KOSSUTH — This town was always more of a pass-through than a destination.During its heyday along the Miami and Erie Canal, it was a notoriously rowdy stop between Toledo and Cincinnati. Now, it is a slower speed limit along state Route 197 in northern Auglaize County, just south of Spencerville.On Tuesday, Kossuth was a destination worth traveling 4,700 miles for a four-man documentary film crew from Hungary.“We want to show to the Hungarian public what was named after Lajos Kossuth: Street names, city names, a county named after him in Iowa,” said Tamas Szeles, one of the film editors on an unusual journey across the United States.Lajos “Louis” Kossuth might not mean much to many of us, but he’s a Hungarian national hero, and his dedication to a cause is worth remembering.Kossuth led a revolution in eastern Europe. His freedom fighters initially appeared to win their independence from the Austrian emperor, until the Russians got involved. Kossuth escaped to London, then he began looking for ways to fund another revolution. He spent seven months in the United States in 1851 and 1852, including a trip through Ohio raising money. “At a time when Europe was ruled by kings, kaisers, czars and emperors, here’s someone who wanted to have a United States of Hungary, a democracy,” said Arthur Bartfay, a Hungarian historian living in Columbus.He learned English while imprisoned in his native land, reading William Shakespeare to learn our language, one of several languages he spoke. While speaking here, he offered this wisdom, “The spirit of our age is democracy, all for the people, all by the people, nothing about the people without the people.”Those words, Bartfay noted, sound similar to what Abraham Lincoln used in the Gettysburg Address 11 years later.“I think he was as important to the Hungarians as Benjamin Franklin for you,” Szeles said.Ultimately, he failed to meet his goal. Over time, the once-enormous country broke into smaller parts, forming separate countries where Kossuth dreamed of having language-based states.The visit by the filmmakers gave Kossuth a renewed focus on its namesake.“Sunday morning, they read a little bit of the history of Louis Kossuth at our worship service,” said Raymond Daniel, pastor of Kossuth Zion United Methodist Church, which stands alongside the former canal. “People were able to learn a lot about him then. We see his picture at the entrance when we come in here, but not too many people know a lot about him. It’s very interesting.”The town was organized and platted in 1858, according to the “Atlas and History of Auglaize County” published in 1917. It incorporated April 12, 1897, and soon elected its first mayor, clerk, treasurer, marshal and councilmen. Just a few years later, it surrendered its charter.“When the town was chartered, he must’ve been pretty popular then,” said Lyle Sandkuhl, of Kossuth, whose Sandkuhl Clay Works office served as a meeting place for the Hungarian delegation before it visited the church Tuesday.There are similarities between Hungary and our slice of Ohio, Szeles said, including the strength of agriculture.“This part of the states is close to Hungary,” Szeles said. “If I looked at the landscape, it’s quite similar to Hungary.”He noted two big differences. “The cars are bigger here,” he said, laughing. “The speed limit is lower.”Szeles had plenty of time to think about that speed limit as he and the crew crisscrossed the United States. They started in Washington, D.C., five weeks ago, traveling to Florida, Mississippi, New Orleans and then onward to California, all by car.They drove east through the heartland, via Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. After their visit to Auglaize County on Tuesday, they visited Cleveland and Pittsburgh last week. They’re on their way to Maine, Boston and then New York City, where they’ll finally return to Hungary after six weeks on the road.“It’s a kind of mission for us,” Szeles said.You can comment on this column at www.LimaOhio.com.
Tara Cutlip, 21 and pregnant with her second child, was shot and killed Saturday in her Bahama Drive home. Loved ones gather in front of Tara's home to remember her and speak out against domestic violence.