Prelude to the Haralson County wine boom
(revised 2006-2011 by Ron Feigenblatt)
After a two-year absence from Haralson County, Ralph L. Spencer returned and immediately began an elaborate plan for a town site. The site was plotted east of Tallapoosa on what is now Highway 78. The lots were drawn out for a church and a business district. Spencer then organized the Georgia Fruit Growing and Winery Association.
Spencer knew that the business of growing grapes for wine was a specialized field and would require experts to ensure success. During his absence, he apparently had done his homework. He secured the help of specialists: one was a Catholic priest named Father Janishek. To encourage Father Janishek to move to the area, Spencer promised a home, a horse and a buggy. Another specialist he recruited knew of Hungarian farmers who were working in the coal mines of Pennsylvania. Plans were immediately put into effect to recruit these farmers to move to Haralson County. They would establish the town and plant the vineyards.
Over 50 families responded and established the
community, naming it Budapest in honor of
The Farmers proved they were masters of the task as the grapes grew in abundance, with clusters ranging from 10-12 inches in length. The Hungarian Village was a successful venture - the surrounding hillsides were covered with homes and vineyards. At harvest time, the brimming baskets showed the evidence of much hard work.
The Hungarian village was so successful that a group of [Slovaks] arrived and settled a village called N(y)itra. The village was located on what is now called Old Ridgeway Road west of Waco. Overlooking the village a home was built for Father Janishek. This once-beautiful building still stands near Devil's Kitchen. The home has thirteen rooms and a domed cupola that extends well beyond the second floor. The house is now privately owned.
|The former Janishek rectory, date unknown, now called Key's Castle. (Photo credit: Joseph Attila Szokody.) Find a 1991 photo of the building below.||
View Larger Map
Location of the property at 900 Old Ridgeway Road.
At its peak, Nitra had 60 dwellings, a church and a general store. Now that Spencer had a successful project, wineries were built to take care of the abundance of grapes. The people were hard-working and sober. They had many talents such as cheese and bread making as well as preserving fruits. The homes were small and well kept. One is still standing on Highway 78, a lowly cottage with gingerbread trim and magnolia trees in the yard.
Things changed... with the introduction of
the Prohibition Act. The law banned all fermented
beverages. and there was no other market for the
grapes. The soil was not suited for farming and
people were without jobs. They began to leave the
area, not bothering to sell their homes. A few
remained and tilled the red clay as best as they
While the majority of these people are gone from
Haralson County and little remains of these
hardworking people, there are a few descendents
who chose to stay here. The Church was abandoned
and in the 1970s, the building burned. There is a
cemetery that became overgrown, but recently
community workers have cleaned the site up. The
headstones tell a story all their own. On the few
original headstones in the cemetary the word
"Peace" is carved.
These people came to Haralson County in search of a new life. They worked hard in the red hills of Georgia.
While they didn't find what they were looking for, they found peace in a new land for a short time in Haralson County.
In recent years, the Hungarian wine colony heritage of Haralson County has inspired local effort to promote its resurrection. This includes The Vineyard and Winery Association of West Georgia, established in 2010, and led by Douglas Mabry. In June 2011, The Tallapoosa Journal wrote that the Association has 180 members, with 12 to 14 members planting.
The Tourism Team of the Haralson County Chamber of Commerce aspires to have the Budapest cemetery listed on the National Register of Historic Places and to better mark its entrance with signage, as part of its marketing effort. In a related development, during June 2011, the Haralson County Board of Commisioners approved changing the name of Landfill Road to Budapest Cemetery Road, effective after a transition period of 60 days.
The circumstances under which the now-missing marker above may have disappeared
are the subject of an extended essay
which also touches upon a number of interesting aspects of county history. As this
is written in March 2009, there is a $200 reward for information leading to the
recovery of the missing marker, as detailed
See DVHH Destination The Americas United States Tallapoosa-Budapest, Georgia, GA which includes numerous photographs, at the Web site of the
|An 1896 map reveals that vineyards then covered approximately 12,726 acres of land in Haralson County, Georgia.|