In 1880 the editors of Amerikán Národní Kalendář published a series of four questions sent in from readers of their annual journal. These readers were from Bohemia and they were seeking information on what areas of the United States might be good ones for them to immigrate to in order to establish farms. The editors then followed up the following year, in 1881, and published at least some of the responses they had received answering those four questions.
From a genealogy perspective this article is important for several reasons. First, it provides those all important first-person accounts of what life was like for our Bohemian (Czech) ancestors in the later half of the 1800s in the United States. Second, it gives us an insight into how their compatriots who were still in the ‘Old Country’ were influenced in their choices of where they might chose to live in the States. Third, it gives us some surnames from the various locations the letters originated. Finally, it might give some researchers new ideas of how to investigate the possibilities of chain migration patterns based on this type of article and the locations discussed and promoted.
Onward To Our Past is pleased to provide here the first installment (of three) of this exclusive English translation. We trust you will find it interesting and enjoyable.
Now let’s see what Jiri Rubes had to say!
Amerikán Národní Kalendář
WHERE TO SETTLE IN AMERICA?
“In April, 1880 we published four questions that were sent to us from Bohemia and written by people who were thinking about emigrating. They wished to have these questions answered by some of our experienced compatriots.
The questions were:
1. In which state will we find larger parcels of land for settlement by Czech farmers?
2. If a farmer wished to buy a farm of a value circa $10,000 – $14,000 would there be ample farm laborers there to be able to care for the whole farm and how expensive to hire them?
3. What do the contracts between farmers and laborers look like in various states?
4. Is it possible to find tenants for larger farms who can lease some land so the whole farm prospers and does well and what do the terms and conditions, look like for that?
We received following answers:
I. “From Iowa
Answer 1) – I think that in most states it depends on what you will like. There are the so called cold states of Wisconsin and Minnesota, although in the southern parts of Wisconsin and of Minnesota even it is possible to harvest some nice corn. What is not possible is to get anywhere near the plants as in Bohemia nor in fertile Melnik. Perhaps you will only grow a few plants in your garden.
Next is Iowa. In its northern part there are almost no corn fields at all. Farmers prefer wheat there because one, it brings them a bigger profit. In central Iowa farms produce a lot of wheat and a lot of corn, both with great success. That is if the land is well cultivated and no disaster appears. Oats always grow well, but only few farmers care to plant them. Barley grows well also, but it is not visible here in large number.
In Nebraska, Kansas and Dakota, a lot of farmers from Wisconsin and from Iowa have settled. They are prosperous despite the fact that sometimes the Egyptian peril, i.e. locusts appear and will eat everything. When we will look closer at the States everywhere we see farmers who came here with empty hands, without money, but now prosper very well. They have nice farms, plenty of cattle, cows, pigs, nice horses etc. It would not be possible to get this in Bohemia, despite all the hard work – especially under today’s government.
Answer 2). Anyone who has $10,000 or even $15,000, the one can easily choose in the mentioned states the best cultivated farms and will be welcomed everywhere. He can get a lot of farm laborers anywhere. The accorded wages for them have some small differences in the various States. Here in Iowa we pay $1.50 during harvest season, but only 75 cents for thrashing or for thinning the corn. However 100 miles more to the north farmers pay $2.00, $2.25 – $2.50 daily at harvest season. For thrashing they pay a half of that. According wage for a month will be the same everywhere I think: from $10 to $13 monthly. The only difference is that in the north laborers are used throughout the whole year, whereas in our area we employ them for only 3, 6, or 9 months.
Answer 3). The situation is in the mentioned states is almost the same in each except with small differences. Farm laborers are treated here as a member of family, as an equal man, unlike in Bohemia, where he is considered as some kind of inferior creature. In Bohemia there is one table reserved for the farmer and his family, where they are served white dumplings, roast, and white kolache. But farm laborers are sitting at another table, where they are served just soup with peeled barley, dumplings made from far worse flour, some peas or lentils while the farmer’s wife serves for them carefully only one spoon of butter or lard.
But here at America everybody eats equally at the same table, the same food: roast meat, etc.
Answer 4). Yes it is possible. In previous times the tenant’s pay to the farm owner was 1/3 of his crops now it is 2/5 in the case where the tenant works with their own draught cattle and tools. But when the farmer lends him draught cattle and tools, and feed for the cattle, the farm owner will receive 2/3 or $3 for each acre in cash.
Regarding the request for sending descriptions of various states and areas, it is possible to get plenty of ones, but I think that it would not be helpful. Komenský (Ed: Jan Amos Komenský) was a wise man, saying: “There is not any truth that cannot be covered by some smart little cloud.”
The areas are too vast to be described in any greater detail, but if the people asking us are wealthy ones, they should send 2-3 men to check out the situation here. It would be a wise thing before settling here. I think that for many of our compatriots they will find open opportunities that cannot even be imagined at home in the poor Old Country.
Coming tomorrow — the continuation of “Where to Settle in America?”
If you haven’t yet, be sure to sign up for automatic notices of updates on our site at http://OnwardToOurPast.com. We will never, ever sell, rent, share, etc. the email address of any of our readers. Never, ever. So you can sign up with confidence.
Onward To Our Past