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Elite of month – Voith von Sterbez, Ferdinand Conrad Johann (1813–1882), District Captain, deputy

Senior State Official and Deputy Ferdinand Conrad Johann Voith von Sterbez (1813–1882)


Ferdinand baron Voith von Sterbez 

[…] You have conquered the hearts of all the citizens […] by Your noble efforts and deeds. What wonder, therefore, that on this momentous day, when Your Eminence celebrates the precious feast of Your forty years of public service, the hearts of our fellow citizens, who have been privileged to witness Your beneficent work in the field of public administration […], rejoice.” These are the words of an official letter of congratulation addressed to Ferdinand Voith von Sterbez by the town council of Německý Brod (today Havlíčkův Brod / Deutschbrod) in 1875. Ferdinand Voith had been an exemplary civil servant, who managed to be popular among both his superiors and subordinates. He dedicated all his life to public service as a district captain, a member of parliament and a public figure.

02_Voith von Sterbez Ferdinand, ič 55, kart 3_001

Coat of arms of the Voith von Sterbez family. SOkA Kutná Hora, fonds Ferdinand Voith von Sterbez, box 3, call number 55.

Ferdinand’s grandfather Johann von Voith (1746–1831) was an imperial officer and so was Ferdinand’s father Vincenz (1785–1845). However, after several years in the army Vincenz decided to leave and he became a hereditary postmaster. This was a prestigious position in the nineteenth century. Vincenz got this position because of his marriage to Theresia Kocy (1790–1838), whose father had held the post before him.

03_Voith von Sterbez Ferdinand, ič 40, kart 3_002

Family of Ferdinand Voith von Sterbez. SOkA Kutná Hora, fonds Ferdinand Voith von Sterbez, box 3, call number 40.

Vincenz and Theresia were married for more than 30 years, but they had only one son – Ferdinand Conrad Johann, who was born on May 20, 1813, in Německý Brod. In this town Ferdinand also attended grammar school and probably had an opportunity to learn more about the Czech national revival. Karel Havlíček Borovský (1821–1856), a journalist and important personality for the Czech emancipation movement, went to this school as well, but at this point Ferdinand and Karel did not meet. After finishing secondary education, Ferdinand studied law in Prague, which was an essential prerequisite for his future in the state administration.

His first job was at the Land Governor’s Office in Prague as a trainee official. This stage of F. Voith’s career did not last very long, since he passed an exam and became a trainee official the following year. At this point of his career, he still did not receive any salary, but that did not prevent him from getting married and starting a family. In 1837 he married Maria Anna Theresia (1816–1885), daughter of Baron Johann Matzner von Herites (1769–1841).

05_Voith von Sterbez Ferdinand, ič 39, 41, 43, 45, kart 3_013

Maria Voith von Sterbez born von Herites. SOkA Kutná Hora, fonds Ferdinand Voith von Sterbez, box 3, call number 39.

It was only in October 1849, when Ferdinand finally began receiving an adequate salary for his work. In 1868, after working in a few more Bohemian towns, he reached the position of a district captain at the District Captainship in Čáslav and kept this post until his death. The first years of marriage must have been difficult for both Ferdinand and his wife. They had ten children, who were born in four different towns. Four children died before they became adults. The financial situation of the family was not satisfactory either. Ferdinand had to borrow money repeatedly, but, fortunately, due to his status, there were always enough creditors willing to help him out.

04_Voith von Sterbez Ferdinand, ič 42, kart 3_001

Ferdinand Voith von Sterbez and his sons. SOkA Kutná Hora, fonds Ferdinand Voith von Sterbez, box 3, call number 42.

Ferdinand Voith von Sterbez served the Austrian state at the time when the authorities were supposed to oppress any kind of anti-government resistance. The difficulties of his position within the system may be best demonstrated in his relationship with Karel Havlíček Borovský, who was constantly critical of the Austrian government. For his public comments he was arrested in December 1851 and Ferdinand, as a representative of the local administration, was present during this arrest. Later on, Ferdinand’s daughters claimed that their father tried to warn Karel, but there is no proof for this. It is clear that Ferdinand helped Karel, when the journalist was in exile in Brixen, but Ferdinand never forgot that he was first and foremost a civil servant, who served the Austrian state.

When Ferdinand’s position in the state administration was stable, he entered another public sphere – politics. In 1861 he became a deputy in the Bohemian Diet for the curia of rural communities. Ferdinand was obviously popular among village mayors, who formed a significant part of the electorate. During his six years in the diet, he usually endorsed bills which limited the power of large estate owners and supported the rights of all nations to rule their own things within the monarchy. In the 1860s, the involvement of civil servants in politics was accepted and even welcomed by the authorities. The obvious conflict of interests did not represent a problem. This changed in the 1880s, when the government prohibited state officials from entering politics in order to secure their neutrality.

As mentioned before, Ferdinand and Maria had ten children together, but four of them did not survive their childhood. The oldest daughter Maria (1838–1900) got married twice. Her first husband was Philip von Behacker (1809–1884), a Court Secretary, and her second husband was Jan Němeček (1837–1908), a bank clerk. Her younger sisters Bertha (1844–1920) and Hermine (1851–1921) never married and spent their lives living together in Kolín. As they were not in a position to earn their own salary, they lived on their parents’ inheritance. The oldest son Vincenz (1842–1912) embarked on a military career and achieved the rank of major. The second oldest son Rudolf (1848–1905) join the army as well and became a captain. He married Anna Maria Tiegel von Lindenkron (1862–1929), the heiress of the estate of Osečany. The youngest son Ferdinand (1856–1885) started to study at Technical College Prague but died of tuberculosis at the age of 29.

06_Voith von Sterbez Ferdinand, ič 44, kart 3_003

Hermina Voith von Sterbez. SOkA Kutná Hora, fonds Ferdinand Voith von Sterbez, box 3, call number 44.

07_Voith von Sterbez Ferdinand, ič 44, kart 3_004

Berta Voith von Sterbez. SOkA Kutná Hora, fonds Ferdinand Voith von Sterbez, box 3, call number 44.

08_Voith von Sterbez Ferdinand, ič 45, kart 3_014

Hermina and Berta Voith von Sterbez. SOkA Kutná Hora, fonds Ferdinand Voith von Sterbez, box 3, call number 45.

Ferdinand Voith von Sterbez died on 10 February 1882 in Čáslav, a town, which became his destiny. His creditor Vojtěch Weidenhoffer (1826–1901) noted in his diary on this day: “This evening Mr Ferdinand Baron Voith von Sterbez, a Junior Governor’s Office Councillor and honorary burgher of this town, passed away. He was a meritorious and much respected and admired man. May God grant him a peaceful rest.” The funeral was a huge event attended by thousands of people, which was without any doubt a manifestation of F. Voith’s importance for the local community.

Although Ferdinand came from a noble family, his ancestors did not belong to old aristocracy and did not secure a stable income for him and his children. Ferdinand’s origin might have been useful at the beginning of his career, but later it was mostly his skills and diligence, which helped him to succeed. Unfortunately, this was not enough to provide sufficient inheritance for his children. Ferdinand felt sympathy for the Czech national revival, but he was never disloyal to his employer – the Austrian state.



Archival Sources

Státní okresní archiv Kutná Hora (State District Archives Kutná Hora, SDA Kutná Hora), fonds Voith von Sterbez Fedinand.



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