the Paleolithic Era (Early Stone Age and the beginning of human history 7,000 to 8,000 BC). With the Hungarian conquest of the area in 896 it came into the ownership of Sippe Szák.
The parish associated with the village is mentioned in a document dated 1291. This is the earliest written record of Izmény that is known to me.
In the year 1333, the parish, that is the priest whose name was Johannes, paid 22 Banales to the Papal Treasury according to a list compiled by the Vatican for the Seniorat (Church District) of Tolna. In the year 1334, the same person paid the same amount. In the year 1335 the parish paid only 20 Banales. In the year 1554 Izmény is included in the Turkish Tax Conscription list (the so-called Deftern) with four tax paying residents.
In 1558 Izmény is mentioned in the register of the Cikádor Abbey (now known as Bátaszék) and two tax payers are listed who both paid the equivalent of one tenth of their wheat crop: János Veres paid one portion of wheat, and Péter Zsiga the same. Together their tax amounted to 1 Forint and 25 Denars.
In 1564 a detailed conscription was undertaken in the counties of Tolna and Baranya. The village of Izmény was identified as Number 922: Izmen Matthey Zekchwy p.2, which meant that the village belonged to Matthias Szekcsöi and there were two farms in the village.
In the year 1650 Christoph Heinrich Schwegler completed a survey of the villages that belonged to the Districts of Sziget (now known as Szigetvár) and Pécs. Izmény can be found in this list in the Tabod District, all of whose inhabitants were Romanians who were adherents of the Greek Orthodox Church. Nagy Izmény (Magds Izmin) had twenty houses, as well as Nagy Izmény again (Nagds Izimin) with eight houses.
In the years 1695 and 1696 the Provisional Court in Pécs carried out a conscription of the villages. During 1695 the village was not even mentioned, while in 1696 it was noted that it was uninhabited and the three Bosnian inhabitants who had been born there were now living in Hidas. The landlord was Ferenc Botka of Pápa and the inhabitants paid him three Forint in taxes annually. The Turkish landlord had been Ali Izpaja who was paid six Forints each year by the people of Izmény but they had no further obligations to him. They also paid the Turkish Sultan three or five Forint annually. In the past, Serbs and Calvinists lived in the village.
In order to better understand the history of the village, we need to take a short excursion into Hungary history.
Izmény and Hungary During and After the Turkish Occupation
From what has been mentioned previously we know the vicinity of Izmény had been inhabited quite early and the village and its neighbourhood, where the present day village now stands, existed shortly after the Hungarian conquest. During the Middle Ages the village was inhabited by Hungarian peasant farmers.
On August 26, 1526, Hungary lost the Battle of Mohács against the Turkish Sultan Sulieman. This ushered in a 160 year long rule and occupation of Hungary by the Turks. With the taking of the fortress of Buda (1541), Valpó (1543) Csazma (1543), Pécs (1543), Siklós (1543), Simontornya (1543), Koppány (1544), Fehérvár (1543), and Szigeth (1566) (now known as Szigetvár) Sulieman defeated the last of his opposition. The eastern part of Trans Danubia came completely under Turkish control. In 1541 the central region of Hungary became integrated within the Turkish Empire and Buda was the capital of Buda Province. Following the conquest of the fortress at Temesvár in 1552 the second Province was established under its name. After the taking of the fortress of Eger in 1596 the third Province was formed under its name, and with the fall of the fortress of Kanizia in 1600 the fourth Province was formed using its name. The village of Izmény belonged to the Pécs District, which was part of Buda Province up until 1600 after which time it was attached to the Province of Kanizia. The civilian population that lived in the Turkish occupied areas of Hungary faced sorrowful times at their hands. On the one hand the Turkish military campaigns and the resultant battles claimed countless victims from among the population, especially in those communities along the line of march of the advancing Turkish and retreating Hungarian armies. The survivors were faced with double taxation: they had to pay taxes to their new Turkish landlords (the Sultan, Turkish nobles and landowners) as well as their old Hungarian overlords (the Church, the State Treasury in Vienna and the Hungarian noble landlords). It is hardly any wonder that many of the surviving population moved away if it was at all possible. There were still Hungarian peasant farmers living in the village in 1558, and all of them were converts to the Reformed religion. This peasant population simply disappeared in the following decades and in all likelihood moved away. Romanians, who had lived in the southern regions of Serbia and Bosnia since the 12th century, came and took their place according to Christoph Heinrich Schwegler’s report in 1650. The Romanians lived in the village to the end of the 17th century. They were nomadic and changed locations regularly and were engaged primarily with cattle herding. In 1696 the village was uninhabited. It is questionable as to whether the Bosnian inhabitants that Schwegler registered as Romanians were the Bosnians who moved into Izmény or whether they were actually Bosnians who lived in the village up to 1696. We can see how the flourishing Hungarian villages of the Middle Ages were driven into the ground during the Turkish occupation and how various other populations passed through leaving the village uninhabited until 1695.
In 1682 the Hungarian Prince Imre Thököly, in league with the Turks, proclaimed a people’s rebellion against the Habsburgs in Slovakia (Upper Hungary). It was the same year when Ibrahim the Grand Vizer of the Turkish Army set out to lay siege to Vienna. These two actions made Emperor Leopold I aware that the former Habsburg strategy of doing nothing and leaving Hungary on its own, that they had adopted since they became the kings of Hungary since 1529, was no longer tenable. Their own security was now at stake. The Emperor signed an armistice with Thököly on November 19, 1682 and on March 31, 1683 he made a pact with John Sobieski, the Polish king. He also took diplomatic steps to enlist the support of the German princes. His efforts resulted in a united army of 70,000 men under the leadership of Vienna that met the Turks at the Battle of Kahlenberg. These troops included those of John Sobieski, Duke Charles of Lorraine, Maximilian II the Elector of the Bavaria along with John George II Elector of Saxony and other allied units from the German Reich and Royal Hungary. On September 9, 1683 the Turks abandoned their siege of Vienna and took flight in full retreat. With the end of the siege at Vienna the way was wide open for the Emperor to pursue the Turks and drive them out of Hungary and put down the Thököly uprising. At the invitation of the Pope Innocent XI, John Sobieski and Giustiniani the Doge of Venice, the Holy Alliance against the Turks was formed in 1684. Still in 1684, under the leadership of Duke Charles of Lorraine the Imperial Army liberated the so-called Danube Bend beginning at Visegrad, Vác and eventually Pest. In April of 1686, under the leadership and command of Claudius Florimundus von Mercy (of whom we shall hear again later), the Imperial Army along with the support of Thököly defeated the Tartar allies of the Turks at Szeged. The siege of Buda began on June 18, 1686 with 65,000 soldiers of whom 15,000 were Hungarians and on September 2, 1686 the capital of Hungary was liberated. Under the command of Margrave Louis of Baden, also known as Turkish Louis, Simontornya in Tolna County was liberated on September 23, 1686, Pécs followed on October 22, 1686 and then Siklós fell on October 30, 1686 and on November 12, 1686 Kaposvár was freed. The united military forces of the Holy Alliance led by Duke Charles of Lorraine besieged Nagyharsány in Baranya County on August 12, 1687 that then led to the surrender of Esseg (today known as Osijek) by the Grand Vizer of Sulieman on September 29, 1687. The counties of Tolna, Baranya and Somogy (which together became known as Swabian Turkey) were liberated from the Turks. What the Turks left behind was a devastated and unpopulated land.
As we had mentioned, up to the time of the liberation, Izmény was uninhabited. In the eastern portions of the counties of Tolna and Baranya, which to a great degree are vast flatlands, most of the important military roads passed through them and was on the line of march of the armies (from Esseg-Fehérvár-Buda along with a spur to Kaposvár). Consequently, this area was so devastated that in 1709 when Christian Müller, who prepared a detailed map of the area between Szekszárd and Pincehely (the two localities are approximately 40 kilometers distant from one another) as well as between Pécs and Pécsvárad, does not show a single village existed. The western sections of the counties, which were farther removed from the military roads and were hilly and mountainous in terms of their landscape had not suffered as badly during the time of the Turks and there were more villages that had been able to survive even though the conditions were rather miserable. During the Turkish occupation in the Provinces of Eger, Buda and Kanizia, the future Trans Danubia, there were about 250,000 to 300,000 persons. (That meant eight persons per square kilometer).
Between 1703 and 1711 another uprising broke out in Hungary against the Habsburgs that was led by the Prince of Transylvania, George Rákóczi II. This latest rebellion was put down by Emperor Charles III in 1711 and Rákóczi was forced to flee to Turkey. But this liberation movement created more instability, uncertainty and the feeling of insecurity among the resident population. In the Conscriptions of 1715 we find 45 villages in existence in the Tolna, and by the year 1720 their number had risen to 60. Izmény is never mentioned in either of the Conscriptions.
The Situation of the Protestant Churches in Hungary Before and During the Settlement
Because Izmény was later settled by German Protestants we need to take a short look at church history. The Lutheran Reformation and the work of John Calvin in Switzerland also made major inroads in Hungary and students were quick to flock to the German and Swiss Universities. In the first decades of the Reformation the Protestant faith spread rapidly across the whole country. In Izmény itself, we know that in the mid-16th century, Hungarian Calvinists inhabited the village. Nobles and townsmen sent their children to study in the Universities of western Europe, who upon their return home had a direct effect on the introduction and spread of the Reformation so that the subjects of the nobles and landowners and entire towns and cities became Protestant. They desired to have pastors, who again went off to study theology in Germany or Switzerland. In this way slowly but surely, without any organized structure, the Protestant Churches were established in Roman Catholic Hungary. According to one source in 1600 approximately 80 to 85 per cent of the population was Protestant. The Roman Catholic clergy and the Emperor saw this growing tendency to be a very great threat and pursued every avenue possible to them to curtail and stop the spread of Protestantism. Hundreds of preachers were dragged off and sold as galley slaves, and a great many others were killed. But in spite of all of their efforts the spread of Protestantism could not be halted. The Counter Reformation that followed had only been partially successful and a complete eradication of the Protestant faith had proven to be impossible. In addition to that there were large areas and regions in Turkish hands and for them the question of which Christian religion their subjects practiced was of no real interest or concern. This was especially true in Transylvania where Protestantism was widespread and the Turks allied themselves with the Transylvanians so that they were able to be independent of Habsburg control.
On September 9, 1608 Arch-Duke Matthias called for an Assembly of the Estates of Hungary (the equivalent of a medieval parliament) at Pozsony (or Pressburg and today it is Bratislava). In Paragraph 3 of an article passed at the assembly the new law stipulated that all citizens of the Kingdom were granted the freedom of religion. Further in Paragraph 5, it was stated that the Paladin (Governor) of Hungary would be elected from between two candidates proposed by the Emperor, one of them a Roman Catholic and the other a Protestant.
On April 28, 1681, about seventy years later, Leopold I called for another Assembly of the Estates in Sopron (Ödenburg). The actions taken had major effects on the Protestants:
In Paragraph 25, the religious ordinances of 1608 were strengthened requiring the strict adherence of the rights of the nobles over their tenant peasants. It was clearly stated that no one’s religious freedom could be denied him. The exiled pastors and teachers were allowed to return to their homeland. Paragraph 26 stated that in the place of confiscated churches a new site for building a Protestant church had to be provided. What was the meaning of this Paragraph 26? Of the eleven north western and northern Counties, there were only two or three places in which it was possible for Protestants to practice their faith. It was also generally known that in those areas directly under Habsburg control Protestants could not claim ownership or use a church, parsonage or school if previously consecrated by a Roman Catholic priest, but only those they had built themselves. These were the so-called Articular Churches, referring to the Latin term designated in issuing the regulation, which provided for the free expression of the Protestant faith only in permitted designated locales. In Protestant villages in which the church had been expropriated before 1681 and which had been consecrated by a priest could no longer be used for Protestant worship and nor could a pastor be called to serve them. In many places this regulation was used to legally confiscate Protestant churches and effectively hamper the spread of the Protestant faith. It was this regulation that so severely handicapped the Protestants that it became one of the primary grounds for the uprising by the Protestant Prince Thököly against the Habsburgs in 1682.
The Protestant estates (representatives at the assemblies) challenged this regulation in vain. In the year 1687 at the national Assembly of the Estates in Pozsony a new regulation proposed by Leopold I included in Paragraph 21, strengthened the regulations of 1681 and was signed by him on January 1, 1688.
On April 2, 1691 on the inspiration of Cardinal Arch-Bishop Leopold Kollonich the Emperor Leopold I decreed the Leopoldina Exlpanatio. In it he limited the rights of the Protestants even more. He forbade all Protestant clergy to hold any religious ceremonies or perform pastoral acts outside of the locale of his church in the designated place allowed in the regulations of 1681. Protestants who did not live in communities with an Articular church were allowed to seek out the services of a pastor for baptism, funerals, marriages and worship in an Articular community but had to pay the appropriate fees to the priest of the parish in which they resided.
Because of all of these actions we have mentioned we can see that in spite of the religious freedoms that were guaranteed between 1608 and 1681the exact opposite was carried out against them. The Protestant pastors and teachers were expelled or exiled and churches were confiscated. There was no such thing as religious freedom any longer except that individuals in the privacy of their homes read the bible and prayed with their families but in secret. Every attempt at developing congregational life was met with fierce resistance and hindrances of all kinds or was severely curtailed.
The War of Liberation led by Rákóczi (the war between Prince Ferenc Rákóczi and the Habsburgs) that resulted in the Peace of Szatmár signed on April 29, 1711 had no effect and the religious regulations of 1681 remained in full force.
Charles III signed the articles that resulted from Assemblies of the Estates at Pozsony in 1708 and 1712. In Paragraph 30, the religious regulations of 1681 and 1687 were newly strengthened and a commission was set up charged with regulating the issues with regard to religious assemblies or council meetings that could only be held with the personal permission of the Emperor.
On June 20, 1722 the Emperor ordered the Paladin of Hungary, Miklós Pálffy to draw up an official list of the complaints of the Protestants. In this so-called Pester Abschrift (The Transcript from Pest) all of the Articular congregations and their locales were listed that had a pastor prior to the first sitting of the Religious Commission set up in 1721.
On June 12, 1723 Emperor Charles III released a decree in which he warned and urged for moderation on the part of the powers arraigned against the Protestants. Because of the pressure exerted on the Paladin by the Roman Catholic clergy the decree was never put in force. On October 19, 1723 the Emperor issued another decree in which he urged patience with regard to the religious question and put the former conditions prior to 1721 and the establishment of the commission into effect. The Royal State Chamber released it on August 7, 1725.
On March 21, 1731 Charles II determined the contents of the so-called “Carolina Resolutio” addressing the religious question in terms of the Protestants:
The practice and exercising of the Protestant faith would only be allowed as stipulated in the Law of 1681 in the so-called Articular locales and a pastor could be called subject to royal approval and consent. Protestants who did not live in such locales were placed under the jurisdiction of the local Roman Catholic priest. The rights of the landlords remained in effect as indicated in the appropriate regulations. The two Protestant Churches could elect their own Superintendents (supervisory role like a bishop), the number of which would be determined later. Forsaking the Roman Catholic faith would lead to punishment. Mixed marriages could be performed only by a Roman Catholic priest. Non-catholics were obliged to celebrate all catholic feast days even if only in an outward manner. All state officials, mayors and lawyers in taking their oath of office would do so in the Roman Catholic form of the oath without any exceptions.
On October 20, 1734 Charles III provided a supplement to the “Carolina Resolutio”. The Reformed and Evangelical Lutheran Churches could each establish four Superintendencies.
On December 24, 1742 the Empress Maria Theresia (also Queen of Hungary between 1740-1780) ordered the carrying out of the “Carolina Resolutio”.
On September 19, 1751 Maria Theresia strengthened the decree by adding that conversion to the Protestant faith would be met with appropriate punishment, a mixed marriage could only be performed with the permission of the bishop, and catholics were forbidden to attend non-catholic schools.
On August 30, 1753 Empress Maria Theresia issued a decree challenging the Roman Catholic bishops to convert the Protestants by preaching and teaching and not through the use of force.
On January 27, 1756 the Empress released a decree that the supervision of all moral and material issues in all non-Articular locales including all Protestants who lived in them were under the jurisdiction of the Roman Catholic Church.
On October 25, 1781 Joseph II (King of Hungary between 1780-1790) the son of Maria Theresia issued his Toleration Edict. It provided for and guaranteed the free exercise of the religion of the Greek Orthodox population and all of the Protestants. The erection of a church, and the calling of a pastor were allowed but at their own expense. They were released from the control of the Roman Catholic bishops. Non-catholics could hold all state offices and positions.
On March 12, 1791 Emperor Leopold II in Paragraph 26 stipulated that Protestants could freely and publicly exercise their religion, were free to build churches and schools and were not required to pay any church fees to the Roman Catholic church or clergy. Religion would play no role in applying or qualifying for any official job postings. Conversion to the Protestant faith had to be reported to the Emperor. If the father was Roman Catholic, all of the children of a mixed marriage were to be Roman Catholic, if the mother was Roman Catholic all of her daughters had to be raised Roman Catholic.
From all these facts that have been presented it is obvious that the Protestants achieved equal status in Hungary to a very limited degree in 1781 and full citizenship only after 1791. In this way the Habsburgs attempted to conserve their accomplishments through the Counter Reformation, which unfortunately had been quite successful.
The Causes of the Emigration from Germany at the Beginning of the 18th Century
In order to better understand the massive emigration from Germany we have to turn back to the Thirty Years War (1618-1648). This war brought about the destruction of the economy of all of Germany. Villages were depopulated, a great proportion of the civilian population died or fled inside the walled towns and cities in search of safety there. Agricultural production became utterly impossible for several decades. As the population of the overcrowded towns grew, epidemics broke out and accounted for countless victims.
At the end of the war, Germany was much in the same situation as the formerly Turkish occupied areas of Hungary, the abandoned destroyed villages had to be re-settled. Large numbers of peasant farmers from Switzerland migrated in the 1650s and 1660s and a portion of them went to Germany. Vast numbers of Hugenots (Protestants) from France also found haven in Germany.
By the first decade of the 18th century the population had recovered to its former numbers because in many of the families, anywhere from eight to ten of their children achieved adulthood. The agricultural land that was available for cultivation became too small to support the families and the population. The empty and depopulated villages were now all inhabited. With regard to these issues we need to raise the matter of the inheritance practices and tradition of the peasant serfs: the oldest son of the family inherited all of the family’s land. It was then his duty to provide a dowry for his sisters at the time of their marriage (money or other items of value that could be sold for money), while for his younger brothers he was obligated to have them taught a trade, which again cost him money. If an oldest son, as just described, was able to meet all of these obligations without having to sell some of the land in doing so would be considered more than fortunate. The size of individual family holdings became smaller and smaller due to the necessity of selling some of it and all of this had an adverse effect upon the economy. The profitability of the remaining piece of land had its limitations so that it was optional as to whether or not it was too small to even bothering working. As long as a village could take on more tradesmen (for example those who were not the oldest son in the family) there was no problem. But when that no longer became the case, the younger sons migrated to another locale, which was not yet as heavily populated and where they could make a better living. But the time came when there was no longer any such locales left in Germany and because of that more and more people chose a foreign destination. This inheritance practice and tradition that the emigrants brought with them to Hungary would continue to be practiced by them and became the reason and basis for an ongoing inner emigration as it were that took them from one undeveloped region to another. This inner migration was set in motion when after a period of time there was pressure for them to go on elsewhere in search of better opportunities.
The most important reason for the emigration was the combination of over population and the negative aspects of the economic situation aggravated by the inheritance tradition in which they found themselves. A further reason for the emigration was the raising of the taxes and the duties to be performed by the peasants. Some of the nobles imitated the Sun King, Louis XIV and carried out lavish hunts and had magnificent residences built all of which called for money. This situation affected only a portion of the landowners and their estates.
The Mercys: The New Landlords of Izmény
In the bill of sale, dated April 24, 1722 at Pressburg, Claudius Florimundus Mercy bought the estates of Count Wenceslas Zinzendorf located in the Tolna for 15,000 Guilden. The Emperor Charles III approved the purchase in Vienna, on June 30, 1722. On August 23, 1723 he again approved of the purchase and in this document he acknowledged the right of inheritance for the heirs of von Mercy. In addition to Izmény, there were other communities that were part of these estates and we will deal with them later. Since the settlement of Izmény only took place after this purchase, Mercy was the first landlord of the newly settled village. Even 200 years after his death my grandparents still spoke of him and many of the readers have probably heard of him previously themselves. Because of that I consider it important to provide more detailed information about him so that we have a more accurate picture of him.
Claudius Florimundus Mercy was born in Lorraine in 1666. One of his Great Uncles was Franz Baron von Mercy (he was born at the end of the 16th century and died in 1645) and was one of the most talented generals in the service of Austria in the Thirty Years War. His other Great Nephew was Kaspar von Mercy, a Bavarian General and Sergeant Major. In 1682 Claudius Florimundus joined the army as a volunteer and was awarded the rank of Lieutenant in 1683 for his role in lifting the siege of Vienna and participated in all of the campaigns against the Turks in Hungary and did so with great distinction. He fought as a Second Lieutenant in the Battle of Borgoforte in Italy in 1701 and drove back six enemy squadrons with his 300 mounted troops and taken prisoner, and then later in 1702 he was captured at Cremona, but each time he was redeemed in a prisoner exchange. Later he commanded a dragoon regiment and won the Friedlingen grossen Ruhm (military decoration). In 1705 he pushed back the French forces at Pfaffenhofen from their lines to the canons at Strassburg, while in the meantime he had become a Major General. In 1706 he provided Landau with necessary supplies and scattered and dispersed the retreating corps of the Marquis de Vivans at Orlenberg in 1707. Named to the rank of a Lieutenant Field Marshal, he was in command of the region of Landau. In the campaign of 1709 he led six regiments to Mantua and on his return crossed the Rhine and took a position at Neuburg. He was defeated by Dubourg at Rumersheim and was forced to retreat to Rheinfelden and in the process occupied the Schwarzwald and its cities. He fought alongside of Eugene of Savoy against the Turks at the victory at Peterwardein (Pétervárad) in 1716 as well as the retaking of Temesvár and Belgrade. Pancsowa, Kubin and Ujpalánka also had to capitulate before him and he strengthened his positions at Orsova Mehadia. Commissioned the Commander of the Banat in 1716 by Eugene of Savoy, he was named Governor of the Banat in 1718 by Emperor Charles III after having accepted his administrative plans for the development of the region. He had large numbers of colonists settle in the region from Germany, Italy and Spain. He brought miners from Austria, Bohemia and Germany to settle in the mining settlements of Krassó County. He began draining the swamps and introduced a silkworm industry (through the Abbot Rossi under whose leadership mulberry planting and cultivation was undertaken on a grand scale). He established various manufacturing industries (producing cloth, oil and wire products) and at the same time limiting the monopolies of the local guilds by establishing a treasury and proceeded to secure foreign educated professionals to take charge of manufacturing. In Temesvár he established a silk redemption office and weaving factory. Because of his activities and programs the Banat received financial support from the Royal State Treasury because the economic development of the region was very much in the best interests of the Habsburgs. For the same reason the settlement of the Banat would also be financed by the Royal State Treasury.
In 1719 Mercy was sent to Sicily to fight against the Spaniards. He was awarded the title of Count in 1720 and was again named Governor of the Banat by Charles III. In 1723 he was ennobled and was given a village along with three large prairies to which he could retire when he was no longer in office. In 1733 he was ordered to go to Italy and engaged in the war there and he fell in battle at Crocetta on June 29, 1734. The Italian settlement of Mercyfalva in Temes County was named after him.
Quite early in the 1720s the childless Mercy adopted a distant relative, the Count Argentau August Karl Ignaz Anton who would bear the combined name: Mercy- d’Argentau. He was born on the first Sunday of Advent in 1690 and died as the Captain of Esseg in 1767. It is more than likely that the older Mercy did not personally administer or organize his estates after 1723 but turned these matters over to his adoptive son Mercy-d’Argenau, as the studies and research of his domains in the Tolna, by the literary historian Heinrich Kerri has demonstrated in his subsequent writings. His services to the Habsburgs left him time for little else, with their constant demands of him and he was already sixty years old at the time. He only became involved when there were weighty matters to deal with or when his presence or direct involvement merited it. My research substantiates this view. What happened to the subjects on his domains was only of indirect importance to Mercy-d’Argentau. After his death on January 23, 1767 in Högyész, his son Mercy-d’Argentau Florimund Claudius who had been adopted both by him and the older Mercy inherited the Domain. He was Maria Theresia’s ambassador to St. Petersburg, Russia in 1766 and between 1780 and 1790 he was ambassador in Paris, and between 1790 and 1794 in London. He died in London on August 25, 1794. Due to his foreign service he had no influence on the administration on the Högyész Domain and in 1773 he sold it to George Apponyi. With that a new epoch begins in the history of the Högyész Domain that will be dealt with later.
Mercy’s life and career demonstrate that his loyalty to the Emperor in Vienna never wavered, and this was openly recognized by the Royal Court. (His loyalty to Austria had its origins in his family since his Grand Nephew Franz von Mercy had also served Austria). But he was also a clever politician as we would say today.
The Domain of Högyész: The Estates of the Mercys in the Tolna and Their Settlement
In the decree of the Royal Chamber of June 30, 1723 that validated the Emperor’s acknowledgement of the purchase by Claudius Florimundus Mercy from Wenceslas Zizendorf of his Domain in the Tolna, five villages and twenty-nine open prairies are named. The list itself was compiled from an earlier bill of sale in 1700, even though it no longer dealt with the current situation, in that some of them were now in the possession of other landlords. In 1700 Zizendorf bought the Domain of Högyész from Adam Bottka from Széplak for 14,000 Gulden.
In the year 1772 Apar was the residential seat of the Domain even though the administration was transferred to Högyész in that year. In the 19th century when the Domain was in the possession of the Apponyis, it was administered from Lengyel. On that basis, the Apar, Högyész and Lengyel Domain are one and the same. In what follows I provide a listing of the twenty-three that belonged to this Domain (at the time of purchase there were only twenty-one, two of them were purchased later: Varsad earlier in 1722 and Hidegkut in 1726).
Apar (now Aparhant) Izmény Nagyvejke
Apáti (Bátaapáti) Kalaznó Pálfa
Berény (Diósberény) Kismányok Szakadát
Düzs Kistormás Szentlörinc
Felsönána Kisvejke Varsd
Hant (Aparhant) Kölesd Varsád
Hidegkút (Keszöhidegkút) Mucsfa Závod
The importance of the settlement by the Mercys can only be evaluated on the basis of the situation prior to their purchase of the Domain. In the year 1722 ten of the villages in the Domain were inhabited: Apar (along with Hant it is now the village of Aparhant) Diósberény (earlier it was simply Berény), Felsönána, Kismányok, Kisvejke, Kölesd, Mucsi, Pálfa, Sárszentlörinc (earlier it was simply Szentlörinc) and Závod. If we count Varsád, which the Mercys bought from the Reformed noble family: the Székelys in 1722, there are eleven villages. In the following table I will show how many households and which nationalities are listed in the Conscription List in Tolna in the years 1715 and 1720 in the individual villages.
Village: Households 1715 Households 1720
1. Apar 35 Hungarian, 16 Slavic 22 Hungarian, 16 Slavic
2. Berény 14 Hungarian 13 Hungarian
3. Nána (Felsönána) None 15 Hungarian, 7 Slavic
4. Kismányok None 7 German
5. Vejke (Kisvejke) 26 Hungarian 22 Hungarian
6. Kölesd None Hungarians
7. Mucsi None 11 Hungarians
8. Pálfa None None
9. Szent Lörinc None 8 Hungarian, 5 German
10. Varsád None 10 Hungarian
11. Závod None 25 German
According to this table four of the eleven villages had received German settlers prior to the purchase in 1722: In Závod there were Roman Catholic families, in Kismányok and Varsád there were Lutherans and in Mucsi there were Roman Catholics and Lutherans (the Roman Catholics formed the majority). This was the inheritance from which the Mercys began and had to proceed to fill the countless open prairies with inhabitants. The first of the newly established settlements that were still founded in the year 1722 were in the villages of Izmény, Kalaznó (the first Lutheran settlers came here in June) and Hógyész where the first Roman Catholic settlers arrived from Tevel. Szakadát received German Roman Catholic settlers in June of 1724. German Roman Catholics moved into Berény in 1728 after a large portion of the Hungarian population migrated elsewhere in the county. Felsönána welcomed its first Lutheran settlers in 1732 and the Hungarians living there moved on to neighbouring Hungarian villages belonging to Mercy. The earlier Slavic population that had lived in Felsönána disappeared around the end of the 18th century. Apáti (now known as Bátaapáti) was settled by German Lutherans in 1734, Bonyhádvarasd was settled with German Roman Catholics in 1729. Düzs was settled by German Roman Catholics in 1755, Nagyvejke received German Roman Catholics in the 1730-1740 time frame, Hant was settled with German Roman Catholics in 1742. Apar received its German Roman Catholic population in 1730. Hidegkút, in all likelihood, was settled by German Lutherans, some time before the purchase of the Domain by the Mercys in March of 1722.
In the next table the results of the Urbarial Conscription of the Mercy villages in 1767 are tabulated with the number and nationality of the households. It is to be noted that some of the acreage with regard to individual villages changes during the passing of time. I have used the earliest remaining documentation at my disposal. One of the open prairies belonging to Hidegkút became the village of Belecska (approximately 2,500 Katastraljoch of land). On the prairie of Borjád (belonged to Kölesd in 1784) and Uzd (belonged to Szentlörinc in 1784) together became the community of Uzd-Borjád at the beginning of the 19th century (with 3,475 Katastraljoch). The population of the prairies in 1784 was: Belecska 152, Uzd 179 and Borjád 114. In 1850 Uzd (along with the prairie of Borjád) had 457 inhabitants and Belecska had around 250 residents.
The Högyész Domain
(Chart) (Page 28)
By 1767 the massive settlement ran its course and for that reason many of the results in the table are relative. From among the twenty-three villages only three of them have a mixed population in terms of nationality: in Kölesd and Kisvejke in which the Hungarians formed the majority while in Diósberény the Germans were the larger group. From among the twenty-three villages there were only two in which the population was mixed in terms of their religious confessions: in Kölesd the situation there resulted from the fact that it was founded by various nationalities, while in Pálfa the Hungarians were divided into Roman Catholics and Reformed. It was only in Sárszentlörinc where we find a large Slavic population with twenty-three households, but this group as a whole disappeared on the Mercy Domain by the 19th century.
When we compare the two tables, the following numbers are revealing about the Mercy settlement activities: In 1722 there were around 250 households living on his Domain. Of them, 83 were German (half Roman Catholic and half Lutheran), 23 Slavic and the rest were Hungarian. By 1767 this number of 250 rose to 2,300, of which 1,781 households were German (960 Lutheran and 821 Roman Catholics), 479 were Hungarian and 41 were Slavic. If we then estimate 7 persons per household (children, wife, parents, servants) in 1722 there would have been 1,750 persons and by 1767 it would have risen to 16,100 inhabitants. The difference of 14,350 persons was not only due to the results of emigration but natural increase also needs to be factored into our calculations. On the basis of my own research and estimates the number of Germans who settled on the Mercy Domain in this time frame must have been at least 5,000 persons.
As mentioned previously the settlement of the Banat was financed and subsidized by the Royal State Treasury. As the Governor of the Banat, as well as a landlord in the Tolna, Mercy could have allowed himself the privilege of sending his own officials to station themselves on the Danube and persuade or lure settlers who were on their way to their destination in the Banat to settle on his Tolna Domain instead. All of this of course was done at the expense of the State. He was hardly alone in using this strategy because the other landlords in the Tolna naturally tried the same approach in order to win over colonists themselves. The fact of the matter is that during the time of the state organized settlement of the Banat we are not dealing with large numbers of Roman Catholics who settled on the Mercy Domain even prior to his purchase of them (Závod, Mucsi and Szakadát all saw the arrival of settlers between 1722-1726, but they did not number more than 30-40 families). A large proportion of Mercy’s German Roman Catholic villages were settled later as a result of an inner migration within the county. Accordingly it is not plausible to believe that a great number of the settlers on their way to the Banat settled on his Domain. A folktale tells us that Mercy once asked an old Hungarian peasant from Kölesd if he knew how he was able to organize the settlement of his Domain so well. His answer was: One village, one nationality and one religion. Personally, I think he was just a good politician and he was very much aware of that. On the basis of the above table it clearly demonstrates that he carried out the settlement of his Domain on this basic principle or had his adopted son carry it out. Because of that he laid down the foundation for the later flourishing prosperous communities and through the income they provided, assured his heirs wealth and prosperity of their own. We cannot find a better proof of this than the community life that developed in the villages and remained practically the same until the expulsion of the Germans in 1947/1948.
Another interesting question is: Why did Mercy settle so many Lutherans on his Domain? In comparison to the German Roman Catholics on his estates in the Tolna the Lutherans were the vast majority. The reason for that according to local folklore was that the Lutherans did not have as many church holidays and would therefore be able to work more. If Mercy was aware of that or not is questionable, and according to my own thinking, I do not believe it was the primary reason why he settled the Lutherans on his Domain. I think he had two other reasons for doing so.
In the first place, as we will see later, the Lutherans were primarily illegal immigrants. They were not part of the organized groups heading out to settle the Banat nor was it their destination unlike the Roman Catholics who were heading there. Most of the Lutherans came on their own initiative and used their own money and so no one missed them when Mercy’s agents lured them to his Domain. In contrast to that the Roman Catholics came to the Banat both organized and financed by the Emperor. If Mercy had enticed large numbers of them to settle on his lands in the Tolna, their absence would have been noticed in the Banat where they were being awaited and it would have been a scandal that the Royal Chamber would have investigated.
In the second place, Mercy weighed things carefully and was a realist. On his recently purchased Domain there were already 83 German families of whom 38 were Lutherans, about one half of these settlers whom he had not recruited belonged to this religion. German Lutherans were already residing in other villages in the county: Majós and Györköny. Hungarian law allowed for the settlement of Protestants, so why shouldn’t he do the same? Shortly after his purchase of the Tolna Domain, between June and July of 1722 a large number of Lutheran settlers (almost 40-50 families) left the ships on the Danube. If he had not settled them on his lands other landlords in the county would have. The number one goal was to get their estates back on their feet as quickly as possible by populating them and bringing in a harvest as soon as possible. The Roman Catholic landlords were not that sensitive about the religious question in terms of their tenant subjects as long as they all had the same kind and went to the same church.