Today Onward To Our Past® is pleased to bring you today’s new installment (number 7) of our exclusive translation from the Czech-American annual journal Amerikán Národní Kalendář from 1898. This article is titled “Paměti českých osadníků v Americe” or “Memoirs of Czech Settlers in America”.
We continue today following Jan Faktor from Montgomery, Minnesota. These biographies and stories of some of the earliest Czech immigrants to America are filled with wonderful details and tidbits of historic information that can help any of us who are working on our Czech genealogy.
Enjoy today’s installment!
Amerikán Národní Kalendář
Volume: XXI, Year: 1898, Pages: 196-208
“Memoirs of Czech Settlers in America”
“He (Ed: Jan Faktor) walked to the town (Ed: New Vienna, Iowa) and spent four and a half years there mostly working as a woodworker and partly by selling timber. In the last 18 months of his stay he had only day laborer jobs. So Mr. Faktor went to St. Paul where he found work as a mason. In the end of 1860 he moved to his plot of land near where today’s Montgomery is. He owned an area of 80 acres, which he bought (for 2 dollar for each acre) while he was still living in Dubuque, although he had never seen it before he bought it.
Those who know a farm only from books or from the windows of a passing train cannot begin to imagine the inhumane, hard work that tried to destroy the bodies and spirits of the first settlers in the forest, hilly area of central Minnesota (and of another states in the same area). Every piece of bread they had to get from the rough land with violence – cutting the old trees, moving stumps away from morning to night, and digging drains to dry the numerous swamps that were there.
They had to wait for their first harvest, which rewarded their hard work, for one year and sometimes even longer. Very often this hard work of our first pioneers was interrupted by raids made by restless Indians, by illnesses of family members, or by a lack of money. In the last case women and children stayed at home and men went somewhere else to work as day laborers. When they again came back home they continued in their struggles with untamed nature. A lot of warm hearts and wise heads fell down sooner than their goal was reached. It would be possible to write a lot of novels about this!
But it was necessary to continue in this work and our settlers did it. Luckily most of them were successful enough to be able to purchase a larger piece of property, which finally provided them a quiet, comfortable life for their last years. Our Jan Faktor had to overcome all these hard beginnings of farmers here with the exception of fighting against the redskins. He did not have to defend his farm, life, and family against them, because they were not hostile towards him. The only time he met them was when they came to beg.
But living with his family alone in such a deserted area often almost led to despair. The married couple wished to leave their home several times, but thanks to their diligence and sobriety they stayed there for twenty-two years. Today Mr. Faktor, together with his wife Anna, have already been retired for fifteen years and they live in their own house in Montgomery. The farm was sold to their son Vaclav. Their second son, Vojtech, owns a shoe-shop in Montgomery. In the same town live two of his married daughters. The third daughter lives in Tacoma, Washington.”
Tomorrow we finish the story of Jan Faktor and move across the country to follow a new Czech immigrant settler. We guarantee it will be another wonderful and eye-opening account.
Onward To Our Past®