Today Onward To Our Past® Genealogical History Company is pleased to present Installment #8 of our exclusive English translation of our 1881 article on the earliest Czech settlers in Minnesota. This story holds amazing details for any of us with immigrant ancestors. It tells, often in the first person, the amazing obstacles and forces our ancestors had to overcome as they sought a new life in America.
The determination, grit, strength, and perseverance of early settlers was nothing less than amazing. If you missed any earlier installments you can click here for our Amerikán Národní Kalendář Translations section of our website and catch up.
Today our settlers, finally in Minnesota, find themselves fighting winter, fire, and wolves…with more on the way.
Enjoy today’s installment.
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)
“Everyone except V. Vrtis settled in Le Sueur County. However the work of our compatriots was interrupted by the unexpected – a fire started by Indians at October, which made trouble for several weeks. Settlers had to protect their houses and their hay against the fire. For three days and nights they tried to stop the reach of the fire, but they were unsuccessful. They saved their houses but all of their hay was lost. Only Jan Bernas, Janovsky, and Petricek were able to save any of their hay.
The situation of the poor Czechs was very hard, fruits of their labor was destroyed, but they were not resigned and began to work again with diligence. Anyone who has not started a new home in the deserted countryside cannot imagine the vast troubles of the pioneers and cannot comprehend how much patience was necessary there in those times.
I will try to show to readers some sketches from the lives of the first settlers based on stories told by M. Borak and Fr. Bruzek.
Fr. Bruzek, V. Vrtis, and Stepka had to spend the whole winter in a hut made from branches and covered only by hay. Three families lived in a hut without a chimney or any windows other than just one very small window. To be protected from the very cold weather they covered the walls of the house by mud to a height of several feet. They used one cow, which belonged to F. Bruzek and a pair of oxen, owned by V. Vrtis. They built a log house also for the cattle but they could not roof it because they did not have enough hay for a roof of any kind. They bought several chickens for 25 cents each and two piglets for $11 each.
In family of Fr. Bruzek poverty reigned for a long time. Bread was made just from corn only, for flour they had to go to Shakopee, where it was selling at one hundred pounds for $2.50. When they did go for flour they had to bring axes to make signs for their path and wear bells on their necks to call people in the case that they would find themselves to be in danger. They then had to walk back home with bags full of flour on their shoulders and backs. Bruzek says that for a whole two years the family did not eat any meat. Later at Shakopee he bought about 10 pounds of bacon from one lady. He fed his cow for the whole winter, but when the snow finally disappeared in the spring, the cow started to fail and soon died. Thereafter they had no milk for the children. They cut the meat into small pieces to feed chickens with it. 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 a pile of dirt and ate everything, leaving just one piece of meat.”
Tomorrow we continue with this amazing recounting of the lives of these settlers as they fight not only wolves and fire, but far more.
Onward To Our Past®