Onward To Our Past® is pleased to bring you today’s installment of our exclusive genealogy biographic translation from the 1898 edition of the Czech-American annual journal Amerikán Národní Kalendář. We continue with the article “Paměti českých osadníků v Americe” or “Memoirs of Czech Settlers in America”.
Today we introduce you to Jan Vodrážka who came from Bohemia to America in 1854 and settled in Eagle, Brule County, South Dakota. His is yet another amazing story of grit, determination, strength, and fortitude as he follows his dream of a new life in the United States.
Amerikán Národní Kalendář
Volume: XXI, Year: 1898, Pages: 196-208
“Memoirs of Czech Settlers in America”
He attended a so called Ultraquist school, i.e. school where classes were taught in both the Czech and German languages. He also had to attend memorization lessons on Sundays, which the older compatriots remember very well. Trained to be both a miller and a baker, as a journeyman he started his travels in his 19th year. First he went to Prague and later to Brandys and as a miller-journeyman “krajanek”. He followed the Labe (Elbe) River going as far as Vrchlabi. Also he worked at various mills located on the Jizera River and Cidlina River. He worked in Bohemian towns of Nymburk, Teplice, Decin and Usti nad Labem. He also worked in the town of Zittau located in Lusatia and he remembers the memorial of “Three Rulers”, which he saw on the road.
When his “wanderbuch” (a passport for travelling journeymen that is necessary in the Austrian
Empire even today) was over, he returned home via Prague. He recognized that once back at his home he would likely be drafted into the army soon. So he decided to travel again. He went to Austria, then via Vienna to Moravia, and from Brno to Hungary. For some time he worked in Velehrad and then went back home again. Later he went to Prague to work at Sitka’s mills, which are located at the border of Podskali and Zofin Island.
In that time (it was 1848) the revolutionary events began in Prague. Vodrážka, as did most of the millers and other good Czechs, participated in the bloody defeat during the Pentecost Revolution too.
But when General Windischgraetz, defeated the Uprising in Prague Vodrážka had to leave the town immediately. Hidden, and during the dark of night, he travelled via flatboat thanks to the aid of a friendly guard on the upper barge he landed at Podol and from there he ran to Pankrac, where he caught a stagecoach to Tabor.
But he only spent 24 hours there because his mother had a nightmare, which the Vodrazkas saw as foreboding for the escaper. Thinking about the proverb “Under the candlestick is the darkest place” he went back to Prague and actually was not prosecuted there. But when he went back to Tabor (respectively to the Kostsky Mill) his troubles started. He could not be seen around the town and for almost six years he tried to avoid military service, via his journeyman-travelling, or as the millers say “krajannkovani”. After a very long time and multiple requests he finally received his passport to America. At this time he was already almost 28 years old.
Tomorrow we continue with our story of Jan Vodrážka as he begins his journey across America!
Onward To Our Past®