Top: Spring Dance 2014; Magyar Klub officers, l to r: Steve Muchki, Trustee; Eileen Prose, VP; Kay French, Secy; Kathy Miller, Treasurer; Larry Wilson, President. Bottom: Magyar Klub booth at Chili Cookoff; rummage sale
Terre Haute (IN) Hungarian Club is 109!
”I enjoyed reading about the Wallingford Club on your home page. I had the opportunity to drive by their hall in October when I was in Connecticut. It was impressive. Our Terre Haute group does have the longevity edge, though – we were founded in 1909 and celebrated our 109th anniversary this past summer.”
She then referred me to their webpage, from which I quote verbatim:
”Terre Haute's first Hungarian Working Men's Benefit and Death Society was established July 30th, 1909.
”In the early 1900s, immigration to the United States experienced a peak period. Many of these immigrants were Hungarians seeking a place of political stability and opportunity to live. Typically, the men came first, found a place to work, raised a little money, then returned to their homeland and brought their wives and children back to America.
”Terre Haute, Indiana, with its industry and railroads was one of the thriving cities the Hungarians would make their home in the early part of the 20th century. At least 40 families settled into a neighborhood just east of the Malleable & Mfg. Co. near 19th and Maple Streets on the city’s northside. Over the years, many of them worked at ’the Malleable’ as it was called. Others were railroaders, miners, craftsmen, teachers or storekeepers. As the immigrants typically worked in the most dangerous jobs, most major insurance companies would not insure them, and these were the days long before private corporation and government insurance plans were available. Ethnic communities in many cities would form their own sick-benefit societies. Also, this was before funeral homes and common practice at that time was for families to hold a wake for their dead family member in their own home. However, the newest immigrants lived in boarding houses with their only support being their fellow immigrants. Such was the case in Terre Haute when a Hungarian man passed away with no family present.
”The Terre Haute Hungarians went together to pay for his funeral and in 1909, established Terre Haute’s First Hungarian Working Men’s Benefit and Death Society, as it was originally named, with the following purpose: ’To financially assist its sick members, to bury its dead members, to cultivate the spirit of <Brotherhood>, and to preserve and strengthen the Hungarian culture and heritage.’ Group gatherings were held at a picnic grounds on Maple Avenue and at a building on Maple across from The Malleable. Generally known as the Hungarian Lodge, the organization acquired two lots on the corner of N. 22nd and Linden Streets in December 1912 from Minnie and Martin Bortlein and Nathan and Nellie Wallace, for $275 each. By 1920, the Hungarian Hall was built. It was heated by a coal stove and had long benches along the sidewalls for seating. Originally of wood construction, the building acquired a brick veneer in 1937 by R. G. Maskell. An additional piece of adjacent property was acquired in 1956 from Paul Metro. The Hall became a place for meetings and dances, wedding parties and wakes. To this day, the annual Harvest Dance in October has been one of the lasting traditions.”
”Currently, the building is available to rent. It has a licensed kitchen, wet bar, stage, central air, and seats up to 100 guests. The club is accepting members, both Hungarian and non-Hungarian. Meetings are held monthly, as well as a members' luncheon. Annual activities typically include two dances, rummage sales and other fundraisers. There is also interest in collecting and recording the history of the organization.”
She added: ”We have 60 regular members, 11 social members and 5 honorary members.”
And then she wrote what really made us feel on top of the world: "Your newsletter is so interesting! It is such a mixture of topics, historical and current. I will be able to share topics from it at our monthly meetings as a 'Hungarian 101' topic."
Thank you, Kathy, for your kind words. And although Connecticut cannot claim to have the oldest Hungarian Club, we are proud of both Hungarian achievements! May they continue their noble endeavors for many more generations to come!
Kathryn (Kathy) Miller is Treasurer of the Terre Haute Hungarian Club. Her father, William Hornyak, immigrated to the US from Csóka in the Bánát region (now a part of Serbia), in 1910. Her mother, Elizabeth Lukács, and her grandparents came from Temesvár, Transylvania in 1927. Kathy has a BS in Civil Engineering and an MBA. She had a varied career, managing construction projects, real estate and being a certified purchasing manager. She retired a year ago. One of her two children lives in Connecticut. And no, the Ed Hornyák we wrote about in an early issue of MNO is NOT a relation.