The First German Settlement

On the Eszterhazy Domains

(From:  Franken und Schwaben in Ungarn)

By Heinrich Keri

Translated by:

Odis. A. Schlossser

The circumstances around the settlement of the small village of Tofu in Baranya County by settlers from Germany and the time when it took place will be examined here.  We do not know anything about a settlement contract but contracts from the years 1746 and 1764 are mentioned with the Urbarial Agreement of 1767.  Both contracts, however, have not come to light, but the latter is an extension of three additional years of the contract for 1750, which is kept in the Hungarian State Archives and in the family archives of the Eszterhazys.

Tofu had earlier been established in the Middle Ages, but was depopulated during the time of the Turks, or rather was only inhabited temporarily.  It is mentioned several times in the Turkish tax registries.  During a restructuring of boundaries old Serbian men claimed to remember that it was temporarily inhabited by Serbs during the time of the Turkish occupation and the Hungarian Kurutzen Guerrilla War against the Habsburgs.  In 1692 it came into the possession of the Eszterhazy family as an uninhabited prairie, but still belonged to the Ozora Domain at that time.  At the beginning of the 18th century the property boundaries were not always clarified too closely, and were often contested by all means available up until the occupation by the Habsburgs.  The prairies in particular were often considered to be spoils of war.  The neighbouring populated villages around Tofu were the property of the Diocese of Pecs and partly the property of the Rinczmaul family, (later the Petrovszkys), while Kozar was owned by the Eszterhazy family.

In the year, 1712 Laszlo Madarasz, the Assistant Sheriff of the County who was also the Chief Steward of the Eszterhazy Domains in Dombovar, protested that the Bishop of the Diocese, Franz Wilhelm Count von Nesselrod was attempting to confiscate a major portion of the prairie of Tofu.  These prairie lands were often leased, even developed or used as pastureland without the permission of the neighbouring municipality to such an extent that not even the one-ninth tithe was paid to them. 

Even though Nesselrod was the High Sheriff of the County, the County Assembly supported their Vice Sheriff.  In 1714 and 1715 the administrator of the Dombovar Domains, Laszlo Egry issued a warning to the surrounding municipalities because they were misusing the prairies of Tofu, Kozar and Mekenyes as pastureland, and for fattening their swine on acorns and gathering wood from the attached woodlands.  He frequently issued written confirmations of these charges to offenders at this time.  We know that by 1717 Kozar was colonized by Serbs, while Tofu to a large extent was simply at the mercy of incursions from the neighbouring municipalities.  In 1720 the Supreme Court Judge of Pavits acted on the charges of Joseph Eszterhazy against the subjects of the Rinczmaul family living in Marac who were Serbs and were making use of the pasturelands of Tofu without permission.  The complaint was acknowledged officially although one individual came out against it:  one Christopher Wagner, the Commissioner of the County Treasury.

Wagner was the cause of numerous worries for the administrators of the Eszterhazy’s Dombovar Domains.  In 1718 one of the Eszterhazy officials, Gergely Berenyi complained that Wagner disregarded the County’s decision and confiscated grain from Domain without any authorization to do so.  On January 23rd there was a more serious incident that is treated in detail in a letter from Egry including a receipt from the County.

A servant carried out the threshing of the tithe of the crop from the Domains’ prairie at Tofu, which was treaded out by horses according to local usage.  Christopher Wagner had the horses led away by his armed ruffians accompanied by a further five men, in order to use them for threshing on his own estate and property near Pecs.  Egry sent armed men to Wagner, who, however, did not give the horses back until after the conclusion of the threshing.  The numerically superior crew of Egry was able to foil a second attempt by Wagner at kidnapping the horses a few days later.

In order to be on the safe side, Egry still had an investigation carried out, the records of which can be found in the Ozora Archives, raising the issue of whether the County Treasurer had any claim on the prairie of Tofu and since there was no protest on his part, the legal position was clear! Tofu belonged to he Eszterhazys.  Egry was also able to confirm this for the County through the examination of witnesses that took place on April 8th and 9th in 1723.  The inhabitants of the surrounding villages who appeared as witnesses all maintained that Tofu was governed by the stewards and administrators of the Dombovar Domains since living memory.  All in all, it was the constant worry about the prairie of Tofu that became the impetus for Egry to proceed with its settlement. 

All of the Eszterhazy villages were either populated by hereditary local subjects or colonized by Hungarian peasants under the guidance of a representative of the Domains.  Kozar was an exception in this regard when it was granted to the Serbs who established themselves there in 1717.  The Eszterhazy estates and properties remained unaffected to a great extent with regard to the Great Swabian Migration because it was looked upon as temporary and self-contained.  Open prairies became rare. Tofu was to be the first village in the Eszterhazy Domains with purely German settlers.

The village is situated on the border of Tolna and Baranya Counties, on the narrow strip of land that was claimed by both Counties.  Since the close of the 17th century there had been ongoing unresolved quarrels over the matter.  According to J. Holub, this dispute was never formally concluded.  The decision of Paul Anton Eszterhazy, can however, be considered as the official conclusion to the matter.  As a result the County of Baranya came into the possession of several villages and open prairies, which it never possessed during its former history.  The quarrels always flared up when it came to the settlement of the prairies in 1717 over Kozar, at the end of the 1720s with regard to Tofu, and after 1735 the matter of Mekenyes.

Since the first years of settlement were tax-free the two Counties did not enter the names of the non-tax paying peasants in their tax conscriptions until 1728.  According to the transcripts of Tolna County, Tofu is assessed for 44 Gulden and 64 Denari during the tax year of 1728.  There are only a few pages to the transcript dealing with that, but Baranya declared that Tofu had to pay its taxes to the County of Baranya.  The County Assembly requested information from Gaspar Nagy, the administrator of the Eszterhazy Domains south of Lake Balaton, specifically requesting documents with regard to the Urbarium Regulation in terms of Tofu and the land grant documents the Eszterhazys had to prove ownership in order to be able to direct a reply to the County of Baranya.  They must not have complied with the request for there is no evidence of the existence of the Urbarial Regulation and they must have rejected the need to provide the land grant documents. 

The response of the administrator of the Domains has been lost but the reply by the authorities of the County of Baranya is well known.  Tolna County was to abstain from collecting taxes because the village was part of the territory of Baranya County and incidentally was already incorporated into the land conscription records of that County a matter to which Tolna County had to abide.  The Assistant Sheriff officially assured the village of six tax-free years at the time of the beginning of the settlement and he also promised to provide aid and assistance to avoid a possible tax collection by the County   for which purpose a commission was established with a number of jurors and judges.

The tax collection failed to materialize because of that threat.  Nevertheless, Tofu was taxed once again in the following year during the registration of taxes, this time in the amount of 20 Gulden and 82 Denari.  In response, Gaspar Nagy reported that Tofu, Kozar, Mekenyes and a few additional villages and open prairies were affiliated with the Domains of Dombovar ever since April 2, 1729.  He provided records from the Domain’s conscription from the same year indicating that Tofu (and also Kozar) were part of Tolna County according to the existing statutes. 

In order to put an end to the controversy, Nagy appealed to the representatives of all of the Eszterhazy estates and Count Erdody with the proposal that Tofu be conscripted annually by both Counties and even if Baranya County insisted that it was one of their possessions it should abstain from collecting taxes for now in order not to prolong the poverty of the villagers.  Nagy’s opinion was that the Royal Council ought to take the position to award Tofu to the County to which it truly belonged according to the statutes, namely Tolna.  But matters took another course.  Prince Paul Anton Eszterhazy received notification from Tolna County that Tofu and Kozar had been awarded to Baranya County.  Tolna County agreed reluctantly.  An explanation and clarification was provided to avoid such proceedings in the future as it affected Tofu.

In years past the steward of the Dombovar Domain, Laszlo Egry, requested certain privileges for the newly populated emerging villages.  He was not satisfied with the three tax-free years that Tolna allowed the colonists when he discovered that in nearby Baranya County, nobles granted the foreign new arrivals six tax-free years.  As a result he had the two villages (Tofu and Kozar) annexed and placed under the jurisdiction of that County.  In the following year, the Royal Hungarian State Chancellery demanded further information on the matter of Tofu.  The prince is also said to have communicated the kinds of privileges that the village possessed but there were no responses to these overtures made by the Eszterhazys.

The County tax authorities still did not give up.  In 1736 when the judge and his acting representative along with another individual came to the village, they found no one at home.  The officials later remarked:  “They were not at home and the judge did not intend to find out their names on the grounds he did not have that authority from the County.”  With that reference Tofu vanishes from the records and tax conscriptions of Tolna County.

It can therefore be assumed that the settlement took place under the guidance of Laszlo Egry and he also made the agreements with the settlers in place of a settlement contract.  This must have been in the year 1723 since Egry died sometime in the early summer of that year.  The names of the settlers are first listed in the land conscription of 1728, which was done simultaneously by both Counties. 

The Tolna register lists ten names and of these six are said to have already been in Tofu in 1723, a further four would have come in the following years.  The Baranya register indicates a different year of arrival for the same six settlers and puts it at 1725, and the further four are reported to have settled in the conscription year of 1728.  These inconsistencies cannot be explained but have something to do with the interests of both the settlers and the Domain in terms of stretching out the tax free years by giving a later arrival date.

We will deal with the early conscriptions recorded for the year 1729.  According to that conscription Johann Adam Pickelhaupt, Georg Bartel Rorbek, Adam Maercz, Petrus Theobald, Johann Heinrich Krill, Laurenz Reichert, Martin Karl, Johann Adam Kerber, Johann Leonhard Leen and Johann Leen arrived in the year 1724, Martin Jung, Johann Georg Perner and Elias Wick in 1725 from Germany.

Conscription list were also drawn up by the administrators of the Domains, frequently in the well-governed Eszterhazy estates in dealing with the establishment of new villages the settler’s place of origin was also often cited.  In this way they probably wanted to avoid taking on any subjects with a bad record and it was also intended to prevent quarrels with other Domains who might have a claim on them, especially when it dealt with Hungarian peasants who were not free to migrate. 

As a result, in the case of Tofu we have the names of the first fifteen settlers, their place of origin and the name of their former noble master’s estate in the records kept by Gaspar Nagy.  In this way the basic development of the small village can be determined precisely from its origin.  Some of the unconventional transcriptions and the orthography cause some difficulties in attempts at identifying the settlers precisely.   Some of the dates and data are not great importance to us but we will follow the information to the letter realizing there are other possible versions and possibilities.

  Residing in Tofu                         Former place of residence             Former Domain

  Petrus Schmitt                                 Penthaim                                         Hortenburg

  Petrus Tewalt                                  Nidrakren                                        Ezenburg

  Hendricus Rauss                             Pinstott                                            Ezenburg

  Georgius Portl*                               Penthaim                                         Hortenburg

  Johannes Georgius Perner               Pholtz                                             Hadlpergh

  Johannes Mertz                               Pinstott                                            Ezenburg

  Nicolaus Hartmann                         Hempoch                                         Ezenburg

  Johannes Adamus Pikelambt          Prompoch                                        Lebestain

  Martinus Jungh                               Mathiass                                          Heszn

  Johannes Henricus Krill                 Einstain                                            Hanat

  Johannes Georgius Tilk                  Ramholtz                                         Teigefeld

  Johannes Adamus Kerber               Volttpulau                                        Ezenburg

  Hartmann Mertz                              Pinstott                                            Ezenburg

  Martinus Karll                                Naistott                                            Caesareus

  Adamus Mertz                                Pinstott                                             Ezenburg

  Johannes Leonhard Leen who was a miller and for whom there is no additional information.

  *Also identified as George Bartl Rohrbeck

 Despite the orthographic inaccuracies the places of origin of the colonists can be determined from the above details.  The family researcher in Pecs, Georg Mueller has identified Pinstott as Boenstadt in the nearby vicinity of Frankfurt-an-Main and has been able to clarify the family connections of the emigrants there.  If we still include the details from the Hungarian tax conscriptions, the development of the settlement of Tofu can be reconstructed to some extent. 

In 1724 Johann Adam Pickelhaupt and Johann Adam Kerber settled in Belac and were still registered there in 1728 and as of 1729 we find them in Tofu.  Adam Maerz, Laurenz Raighert (Reichert) and probably also Johann Heinrich Krill arrived in the country in 1722 at the latest.  Reichert was first in Ciko; the three are then located in Nagymanyok in 1722.  In 1724 (perhaps even in 1723) they moved into the desolate village of Tofu.  Johann Heinrich Krill was still living in the village in 1731 but turns up again in Gyonk in 1733.  The two brothers of Adam Maerz, Johann and Hartmann, as well as Heinrich Rausch arrive from Boenstadt in 1728.  In 1731 two further settlers from Boenstadt settled in the village, Johann Georg Falk and Johann Georg Meisinger who are related to one another by marriage; the latter of them moves into the house of Krill who had moved to Gyonk.  In the 1730s Johann Maerz left the village for a few years, and is once again present in the 1740s and then dies in his 63rd year of his life in 1749 but his wife survives him.  After 1732 even Adam Maerz vanishes from the conscriptions, people later mentioned his wife who was left behind but according to an entry in the Church Records in Bikal he is then buried in his 64th year of his life in 1755 but in Tofu. 

The four settlers from Boenstadt, Hartmann Maerz, Falk, Meisinger and Rausch form part of the reliable work force in the village and are cited in all of the conscriptions until 1748.  One ongoing member of the community was Johann Georg Tilk from Ramholz, an honest and just man, who served as the emergency Lutheran teacher in the village whose homestead the family researcher George Mueller visited and also clarified his family relations.  About the local miller, named Leen and his son we know that they, like Adam Pickelhaupt came from Brombach as early as 1724 but like most of the millers, they did not have a permanent address and leased various mills after 1731.  There were other families that came and then moved on until 1748 when the source of settlers dried up temporarily.  So during the first twenty-five years there were constant changes in the number and mix of families living in the village.  Twenty years later during the Urbarial Regulation we have a stable community with few new arrivals or departures except due to marriage up until the violent expulsion of 1948 that decimated the entire local population.


A letter from the General Assembly of the County of Baranya dated April 6th 1729 is filed in the County Archives in Szekszard in which the County protests against the fact that Tolna County included the village of Tofu in their tax conscription.  As an outcome we find a second letter written in Hungarian that the acting High Sheriff and the most senior tax collector of the County of Baranya, Daniel Horvath wrote on the same day to the honourable judge and jurors in Tofu with the salutation, “God bless you, judge and jurors of Tofu.”  In what follows the villagers are strictly ordered not to pay taxes to Tolna County whatsoever, to give no allegiance nor recognize the jurisdiction of Tolna, to resist the tax collectors, to afford them no accommodations.  Only when their free years would run out would begin paying taxes to the County of Baranya.

How did this letter get to Szekszard?  Since the colonists did not understand Hungarian one will have to assume they needed someone to explain its contents to them.  During a later tax conscription and collection that was undertaken by Tolna County, the tax collectors were avoided by the local population who upon their arrival in the village ran off and hid in the neighbouring forests with their families, cattle, oxen and horses.  In the end this and other failed attempts at collecting taxes led to an abandonment of further tax conscriptions from Tolna County in 1736.