The Legend of Jan Podmolik

The American branch of Jan Podmolík’s family in data. Compiled by Stanislav Sobek.

On January 23, 1849, Jan was born, the youngest son of Ignác Podmolík and Maria Podmolíková, née Koutná in Čechovice No. 3, now No. 10. The parish office is in Čechovice in Velký Týnec near Olomouc. He grew up with five sisters and a brother Karl, who was 8 years older. He attended school in Velký Týnec. We know about his education that he was a good carpenter, a great singer and an excellent farmer.

On May 27, 1873, he married Františka Koutníková. During the marriage, Františka, who was called Slavuska, gave birth to a total of 11 children. Of these eleven children, Son František died during childbirth and Jaroslav drowned when he was only 18 months old.

On July 2, 1887, Jan and Františka Podmolík sell the homestead in Čechovice No. 3 to their brother Karl through their representative because they are already tenants of the estate in Turcovice in Hungary (in Slovakia). They have seven children, the oldest Růžena is 12 years old. And so they have a 17-year-old maid, Rosalia Hradilova, as their children.

The year 1890 is probably the beginning of the relationship between twenty-year-old Rosália and 41-year-old Jan. On November 1, 1890, she gave birth to a daughter, Jaroslava. At that time, Františka was five months pregnant, and on March 10, 1891, she gave birth to her last son, Josef. Although there is a legend that the farmhouse in Turcovec was ignited by lightning that year and they moved to Brest, near Humenné in eastern Slovakia, there is also a word of mouth that the people in Turcovec did not want to put up with this way of life and Rosálie Hradilova had to leave. In any case, my grandmother Marie, who was born on May 13, 1892, was already born in Brest and the whole family was there together, because Jan’s wife, Františka, is listed as godmother and Rosalie as maid on her baptismal certificate. Since then, Jan has been working in the forest as a woodcutter, and Rosálie has borne him more children. In 1894 it was daughter Emilie, two years later daughter Růžena, and in 1899 son Gottlieb. We do not know the date or place of his birth.

5/5/1899 Jan Podmolík entered the American continent. We don’t know where, but we do know that he got his first job at a gas plant in McKeesport, Pennsylvania. He looked for work in Latrobe and Allegheny but did not find work. With the last 10 cents he got from there to Rankin and there he found work in a factory and did it until 3O.4.1900. And on 5/1/1900 he went to Marblehead, Ohio and worked there for 3 months. Then he went to Cleveland and was there for 3 days but couldn’t get a job so he went to Rankin and didn’t get a job there in 8 days either. Only in Braddock did they employ him for 7 weeks. He was then out of work for 14 days and went to McKeesRock where he worked as a carpenter until the last of January 1901. He worked all summer with little income until the end of August. When he was out of money, he stopped the watch for 3 dollars and went to Donora, where he waited without work and without money for a whole 14 days. He didn’t get a job until September 15, and then he didn’t have to leave Donora until 1912, when they no longer wanted to hire him because of his old age. It should be noted that all of the above locations except Harblehead, are in the Pittsburg area, from which the following directions and air distances are: McKeesRock NW 6.4 km, Rankin SE 11.2 km, Braddock SW 40 km, Latrobe E 54 km, Donora S 33.6 km, Marblehead is a full 272 km from there.

On March 25, 1901, Jaroslava, Marie and Emilie Hradilov were registered in the register at the parish office in Velké Týncí. They live in Františka’s family and they are not allowed to associate with their mother Rosalia. The ban on intercourse is directly from Jan, and he writes about it in a letter to Františka from June 1902 as a sufficient punishment for Rozka, not being allowed to have intercourse with her own children. We don’t know where Rosálie is with five-year-old Růžena and two-year-old Gottlieb, and neither does Františka, who writes to Jan about her, but he forbids her to ask these questions.

On January 12, 1902, he writes a reply to a letter from his daughter, who expressed a desire to go to America, we know that she was of legal age. So it could have been Růžena, Františka or Marie. On February 11, 1902, Jan writes the first page of his memories of the time since his arrival in the USA.

In June 1902, he writes a letter to his wife Františka, whom she calls Slavuška, in a pen (so that the children cannot read it). This letter is essential for understanding the circumstances surrounding the abandonment of his three daughters.

On July 6, 1902, he injured his eye with a splinter. Purulent inflammation of both eyes follows. Fortunately, he doesn’t go blind. Healed by pop with the help of ceremonial oil. The eyes were definitively healed only on November 13, 1902.

In the summer of 1903, Rosálie Hradilová arrives in America with seven-year-old Růžena, who will continue to be called Rose, and four-year-old Gottlieb. Rose will never tell her future siblings about the three sisters abandoned two summers ago.

On April 2, 1904, a daughter, Bozena, was born. She is also registered as such in the census in May 1910. She later changes her name to Bessie. Today, she is the only survivor of all Jan Podmolík’s children. He suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. He doesn’t remember anything and doesn’t recognize anyone. On the form from the aforementioned census, John Podmolík is listed as the head of the family and a carpenter by profession. Rosálie, as Podmolíková and the wife, and the duration of the marriage is listed as 20 years. Number of children seven. Rosália is the only one with Czech listed as the language she speaks. I know from Sophie that she never learned English, Bozena (Bessie) is listed here as a son, gender male. So it was probably the case that the head of the family told the official what she wanted and he wrote down what he wanted or what he understood.

Year 1910 — he receives the last letter from Jan and we don’t know if it was his son or nephew who wrote to him warning him not to give everything away and to keep his savings for his old age. From the letter, Jan understood that his return to Moravia was undesirable for the family.

Year 1912 – he is denied employment due to old age. Leaving the country becomes a necessity, and in May the whole family comes to the Viola Vílla Community in the Town of Emery, which is a territory belonging to the town of Phillips in Wisconsin. John and Rosalie have seven children and 50 dollars. They buy 40 acres of logged forest (20 ha for $400) in installments and begin building a two-room cabin and clearing a potato field. When their last daughter Anna was born on 9/7/1912, they had the last 6 cents. The first harvest in their garden was carrots. Rosalie said about it “it was the greatest joy of my life when I entered the garden to pluck the first carrot. I knew that from now on the children would never be hungry again.”

In the spring of 1914, Jan’s daughter Filoména and her husband arrive in America. The Podmolíkov family in Moravia learned from the story of Jan Nešpor, who took a nasty shot at them, that Jan has a farm in America and 20 thousand dollars in the bank. So they didn’t even write to him and sent Flomena for the money. Both he and Rosálie describe the circumstances of the disgusting blackmailing of 65-year-old Jan, who looked after seven minor children and his 33-year-old daughter, in the attached letters. It is also necessary to realize that Filoména left her 11-year-old daughter Ludmila at home. Blackmail was useless, John did. he gave nothing and her return to Europe was made impossible for several years by the war. She died in Vienna and we don’t know when. Her daughter Ludmila died on 7/7/1983 and is buried in Velký Týnec.

In March 1920, his wife Františka dies.

Probably in 1922, Cyril, the husband of Rosália Hradilova’s sister, sends a letter and confirmation from Jan’s daughters, i.e. Jaroslava, Marie and Emilie, that he paid them 422 crowns and 322 crowns and 6 pennies each in 1916. Jan believes that it was money that Rosalie lent her sister. It is clear from the letter that he knows about Maria’s wedding in 1919, because he refers to her as Sedláčeková. He asked her about the fate of Jaroslava and Emília, but did not get an answer. So he asks for Cyril’s information. We know he won’t answer him either.

In February 1928, in a letter to Maria Sedláčková, she writes: “I also inform you that you can be named after your father and that your mother is my legal wife.” He is 79 years old. He also reacts to the news that Jaroslava took care of his sister (probably Agnes) until her death. He is angry that Marie does not inform him about what her two sisters are doing.

August 19th, 1934. Rosálie responds to her 42-year-old daughter Maria’s last attempt to get some money from her father Jan, who has surely already died. However, Jan is alive and will live for another five months. She has not gotten out of bed for two years, is incontinent and bleeds often. It gets very weak. In response, he asks ironically: “Where did you get so much love all of a sudden?” He dies quietly the day before his birthday, January 22, 1935. Of all his children, only Frank lives on the farm at this time. It’s 35 below zero outside and the Model T won’t start. Frank had to walk 4 miles to the phone that was in the cheese factory where they sold the milk. Frank called all the children, the priest and the undertaker. His nose and ears froze during this event, and since then he had to treat them with the arrival of the first cold weather, as they swelled and oozed from an allergy to the cold.

In 1940, the Rural Electric Company brought electricity to the farm and life became easier. Rosalie took care of the house and garden and Frank took care of the animals and the farm. Rosalie also kept hens and sold eggs.

From 1935, Josef Řehák junior lived with them, who was advised by a doctor to leave Chicago due to poor health. In 1943 Rosalia suffered an attack of angina pectoris. The doctor put her in the maternity hospital in Phillips because it was feared she wouldn’t last until the hospital 20 miles away. Anna came from Chicago and took care of her in the maternity hospital for a month. It took at least a year before she could return to housework on a limited basis. Frank took care of her the whole time. Josef (Pepíček) Řehák finished school in 1944 and went to work for Western Electric. Frank regularly drove Rosalia for medical check-ups. On the evening of September 6th, 1947, she came to him when he was putting away the ottoman and asked when he would be going home. He said right away. While he mopped the hall she sat down on the front step. He heard her “yeah” and when he ran over to see, she was already dead. She died of a heart attack. All the children attended the funeral except for Anna, who was forbidden by the doctor to travel due to a threatened pregnancy.

And that’s all we could somehow find out as their family. The source was the memories of some, letters of others and even copies of official documents. We managed to establish that contacts with children in Europe lasted at least until 1934. Yet, until the death of those who knew, their existence was never revealed to those children who could not know. Only two of these separated children met. Thanks to Sophie Řeháková’s interest, it was her and Emilie Hradilova in: 1974. Thanks to Sophie’s interest, I was also able to see the first farm of my great-grandparents in 1989. Twelve years have passed since Sophie asked me to find out who she was. By which she meant what was kept secret from her, like the others. I promised it, and thanks to many, perhaps something more was achieved. I learn that Robert Řehák is searching for the roots of his family, Mildred Podmolíková remembers for the children as she remembered for Penny Sophie or my niece Kateřina, my mother. Ten years after I caught up with Frank Podmolík in the world and was able to pick up a few pebbles as a souvenir from the pile of stones they collected as children in the fields of the old farm, I have a couple of Podmolík’s e-mail addresses and our contacts are immediate. It’s too late for Sophia, but for the rest of us I hope, the end of the collective unconscious, is worth it. And thank you.

In the territory of the U.S.A. then these children were born Daughters Bessie (Dušek), born in March 1904. In 1993, she lived in a nursing home, was emaciated and mostly did not know anyone.

Sophie (Řehák} born on April 9, 1908 in Donora, Pennsylvania, died on September 7, 1990.

She married Josef Řehák on July 17, 1927 in Chicago. He was an apprentice butcher (with his father). His mother was a men’s tailor and both his parents came from Třeboň.

In the Czechoslovakia in 1973 with her husband and for about a week they lived with my parents in Josefovice u Hrabyně. In 1989, she invited me to her place. They lived in Clarendon Hills near Chicago. In Velký Týnec, she met her sister Emilia and had lunch with her.

Ann (Stanley Goworovski – divorced) b. July 9: 1912 in Township of Emery. In 1993, she lived with her daughter, a teacher, and in her own house. However, she had severe Parkinson’s disease. She died on June 11, 1996 in Lyons IL.


children ——————————in 1993 single—————— Mary Lou

Ann (Leonard) Hohbein ———————— Spring

2 sons Matthew

Sons Frank (Mildred) *. 18.12.1909 in Donora

+. 10.10.1989 at 11 a.m. at Park Falls Hospital, near Phillips of a heart attack. It was about 14 hours after I said goodbye to him. He lies in St. Patrick’s Cemetery in Phillips.

Marion Kozak (Mae)

Valerian Florian b. 23.8.1906 dies of a stroke 21.4.1992, age 86 and his wife Mae, died 8.2.93 of lung cancer and diabetes in; age 85 years. They lived in Sobieski, Wisconsin. It’s about a 3 1/2 hour drive from Phillips.

Gotlieb Podmolik *. in 1899 in Czechia, was unmarried, and died 13 Aug 1957 in Chicago, IL,

John Ignatius *. March 29, 1905 was unmarried and died June 5, 1982 in Lyons IL.