Onward To Our Past® is pleased to announce the availability of the third genealogy resource in their series of first English translations of original Czech works outlining the Czech (Bohemian) immigrants and their community in Ohio. Genealogy gems available for anyone here on our website.
This document, written by the renowned newspaperman Podává Vaclav Šnajdr, is from 1878 and provides an excellent view of the Czech community in Cleveland, Ohio from this time.
Previously only available in the original Czech, Onward To Our Past® in partnership with KENAX Translation Services is making this wonderful genealogical material available at no charge here on the Onward To Our Past® website.
I trust you will enjoy this view of the earliest Czechs, their community, the history of their settling in Cleveland, Ohio and that always important genealogy, ancestry, and family history feature of dozens of surnames and many place names for us!
Enjoy going Onward To Our Past®!
Ameriká Národní Kalendář
With many humorous and informative pictures.
Prepared by Josef Jiří Král
Printed and published by Aug. Geringer, 150 W. 12th Street,
Translation © 2013, Onward To Our Past®
3324 LaSalle Trail
Duneland Beach, Indiana USA
Cleveland and its Czechs
(Written by Podává Vaclav Šnajdr)
Cleveland is one of America’s oldest cities. Before the 1880s Cleveland was the westernmost city in the US, but since our western frontier has now shifted out to the Missouri river, Michigan and Illinois can barely be considered as western states. At the moment Cleveland is the eleventh or twelfth most populous city in the country, second most in the state of Ohio. The only competition it faces, as concerns beautiful location and condition, width and cleanliness of its streets, is Washington.
The Czech element in this city is particularly interesting as it makes up almost one-seventh of its population. Therefore it is not uninteresting to read about the city in general.
The city was originally named Cleaveland, after General Moses Cleaveland of Connecticut. Its early history is as follows:
Before the 1880s, on July 22 of 1796 to be exact, General Cleaveland and his team of surveyors from Connecticut Real Estate Company sailed into the area, from the lake to the mouth of the Cuyahoga [Meandering] river. The General in charge of the surveying built several huts for the surveyors and continued with some of his team to Sandusky, 30 miles west of Cleveland. Augustus Porter performed the actual surveying, measuring out about a square mile of soil, bordered to the west by the river and to the north by the lake. This area became the foundation of Cleveland. Measurements and the laying out of roads and construction zones ended on October 17 of 1796, when the surveyor Holley (drawn from a Czech name) named the measured land New Connecticut in his notes. Once the surveyors left, three inhabitants remained there: two men and one woman. One of them, Josef London, quickly left the scant population but was soon replaced by Edward Paine of New York, who headed out west in order to trade with the Indians still lingering in this outlying area. Paine was the first person to start a business in Cleveland. So it was that in the winter of 1796-97, Cleveland boasted a robust population of three.
Over the next year the little community expanded by four families. A young Cloe Inches, who arrived with the family of major Lorence Curter, was the first and only single woman in the new outpost. Nathan Chapman moved there with a herd of oxen and four dairy cows. These were the area’s first livestock and it was no wonder that the community received them with greater enthusiasm than the young Inches. The year 1797 was recorded in the history books of Cleveland as the date of Cleveland’s first birth, three deaths and one marriage, that of the aforementioned young lady.
The community continued to grow, incrementally at first but later rapidly. By 1798 the area had 15 inhabitants, 24 a year later. It took newcomers 92 days to travel there from Connecticut, a length of time that would now suffice to circumnavigate the globe. Several families arrived in 1800, when the first school was built and Sara Doane chosen as its teacher. Another notable event of this year was the arrival of Josef Badger. He had been sent west from Connecticut as a missionary, and he delivered his first sermon in this settlement.
The home of Major Curter became a historical building in the young settlement, built from timber on the community’s edge when one arrives at the mouth of Cuyahoga River from the lake. The settlers would hold meetings and gather for social events there.
When the settlement reached the grand old age of five, in 1801, the little community celebrated its first “golden jubilee” <slavného džulaje> with a grand ball. All the citizens of noble breeding attended, together with all white settlers, young and old, numbering 30. Mayor Sam Gones played the violin, and a square dance broke out, the likes of which Cleveland has certainly never seen since!
In 1803, with Ohio’s entry into the Union, Cleveland conducted its first election. A post office, albeit one that only opened once a week, was built the following year, while in 1805 the mouth of the river was modified. The same year the state’s commissioner, Gideon Granger, predicted that in 50 years a populated city would have grown at the mouth of the Cuyahoga, from which ships would be able to sail all the way to the Atlantic. Granger turned out to be right, because by 1855 Cleveland had a population of almost 30,000.
In 1809 the county of Cuyahoga was established and a home for Cleveland’s town hall built. The city’s first court proceedings were held in 1810, in a wooden building on the northern side of Superior Street. The city’s first courthouse was built in Public Square two years later, the same year that the city conducted its first execution, that of an Indian by the name of Omik, who had murdered two trappers near to Sandusky.
In 1812 the Hull U.S. Navy ship landed in Cleveland’s harbor, and the settlers sent their wives and children into the forest fearing that it was a British ship, and made plans to greet their presumed enemy with gunfire before realizing their error. In 1815 Cleveland became a township and Alfred Kelley was voted its representative. It seems that the first residents of Cleveland had a greater love for alcohol than religion, as the first wine press had already been erected five years into the city’s growth, while the city’s first religious parish was born in 1817, a full 21 years later. It is clear that the earliest settlers were non-believers. It has been said that in a procession they once carried a picture of Jesus in a mocking manner. The first parish was Episcopal, and was only able to build its church 11 years later, in 1828, on the corner of Saint Clair and Seneca. With the growing population, believers eventually gained a majority, with Presbyterians, Methodists and Baptists setting up their own parishes over subsequent years.
This concludes the early history of Cleveland.
Cleveland has grown to be an important city of commerce and industry with a population of around 150,000. Trade led to the development of its harbor and many railway lines, mainly the Pittsburgh and Cleveland, Lake Shore and Michigan Southern, Atlantic and Great Western, and the Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and Indianapolis lines. Cleveland’s main industry is ironworks and oil refining. The various rolling mills, screw works factories, horseshoe plants, nail producers and butcheries employ more than 3,000 laborers, while Standard Oil employ nearly 6,000. Together, these plants employ about 2,500 Czechs, mostly in the rolling mills and oil plants. The oil plants have business ties with an extensive network of barrel making shops employing 1,500 laborers, of which at least 1,000 are Czech. Not long ago there was a month-long strike of barrel makers, almost exclusively Czech, but they failed to make any ground. Despite several attempts the exact number of Czechs in Cleveland has not yet been ascertained. Several zealous nationalists twice attempted to compile statistics, but gave up due to various hurdles, mostly due to a lack of knowledge among the population. The current figure is estimated at 20,000, but that seems somewhat exaggerated to us and we feel there must be between 15,000 and 18,000. Most Czechs live in the following wards: the sixth, which is the oldest Czech community and, as the core of the Czech population, is referred to as the “Bohemian settlement” by locals; the twelfth, which used to make up the outskirts of Brooklyn and Cuba; the fourteenth, which the Czechs nickname ‘Kozolupy’ and the Germans ‘Hexenbuckel’ and the sixteenth, also referred to as East Cleveland. Besides these wards Czechs also settled in others, such as 10 and 13. The greatest number is to be found in wards 12 and 14, primarily the latter, where the Czech vote dominates.
The first Czechs settled in the area some 25 years ago. We think that Josef Havlíček from Varvažov u Písek was the first, who since that time has accumulated substantial wealth. Vác. Žák, Jos. Mucha and B. Weidenthal (a Czech Jew) have resided here for almost the same duration. J. Kieger, J. Řehák, K. Furest, M. Krejčí, Jan Kopfstajn and A. Vodička have resided here for about 24 years.
Most of the Czech emigrants came here empty handed with only the blessings of their family to help them get started. The most affluent of these would probably be M. Krejčí, who owns a beautiful home on the corner of Croton and Forest from which he sells an extensive range of products, tobacco, flour and feed material, iron and shearing goods and others.
The greatest influx of Czech immigrants occurred between 1865 and 1866, continuing in varying intensity until the terrible depression of 1873, after which the stream of Czech emigrants to Cleveland thinned out significantly. Most of the Czech emigrants are from Písek, Tábor and Prague, followed by the cities and surrounding areas of Vodňan, Milevsko and Beroun.
Our cultural and social life is most visible in our clubs and halls. So far we have established 17 clubs, of which the oldest are Slovanská Lípa (founded in 1861), Perun (about 1867) and Svatojanský Spolek (also 1867).
(The Slovanská Lípa hall in Cleveland)
Other Czech clubs in Cleveland include several orders of Č.S.P.S., Svornost No. III being the oldest, followed by Žižka No. IX and Lidumil No. XVI. This brotherhood has won the respect of the community and is pretty much the only that’s still flourishing. The hall of Slovanská Lípa is located on the corner of Croton Street and Case Ave., a very beautiful and spacious brick building christened six years ago on May 24, 1871. Perun constructed its own building, the most spacious Czech hall in America, on Croton Street two years later, in 1869. Then there is the hall of V. Rychlík, on the corner of Croton and Humboldt streets, where several clubs, such as the Budivoj Amateur Drama Club, Svornost No. III, the Reading Club [Čtenářský Spolek], the Lumír club and the women’s club of Libuše are also housed. The women’s club Libuše No. I, and the Czech Labor Union meet in Slovanská Lípa while Záložna [the credit union] and Sokol [a popular Czech sports club] meet in Perun’s hall. The greatest number of Czech clubs is located in the 14th ward, those being Záboj, Lidumil, Čechoslovan [Czech-Slav] and the Circle of Czech Nationals [Kruh Českého Lidu]. The Brotherhood Federation [Bratrská Jednota] has the most clubs in the 12th ward, where Saint Prokop’s Club is also located. A new order of the Č.S.P.S. Brotherhood is currently being set up in the 16th ward. Cleveland also has two Czech-Catholic churches: one in the 6th ward (Saint Václav) and the other in the 12th ward (Saint Prokop).
Our cultural life is mostly founded on amateur theatre, concerts and parties, and sometimes on instructional or inspirational seminars and celebrations. Plays are performed in the halls of Slovanská Lípa, Perun and Rychlík; although our theatrical efforts have been more lackluster of late, and somewhat thin on the ground. Budivoj has accumulated an extensive wardrobe and theatrical library over the years and is directed by V. Rychík, a zealous national. A special committee of amateur actors manages Slovanská Lípa, the same at Perun, where there is now a drama club under the name of Thalie directed by Ed. Vopalecký and L. J. Čapek. However, in the past the plays were performed with significantly more enthusiasm and commitment.
In previous years almost all of Cleveland’s Czech intellectuals had focused their energies on the Perun hall, a freethinking, active and spirited group representing our nationhood well, but this vigor has slackened as of late. Besides nurturing our cultural and social vitality the Slovanská Lípa club also acts as a benefit society. The Reading Club at V. Rychlík has an impressive library that continually adds newly published, interesting Czech works to its collection. Perun organized its most extravagant cultural event in 1869 to celebrate the Jan Hus memorial, followed by an event in 1876 attended by all of Cleveland’s Czech cultural clubs to celebrate František Palacký.
(Václav Rychlík Hall)
The christening of the Perun hall in 1869 and the Slovanská Lípa hall in 1871 was lavish, and attended by almost all of Cleveland’s freethinking and enlightened Czechs, while the christening of Lumír choir’s banner was also memorable.
In Cleveland there are two weekly publications responsible for keeping the Czech population up to date: Pokrok [Progress], a progressive paper which moved from Cedar Rapids in 1870; and the Worker’s Paper [Dělnické Listy], established in 1875. The first Czech publisher was the Czech Printing Company [Společnost České Tiskárny], M. Krejčí its chairman and V. Šnajdr its editor. The Worker’s Paper is owned and operated by a cooperative association of Fr. Škarda as the publisher, L. J. Palda as the editor and J. Buňata, with three typesetters. Both these publications have a solid following and are here to stay, although the National Papers [Národní Noviny] and another weekly, Rascal [Diblík] – both animation only – failed to muster enough support to guarantee them a similar fate. The Czech band of J. V. Mudra, a group of superb musicians under excellent direction, is a cornerstone of the Czech music scene, enjoying a great deal of popularity with the Germania Band (half comprised of Czech musicians).
As concerns professions, about 9/10ths of all Cleveland Czechs are hired workers, mostly barrel makers, tailors, shoemakers, carpenters and upholsterers, bricklayers, brick makers and cigar makers. Almost no trade or craft exists which does not have its share of Czechs. There are many Czech stores, although, with the exception of two or three, they are primarily small, at most grocery stores connected to a saloon or bar. We were surprised to count 86 Czech pubs in Cleveland, a substantial number, along with 90 grocery stores, 14 butcher stores and many other stores. The largest stores are owned by M. Krejčí and Václav Procházka. Only a small percentage of Cleveland’s Czechs hold higher education, in the form of two editors, two doctors, two lawyers, one architect, three female teachers and three priests – that must be all. To this we might add some low-level city officials.
The average wealth of Cleveland Czechs is not very high, an obvious conclusion considering some 90% of them are laborers. But most of them do own their own property and houses, and Cleveland is the only city in America where Czechs own larger property complexes. The effects of the financial crash on income afflicted more than a few property owners, but most managed to hold onto to their assets, even if these were only smaller properties in outlying areas.
Rivalry between the individual clubs and halls and between freethinkers and believers grows and subsides according to circumstance. Our social and cultural life has waned rather over the past three years, although we feel this is unlikely to be a permanent state of affairs.
Yet despite a population of 15,000 (or 18,000) Czechs here in Cleveland we cannot boast a single Czech school. We can hardly consider the Czech-Catholic schools here “Czech” schools, as their teachers either have only partial or absolutely no knowledge of Czech, their native language.
Hard times have fallen on even Cleveland’s Czechs, which is probably the reason why our cultural and social life has lost some of its former vigor and why the labor movement has strengthened.
It is also worth mentioning that a few Czechs have actually moved elsewhere from Cleveland, most likely because most of them own their own land. It is also worth mentioning that nearly 30, mostly affluent farmers have settled in the immediate surroundings of Cleveland and which form one big family with Cleveland’s Czechs.
We’d like to add that the charitable organization of Záboj christened its beautiful new banner on the 17th of June in a ceremony packed to the rafters by other Czech clubs and local Czech residents. On July 1 the Lidumil Order No. XIV organized a large event to celebrate its incorporation into the Č.S.P.S. brotherhood. On August 5 the Přemysl Order No. XVII also celebrated its incorporation into the brotherhood, bringing the number of Cleveland orders in this federation up to four. Many clubs were established in Cleveland last year, not only the two aforementioned orders established in only a few months but also the following 8 clubs: Čechoslovan, Brotherhood of a Single Circle [Bratří Jednoho Kruhu], Krnka (a shooting club), Young Men’s Club [Spolek Mladíků (an amateur drama club)], Thalia, Barrel Maker’s Club [Spolek Bednářů], The Krejčovský Club and the Catholic Women and Girl’s Club [Spolek Katolických Žen a Dívek]. Only one club had ceased operations, that being the mysterious order of K.Č.L. (Kruh Českého Lidu [Circle of Czech People)], founded on masonic secrecy. The clubs with the greatest membership are as follows: Catholic Saint Jánský, Č.S.P.S. Brotherhood (230 members), Slovanská Lípa, Brotherhood Federation [Bratrská Jednota], Záboj and the Saint Prokopský Club. In the 14th ward the Brothers of a Single Circle [Bratří Jednoho Kruhu] set up a Czech theater at K. Albl, while Václav Prošek built a new club building. Two halls underpin the cultural life of the west side of town: Sprostý’s hall in Cuba and A Pintner’s hall in Brooklyn.
Religious life among Cleveland Czechs is mostly Catholic, there being two Czech parish cathedrals: Saint Václav and Saint Prokop, each having their own presbyteries, schools and pastors. The Saint Václav parish is administered by Antonín Hynek, its church built in 1876 and its parish membership now 400 strong. The Saint Václav school is attended by an average of 150 Czech children. Its leading teacher is A. Baumgart Němec, and Em. Matějova, a well-educated Czech, is its female teacher. P. Hynek teaches religion. The parish of Saint Prokop on the western side of town has a membership of 230, its church built in 1874 and presently administered by P. M. Koudelek. Two Dutch nuns teach at the school and P. Koudelek, who speaks and writes proper Czech. The church houses three clubs: Saint Josef for men, Saint Anna for women and Virgin Maria for young women. Youngsters at the church put on a theatrical performance almost four times a year, which is most commendable. It would be praiseworthy and much to the advantage of our culture if the pastors could undertake the sacred duty of only hiring Czech teachers capable of teaching English, so that such schools could be justifiably named “Czech”.
Translation © 2013, Onward To Our Past®
3324 LaSalle Trail
Duneland Beach, Indiana USA