Jurika and related families




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Jurika and related families

August 2012, dkm

JURIKA


The following information comes from extended family, who generously shared memories, letters, and notes from visits to Malatina: Aunty Tom, Aunty Katsy, Uncle Tom and Aunt Ginny, Peter Parsons, Lou Jurika, Samboyd Stagg, Jane Jurika Seligson, Pat Jurika, and Anne Jurika, Andy and Anita Juricka, and others. Information on Blanche Jurika is also drawn from her own writings, family papers, interviews, official documents, and letters from people who knew her during the war.

*****


Our Juricka forebears probably lived in the town of Malatina, near Svaty Mara in Dolny Kubin district, in the Tatra Mountains of Slovakia for generations.1 In Sue Jurika Cecil’s words, “For 200 years and more, the Jurickas lived in that house and barn at Malatina, on the hill just by the brook. They were honest and simple Slav farmers, trying to get a meager living from the barren soil… They raised farm crops, had milk and butter… Before the church in Malatina was built in 1801, they went to mass in Svaty Mara.”2


I. Jan Juricka (b.c.1800; d.c. 1880) and his wife, Elizabeth, experienced many hardships. In their time, there was a famine when no summer came at all and half the village starved to death. Their graves have been forgotten by descendants who live all around the cemetery.


II. Jan Juricka (b.c. 1825; d.c. 1880; age 62) married Zuzanna Skvarkova (b.c. 1829, d.c. 1888; age 64)3 from the same district of Orava. Their graves are in the Malatina cemetery, just below the Christ Cross, facing the house where they lived and their children were born. While tradition has it that the couple had 20 children, it appears that only six reached adulthood:


  • Josef, b. Jan. 19, 1854; d. 1925, age 71 (all descendants in Slovakia)

  • Katrushka, b. 1858; d. 1937 m. Jan Kusbel/Kuzbel (descendants in US and Slovakia)*

  • Maria, m. Klochan (descendants in US and Slovakia?)

  • Teresa, b.c. 1871; m. Gonda (all descendants in Slovakia?)

  • Jan, b.c. 1875, d.c. 1908 (age 33) (descendants in US and Slovakia)*

  • Stefan, b. Oct. 27, 1878 (all descendants in US and Philippines)*

  • (daughter [Rozhenka?], whose descendants are the Puceks?)


*See Jurika Collateral Lines (document)4


Stefan’s son, Tom Jurika, remembered seeing photos "of his father, aunts, and uncles on a poverty-stricken street in snow…barefoot children lined up against a picket fence." His mother Blanche couldn't reconcile those images (all lost in World War II) with daughter Sue Jurika Cecil’s description of a visit in 1937-8, which portrayed the village as very prosperous. Father [Stefan] said we were always poor in Czechoslovakia, but "being rich is better, it helps...". Later family trips occurred in 1966, 1969, and 1972.


The last quarter of the 19th century was a difficult time for villagers in the eastern part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire: three of the six known Jurika children made their way to America, at least temporarily, as did many of their cousins and other relatives. Famine, political oppression, flue epidemics, and poverty added to the appeal of America.


Ellis Island records first show Jurigas [sic] arriving in 1893: an adult Jan (b.c. 1872; Stefan’s brother above?), a little Jan (b. 1889), and an older Josef (b.c. 1839) and Zusanna (b.c. 1842). Their homes were listed as Austria or Hungary. Stefan reportedly arrived in February 1896, but no INS record has been found.


Around the turn of the 20th century, a veritable exodus took place from Malatina to Benwood, WV, where jobs in the steel factories were opening up. The first recorded immigrant specifically from Malatina was Jan Kuzbel (Stefan’s brother-in-law), in 1899; this Kuzbel already had a cousin in West Virginia. Other Kuczbels, Klochans, Kubanyis, Muzilas,5 and Jurickas followed: between 1901 and 1924, there were at least 29 who came looking for a better life because they had a relative(s) in Benwood. Although their homes of origin were all listed as “Malatina,” we do not know exactly how they were related to one another or to us – but they were related. More contact with relatives and research might clarify this.


Andy Jurika writes in 3/04 that Benwood is a little town by the Ohio River, just outside Wheeling. There were three streets where the families [from Malatina] lived; at the end of the street was Wheeling Steel where they all worked. Down the middle of one of the streets they had a “sidewalk” where all the workers walked to the mill.


III. Stefan Jurika, b. Oct. 27, 1878,6 lost his father very suddenly when he was about three and his mother when he was around ten. According to family lore, he was raised by his older brother, Josef, and at about 15 (1893-4) left Malatina for Budapest, where he became a carpenter in the building trades. Around 1895, he returned to Bobrovnik, where brother Josef gave him $40 to go to Bremen and then America – most likely because there were Jurickas and/or other relatives already there, and perhaps to escape military service. Stefan, about 18, walked to Antwerp and traveled onward by ship from Amsterdam (or Rotterdam) to New York, probably in February 1896.7


Stefan’s and Blanche’s passport applications at later dates say he resided from 1896-1899 in Los Angeles. His military files suggest otherwise. Oral history says that on arrival Stefan went to Pittsburgh, in open boxcars carrying cattle; he allegedly visited a “brother,” and may have done printing work or labored in the steel mills. Blanche wrote that distant relatives met him in New York and took him to Pittsburgh, where he worked in the mills and on a Slovak newspaper. Peter V. Rovnianek recalled meeting him “just a boy and not long from Slovakia,” who didn’t speak English and boarded with some “Slovak fellow countrymen;” Rovnianek also said he employed Stefan as a press feeder in his printing office until he enlisted.8 As for his enlistment: one story says he spoke no English, and was sent by his employer to get a newspaper about the outbreak of the Spanish-American War – only to say, “Give me a paper” to a recruiting sergeant, who told him to sit down and fill out the papers! Another story is that he enlisted to learn English and get an education. Stefan’s own account, as related by family, was that he “woke up on a troop ship.”


Military records show that Stephen Jurichka [sic] volunteered for three years of Army service in Pittsburgh on 24 Sept. 1898. He described himself as a native of Austria and brewer by occupation, residing at Allegheny, PA. He was five feet seven inches, with blue eyes and brown hair. Because he was one month short of 20, his “guardian,” S.G. Rovianek of Pittsburgh, consented to the enlistment. Stephen further declared that he had “made legal declarations of [his] intention to become a citizen of the United States.” Steve was assigned as a private to Company K of the 17th Infantry, 1st Pennsylvania Volunteers.


Blanche recounted that Steve was shipped to the Philippines in the second detachment of troops to land there. 9 We have a US Army letter of 5 Jan 1928, verifying Steve’s service as:


Arrived in PI 23 March 1899 – Company K, 17th Infantry.

Transferred to 12 Battery Field Artillery, 20 Jul 1901.

Transferred to Company K, 17th Infantry, 25 Jul 1901.

Discharged per ETS 23 Sept 1901 at Malabang, Mindanao.


As Steve arrived in 1899, the active service he saw most likely involved “subduing” the Moros in Mindanao and Jolo after the war with Spain ended.10 Though the Spanish ceded the Philippines to the United States under the Treaty of Paris, many Moros had never heard of either the treaty or the United States. The sudden exit of the Spaniards from their territory at first seemed to be a final and decisive victory – until the American forces issued an unfortunately worded “proclamation of friendship.” The Moros became resentful, angry, and violent toward the new trespassers.


While 50,000 American soldiers were quelling Filipino insurrections in the north in Spring 1899, the isolated Spanish garrisons in Mindanao and Sulu suffered horribly. These southern posts lacked supplies and many were wiped out. Eventually, all the Spanish forces in the south were concentrated at Zamboanga and Jolo to await help from the American army. Finally, on May 18, 1899, Captain Pratt with 185 men of the 23rd U. S. Infantry, arrived at Jolo to relieve the Spanish garrison. In December 1899, troops of the same regiment occupied Zamboanga. We don’t know, however, when Steve reached Mindanao.

If our understanding of these events is murky, it’s hardly surprising, because at this time the Moro country was cut off from the world. There was little direct communication from Manila, and news from Spain was forwarded from Singapore, via Sandakan, Borneo. It was more than a month before Zamboanga knew of the beginning of the Spanish-American War. At one time, the Spanish padres of Zamboanga received word that Boston had been captured by the troops of Spain. American forces arriving to garrison Mindanao and Sulu found the Moros firmly in command of the territory earned by more than 300 years of warfare – and ill-disposed to give it up. The delicacy of the situation was reflected in the orders given to the American troops: "to relieve the Spaniards, extend American jurisdiction with as little trouble as possible, and expect no reinforcements."


Whenever he arrived, Steve and other American troops found Mindanao and Sulu in a terrible state of anarchy and banditry. Outlaw bands ravaged the country and no place was safe from Moro attacks, as the last of the Spaniards were slaughtered. The Moro country had quickly reverted to a condition of feudalism, with each individual datu (chief) holding the power of life and death in a small barangay. Into this environment the first American “law” came to Jolo in late summer of 1899: in August Major-General Otis, Military Governor of the Philippines, sent Brigadier General J. C. Bates to Jolo to negotiate a treaty with the Moros. Bates, as agent of the United States government, did reach an agreement with the Sultan of Sulu, but fighting continued on Mindanao until 1908.


In Mindanao, around Malabang, the Americans found thirteen Muslim settlements with a fighting population of more than 3,600 warriors, each settlement possessing at least one fortified cotta or fortress. U.S. troops first occupied the Malabang country in 1899, but it was not until 1902 that progress was made as far as Lake Lanao. Records show that Stephen Jurichka was discharged at Malabang, by then a U.S. Army center, on 23 Sept 1901.11


We know that Stefan used his savings from the Army to start a business in Zamboanga - P.J. Moore, a family friend, recalled meeting Steve there for the first time in December 1901, when he was “conducting a hotel and saloon.” We know little about how Steve built his business, but can imagine that he was adventuring and had plenty of opportunities to make money. He also began spelling his name “JURIKA” around this time. The following is pieced together from reminiscences by two of his children, his sister-in-law (Alleene Walker Tweedy), and other Jurickas who emigrated to the United States.


It just happened that Mora E. Smith and Steve Jurika were Army buddies on the isle of Jolo.12 They put their money into a canteen and started right away to make money on that. Steve’s part became a pawnshop with his quarters above: but did he really have five pearl ships within a year as some family lore later had it?! In 1904-05, he went back to Pittsburgh, visiting Rovnianek for several weeks, and presumably relatives as well.


Again to visit relatives near Pittsburgh, Steve again left Manila May 8, 1907 on the Sherman13 for California, with Manuel Tiana.14 Steve carried a letter of introduction from Mora Smith, his business partner and a former Army “quartermaster.” Steve landed in San Francisco, went to Los Angeles and then to Oxnard, where he called on Smith’s cousins, the Walkers. He met Blanche, who was teaching school and “practically engaged to a young attorney named Brown,” on 14 Jun 1907. As Blanche describes it, she was just coming back from a picnic, tethered the horse, and found him entertaining her parents in the livingroom. The following day he helped her pick over cherries to make jam: she claims she draped pairs of them over her ears, and then over his – and completely charmed him!15 Never mind that her mother scolded her for being so forward – and that cherries no longer grow in Oxnard.


Stefan stayed a week with the Walkers, then returned to Los Angeles for ten days. With Aunt Cora Smith Lockhart16 and her daughters, Kathleen and Ethel, Stefan went to Catalina Island. Then he returned to Oxnard for a month; he and Blanche rode down to the beach in a “trap” a lot to sit and talk for hours. Blanche’s sister Alleene remembered that when Steve arrived, “We thought he was the strangest creature – crew cut, spoke very broken English, and very broken Spanish. He wasn’t accustomed to our ways. Steve went on to New York and proposed to Blanche by letter: she refused. He intended going to Europe but returned immediately and convinced her to accept.17 The Walkers were completely shocked by her marriage –and all our relatives were also very surprised to hear Blanche married him.”


When Blanche met Steve in summer 1907, she was almost 26; her younger sister, Kate, had married two years earlier. Accounts of Blanche’s own decision to marry by summer 1908 differ. Alleene described a rather sudden disappearance, followed by a time of estrangement from the family. Blanche, however, wrote that her parents acquiesced and packed her off to the Philippines quickly with a trousseau and some chaperones on the Mongolia.18


Encountering a fierce typhoon the last day of July, the ship had to stop at Hong Kong. There, Blanche got on a “vile little Chinese boat” and sailed on to Manila, where she met Steve and married within a day or two on 17 August 1908.19 Bishop Brent presided, in a private chapel in the Cathedral of St. Mary and St. John.20 Cousin Mora Smith and C. Scientist [or Miss Jene Richie, per marriage record] were witnesses. A brief announcement of the marriage in Oxnard’s newspaper said the marriage came as a surprise to her many friends in Oxnard, “who knew that she was in the Philippines but knew nothing of her approaching marriage.”21

Alleene recalled that within a year, Blanche was pregnant, and Dad, Mother, I went out to see her [March 1909]. We went out by ship – the Siberia. My parents disapproved of her marriage and didn’t go to the wedding, so this was the first time they had seen her since. Another reason we went was that Steve said he needed help. In the Philippines, Blanche had this little place outside the walls of Jolo: you turned right down a tiny, winding dirt road, the first road. There was an inlet – on one side, the Moro market; on the other, Steve’s home (pawnshop business). Steve’s business partner, Torrejon, was Spanish. Dad was not suited to do business in the Orient, and I got malaria. So we came on back.22 Sue was born shortly after we returned. I would have preferred to stay there.

The house the Walkers saw was Steve and Blanche’s first home, in the Tulay district of Jolo (see photo). The picture of them holding their first-born, Susan Elizabeth, sitting on the upstairs balcony rail, was taken there. Once, a
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