Today we continue with our exclusive translation of “Paměti českých osadníků v Americe” translated as “Memoirs of Czech Settlers in America” from the Czech-American annual journal Amerikán Národní Kalendář in the year 1898.
This journal holds some of the most priceless first-person accounts of early Czech immigrants across America from the 1800s and 1900s.
Today we continue with the story of Vojtěch Dolejš, learn one of the reasons it may be so difficult to find the burial locations of some of our ancestors, we see Vojtech arrive in Minnesota, and what he did during the Indian Uprising, which just might bring a smile to your face.
Amerikán Národní Kalendář
Volume: XXI, Year: 1898, Pages: 196-208
“Memoirs of Czech Settlers in America”
“Let’s allow Dolejš to tell his story:
“It was good money and good food, but there were also two to three funerals daily. What did the funerals look like? They used two barrels, which were used for cement before, joined together with the dead body just pushed inside. When it was lowered down into the hole, it was covered with earth without any words or ceremonies. I had spent one month there and came back to St. Louis. Then I continued on to a healthier zone – to Dubuque.
I worked as a day laborer, but when I got there but somebody said: we should go to Minnesota to claim land! I was still an unmarried guy in those times. I had some money I had saved up already and adding a good rifle and an axe you had all the property I owned. We went to St. Paul, where no Czechs lived at that times. From that town we sailed via the Mississippi River for two and a half days and landed in Shakopee. From that place we rented carriage to go on to Nova Praha, which consisted of just one log cabin (10 x 12), inhabited by just one Czech by the name of Lanik (Bruzek).
In the surrounding area also lived Vrtis, Burak, Hanzl, Herman, Kajer, Bernas, Petricka and Suchomel. The best plots had been already claimed by settlers from Luxembourg. Therefore I, accompanied by Rynda and Fr. Maryska,, went eight or nine miles to the south and each of us claimed 160 acres. We established a settlement there and named it Nemanice. Later on it was once renamed as Budejovice. Now it is called Montgomery. It was in November 1854 and the level of the snow reached our knees. We built huts from timbers and covered it with clay. I was happy that I brought stove as without it we would likely not have survive winter!”
That was the story of Vojtěch Dolejš as told by him.
When he settled there at the age of twenty-seven years he started to think about marriage. He went back to St. Louis and found a job as a cooper there. He befriend one local Czech girl and married her. Her name was Barbora Zahradnik and she was from Vacikov, near Rozmital.
As a faithful wife she followed him back to the deserted areas of Minnesota and they also witnessed the Indian Uprising together. White people, including Dolejš, had to hide themselves in the bushes as they were afraid of the redskins. Vojtěch Dolejš will tell about this in his own words again:
“It was perhaps the third day when one German, who knew English already, pushed us to go to fight against the Indians because the law ordered it and it also said those who will refuse to fight would be shot. Therefore thirty of us, men armored with scythes, forks, axes, and some who also had rifles (but some of the guns did not work) and we went. We did not have enough bread, some men walked barefooted, but we had a lot of ammunition instead. As my commander said we were going to fulfill the law. However, when we were two to three miles away one of us said: ‘Dear friends, where we will our bones end? We have wives and children and when the Indians kill us, who will look after them?’ After his speech, we all decided to go home, including our commander. This was a good Idea, because had we seen just one Indian in the forest, all of us would have collapsed from fear, including our commander.”
Be with us tomorrow as we continue to follow the life of Vojtěch Dolejš as he continues in the pursuit of dream of a new life in America.
Onward To Our Past®