Bonyhad:  A Market Town in the Tolna

  The first landlord of the area in which Bonyhád would be located following the liberation of the area from the Turks, was Baron Schilson.  His landholdings at Bonyhád also included the abbey of Cikó.  His first attempt to colonize his holdings was to secure Magyar settlers from areas of Hungary that had not been occupied by the Turks.  This meant Western or Royal Hungary, a thin strip of territory along the Austrian frontier and Upper Hungary that is now Slovakia.  Bonyhád was identified as a village in the official County records in 1703.  The vast majority of the inhabitants were Magyar Calvinists and a few Roman Catholic families.  The County Protocols indicate that at the beginning of the 18th century the local population was increasing but with breaking out of the Kuruz Rebellion in 1703 and last to 1711 led to a major setback in population and the amount of land under cultivation.  This was one of the many uprisings led by the lesser nobility against their Habsburg overlords that was under the leadership of Ferencz Rakozy a devout Roman Catholic who led the rebel forces consisting mainly of Magyar peasants who were Calvinists attempting to regain their lost religious freedoms just recently taken away from them again by the Austrian Emperor.  It was an insurgent movement rather than an actual war and was devastating throughout all of Hungary.  It was only when the plague broke out in the ranks of the peasant armies that the rebellion was broken.  The Calvinist settlers in Bonyhád also experienced repression at the hands of the County and left to re-establish themselves in Medina and Kölesd and there are documents in the County Archives that attest to this.


  All of this occurred before 1715 because the Land Conscription Lists of that year indicate that the village had been uninhabited for four years and only recently had it been re-occupied.  In 1715 Bonyhád’s population consisted of seven Magyar families and eight Serbo-Croatian households.  They cultivated 160 Joch of land and grazed livestock in 36 Joch of meadows.


  There are documented sources that indicate there had been previous owners of the estates prior to Baron Schilson.  They were the Kersnerich family who owned the domain until 1723.  Apparently Schilson only purchased the lands in that year.  He brought in German-speaking settlers soon after the purchase so that the Land Conscription Lists of 1720 indicate that Bonyhád was inhabited at that time.  Majos, which was in close proximity, already had German-speaking settlers and was much larger.  Varalja was also in existence at that time.


  In the first years the German settlers who would become “the Swabians” in terms of how they were described by their contemporaries, had to struggle simply to survive.  In 1726 it was reported that the women were forced to mix grass in the bread dough because the harvest had been so poor.  It was years before the settlers stayed put and got used to their new environment.  There was an ongoing migration of various peoples throughout the area in search of better prospects or better conditions with another landlord.  Behind this movement there were also religious reasons.  As a result of persecution the Magyar Lutherans fled from Zomba and established Oroshaza to the east in 1744.  The Hessian Lutherans in Zomba also fled from there and settled in Mekényes in the northern Baranya   in 1735 seeking sanctuary there.


  By 1733 the German Roman Catholics living on the Bonyhád Domain in Ladomany built themselves a small chapel.  On May 28, 1743 Baron von Schilson sold his holdings to two other nobles:  Alexander Gal and Joseph Perczel.  Bonyhád remained in the hands of the Perczel for most of the rest of its history.


  The main points in the contract that the nobles offered the colonists at Bonyhád included the following:


1.      You are to build 70 houses in the style and manner you are accustomed to back in Germany on the site the former village of Bonyhád.


2.       I will give you three years of freedom from Robot service (free labour) and the payment of tithes on your crops.


3.       After three years each household must pay four Guilden a year in place of providing Robot service and deliver a ninth of all crops and livestock to the landlord either in Hidas or Bonyhád as instructed at the time.


4.       The profits from the butcher shop and the Wirtshaus (pub) belong to the landlord from St. George’s Day to St. Michael’s Day and the rest of the year they belong to the community.


5.       The settlers must keep all bridges and roads in good repair.


6.       Wood can be obtained from the landlord’s forest and in times of need hay could be mowed there.


7.       The community may call a pastor and build a church at their own expense with the permission of the landlord and the County.


8.       Settlers may sell their homes but only with the permission of the landlord.


9.       On Sundays, all must attend worship and observe a day of rest.


10.   If war should break out and the settlers were forced to flee, the survivors of the war or their heirs were free to return and claim their possessions.


11.   Settlers are permitted to pasture their swine in the landlord’s forest but would pay at a rate of 12 Kreuzers for each animal if the fodder was good and 7 if it was not.


12.   All inhabitants on the Domain paid the landlord 30 Kreuzer annually.


13.   Buying or selling a family holding was permitted but the landlord will receive 3 Kreuzer for every Gulden of the sale price.


    This gives the flavour of the type of contracts the settlers were offered here and elsewhere.


  Schilson brought Hessian settlers to Bonyhád.  There is no direct documentation to prove this but is a well known fact that the Tolna was overwhelmingly settled by Count von Mercy with Lutheran settlers from Hesse and that is why the Tolna was often called:  Little Hessen.  Although Majos was a Lutheran settlement that had Assecuration (the assurance of the Emperor to practice their faith, have a pastor and build a prayer house) that was not an option for the Lutherans in Bonyhád which was still a newer settlement in which people were stilling moving in from the surrounding area.


  According to some documents the Roman Catholic parish of Bonyhád had a priest as early as 1725, one Johannes Markus Dragosits.  It appears that the first German-speaking settlers were all Roman Catholics even though all of the Germans in the area were Lutherans or Reformed.  The earliest reference we have of a Lutheran family living in the village is in 1728 when Heinrich Vogel is listed living there at the time of the baptism of his daughter in the Lutheran church records in nearby Kismányok.


  There were also numerous Magyar Calvinists still living in Bonyhád even though the majority of them had moved on earlier.  In 1721 they erected a rough hewn prayer house and constructed a fell tower beside it.  When the Calvinist minister complained to the landlord that the congregation had not paid him as promised, the nobleman had the tower taken down and the lumber was sold to pay him.  That was the beginning of the end of Reformed church life and the Roman Catholics gained the upper hand until later the Lutherans were able to assert themselves.  Lutherans came to Bonyhád and Hidas in 1722 and also later to Morágy upon the invitation of Franz Kun.


  The settlement agreement and contract that was signed in Bonyhád by the colonists included the following names:


  Johannes Henk, Cornelius Sartur, Johannes Hennl, Gaspar Sunnerheier, Hans Hausladen, Nikolaus Ludten, Bernhard Noy, Christoph Halbleib, Hans Adam Link, Matthias Fischbach, Rubertus Rull, Franz Morthen, Nikolaus Haaber, Johannes Majn, Michael Moor, Matthias Phaik and Lambertus Dollum.


  The words that preceded their signature were as follows:


  “I hereby declare, that not one of the words of this contract can be changed, either by me or my successor and therefore add my signature.”


  The landlord did not have to sign a comparable declaration on his part.


  After researching the names on the contract a hundred years later only the following family names had living descendants in Bonyhád:  Henk, Phaik, Link and Rull.  Secondly, all of the signatories were Roman Catholics with the exceptions of Henk and Phaik and the conditions attached to the terms that dealt with the calling of pastor and building a church were limited only to the Roman Catholics.


  According to the historian, Eleuther Daroczy, all of these settlers were Taxilsten.  In other words they were sharecroppers rather than free landowners.  This appears to apply only to the contracts of Baron Schilson.  He and Franz Kun divided Bonyhád in half in 1729.  From the village centre south and west, the so-called German Village, along with the pub, the butcher shop and three gristmills belong to Baron Schilson.  The rest, known as the Hungarian Village with both the brewery and distillery belonged to Franz Kun.  At the outset Schilson’s settlers were overwhelmingly German and Roman Catholic while Kun’s were Hungarian Calvinists.


  Documents in the Archives of the Roman Catholic parish indicate a priest served here as early as 1725 as mentioned previously, but the first church building is only mentioned for the first time in 1730.  It was built of mud, wood and logs.  Such emergency churches were common during the settlement period.  The first Roman Catholic schoolmaster was Johann Welter of Fulda but the first Roman Catholic settlers originated in Bavaria.  In 1730 there were forty-five Roman Catholic households and some one hundred and fifty communicants.  The Roman Catholic parish records also contain entries with reference to the Lutheran settlers in the village.  There were several Lutheran congregations emerging in the area at the time that contain references to these Lutheran families as well.


  During the Turkish occupation there had been Jewish inhabitants in the area but their numbers declined drastically in the 18th century.  In 1768 Jewish settlers approached the County and the Viennese Chancellery for permission to settle in Bonyhád.  Their numbers increased dramatically during the reign of Joseph II.  The Edict of Toleration in 1781 granted Protestants and Jewish immigrants permission to settle in his domains even though the Jews to a great extent did not come to cultivate the land.  In their first three years in Bonyhád they hired themselves out as farm hands.  There were soon large Jewish communities here as well as in Paks-on-the-Danube, Bataszék and Gyönk.


  In 1777, Bonyhád came into the possession of the Perczel family.  According to the Conscription Lists of that year, Bonyhád’s inhabitants included of 54 German farming households, eight cottagers, one baker, one blacksmith, one wagon-maker, one butcher, one shepherd and four Jews.  Among the Magyar names that are listed there are numerous ones that are German because as Lutherans these Germans were lumped in with the Calvinists.  This resulted in them paying more and higher taxes.  The German Roman Catholics paid 56 Gulden or 40 Denari military and house tax per person and all of the “Magyars” paid 89 Denari.  The Magyars were the majority of the population and bore the brunt of the tax obligations.


  The Lutheras in Majos with whom the Lutherans in Bonyhád established a filial relationship submitted a request to Joseph II, then still co-regent with his mother, the Empress Maria Theresia for the right to practice their religion as his grandfather had promised them on coming to Hungary.  This petition was presented to him personally when he visited Bonyhád.  After long discussions and delays the Chancellery in Pressburg allowed for the “private” expression of their faith in 1768.  It was only in 1784, a full three years after the Edict of Toleration went into effect that they were finally able to begin public church life.  Josef Döry, the chief justice of the County informed Majos of this “concession” and the Lutherans in the market town of Bonyhád were allowed to form a congregation and become a filial of the Majos Mother Church.


  Beginning in 1780 there was a new stream of German settlers that settled in Bonyhád.  They were not impoverished immigrants but well to do farmers and tradesmen.  According to some historians they brought their own livestock with them, the origin of the famous Bonyhád Rosse cow.  The small reddish brown Franconian cow was bred with the bony and powerful Hungary bull, the result of which was a breed high in milk production.  According to the Minutes of the Lutheran Church District for Tolna, Somogy and Baranya in 1782 there were 97 Lutheran families in Bonyhád, consisting of 301 persons.  They came from various German-speaking areas of the Holy Roman Empire.  Some families can be precisely identified in terms of their places of origin as follows:


  From Württemberg:  Roth, Prager, Griesshaber and Jung.  From Franconia:  Bach and Spiess.  From Prussia:  Neumann, Philip and Arndt.  From Saxony:  Müller, Mayer and Faubel.  From Berlin:  Ewald.  From the Duchy of Lauenberg in Saxony:  Wilms and Lotz.  From Baden:  Schuckmann.  From Stollberg in Erzegebirge in Saxony:  Hoff.


  Some family nicknames were clues as to their places of origin.  For instance,  Pfalzermann Schmidt came from the Pfalz (Palatinate).  Saxa Müller came from Saxony.  Speyer Jung was from Speyer.  In the case of many Lutherans their former residence in neighbouring communities in the Tolna and Baranya are mentioned but not their original places of origin.


  Names also became corrupted.  Leber became Löber.  Faupel bcame Faubel.  Low became Löb.  Pitz became Bitz.  Euler became Eiler.  Velten became Felder.  Kringer became Gehringer.  Ewald became Dewald.  Heinstein became Haunstein.


  Little is know with the regard to the establishment and operation of a Lutheran school up to 1750 although a clandestine one was always in operation.  The settlers arriving after 1780 like the others brought their Bibles, hymn and prayer books with them.  They were obviously literate.  Among these families there were books, and records of births, baptisms, marriages and deaths were recorded.


  We can gain a sociological profile of the Lutherans from the church records:  colonist, taxpayer, farmer, cottager, squatter, day labourer and professionals.  The “colonists” were the original immigrants to Hungary.  The squatters were the lowest on the scale and wandered about in search of land and a house.  The taxpayers were those who had purchased their freedom from the landlord.  Professionals were the tradesmen and artisans.


  The “old” colonists in Bonyhád included:  Buchert, Brandt, Karl, Durr, Deckmann, Becker, Hufnagel, Schuchmann and Roth.


  The “new” colonists included:  Hufnagel, Löb, Roth, Lotz, Faubel, Bitz, Schmidt, Berg, Weber, Becker, Hess, Strach, Henk, Taupert, Gehringer, Korvin, Jung, Bandel, Schaub, Potzner, Faik, Reining, Wirth and Deckmann.


  These new colonists came in response to invitations from family and friends already living in Bonyhád.  The colonists lived in the Hungarian part of the town, north of the Calvinist Church.


  In 1778 the Lutherans were finally able to officially organize and become a filial of Majos.  The head of each household had to publicly declare himself a Lutheran before the town magistrates and the local priest as the Edict demanded.   On that occasion the following numbers professed themselves:  60 farming families, 13 cottagers, 11 squatters and 6 professionals (all of them millers).


  In 1786 the Lutherans and Calvinists sought to establish a school jointly but the landlord only permitted the Calvinists the right to do so.  At that time there were 28 Hungarian and German Reformed children while the German Lutherans numbered 103.  A year later the Lutheran congregation sent a petition to the County Administration for permission to operate a school and even though the local Roman Catholic priest did not object it was again denied.  As a result two of the Church Fathers:  Christian Potzner and Johann Jackl took a petition personally to the State Chancellery in Buda and were granted permission to build a school.  It was built in 1788.  The first teacher was a theological student, Paul Hermann.  In former years, the children were taught by various “emergency” teachers that also acted as lay leaders in worship for the underground congregation.  Some of these men were qualified to do so while others were not but all of them served in this dangerous capacity secretly.  One of them had been Jakob Becht who had come from  Württemberg as a trained Levite Lehrer but his activities became known to the Roman Catholic officials and he was warned to flee.  He left during the night with his young family and was last reported to be heading for somewhere in Somogy County.  It happened to be the village of Bonnya where his descendants would serve in the same capacity there until 1947 when the Lutheran school was confiscated by the State.


  No Lutheran pastor was allowed to set foot in Bonyhád despite the Edict of Toleration and it was only in 1816 when the Lutherans of Bonyhád were allowed to build a church and call a pastor of there own and during the 19th century it would become then centre of Lutheranism throughout the area with its own Deaconess Institute and a Junior College to train pastors and teachers.

One Response to “ Bonyhad: A Market Town in the Tolna ”

  1. Klein Helga says:

    Dear Ladie and gentlemen,
    I have also looked through the list of evangelical settlers in Majos
    and surrounding villages. There were the following names:
    Serer (Scherer), Binder, Beck, Klein, Hittigh (Hittinger) Haas and some more familiar also in Ferencalom, Franzfeld near Pancevo. Merlely I found out that Klein and Scherer always were godfathers after many evangelical births. Please do you know more about Klein and Scherer. I think they moved on to Franzfeld as Husar. Please can you find out more. Thank you very much
    Helga Klein

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