The following was published as the lead article in Volume I of a series of books published by the Texas Czech Genealogical
Society in 2005 and 2007 titled “Czech Family Histories.”
THE FIRST GROUP MIGRATIONS OF CZECHS TO TEXAS
Pages 19 -28
CZECH IMMIGRANTS ON THE SUWA
The generalized listing of passengers on the bark SUWA was found in the
German newspaper "Neu Braunfels Zeitung". In July, 1987, Frantisek Silar in Horni
Cermna, Czechoslovakia, developed and made available a list of persons or
passengers who were issued passports. This information has been translated by Albert
J. Blaha, Sr., as follows:
1. BUSEK, Frantisek, born 1817 in Dolni Hermanice near Lanskroun, had 300
"Zlaty" (Czech currency).
Marie, wife, born 1817
2. CERMAK, Frantisek, b. 1817 in Dzbanov u Usti nad Orlice, a laborer, had 500 Zlaty
Katerina, wife, born 1833
Josef, son, born 1851.
3. JANECEK, Vaclav, born 1826 in Dzbanov u Usti nad Orlice, a laborer.
Anna, wife, born 1832, nee Kroulik.
Jan, son, born at sea of December, 1853 on the bark SUWA.
4. JARASCH, family of three persons. On the earlier translation of the NBZ
passenger list, this was shown as being the family JIRASEK. It appears this was an
error and the name of the family is JARES.
5. KROULIK, Anna, born 1805, from Voderad u Litomysle, had 800 Zlaty.
Jan, son, born 24 December 1837, in Voderad.
PAVLICEK, Frantisek, born 1786, father of Anna Kroulik.
6. LESIKAR, Josef Lidumil, born 18 May 1806 in Nepomuky u Lanskroun, a tailor.
Teresie, wife, born 14 February 1808
Josef, son, born 9 June 1833
Karel, son, born 30 August 1835
Vincenc, son, born December, 1839
Jan, son, born 16 October, 1842.
7. LESIKAR, Karel, born 19 November 1814 in Cermna, laborer, a brother to Josef
Anna, wife, nee Marek, widow of Hajzler
Anna, daughter, born 1848
Karel (I) born 3 June 1852
Ludmila, born 3 June 1852.
8. MAREK, Frantisek, born in Cermna, a tailor.
9. MARES, Josef, born 1805 in Nepomuky u Lanskroun, a family man
Anna, wife, born 1809
Rosalia, daughter, born 1837
Josef, son, born 1840
Vincenc, son, born 1843
Teresie, daughter, born 1845
Frantisek, son, born 1848
Frantiska, daughter, born 1851.
10. PECHACEK, Josef, born 1812 in Dolni Hermanice u Lanskroun, a farmer.
Frantiska, wife, born 1813
Frantisek, son, born 1838
Mariana, daughter, born 1840
Anna, daughter, born 1845
Matylda, daughter, born 1847
Teresie, daughter, born 1852
11. RIPL, Frantiska, born 1840 in Nepomuky
12. RIPL, Frantisek, born 1831, had 120 "Zlaty"
a. SILAR, Frantisek, born 10 June 1827 in Nepomuky House 5, son of Pavel and
Johanna Silar (nee Balcar). He did not go with the first group (ship MARIA)
Rosalie, wife, born 1829
Vincenc, son, born 20 October 1850
Jan, son, born 17 July 1852.
b. LESIKAR, Frantisek, born 1840, son of Rosalie Silar from her first marriage to a
Josef, born 1845, son of Rosalie Silar
Rosalie, born 1847, daughter of Rosalie Silar.
14. SILAR, Ignac, born 13 March 1804 in Cermna, a laborer.
Teresie, wife, nee Chaloupka
Anna, daughter, born 21 February 1828
Vincenc, son, born 22 December 1831
Rosalie, daughter, born 13 March 1834
Ignac, son, born 20 March 1839
Frantisek, son, born 18 September 1843
Bernard, son, born 31 October 1846.
15. SILAR, Jan, called BOROVY, born 19 November 1795 in Nepomuky House 6.
Teresie, wife, born 1813, nee Jirasek
Rosalie, daughter, born 28 May 1831
Jan, son, born 25 January, 1835
Josef, son, born 27 April 1849.
16. SILAR, Jan, called MARTINKU, born 11 November 1815 in Nepomuky.
Rosalie, wife born 1821, nee Coufal
Rosalie, daughter, born 2 April 1843
Anna, daughter, born 22 December 1847
Jan, son born 30 July 1849
Amalie, daughter, born 10 December 1853 at sea on the SUWA.
17. SILAR, Josef, soapmaker, born 8 October 1800 in Cermna.
Katerina, wife, nee DUSEK
Vincenc, son, born 15 September 1838.
18. SILAR, Pavel, born 5 June 1808 in Nepomuky House 6
Katerina, wife, nee JUNEK.
Amalie, daughter, born 6 April 1836
Anna, daughter, born 7 June 1839
Rosalie, daughter, born 30 April 1841
Teresie, daughter, born 11 April 1847
Frantiska, daughter, born 28 August 1851.
19. SILAR, Vincenc, born 13 August 1829 in Horni Tresnovec.
Frantiska, wife born 1 November 1834
Frantiska, daughter, born 28 January, 1852
20. SLEZAK, Jan, born 1824 in Ceska Trebova, miller's helper.
21. TAUBER, Josef, born 1820 in Voderady u Litomysle, a tailor.
Katerina, wife, born 1821.
22. ZACHAR, Josef, weaver's helper, born 13 March 1829 in Sloupnice, father: Jan
Zachar, cottager in Dzbanov, mother: Zofie, daughter of Anton Pankert, cottager
from Chotesin house 13 (single).
Note: Families 13 a. and b. first settled in Colorado County, where the Lesikar
children were listed in the 1860 census as "Lessing". These three Lesikar children
were counted as Silars on the NBZ passenger list.
Note: One American dollar equaled approximately two Czech Zlaty.
NEWSPAPER ARTICLES ABOUT ARRIVAL OF
"MARIA" GROUP IN HOUSTON
The following article is from the 5 March 1852 edition (#843) of the TELEGRAPH AND
TEXAS REGISTER of Houston. Editorial notes later added for clarity are shown in
"We regret to learn that a report has been circulated in the interior to the effect that
cholera has made its appearance in Houston. This report, like a dozen others that
precede it, is incorrect!
"It probably originated from the fact that a number of miserably poor immigrants have
lately arrived in Houston destitute of the comforts of life and suffering from the effects of
diarrhea. Several of them have died a week or two ago. Most of the others are
recovering. We have been informed by their attending physician that the disease is not
contagious and that the remainder of the immigrants will probably soon recover, so as to
proceed on their journey. They intend to settle in Austin County.
"They state they were detained for several weeks in New Orleans and that their expenses
were so great that they are now reduced to beggarey.
"They have been furnished with provisions and medicines at the expense of this city
(Houston); otherwise probably several more of them would have died. It is to be
regretted that such destitute immigrants should be brought to this country when, owning
to the want of the ordinary comforts of life and the debilitating effects of the climate, they
will be liable to fall victims to the diseases of summer."
In another later part of this same issue of the "Telegraph and Texas Register" published in
Houston for 5 March 1852, appears another similar article:
"DESTITUTE EMIGRANTS: Several families of German or Polish (actually Czech)
emigrants have recently arrived in this city in the most deplorable state of destitution.
Some of them are laboring under the effects of "ship fever" or a disease similar to it, and
were destitute of the common necessities of life. Two or three have died and others are
dangerously sick. (eighteen ultimately died in Houston). "We think that some measure
should be taken to prevent the captains of the vessels from transporting such wretched
and destitute persons to our shores, unless they can give security that they will not
become a burden to this country as soon as they are landed. We have enough paupers at
homed, without having others introduced merely to benefit a few foreign capitalists at the
expense of the whole community."
There is no direct reference that these were members of the "Maria" immigrant
group, but all inferences seem to indicate that they were. Perhaps the most direct
reference is to the statement made that they were suffering from "ship's fever". The Vince
Silar letter back to Lanskron states the people in Houston told them they were suffering
from a "ship fever" after landing. Further, in the 20 February 1852 issue of the
newspaper, there is a statement that the (coastal) steamer "MEXICO" arrived at
Galveston on 17 February and brought dates (news) from New Orleans to the 16th. This
also checks with the estimates of their arrival in Galveston. It thus can be assumed the
trip from New Orleans to Galveston was made on the "MEXICO".
In the issue of 28th February 1852, reference is made that "The Brazos River rose 25 feet
at Richmond on 22 February". This all seems to check with the flooding upon their
arrival at that river crossing.
Albert J. Blaha, Sr.
LETTER FROM VINCE SILAR DESCRIBING THE "MARIA" JOURNEY
The following letter was written from Texas by one of the Czechs who had
immigrated on the MARIA. Although unsigned, the author is believed to be Vincenc
Shiller writing to his father-in-law Jan Silar (nicknamed "Borovy", meaning "from the
Pine Grove", referring to the fact that he lived in House #6 in Nepomuky, which was
adjacent to a forest of Pine trees). The letter was sent back to their place of origin
(Lanskroun District, Cechy) and was printed in newspapers (Moravsky Noviny and
Moravsky Narodni Listy) in April, 1854. The dates and words in parentheses were added
by Albert Blaha in 1987. This letter was received by the group of Czechs who came on
the SUWA before they departed for Texas (Appendix VI). One of the group, Joseph L.
Lesikar, sent a copy to the newspapers for publication.
"26 October 1852
"Dearest father and all our friends:
"It may seem strange to you that you did not receive any news for such a long time
from us when you by coincidence found out elsewhere about our unfortunate journey.
The reason for my silence, as well as the others, was due to the fact we wanted first to
look around in order to better describe our experience.
"We felt as if we were intoxicated and in this new beginning, everything was
spinning around us; first because of our weakness, and then also because of the features
and appearance of this land (Texas) which was altogether entirely new to us. Our minds
are calmer now and we hope you will better appreciate the news we send.
"First of all then, we cordially send greetings to our dear and sincere friends and
relatives. We are grateful for all your love and sincerity you all granted unto us when you
blessed our departure with your words and tears. May the good Lord reward you all for
this friendly devotion.
"As you know, our journey (to Texas) was very unfortunate for all of us. The sorry
fact was that for the entire trip, we used an English ship straight (from Liverpool) to
Galveston in Texas. This ship belonged to a shipping company named 'Victoria', that was
concerned only in making a profit and ignoring the value of human lives. We did not have
any complaints before reaching Liverpool in England but then, quickly, everything
changed as soon as we departed for the high seas.
"We had a written contract from Frankfurt which specified we were to receive
proper, ready prepared, and healthful meals but they (the Victoria Company) changed all
this in Liverpool. They 'gave' us a new, changed, English contract which stated we were
to prepare our meals ourselves from the rations the ship would give us. So while we were
at sea, we received rations for a person for the whole week as follows:
8 measures* of oat flour
1/2 measures of wheat flour
2 measures of moldy and almost green rice
enough of inedible biscuits (crackers)
2 ozs. of salted meat full of bones and suitable only for dogs.
1/2 gal. of water per adult (1/4 gal. for each child) for cooking and drinking.
1/2 measure tea and sugar (substandard)
* The size of the "measure" is not known but perhaps the British ounce.
"This voyage from Liverpool (1 Dec 1851) to New Orleans (3 Feb 1852) lasted nine
(9) weeks and four days (67 days). We managed to stay healthy for seven weeks but
seventeen (17) of our Irish passengers died. Finally, even our strength collapsed because
of the lack of water, for we did not know if we should keep the water received for
drinking or should we use it for cooking. The children cried of thirst and we gave
them water by teaspoons. Even yet I can't think about how these miserable little
creatures begged for a drop of water.
"For the last period of the voyage, I myself became ill and bedridden because of
weakness and nightmares. My wife and my children did not become ill during this time.
When we arrived at New Orleans, all of us, except seven, wound up at the hospital there.
There was a very unhealthy climate there and we waited anxiously for ten (10) days for
some of the ill to get better, which happened in a few cases. They were very weak and
got on board the ship sailing for Galveston only with great difficulty.
"There were still thirty-six (36) of us left (on this departure for Galveston (13 Feb
1852) because in New Orleans we lost these persons:
1. The wife of my brother Josef.
3. Lesa --(Perhaps Lesikar)
4.,5.,6. My sister and her two (2) children.
7.,8.,9. Three (3 other persons.
Total - nine (9) persons in all.
"The rest of our group stayed in New Orleans for further treatment.
"This new voyage (New Orleans to Galveston) lasted three and one half days. In
this time, my wife and two (2) children became ill so again sorrows became our
companions. We stayed in Galveston only for lunch and immediately took a steamer for
Houston (17 Feb 1852).
"On this journey (Galveston to Houston) which lasted from early afternoon to 3:00
a.m. (18 Feb 1852) our little son Vincenc struggled for his life until he died. We buried
him in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico (Galveston Bay). Soon afterwards died my
brother's little daughter Rosalia who was also laid to rest in this wet grave.
"When we finally reached Houston (18 Feb 1852), we faced another delay against
our will since all the roads were bad. We had to travel on land that was dry and we
could not find enough transportation for us adults and our children nor for all our luggage
and belongings. This was most unfortunate for all of us since this place (Houston) was
extremely unhealthy like New Orleans. We were already weak and exhausted and like
flies, we again became very ill because of an "after-sea" sickness per the local
"Here in Houston, the following persons of our group died and were buried:
1. My brother Josef.
2.&3." " Josef's two (2) children.
4. My mother (Johannah Silar nee Balcar).
5. My older and only son.
6. Ripl's child.
7. Mares' daughter.
8. Jezek's daughter
9.&10. Coufal's two (2) children.
11. My brother Karl's child.
12. through 18. Seven other persons
Total - Eighteen (18) persons
"We stayed in Houston for fourteen (14) days. I became gravely ill, with not much
hope of getting better. I had hallucinations and my brothers had to tie me up. My wife
almost lost her life because of desperation. It was an indescribable situation of sadness
and misery. We eventually pulled out from there (Houston) 4 March 1852, and came to
the Brazos River about 10 Mar 1852, which was flooded (out of banks) for several miles.
We had to camp there on higher ground under the skies for eighteen (18) days (until 28
Mar 1852)! In the last ten (10) days, we were out of food and had to pay a high price for
food shipped from Houston.
"Here, the persons we left behind (in New Orleans) caught up with us and they told
us how many more persons died over there (New Orleans).
"Our numbers lessened even on the banks of the Brazos River, where we buried six
(6) more persons (perhaps at Brookshire).
"We finally made it to Cat Springs (about 5 April 1852) where we found a roof and
celebrated our Easter holiday, our Lord's and our own resurrection.
End of the letter
EXCERPTS FROM JOSEPH LIDUMIL LESIKAR'S MEMOIRS
The following is taken from the personal memoirs of Joseph Lidumil Lesikar,
written in his later years of life in Austin County, Texas. Some of the information does
not match other sources, probably due to Lesikar's inability to remember exact details of
happenings twenty to thirty years before he wrote his memoirs. An extensive account of
the Lesikar family including these memoirs is in a book titled "Memorabilia - Joseph
Lidumil Lesikar and Family", compiled and privately printed in 1988 by Frances M.
In the introduction of his memoirs, Lesikar writes of his early life and the conditions
in his homeland at that time. Speaking of the reasons he chose to emigrate, he writes as
"…. my materialistic condition was diminishing. I felt sorry for my wife who
labored constantly. The blessings of a married life kept increasing our family. Up to now
I was doing fairly well. Since the disbanding of the national parliament, I was at a loss as
to what to do. I knew little about the free America. There was also much suggestion to
move to the Banat, in Hungary, but I did not favor such a move. My opposition would
not have had much effect had I not gotten hold of one of the Protestant minister's, E.
Bergman's, letters, who had moved to Catsprings, Texas, and had been writing to a
certain man, Kolacny, to move after him. He informed him about Valentine's cost of the
journey from Hamburg to Texas, about the meals and service on the ship. He also wrote
about the lands of this country, the people, the work they did and the money they earned.
Some of the people still wanted to go to the Banat, but I preferred to move to Texas. I
sold my property with only a provision, as my wife did not favor the move, to leave the
place of her birth and move into an unknown country overseas. I did not want to force
her to go so we stayed on in our home. Sixteen families started to move out early in the
fall of 1851 to Hamburg and on to Texas. This was the first move from eastern Bohemia
and Moravia. For quite a long time nobody knew if any of the Czech people had
reached America or not, because the government kept it a secret. In Hamburg, our poor
emigrants got into the hands of a Jew named Hirman, who through a fair looking contract
got them to Liverpool. There they were given other contracts and food that was
unsuitable for use. Their ship "Victoria" was overloaded with the Irish and so it
happened that half of the people died on the way which lasted seventeen weeks. We did
not hear anything about our people for at least a year. It was in September of 1852 that
we \received the first heartbreaking news of what had happened to them and finally some
letter writing began. I wrote a few times \ to Klacel. He was anxious to hear the news
and was determined to get it into the "Moravian News". Everything was done and
published, even the letter of E. Bergman and the news of Texas in America was spread,
especially in eastern Moravia in Vsetin and surrounding places. I consider myself one of
the first supporters of the emigration from Moravia to Texas and I do not think that
anybody will claim a right to blame me.