We continue with our wonderful story from the 1951 edition of Amerikán Národní Kalendář!
This is the continuation of the biography of Josef and Marie Kessler. So far we have followed them from Moravia to Chicago and now into Iowa. Their lives have not been easy, but their determination to forge a new life is evident!
Enjoy today’s installment. If you missed installment #1, click here to catch up!
Amerikán Národní Kalendář
Year: 1951, Volume: LXXIII, Pages: 117-144
“Old Settlers’ Memories”
Translated from the original Czech by Dr. Mila Saskova-Pierce and Layne Pierce
©Onward To Our Past®
“Forty Years of Happy Common Life of Spouses Josef and Marie Kessler”
“Several days later Mr. Kouba wrote asking whether we would come or not, so with very little joy, therefore, we left on January 7, 1912, since on the farm there was a regular job from 5 o’clock in the morning till 8 in the evening. Our first daughter, little Marie, was ten months old. We could not really devote time to her. She caught cold and she cried – which they did not like, and so I was let go in March of 1912. We came to the farm with almost nothing. We were working only for food. For necessary expenses we had to borrow money. In addition to this we suffered because we knew only the Czech language. I did not where we would go…
One day Mr. Kouba came to see me with a new hope for us. He was willing to get me a job on the railroad. I did not know such work, but there was the possibility to go somewhere and establish our own household.
Towards the end of the month of March 1912 Mr. Kouba drove us to the small town Elberon, and he introduced us to Mr. Jakub Kučera, our new employer, who was maintaining 7 miles of double rail for the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Company. Mr. Kučera took us to a small house near the railroad that belonged to the company. It had five rooms around a nice grass yard, trees and a little bit of field to be worked, and so once again it was a beginning for us. Still that year we grew enough vegetables and potatoes for the winter and we had several chickens.
I worked for Mr. Kučera for five and a half years, at 15 cents an hour. – During the winter I worked half-time. Day after day I received 67 and a half cents. From this nice salary we paid off the debt. We were paying debts for our home in Bohemia and we had even a little bit left.
On the 7th of September 1917 we moved from Elberon to Belle Plaine, Iowa, about 12 miles closer to Chicago, where I worked once again on the railroad and that was the Chicago and Northwestern. In Belle Plaine our life stated to be somewhat merrier. We met several Czech families. We were visiting each other and enjoying time with them otherwise. Later we even went to Cedar Rapids. – We remember happily the nice house that the spouses Pecha rented out to us.
When one thing was satisfying us, another was making our life bitter. – In 1918 there was a sickness in the family. We had four daughters: Marie, Růžena, Millie and Libuše. Little Libuše was then six months old. All of them caught the flu, only Libuše and I did not. I changed my job to nights, so that during the day I could help everybody and do the most necessary work. When the New Year 1919 was welcomed —-my wife was very low. I was afraid that those were her last moments. Towards the spring, when she started already to recover from the sickness, she went to visit a neighbor and she brought the flu back, and the next two months she once again spent in bed.
Towards the end of the year 1921 we planned to buy our own home, however we did not enjoy this idea for a long time since my wife once again fell ill, and was taken to the hospital in Cedar Rapids for an operation. Our savings were gone by the spring. After the operation my wife was weak for a long time, and she could not resist any sickness. The doctor advised us to move to a different state. One day I wrote about it to my brother who lived in Chicago and for a long time already had been working in Cicero in the factory of Blakesley and Corporation as a machinist.”
Our story is not yet complete! Tomorrow we continue and conclude this detailed and interesting biography of one Czech-immigrant couple, their lives, their times, and their family!
Onward To Our Past®