Joseph and Annie (kostal) Vitosh



Compiled and written by


Maurice L. Vitosh




Email: [email protected]


      Joseph Vitosh was born March 8, 1866 in Křiše, Bohemia, Czech Republic to John and Anna (Blecha) Vitosh.  He was the sixth child in the family to be born in Bohemia.  Bohemia at that time was under the reign of the Austrian Empire.  This information was found in the parish register of births, volume 6, and page 519 of the Roman Catholic rectory in Stupno, Czech Republic.  A copy of this report written in the Czech language was obtained from the State Regional Archives in Pilsen, Czech Republic in the year 2000.  Otto Vitouš, a friend of mine living in Ostrava, Czech Republic was kind enough to help me get the report and translate it to English  


      Křiše is a small village located approximately 5 miles southwest of Újezd u Svatého Kříže where Joseph’s father John was born. The village of Stupno is located about 2 miles southeast of Křiše.  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.  Joseph was born in house number 16 in Křiše.  The house still stands today.  Six of Joseph’s siblings were born in Bohemia.  They were, Kateřina, Václav, Matěj, Vojtěch,  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 Blecha Vitosh decided to leave their homeland and come 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 aspects 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 immigrating to the United States in the 1840's.  Large numbers of Bohemians started arriving in America in the 1870's with immigration to the United States reaching a peak in the 1890's.


    In 1867 John Vitosh and his family made the decision to immigrate to the United States.  It must have been hard decision to uproot the family and to leave his six brothers and sisters behind.  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.  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 were 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 U.S. citizenship to his wife and all their children.  In the 1880 census, John Vittosh was living in dwelling number 353, Iowa City Township, Johnson County  I do not know the exact location of this dwelling.  His occupation was listed as a teamster.  At this time there were only four children living at this house (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 sisters.  Joseph’s oldest brother James would have been 24, Michael 22, Albert 20 and Mary 18.  Joseph’s oldest sister would have been 26 years old 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 Vitosh 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 Township, Nebraska, dwelling #91.  Joseph would have been 19 years old at this time. 


      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.


    On February 29, 1892 Joseph Vitosh married Annie Kostal of Odell, NE.  Annie Kostal’s father, Albert Vojtech Kostal was born in house # 33 in Újezd u Svatého Kříže, Bohemia and married Josephine Shebek after they came to America.  Albert immigrated to Riverside, Iowa in 1866 with the Shebek family who also came from Újezd u Svatého Kříže.  This is the same village where John Vitosh was born.  It is very likely that the Vitosh, Kostal and Shebek families all knew each other in Bohemia and in Iowa City.  Riverside, IA is located about 10 miles south of Iowa City in Washington County Nine children were born to the Alber Kostal family.  Annie was born June 6, 1871 in Riverside, Iowa.  She was the second oldest child in the family.  In October of 1880 the 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 A. and two girls; Mary and Clara.  Harry Joseph Vitosh, the fourth boy in the family is my father.  This was the house that the family lived in until about 1929 when Joseph and Annie retired to Odell.  Joseph Albert and Rose (Bures) Vitosh lived on the family farm after marriage in 1929.


     In Odell, Joseph and Annie lived on the corner of Ida and Maple streets.  Joseph died on December 20, 1940 and is buried in the Odell cemetery.  Annie died on June 20, 1962 at a nursing home in Beatrice.  She is buried next to Joseph in the Odell cemetery.  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 in the Odell area.
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Last reviewed updated August 28, 2020 by Maurice L. Vitosh