Today we continue our wonderfully detailed and surname-filled story from the pages of the 1934 edition of the Czech-American annual journal, Amerikán Národní Kalendář, with installment two of “From the History of Caledonia, an Old Czech Settlement in the State of Wisconsin”.
Our author, J. L. Peťura, is recounting the establishment and early history of the immigrants from the Czech lands who settled the Wisconsin town of Caledonia. Rarely has Czech community life been so thoroughly detailed as is done in this article and we are pleased to be able to bring it to you in English for the first time!
If you missed Installment #1 you can catch up simply by clicking here and then coming back for more of this amazing story!
Amerikán Národní Kalendář
Volume: LVII, Year: 1934, Pages: 187-213
FROM THE MEMORIES OF OLD CZECH SETTLERS IN AMERICA
Translated by Layne Pierce and Dr. Mila Saskova-Pierce
©Onward To Our Past®
“From the History of Caledonia, an Old Czech Settlement in the State of Wisconsin.”
(From the Recollection of J. L. Peťura, deceased on the 13th of March 1930)
“People today do not have any idea how difficult it was to put together those small collections. Everyone would contribute 50 cents apiece, and if someone gave a dollar then at that time it was a lot. Today’s ten dollars and a dollar from those times are about on the same level. At that time Racine was poor and it was the same in Chicago, as well. Milwaukee was doing quite a bit. Everything that it could, and even in the south in Manitowoc and Kewaunee –even though at the time those were small settlements—they strove to contribute as much as possible. It was only Chicago that at that time did not give anything. Milwaukee was holding its rank –since the most active person there was Vojta Náprstek.
The first play performed in the West was in Milwaukee and that was on the 2nd of November 1861. It was a piece called “The Immigrant”, translated into Czech by F. Mráček. The characters were: Factory owner—Jan Borecký; Loan Shark—F. Rudrle; Czech immigrants-J. Fousek; Ludmila-B. Doležalová; Omastek-Hynek Kříž; The Young Girl—M. Vašková. It was the first play that I ever saw. The Eliáš family, myself, and my parents left to go there early in the morning, because it was 25 miles away from us, and the roads! In places there were still tree stumps. During the night everybody had to pay heed—and we had to go back home during the night, but luckily at three o’clock in the morning we reached home.
After Mr. Kořízek’s arrival people started to think about what to do further concerning the newspapers. F. Kořízek and Bárta Letovský could not go any further with their American Slav [Slowan Amerikánský]. They had almost reached the end. Both had big families and the newspaper did not even cover the paper and the rent, let alone their salaries. Kořízek’s family was feeding itself with music and fish. Kořízek was a good violin player, even though mostly he played on the base. When it was the worst time, they went to Kenosha, ten miles from Racine. There German Turners had a hall and Mr. Kořízek together with his travelling “band” played often for them, and he brought back some dollars, so that he could buy paper for another edition of the American Slav [Slowan Amerikánský]. It wasn’t better with the Bárta’s National Newspaper [Národní Noviny], only that Bárta’s son Jan did smith work in a wagon shop, and in this way he helped to feed the whole family. The second son, Bohumil was learning how to type-set in the print shop. Later we worked together at Slavie.
These two founders of Czech print in America should be appreciated more and there should be a respectable commemorative memorial built for them. Virtually hungry and suffering they started a project that was needed to represent the Slavonic people altogether. They should be remembered when there is a celebration for those who had had the groundwork laid for them, at a time when each year thousands of new immigrants were added. Especially in Chicago there was a good field for enterprising men, such as August Geringer.”
Tomorrow we continue so stay with Onward To Our Past® and enjoy the rest of this marvelous story!
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