(WVUE) - Royanne kropog plays a Hungarian folk song, a tune that arrived in Southeast Louisiana more than a century ago. It's music that is played at the annual harvest dance in an area known as Hungarian Settlement near Albany, LA.
"Since we are the largest rural Hungarian settlement United States today," Royanne Kropog said.
Kropog has written about the history of the settlement, originally called Arpadhon, named after the first head of Europe's Hungarian tribes.
"Well that was exactly 1,000 years ago from when this settlement was started," Royanne Kropog said. "That was in 1896. This started in 1896. So they thought, we'll call this the home of Alfred of Arpad, or Arpadhon.
The first Hungarians came here to work in a sawmill. But the mill closed in 1906. The big sawmill disappeared when all of the old growth timber was cut. It was located at a site that's now paved over by Interstate 12 at the Albany Springfield exit
The bare land was divided into family-sized plots and advertised in the midwest in Hungarian language newspapers. The new arrivals began farming strawberries.
Alex kropog's father came from Hungary in 1909. His mother was also Hungarian and relocated from Virginia.
"They both spoke Hungarian real well and we learned English and Hungarian, and I just thought everybody was doing something like that," Alex Kropog said.
Today, you can still attend the original Hungarian churches. The Presbyterian Church, built in 1908, and St. Margaret's Catholic Church, built in 1910.
"The makeup of Hungary, religious-wise when the Hungarians came here, was about 65 percent Catholic and 35 percent Presbyterian," Alex said.
You see the names of the original Hungarian settlers in the graveyards of the churches and in the names of streets that frame the strawberry fields.
The settlement's history is on display in a new museum that occupies a century-old school house. There are historic pictures, traditional clothing, fine Hungarian porcelain and everyday housewares. And for those with Hungarian roots, a family history collection.
"We are putting them in filing cabinets and here we have a good number of family histories, documents, photographs," Alex said.
It's a community with a unique history that is being preserved and celebrated by those who still call Hungarian Settlement their home.