In 1851 the first sizable group of Czech emigrants to Texas left the Old Country. They left their native villages near the town of Lanskroun in northeastern Bohemia and settled in Austin County the following year. A few years later immigrants from around the Moravian village of Zadverice left for Texas as well.
In an article called “Vystěhovalci do Texasu z východních Čech” (Emigrants to Texas from Eastern Cechy), Czech historian Frantisek Silar suggests the possibility of a connection between these two emigrations. He points out that two of the emigrants in the 1851-52 group, Josef Silar and Rozina (Silar) Jezek, had a sister living in Zadverice. She was Anna (Silar) Mikeska, the wife of a prominent Zadverice miller. Although historian Frantisek Silar says that there is no proof of correspondence between the two emigrants and their sister in Zadverice, he presumes that some connection between the two emigrations did exist because of this tie of kinship.
Anna (Silar) Mikeska, then, may have been a missing piece in the emigration puzzle. As historian Frantisek Silar points out, there is no direct proof. But there is circumstantial evidence. She was in the right place at the right time. In 1851 her brother and sister emigrated to Texas. In 1854 and 1855 several families from the Zadverice area left for Texas as well. They included some of her husband’s relatives. Based on the possibility that Anna (Silar) Mikeska played at least some small part in their decision to leave for Texas, her story deserves to be told.
Anna Silar was born on September 23, 1810, in Cermna, Bohemia. Her father was Pavel Silar of nearby Nepomuky, the son of Jan Silar and Rozina Ripl. Her mother was Katerina Marek of Cermna, the daughter of Josef Marek and Katerina Silar.
Sometime before October of 1820, Pavel Silar packed up his family and emigrated. He did not leave for Texas, but for the wilds of Moravian Wallachia. He settled in Brezova, just north of the village of Zadverice. It was in Brezova that the last Silar child was born. Rozina Silar was born on October 6, 1820, in house number 40. Thirty-one years later she and her husband Josef Jezek emigrated to Texas.
The Silar children were: Katerina (1799), married Frantisek Novak; Jan (1801), Evangelical minister; Pavel (1803), married Rozalie Bednar; Josef (1805), married Rozalie Silar and emigrated to Texas in 1851; Anna (1808), died at the age of one month; Anna (1810), married Peter Mikeska; Frantisek (1812), died at the age of six years; Hynek (1815), died at the age of four and one half months; Hynek (1817); and Rozina (1820), married Josef Jezek and emigrated to Texas in 1851.
Pavel Silar died in Brezova on January 21, 1822, at the age of forty-three. His death entry in the church records gave the cause as meningitis or abdominal typhus. His wife Katerina died on February 13, 1839, in the neighboring village of Lipa. She was sixty-two years old, and her cause of death was given as dropsy. An interesting note in tiny script was scrawled under her death entry. It translates as:
This woman, born Marek from Cermna, died at the house of her daughter Katerina in Lipa. She was once a member of the faith in Nepomuky, in the Landskroun district of Bohemia, and later she was a quarter property holder in Brezova, in the Lukovsky district of Moravia.
Some of the Silar children returned to northeastern Bohemia, from whence two of them emigrated to Texas. Josef Silar married Rozalie Silar from Nepomuky in 1835. Moravian-born Rozina Silar married Josef Jezek from Cermna in 1845. Both Josef Silar and Rozina (Silar) Jezek joined the first large-group emigration to Texas in 1851. Their sister Anna Silar, however, stayed in Moravia.
On September 18, 1842, Anna Silar married Peter Mikeska, a forty-nine-year-old miller from Zadverice. He was born on November 4, 1793, the son of Peter Mikeska and Anna Nedbalek. The Rev. Jan Holy of the Evangelical church in Zadverice performed the marriage ceremony. Incidentally, Rev. Holy was the father-in-law of Moravian immigrant Jan Reymershoffer.
Anna Silar already had given birth to a child out of marriage. Little Jan Silar died in Lipa on December 18, 1840. He was four years old, and his ailment was given as diarrhea.
At the time of their marriage Anna Silar was living in house number 63 in Lipa, the house where both her mother and son had died. Peter Mikeska was living in house number 57 in Zadverice. That was also the location of Mikeska’s mill, which had been built by his father in 1804.
Peter Mikeska and his new wife made their home in Mikeska’s house in Zadverice, and Anna Silar, now Mikeska, became the stepmother of three children. Frantisek was twenty-four years old and already married. There were also two girls. Marie was fifteen and Rozina was six.
Anna (Silar) Mikeska gave birth to seven children by Peter Mikeska. Only two of them survived childhood, and both eventually emigrated to Texas. Those that died in childhood were: Anna (1844-1845), died with hectic fever at the age of one year; Terezie (1848-1849), died of childhood convulsions at the age of two and one half months; Peter (1850-1854), died of childhood convulsions at the age of four years; his twin Jan (1850-1850), died of childhood convulsions at the age of two and one half months; and Terezie (1852-1853), died of childhood convulsions at the age of one year and two months.
The two children who survived childhood were Anna, born on June 11, 1846, and Peter, born on January 22, 1855.
Anna (Silar) Mikeska’s short life ended on December 27, 1855. She died in her home in Zadverice at the age of forty-five. Her cause of death was given as lung paralysis. Respiratory ailments were a major affliction of the region at that time. In fact, her husband’s first wife Marie, the daughter of Zadverice’s mayor Jiri Mikeska, was also a victim of lung paralysis at the age of forty-seven.
Four years later, on November 11, 1860, Anna’s widower Peter Mikeska married again. His third wife was Marie Dorazym, the widow of Tomas Mikeska. He was sixty-seven and she was fifty-one. After another four years Peter Mikeska died. He succumbed to lung paralysis on June 3, 1864, in his seventy-first year.
Anna (Silar) Mikeska’s two surviving children were now orphans. In 1867 they emigrated to Texas aboard the ship Neptune with several other Mikeskas from the area. Anna Mikeska soon married Tomas Krajca and made her home in Caldwell, where her husband became a merchant and eventually was elected to the Texas legislature. Peter Mikeska married Anna Kovar, became a ginner at Novy Tabor near Caldwell, and eventually settled in Live Oak County, where he founded the town of Mikeska that bore his name.
One can speculate about Anna (Silar) Mikeska’s historical legacy. In 1851 the first groups of Czechs began to emigrate to Texas. They included many of her Silar relatives from the Bohemian villages of Cermna and Nepomuky, including her own brother Josef Silar (and his wife Rozalie and their three children), and her own sister Rozina (Silar) Jezek (and her husband Josef and their two children). By the mid-1850’s Czechs began emigrating to Texas from Moravian Wallachia. They included some of her husband’s Mikeska relatives from Zadverice and Zelechovice. It is possible that Anna (Silar) Mikeska was a link in the chain of events that connected these two emigrations. It is possible that she was a piece in the puzzle of Czech emigration to Texas. If that is true then we can thank her for playing a role in the history of Czech settlement of the United States.
Note: Information on Anna (Silar) Mikeska’s family in Bohemia was provided to this author by Czech historian Frantisek Silar. Information on her parents’ death and her subsequent marriage into the Mikeska family was found by this author in the state archives in Brno, Czech Republic. Historian Frantisek Silar’s article “Vysthovalci do Texasu z východních ech” was translated into English by John J. Karas and edited and published by Frances M. Duncan in 1989. A copy may be found in the Czech Heritage Society archives.
– Robert Janak
“Anna (ilar) Mikeska, A Possible Piece in the Emigration Puzzle,” printed in the series Czech Connections, Cesky Hlas (Newsletter of the Czech Heritage Society of Texas), May 2000, pages 9-10.