Welcome to Onward To Our Past® and our all new, exclusive, English translation from the wonderful volumes of the Czech-American journal, Amerikán Národní Kalendář.
Today we begin an article, originally covering an impressive eleven pages in the 1904 edition of Amerikan Národní Kalendar and titled “The Memories of Czech Settlers in America”.
We begin with the story of Bartoloměj Stekl.
Amerikán Národní Kalendář
Year: 1904, Volume: XXVII, Pages: 256-266
“The Memories of Czech Settlers in America”
“BARTOLOMĚJ STEKL. One of the Czech ‘soldiers in the trenches’ who fully tasted the sweetness offered by the virgin soil of our new country is Mr. Bartoloměj Stekl from Letcher, Sanborn County, South Dakota.
An excerpt from his biography: “I was born on the 21st of August 1837 in Božkov near Pilsen; and because my parents were poor it was very early up to me to seize upon something that would make their life easier, and so already at the age of 12, I went to do service. I didn’t enjoy much of a formal education. I barely learned to read and write. So my life of drudgery began very early and when, at the age of 24, I got married, I was once again laboring hard with my wife’s help for four years. When we saw that such a livelihood offered little, we sold everything we owned in 1865 and we set off for the journey to America. We sailed through the sea on a sailing ship, the name of which I don’t remember anymore and after much suffering we arrived on free American soil in New York on the 2nd of November 1865. We went west and arrived in Detroit, Michigan where I found work in a factory that was manufacturing wagons for the railroads as well as streetcar lines: the so-called car shop. Everybody probably knows how it goes when you go to a factory and you do not know any other language but Czech; I also had a rough start. At work I was left to my own devices, whether or not I understood what the foreman showed me. Very regularly when he wanted something like, for example, wood, the boss went ahead of me, put the wood onto his shoulders to show me that I was also supposed to load it up, which I did, and to follow him. With each type of task it was the same until I slowly started to break through and I got used to it so well that I was able to last eight years there. It is true that during all eight years I was not carrying the same wood and also there was other work and it was getting easier and also the salary was growing. I saved some money and I bought a farm of about 30 acres, 12 miles from town. The work on it was not easy and not rewarding, so we sold it very soon and we went to Nebraska. After three years in Nebraska we left for Dakota where I took a homestead which I slowly enlarged by purchasing more and more. – My five sons helped me. Four of them are now married and I also have two daughters by now, both married, and I was able to provide for all of them quite well. I bought 240 acres for the youngest one and I think that when he gets married I will retire. – I was able to make all of my children learn Czech and to read and write and they are all subscribers to your Amerikán, where they really enjoy stories you publish.”
Stay with us as we continue our 1904 exclusive tomorrow with an all new Czech immigrant’s story!
Onward To Our Past®