Landskron, the district, consisted of the town of Landskron and forty-two bordering villages. (1) In the 1850s, Landskron-town contained about 5,000 inhabitants and was connected by rail to the rest of the Austrian Empire. Second in importance to the town of Landskron was Cermná (Böhmisch Rothwasser), a Czech village of about 3,000 inhabitants. Historically, Cermná had market rights not granted to the other villages. Cermná's lower half was mostly Catholic and its upper half was mostly Protestant. (In 1936, it was split into two villages - Dolní Cermná and Horní Cermná). The other forty-one villages in the district of Landskron varied in size from a few hundred people to about 1,500 inhabitants. Roads connected the villages to the town of Landskron. Three-quarters of these villages were predominantly German, and the majority of both ethnic groups were of the Roman Catholic faith.
The inhabitants of these villages, both Czech and German, were divided into three broad social groups - the "large farmers" (German: Bauer, Czech: sedláci), the "small farmers" (Feldgärtner or zahradnici) and the day laborers (Taglohner or podruzi). The "large farmers" generally had farms over ten hectares (a hectare is 2.471 acres). They usually owned horses, cows and numerous smaller farm animals. These farmers were engaging in commercial farming and were able to ship produce to market in nearby towns. The "small farmers" had only a few hectares. They usually had a few cows and a number of smaller farm animals. The day laborers worked for small or large farmers as field laborers, stable hands and kitchen and house servants. In addition, some worked as weavers, carpenters, coopers or blacksmiths. Some of the day laborers, called "cottagers" (Häusler or chalupnici), owned a small house with enough land around it for a small garden and a few small farm animals such as goats. Most of the area's population consisted of day laborers scratching out a marginal subsistence.
Typical of the Landskroner village of the area was Ober Johnsdorf (Horní Tresnovec), located just north of the town of Landskron. Ober Johnsdorf contained about 1,000 inhabitants in the 1850s, most of them German-speaking but with a significant Czech-speaking minority. The neighboring villages to the north, Cermná and Nepomuky (Nepomuk), were predominantly Czech. The other nearby villages, Jokelsdorf (Jakubovice), Michelsdorf (Ostrov), and Nieder Johnsdorf (Dolní Tresnovec), were predominantly German. Ober Johnsdorf was comprised of 1,108 hectares, which is about four and one-quarter sections of land, or 2,738 acres. The average landholding in Ober Johnsdorf was about seven and a half hectares, with over half the farms smaller than five hectares. Only a dozen farms had more than 20 hectares. Since the town of Landskron was three miles distant, it is likely that excess grain from Ober Johnsdorf was transported by horse or ox-cart for shipment by rail to the cities of the Austrian Empire. Apart from farming, Ober Johnsdorf in the early 1850s had no church and only a basic school. For church services and any advanced schooling, Ober Johnsdorf's villagers traveled to Landskron-town. Given the limited educational opportunities available at the time, many of Ober Johnsdorf's inhabitants had only primitive reading and writing skills.
In sharp contrast to farming in America, Landskron-district farmsteads were not separate from its villages. Farm buildings were located on both sides of a road, and farm fields stretched straight back from the buildings until they bordered another village's farms. Farms might also end at the woods or at an untillable hill. Generally, farmers in Ober Johnsdorf cultivated contiguous fields, unlike the practice in other areas of Europe. It could, however, be a considerable distance from the farm buildings to each farm's property limits. Also, farmland that was wooded or low provided natural barriers separating tillable parcels within the farm.
Ober Johnsdorf's farm buildings also showed a distinctive configuration. Generally, the living quarters were physically connected to the farm buildings. More elaborate farmsteads were set up in a U-shape or square with a courtyard in the middle. The latter square form probably developed in an attempt to provide some protection against thieves and foreign soldiers, and it also allowed the farmer to secure his animals and harvested crops from marauding animals.
Another reason why people emigrated was to escape the effects of imperial wars. The Austrian Empire was involved in frequent wars, resulting in increasing taxes and the drafting of young men sent to fight in distant locations.
By the 1850s, numerous sources encouraged European peoples to emigrate to America. "How-to-emigrate" books extolled America's virtues, especially the freedom and cheap land available in America. (2) Rail and shipping interests made emigration sound very attractive in an attempt to increase their business. American states, such as Wisconsin, sent agents to European ports to encourage emigrants to settle in their states.
The following table shows the numbers of people who legally emigrated from Bohemia from 1850 through 1868 (3):
Emigration from Bohemia began slowly as word spread that it was possible to legally emigrate. (It has been suggested that the official statistics should be doubled to account for illegal emigration and record keeping defects). Once word spread that emigration was possible, there was an early rush to emigrate, peaking in 1854. The departure of these emigrants undoubtedly improved the economic chances of those who remained behind, causing emigration to taper off. It dipped sharply in 1859 for two reasons: word of America's economic crisis, the Panic of 1857, had filtered back by then and diminished America's economic appeal and the Austrian Empire's war with Italy in 1859 curtailed emigration opportunities. Further emigration slowed in the early 1860s due to the impact of the American Civil War, but it peaked again in 1867, following the Austrian Empire's humiliating loss in the Austro-Prussian War.
The first sizeable emigration from the district of Landskron occurred in 1851 and consisted of Czech Protestant day laborers primarily from the villages of Cermná and Nepomuky. These emigrants had little to lose by emigrating, given their low social status in Landskron-district -- they were poor, they were Czech speakers in an empire having a German ruling class, and they were Protestants in a country where the ruling class was ardently Catholic. When these poor Czech Protestants of the Landskron district began to explore the possibility of leaving the District of Landskron, the Austrian Government encouraged them to move to the Banat region of Hungary in search of a better life. Obviously, it was in the Austrian government's best interests to move these people to an underdeveloped part of the Austrian Empire where their efforts would hopefully add to the national wealth and keep them available for military service. However, after the prospective emigrants received correspondence from Joseph Bergman, a Protestant minister, extolling life in Texas, they decided to emigrate there. On November 6, 1851, about seventy-four Czechs started on their trip to America. The fact that over one-fifth of the total legal emigration in 1851 was from Landskron suggests how bad conditions were in Northeast Bohemia. The emigrants traveled by train from Ústí nad Orlicí (Wildenschwert) to Hamburg. They sailed from Hamburg to Liverpool, Great Britain and then transferred to the sailing vessel Maria for the long trip to New Orleans, Louisiana. In New Orleans, they transferred to a third ship to travel to Galveston, Texas. Then they took a fourth schooner to Houston. After traveling for three to four months, fewer than half of the emigrants reached their final destination, the Cat Spring area in Austin County, Texas. The others had died along the way, of illness caused by poor food, limited water supplies and poor living conditions on the long journey. The surviving emigrants sent a number of letters home relating their ordeal, and one emigrant recommended traveling on a ship directly to Galveston even though it would be more expensive. When a second group of about eighty-five Czech Protestants left their homes for Texas on about October 9, 1853, they followed that advice and boarded the Suwa from Bremerhaven, which took them directly to Galveston. (4) In later years, many other Czech Protestants from the district of Landskron emigrated to Texas. They were joined by some Czech and German Catholics from the district of Landskron. Some of the Czech Catholics who settled in Pierce County, Wisconsin, first traveled to Texas before settling in Wisconsin. There is however, no cluster of Landskroner emigrants in Texas of any size, as is the case in Wisconsin. These Texas emigrants assimilated into preexisting German or Czech communities.
When the first poor German Catholics applied for passports in 1852, they said they were going to Texas. For some unknown reason, they changed their minds and went to Wisconsin instead. Since they left so soon after the Czech Protestants, it is clear that the tragic journey of the Maria was not a likely basis for their altered plans. There are three possible reasons why these people chose Wisconsin as their final destination. First, they may have learned about the climatic difference between Texas and Wisconsin and decided that the Wisconsin climate was more favorable. Writers in the 1850s wrote glowingly of life in Wisconsin, emphasizing the good farmland available and a climate similar to central Europe's. Second, they may have learned that Wisconsin granted liberal voting rights to emigrants. One of the first thing many emigrants did after arrival in the United States was to apply for citizenship, which suggests the right to vote was important to them. Finally, just as the Protestants went to Texas at the behest of a Protestant minister, the Catholics may have gone to Wisconsin at the urging of their Catholic priests. In the early 1850s, John Martin Henni, a German-speaking Swiss, was the Bishop in Milwaukee. It is likely that some of the Catholic clergy in the Landskron area had learned of the presence of a German-speaking bishop in Milwaukee though the fund-raising activities of the Leopoldine Society, a Viennese missionary society. A Landskroner priest would logically encourage his flock to go to a state where there was a German-speaking Bishop to oversee their spiritual interests.
The primary destination of the German Catholic emigrants was the Watertown, Wisconsin area. In the early 1850s, Watertown, with about 5,000 inhabitants, was one of the largest cities in Wisconsin. The area's abundant rich, rolling farmland, some of which had been partially cleared by earlier settlers, would have appealed to Landskroners wanting to farm their own land in America. Wisconsin had become a state in 1848, and southern Wisconsin was no longer considered part of the western frontier. Railroads were starting to connect the major towns in the state, and farmers were able to sell their surplus product on the market.
Watertown was also a center of German immigration. As such, the Landskron emigrants would have found in the Watertown area German-speaking immigrants from the Austrian Empire, Bavaria, Prussia and other German-speaking lands, in addition to those Landskron-district families that had emigrated in earlier years. Watertown had a German Catholic parish (Saint Henry's) founded in 1853, a German newspaper, the Anzeiger, and a brewery.
The first group of German Catholic emigrants left Landskron in in the spring of 1852. This group sailed from Bremen in April, 1852 for Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. They arrived in the United States at Buffalo, New York in July of 1852 and arrived in southern Wisconsin by mid-July. Although there are no ship manifests for this group, other sources indicate this group consisted of at least the following: the John Doubrawa family from the village of Rathsdorf (Skuhrov), the Anton Fiebiger family from the village of Jokelsdorf (Jakubovice), the Joseph Pfeifer and Franz Langer families from the village of Michelsdorf (Ostrov), the Franz Veit family from Knappendorf (Knapovec), and Adolph Bartosch with his wife Amalia and her children from a prior marriage to John Gregor. (Franz Langer's grandson was William Langer, Governor and U.S. Senator from North Dakota).
John Doubrawa and Joseph Pfeifer both bought land on July 14, 1852 near present-day Waterloo, Wisconsin, which is just west of Watertown. They also applied for citizenship that day, as did Adolph Bartosch and Franz Veit. From this humble beginning sprang the Island community outside of Waterloo, Wisconsin. (5)
The second group of Landskroner emigrants to southern Wisconsin arrived later in 1852. The records of the Jason, which arrived in New York on December 7, 1852, from Bremen, show about sixty people from the Landskron district on board: the Johann Blaschka and Johann Klecker families of Hertersdorf (Horní Houovec), the Ignatz Yelg, Wenzel Blaschka and Johann Blaschka families of Tschernowier (Cernovír), the Joseph Veit family and Anton Wawrauscheck, Philip Zimprich and Ludwig Zimprich of Knappendorf (Knapovec), the Anton Fiebiger family of Jokelsdorf (Jakubovice), the Johann Fischer family of Riebnig (Rybník), the Joseph Zimprich family of Rathsdorf (Skuhrov) and the Wenzel Fuchs family of Hilbetten (Hylváty). Also on board were the following persons, whose place of origin may be the district of Landskron: the Wenzel Blaska and Anton Kobliz families, Barbara Detterer and Franz Meidner. The Jason added significantly to the nucleus of the Landskroner community on the Island.
On January 10, 1853, the Johanna arrived in New York from Bremen with seven families of thirty-two people from the Landskron district: the John Huebel, Johann Langer and John Stangler families of Rudelsdorf (Rudoltice), the Franz Pirkl, Franz Haubenschild and Johann Haubenschild families of Triebitz (Tebovice), and the Josef Rössler family of Michelsdorf (Ostrov). Also on board was the Franz Gilg family of Nikl (Mikule) in the neighboring county of Zwittau (Svitavy). A number of these families joined the Jason group near Waterloo, Wisconsin.
The total of Landskroner emigrants on these vessels was undoubtedly more than 100 people. Thus, approximately one-quarter of the total legal emigration from Bohemia in 1852 was from Landskron. Since most of these emigrants were German, this suggests how bad conditions were for both the German and Czech populations of Northeast Bohemia.
On June 17, 1853, the Oldenburg arrived in New York from Bremen, with 103 passengers from Bohemia whose stated destination was Wisconsin. The emigrants from the district of Landskron were the following: the Johann Meitner and Johann Schöberle families, Vincenz Klecker and Franz Schöberle of Ober Johnsdorf (Horní Tesovec), the Franz Hampel, Josef Jirschele and Josef Arnold families of Rathsdorf (Skuhrov), the Franz Langer, Ignatz Huebl, and Bernhard Leschinger families of Rudelsdorf (Rudoltice), the Franz Fischer, Johann Plotz and Engelbert Habermann families of Riebnig (Rybník), the Johann Smetana and Johann Kuckera families of Tschernowier (Cernovír), the Franz Foltin family of Königsberg (Královec), and the Anton Kristl family of Michelsdorf (Ostrov). Two other families were from neighboring districts: the Wenzel Scholla family of Pívrat (Pschiwrat) and the Joseph Pospischel family of Litomysl (Leitomischl). The other families from Bohemia were the Nicholaus Dank, Johann Czernin, Johann Strilesky, and Arnold Patsch families. The Johann Meitner, Johann Schöberle, Franz Hampel and Franz Langer families, along with Vincenz Klecker and Franz Schöberle, provided the nucleus of the Landskroner community of Watertown, Wisconsin. A number of these other families joined the Waterloo community.
Ship records indicate that emigration to America was not a solitary affair by a single individual or a single family. Rather, emigrants tended to travel with others from their home district to America where they often found fellow countrymen awaiting them.
The onset of the American Civil War in 1861 further discouraged emigration. Although the war improved the economy of the North and thus emigrants' job prospects, individuals contemplating emigration from Landskron presumably thought twice before coming to America.
On July 3, 1866, the Imperial Austrian army and the Prussian army met northwest of Hradec Králové (Königgrätz), about 40 miles from Landskron. (The Battle of Königgrätz is also referred to as the Battle of Sadowa). The Prussian army was better equipped than the Austrian army, and its breech-loading "needle-guns" enabled them to fire from the prone position at the standing Austrian infantry, which used muzzle-loaders. The Prussian victory was sudden and complete.
After the Austrian loss, some Austrian troops retreated through the Landskron area, followed closely by Prussian troops. A skirmish occurred near the villages of Rudelsdorf (Rudoltice) and Thomigsdorf (Damníkov). The encroaching armies destroyed many growing crops in their wake, and confiscated the villagers' food as well. The Prussians occupied Landskron, and 10 to 20 soldiers took up residence in Landskroner homes. Grain was confiscated by the Prussian army and some Landskroner farmers were even forced to haul their grain some distance to feed the Prussian troops and animals.
The war had a direct impact on who emigrated from Landskron. Previously, most of the emigrants were poor German Catholics and poor Czech Protestants. After the war, German Catholics with sizeable farms also began to emigrate. It is likely that these relatively rich German Catholics decided that they had enough of life in Europe after their farms were occupied by Prussian soldiers and their grain confiscated. (8) These later emigrants heard firsthand accounts of the virtues of life in America from fellow emigrating villagers, and probably realized that emigration really was not such a gamble.
In addition to initiating emigration by some of the richer German Catholics, the war also sparked the onset of emigration by poor Czech Catholics. It is not known why the poor Czech Catholics did not emigrate en masse until after this war. Further research needs to be conducted to determine the relative living conditions of the poor Czech Catholics versus the poor Czech Protestants. Were living conditions better for the poor Czech Catholics than for the poor Czech Protestants? Did the departure of the poor Czech Protestants result in more opportunities for the poor Czech Catholics such that the poor Czech Catholics did not feel the need to emigrate until the war and the subsequent occupation by Prussians troops?
Conditions for later emigrants were not so difficult. When these emigrants arrived in America, previous settlers helped them find homes, farms and jobs. The Landskroners tended to live near each other, as the later arrivals would move near their countrymen. Sometimes these later arrivals would only stay near their friends and relatives for a few months or years before moving to find cheaper land. The expanding path of these Landskron emigrants can be traced westward from Watertown toward Sun Prairie, Wisconsin and south to Janesville, Wisconsin. A significant number of Landskroners settled in Pierce County, Wisconsin, just east of the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. Both Germans and Czechs from Landskron settled in this area. The Czech community of Pierce County is still referred to today as Cherma, after their Bohemian hometown of ermná. Other Landskroner groups settled near Owatonna, Minnesota and Casselton, North Dakota, and other emigrants settled in Illinois, Iowa, South Dakota and Oregon. It is likely that further research will discover small groups of settlers extending all the way to the Pacific Ocean.
Two examples of this migration west are the Franz Langer and Franz Jansa families. The Franz Langer family of Michelsdorf (Ostrov) was among the first to have left the Landskron area for the Watertown area. This family lived in southern Wisconsin from 1852 until 1861, when they traveled west to the Plainview, Minnesota area. Later they moved to near Fargo, North Dakota. One of this family's famous descendants is the late North Dakota Governor and United States Senator William "Wild Bill" Langer.
The Franz Jansa family from Cermná (Böhmisch Rothwasser) came to Watertown in 1867. The Jansas had brought with them only a small chest which contained some household articles and Franz's blacksmith tools. The Jansas stayed with Mrs. Jansa's aunt and uncle, the Johann Roffeis family, for about a week when they first arrived in Watertown, until Johann Roffeis found them a small house. To help them set up their household, Johann Roffeis gave the Jansas a dozen eggs, a sack of flour and a rolling pin. The furnishings in the Jansa house were simple: an oven, boxes for chairs, their chest and bed. The bed was a box filled with straw and covered with blankets. From these humble beginnings, Franz Jansa was able to dramatically increase his standard of living. He worked as a blacksmith in Waterloo and Marshall, Wisconsin for 11 years, saving $3,000.00, after which the Jansas moved to Cherma in Pierce County, Wisconsin and bought a farm.
Although some emigrants settled permanently in the villages and towns of the American Midwest, the majority of the emigrants wanted their own land and went into farming. In America, farms were sold in rectangular plots based upon a survey system mandated by the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. Generally, farms were sold in 20-acre, 40-acre, 80-acre or 160-acre parcels. Farmsteads were located at a convenient place on the farmland, and as the farms grew in size, distances between the farmers' houses grew. Where in Landskron houses were commonly clustered together along a road, in America they were often located quite far from these roads. Farm buildings were free-standing, separate structures in America, and were not connected as in Landskron. The villages that arose were not farming villages, but rather provided a central location for tradesmen and craftsmen, along with community buildings such as a village hall, a school and a church. Where in Landskron, an hour's walk could take you past the houses of a thousand people, such a walk in America would likely take you past the houses of only a few dozen neighbors.
Emigrants with financial means were able to afford to buy a farm shortly after their arrival in America. One of the few "large farmers" among the early Landskroner emigrants was Johann Meitner from Ober Johnsdorf. Meitner arrived in New York on the Oldenburg on June 17, 1853. On July 9 of that year, he purchased an 80-acre farm several miles north of Watertown. That fall he purchased an additional 40 acres of farmland, and in May of 1855, Meitner bought another 40 acres. None of these purchases involved a mortgage. Meitner's resulting 160-acre farm was larger than most, if not all, of the farms in Ober Johnsdorf.
Since the overwhelming majority of these early emigrants were day laborers, they were not able to buy good land near a market town like Watertown so quickly. Their options were to save money to buy a farm, use credit, buy poorer land, or move west to find good, cheap land closer to the edge of the frontier. The poorer Landskroner emigrants used all of these methods. As noted above, Franz Jansa saved for eleven years in order to buy his farm. Johann Pitterle, a day laborer from Ober Johnsdorf who arrived in America in August, 1854, was first able to buy a farm in 1858. That year he bought an 80-acre farm north of Watertown, Wisconsin for $600.00. He bought the farm on credit at 10% interest, with $200.00 due on July 1, 1858, and $400.00 due on January 2, 1863. Many of the early emigrants to southern Wisconsin bought marshy land west of Watertown near what is now the village of Waterloo. Another early emigrant, Franz Pirkl of Triebitz (Tebovice) who arrived on the Johanna in 1853, headed to Pierce County in northwestern Wisconsin in about 1855 where land was much cheaper. His 160-acre farm was valued at $341.12 on the 1859 real estate property list.
It is logical to assume that the ames of the Landskroner men and women who settled near Waterloo and Watertown and in Pierce County, all in Wisconsin, follows. Included in the list are their known places of origin. (9)
Other Landskroners who lived in the Watertown area for a period of time or who married in Watertown include: Benesch, Betlach, Gritzbauch, Jansa, Kratschmer, Marek, Maresh, Markl, Nagel, Wavra, Willertin and Wurst.
Blum, Jerome. Noble Landowners and Agriculture in Austria, 1815-1848. A Study in the Origins of the Peasant Emancipation of 1848. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1948.
Capek, Thomas. The Cechs (Bohemians) in America: A Study of Their National, Cultural, Political, Social, Economic and Religious Life. Boston and New York: AMS Press, 1969, reprint of 1920.
Current, Richard N. The History of Wisconsin -- The Civil War Era. Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1976.
Freeman, Samuel, The Emigrant's Hand Book, and Guide to Wisconsin Milwaukee: Sentinel and Gazette Power Press Plant, 1851.
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Neubauer, Johann. Der Bauernhof des Schönhengster Oberlandes. Göppingen: Schönhengster Heimatbund, 1989.
Peterson, Ursula, ed. Pierce County's Heritage, Volume Seven. River Falls, WI: Pierce County Historical Association, 1980.
Peterson, Ursula, ed. Pierce County's Heritage, Volume Eight. River Falls, WI: Pierce County Historical Association, 1986.
Pounds, N.J.G. An Historical Geography of Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990.
Rippley, La Vern J. The Immigrant Experience in Wisconsin. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1985.
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Rippley, La Vern J. with Paulson, Robert J. German-Bohemians: The Quiet Immigrants. Northfield: St. Olaf College Press, 1995.
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Schafer, Joseph. Wisconsin Domesday Book, General Series 4: The Winnebago-Horicon Basin. Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1937.
Schlyter, Daniel M. Czechoslovakia, A Handbook of Czechoslovak Genealogical Research. Orem: Genun Publishers, 1985 and 1990.
Silar, Frantisek. "The First Nepomuky and Cermna Emigrants to Texas," written in 1966 and translated by Calvin C. Chervenka in 1967.
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2. For example, see Freeman, Samuel, The Emigrant's Hand Book, and Guide to Wisconsin. Milwaukee: Sentinel and Gazette Power Press Plant, 1851.
3. Capek, Thomas. The Cechs (Bohemians) in America: A Study of Their National, Cultural, Political, Social, Economic and Religious Life. Boston and New York: AMS Press, 1969, reprint of 1920.
4. For more information on the early emigration of Czech Protestants to Texas, please consult the works of Frantick Silar, such as "The First Nepomuky and Cermna Emigrants to Texas," written in 1966 and translated by Calvin C. Chervenka in 1967.
5. Because the land they bought was a pocket of dry land in the middle of a marshy area, this area was commonly referred to as the "Island".
6. See Amy v. City of Watertown, 130 U.S. 301 (1889), and Amy v. City of Watertown, 130 U.S. 320 (1889).
7. In the mid-1850s, the territory that makes up present-day Germany consisted of numerous small principalities, dukedoms, free cities and other small states.
8. For example, the Chronik of the village of Ober Johnsdorf reflects that Johann Langer of farm number 133 had grain confiscated by the Prussians on both June 21, 1866 and July 8, 1866. The next spring he sold his farm and emigrated to Watertown, Wisconsin.
9. Records of the time list the birthplace of many of these emigrants as simply "Landskron." It cannot be determined whether the reference is to the district or town of Landskron. In addition, the family name and birthplace of married women is often not recorded.