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Hungarians in Georgia

In the 1880’s, the population of Georgia couldn’t be called diverse, especially in comparison to the proliferation of ethnic groups now found in Atlanta and environs. But the 1880’s did see the arrival of a Hungarian colony in Haralson county, which is west of Atlanta, halfway to the Alabama line, at the very edge of the Appalachians.

Haralson county entrepreneurs of the 1880’s wants to encourage Georgia’s native wine-making industry. They invited Hungarian immigrants (some arriving from Pennsylvania and other US locations, other emigrating directly from Georgia). I don’t know why Hungarian immigrants specifically were invited, but I suppose virtually any ethic group would have more experience with wine making than Georgia mountaineers.

Hungarian Vineyard in Haralson County, GA

The Hungarian colony established a Catholic church, built houses, worked vineyards, lived, and buried their dead in the Georgia clay. The swift end of the community, though, was Prohibition, which destroyed the local industry in an instant. The Hungarian residents scattered away, many to coal mining regions, where work could still be found.

Budapest Cemetery, Waco, GA

Budapest Cemetery, Waco, GA

The only traces of the Hungarian community that can be found now are a historical marker and the Budapest cemetery near the I-20 town of Waco, GA.

Hungarian Colony Historical Marker

Hungarian Colony Historical Marker

Because diversity and immigration are so much in the news today, and because opinions are so vitriolic among many “native” Georgians, I find these stories about earlier immigrants very interesting. In their day, the Hungarians were mistrusted by “native” Georgians (who had arrived after expelling the Cherokees in 1820s and 1830s) because of differences in language, religion, industry, and other customs. Prohibition was partially motivated by a desire to strike a blow at certain ethnic groups that had cultural history associated with alcohol — I’m sure many Georgians at the time were happy to see the “foreigners” leave. Now, I think few Georgians would be bothered by a wine-making Hungarian colony (in fact, Atlantans would probably take quaint drives out into the country to sample their products), but other ethnic groups make them rage and fume.

Someday, every human will have the freedom to live where he or she chooses. Ideally, immigration should be a formality — pay for a little paperwork, then pack your bags — for any citizen to move to any country. Fortunately, I think this is the trend of human history. Generation after generation, each tribe opens up a little bit.


Written by timwestover

September 16th, 2011 at 8:04 pm

Posted in folklore