Readers of my blog are curious to the origin of my last name. The name sounds Slavic and I get a lot of guesses. One Czech reader did correctly recognize it as a Bohemian surname. This post is the story of my Great Grandfather who came to America. This summer I spent some time going through some old scrap books in our basement. The sources I used for this post were the 1942 newspaper (either Marinette, WI or Menominee, MI daily) obituary of my great grandfather and conversations with my father.
Andrew John Kralovec (the name was “Americanized” – it was originally Andreas) was born “in Bohemia” on July 17, 1860 and he came to the USA in 1888 when he was 18 years old. I can only guess why he left for America. At the time, Bohemia was a peaceful entity under the control of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and they had a relatively good level of autonomy. His decision to leave changed my destiny completely.
Andrew first came to Menominee, Michigan, but moved to Odanah, Wisconsin. He lived there for 20 years from 1900 to 1920. Andrew married fellow Bohemian immigrant, Anna Rebic, shortly upon arrival. They were wed on February 7, 1888 in Stangleville, Wisconisn. Andrew and Anna had seven children, three girls and four boys, one being my grandfather, Charles Kralovec. The other children listed in the obituary of 1942 were as follows and a bit about what my Dad remembers about them:
1) Anna Kralovec – She remained single her whole life and worked as a nurse in Oak Park, Illinois.
2) Mathias Kralovec – He lived in Green Bay, Wisconsin and worked as a carpenter. He didn’t have any children. My father lived with him for two weeks every summer in Green Bay.
3) Mary (Feich) – She lived Greenwood, a small town just south of Ishpeming in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. She didn’t have any children.
4) Charles Kralovec – My grandfather, lived in Menominee. He attended Ripon College (Wisconsin) with his brother John for a couple of years. He left the school because of his lack of hearing. I will post on him more later.
5) Jennie (Paitl) – She lived in Menominee and had several children.
6) Frank Kralovec – He house painter in Ewen, Michigan. He married late in life and had no children.
7) Colonel John Kralovec – He was physics professor at Kemper Military School, Booneville, Missouri for over 40 years. John had two boys, one named John Charles.
Andrew worked in a sawmill in Odanah. Lumber companies back then advertised in Europe for jobs. He was a skilled “sawyer” who could accurately determine how many boards could be cut from a log, thus avoiding waste. Odanah is a small town in northern Wisconsin on an Indian Reservation. My grandfather attended the St. Mary’s Indian School on the reservation. The big event of the day was the arrival of the train at the depot, everyone watched it to see if the inspectors would find any contraband whiskey, because alcohol was not allowed on the reservation. In 1900, not much of the Chippewa traditional life was left, my Dad said there were a couple of wigwams (tepees) left, and they got rid of those “smelly things.”
Andrew then returned to Menominee, Michigan in 1920, where he worked as a lumber grader for 14 years. At that time, Menominee, located at the mouth of the Menominee River, produced lots of lumber because of the great number of trees in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan being harvested and its position on Lake Michigan.
Andrew died in 1942 at the age of 82. He passed away quietly in his sleep. The newspaper reported that he suffered from heart disease for some time before his death.
Anna lived another 5 years after the death of her husband. She died of stomach cancer. My father remembers that she cooked all the time and always wore an apron. She always had a crock of sauerkraut fermenting in the kitchen, my father remembers the smell, and she cooked fresh bread everyday.
My father remembers a bit about his grandfather. He was a big guy, about 6-2, 200 pounds. Andrew loved to play pinochle with his brother and they were always cheating at cards. He did not speak English very well but he understood everything. His left arm didn’t move from when he tripped over the woodblock making kindling for the stove about 10 years before his death.
I would have loved to have met him, but he died 25 years before I was born. It would have been interesting to ask him why he came to America. My father said that because of the language, he didn’t speak much to him. My grandfather spoke Czech, but not my father. He lived a good life according to my father, so I guess he didn’t regret coming over. I also wish the newspaper would have had a bit more about where in Bohemia he came from.