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Peter Mikeska of Live Oak County

Peter Mikeska was born on January 22, 1855, in the village of Zádveřice, Moravia.i At the time Moravia was part of the Austrian Empire. Peter Mikeska’s father was a sixty-two-year-old miller, also named Petr Mikeska (1793-1864), who was the son of a third Petr Mikeska (1758-1826) and Anna Nedbalek.ii Young Peter Mikeska’s mother was his father’s second wife, forty-five-year-old Anna Šilar (1810-1855) from Čermná, Bohemia. She was the daughter of Pavel Šilar and Kateřina Marek.iii

The Mikeskas and the Šilars were members of the Moravian Brethren faith. This early Protestant religion, which had been founded in 1457, was outlawed and persecuted during the dark days of the Thirty Years War when the Czechs of Bohemia and Moravia lost their independence to Austria. The faith had been kept alive, however, in remote villages such as Čermná and Zádveřice.

The other children born of the marriage between Petr Mikeska and Anna Šilar were:

Anna Mikeska (1844-1845)iv

Anna (Mikeska) Kraja (1846- )v

Terezie Mikeska (1848-1849)vi

Petr Mikeska (1850-1854)vii

Jan Mikeska (1850-1850)viii

Terezie Mikeska (1852-1853)ix

All of these children, including the future Live Oak County pioneer, were born in house number 57. House number 57 was the location of their father’s mill.

Before his marriage to Anna Šilar, Peter Mikeska’s father was married to his second cousin, Marie Mikeska (1794-1841). Marie Mikeska was the daughter of Jiří Mikeska (1763-1835) and Marie Trůbelík.x

Peter Mikeska’s father and the first wife Marie Mikeska had the following children:

Anna (Mikeska) Trůbelík (1814-1840)xi

Marie Mikeska (1817-1817)xii

Frantisek Mikeska (1818-1848)xiii

Marie Mikeska (1821-1821)xiv

Petr Mikeska (1823-1826)xv

Marie (Mikeska) Vychopeň Macek (1827- )xvi

Rozina (Mikeska) Mikeska (1836-1863)xvii

The oldest of these children, Anna, was born in house number 5 in Zádveřice. The youngest, Rozina, was born in house number 57. The rest were born in house number 38.

Little Peter Mikeska was orphaned at an early age. His mother died before his first birthday. She succumbed to lung paralysis on December 27, 1855.xviii His father remarried in 1860. The third wife was Marie Dorazym (1809-1872),xix who was the widow of Tomáš Mikeska (c.1799-1851).xx Some three and one half years after this third marriage Peter Mikeska’s father died. He was also a victim of lung paralysis, on June 3, 1864, at 9:00 PM.xxi At the time young Peter Mikeska was only eight years old.

When he was twelve years old Peter Mikeska accompanied his sister and several other relatives to America. From Moravia they traveled to the German port of Bremen on the North Sea. There they boarded the ship Neptune and set sail for Texas. They landed in Galveston on November 16, 1867, after a three-month voyage.

The passenger list of the Neptune included twelve immigrants with the name Mikeska. They were listed as follows:

Anna Mikeska (age 21, servant maid)

John Mikeska (age 43, farmer)

Thomas Mikeska (age 40, farmer)

Franz Mikeska (age 25, miller)

Peter Mikeska (age 13)

John Mikeska (age 46, farmer)

Marie Mikeska (age 30)

Franz Mikeska (age 9)

Thomas Mikeska (age 4)

Anna Mikeska (age 21)

Joseph Mikeska (age 4)

Rosine Mikeska (age 6/12)

Peter Mikeska was twelve years old, but his age was listed as thirteen.xxii The first Anna Mikeska in the list was his sister. The first Franz Mikeska in the list was the son of his deceased half-brother Frantisek (1818-1848).xxiii

From Galveston Peter Mikeska and his sister made their way to Houston. There Anna married Tomáš Krajča on December 15, 1867.xxiv The Krajča family had come to Texas around 1855 from Lutonina, a village some four miles from Zádveřice.xxv

After his sister’s marriage Peter Mikeska was on his own. He was on his own in a strange land kicking with the spasms of military defeat, economic collapse and revolutionary social change. The American Civil War had ended only two and one half years before. Black slaves, who once formed the backbone of labor on many Texas farms, had been freed. No longer able to rely on a captive work force, many Texas farmers began to look to European immigrants as an alternative labor source.

Peter Mikeska spent his first years in America working on farms around Austin County. The United States census taken in September of 1870 found him on a farm near the town of Industry. He was one of two farmhands working for František and Anna Šebesta. Peter was fifteen years old at the time.xxvi

On January 12, 1875, Peter Mikeska married Anna Kovář. Rev. Ludvík Chlumský, minister of the Czech Evangelical church at Wesley, performed the ceremony.xxvii

Anna Kovář was born on October 21, 1854, in Hošťalková, Moravia,xxviii another village that had jealously guarded its Moravian Brethren faith during the time of Habsburg oppression. Anna’s father, Tomáš Kovář, apparently died shortly after the family arrived in Texas. Her mother, who was also named Anna, soon remarried.xxix Anna Kovář’s new step-father was Martín Šupák,xxx who had brought his family to Texas from the Moravian village of Nový Hrozenkovxxxi in 1854.xxxii

Shortly after their marriage, Peter and Anna Mikeska moved to Burleson County. On October 26, 1876, Peter Mikeska bought 108 acres of land from his brother-in-law, Tomáš Krajča. The land cost $648.xxxiii

Besides Peter Mikeska and his wife Anna, Peter’s sister Anna and her husband Tomáš Krajča, and Peter’s sister-in-law Johanna Kovář and her husband Henry Ginzel made their home in the Czech Protestant farming community of Nový Tábor.xxxiv

Both Peter Mikeska and his wife were twenty-five years old when the 1880 United States census was taken. They had three small children. Peter Mikeska, Jr., was four years old, Julia (Mikeska) Janák was two and Frank Mikeska was eleven months. Peter Mikeska was engaged in farming at the time.xxxv

Peter Mikeska’s start at Nový Tábor was not easy. Despite his hard work, he had a series of crop failures.xxxvi This, however, did not daunt his ambition. Soon his heritage as a miller, the legacy of his father and grandfather, rose to the surface.

On July 15, 1882, Peter Mikeska bought a small tract of land from Tomáš Elšík. The tract included about an acre, as well as the cotton gin, mill, steam engine, boiler and other machinery located on it. The price was $600.xxxvii For a while Peter Mikeska and Tomáš Elšík worked as partners.xxxviii On December 1, 1882, they jointly bought another three and one half acres from Henry Ginzel for $70.xxxix

Peter Mikeska soon bought Tomáš Elšík out. On December 1, 1886, he bought Elšík’s half interest in the land and equipment they had jointly acquitted from Henry Ginzel. Peter Mikeska got some additional land in the transaction, including the old Hudson Mill and gin. The total cost was $1800.xl

Over the next six years Peter Mikeska continued buying and selling bits and pieces of land here and there in the Nový Tábor area. In 1892, however, he sold out his holdings in Burleson County and bought a sizeable piece of wilderness on the Nueces River in South Texas.

By now Peter Mikeska had a large family, and he wanted to assure them a more secure life than a ginner could provide. He also wanted a way to clear his debts and establish a good life for his family.xli

The fourteen Mikeska children and their birthdates were as follows:

Peter Mikeska, Jr., (December 25, 1875)

Julia (Mikeska) Janák (October 10, 1877)

Frank Mikeska (July 17, 1879)

Annie (Mikeska) Mikeska (February 21, 1882)

Mary Mikeska (February 21, 1882)

Mary Emelia (Mikeska) Sullivan (March 19, 1885)

Lydia Sydonia (Mikeska) Kubala (June 26, 1887)

Louis Alois Mikeska (September 29, 1889)

Vladis Julius Mikeska (September 29, 1889)

Henry Miles Mikeska (January 1, 1892)

Lillie (Mikeska) Škrabánek (January 1, 1892)

Ella (Mikeska) Švadlenák (February 25, 1894)

Klara Frances (Mikeska) Janíček (October 10, 1895)

Millie (Mikeska) Stalmach (February 4 or 24, 1898)xlii

On August 12, 1891, Peter Mikeska bought 619 acres of mesquite, cat claw and weesatche on the bank of the Nueces River in Live Oak County for $2,878.12½ from one Frank Boyd.xliii

The following year Peter Mikeska disposed of his property in Burleson County, and at the same time he doubled his holdings in South Texas. He sold nine tracts of land, some 245 odd acres, at Nový Tábor to Josef Macat for $6,400.xliv On the same day, September 28, 1892, Josef Macat sold Peter Mikeska 614 acres of Live-Oak-County land that he too had bought from Frank Boyd a year earlier. These 614 acres adjoining Peter Mikeska’s 619 acres cost him $3,087.70.xlv

With the acquisition of an additional 20.7 acres in 1903,xlvi Peter Mikeska owned 1,253.7 acres, a virtual kingdom to a Central-European immigrant. But it was a kingdom of scrub brush, coyotes and rattlesnakes. It took a lot of hard work and long years to clear the land. Several times his crops were ruined by drought.xlvii He managed, however, to make a success of his South-Texas ranch.

Besides his ranch, Peter Mikeska operated the general store in the community that came to be known as Mikeska in his honor. Lightening struck his store in 1907, and it burned to the ground. Besides the store, he also lost his stables and his barns full of seed, cotton and feed to fire.xlviii

Peter Mikeska had been planning to send his children off to school, but these disasters caused him to change his plans. He rented out his ranch and moved back to Caldwell so his children could get their education, and so he could earn a little capital in the general merchandizing business.xlix He stayed in Burleson County some four years, and then moved back to Mikeska.l

During the years of the First World War the little community of Mikeska got a big boost. The San Antonio, Uvalde and Gulf Railroad came through. Peter Mikeska donated 200 acres for a town site to ensure the railroad’s coming through Mikeska. The railroad company agreed to have the town site divided into blocks and streets and built a depot.li

On December 15, 1914, Peter Mikeska sold the San Antonio, Uvalde and Gulf Railroad Company a right-of-way through his ranch. The right-of-way extended fifty feet on each side of the center line of the track. Besides the 9.9 acres this 100-foot wide strip amounted to, he sold the company all the materials it needed off his land, as well as dumping privileges. For all this the railroad company paid Peter Mikeska the grand sum of $5.00.lii The town of Mikeska, however, got the impetus it needed for development.

Beginning in 1915 Peter Mikeska sold lots in the town to various families. Each lot went for $75 to $100, depending on its size and location.

There were some Czechs living in neighboring towns, such as Skidmore, Olmos, Beeville and the Central Community, but most of the families living around Mikeska were of Irish origin. They made their living farming and raising cattle.liii

Peter Mikeska operated the general store, and he ran the post office which he brought to Mikeska.liv He farmed his extensive holdings, raising cotton, corn and cattle.lv He also took a great interest in the affairs of the town. He envisioned its becoming a large, thriving community, and he tried whenever possible to promote its progress. He gave the town a two-teacher school.lvi On September 1, 1915, he sold six lots in the town to the county judge for $5.00. The lots were to be used for a public school,lvii which Peter Mikeska donated to the community.lviii

Before the county seat of Live Oak County was moved from Oakville to George West, Peter Mikeska tried to get it established in his own town. Mr. West was a richer man with much more influence, however, and the electorate of Live Oak County chose George West as their county seat.lix

For a while Mikeska was a thriving little community. This was largely because of the efforts of Peter Mikeska. Besides the general store, post office, and two-teacher school, the town had a cotton gin, blacksmith shop and dance hall.

One of Peter Mikeska’s sons-in-law, Joe Janák of Weimar, built the dance hall at Mikeska. The building had a dance floor upstairs, and places to rent for two stores on the first floor.lx

Peter Mikeska’s wife Anna died on March 5, 1925.lxi She was seventy years old. Peter Mikeska then moved to Caldwell to live with his daughter, Lillie (Mikeska) Škrabánek. He also traveled, returning to Moravia (which was now part of Czechoslovakia) to visit the village of his birth.lxii

At 5:00 PM, on December 31, 1928, Peter Mikeska died at the home of his daughter. He was seventy-four and had suffered heart trouble.lxiii His body was taken back to Beeville, where he was buried beside his wife Anna.lxiv

i Birth Record, volume V, Zádveřice Evangelical Church, State Archives, Brno, Moravia. Family tradition in Texas gives the date as January 21, 1855.

ii For information on Petr Mikeska (1793-1864) see his marriage record to Marie Dorazym, November 11, 1860. Marriage Record, volume II, Zádveřice Evangelical Church, State Archives, Brno, Moravia.

iii Marriage Record, volume I, Zádveřice Evangelical Church, State Archives, Brno, Moravia. They were married September 18, 1842.

iv Birth Record, volume III, Zádveřice Evangelical Church, State Archives, Brno, Moravia. Death Record, volume I, Zádveřice Evangelical Church, State Archives, Brno, Moravia.

v Birth Record, volume III, Zádveřice Evangelical Church, State Archives, Brno, Moravia.

vi Birth Record, volume III, Zádveřice Evangelical Church, State Archives, Brno, Moravia. Death Record, volume I, Zádveřice Evangelical Church, State Archives, Brno, Moravia.

vii Birth Record, volume III, Zádveřice Evangelical Church, State Archives, Brno, Moravia. Death Record, volume III, Zádveřice Evangelical Church, State Archives, Brno, Moravia.

viii Birth Record, volume III, Zádveřice Evangelical Church, State Archives, Brno, Moravia. Death Record, volume I, Zádveřice Evangelical Church, State Archives, Brno, Moravia.

ix Birth Record, volume III, Zádveřice Evangelical Church, State Archives, Brno, Moravia. Death Record, volume III, Zádveřice Evangelical Church, State Archives, Brno, Moravia.

x For the death record of Marie Mikeska (1794-1841) see Death Record, volume I, Zádveřice Evangelical Church, State Archives, Brno, Moravia. She died January 7, 1841. Other information on her was provided by Dr. Jan Mikeska of Prague, Czechoslovakia.

xi Birth Record, volume III, Zádveřice Evangelical Church, State Archives, Brno, Moravia. Her date of death and data on her marriage to Jan Trůbelík were provided by Dr. Jan Mikeska of Prague, Czechoslovakia.

xii Birth Record, volume III, Zádveřice Evangelical Church, State Archives, Brno, Moravia. Death Record, volume I, Zádveřice Evangelical Church, State Archives, Brno, Moravia.

xiii Birth Record, volume III, Zádveřice Evangelical Church, State Archives, Brno, Moravia. Death Record, volume I, Zádveřice Evangelical Church, State Archives, Brno, Moravia.

xiv Birth Record, volume III, Zádveřice Evangelical Church, State Archives, Brno, Moravia. Death Record, volume I, Zádveřice Evangelical Church, State Archives, Brno, Moravia.

xv Birth Record, volume III, Zádveřice Evangelical Church, State Archives, Brno, Moravia. Death Record, volume I, Zádveřice Evangelical Church, State Archives, Brno, Moravia.

xvi Birth Record, volume III, Zádveřice Evangelical Church, State Archives, Brno, Moravia. Information on her marriages to Jan Vychopeň and Václav Macek was provided by Dr. Jan Mikeska of Prague, Czechoslovakia.

xvii Birth Record, volume III, Zádveřice Evangelical Church, State Archives, Brno, Moravia. Death Record, volume IV, Zádveřice Evangelical Church, State Archives, Brno, Moravia.

xviii Death Record, volume III, Zádveřice Evangelical Church, State Archives, Brno, Moravia.

xix Marriage Record, volume II, Zádveřice Evangelical Church, State Archives, Brno, Moravia. Death Record, volume IV, Zádveřice Evangelical Church, State Archives, Brno, Moravia.

xx Death Record, volume I, Zádveřice Evangelical Church, State Archives, Brno, Moravia.

xxi Death Record, volume IV, Zádveřice Evangelical Church, State Archives, Brno, Moravia.

xxii The passenger list is reproduced in: Janak, Robert, The Mikeska Family of Zádveřice (Beaumont: By the Author, 1986), volume I, pp. 115-18. Entries from the passenger list can be found in: Baca, Leo, Czech Immigration Passenger Lists, (Hallettsville: Old Homestead Publishing Co., 1983) volume I, page 74.

xxiii Birth Record, volume III, Zádveřice Evangelical Church, State Archives, Brno, Moravia.

xxiv Marriage Record, Harris County, Texas, volume E, page 416.

xxv Národní Svaz Českých Katolíků v Texas, Naše Dějiny (Granger: Našinec, 1939) page 15.

xxvi Clowe, Grace Campbell, Austin County, Texas. Czech Census Extracts, 1860, 1870, 1880 and 1900 (Albuquerque: By the Author, 1983), 1870 census, page 32. The census taker recorded his age as sixteen, but he was fifteen at the time.

xxvii Marriage Record, Washington County, Texas, volume 5, page 80.

xxviii See her tombstone in the Glenwood Cemetery in Beeville, Texas.

xxix Janíček, Klara Mikeska, Recollections and Incidents of my Childhood and Later… (Temple: By the Author, 1973), page 1. Klara Janicek gives the father’s name as Jan. More recent research in Czechoslovakia gives the parents names as Tomáš Kovář and Anna Chupík.

xxx Marriage Record, Austin County, Texas, volume C, page 265. The marriage took place April 5, 1858.

xxxi According to the marriage record of his daughter Františka with Jan Marek in 1882, Martín Šupák was from Hrozenkov (Nový Hrozenkov). See Blaha, Albert J. and Edmond H. Hejl, Register Records of the Czech-Moravian Brethren, Ross Prairie (Houston: By the Author, 1980), no page number.

xxxii Clowe, Grace Campbell, Czechs in Wesley and Latium, Washington County (Albuquerque: By the Author, 1985), Declarations of Intention, page 2.

xxxiii Deed Record, Burleson County, Texas, volume V, page 215.

xxxiv United States Census 1880, Burleson County, Texas, Supervisor’s District 5, Enumeration District 32.

xxxv United States Census 1880, Burleson County, Texas, Supervisor’s District 5, Enumeration District 32, page 87.

xxxvi “Peter Mikeska,” Věstník, June 20, 1956, page 44.

xxxvii Deed Record, Burleson County, Texas, volume U, page 145.

xxxviii Burleson County Historical Society, Astride the Old San Antonio Road. A History of Burleson County, Texas (Dallas: Taylor Publishing Co., 1980), page 192.

xxxix Deed Record, Burleson County, Texas, volume X, page 349.

xl Deed Record, Burleson County, Texas, volume 1, page 409.

xli “Peter Mikeska,” Věstník, June 20, 1956, page 44.

xlii The birthdates were provided by Klara (Mikeska) Janíček of Temple, Texas. She is his daughter.

xliii Deed Record, Live Oak County, Texas, volume J, page 402.

xliv Deed Record, Burleson County, Texas, volume 9, page 79.

xlv Deed Record, Live Oak County, Texas, volume J, page 579.

xlvi Deed Record, Live Oak County, Texas, volume N, page 334.

xlvii “Peter Mikeska,” Věstník, June 20, 1956, page 44.

xlviii See Peter Mikeska’s obituary in The Bee-Picayune, January 10, 1929, page 8.

xlix “Peter Mikeska,” Věstník, June 20, 1956, page 44.

l See Peter Mikeska’s obituary in The Bee-Picayune, January 10, 1929, page 8.

li Deed Record, Live Oak County, Texas, volume Y, page 84.

lii Deed Record, Live Oak County, Texas, volume V, page 365.

liii Information provided by Josef P. Janak of Beaumont, Texas. He is my father, the oldest son of Peter Mikeska’s daughter Julia and Joe Janák of Weimar. Dad was born in Mikeska, Texas in 1907.

liv See Peter Mikeska’s obituary in The Bee-Picayune, January 10, 1929, page 8.

lv Information provided by Josef P. Janak of Beaumont, Texas.

lvi “Peter Mikeska,” Věstník, June 20, 1956, page 44.

lvii Deed Record, Live Oak County, Texas, volume W, page 361.

lviii “Peter Mikeska,” Věstník, June 20, 1956, page 44.

lix Live Oak County Centenninal Association, Inc., 1856-1956. Live Oak County Centennial (souvenir booklet, no publication information, 1956), page 11.

lx Information provided by Josef P. Janak of Beaumont, Texas.

lxi See her tombstone in the Glenwood Cemetery in Beeville, Texas.

lxii See Peter Mikeska’s obituary in The Bee-Picayune, January 10, 1929, page 8.

lxiii Death Record, Burleson County, Texas, volume 6, page 29.

lxiv See Peter Mikeska’s obituary in The Bee-Picayune, January 10, 1929, page 8.

“Peter Mikeska of Live Oak County,” The Mikeska Family of Zadverice, volume II (By the Author, Beaumont, Texas, 1991) pp. 11-20.

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