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Souhrada History

By Albert H. Souhrada (1914-1985)
 [Courtesy of Catherine (Souhrada) Wyrobeck]

Albert H. Souhrada

Born: July 18th, 1914 - Harper, Illinois                                                                               

Father: Michael A. Souhrada (1880-1975)

Mother: Mary (Zak) Souhrada (1879-1943)

Brother: Arthur John (1913-1998)

Wife: Helen Ales (1914-2003)

Three Children: Michael, Catherine, John


By Albert H. Souhrada (In his own words)

March 13, 1975

“For the enlightenment of any interested parties this is the first history of the SOUHRADA family, as far as I know, to be recorded.”


I was the second, and last, of two sons born to Michael and Mary Souhrada, in the village of Harper, Illinois. I was born in what then was called a “section house” which was property of the Milwaukee Railroad my father being a ‘section foreman’ for that company. Having once visited there I found only a pump near where the house stood and nothing more. The house stood, as stories describe it, “hard by’ the railroad track. As my father tells it when my mother’s time came he walked across the fields to the nearest bigger town for the doctor. History tells he was a rotund man and told my father ‘you were here nine months ago and you stay here now and help.’ That was July 18, 1914, about two weeks after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo which precipitated World War I.


My baptism took place on September 26, 1914 in Our Lady of Good Counsel Church at 916 North Western Avenue, Chicago, Illinois, under the name of “Vojtech” which is translated to “Albert.” The reason the bohemian version was used is because the old priest was Bohemian himself and apparently wasn’t fully Americanized. My birth record is recorded in the court house in Oregon, Illinois, county seat of the county containing Harper, Illinois.


My one brother, Arthur John, was born June 12, 1913 in Franklin Park, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. It is interesting to note from our birth dates that we were born thirteen months apart after my parents waited for fourteen years for offspring. My mother’s story was that she prayed often and diligently for ‘two boys’ and coincidentally, that is what she got. At the time of my brother’s birth my father was a yard foreman for the Milwaukee Road of all the Chicago yards from Bensonville into what is now the Union Station. Had he stayed in this position there is no doubt he would have risen to a higher administrative position except for perhaps one of two things; he may have felt the yard foreman’s job was too much for his capacity or he longed for the small-town life where he eventually re-cycled himself to . . . that of Oxford Junction, Jones County, Iowa, his old home-town.


His father, John, immigrated to Iowa about 1882 in the days when new building of railroads attracted European labor. His home was in Pisek, Austro-Hungary, later Czechoslovakia. This is a city which lies about seventy miles south by south-west of Prague in what later became the Sudetenland area of Bohemia. My understanding is that he followed the trade of a stone mason. Should you visit this area it would be evident that the buildings are of cut stone and this trade would have been comparable to our modern-day bricklayer. The name SOUHRADA is quite prominent in this area as well as in Prague and Vienna, Austria.


Grandfather John was married for the second time, at about age sixty-five to a thirty year old woman whose name, I think, was Anna Tichy. This can be translated as “quiet.’ To this union were born three children; my father, Aunt Anna (Hicks) and Frances who died at eighteen months and lies in the Mayflower cemetery with Granddad and Grandma. Grampa John’s grave stone reads “Born 1818, Died 1918.” He lived from the early days of the Austrian Monarchies and was subject to them. It is interesting to note that the rumors told me his brother was a Major in the Austro-Hungarian army and commanded the Palace Guard for Franz Joseph. A one-time visit to Vienna would then be evidence that he was stationed at Schonbrunn Palace a tourist’s showplace at this date. Further rumor says that Officer Souhrada was a radical and was exiled from the country. This may account for other Souhradas being heard of in various places. Rumors were that the radical Major came to Wisconsin. At one time a Souhrada woman lived in Savanna, Illinois and upon calling she advised me they were originally from Mineral Point, (Wisconsin).


My parents moved to Oxford Junction, Iowa not long after I was born and we lived with a Henak family until my folks purchased the house in that part of Oxford Junction known as Cookesville, named after a man named Cooke who constructed quite a number of homes in that part of town which lay south of the railroad tracks.


It was not until I was about five or six years of age that we stated going to the Catholic Church, a religion which apparently had been neglected.


My mother, Mary, was born about 1880 in Tjalen, Austria-Hungary and later also the Bohemia portion of Czechoslovakia. From vague remembrances of what she told me her education consisted of ‘home economics’ but where she went to school I do not know. Having seen her town of birth I couldn’t conclude that there was any kind of school there. The only town of any size was Protivin, about three miles distant, where she probably got her education. Until she was eighteen she spent considerable time in Prague as a maid servant to a wealthy Jewish family. This must have been in the Stare Mesto (Old town) area of Prague but I never had enough information to pinpoint the exact street when I visited that city. Her town of birth was only about eight miles south, southeast of Pisek where my father was born.


At eighteen she was catapulted overnight into an emigration to America, sponsored by several brothers who were already here in this country and in the vicinity of Oxford Junction. She came alone up the Rhine River and probably boarded an ocean-going vessel at Hamburg as she spoke of ‘going out into the North Sea.’ Processed at Ellis Island she came to Oxford Junction by railroad. Her fare across the ocean was in “steerage’ which probably means she didn’t see the light of day for the entire trip. She was to meet my father through the brother John who apparently had the match all arranged before she got to Oxford Junction.


According to my father she was still suffering from a love affair she had with an Austrian army officer and carried his picture even after marriage to my father until he called an ultimatum. They were married shortly after my father returned from Cuba and duty with the U.S. Army there during the Spanish-American War. His service was about a years’ duration. The year was about 1899 and the marriage took place before a justice of the peace in Oxford Junction. Later, it was confirmed as ‘legal’ by a Catholic priest.


To my knowledge my mother had one sister, Rose and two brothers, Frank and John. Frank was killed by a railroad engine in the Clinton, Iowa yards and probably under the influence of liquor at the time of the accident. John died a natural death in a field near Cascade, Iowa when he was about sixty years of age. Frank’s death took place about 1981. Neither man was married.


Aunt Rose lived all of her life, after coming to America, in the city of Chicago. She was married to John Cincura, also a Bohemian. From this union were born two boys, Joseph and Frank and a girl, Mary. John Cincura operated a milk route in the South Homan and West 26th Street area of Chicago and during the depression, after loosing the milk route job, drove a cab. He met his end gasping for breath somewhere on Michigan Avenue because of a heart attack. Frank died in Los Angeles from a massive coronary in 1961 and his mother passed away shortly after in Chicago. Mary, probably from an over-indulgent diet, died in South Bend, Indiana of a stroke while shopping in a super mart.


The remaining member of the family (Joseph) supposedly moved to Florida in the Hialeah area but apparently wants no communication with any relatives. He was an employee in the Cook County court house in the city of Chicago. It may be unfair suspicion that being of the political machine of Chicago that his activities in that position my not have been pure white. A letter to him requesting recognition went unanswered. Chicago phone directory contains quite a number of the Souhrada clan . . . all related but nobody now living knows just how. One was contacted on a vacation to Clearwater, Florida who was then residing in St. Petersburg. He accepted an invitation to dinner to become acquainted but at the eleventh hour didn’t show up. Again, Amen!


Michael J. Souhrada, who attended Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin ran across the Souhrada name on a student roster but didn’t attempt contact. This stranger was from the state of New Jersey.


These off-branchings of the clan may be partly attributed to the offspring of the Pisek John Souhrada from his first marriage. I was told by my father that there were seventeen children in the family. The three from the second marriage are accounted for. From the first marriage I know only of three ‘half-sisters.’ All lived in the Oxford Junction area. They were Barbara (Wosoba), Josephine (Wosoba) and Mary (Collins). See chart for offspring as far as I know of them. Somewhere there must have been eleven more of whom I know nothing. A visit to Pisek by Elizabeth Vanicek (daughter of above Josephine) revealed no success in tracing unknowns except to confirm the name of Souhrada was common in Pisek.