Baranya Colonization

The Late Settlement and Colonization of Upper Baranya

(From the book:  Franken und Schwaben)

By Heinrich Keri

Translated by

Odis A. Schloesser

 Baranya County is situated west of the Danube, south of the Drava River and bordered in the west and north by the Counties of Somogy and Tolna and the upper tier of the County is officially called Hegyh�ri j�r�s: the mountainous region. 

We will be occupying ourselves with the villages of that region, which were previously part of the Dombovar Domains of the Eszterhazy family.  They are the villages of Gerenyes, H�rny�k (it has been annexed by Sasd since 1936), Jagonak, Mezod, Nagyag (Ag), Sasd, Szekcso (Kaposszekcso), Tarros, Tekes, Tottos (Csikostottos), Vasorosdombo, Vaszar (Kisvaszar).  In addition, there were three other villages that were originally part of Tolna County and were part of the Ozora Domains and need to be included:  Kozar (Rackozar which is now known as Egyhazaskozar), Tofu and Mekenyes.  They are dealt with separately here because of the different aspects of their settlement and development.

We are dealing with the late settlement and migration of Germans in Hungary in the last quarter of the 18th century.  In the popular mind and most histories it is often connected with the Josephinian settlement policy and the so-called third phase of the Great Swabian Migration.  But this internal migration of Germans already settled in Hungary has received far less attention from historians. 

The local tradition in some of these villages was the claim that their ancestors had come directly from Wuerttemberg.  The researcher Johann Weidlein argued correctly that Johann Schmidt was in error in his claim that German Lutherans came to Tottos, Szekcso, Ag, Tarros, and Vaszar from the Hessian villages in Tolna County in 1757, while we know that Tekes was not even colonized by Germans until the beginning of the 19th century.   These details can now be corrected because new basic sources have only been recently found in reports about the background of the colonization, or rather about the settlement of Germans among the existing Hungarian population at the time.

When the Paladin of Hungary, Paul Eszterhazy purchased the Dombovar Domain in 1692, the first named villages listed above, with the exception of Sasd were populated by bonded Hungarian serfs.  These villages existed during the feudal Middle Ages and managed somehow to survive the occupation of the Turks without great losses.  Locked up between rolling hills, surrounded by dense forests and off the beaten track they were protected from the mainstream of history that passed them by.  In later testimonies the inhabitants often mentioned that they paid the local tax to both their Turkish overlord as well as their Hungarian noble who was living elsewhere in exile and in this way bought their peace.  On the other hand, the three fortified places that collected tolls on the road between Szekesfeh�rv�r and Pecs:  Sasd, Dombovar and Kony were devastated several times. 

In 1702, the Eszterhazys colonized their landholdings at Sasd to safeguard their income from the tolls but did so with subjects who were not bonded serfs by were listed as taxpayers or paid special fees (arenda) to the nobles for freedom from providing free labour and both of these groups are indicated in the various contemporary documents of the time.  East of these villages there were a number of uninhabited prairies that were part of the Ozora Domains, which formed part of Tolna County.  It was to their detriment that they were situated on the army road that led to the fortifications at Dobrokaz and the castle of Simontornya

During the Turkish occupation they remained uninhabited except for the presence of some nomadic Serbian herdsmen.  There did not seem to be much economic advantage to the Eszterhazys to colonize them.  They did not have any additional bonded serfs to spare and obtaining free peasants would involve additional costs.  Paul Eszterhazy issued an order in 1701 to the effect that neither Serbs nor Protestant preachers would be allowed to settle on these prairies.  But the situation changed suddenly when neighbouring landowners colonized their more modest unsettled property with both Serbs and Protestants at the same time.  These colonized villages often made use of the unsettled prairies in the neighbourhood, frequently using the neighbouring forests to gather acorns to feed their pigs, which was the major method of fattening them at that time.  The ownership of the property along the borders of their holdings was not clarified and gave encouragement to proceedings of this sort. 

In order to preserve their claims and rights to the property, the Eszterhazys, who were the owners most affected, turned to the County and raised their protests, complaints and took legal action, submitting petitions threatening arrest, restraints and fines, but for all of their efforts it did not rectify the evil.  As a unique solution to the colonization of the open prairies with free-lance peasants it was decided that their rights had to be protected by a contract.  As a result the Eszterhazys colonized Kozar with Serbs in 1717 despite their resistance to the idea through the efforts of their Administrators.  Tofu was settled with German Lutherans in 1723 and Mekenyes was colonized in 1735 with German Lutherans from Gyonk.  In spite of the resistance of the County of Tolna, these three villages were added to Baranya County some time shortly after their settlement and their annexation to the Dombovar Domains.

 As a result, from the standpoint of Baranya County there were two sorts of subjects on the Dombovar Domains:  those who paid fees (arenda) in Kozar, Mekenyes, Tofu and Sasd as well as the hereditary bonded serfs in the other villages.  The first group had either written contracts or verbal agreements with Domain according to conventional custom, whatever “conventional” and “custom” was at the time with the property administrator determined.  In general, the Eszterhazys kept to the conditions of their contracts, but the people continued to try to secure greater advantages through negotiating new contracts with the Domain.

In order to avoid tension, however, they were concerned about the individual villages being occupied exclusively by either those paying the arenda fee or with bonded serfs.  Those paying the arenda had recourse to turn to the County or directly to the Royal State Chancellery in Pressburg because of a breach of contract, sometimes they even did so   successfully, while on the other hand the endless petitions presented by the bonded serfs in upper Baranya gained little attention or failed to even have a hearing before the County officials. 

Further to the matter regarding those who paid the arenda.  They too had their own special difficulties in their relationship with the various Domains but they were of a different nature.  The Eszterhazys had still not given up their hostility towards their Serbian and Protestant settlers in spite of the contracts they offered to them.  As a result, during an assembly of the administrators of the Ozora Domains held on the 9th of November in 1730, a proposal was dealt with, according to which officials were informed that they were to terminate the contract negotiated by Joseph Eszterhazy with the Serbian colonists who established themselves in Kozar in 1717 in order to settle Hungarian or Slovak peasants in their place.

Shortly after the settlement of Mekenyes with German Lutherans the administration of the Domain supported the point of view that any additional settlers that would be recruited to settle there would have to be Roman Catholic.  The closure of the Lutheran prayer house in Mekenyes and the expulsion of the notary in 1742, who in fact also played the role of a lay preacher, a so-called Levite Lehrer, was done under the auspices and with the lively assistance of the Dombovar Domains administrative staff.  All in all, the villages that were settled with free peasants were able to develop well economically, while the villages with bonded serfs remained in poverty.  The estate owners profited little from them.  

Nevertheless a slow change was gradually taking place.  From the minutes of the County Assembly it becomes obvious the stresses that incurred between the landowners and their subjects shifted in other directions.  In the 1720s and 1730s the issues that were raised were primarily about the rights of the estate owners:  property rights were clarified, border violations were dealt with, the search and recruitment of suitable serfs were the major agendas.  In the 1740s and 1750s the complaints and petitions of their subjects step into the foreground.  But since the chief landowners of the County were the predominant members of the County Administration little could be expected in the way of support for their claims or grievances, but instructions for the undertaking of investigations kept coming from the Royal State Chancellery with a request for reports that were undertaken reluctantly or sometimes simply ignored.

Despite the resistance of the nobles the differences between the two groups of subjects, both the free peasants and the bound serfs, became less and less significant although there were shades of differences even within the two groups.  The Urbarial Regulation of 1767 that the Empress Maria Theresia decreed accelerated the matter.  The size of a full session of land was determined:  dependent upon various factors it could be 18, 20 or 22 Joch of arable land, the extent of the meadows was also variable, and a house lot and garden were included or the three factors could be balanced in manner suitable to the parties involved.  Even the maximum amount of free labour, money and natural produce were assessed. 

The common Urbarial tax for all subjects was introduced throughout the country for peasants in possession of over an eighth of a session and for peasants with an eighth of a session or less.  (In Baranya County the terms for small cotters and simply cotters was used to assess those who had no land at all.)  The distinction between free and bonded peasants would only disappear in the legislation under Emperor Joseph, because in a sense the Urbarial Regulation already puts an end to the practice which had formerly lead to the preference for bonded serfs to settle in the villages. 

The eighth point in the Urbarial Regulation was the question of whether there were any abandoned or uncultivated sessions in the village.  This was of special interest to the landowners and the State (because it had an effect on tax revenue) for if the abandoned sessions were re-occupied by peasants the land could not be integrated back into the cultivated lands of the owner who as a noble did not have to pay taxes of any kind.  With the carrying out of the Urbarial Regulation local surveys were not carried out so that the actual amount of cultivated land was concealed both by the estate owners and their peasants to their own advantage.  Manipulating the dimensions of the sessions, as well as concealing some expansion that was taking place produced a considerable amount of remaining land that was not recorded in the Urbarium. 

In contemporary sources, writers also speak of surplus land.  These pieces of land were also put to various uses.  In the Urbarial Register for upper Baranya in 1767 (and shortly after that) there are no German family names included in the lists of these thirteen villages, but deserted farms and unclaimed land are identified so we can expect that settlement activity began to take place fairly soon.  The next countrywide conscription registers date from the year 1828 which it quite a long time since the Urbarial Regulation.  But with regard to the early settlement and the extent of it for which we cannot obtain any satisfying answers from these official sources we can turn to the Church parish registers for information even if that does not afford us with much in terms of a statistical analysis.

In the 1770s permission to maintain church records was only authorized for a few Protestant villages, the large majority of the villages were placed under the jurisdiction of the Roman Catholic parishes.  The vicars of Sasd and V�s�rosdomb� were responsible for the Catholic and Protestant villages of this region.

We can make the assumption that one can in all probability determine the ethnic identify of families by their family name during this time frame.  In difficult cases such as Peter Gotthard, the name of the wife, the godfather or the witnesses can frequently assist in making the right determination.  Any wrong decisions in this regard hardly change anything in getting the total picture.  Following an examination of the church records of V�s�rosdomb� and Sasd for the period 1771-1781 the following can be said:

(1)         Three of the villages have a totally Hungarian character throughout with the exception of the Vicar serving in Vazsnok.

(2)         Only on occasion do we find any German names prior to 1776.  These are millers who live outside of the village community, frequently changing their place of residence as well.

(3)         At the beginning of the 1770s some “neocoloni”, new free peasants are mentioned in these church records.

(4)         The settlement by Germans took place gradually:  Vaszar (as of 1776), Nagyag (as of 1777), Tottos, Szekcso, Gerenyes, (1778), Tarros (1779), Mezod, H�rny�k (1780).  The only German name in Mezad in the year 1776 is that of one of the millers.

(5)         There are no details as to the place of origin of the settlers in the church records.  At the time of weddings they will have often married individuals from their former home:  they come from Kalazno, Kety, Dorog, Belac, etc.

(6)         The Germans in Vaszar, Jagonak, Mezod and H�rny�k are Roman Catholic and those for the other villages are Lutherans.  At first the Lutherans were buried in the Catholic cemeteries, but developed cemeteries of their own soon after.  In 1779 Kozar, together with the surrounding new Lutheran villages requested to be allowed to build a church.  Only after the construction of the church in 1784 as a result of the decree of the Emperor Joseph, the Edict of Toleration, the other villages were then regarded to be filial congregations of Kozar.

Despite the lack of/or the poor quality of the documentation available we are able to reconstruct the broad outlines of the course of the settlement that took place.

On the 9th of March in 1778, Inspector Franz Vlasits of Dombovar wrote to the current chief steward of the Eszterhazy estates, Istvan Nagy, in which he emphasizes his contribution in the settlement:  “I need to mention that I have already completed the distribution of 3,000 house lots for the cottagers within Baranya County and this operation should result in over 3,000 Gulden for Prince Eszterhazy.  While at the same time, the Baranya villages will be more prosperous than all of our villages in Tolna County resulting in the construction of more beautiful and fine houses.”  In his letter of the 15th of March 1778 he once again returns to the same matter.  He excuses some of his failures in the past but asks that they be ascribed “to the difficulties in the distribution of these cottagers house plots in Baranya County which I and Birkenstock along with the Hungarian surveyor continue to be occupying from morning until evening.”

The settlement of the Germans, which began in 1776 (in Vaszar) achieved its high point in 1777/1778 for which 3,000 house lots had been designated at the beginning of 1778 and would have concluded by 1780.  According to the census of 1828 there were approximately 380 German families in those villages and among them were some of them that were designated as cottagers but day labourers who did not have homes of their own.  This indicates that after 1780 no major German migration continued into these villages. 

We need to take a look at the economic basis for this new settlement.  There is one reference of consequence in this regard in that, “that of all of Prince Eszterhazy’s Domains those at Dombovar provided the highest income in 1780.”  The author of this notation, who has great difficulties with the German language particularly in this statement, wanted to use the information to achieve a further increase in revenue by also taxing the surplus land of the peasants or dividing it up among the Germans or through bringing in more settlers, which was the case in Mezod or through the authorization of reclamation of forested lands which would result in a special tax for each two Joch for every cottager. 

With regard to Tekes the report indicates:  “The German cottagers who have been making free use of the surplus lands for crops for some time will pay 60 Dinars or provide three days of free labour on the basis of every Joch they have used and through the implementation of this action the income will be increased to 60 Gulden.”

In Gerenyes:  “All of the surplus fields and land that can be identified which have been left for the use of peasants will be assessed 60 Dinars each or the provision of three days of free labour and the payment of 1 Gulden.  But three of the cottagers were registered who each paid 6 Gulden for a total income of 18 Gulden.”

 In Szekcso:  “The use of 350 Joch of surplus fields for crop production resulted in the payment of an arenda (fee) of 210 Gulden by the community.”

In Mezod:  “The use of all of the identified surplus land should also require the payment of the arenda fee or three days of free labour.  The rate was 60 Dinars per peasant or 100 Gulden by the village community.  The seven landowning peasants were assessed 6 Gulden and in addition for every 2 Joch of cleared land they were to be taxed 2 Gulden up to 28 Gulden.”

The same kinds of assessments were made in the other villages as well.  Actions that the villages instituted against the Domain, or rather against their agent Johann Birkenstock who had arranged the settlement, shows that not everything preceded according to the promises made to the German settlers during the time of the early development of their villages.

The profits made by Birkenstock from Kozar and the surrounding villages were verified on numerous occasions and over the course of time he was unable to conceal his dubious undertakings, but rather than halt him from continuing he found new ways to manipulate the situation to his own advantage.  But when he was challenged he lost even the support his former patrons.  On the 24th of November in 1784 the Inspector of the Eszterhazy estates, Franz Vlasits wrote to the Paladin about his best assistant during the settlement:  “I assure you that he has been the best assistant I have had since I have been Inspector, but I must ask that he be expelled from his position because he interferes in matters that do not concern him, especially because it is quite clear that due to these infractions he draws not only the dislike of those he has cheated but by association he invites the hatred of your officials.  At the first opportunity I have I will bring this to his attention myself.”

With that the slow decline of the once successful and powerful Birkenstock began.  In 1776 the villages of Tottos, Szekcso, Vaszar, Gerenyes, Tarros, Tekes, Jagonak, Nagyag, Mezod and H�rny�k (all of them with German settlers) instituted proceedings against the Domain with the County claiming that they had been refusing them the customary three years of freedom from paying taxes since their settlement. 

Their petition was passed on to the courts with the request that they administrator justice on behalf of the subjects of the Eszterhazys according to the valid Urbarial Regulation.  Testifying in court, the peasants explained that they were recruited by Johann Birkenstock of Kozar eight years previously, with the promise that they would be exempt from paying taxes for the fist three years if they settled in the villages of the Domain.  In the course of the hearing it turned out that Johann Birkenstock’s promises were unauthorized by anyone but himself.  That had been exempt from taxes but they had to pay the customary duties on the natural products they produced according the to the existing Urbarial ruling. 

At the same time Birkenstock had collected 2 Gulden and 40 Kreuzer from every individual for the surveying of their fields and even collected money for the hunts for their noble landowner and his guests, which was all money he pocketed for himself.  Birkenstock denied everything resorting to his usual method of operation:  bribery.  His attempt to bribe the officials could not be proven explicitly but the money handed back to him by the judge he placed in a special container that was visible to everyone in court.  Then, on the instructions of the High Sheriff it was split up among the villagers and handed over personally by Birkenstock.  In the course of this, Birkenstock lost the rest of his credibility despite the numerous cases in which he was involved until his death in 1791, all of which proved to be unsuccessful.

In conclusion:  the settlement of Germans in the villages of Tottos, Szekcso, Nagyag, Jagonak, and Tekes. Gerenyes, Vaszar, Mezod and H�rny�k to place in the years between 1776-1780.  The settlers came predominantly from the German villages of Tolna County; a considerable influx coming from German territories can hardly be proven.  They were settled as free peasants with a house lot and one quarter session of property at most of the surplus land according to the Urbarial ruling.  In some places, the reclaiming of 2 Joch of wasteland was awarded to them.  With the exception of the freedom from paying taxes in the first three years they were not given any other privileges, but they also had to manage the customary duties from the yields of their fields during the free tax years.

On the basis the church records in V�s�rosdomb� we can determine the following:


In 1767 there were 13 Hungarian families

In 1828 there were 25 Hungarian families and 56 German families


In 1767 there were 20 Hungarian families

In 1828 there were 37 Hungarian families and 29 German families


In 1767 there were 33 Hungarian families

In 1828 there were 49 Hungarian families and 33 German families



In 1767 there were 33 Hungarian families

In 1828 there were 29 Hungarian families and 59 German families



In 1767 there were 41 Hungarian families

In 1828 there were 36 Hungarian families and 38 German families


In 1757 there were 12 Hungarian families

In 1828 there were 22 Hungarian families and 58 German families


On the basis of the church records in Sasd we can determine the following:


In 1767 there were 19 Hungarian families

In 1828 there were 20 Hungarian families and 21 German families


In 1767 there were 17 Hungarian families

In 1828 there were16 Hungarian families and 31 German families


In 1767 there were 16 Hungarian families

In 1828 there were 13 Hungarian families and 22 German families


In 1767 there were 13 Hungarian families

In 1828 there were 31 Hungarian families and 33 German families