Czech Genealogy: A Genealogy Assistant of Old: Hugo Chotek. English translation of the biography of Hugo Chotek as written in the 1912 edition of Amerikán Národní Kalendář.
We here at Onward To Our Past® genealogy services believe no one did more to document the earliest Bohemian immigrants and the establishment of their Czech community in Cleveland, Ohio than did Hugo Chotek.
He wrote prolifically on a variety of topics of interest and concern to Bohemian Americans. He wrote the only early history of the Bohemian community’s founding in Cleveland and spent a year of his life in Cleveland seeking out those earliest Bohemians as well as documenting their stories.
One of the additional blessings from Hugo Chotek is the fact he was a well traveled newspaperman so he was always aware of the importance of the 5 W’s of reporting: who, what, where, when, and why. He was also widely traveled and lived in Bohemian communities in New York, Michigan, Texas, Nebraska, and Ohio.
Chotek passed away on May 9, 1911 and shortly thereafter Amerikán Národní Kalendář published his biography in honor of his life.
The following is the biography as written in that 1912 edition of Amerikán Národní Kalendář:
“HUGO CHOTEK, born on 8 November 1851 at Jindrichuv Hradec, was a descendent of a noble family, but by the time of his birth his grandfather had already decided to give up using the title of Count anymore because he did not have enough property to use it.
Hugo was born an only child. His father, named Hugo Jan Chotek, worked as a teacher at gymnasium (grammar school) at Jindrichuv Hradec. He died soon after Hugo’s birth leaving a widowed wife and a 3 year old son. Chotek’s mother was a Baroness, Marie Emilie von Steger, and was also born in Bohemia. Her parents were Protestants, but due to religious intolerance they moved to Silesia, where they did finally join the Catholic Church and she lived and died in Silesia.
Hugo’s mother let her son study at high school and also at gymnasium in Jindrichuv Hradec, with the idea that later he would undertake studies to become a priest. She invited priests to their home and thanks to their influence, she became very religious. Her young son did not like it and he started to be open-minded at a very young age. He wished to be a physician, and had passionate disputes with his mother over this.
Later he went to Prague, to study at the university. During vacation, together with his schoolmates Mirilovsky, Hatlak and others he traveled through Bohemia and Bavaria playing amateur theatre performances in small towns there. He was an enthusiastic Bohemian patriot already. Due to his sensitive personality he did not finish the study of medicine because he could not manage operations and dissections. He gave this up and served one year as a volunteer in the army.
Later he found work as the co-editor of various Bohemian newspapers and in 1876, full of young enthusiasm, he went to United States. He first spent some time in New York. Later he accepted an offer from Detroit, for a position at the German newspaper Anzeigen. During this time a new railway was being built to go to Colorado, Wyoming etc. and as a journalist he was invited to take to make the trip on that line. Chotek traveled on the train, but in Colorado they were attacked by Indians and there was not any time to care about their luggage. They left everything and were happy in saving their lives. Chotek had all his possessions in his luggage because he was traveling with the idea that when he found somewhere he liked he would settle there. Therefore he lost everything.
Later he accepted the offer of Mr. Fr. Skarda in New York to be employed by Diblík and also another local New York newspaper. Sometime later he wished to see also other States and accepted an offer from Mr. Fr. Lidiak in LaGrange, Texas, where he was employed by the weekly paper Slovan. There he met Miss Anna Kalus, born in Frenstat pod Radhostem, Moravia. Her father was a rope maker, music teacher, and respected citizen. He first met her during an amateur theater performance, when she played under the direction of R. Gluecksman, a Bohemian patriot, well-known cotton trader, close friend, and former classmate of Chotek’s. He heard Chotek say: ‘I like this girl, I will wait for her, and she will be mine, no one else’s!’ He did not have to wait a long time since after six months of dating he married her. She did not even have time to ask her parents in Moravia for permission.
He liked his life in La Grange, where there were only about 6 Czech families: Judge Aug. Haidusek and family, Fr. Lidiak and family, K. Mosig, Moravec, Fr. Gluecksman, and Chotek. Everybody lived like one big happy family, there. Two thirds of La Grange’s population were Germans, at this time. La Grange was nicknamed “cream town” since several families lived there that had originated from old German “nobility”. For example there were numerous family of Rosenbergs, County Judge Mr. Teichmueller, Baron Mehrscheidt, the local postmaster, and other ones, who suffered at the time of the revolution in 1848. Mr. Mehrscheidt was an army officer in Europe under the command of Major Eduard Preis, who travelled through the whole of America, wrote articles for Svornost, and who was later assassinated in Mexico. He visited Chotek very often, always when he went to La Grange or other nearby towns, spent several days in Chotek’s home to take a rest, and told him stories until the late night hours.
Chotek kept friendships with these mentioned families, because everybody was highly educated and they invited him and his wife, to spend several evenings together with them, singing, playing music and twist, and they had much fun together.
Chotek was often invited to other locations across the country – for example to Bluff, to Ammansville, Schulenburg, Nova Praha, Flatonia, Fayetteville, Ellinger, Bryan, Wesley, as well as to other places as a speaker for 4th of July and Jan Hus celebrations. Additionally several babies were baptized by him. Local Moravians celebrated Jan Hus Day every year since a lot of them belonged to the Moravian Brethren Church. These were nice, warm celebrations with farmers coming in to town from distant areas with their entire families.
Mr. Lidiak, publisher of Slovan had big problems with the newspaper because one (a Czech-language newspaper) was not viable since many of the Bohemian farmers there where mostly poor newcomers, therefore the publisher, editors, and typographers only vegetated there.
In 1883 Chotek received a message from Bohemia informing him his mother passed away and all her property was left to the Catholic Church. This was a big shock for him; he could not imagine that his mother would disinherit her only child just for religion.
Chotek later moved to Schulenburg, when he started a small pharmacy but he could not compete with the local German, Brayman, who upon seeing the Czech newcomer was getting his Czech clients, which were the source of his prosperity, he started to sell for his goods at their purchase price, but just old goods that he had stored there. He knew that Chotek could not match this and actually after one year the drugstore of Chotek’s ended in debt.
About in 1885 he moved to Caldwell, Texas when he was offered new prairie land for sale at one acre for four dollars. The land for sale was named Mount Prairie. He joined with a lawyer, McKiver, and shortly after he sold about 2,000 acres of this land.
In his second and third year he wrote for Svornost and Duch Casu newspapers, translated novellas for Domacnost, and wrote stories for Kalendář, because he did not have any other job there. Later he accepted an offer from Schuyler, Nebraska, where there was an established company starting a new weekly newspaper. He accepted the job with joy and the hopes for better times and also he wished to join a bigger city and society to the North, again. He left his old home in February, the worst time for his children, who started to be ill already by the time he was in Dallas. He had to stay for two days and ask for a physician, there because of the freezing weather, which surprised everyone. After two days of rest they continued to Kansas
City, where it was even colder weather, freezing their breath, and they had to stop again because the youngest child was almost dying. After two more days of rest he finally reached the city of Schuyler were awaited Jos. Smatlan, J. Zerzan, V. Maly, Fr. Janecek, a banker, and other shareholders. They started work immediately, and a new weekly newspaper named Nova Doba was soon published. At first everything was OK and the newspaper became popular, but later disputes began as a result of some shareholders being Republicans and some being Democrats.
He could not satisfy them all and therefore he left this job the next year.
He moved to Chicago, where was employed by the daily newspaper published by the priest Pribyl, but this bankrupted soon. In 1890 he moved to Cleveland where he worked as co-editor of Delnicke Listy, but this paper ended because of bad finances. For a couple of years he wrote for Svornost and Duch Casu newspapers, wrote stories for Amerikán Kalendář, and Domacnost, translated novels for the paper Domacnost, and wrote “History of Cleveland Bohemians”. He finally found, that journalism held no future for him so he left it since his family was getting larger and he wished to provide a good education for his children. He asked for a position as a notary public, started to work in politics, and thanks to his friend, Mr. Aug. Geringer, who managed to get him a job at Svornost, he became the clerk for the Equalization Council in Cleveland in 1901, and worked there until his death.
Chotek was always a caring and gentle husband and father. He loved his family warmly and was happy when he could spend his last days among members of his family. His children were educated carefully and well. He died on 9 May 1911 at 10 p.m. surrounded by his family after a long illness. He was 59 years and 6 months of age. He left his wife and five children, three sons and two daughters in good condition.
Daughter Olga married a lawyer J.M. Pindras, three sons, Viktor H., Ladimir A., and Otto J., as well as daughter Anna J. who all live in Cleveland.
Chotek was member of several organizations and we can list the Bohemian ones: Taborites and Stari Osadnici (Old Settlers).
We lost him as a Bohemian patriot, cordial Freethinker, and a storyteller who worked for his compatriots as a writer. Anywhere he lived in America he was highly respected and his death is bemoaned by all the people who knew him personally.
Which reader of “Amerikán Kalendář” does not know the engaging stories of Chotek? He was inspired by the lives of Bohemian-Americans, namely the ones who settled in Texas and the Midwest, and he knew how to describe it all in great detail. Plus the Kalendář to which he contributed stories for several years is now bringing you his biography. It is brief but in spite of that the reader can see how restless his life was and how many times he had to begin anew until he reached an established existence.
Unfortunately, he could enjoy the comfortable life for only a short time.”
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