John and Anna (Blecha) Vitosh



Maurice L. Vitosh

       Jan Krtitel Vitous (John  Baptist Vitosh) was born on  June 16, 1832 in the village of Ujezd u Svateho Krize, Bohemia.  John was the third of seven children born  to Frantisek and Anna (Autersky) Vittaus, farmers in  Ujezd u Svateho Krize.  His grandparents were Vaclav (Wenceslaus) and Kateriny (Kozeluhova) Vittaus (Witauss), peasants  in Stupno.  This information was found   in the parish register of births, volume 11, page 379 of the Roman Catholic rectory in Radnice, Czech Republic.   A copy of the report written in the Czech language and a translated copy of the report can be viewed at their corresponding  links.  These records were obtained from the State Regional Archives in Pilsen, Czech  Republic.  Otto Vitous, a friend of mine living in Ostrava, Czech Republic was kind enough to help me get the report and translate it to English.  The names above are the Czech spellings as found in the Pilsen report.   Note that the names recorded in the parish register were not always spelled the same.  It is my understanding that the scribe or priest who recorded the names may have used different spellings with time.  Such spelling irregularities are common in old church records.

        John Baptist Vitosh is my great grandfather, who brought his family to America in 1867.  I am telling this story of his life, as best as I understand it, from the records found in Pilsen, a personal visit to his birth home on September 4, 2000 and many other records I have found on his life in Iowa and Nebraska.  I want to acknowledge and thank my sister Bernice Ruyle, for her work on the Vitosh genealogy.  I am greatly indebted to her for the many records she has kept over the last 50 years.

       John Vitosh's birth home, number 13, is still standing in the village of Ujezd u Svateho Krize.  He grew up as a farm boy in the village of Ujezd u Svateho Krize.  In his teen age years he met Anna Blecha, daughter of Vojtech and Anna (Razim) Blecha, peasants in Krise.  Krise is a small village located approximately 5 miles southwest of Ujezd u Svateho Krize.  He may have met Anna in the Stupno Roman Catholic church.  The birth records of  John's younger brothers and sisters were found in the Stupno parish register rather  than Radnice.  The village of Stupno is located about 2 miles  southeast of Krise.  The family must have moved to the  Stupno area or started attending the Stupno church soon after John was born.  All of these villages are located within a few miles of each other and can be found approximately 10 miles northeast of Pilsen, Czech Republic. 

        John and Anna were married in their early twenties. Their first child, Katerina (Kate), was born on November 10,  1854.  My grandfather, Joseph was the sixth child to be born in Bohemia.  He was born on March 8, 1866  in house number 16  in Krise.  The house still stands today in the small village of Krise.  The children born in Bohemia were, Katerina. Vaclav, Matej, Vojtech,  Marie  and Josef.  These are the Czech spellings for Kate, James, Michael, Albert, Mary and Joseph as known in America.

        It is a mystery as to why John and Anna Vitosh decided to leave their homeland and emigrate  to  America.  They must have been faced with a hard and oppressed  life.   Bohemia at that time was under the rule of the Habsburgs, and was part of the Austrian Empire.  The foreign rule over the once independent  Bohemian kingdom  was long resented and opposed by its inhabitants because it kept the peasants in slavery and poverty without political or religious freedom.  In 1848, serfdom was abolished.   This meant that the aristocratic families no longer controlled all aspect of village life.   Marriages outside the parish  were now possible.  Peasants could move to another village without a special permit of the feudal nobility.   Forced payments to the landlords, church and school were also abolished and the peasants could freely resettle  or move.  The farmers were set free, but were required to buy the land  from their noble lords. There were constant wars and threats of war which  added to the problems of a poor economy and most young men were called to  fight for the Austrian Empire in far away lands and died in masses.   In the 1866, war broke  out between the Austrian Empire and Prussia.   Prussia defeated the Austrians in eastern Bohemia at Hradec Kralove.   Things did not look good for people in western Bohemia.  Under this difficult situation news of cheap land came from America, the land of opportunity.   The US needed farmers and other experienced people to colonize the rural  states  such as Iowa and Nebraska.  A few Bohemians started emigrating  to the  United States in the 1840's.  Large numbers of Bohemians started  arriving  in America in the 1870's with emigration to the United States reaching  a  peak in the 1890's.

        In 1867 John Vitosh made the decision to emigrate to the United States.   It  must have been a hard decision to uproot his family and to leave his six brothers and sisters.  Joseph, my grandfather, was only  one year old when they  decided to leave.   I do not know how they got to Bremerhaven, a German port city.   I can only guess that they traveled by train.  The first train tracks in Bohemia were laid in about the 1840's.  How they were able to finance the trip to America, I do not know, but I suspect that they may have sold most of their belongings including their house or were helped by other members of the family.

        On June 9, 1867, the family  boarded the German Bark, Wieland for America.  Documentation of their departure was  found  on microfilm No 889442, ship No 41.  This Quebec Passenger List of 1867 was obtained from the Later Day Saints Archives in Salt  Lake City, Utah.  On the microfilm list, I found the name Joh Witousch, male  35, female 30, male children 10, 8, 6, and 4, female child 12 and a one year old infant.  Joh was listed as a farmer  from Bohemia.  The spelling here is German rather than Czech.  Interesting enough, the next name on the list is Jrg Blecha or George Blecha. This could have been a brother of John's wife, Anna.  I have no further record of this  individual.

        The clue to finding this passenger list was found in the Johnson County Courthouse in Iowa City. Iowa.  In the fall  of 1999, I stopped in Iowa City to find John Vitoush's naturalization papers.   There I found two documents, his Declaration of Intention to become a citizen  of the United States and his Naturalization papers.  Reproductions of  these documents are found in the Appendix.  Note  that the spelling of his last name at this time was Vitoush.  In the  Declaration of Intent to become a citizen, he states that he entered  the United States through the Port of Chicago.  In order to do that,  he would have been required to disembark in Quebec, Canada and take a smaller  boat to Chicago via the Great Lakes.

        I know very little about the voyage from Germany to America, but I can only imagine from other accounts that it must have been very uncomfortable and possibly a life threatening trip especially with my grandfather who was one year old.  He must have been a strong and healthy baby.  The trip across the Atlantic could have taken 7-8 weeks.  In my search for a picture or description of the German Bark, Wieland, I was able to obtain a reproduction of a painting and history of the ship from the German Maritime Museum, Deutsches Schiffahrtsmuseum.

        I have no information of their trip from Chicago to Iowa, but at that time there were many Bohemian emigrants living in Chicago who could have helped them get to Iowa City.  The Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad from Chicago to Iowa City was in service prior to 1867.  The family may have taken the train to Iowa City.  In 1875, John Vitoush applied to become a citizen of the United States.  On January 16, 1878, he received his Naturalization papers.  This document also gave citizenship to his wife and children.  In the 1880 census, John Vittosh was living in dwelling number 353, Iowa City Township, Johnson County.  His occupation was listed as a teamster.  At this time there were only four children living at this household (Anna, 11, Fannie, 9, Frank, 6 and William, 2 months).  These were Joseph’s younger brother and sisters born in Iowa.  None of the older children were living in this household in 1880.   At this time Joseph would have been 14 years old and was probably living with his older brothers or sister.  Joseph’s oldest brother James would have been 24, Michael 22, Albert 20 and Mary 18.  Joseph’s oldest sister would have been about 26 but she was not married until 1887 in Beatrice, Nebraska. My speculation is that these children were living and working on a farm.  The Michael Vitosh farm was located in Section 24 of Sharon Township, Johnson County.  The farm is now owned by Orval Grout (2005 Platt map).  This information was given to me by Paul Neuzil on a visit to his farm in 2005.  Michael was not married until 1882 but perhaps they were living on this farm at the time.

       In 1885, John and several of his children traveled to Odell, Nebraska.  On June 10, 1885, the Nebraska census lists John, Anna, Joseph, Frances and Frank as all living in Gage County, Elm twonship, Nebraska.  A picture of John and Anna (Blecha) Vitosh  was taken in Beatrice, Nebraska  in the late 1880's by the F. R. Chase Studios.   On August 27, 1888, John Vitosh purchased 160 acres in the northeast corner of Section 26, Gage County.  In 1901 this property  was sold for $30 per acre to Albert Pribil (Prybil) from Iowa City, who married  his daughter Frances (Fannie).  In 1892, John Vitosh purchased 160 acres of land for $15 in the southwest corner of Section 24, Gage County.  Later this  land was sold or deeded to his son, Joseph, who married Annie Kostal February 29, 1892.  Annie Kostal’s father, Albert came to Riverside, Iowa in 1866 with the Shebek family from Sv. Kř�že, Bohemia.  This is the same village where John Vitosh was born.  It is very likely that the Vitosh and Shebek families knew each other in Bohemia and in Iowa.  Riverside, IA is located about 10 miles south of Iowa City in Washington County.  Albert Kostal married Josephine Shebek after they came to America.  Nine children were born to this family.  Annie was born June 6, 1871 in Riverside, Iowa.  She was the second oldest child in the family.  In October of 1880 the Albert Kostal family moved to Odell, NE.  They traveled by covered wagon to their farm home, four miles south and a half mile west of Odell (Source: Abbie McGinley).

        Joseph and Annie Vitosh lived on the
farm, 5 miles north of Odell and one mile west.  Seven children were born to this couple.  There were 5 boys; Rudolph, William, Charles, Harry and Joseph Jr. and two girls; Mary and Clara.  Harry Joseph Vitosh, the fourth boy in the family is my father.  Joseph and Frank  were the only sons  who came to Nebraska and settled in Gage County.  Nearly all of the Vitosh's  living in the Odell area today are descendants of  Joseph Vitosh.  Several  descendants of the  Frank Vitosh family still live in the Odell area, but only one with the name Vitosh.  Kate Vitosh   married Frank Bezdek of Odell, but later moved of Ravenna, Nebraska.   Frances Vitosh Prybil died in 1909 and was buried in Iowa City.

        John and Anna returned to Iowa City around the turn of the century to be with their oldest children, James, Michael and Mary.  There are many descendants of these three children who are still living in the Iowa City area.  I do not have records on all of these descendants.  The 1900 census showed that John and Anna Vitoush were living at 828 Fairchild St., Iowa city.   Anna Vitoush died at her home on East Fairchild St., Iowa City on August 28, 1911.   John Vitoush died on January 2, 1912 at his home in Iowa City.  They are buried in the St. Joseph Cemetery in Iowa City along with  three of their children   (Vojtech, Anna and Wilem).

        It is important to note how the surname Vitosh has evolved with time.  In the early 1800's the  Czech  name was Vittaus, then Vitous.  On the passenger  list you will find the German spelling Witousch.  In American I found  it on the 1880 census as Vittosh and on the 1900 and 1910 census it was spelled Vitosh.  On the naturalization papers and obituary it was spelled Vitoush.  On the death certificate and the tombstones in Iowa City, the name is spelled Vitosh.  To my  knowledge all descendants of Jan Krtitel Vitous, who live in  the United  States, use the name Vitosh.

       It is also interesting to note that there are several discrepancies in my great grandfather's age.    His birth record from the Pilsen Archives puts his birthday as June 16, 1832.  When he boarded the German Bark Weiland on June 9, 1967, he would have been  34 not  35 as he was listed on the passenger list, seven days short of his  35th birthday.  The June 1, 1880 census lists him as 50 years old.  His correct age at that time should have been 47.  On June 9, the 1900  census lists his age as 67 which is correct.  I could not read the age  on the 1910 census.  His obituary and death certificate lists his age as 78 which I believe to be incorrect due to the birth record found in the Pilsen Archives.  His correct age at his death should have been 79.  My interpretation of this is, that he had difficulty in determining his age and may not have known his exact birth date.   His son, Michael, who signed his death certificate, did not know his exact birth date.



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Last reviewed and updated August 28, 2020  by Maurice L. Vitosh