Austin County 

 

Czech Migration

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.”

AN ACCOUNT

OF

THE FIRST GROUP MIGRATIONS OF CZECHS TO TEXAS

Pages 19 -28

by

 James Woodrick

APPENDIX III

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

of property.

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

Lidumil Lesikar.

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"

13.

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

LESIKAR

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.

Anna, wife

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.

APPENDIX IV

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

parentheses.

"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.

APPENDIX V

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.

2. Mares

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

inhabitants.

"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.

(not signed)"

End of the letter

APPENDIX VI

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.

Duncan.

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

follows:

"…. 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.

Back to  Migration_p11-19   Back to Czech_Pages   Forward to Migration_p28-39

If you are aware of other records or can provide us with such records, please contact Joy Neely or Steve Alvarez

 

 

 

Back to main page.