Welcome to our continuing exclusive translation of the 1898 article from Amerikán Národní Kalendář titled “Paměti českých osadníků v Americe” or “Memoirs of Czech Settlers in America”.
. This annual Czech-American journal is a wonderful repository of genealogy gems and first person accounts of Czech immigrants to America and their trials and tribulations, their dreams, and their successes as they form a new life in America.
Today we finish the biography of Jan Vodrážka as he moves across America from New York to South Dakota and begin the biography of Vojtěch Malý as he moves from Bohemia to the United States.
Amerikán Národní Kalendář
Volume: XXI, Year: 1898, Pages: 196-208
“Memoirs of Czech Settlers in America”
“Regarding his (Ed: Jan Vodrážka’s) money, he lent a lot to his compatriots during the passage, therefore when he arrived in Buffalo he had hardly any left and later as he went on to Detroit via the Lake, where he worked very hard until spring. Later he sailed via Lake Superior to the mining town of Ontonagon where he worked in the copper and silver mines. But due to the unhealthy water and hard work he returned to Detroit where he worked as a gear carpenter, which helped him a lot because at that time there were many vinegar factories just being established.
In 1857 he married Miss Rozalie Fiser and spent the next eight years in Detroit. He worked as a shop assistant and later as a successful shoemaker who employed 4-5 workers. When the Civil War started he saw that many American patriots were trying to avoid military service and being father of four children he left for Canada. In the fall of 1864 he settled on a farm he bought in Minden, Sanilac County, Michigan, where he lived for 22 years.
His farm was large – 220 acres and was very nice. It seems that he might well be wealthy soon, but twice the farm was destroyed by fire. First in 1871 and then again in 1881. The second fire led to the total destruction of the farm. One year later, in 1882, he went to the Dakota Territory to look around, and when he came back home he sold his property for $3,000 and moved with his whole family to the location where I met him: Brule County, near Bijou Hills, about sixteen miles from the Missouri River.
He has eleven children. Six of them are married and the remaining five not yet. Eight of them are sons and there are three daughters. Despite their ages, Mr. Vodrážka and his wife are healthy and in good spirits too. He is a passionate reader and laughs at the clerical myths.
Long live Mr. Vodrážka and we wish joy for his numerous descendants!
Vojtěch Malý of Solon, Johnson County, Iowa, was born in 1822 in Plzen (Pilsen), Bohemia. His father worked as a tailor and Vojtěch attended elementary school in Plzen. Later his father bought a small farm where the entire family worked very hard because the fields were located in a very hilly area. Vojtěch, as the oldest son, became the heir of the farm and paid to his three brothers and three sisters their portions in installments. But his financial situation suffered because of this and he began to wonder how he could improve his status.
In those times he received several letters from his relatives who were in America and who encouraged him to move there. They described life at America in beautiful colors. Vojtěch decided to make this move, but later regretted it a thousand times.
He sold his property and together with his wife and three children left home for America in 1854. They boarded a ship in Bremen and their passage last for six weeks. During their passage they suffered disasters that were a huge shock to them. Both of their young sons, who, for Malý, were the main reason for emigrating, died on the ship and were buried in the cold waters of the ocean. The immense sorrow and despair these poor parents went through can only be understood by others who suffered the same type of disaster.”
Join us tomorrow as we continue the biography of Vojtěch Malý and move farther across America with a new Czech immigrant settler.
Onward To Our Past®