Our wonderful, detail and surname-laden exclusive translation continues today!  As we said this article along provides us with 52 Czech surnames along with their role in early Czech-American history in the region of SE Wisconsin and NW Illinois.  It is quite a wonderful story and one we have enjoyed greatly being able to bring to English and the internet for you to learn from and enjoy!

Here we go with Installment #3!

Amerikán Národní Kalendář

Volume: LVII, Year: 1934, Pages: 187-213


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)

“That fall the Russian government sent Count Malinovski to the United States to negotiate with Czechs settled in America whether they would not resettle along the Amur River in Russia.  The government offered to us to send ships, but said that we would have to take all necessary tools with us.  It promised to ensure enough land and that for a certain time we would not pay any taxes and that we would be free of any military service.  It was an enticing offer.  Those who would not have lost anything, were interested.  But those who already had nice farmsteads here thought about it differently.  Meetings took place during which the affair was discussed.  All those meetings took place at the Eliáš home, where, although young, I had an opportunity to attend and observe everything with interest.

Early Czech newspapers in the United States.

Early Czech newspapers in the United States.

Earlier a big meeting had been called concerning the merger of two barely surviving periodicals: National Newspaper [Národní Noviny] and American Slav [Slowan Amerikánský].  Natives from Racine attended, and among them were even Jan Borecký and Josef Stran who had already reached the great age of ninety.  In Racine the most prominent people of those times were Josef Novotný and Antonín Kroupa.  From Caledonia it was mainly František Trávníček-Nechuta, Daniel Střítecký and Matěj Jeništa.  Of course, the main personalities, such as F. Kořízek, J. B. Letovský and F. Mráček were present.  The debate especially concerned the name of the new periodical.  There was not much talk about assets, because there were few.  They had been unable to reach consensus on a name for a long time when, suddenly, F. Trávníček-Nechuta took the floor and he said: “You know what boys, give this periodical the name Slavie.”  There were responses from several different sides that perhaps Americans will think it means “slave” and would mistake it for a slave paper.  In spite of that possibility, the debate continued, and upon the intercession of J. Borecký it remained Slavie.  Among all the periodicals of the time, it was the best Czech periodical in America, especially when owned and edited by Bedřich Jonáš.  It did not have to come to a sad end, if K. Jonáš, who became later Lieutenant Governor of the state of Wisconsin and the only Czech who reached such a distinction, had not launched into the damned politics, which gave him many bitter moments until it made him ill.  The politics also led to his downfall which can be hardly mentioned, and which by the way is known by all of the old settlers.

Jonas and Masek together.

Jonas and Masek together.

After the happy merger of those two periodicals, both standing almost at the point of bankruptcy, the first issue of the periodical was published in Racine on the 30th of October in 1861 under the editorship of F. Mráček.  The owners were F. Kořízek and Jan Bárta Letovský.  It could be said that Czech Caledonia had the main part in it.  This, however, altogether did not mean anything; there was little money.  In the first issue, the editor complained about the bad payment of subscriptions and impressed upon the debtors of both newspapers to pay as soon as possible.  “Without money we can buy neither paper nor printing ink,” he groaned.  However, the call was in vain.  How were three big families supposed to survive off of such an income?  Here, as a curiosity I mention the content of the first declaration of editor Mráček to the readership of National Newspaper [Národní Noviny]:

“That I all at once stopped the publishing of National Newspaper [Národní Noviny] without even giving the cause of the sudden stoppage of the newspaper, and justifying myself in front of the honorable public I very much regret and all the recriminations that I have to bear are still bitter for me.  The reader can certainly gain perspective on my difficult situation if I explain it.  It was caused by the sudden departure of the print setter who joined the Army and the impossibility to hire a new one because there was not enough money. Furthermore my long lasting sickness rendered me so incapable of everything and finally it was mainly because of the nonpayment of subscribers, some of whom still owe from the first year, and through half of the second, to which they have not even subscribed, let alone prepaid.

Franta. Mráček.”

Tomorrow we bring you even more of this wonderfully detailed story of an early Czech settlement in America and many more surnames for you to study and enjoy!

Onward To Our Past®

A Genealogical Historian, who is focused on family history and genealogy of the highest quality, but with a dose of fun. Avid about documentation and evidence. Loves helping folks of all levels in their genealogy pursuits, especially in the areas of Bohemia, Czech Republic, Italy, Cornwall, Kent, United Kingdom, U.S. Immigration and Cleveland, Ohio.

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