Owing to its good geographic situation (area supplied well with water and arable land) our town and its surroundings have been inhabited permanently since the Neolithic times as it can proved with the archaeological findings brought up from the earth. In the area of Bekes we can discover the findings of people belonging to the culture of Tisza from the Neolithic period, the culture of Bodrogkeresztur from the Copper Age and the culture of Ottomány and Gyulavarsand from the Bronze Age. The people of the Iron Age and the so called Age of the Migration, known even by name, also appeared in our region, our museum preserves Celtic, Scythian, Sarmatian, Gepid and Avar findings. After the succeeding waves of people the conquering Hungarians able to form a persistent state in the territory of our country also appeared in our region.
According to the sources the Csolt-clan settled down in the area of our town, in the legend of Gellert we can read about the leader of the pagans called Vata of Bekes. The name of Bekes originated from a personal name, one of the first reeve of the settlement placed in the centre of the county in the Arpad-age may have borne this name. More diplomas dating back to the 1200s supply us with evidence that the town was county seat, and according to them it was the centre of not only the reeve's castle but also of the deanery. In 1403 the whole area went over into the hand of the Marothi-family and from this time the role of the centre was taken over more and more by the city of Gyula, although according to the diplomas the county assembly was still held several times here.
Having occupied the castle of Gyula in 1566, the Turkish army had he control over Bekes as well and built also a palisadecastle in our town. Archaeologists could discover the traces of this palisade from the late Middle Age. In defence of the castle of Gyula the Turkish scorched the whole region in 1595 and the fort of Bekes also was extinguished. Although it was not built up again, the presence of it can be traced in the whole XVIIth century.
In 1695 our settlement was also given freedom together with the castle of Gyula and became the property of the county treasury. During the fight for freedom led by Rakoczi the region depopulated again for the third time: but it was the last occasion. The resettlement took place very slowly, in 1720 the whole county as regal donation is taken over by Janos Gyorgy Harruckern. Although the new landlord gave various facilities to the peasants in order to populate his property, the rate of the unpopulated area remained high and the farm-stead type of settlement, which became so characteristic later, dates back to this period. At the end of the XVIIIth century Bekes and its region were taken over by the Weinckheim counts by inheritance. All the five present districts of the town existed even at that time, not longer after the last re-settlement the predecessor of the Reformed church was erected and still in this century the Catholic and the Greek Catholic churches were also constructed. The permanent flood of the Koros and its influents meant a persistent danger and the flood-danger ceased only after the river control carried out in the 1850s.
In the Reform Age the noble class of our county politicised in a more and more active way, at that time and later also they promote the liberal ideas. The fight for freedom in 1848-49 aroused great enthusiasm, although there were not real fights around our town. After the capitulation in Vilagos the population of the region - among others because of the nullification of the Kossuth-banknote - went through hard times.
In 1872 Bekes was pronounced to be a town and at the end of the century the present feature of the centre was shaped. The millenary was celebrated here also with a festival-series, around the turn of the century big constructing works were in progress (the building of the Berhaz, Grammar School, Town Hall).
The fights of the world war did not reach our town, there were, of course, casualties here also. The end of the Second World War arrived to us on 6th October 1944, although the life started with difficulties in our town, too. Co-operatives started to be organised like all over the country and some industrialisation was taken place. In 1969 Bekes got back the title of town rank and on 15th April 1973 the title of city rank expected for a long time.
Ildiko S. Turcsanyi
In the area of Bekes Hungarians settled down even at the time of the Hungarian Conquest. The presence of the inhabitants was essentially continuous, so the continuity of the culture can be also presumed.
The town, which gave the name of the county and was the county seat as well for a long time, flourished in the 15th-16th century. At that time it was reckoned as the most populous settlement of the county. Predominant part of the population belonged to the Reformed Church, smaller part of the them were the member of the Catholic, Greek Catholic, Jewish or other Churches.
Geographic environment of the town determined the economic life. Rivers, marshes, reedy lakes, meadows, grazing-lands favoured the food-gathering, hunting, fishing and animal-breeding way of life. As a result of the river control carried out in the second half of the 19th century the size of the areas flooded regularly by the rivers decreased significantly, which made the intensive cultivation possible. People of the region became richer, which was shown also by changes in the life-style, prevailing sentiments, and, naturally, the culture of objects.
All of the country towns in the Great Plain have its own character but have also a lot of similarities connecting them. As the time of the self-supplying husbandry passed by, the peasantry of Bekes, beside keeping its self-consciousness, also identified with the middle-class life-style. The result was a specific peasant-middle-class culture which prevailed at large in the period between 1870-1920. The wealthy peasants built new, big houses in the town with gardens where they also cultivated vegetables and fruits; from spring to autumn, until the completion of the agricultural works, however, their farm-stead served as their dwelling place. Till around the first world war, during the prevalence of extended families, the young people lived and worked in the farms, the older parents with their grand-children, who went to school from them, lived in the houses inside town. The property segregation of the peasantry accelerated. Among the wealthier class the custom of making a so called ben was wide spread.
This room was not heated, not lived, only used for placing and presenting the pieces of furniture and textile materials considered the most beautiful and ornamented. The textiles and simple pieces of furniture were still home-made, for satisfying the increasing demands, however, they purchased more and more expensive manufactured products.
From the years of 1920-30 a modernising process started up, owing to which the traditional elements of the peasant culture following the middle-class taste more and more decayed.
Iren B. Szucs