The 1900 census offers a wealth of information about the various communities in the United States. The census taker of the Praha community and surrounding area in Fayette County during that year was one Eduard Mikulenka, a thirty-three-year-old bookkeeper. Mikulenka was a Czech immigrant who had come to this country in 1884. He had a beautiful, clear handwriting, and he spelled Czech names correctly. He even used thehaček when a particular name called for one, although he usually left off the čárka.
This article will consider three topics addressed in the 1900 census: status as immigrant or native born, occupation, and property ownership,.
The 1900 census did not indicate ethnicity. It did, however, give the country of birth of each resident, as well as the country of birth of his or her father and mother. In the case of the Czech residents of the Praha community, that country was Bohemia. Since there were also a number of German-speaking families who came to Fayette County from the old Kingdom of Bohemia, we have used the term Bohemian in this article rather than Czech to refer to anyone that the census taker identified as having Bohemia as his or her country or origin.
Admittedly the term Bohemian is somewhat misleading. In the first place it does not distinguish between Czechs and German-speaking inhabitants of the old kingdom. In the second place it does not identify Moravians, since at that time Moravia was considered part of the Kingdom of Bohemia.
Consequently the reader must keep in mind that while most of Praha’s Bohemians were Czechs, there were some German speakers among them, and there were certainly lots of Moravians.
Immigrant or Native Born
There were 229 families living at Praha in 1900 whose heads of household were from Bohemia or who had Bohemian-born parents. These 229 families included some 425 heads of household and spouses. Of these 425 individuals, some 371 were born in Bohemia, and fifty-one were born in Texas. In addition, one wife was born in Germany, one wife gave her birthplace as Austria and one head of household was born in Germany but had parents born in Bohemia.
That means that 88.0% (371 Bohemians, one German, one Austrian and one Bohemian by way of Germany) of the heads of household and their spouses were born in the Old Country, and 12.0% (fifty-one) were born in Texas.
In the year 1900 the Bohemian families of Praha were still an overwhelmingly immigrant community.
The vast majority of the Bohemians living in the Praha area in 1900 were farmers. Their adult children living at home were farm laborers, and their school-age children attended school. Occasionally there was a farm laborer living in the household who was not one of the children, and on occasion there was a servant girl.
There were 358 Bohemian family members with an occupation listed other than being at school. Of these 358 family members, 216 (60.3%) were farmers and 116 (32.4%) were farm laborers. That means that 92.7% of the Bohemians at Praha were directly engaged in farming. The occupations of the other twenty-six (7.3%) individuals included: eight servants, three teachers, three merchants (including one grocer), two store clerks, two day laborers, one carpenter, one blacksmith, one physician, one saloon keeper, one clergyman (Father Julius Vrana), his house keeper, one railroad laborer and one bookkeeper, the census taker Eduard Mikulenka.
There were also professionals of other nationalities, including one German teacher, one German store clerk, one American livestock dealer, one American school teacher, one American photographer, one American house painter who had a Bohemian wife, and five Mexican railroad workers.
Of the 229 Bohemian families living in the Praha area in 1900, ninety-eight (42.8%) were renters. Some ninety-one heads of household rented a farm, and seven rented a house.
Some 131 (57.2%) heads of household owned their property, with 128 owning a farm and three owning a house. Of the 229 heads of household, eighty-four (36.7%) owned their property free and clear, that is, eighty-one of the farms and all three houses. Some forty-seven (20.5%) heads of household owned a farm with a mortgage.
As might be expected, the younger heads of household were more likely to be renters, and the older heads of household were more likely to have paid off any mortgage that they may have had.
Of the ninety-eight heads of household in their twenties and thirties, 63.3% were renters, and 36.7% owned their property (20.4% with a mortgage and 16.3% free and clear).
Of the eighty-six heads of household in their forties and fifties, 32.6% rented their property and 67.4% were property owners (29.1% with a mortgage and 38.4% free and clear).
Of the forty-five heads of household sixty years old and older, only 17.8% rented their property, and 82.2% owned their property (4.4% with a mortgage and 77.8% free and clear).
The Bohemian inhabitants of Praha were fulfilling the immigrants’ dream: work hard, save money, buy land.
The 1900 United States census fills in some of the details of the historical picture of the Praha community.
- Bohemian Praha was largely an immigrant community in 1900. Almost 90% of the heads of household and their spouses were born in the Old Country.
- Praha was a rural farming community. Over 90% of its Bohemian inhabitants were directly engaged in farming. There were also a handful of inhabitants of other professions that provided the farmers with necessary services.
- Over half of the Praha Bohemians owned their own property, and the majority of them had already paid off their mortgage. Almost two-thirds of the younger heads of household were renters. Over three-fourths of those over sixty owned their property free and clear.
It should be remembered that this historical picture documents the Bohemian community of the Praha area, that is, families who originated in the old Kingdom of Bohemia. Most of them were certainly Czechs, but there were also some Bohemian Germans. It should also be noted that most of these Bohemians were likely Moravian by birth.
Even so, this was part of the picture that the census taker Eduard Mikulenka painted of the Praha community in 1900.
- Robert Janak
“Occupation and Property Ownership in the Bohemian Community at Praha, Texas, in 1900,” printed in the series Czech Connections, Cesky Hlas, Fall 2010, pages 9-10.
note: The publishers of Cesky Hlas saw fit to change the title of the article to: “Praha, Texas: Occupation and Property Ownership in 1900. ”