Welcome to today’s installment of the amazing story of Czech immigrant settlers in America. This story comes from the 1881 edition of the wonderful Czech-American journal Amerikán Národní Kalendář. This annual journal holds some of the most valuable first person accounts of our Czech ancestors across America. It was published for 79 years and was hugely popular.
We think you will be fascinated with today’s installment as our Czech settlers fight wolves at their doors (or on their roofs actually) and now Native Americans as well.
Amerikán Národní Kalendář
Volume: IV, Year: 1881, Pages: 166-177
CZECH SETTLEMENTS IN MINNESOTA AND THEIR SETTLERS (Česká Osada v Minnesotě a její Osadníci)
(Collected by Hynek Breuer)
“They left the meat on the roof of their log house so it would not be eaten by wolves, but the wolves climbed up from pile of dirt and ate everything, leaving just one piece of meat.
The son of M. Borak found in the forest an Indian trap (a mantrap with double springs) for game and he took it.
The remaining piece of meat they used as a bait for the wolf. They fixed the mantrap to a hayrack that was so heavy it needed two men to bring it. After sunset Vrtis came back home saying the wolf was trapped and now he would go and kill him. But Bruzek was afraid there could be more of wolves and decided to wait and go there in the morning. But the wolf chewed through the hayrack, which was five inches in width, and ran away with the mantrap. The hayrack was moved almost 3 feet from where it had been.
Bruzek could not afford to buy a new cow so he had to wait for two years when the calf became a grown cow. Four years later he had saved enough money to buy oxen for work. Before the next winter Bruzek built a log house, but to be protected against the cold, he dug so deep an excavation that the log house was hidden in it. The log house had just one window, the roof was on the same level as the ground, and the room was downstairs. In this wet and dark room the family lived for several years.
Other settlers had similar troubles to overcome and because they were unexperienced, they suffered all kinds of kinds of troubles that could have possibly be avoided.
There are a lot of stories there were told by them, but I have to mention their adventures with the Indians. For three years the settlers lived with the Indians peacefully and often visiting them especially in the winter, begging for food, saying always just “I am hungry”, because they did not know any more English. Sometimes they would bring game they had killed and offered to barter with it for flour, bread, or some piece of clothing. They never asked for meat, but bread they loved very much! The Czechs were afraid of the Indians and the Indians were afraid of the white people, too. Sometimes an Indian would come into the living areas to be warmed a bit, but all the time he would hold his rifle as if he were ready to shoot, and when he would walk away as he receded to the doors he would be looking around constantly.
Once there was a fight between the Sioux against the Chippewa nearby in Shakopee and they were shooting at each other over the Minnesota River. The white settlers in the Shakopee area supported the Sioux tribe. (Ed: The ‘Sioux’ a Native American term which translate to ‘snake’ was the name given to the tribe by the Ojibway and actually this was the Dakota Tribe.
During the Civil War the whole of Minnesota was imperiled by the uprisings by the Indians, who plundered and burned white settlements and did not save the lives of the settlers.
The reason for the uprising was that Indians did not receive promised support from the U.S. Government for several years. Therefore they would go out visiting farms asking for some bread. But a lot of white farmers cheated them very badly, asking for large amounts of money for just the smallest piece of food. The Indians became understandably angry because of this.”
Tomorrow we see the relations with the Native Americans become ever more strained and dangerous.
Onward To Our Past®