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train being ready to leave for Milwaukee, the rest of the family went on, leaving me to hunt him up. My father promised to wait for us at Madison. I found the lad but had to wait until the next day for a train. Arriving at Janesville we encountered a washout, but were transferred to another train by means of a scow, and finally brought safely to Madison, where we found father at the station anxiously awaiting our appearance. The way he hugged and kissed his missing boys was a sight for the natives. After resting there two days we terminated our journey at Muscoda, Wisconsin, in a thoroughly disorganized condition.2 Father had not notified his friends of our prospective arrival, so we hired a conveyance and in a short time arrived unannounced at the Kolmans', who though utterly surprised gave us a hearty and friendly welcome.
My father bought a farm, horses, cows, agricultural implements, and behold us enlisted in the army of Wisconsin agriculturists! Among our neighbors in the Blue River valley were a number of Bohemian families who proved exceedingly friendly and helpful, initiating us into the mysteries of northern farming. Among these good friends were Amen, Kolman, Karasek, Wopalensky, and many others.
After five years of experience in America our tongues had still failed to master the English speech; so after getting things reasonably started on the farm, father sent me to Milwaukee, thinking that a good place for me to learn English. But there, as in Austin County, Texas, I found too many Bohemians and Germans. Birds of a feather will flock together. I found work of a suitable character, but socially I was so constantly surrounded by Germans and Bohemians that I again failed of an opportunity to learn English. I became acquainted with a Bohemian Jew engaged in the clothing business. For him I clerked five months.
2 "We came to Wisconsin from Texas after the Civil War, on April 4, 1866." Letter from Henry H. Doubrava, received July 28, 1924.
He was a very fine, fatherly man and a good advisor. Still, since I was not getting what I had gone to Milwaukee to find, I was ready to respond to the call for harvest help at home, and thither I went. Harvest over and the grain ready for the market, it fell to me to haul it to the Boscobel warehouses. One day after disposing of my load and purchasing some nails of a German hardware concern with which father traded, I was suddenly accosted by one of the partners with Bismarckian bluntness: "Say, would you like to work for us?" Somewhat surprised and thinking that he might be joking I replied, "Sure I would if I could talk English.” Laughingly he said, "Oh das macht nichts aus. Just come and take care of our books." I could do that, English or no English. My parents-especially mother-agreed that I was unfit for farming, so my next trip to town established me as bookkeeper in the Ruka Brothers' hardware store.
The people of Boscobel being almost entirely English speaking, my ignorance of their language proved very embarrassing to me, particularly as I was of a rather sensitive nature. Still, I was determined to acquire a knowledge of it, so I gathered books of instruction and an English-German dictionary. I attended church services regularly, listening intently to the pronunciation, making notes of words and phrases, getting the meaning of them as indicated in my dictionary. I furnished some quiet sport to my American lady friends by the way I managed to "put the cart before the horse." Finally I made a very good beginning in speaking English. I persisted in reading, wasting no time in frivolities.
The Bohemians in Grant County, as well as those in other localities of the state, were well pleased with their surroundings, grew prosperous, and were respected in their communities. The influx of new emigrants caused land values gradually to rise with the growing scarcity of land. After the building of the Union Pacific Railroad rumors
were heard about the fertile rolling prairies, about the endless quantity of government land to be obtained for a mere trifle under the Homestead and Preemption acts. These ideas had a widespread influence. The Bohemian population of Wisconsin, especially in the Blue River country, became restless. A few young men venturing into Nebraska reported its wonderful possibilities. The result was a virtual exodus. Similar reports reached Moravia and Bohemia, resulting in a flood of new immigrants. Many came from Humpolec in Bohemia-all Protestants of the Lutheran denomination. The Catholic people of Bohemia were also affected by the immigration fever, and swelled the movement, going to America and settling alongside of their Protestant fellow countrymen.
Here let me remark that the Catholics of Bohemia and Moravia are not of the dyed-in-the-wool sort. They do not behave in a bitter or harsh manner toward their Protestant neighbors; on the contrary, they are usually very kindhearted and remarkably liberal in their attitude. In fact, so many of them were more or less affected by religious heterodoxy in the old country, where the observance of the Catholic rites was compulsory, that they quickly threw off subservience to the clergy on reaching the new world, and many of them became freethinkers."
In addition to the public lands which could be secured with ease, there was a great body of railroad lands resulting from government grants to the roads of alternate sections along the railroad lines, which could be bought on very favorable terms. This was an additional incentive and lure to those wishing to go west for the purpose of establishing prosperous homes. Lands could be had, for example, at three dollars, four dollars, or five dollars per acre, payable in
"Catholics and Protestants are intermingled throughout Bohemia. About fifty years ago it was claimed by statisticians that five-sevenths of the people in Bohemia were Catholics and two-sevenths Protestants. But it is not so now. Protestantism is constantly receiving converts, and the freethinkers are also reducing Catholic numbers." Letter from Henry H. Doubrava, received July 28, 1924.
ten installments covering ten years. This was one of the influences drawing large numbers of Slovak immigrants to Nebraska. Dakota also, which was as yet without any signs of a railroad but endowed with endless homestead allotments, absorbed hundreds of these people.
Grant County, Wisconsin (particularly certain neighborhoods in that county), was seriously affected by the Bohemian emigration to the West. Almost every one of my close chums went to some part of the West, and I was finally induced to follow. Under the protests of my family and the firm for which I was working, I hied me to Nebraska with one hundred and twenty-five dollars in my purse. On reaching Fremont, I was practically bankrupt, but I hesitated not to introduce myself as candidate for a clerkship and the second day I secured a place in a dry-goods store. However, work was not to begin at once and I would have to wait six weeks before taking up this new job. In the meantime, in conversation with a gentleman at the hotel, who happened to be salesman for a reaping and mowing machine, we exchanged experiences and he induced me to go with him to help sell machines in Saunders and Butler counties. Being a Bohemian and Saunders County being thickly settled with my countrymen, I found myself in green pastures. In twenty days I had amassed one hundred and eighty dollars with all expenses paid, aside from the real value of the acquaintanceship established among my countrymen, which in the near future was to prove of great use to me.
Wisconsin has been a principal source of numerous Bohemian and Slavic settlements in Nebraska. In Saunders, Dodge, Colfax, Butler, and Salina counties these people are strongly represented. Omaha has large numbers of them. Victor Rosewater, the founder and editor of the Omaha Bee, is a Bohemian. His name originally was Rozwaril; it was changed ostensibly to accommodate the English tongue. The
Bee ranks high in newspaperdom. John Rosicky, with the assistance of Rosewater, founded the Pokrok Zapadu (Western Progress); Brandeis, a Bohemian Jew, established a permanent dry-goods store in Omaha. North Bend, Schuyler, Wahoo, Dodge, Prague, Bruno, and many other towns are largely Bohemian. Lawyers and political mixers are much in evidence. I believe Nebraska has the largest proportion of people of Slavic nationality of any state in the Union.
But times and conditions are changing rapidly both here and in the old world. Masaryk and Benes, the two prominent heads of the Czecho-Slovakian republic, are working diligently to make their little country prosperous and contented. Their people are profoundly desirous of good relations with the United States and real reciprocity in business affairs. On the other hand, conditions in the new world are no longer so alluring as they were in the 1870's, and with restrictive immigration laws there will hereafter be comparatively few emigrants to seek homes among us. It will require but a short time for the Slavic people domiciled here to become thoroughly assimilated, when the story of their origin will remain only a tradition, like that of the Moravian Brethren who came to America five generations ago.
The power of the Slavs to absorb a new civilization is extraordinary. My own family may serve to illustrate the point. For many years we were a distinctly clannish people. Today we have representatives in Texas, Missouri, Nebraska, Colorado, Idaho, Oregon, and California. There have been numerous intermarriages with non-Slavic stock. Our language is the language of America. For myself, while still understanding Bohemian and reading it fluently, I have largely lost the power to express myself in my mother tongue. Still, it has never occurred to me to deny my nationality. The Bohemian people are not criminally inclined; they are