Terre Haute's 1st Hungarian Working Men's Benefit & Death Society was
established July 30th, 1909.
In the early 1900s, immigration
tot he United States experienced a peak period, Many of these immigrants were Hungarians seeking place of political stabilitu
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 Sts. 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 Ave 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 & Martin Bortlein and Nathan & 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 over
100 guests. The club is accepting members, both Hungarian and non-Hungarian. Meetings are held monthly, as well as a member’s
luncheon. Annual activities include two dances, rummage sales and other fundraisers. There is also interest in collecting
and recording the history of the organization. If you have photographs and stories to share, please contact the lodge.
2049 N. 22nd St
Terre Haute, IN 47804