The following is the first ever translation from the original Czech to English of “Memoirs of Czech Settlers In America” from the 1895 Edition of Amerikán Národní Kalendář.
Memoirs of Czech Settlers in America.
Accounts of the arrival of the first compatriots and of conditions in Czech settlements.
Francis Xaver Sýkora was born in December of 1825 in Nevězice u Orlíka nad Vltavou. His father was a tailor, while little František, having only just completed primary school, where he learnt thoroughly to write and count, was to start learning how to handle thread, needle and tape measure. He, however, did not despise that, and before long took to this art with great enthusiasm and love, some years later distinguishing himself as a garment cutter of great skill and renown. Paying no heed to the stormy climate of 1848, he entered the serene haven of marriage, living but for his young wife and vocation. Early in 1850, however, very tempting letters from America started cropping up around him, moving the hearts of the young married couple to emigrate. This was in 1853. Accompanied by two children, they embarked onto the deck of a sailing boat, nourishing hopes for a better future in their hearts. There were 400 or so emigrants on board, yet only one other among them a Czech – young Prošek. It was one of the speediest and most elaborate boats of the company, for which reason, in spite of a storm dreadful and near-perpetual, they landed at the shores of America within a mere 31 days, other ships at the time (as we later learned) taking up to 99 days.
Words cannot describe the bliss they felt once they set foot on firm ground again, despite the fact they were poor in material resources, even though they left home with abundant finances. The problem being that expatriates were dreadfully overcharged in port cities, many a well-known carriage agent growing rich on the toil of the poor immigrants. Once in America, the unsuspecting victims were completely powerless without means of redress from their perpetrator, seeing they lacked the financial means to do so, while ignorant of where to address their grievance. At the time, today’s honest and influential Czech magazines had not yet formed, nor the speedy communication across the pond. Leaving little recourse for the victims but to remain quiet and swallow the losses. At the time, one would consider themselves lucky to free themselves from the hands of carriage agents and hoteliers with at least their luggage. Many had lost all their belonging to these scoundrels, such as their duvets and clothing, and were often forced to write out a promissory note, which they then had to repay later. An entire novel could be written on this subject alone (as could be told by his wife). Immediately upon his arrival to Cleveland, František accepted the job of a garment cutter in one of the largest clothes manufacturing company in town (Wagemann’s), for a salary of $1,200 per year and complimentary housing. Those were good times, especially for good tailors, where anyone could earn and save up a handsome sum within a single year. František worked at the company for a long time, later starting a business of his own, where he continued for 10 years, switching to property trading after that, which he ran successfully until 1887.
However, at the start of that year, his health waned and he died at the age of 62. Out of eight children from their happy marriage, only four survived him – a daughter and four boys. One was František P. Sýkora, who, having read law in Cleveland, practiced law starting in 1873 and relocating to Edgewood, Wyoming 20 years later. Another was Josef Sýkora, born in Cleveland in 1853 and who began his studies in medicine in 1869, graduating as a physician in 1869 and commencing full practice by 1876. In the same year he was named a district physician, an office he proudly held for three and a half years.
At present, Dr. Josef Sýkora is one of the most popular Czech physicians in Cleveland, as much loved for his noble-mindedness, good heart and helpfulness as he is respected and esteemed for his knowledge and learnedness in medical matters. Many a poor family blesses him and wishes him the best for his many good deeds during his medical career. Karel, the second son, was born in 1867 and studied medicine also. The daughter, Alžběta, married J. F. Trojan, one of the most prominent clothes trader on Broadway. Sýkora’s kinsfolk are numerous and include the best and most patriotic of Cleveland families, such as Spurný, Kužla, and others.
Francis Xaver Sýkora was very active patriotically. He was a good and well-behaved descendant of his native country, striving to nurture the same devotion, fervor and love for it among his children as he held with his beloved.
Old Mrs. Sýkorová, a faithful partner of his, now spends the final days of her life in the family of her beloved son, Dr. Josef Sýkora, in peace and happiness, loved and pampered by her children and grandchildren.
Josef Kříž was born in 1820, in Lhota Smetanová, Písek District. He was the only son of Josef Kříž, a cooper/barrel maker. He was trained as a cooper in the house of his father, marrying in 1850. His marriage blessed him with one child, who, unfortunately, passed away shortly. In 1853 he too was swept away by the expatriate rush and, with his wife, sailed across to America – directly to Cleveland, where he immediately found work, well salaried at the time, in one of the barrel making workshops. There he labored for many years, and being thrifty, managed to secure his own abode in only a few years.
Over the course of time his family increased by six members – two boys and 4 girls, one of whom died. His son Vilém moved to New York, while Jan became a cigar maker. His daughter Marie married Mr. František Prayer in 1870, and Mathilda got engaged to an American, Cully, in 1886. Lastly, Barbora became the wife of Mr. Antonín Jílek.
Josef Kříž was very active in societies, and was one of frontmost founding members of the St. John Society, the first catholic society in Cleveland.
He lost his first spouse in 1866. A year later he married a second time, another happy marriage in which he lived with his wife until 1891, when she, too, passed away. Now an elderly gentleman, at the age of 73, Josef is still of active mind, telling stories of his tales in America with such enthusiasm that he always draws a crowd. He lives happily in the midst of his many and loving offspring in a quaint little house on Warren Street.
Martin Krejčí. One of foremost and outstanding of figures, selflessly contributing to the national life of the emerging Czech emigration, was certainly Martin Krejčí. Perhaps there is not a single Czech in Cleveland who did not know him, either in person or by name, and all the older settlers greatly respect him for the selfless work he carried out over the years for the advancement of our native culture.
Martin Krejčí’s name is closely tied to Czech history in Cleveland, as there was not a single enterprise, national or noble-minded, since the 60s in which Krejčí had not played an active part. For he was a spring that animated our cultural heritage, giving it proper direction and tirelessly campaigning to make the social life of the small cluster of Cleveland’s Czechs alluring and pleasant. For which reason many will surely welcome a brief biography of him as well.
Martin Krejčí was born in 1829 in the village of Mahoušt u Netolle, where his parents owned a large farm. Upon completing preparatory school he fully dedicated himself to the farmstead, and, being relatively young, he became engaged to Rosalie Davidova of Malý Záblatec. Shortly after that, very tempting letters began pouring in from America, after which the jaunty and enterprising young man mustered the resolve to try his luck in the new, promised land.
In 1841 [barely legible] he realized his new dream, cashing in all his material wealth and departing to America on a sailing ship. But had he known the trouble he was to endure and the dangers he and his family would be exposed to, surely he would have not found the resolve to relocate into such a faraway land.
The voyage lasted a full 90 [barely legible] days, the family enduring countless woe and misfortune along the way. The sailing vessel was tightly crammed with more than 1400 emigrants, most of them the poorest of Ireland. The fare was exorbitant, while anyone found complaining was promptly beaten. A fierce, 43 day storm tossed the boat like a floating seashell, the passengers fearing to step out on deck lest they be cast away by the mighty ocean waves. Every day they confronted gigantic icebergs, circumventing them proving a real art. Eventually the tempest subsided, all became quiet and the passengers rejoiced. But the calm was brief, as a fire broke out in the kitchen four days later—a good fortune it had been sighted as a collective effort prevented it from sinking the entire boat.
The extent of the trials and tribulations of emigrants back then are difficult to put into words, and neither is the moment of ecstasy felt when seeing the sight of the promised land for the first time. Ecstacy permeating the being, as the distraught ship fairers cast their gaze on their new homeland, where they hoped to build a new and happy future for themselves and their descendants.
They arrived to Cleveland on the 7th of April, 1854, 13 Czech families among them, the most prominent of them Štědronský, Hlavlíček, Vltoň, Mácha, Kocian, Fuerst, Vrána and Drábek. What are now the lively and commercial streets of Croton, Woodland Ave., Broadway and surrounding areas was, at the time, uninterrupted woodland with newly cut streets, barely visible.
Upon accumulating sufficient funds, Krejčí founded the first Czech shop in this very young settlement, eventually becoming a center for all Czech expatriates.
Czech emigration continued during the sixties and no sooner had the small settlement surpassed 200 families when outstanding more inspired individuals began to contemplate the creation of Czech cultural associations. It is through the work of Martin Krejčí and others that the foundations of Slovanská Lípa were laid, followed later by Pokrok Magazine, of which the editor was, as is well known, B. F. Zdrůbek, now the editor of Svornost.
Martin Krejčí, therefore, contributed greatly to the development of Czech cultural life in Cleveland, his influence broadly felt still today.
But sadly, his family life experienced less favor, Krejčí suffering many a cruel wound. From his first, otherwise happy marriage, only one child out of eight survived—a daughter and still unmarried. His second marriage was more successful, both blessed and happy, comprising of seven children aged between 1 and 18, content and with good prospects.
His business life had its ups and downs, as is usually expected, but presently flourishes with an outstanding reputation, even outside the bounds of Cleveland.
This writer wishes him further success and the fulfillment of all his desires and aspirations.
František Sprostý was born in Hrejkovice, district of Milevsko, on 9 January 1820. He was trained in the tailors’ trade in Týn nad Vltavou [not very legible], and having married Anna Cukr in Milevsko, he exercised this skill there until 1866. As his 4 sons were maturing, he sent the eldest to America, lest he be conscripted into the army; but he too set out with his family to cross the big pond during the winter of 1866. The voyage from Bremen to New York on the sailing ship Atlanta was stormy and lasted 53 days, longer than the onboard food store was able to furnish. The food quality was already a problem and many Czech families were on board.
Upon his arrival to Cleveland, where he was expected by his brother-in-law Josef Doubrava, he was forced to take day labor, since only women were accepted into tailoring positions. As someone trained in tailoring garments for women, it was little wonder that day laboring did not suit Mr. Sprostý. Later he set up a small grocery and butcher shop, which he successfully operated until 1885 [not very legible].
At the time, Czech cultural life was only pursued among Cleveland Czechs at family parties, as Czech public houses existed not. As late as 1891, Mr. Sprostý still travelled to Prague to visit the Exhibition , but on 9 October 1893 he parted forever with his family and his numerous friends. His wife, four sons, and a daughter were left behind in good financial standing. One of his sons, Josef Sprostý, is now a renowned detective in Cleveland.
František Payer. Few Cleveland Czechs went through as many life changes and rapid swings between happiness and misfortune as did František Payer. His biography is as interesting as are commendable his activities in public and societal life.
František Payer was born in 1842 in Čimelice, in Březnice County, Písek Region. Having trained to be a maltster , he was conscripted to join the 2nd Dragoon Bohemian Regiment in 1863 (Windisch-Graetz’s) , and took part in wars against Denmark in 1864 and against Prussia in 1866, earning a medal. On the battlefield he was promoted to the rank of non-commissioned officer. In the first year he was sent to the Regimental School in Stará Boleslav, and then awarded the title of field secretary colonel and body guard of Colonel Count of Windisch-Graetz.
At the same time he attended the Regimental School in Meidling [not very legible], where he was awarded a prize for riding, and promised the position of Squadron Lieutenant as soon one became available. Until then, however, he was detailed to assist the First Squadron Lieutenant, and was given the responsibility to teach fencing with sabre to non-commissioned officers, and the German language and fencing to cadets and budding, non-commissioned officers. In 1866 he was wounded in combat and believed to be dead. František Cerha celebrated mass for him on the battlefield, while another one was celebrated in his hometown.
Mr. Payer explains this only because the regiment comprised of Czechs from all regions, and given the above description, his fellow ex-servicemen might be able to recall their ex-service comrade, both in the time of peace and in the turmoil of war.
In 1868 his parents demanded his release from military service with the intention of surrendering to him the family firm and hotel business. At that time younger brother Emanuel was to attend conscription, but his parents, in order to safeguard him from the hardship of war and the misery of military life, sent him to America, František following his footsteps in the same year. In 1870 he married the eldest daughter of Josef Kříž, who had emigrated to America in 1853. This marriage spawned 10 children, although five of them have since then passed away. The oldest, František Harry, [not very legible] successfully graduated from high school last year, and now attends university (Adalbert College) studying classical languages. His daughter Mamie is currently studying university, 16-year-old [not very legible] Kattie is in the second year of a higher vocational school, and Millie and Blanche are currently in elementary school. All his children are fluent in Czech—both spoken and written—and are ardently devoted to mother Czechia, for at an early age their parents instilled love for the homeland in their tender hearts, introducing them to the history of our illustrious ancestors.
In his business life, František underwent many changes and suffered many bitter experiences. Between 1869 and 1872 he worked for several breweries. In 1873, however, he and his associate, Leising, built their own, independent brewery, which produced good quality and sought-after beer. Later though Leising pulled out and was replaced by Mr. Jan Tlapa. That year turned out to be a very bad year for the brewing industry, there being no ice as a consequence of a disappointingly warm winter (ice-making machines did not exist back then), its price climbing to $25 [not very legible] per ton. Malt was $ [not legible] per bushel , the cost of hops proportional. This all inflated costs dramatically, while money was in short supply. Eventually they were forced to abandon their aspiration, František opening an independent grocery & butcher store instead, which he runs diligently to this day, supported in full by his faithful wife.
Josef Václav Sýkora was born on 21 March 1840 in Nevězice, Mirov District. In 1852 his parents moved to Písek, where he completed elementary school (Germanized at that time) and then gymnasium . But rather than starting university studies in Prague, he found the resolve to go to America instead, a wish of his brother who had settled in Cleveland as of 1853.
At the time of his arrival to Cleveland in 1863, only about 100 Czech families were settled there. The first employment he found on American soil was in a bookbinder’s shop, and then in a variety goods store until 1869. After leaving the store he studied law with Mr. Kerrnish, a lawyer, and at Ohio State and Union Law College. He became a Czech notary public in 1869, passing legal examination in 1891. He was the first Czech notary public and lawyer in Cleveland, Ohio.
In 1866 he married his current wife, Miss Fiřstová [not very legible] from Mirovice. This wedlock was fruitful, producing 9 children altogether, most of whom are still alive today, the two eldest already married.
Josef Petr of Dubina. Perhaps every Czech migrating to this country from the old fatherland have the same thousand thoughts whirling in their heads. How will I fair abroad? What circumstances await me? Will I drop to the ground in hardship and misery, or will I become successful, possibly wealthy? Even at present, when migrating here has become so much easier, grim thoughts still beset the emigrants. How much worse it must have been back then, when the only means was almost exclusively by sailing ships.
In July of 1856, 16 Moravian families set out for the new frontier, crossing the wide seas on board a small German sailing boat, as full of fear as hopes. All those families departed Frenštát and surrounding areas prepared to face both adversity and misfortune, confronting these while still onboard. The voyage was challenging indeed, many of them convinced they would not reach shore alive. Their misery endured for 13 weeks before they finally glimpsed the shores of their new homeland.
During this hard voyage, 11 passed away to become fodder for the sea. And as each calamity made its way through the boat , the remainder asked themselves: “When, oh when shall I myself feed the sea creatures in this way?”
A quarter year later, they had finally reached the sunny shores of the south as the ship landed in Galveston. Only to board another ship, this time steam-powered, escorting them to Houston, their destination being Catspring, a town where several of our countrymen had already settled. There were no railways in Texas at the time, and other then on waterways, all transport was by ox-drawn wagon. One can only imagine how long the journey must have been.
And indeed it was by ox-drawn wagons that the above entourage of Bohemian and Moravian emigrants arrived in Catspring, roughly in mid-November of 1856.
I do not, however, intend to delve into the destinies of all of them, but stay with but one of them, Josef Petr, a boy of 11 years at the time. His father, also called Josef, had boarded the ship with his two sons and three daughters. During the journey, however, his youngest daughter was one of the unfortunate to surrender to the dark vastness of the ocean. Upon overcoming all the obstacles, they reached their destination, Petr and his family standing on shore among the other impoverished immigrants, clueless and helpless as to what next. The lamentations of poverty and miserable conditions of some of their compatriots settled in Catspring so drown the newcomers’ morale that they were thrown into near despair. Old Reimershofer, however, inspired courage by claiming that whoever is willing to work shall never die of hunger. He suggested they move on to La Grange, where some or another opportunity would present itself.
And so, having rested for several weeks, the group of Bohemian and Moravian emigrants left Catpring in search of better pasture in La Grange. Once there they were offered land for purchase at a good price next to a stream called Navidad, and indeed most of them ended up staying.
Eventually, the Petrs, too, finally stood on land they could call their own, although it was populated by none other than mighty trees, initiating their struggle against the wilderness for mere existence. To build a shelter, cultivate land, secure livelihood and familiarize themselves with the new country and its inhabitants – that was the lot of the large Petr family in their new homeland. Each and every family member had to start working and helping their parents as soon as they learned to walk. The 11-year-old Josef was, of course, no exception, and in the stead of enriching his spirit with knowledge at school, he had to drudge his young body until exhaustion. Back then, schools were few and far between and, moreover, one had to pay for tuition. Josef Petr had no other choice than to expend his youth in perpetual, grueling work.
The year was 1861 and Texas, too, plunged into the turmoil of war. “For freedom and independence of states”, as it was phrased at the time, everyone fit for service was forced to enter combat ranks. Being an adult, Jan, the eldest of Petr’s sons, was forcibly enlisted into the Confederation. Regardless of one’s political views, every man fit for battle had no choice but to risk his life for the privilege of the slaveholders.
Josef Petr was only 16 [not very legible] years old, and as such was not conscripted, but he had to follow the army with a wagon, delivering food, or transport government cotton to Mexico. During those troubled times no one’s life was safe at home, let alone in the vast plains along the Mexican border. Young Petr was held up by robbers several times, although they never hurt him, as he resisted them not. So inhospitable are those steppes that merely travelling through them represents unbearable suffering. There are stretches with no water for miles, and stretches with no green in sight but only desert sand as far as the eye can see. Josef was fortunate to survive these struggles and the civil war, although his older brother, among others, had less fortune and failed to survive.
After the Civil War, the people of the south were exhausted and impoverished. The Petr family had lost not only some of its property but also its eldest son. Josef, the younger son, went to train as a blacksmith, knowing that knowledge of a trade would make life easier. He earned a living as a blacksmith for several years, but eventually took over his father’s farm, when fortune finally cast a glowing smile on him. Working tirelessly both in the fields and in the blacksmith’s workshop, he started buying neighboring plots of land and is now the owner of 1,200 acres, nearly 2 square miles in extension.
A traveler on the trail named Snu Sett [not very legible] leading from Houston to San Antonio will arrive at the tiny town of Weimar, Colorado, about half way. About 3 miles north from this town he will reach a deep forest, on the edge of which there lies a small church, school, several houses, and extensive commercial spaces with several annexes.
The name of this town is Dubina, the owner of the extensive building Josef Petr. It was he who gave the place the Czech name Dubina, for he was appointed the first postmaster and on such occasions the new post office must be given a name. Petr’s store always stocks beer and sundry groceries, and in the woodland behind the building guests often frolic on the dance floor to the tune of jolly music. Josef Petr was elected a representative in the State Legislature, which is a sterling example of the popularity he enjoys among the citizenship of Fayette County.
Now then, let us contrast Josef Petr’s woeful arrival to the country, his hardships and struggles, with his present position. He is now the owner of extensive properties, providing livelihood for up to 20 Czech families, who live thereon as tenants and laborers. He owns a nice store, earning him a handsome profit. He has held honorary offices, establishing himself in the finest social circles. In spite of all his successes, however, Josef has not retired from working life—an assiduous one at that. You will either find him by his anvil, pounding molten metal, working in the field, or serving customers in his store.
His children are encouraged to work, help with domestic chores and labor in the field. In times of weeding and picking cotton, Petr’s children can be found working diligently among other hired laborers. Albeit an owner of assets worth at least 30,000, his family and himself may still be found to work as hard as the poorest of farmers.
These ethics elevated him to his present status, work remaining a defining factor of his life to this day. Even though his children receive a good education and their future is well taken care of, Josef still leads them to hard and persistent work. I have seen many who, having come to riches through all sorts of fluke of fortune, would look down at work and encourage their children to be idle. But not Josef Petr. He is well aware that it was through hard work that he earned his present fortunes, and so he remains faithful to it, his family and himself working assiduously. An affluent farmer, a successful trader, a state legislature representative –Josef Petr of Dubina, or ‘father’ as locals far and wide call him, still remains a hardworking man. Each and every industrious and thrifty immigrant is capable of finding the same success he did, no matter how grueling the beginnings may appear.
Written by [not very legible] for the almanac Amerikán
Josef Sháněl was born in 1822 in Čičeníce, Plzeň Region, Bohemia. “Before having even considered the journey to America, I had already seen a large portion of the world,” writes our old compatriot, “as I travelled through most of Austria and parts of Italy. I lived in Vienna a few years before I was offered a job at Hluboká Castle, where, during my three-year tenure, I married. In 1854 we went to America. Our journey led through Canada and Quebec to St. Louis: I settled there and contributed to the Czech national project during all of the 11 years I domiciled there. We struggled against all obstacles and endured persecution until we founded Missouri No. 2 Č.S.P.S. (Czech-Slovak Protective Society).
“I also played my part in the Civil War, having served 9 months in the 2nd Regiment in the C Heavy Artillery Company , up until I suffered injury.
“In 1865 [not very legible] I moved to Black Earth, Wisconsin, my current abode. I carry out my trade and I own a warehouse that stocks home furniture, coffins, and all manner of related articles. I recall the days of old, when a carpenter in St. Louis could earn between 50 and 75 [not very legible] cents per day while paying dear for bread and butter, clothing and footwear. If I look at my present circumstances in the context of my whole life’s trajectory, not dense with adventure but through which I suffered deep austerity and sorrow, I’d say I am happy. I am now 72 [not very legible] years old, we’ve brought up 6 [not very legible] lovely children, all of whom are independent and provided for. Our family has subsided to only the three of us—my wife, our youngest son and myself—with whom I run the business. We have a nice home with a garden, a separate commercial store, we are in good health, and looking forward to the golden jubilee of our marriage. God willing we shall live to see that too.”
Jan Albrecht from Kewaunee County, Wisconsin (as conveyed by J. V. Luňák [not very legible]). Not all emigrants from Czechia can, in their declining years, gaze into their colorful past and behold a long series of diverse adventures changing along an eventful path like images in a kaleidoscope. And all for the better, as most such adventurers often drowned in the mud and sludge that this country is, due in part to the great diversity of immigrants, and in part because it served for many a year as a sort of dumping ground for outcasts of European society.
We do, however, have many compatriots who we are greatly proud of, not for their brave deeds but for the fruits of their diligent labor and exemplary honesty. Czechs have earned themselves a good reputation among the many nations immigrating to this country. Many of them were pioneers in the woodlands of Wisconsin and Minnesota, others yet pioneers in the vast plains and prairies of the West. Let forever be remembered these men who, having started with only humble means, or oftentimes outright with their bare hands alone, converted deserts to lands fertile with milk and honey.
Jan Albrecht is one such compatriot, settled as a farmer in West Kewaunee near Kewaunee City, Wisconsin. Although he was not renowned for an ostentatious life filled with grand deeds worthy of great mention, he did distinguish himself by his honesty, industriousness, sense of judgment and other civic virtues. He celebrated his 81st birthday on 14 September 1894, having been born on the same day of 1893 in Roztoky, Jilemnice District, Jičín Region in Czechia. This land lies at the feet of the Krkonoše Mountains, so splendidly portrayed in the writings of Karolína Světlá , where people, full of fairy tales, have warm hearts and bright and keen minds. Jilemnice is no further than three quarters of an hour from Roztoky.
His father was a cottager, or [not legible], as it is called in other regions, and Jan was his only son. Under ancient law he inherited the cottage, living in it for many a year. Just before 1960 a major migration began by the inhabitants surrounding Jilemnice to the promised land of America. Their motive was to improve their livelihood and a longing for greater liberty and freedom, [one line illegible, p. 220 bottom left], in the hands of bureaucracy and conservatism. Jan Albrecht shared these passions, but also had motives of his own. One of them stemmed from the esteem he was enjoying in the village of Roztoky. They insisted and kept pestering him to accept the honorary office of chief counselor, which he avoided out of concern for the need to travel to the regional capital frequently, incurring substantial expenses and requiring a great deal of time. It happened to many a mayor in search of honors that they lost all as a result of their tenure: property, well-being of their family, and often honor too.
His second motive for emigration was that it befell upon his eldest son František to present himself for enlistment. As a young, strong man, he would not have escaped the call of duty. It took Albrecht three years to settle his mind on the departure to America – the same length of time it took him to ready his passport. When the summons to attend conscription first arrived, he was not quite decided to emigrate, as it is difficult to bid adieu to the family hearth—where we are born and spend our youth, where we discover our first loves and many a sorrow too (for none can escape those in one’s lifetime). To say farewell to one’s homeland is not an easy matter either. But many had warned him that, considering his son’s name began with the letter A, he will be one of the first to be called to arms. And so he journeyed to Jilemnice to consult the matter with the regional commissioner, and acquaintance, Mr. von [surname illegible; pan would prob. be eq. to Sir?], who advised him that the only way for his son to avoid conscription was to emigrate to America. This meeting precipitated his decision.
Relatives from his mother’s side opposed the idea, but since there was positive news from those who had already emigrated, although not long before, this obstacle too was overcome. The letters were namely from Old Kotyk [Starý Kotyk], whose family now resides in Cooperstown, Manitowoc, from Havel in Two Rivers, the Paul family, Jarolím Wodsedálek and František Svatý in [illegible], who also lived in Two Rivers.
The cottage was promptly sold and 26 October 1860 the date they left for Bremen . They spent time in an immigrants’ inn waiting several days for their sailing ship to depart. Every evening, Mr. Kareš, an immigration broker, paid them a visit, accompanied by a young man of about twenty years of age. One day, when they were in Mr. Kareš’s office, two policemen came and discussed matters with him in the German language. They were later informed that the police were looking for the young man who used to visit them at the inn. [Portion of text left out because not clear enough] “How could I do that unto him? After all, we sleep in the same bed!” added Mr. Kareš. “Apparently, he was seditioning all the Slavs!” [Source not very clear; perhaps: “for inciting riots amongst all the slavs there.] And indeed, Mr. Kareš did not detain the young man, who turned out to be none other than Karel Jonáš, now the Consul General in Saint Petersburg. On the family’s [Source switches to “our” all of a sudden] departure from Bremen, while seated in boats on the way to the sailing ship, Mr. Jonáš suddenly appeared sitting next to Mr. Albrecht, who asked him whether he was also on the way to America. Mr. Jonáš answered that he was not going to America but to England. Inevitably, at the time, Mr. Albrecht had no idea that this young chap was to become the second highest figure of Wisconsin, honorably elected the state’s vice-governor.
On the 2nd of November they boarded the sailing ship, shortly after the New Year. Aboard the same ship was Mr. Josef Brádl, who died one year later in Two Rivers, František Dolenský, who still lives in Kewaunee, enjoying both robust health and copious prosperity, and František Svatý’s sister with a child. In total, 18 Czechs were on board.
They landed in Baltimore precisely on New Year’s Day, disembarking on the same day, following a voyage lasting [illegible] days. Immediately upon landing in Baltimore they boarded a train to Cincinnati, where a German innkeeper accommodated them. This prankster of an innkeeper lured them into missing their train, in hopes of forcing them to spend much more with him, but failed. By 6am they were already walking to the railway station, guided only by telegraph poles, arriving in the nick of time to the sound of the train’s whistle, after walking three miles with heavy load.
Their friend, Svatý, who lived in Two Rivers, surmised they might soon arrive to Milwaukee, so he set out on the 100-mile journey on foot. He reached Milwaukee’s train station at the very instant the train was arriving. Albrecht’s wife caught sight of him first and called out: “Svatý is here!” No one can imagine the joy they felt upon seeing their beloved friend.
They immediately headed to a pub of which Svatý knew the landlord. He immediately started negotiating with him how much it would cost to take them to Two Rivers, asking $50 for all 18 persons. Svatý deemed that too expensive so they shopped around, obtaining two other quotes of $70 and $75, only to return to their first offer and head out the next day. The journey took 3 days by wagon. Svatý leading on foot and always negotiating for bed, dinner, and breakfast for no more than 18¢ a head. Mr. Svatý owned a house in Two Rivers where the Albrechts resided for three months. Their first purchase was two cows, in order to supply milk for the entire family.
Later, Albrecht bought the farm, now owned by his son Frank and located in West Kewaunee, extending over an 80 acre area. They paid $400 in cash for it, no more than a clearing in a forest with a small log cabin at the time. The cabin was spacious and made solely out of logs. Not long afterwards, František Hrbek came for a visit, proclaiming: “From the outside your cabin looks hideous, but inside it is very tidy and organized.” And such are Czech housewives – everything always tidy to the button.
To America Albrecht brought his 20-year-old son Frank, 16-year-old daughter Anna, 12-year-old daughter Františka, and 10-year-old son Josef, as well as [illegible amount] in gold. They began to cut down forest and peel bark to obtain tan, and make shingles for their own use, railway sleepers and fence posts. In the same year they planted 10 bushels of potatoes. The work in the forest was hard, excruciating in fact, but with high spirits, all hurdles were overcome. They tidied up the land to obtain more arable space. Oh how quickly did time pass!
One day Albrecht was felling a mighty pine tree, but while running to avoid being hit as it was going down, he stumbled and fell, the forest giant landing just next to his arm, all but killing him. On another day, as a great ash tree was being felled, one of its branches hit his shoulder—a very hard blow! Not used to such hard work back home, these accidents were understandable.
After some eight years he handed the farm over to his son Frank, who had married by then, and bought 80 acres of old growth forest for $600, which he later passed on to his son Josef, who had also married. Since 1874 he has enjoyed his retirement and helped out as long as he was physically able.
The daughter Anna is now married to Mr. Wais in northern Wisconsin; the other daughter, Františka, married Jan Šára, this couple now residing in the Republic District, Kansas. After that, Albrecht bought a piece of land of 80 acres in the town of Montpelier, Kewaunee County, which was then passed on to his son Jan’s daughter, Anna, who later wedded Josef Bažant. They too later moved to Kansas. There were altogether seven children born from J. Albrecht’s wedlock, five of whom are still with us. Grandpa Albrecht has, in all, 36 grandchildren and 8 great-grandchildren (it is impossible to say whether any more arrived since then). He has lived with his wife for 58 years, during which time they have not suffered a single disagreement.
The worst disaster met him in 1876 after he had come back from a 5 week stay in Kansas, where he was visiting his children. When he returned, his neighbor, on the opposite side, Mr. Wais, was building a house. At that time, Mr. Abrecht found remarkably lustrous stone. And so he climbed up the scaffolding in order to both show Wais the stone, and to help him put in place some timber, but the scaffolding slipped and caused Albrecht to lose his balance—he fell down and dislocated his arm at the shoulder. His fall was a lucky one, as he landed next to a heap of stones and other building materials—should he have landed on top of that, the consequences would have been dire.
Twice he visited his children and grandchildren in Kansas. Once he had the misadventure of having been carried by rail 100 miles further than his actual destination. He was heading to Narka, Kansas, with his wife, no one informing them that they had reached their destination, so they remained seated while the train kept marching forward. They stopped later and the conductor encouraged them to get off. It was grueling work. As a result of the long journey and the lack of sleep, grandpa fell ill and was not able to move. Once he disembarked at the railway station, they thought they might watch him pass away right then and there, and were not able to communicate with him at all. Later, a young Czech arrived and who was heading to somewhere in Nebraska in order to claim homestead. Grandpa needed some refreshment for strength, which was provided to him by the traveling Czech in the form of some spirits he was carrying to Nebraska. Later that evening they set out back by rail and arrived at Howell, transferring later to Voj. Kasl [not legible] and to his friends the next day.
When back in Czechia, whenever he went to church, he was always the last to arrive and the first to leave, the sole purpose of his attendance social only, since many neighbors gathered in the pub on such days, granting an opportunity to meet those who lived further afield. But once in America, he renounced all the rites of church for good and brought up his children as free-thinkers, almost all his sons and sons-in-law now belonging to freethinkers’ associations, mostly to Č.S.P.S. (Czech-Slovak Protective Society). He subscribed to the freethinkers’ magazine Pokrok , and later other freethinkers’ magazines.
Considering his advanced age, he is still quite brave and has been reading with glasses since his arrival to America 33 years ago. His wife is also still with us, the two spending their well-deserved retirement together, enjoying their flourishing children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Should he stay with us a few years more, as I sincerely hope, he may yet live to see great-great-grandchildren, as the oldest great-granddaughter is now 14 of age.
I recounted the course of Grandpa Albrecht’s life, as he told it to me himself, him making it known to me that he would not have divulged himself if it were anyone else. Grandpa Albrecht reminds one of Petr Dubský, the character of J. L. Stroupežnický’s play “Naši furianti” [Our Swaggerers – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Na%C5%A1i_furianti]. He is just as kind, direct and honest as Dubský. The lives of these old-timers, who spent their lives first and foremost for their families and the places where they settled and lived, should be taken as a lesson for us all. Surely every county inhabited by Czechs has such old Grandpas, and surely a collection of their biographies would greatly enrich Prague’s National Exhibition.