Memories of 1856, written by František Marák : PART ONE

Memories of 1856

Written by F. Marák

Originally Published in Czech 7 October 1951 in Věstník

Translated December 2018 by Kate Challis

Editor’s note: - In the previous Věstník there was an announcement that the organizer wanted to receive the biographies and experiences of our old settlers that were published in various magazines and calendars thirty, forty, fifty or more years ago. By printing these long-forgotten biographies, we hope to get enough material which will in the not-so-distant-future be able to serve some of our young, gifted students to build a book, historical short stories, or a novel in the English language. It will be a renewal of the old and faded pictures from the lives of our oldest pioneers. The first response to this call came this week with the following inscription: “Brother Editor, I am rushing to you with my little tidbits in order to support your marvelous idea to gather what hasn’t already been eaten by mice. What I am sending you was written forty years ago by František Marák. I chose it from the Našinec calendar. It is from the experiences of our first immigrants. I would like for many others to help you. I will still look in the old calendar [called] Amerikán where there will be plenty of biographies of our long since departed countrymen. Sincerely, Marie K.

I have all 23 pages of František Marák's emigration paperwork in my personal files. The originals are in SOkA Frýdek-Místek. This is the cover of his file. His signature appears multiple times. I am not sure yet what the other pages say.

One day, my brother in law informed me that he was emigrating to America, which he actually did and settled in the state of Iowa. That same year he wrote us twice and assured us that they had come across a good place in America and that things were going agreeably for them.

Those accounts moved both me and some friends to reflection and discussions until we finally also decided to set out for America.

We were seventeen families in all, that is: five families from Tichá, three families from Mniší, two families from Sklenov, one family from Malé Kunčice near Místek [today Kunčice pod Ondřejníkem], two families from Trojanovice and four families from Frenštát.

With us came a certain Kalik from Tichá of German descent, and I was pleased of that because I reckoned that we would more likely arrange the journey through him although the Frenštáters also knew German.

While still in Moravia, we could not unite on the American state to which we would emigrate. I had the idea of settling in the state of Iowa and the other Tichá families were determined to follow me. The Frenštáters wanted to move to the state of Texas. Because there were more of us from Tichá, we resolved to go to Iowa.

But it happened differently.

The Frenštáters wrote to Bremen to another emigration agent without our knowledge and that one offered them a discount for the emigration.

When we arrived in Bremen we had to wait for the boat for an entire week.

Immediately on the first night we had a mishap because two of the Frenštaters were arrested on the orders of the emigration agent with whom we had negotiated previously.

As the week passed and the ship was ready to set sail, we boarded it and our voyage began.  

The ship was creaking and groaning and the Captain was ill-tempered, but our boys were as happy as if it were a beautiful summer’s day.

But first I shall describe how we arranged ourselves on the ship.

Kalik and I had berths in the middle of the ship next to one another when we first got aboard the ship, but I did not keep my place for long because I had the honor to move to first class [lit. first cabin] from my original cabin. Who could have had such good fortune.

The special room was found in the back of the ship near the rudder and one had to crawl inside it from a narrow, square hole like a chimney in the old country.

Jan Klimíček wanted to be in first class [lit. first cabin] and was able to do so by chance. It happened that, when the other agent in Bremen was written to and the first lost us [as clients], after the arrest, Mr. Klimíček paid a fine of about 70 US dollars.

The second agent who took us was named Pokranz. Mr Klimíček wanted some compensation for the damages he had suffered from paying the fine. Pokranz told him that he could not give him anything other than that perhaps he himself and some other family could take first class [lit. cabin]. And the lot fell upon me.

But dear readers, it is unable to comprehend the crying and lamentation that ruled in that cabin. It seemed to me that I was the only man in the room, the others were themselves pregnant women working hard at childbirth. It looked like the inside of a women’s hospital with all the vomiting, sickness and straining.

(to be continued)

Observations and Questions: 

A good place to look for histories, biographies and more information about the early Czech immigrants is in Czech language publications, especially so-called “calendars” including one called Našinec, and one called Amerikán. Where can I find these? Are any of them online?

Who was František Marák’s brother? When did he come to America? Where in Iowa did he settle?

Who are the families who came with František Marák?

To start to try to answer this question I looked up Augustin Haidušek’s description of this group of settlers on page 44 of A History of the Czech-Moravian Catholic Communities of Texas Translated and edited by the Reverend V. A. Svrcek.

Five from Tichá:

  • František Marák family
  • Josef Kalik family
  • Ignac Muzny family
  • Josef Petr family
  • Ignace Sramek family
  • Benjamin Klimíček family

Three from Mniší:

  • Ignac Pustejovsky family
  • Valentin Holub family
  • Valentin Haidušek family ← my family

Two from Sklenov:

  • Francis Kosa family
  • single young man Jan Konvička

One from Kunčice pod Ondřejníkem

  • perhaps this is Frances Sugarek from Klokocov?

Two from Trojanovice:

  • Konstantin Chovanec family ← my family
  • Josef Janda family ← my family

Four from Frenštát:

  • Johanna Brož
  • Rosalie Holub ← very likely my family
  • two more single girls from Frenštát


I should look through the stacks of emigration paperwork which I have. Perhaps it will have an answer.

Marák specifically mentioned that the Frenštáters knew German. Did my ancestors from Frenštát also speak German?

What compelled the Frenštáters to write to a different emigration agent? I noticed that all the people that Augustin Haidušek mentioned as coming from Frenštát were girls. I wonder if they made a mistake?

What ship did this group travel on?

When did they set sail? Augustin Haidušek says they left in August 1856.

Why are there no passenger arrival manifests for 1856 for Galveston anywhere?

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