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Nicholas Fejervary


Posted By: Annette Lucas (email)
Date: 7/12/2021 at 08:44:12

SOURCE: Biographical History and Portrait Gallery of Scott County, Iowa. American Biographical Publishing Company, H. C. Cooper, Jr., & Co. Proprietors. 1895


NICHOLAS FEJERVARY is a native of the City of Pesth, now Buda Pesth, Hungary, and was born May 27, 1811 , to Joseph and Maria (Dvornikovitch) Fejérváry. His mother dying a few days after his birth, he was received into the family of his maternal grand- parents, where he was under the fostering care of a maternal aunt, Celestine Dvornikovitch, who had charge of his education up to the year 1826, when he returned to his father, who, in the meantime, had re-married. At that time his father was a member from the County of Pesth, of the Diet or Hungarian Legislative body sitting at Pozsony, whither the son accompanied him .

In the spring of 1827 Nicholas entered the University of Pesth, taking a law course, then a necessary part of a liberal education in Hungary. During the period of his studies there he had the misfortune to lose his father, and at the early age of eighteen he stood comparatively alone in the world. He pursued the supplementary part of his law studies with John Uzovitch , who was at that time member of the Diet from the County of Nyilra. At the same session of the Diet, 1830, young Fejérváry acted as representative of Baron Zay, the members of the Upper House having then the right of appointing substitutes to take their places in case of absence. Such substitutes, however, having neither the right of taking part in the debates nor of casting a vote, were usually young men, who thus served a sort of apprenticeship in public affairs. At that time he witnessed the coronation of Ferdinand as King of Hungary, and still preserves several gold and silver medals which were struck off and distributed in commemoration of that event. A few months after the close of the Diet, in the spring of 1831, he returned to Pesth, and was sworn in as one of the clerks of the Tabula Regia , one of the higher courts of justice, and filled that office until in June, 1832, when he received his diploma as advocate, which entitled him to practice before any tribunal in Hungary.

He then settled on his estates in the County of Hont, and took an active part in the deliberations of the General Assembly and civil tribunals. This county was one of the foremost in maintaining the right of local self- government, as opposed to the centralization of power toward which the efforts of the general Government were directed.

The year 1834 became memorable through his first visit to foreign lands, in a tour through Germany, IIolland and France, made by coach, before the era of railway travel. His longest stay was in Paris, which he saw under the most favorable circumstances, with the country under the reign of Louis Philippe enjoying a returning prosperity after many years of war without and internal conflicts of opinion, outbreaks of which were, even then, of occasional occurrence.

Mentally enriched by these experiences, to which he added by constant study, Mr. Fejérváry was in 1843 elected by the County of Hont to represent it in the Diet. At this Diet the nobility, which then alone possessed the right of suffrage, voluntarily imposed on itself the burden of taxation, from which it had been previously exempt, and granted to non - nobles the full right of acquiring land and of holding office.

The peasantry were also relieved in various ways of the burdens imposed by feudal laws, and the charter for the first railroad to be built in Hungary was granted during the session of 1843-44.

The following year Mr. Fejérváry married Caroline Kárász, a woman of rare qualities of mind and heart, to whose family he, as well as his parents, had been bound by lifelong ties of friendship , and from that time devoted all his energies to providing for the future of his family. While his sympathies remained always with the liberal party, he took no further active part in public affairs, and consequently was not a factor in the Revolution of 1848-49, but spent those years near Pesth, in the quiet town of Vác, which was the scene of two minor battles, and in full view of the siege of Buda and the bombardment of Pesth . Mr. Fejérváry was here the captain of the Sixth Company of National Guards, but was not called into active service. After the suppression of the revolution he lived in Pesth until May, 1851, when , finding political conditions unendurable, he resolved to emigrate. To his grief over the disastrous ending of the struggle for liberty was added the most poignant sorrow of personal bereavement, as in the epidemic of Asiatic cholera, following in the wake of the armed forces, he counted among the victims from his own household his aunt and foster -mother, Celestine Dvornikovitch , in whose death he lost the tenderest of friends and wisest of counselors. He also lost a little daughter in her second year, while his only son suffered a most severe attack of the same terrible malady.

In comparison with these losses the severing of other ties seemed less hard, and there remained only the difficulty of overcoming the obstacles which the Government placed in the way of all emigration .

Under the plea of visiting a German watering-place and the first great exhibition in London, Mr. Fejérváry secured passports for himself and family, and spent a year at Brussels, Belgium , and thence, going via London and Southampton, finally sailed for the United States, landing in New York, June 8, 1852.

Leaving his family comfortably settled in Brooklyn, he traveled through the then far West in search of a future home, and finally selected Davenport, Iowa, partly because its situation reminded him in some degree of his birthplace, the beautiful capital on the Danube. Here in 1853 he bought a tract of land and built a substantial and commodious dwelling of brick , made under his own supervision from clay found on the premises, which with a few alterations sheltered him and his household more than forty years. He also purchased numerous tracts of Government land in various parts of Iowa, and from these investments realized large profits. Several substantial business blocks, erected at intervals by him , also still stand as proofs of his activity and business enterprise. As a characteristic trait it may be mentioned that he never accepted a higher rate of interest on loans than that fixed by law , although a contrary practice was general with banks and individuals in the early days of his settlement in Iowa. He never entered public life in America, except to serve on the board of supervisors and on the grand jury before relieved by age from the legal obligation of doing so . Among the public works of which he was an active promoter may be mentioned the erection of the Scott County Soldiers' Monument; the relief work at the time of the great Chicago fire of 1871, he being chairman of the relief committee, whose first aid was, according to the Latin proverb, “ twice given , ” the Davenport carload of provisions and clothing being the first to arrive at Chicago, reaching there even before the destruction caused by the flames was completed.

On the founding of the Cook Home for the Friendless, Mr. Fejérváry was elected a member of its board of managers , and took an'active part in supervising the erection of its building and continued to serve on its board until advancing years inclined him to relinquish all active work.

His experience there, in a large measure, prompted him in what he intended as a monument of his gratitude for the political freedom and material prosperity he was privileged to enjoy in the American Republic, viz : the establishment and endowment of a home for aged farmers, in which men , who, through misfortune and without fault of their own, had failed to reap the reward of their labors and were left solitary and without resources in their declining years, should receive the same comforts and benefits enjoyed by women in the Cook Home. In execution of this plan Mr. Fejérváry built a large and unusually substantial structure of brick, stone and slate on a five -acre tract owned by him , located on Grand Avenue, Davenport, and placed it in the hands of trustees, together with nearly all the real estate owned by him in Scott County, from the income of which at least six inmates could be comfortably supported at the outset.

Mr. Fejérváry's wife, whom he lost on August 27, 1890, after a happy union of forty- five years, was, by her strength of character, loving heart and deep religious feeling, eminently fitted to be his helpmeet and complement. She is mourned with affectionate regard by all who ever came within the range of her benign influence, and witnessed the patient gentle spirit with which she accepted the vicissitudes of a long and varied life. With a more than ordinary devotion to her duties as wife and mother, she was never too busy to extend sympathy and aid to others, who came to her in distress or sorrow, devoting herself with particular attention to the relief of the sick and the education of orphans, bequeathing also a large portion of her independent fortune for these two-fold purposes. Of three children born of this union, one daughter alone survives. The only son , a youth of rare mental gifts, which justified the most brilliant hopes for his future, died at the age of sixteen, in the spring of 1863. This loss was a crushing blow to the father, who for many years remained broken in spirit from its effects. Both these children were educated at home under their parents' instruction, the daughter exclusively, and the son up to within little more than a year prior to his death , when he entered Griswold College in Davenport, where he at once took a stand in his classes that bore testimony to the excellence of his mental training.

Mr. Fejérváry is known as the most modest and retiring of men . In character and manner he may truly be called a “ gentleman of the old school.” Descended from noble ancestry, he is a living exemplification of the truth that " blood will tell. ” His scorn of all trickery, dishonesty or deceit may be said to be a fundamental trait of his character, and perhaps the most powerful factor in shaping his career, since no consideration of self- interest or policy could ever prevail against it, or induce him to condone, either in private or in public life, actions or tendencies which in the slightest degree offended his sense of rectitude. As a loyal patriot of his native country and a staunch defender of its constitutional rights and liberties, life within its borders became intolerable to him when these rights and liberties were seemingly lost forever. Imbued from the outset with the spirit pervading American institutions, he became an equally loyal citizen of his adopted country.

In temperament Mr. Fejérváry is genial and sympathetic, he has a keen sense of humor and enjoys its manifestation in company of friends. Extensive travel has made him familiar with the language and customs of many lands, and supplemented by his taste for reading, brought within his reach all that is best in literature, not only in his own tongue, but in English, French, German, Italian and Spanish, as well as Latin, which , in his youth , was, in Hungary, still the official language used in all matters of public business, as well as in all studies from primary schools up to the universities. The origin and relation of races and languages thus became a favorite study with him , and the tracing of Sanscrit roots and their development in living languages was amusement in the leisure hours of his later years.

With such resources within himself, keeping always the just proportion between serious occupation and needful rest, Mr. Fejérváry's long life has harmoniously culminated in that serene old age which falls only to the share of the few blessed by the possession of " Mens sana in corpore sano."


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