Today we bring you an all new, exclusive translation from the pages of the 1951 edition (Volume 73) of the fabulous Czech-American annual journal, Amerikán Národní Kalendář!

We have a new story to tell today and we provide the entire story here in one installment!  It is from a Czech immigrant to the Midwest.  He begins his story in Bohemia, tells us his parents’ names, his friends, and much more.  We follow him across the ocean and learn he lands in Baltimore, as did many Czechs (many of my ancestors as a matter of fact).  From Pennsylvania to New York, on to Chicago, then to the Army fighting in the American Indian Wars, then to Iowa and a wife!

Enjoy this wonderful story today!

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®

“Memories of Pioneer Frank J. Pelikán from Council Bluffs, Iowa.”

 1951 Pelkan image

            “I was born on the 24th of October 1869 in Čáslav in Bohemia.  My father František was born in Chotěboř and he was an excellent tanner.  My mother’s maiden name was Anna Partlová and she was originally from Opatovice.  My parents owned several acres of fields and I helped them in their work as much as I could.  I finished 6 classes of general schooling and then my parents put me into an apprenticeship to become a tailor.  This took over 2 years in Čáslav and then my father sent me to his friend in Leipzig in Saxony.  There I met two of my friends from Čáslav.  Those were Doležal and Vítek and after reaching an agreement, we decided that we would go to Chicago in America.

Of course my mother did not even want to hear about it, until I promised that in a year I would return for military service, and then only, although not very pleased, she relented.  My father did not have anything against my journey to America.  And so we three friends started our pilgrimage.  We did have some concerns that the gendarmes who were controlling the train might arrest us; however, everything turned out ok; also in Bremerhaven we encountered policemen who asked us who we were and where we were from.  We gave them false names and so, luckily, we got onto the ship that was named Necar.  It had one propeller and sails.  Soon the high tide came in and the ship started to sail.  The sea was quiet in the beginning, however, by the second day it had become stormy, and the whole six days we were thinking that the ship might sink.  The waves were flowing over the deck.  We were enclosed in the bowels of the ship, and most of us were sick.  After fourteen days we happily docked in Baltimore.  We were relieved when we finally saw American shores on March 1st, 1888.

After we left the ship we received free food, since we did not have any money anyway.  At that time it started to seem to me that in America everything is probably for free, but very soon I learned that I was mistaken.  The journey to Chicago was very long.  We wanted to eat and we did not have any money.  At a certain station in Pennsylvania the train stopped for two hours, so we went to eat at the eatery, of course thinking that everything is, once again, for free.  You would not have liked to see us when they told us what we owed them.  At that time, however, there was a signal to board the train, which we used and we disappeared as if somebody would shoot into a flock of sparrows.

Finally we got to Chicago.  We went to our acquaintances, to the Koděras, who lived on Throop St.  As a welcome for us, boys on the street threw snowballs at us and they were laughing at us since we were “greenhorns.”  I stayed in Chicago for two years and then when I got seriously sick I was in a hospital.  When I recovered somewhat, I told my friends that I planned on leaving Chicago and never returning.

I was liked by my employer who had his tailor shop facing Apollo Hall on Blue Island Ave.  His name was Gustav Rolle.  Most of the time I was among Germans, but since I had mastered their language, they did not even know that I was a Czech.  I decided to go to the West.  I left for Ft. Dodge, Iowa, where I stayed until the time when Indians started to rise up in South Dakota.  That was in August 1891.  I decided to join the service of Uncle Sam and I was assigned to an artillery battery.  The chief of the Indians against whom we were fighting was a big and strong Indian who had 6 wives and 21 sons, who behaved very courageously during the battles.  Our government lost 66 men.  The fight ended with the treacherous shooting of the Indian chief by another member of the tribe.  That was during the time when Harrison was the president of the United States.  I asked then to be discharged from the Army, which I later regretted, because I could been receiving a pension up to this day.

With Mr. Štětka in Junction City in Kansas, I once again went into the tailoring business.  In the year 1897 I married Anna, born Albrechtová.  I also became a subscriber to Amerikán, which I read to this day.

1951 Pelikan in uniform

Frank J. Pelikán in military uniform 1891

            In 1901 I took my family to see the old country, to see my mother whom I had not seen for 13 years.  After 5 months of staying in Bohemia and in Vienna we once again returned to America.  My parents are dead now and also my brother who died at the age of 82.  In October 1951, I will also be 82 years old.

I traveled through the United States twice, and I remember everything, from President Harrison up to President Truman.

I spent my youth in Chicago and in the military and I have to say that the United States is golden and I enjoyed it.  We have three children and they are:  daughters, Rosie and Margaret, and son, Frank, who fought in the First World War.  My enjoyment and hobby used to be to play on the piccolo, which I played in different bands. – My eyes do not serve me as they should.  Although I am not surprised by it after 66 years of work as a tailor.”


Tomorrow we continue to bring you more exclusive translations from the 1951 edition of Amerikán Národní Kalendář with a brand new biography right here!  You can follow our website or get automatic notices via email, so be sure to sign up at the bottom of our homepage!

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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