Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Svejkovskys come to America

The Svejkovskys were the first of my husband’s Czech ancestral families to come to America.  They came just after the year 1855.  Frantz Svejkovsky was born around 1825 and he was married to Rosalie Smolik about 1854-55 in the vicinity of Prague in Bohemia.  In 1855, their first child, Mary, was born near Prague.  Shortly after that time their little family decided to immigrate to America.

The Svejkovskys were part of what is known as the first wave of Czech immigration to America between 1852 and 1862.  Most Czechs came into the port of New York.  This was long before the time of Ellis Island.  The Svejkovskys followed a typical Czech pattern of the time, first settling in Chicago and then moving on to settle near Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  In Chicago there was a developing Czech community that took in new immigrants.  Most were involved in the garment and timber industries and many worked in the area slaughterhouses.  But, for most Czechs, Chicago was a starting point for exploration of the rural areas where they would go to farm.  A large group of Czechs was taking up land around Cedar Rapids, Iowa and the Svejkovskys remained in that area for ten or twelve years.  Four more children were born to the family during those years:  Annie 1858, Rosalie 1860, Frank 1862, Joe 1867.

In 1862 the Homestead Act was passed in America to encourage westward movement.  It promised 160 acres of wild land to immigrants.  They would become the owners of the land after 5 years of cultivation.  This induced Frantz Svejkovsky to follow other Czech immigrants to an area around Yankton, Dakota Territory (southeast corner of present-day South Dakota).  He settled in Bon Homme county, just west of the town of Yankton.  According to the research of William “Bill” Svejkovsky, “His farm was located on the Missouri River, southwest of Tabor, South Dakota, a distance of about 10 miles.”  In 1871 and 1876 he claimed 3 more farms in the area. 

In the year 1880, when Frantz was 55 years of age, he died.  His will is of record in Bon Homme county, South Dakota.  An abstract of the will tells us that he left quarter sections of land to his two sons, Frank and Joseph, and small bequests of land or money to his daughters.  The remainder went to his wife Rosalie.  Frantz Svejkovsky was first buried in the Ptak (Polish) Cemetery across the road from his farm in Tabor, South Dakota.  In 1890 he was reburied at the Yankton Cemetery in South Dakota.  Bill Svejkovsky reports that the “tombstone is now weathered so that the inscription cannot be read.”   

For more details on Franz Svejkovsky, visit his page at Family Stories,

Photo:  Home in South Dakota:  Frank Svejkovsky, Bozana Fridrich Svejkovsky, and daughters Ludmilla, Albina and Bozan “Bessie” Svejkovsky.  Frank Svejkovsky is the son of Frantz Svejkovsky and Rosalie Smolik.

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