Chapter Five, Part One of “The Genealogy & History of the Original Bohemians (Czechs) in Cleveland, Ohio, USA” Back to the Genealogy Dartboard!
While we wait for additional responses from some of our Nowak/Novák family descendants, we decided to toss the old genealogy dart once again. Unfortunately, our dart landed on the line! You can see the result of our toss in the photo below:
However, the good news is that after posting our dilemma for our Facebook page fans, the vast majority of those who were asked whose name was ‘picked’ by our dart said it had cast our fate with ADAM, Gustav. So be it. This chapter features our work on Gustav Adam.
Where to begin?
As with our other searches, the Onward To Our Past® team began with our translations of the writings of Snajdr and Chotek. Since Václav Snajdr wrote his article for Amerikán Národní Kalendár in 1878, we began with his work, but he neither references nor recognizes Adam at all. So we moved on to our other resources. In History of Czechs in America by Jan Habenicht and translated to English by Miroslav Koudelka, does say the following:
“The first Czech immigrant to the City of Cleveland was, as far as it is known, Gustav Adam, the son of a rich druggist in Příbram. He was an educated man who was an imperial commissar in Prague, but as an ardent patriot, he took part in the 1848 uprising and had to escape for America to avoid imprisonment and very likely even execution.” (page 475)
Habenicht continues on to say that while music was ‘a mere hobby’ for Adam in Bohemia, it became his livelihood in Cleveland and that he was the director of the orchestra at the Atheneum Theater and that he gave piano lessons. Then he adds this:
“In 1853 he left Cleveland and settled in the south where he died soon after.” (page 475)
So, based on Habenicht’s writing, we are relegated to a period of only 6 years to discover anything about Adam. Plus while it is nice that he let us know Adam left Cleveland and when, however, the last time I checked a map there was a whole lot of the Americas that lay ‘south’ of Cleveland.
We moved next to Hugo Chotek’s 1895 article in Amerikán Národní Kalendár on the history of Cleveland’s Czechs, titled “Paměti prvních Čechů v Cleveland, O.”
You may recall that this article was the result of Chotek taking a year of his life seeking, interviewing, and then documenting the earliest Bohemian immigrants to Cleveland. It is a true genealogy dream article that we have translated to English for the first time ever her at Onward To Our Past®. Chotek extensively relates his interview with Leopold Levy, whom Chotek describes as “gray-haired, aged, and small-framed gentleman” and additionally as of “energetic character, cool and intelligent gaze, and smooth, almost oriental complexion.” Leopold Levy certainly remembered Adam and had this to say:
“Only five of our initial clan remained: Adam, Hladík, Stein, Bernard Weidenthal and I. Professor Adam had escaped to America at the end of 1848. As the son of a rich pharmacist in Příbram, he was well educated. He had excelled in music since an early age and picked up English and French with relative ease. Fuelled by his great love for music, he poured all his efforts into piano and violin, and became a maestro. After completing university, he found work with the government and was soon appointed to a position in Prague by the Emperor’s Commissioner, a position he held with the same patriotic fever of his youth. When 1848 came, the hot-blooded young man took up arms to join those who rose in defense of rights and freedoms. But after the uprising suffered a bloody put down, the revolutionaries had to disband and flee. He met his young girlfriend in Hamburg– they had been together for a year – and headed out with her to America, heading first to Cincinnati but moving to Cleveland one and a half years later. Music, which had been nothing more than a private passion back home, became his bread and butter. He began by teaching piano lessons but it wasn’t long before he became the leader of a band and director of the orchestra for the Atheneum Theater, the most illustrious in all of Cleveland, if not the entire state. He made a good living and earned substantial revenues from his wife’s estate, which the state had failed to confiscate. He lived life both trouble-free and comfortable, and loved to meet his compatriots, helping them out however he could. In particular, he was a rock of support for other musicians, and Frank Tupa, Jan Prošek, Václav Drábek and J. Bouška owe him a debt of gratitude for the positions they landed in the Atheneum Theater Orchestra, which greatly facilitated their early beginnings in America. He assisted other Czechs as well, such as laborers, gladly helping out with advice, deeds and trust. The young community certainly felt a loss when he moved to Tennessee to become the director of music at a girl’s school there. But the main reason was his health, as he felt the climate in Cleveland was not doing him good. Unfortunately, the warmer weather down south did not help him either and he died soon after moving. At least that is the story as it was reported to Frank Ťupa, who filled me on these details. Adam will always be well remembered.” (page 205-206)
And so, as a genealogist, you simply have to love old Mr. Levy and his delightful memory. Not only do we have the home village of Příbram, but we have his work in music again and at the Atheneum Theater, and his reported time in Cincinnati and Tennessee.
Adam is also mentioned by Dale Cox in his 1932 article, but simply as “Prof. Adam”. Harvard University Professor, Dr. Francis Dvornik, in his 1961 work mentions only ‘Gustav Adam’ and denotes him as the first Czech immigrant to reach Cleveland.
Beginning the genealogy based search into Gustav Adam
We began with our usual multi-pronged genealogy and history approach to our research on Gustav Adam here at Onward To Our Past®. Some of us researched historic newspapers, some investigated the ‘usual’ online genealogy databases, and one of us began to reach out to some of our genealogy research contacts in the Czech Republic. Each of these brought us some valuable insights and some added to the mystery that is Gustav Adam.
In the newspapers of the day we find dozens of references to a Professor Adam and to a Rudolphus Adam, being an accomplished musician.
Our earliest discoveries were an even dozen items dated in throughout the year of 1850 spanning February through November. These articles list either a Prof. or Prof. Rudolphus Adam, as performing at the Weddell House or Watson’s Hall, both in Cleveland. Nicely, several of the later articles, which are actually advertisements for piano sales that suggest interested parties can contact “Prof. Rudolphus Adam” at either 97 Lake St. or No. 30 Huron St.”
Another one of these 1850 articles was dated April 22nd, headlined “The Israelitish School”, and included the following:
“The Musical department has been lately established. It is conducted by Prof. Adam, from Prague, and well known as an accomplished pianist.”
This was an interesting notation inasmuch as Příbram is only about 60 km from Prague.
In the Plain Dealer (Cleveland, OH) on May 28, 1851 we find an article stating that “Prof. Adam gives a concert tonight at the Melodeon “to exhibit the proficiency of his numerous young pupils”. At first we thought this might be a misprint and that Prof. Adam was playing a melodeon (a type of pump organ), but then we researched some more and found the Melodeon Building was on Superior Street and was a most desirable location for performances, gatherings, and speeches.
It was during this review, as we were listing each of these items on our office white board, that our staff member working the online genealogy databases nearly hit the ceiling as she jumped up and screamed “HOLD THE PRESSES! You have got to see what I found in the 1850 U.S. Census! I’d almost disregarded it!”
What did our staffer find in 1850? What will the Library of Congress, the Music Library at the University of Michigan have to report? Will we hear from our researcher in Czech Republic?
It will all be continued here soon!