Today we begin an all new exclusive translation! Today we go back to the year of 1908 and the 31st volume of the fabulous Czech-American annual journal, Amerikán Národní Kalendář.
This article tells a compelling story of early Czech settlers in the land rush of the Oklahoma Territory and gives us fantastic details about life in those times!
By the way, I bet you just might recognize the surname featured in today’s translation!
Enjoy this great story as we offer you Installment #1 today!
Amerikán Národní Kalendář
Volume: XXXI, Year: 1908, Pages 272-275
Translated by Dr. Mila Saskova-Pierce and Layne Pierce
©Onward To Our Past®
Frank Dudek. ‘The Fight for a Clump of Earth’ is how we might describe the emotional history of the agricultural ‘conquerors’ of the Wild West. This would be a fitting continuation of the mountain man stories of Dr. May, but one in which the rifle is replaced by the plow.
In this historically momentous act, which occurred on the 16th of April 1889 on the endless prairies between the Canadian and Cimarron rivers, our people played a significant role. This marked the last time when civilization overtook wasteland by attack to open it immediately to the plow. The prospect of a whole quarter of a section (160 acres) of rich land that might be obtained for free attracted thousands and thousands of men and women from all parts of America: that is, people yearning for work and home, yearning for adventure and even those that saw an opportunity to operate in a crooked way, and maybe even steal.
In this mixture the character of the Czech agriculturalist, motivated by an honest desire to fight for a clump of earth, stands out. And it is this Czech farmer whose plans corresponded best to the aims for which Oklahoma was opened, who had to suffer the most, who had the live through the bitterest injustice. His life was endangered. Murderers shot at him. He was dragged from court to court and finally, behind bars, he could think about how difficult it is to obtain through honest means a clump of earth.
Today, when any of the first Oklahoma pioneers narrate their experiences from the nineties of the last century, when you listen to them sitting on a shady veranda of a beautiful residence surrounded by shady trees in the middle of beautiful fruit orchards, then it seems to you that it is perhaps not even possible that a mere eighteen years after so many obstacles and so much adversity a human hand could create all of what you see around you. Nevertheless you will come to know the enchanting power, the magic twig that changes deserts into paradise when, saying good-bye, you feel the hard calloused palm of the farmer in your soft hand. They are disappearing. There are less and less of these men of ours in the trenches as, one after another, they lay down their careworn heads beneath the sod that they have watered with their sweat. The time is not far away when the last among them will leave for the eternal unknown and, to his descendants who are enjoying the fruit of their work, there will be nothing left in their memory– nothing but pieces of the stories that tradition has embellished. There is a need for more professional pens to record truly, for the memory of the descendants, what the first settlers had to live through in the now famously rich Oklahoma, before they had set down the foundations of the shining future of the 46th state of our Union. As far as I am allowed to do in the limited space of this periodical, I will outline several pictures from the life of our first settlers and in fact, I will begin with old Mr. Dudek from Yukon.”
Tomorrow we will continue the amazing story of life on the Western prairies for early Czechs in America. Don’t miss it!
Onward To Our Past®