Onward To Our Past® is pleased to present the newest installment of our exclusive English translation of the 1898 article from the Czech-American annual journal Amerikán Národní Kalendář titled “Paměti českých osadníků v Americe” or “Memoirs of Czech Settlers in America”.
Today we continue with the biography of Czech immigrant, Martin Nový, as he prepares to leave Bohemia after serving in the Austrian army and introduce you to our next Czech immigrant settler, Jan Heck.
Amerikán Národní Kalendář
Volume: XXI, Year: 1898, Pages: 196-208
“Paměti českých osadníků v Americe” or “Memoirs of Czech Settlers in America”.
“Nový was trained to be a bricklayer and carpenter and later he worked in the coal mines until he was twenty years old. Later he would have to wear the tight jacket of the Austrian soldier. He served in the military for a long time and after ten years and eight months, he was finally released from his obligation. With his regiment he served at many different places and in 1840 battled in the military campaign against Italy. When he came back home in 1852 he married and as a military veteran he was rewarded with a job as a forester.
This occupation was not very well suited to him and Nový served in this post for only three and a half years. Thanks to the military service he knew about another countries and their people and because he wished to improve his situation he decided to leave his home for America, which was seen as ‘El Dorado’ for all unsatisfied men in those times.
He sailed in 1856 together with wife and 3 children, accompanied by several other families. They boarded in Bremen and went to Baltimore. They arrived there after only nine weeks of good sailing. But they were hit by disaster in Bremen because one of their cildren became sick and died shortly after their arrival there.
From Baltimore they went to Chicago and from that town continued, together with the families of Smidl, Blecha, and Kalous to Iowa City, Iowa. But Nový did not stay there and continued on to Washington County, where together with Mat. Blecha, he bought 40 acres.
Their beginnings were very hard, but both of them were trained carpenters and those skills helped them a lot. They chopped down trees, transported them to a saw mill, and from the boards and leftovers they built buildings for the newcomers. But the work paid poorly often just twenty cents a day and sometimes it would happen that they would not get paid at all. After about three years of this hard work and saving all they could Nový bought 120 acres near Riverside, where he lives today around several other old, retired Czech farmers. They meet each other at drugstore of Mr. Triska, where they enjoy talking and joking a lot.
His marriage was blessed with seven children, but only five of them are still living at this time. His oldest son was kicked by a horse during the Civil War and he died from his injuries a short time after that. All of the living children are married and Nový can afford to rest a bit now.
Despite the fact that his health is not well he still likes to get up early in order to fish in a river located nearby because fishing is his favorite sport.
Jan Heck from Riverside, Iowa, was born in 1838 in Hvozdany, Tabor kraj, where his parents had a small farm. He attended a school until he was 12 years old. This was when his father transferred his farm to Jan’s older brother, Vaclav, and went to America.”
Tomorrow we continue with the story of Jan Heck as he arrives in America and begins his search for a new future in the United States.
Onward To Our Past®