Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Fridrich Family: Moravia to America

Frances Fridrich (Wasatko) with her children

Joseph Fridrich and his wife Anna Novotny were both born about 1820 in Zamel, Moravia.  As best I can determine, Zamel is about 70 miles east of the city of Prague, near the present day town of Chrudim.  We only know the names of two children of Joseph Fridrich and Anna Novotny, but there were several others.  The known children were Frances Felepena Fridrich (1840) and John Fridrich (1848), both born in Zamel, Moravia.  Frances Fridrich married Joseph Wasatko about 1863 in Zamel.  America’s Homestead Act of 1862 invited a second wave of Czech immigration. In 1869 the Fridrichs and Wasatkos immigrated to America and settled near Cedar Rapid, Iowa. 

The story of Frances Felepena Fridrich is quite interesting for its time.  Family stories say that her father, Joseph Fridrich, was German.  Very little else is known of him except that he did die in Bon Homme county, Dakota Territory.  Frances first married Joseph Wasatko about 1863 in Zamel, Moravia.  Their first two children, Joseph and *Bozana “Bessie” Wasatko were born in the old country. In 1869 they immigrated to America and settled in the town of Norway, near Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  Three more children, Anna, William and Mary Wasatko were born to them there.  Then in 1875, Frances filed for divorce from Joseph Wasatko (Washatko) in the Iowa courts.  She received full custody of their five children and changed their names to Fridrich.  By 1877 she was found homesteading near Tyndall in Bon Homme county, Dakota Territory.  Five years later, in 1882, she filed for full ownership of her land.   She was among the first women homesteaders in the area.

Joseph Wasatko and Frances Fridrich both eventually remarried and each had one other child who would be closely related to our family.  Joseph Wasatko moved to Nebraska and had a son Anton Wasatko.  Frances married secondly August Pesek and had a son August Pesek jr.  Apparently she was also divorced from Mr Pesek, as her youngest son went by the name August Fredrick (“Americanized” spelling). Frances lived the rest of her life in Bon Homme county, Dakota Territory.  In 1905 she remarried her first husband, Joseph Wasatko, but this third marriage was of short duration. 

Most of Frances Fridrich’s children remained in the general area of Yankton, South Dakota.  Her son William, who was a cripple all his life, died at the age of 24.  There is a family story that her son August and his family traveled as circus performers for many years.  Her oldest daughter Bozana “Bessie” Fridrich married Frank Svejkovsky in 1883 in Tyndall, Bon Homme co, Dakota Territory.  She removed with her husband to Oklahoma Territory in 1891.                  

Frances Felepena Fridrich died 19 June 1931 at the age of 91 years and is buried at Tyndall, Bon Homme county, South Dakota.

For more details on Frances Fridrich, visit her page at Family Stories,

Aside:   Researcher Diane Moore maintains an interesting memorial to John Fridrich and his wife Josephine Dvoracek (brother and sister-in-law to Frances Fridrich) at the Find A Grave website.  It includes photos and an excellent biography taken from "History of South Dakota Territory, Its History and Its People" by George W. Kingsbury, 1915.  It gives wonderful flavor to life in South Dakota for the Czech immigrants.  You will enjoy reading it!  Link for John Fridrich at Find A Grave.

1 comment:

  1. In August 2013, researcher Diane Moore contacted me, and brought to my attention a significant error I have made in this blog post - The Fridrich Family: Moravia to America. I named the Fridrich immigrant to America as Joseph Fridrich. The name should be John Fridrich (Sr)! John Fridrich Sr, born about 1820, married Anna Novotny. Moore also questions whether this John Fridrich Sr actually immigrated from Moravia to South Dakota. The move is mentioned in family stories, but Moore has found no evidence. It may be the next generation, children of John Fridrich Sr and Anna Novotny, who immigrated to America.


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