Josef & Anna Hora

Josef & Anna Hora

Submitted by: Mary Ellen (nee Morgan)Hughes

Bohemia now forms the westernmost two-thirds of what is the Czech Republic. This is the part of the world into which Josef and Anna Hora were born. Josef was born on 6 December 1848 in one of Bohemia’s major cities, Plzen. His family name was actually Czabal. His Mother died when he was very young and his Father soon remarried. His stepmother was very cruel to him and his Father never stood by him. When he became of age and left home, he dropped the surname Czabal and took his Mother’s maiden name of Hora. He was a stoic hard working miner by trade. Anna Hnizdil, the eldest daughter of Frantisek and Marie Ludwig Hnizdil, was born 4 December 1855 in Horovice, a town Northeast of Plzen. She was a small, pretty, strong-willed woman who loved to laugh, dance, and cook.

Josef and Anna met, courted, and were married in 1873. Over the next eight years five children were born to them; Anna (b.18 June 1874), Elizabeth (b.unknown), Fannie (b.unknown), Rosa Elizabeth (Ruzena b. 12 July 1879), and Frank (Frantisek b. 18 August 1881). Elizabeth and Fannie died in 1880.

With the threat of war always looming on the horizon, in 1881, after the birth of son Frank, Josef and Anna decided to leave the turmoil of Bohemia. Anna, at age 26, set out with the three remaining children for America. Josef followed in 1882. They first settled in the coal rich foothills of the Appalachians along the Ohio River in Benwood, West Virginia for about a year. Son Joseph Michael (b. 29 February 1884) was born there.

Next the family moved across the river to the small community of Drill, about three miles West of Bridgeport, Ohio. Drill was located on a knoll surrounding the entrance to the Wheeling Creek Coal Mine. The town was so called because Wheeling Creek was the first mine in the country to use an electric powered drill to mine coal. Later the area would be known simply as Wheeling Creek. They lived in a company house. Their neighbors, mostly Eastern European immigrants like themselves, were almost all Catholic and worked in the mine. To supplement their income, they took in boarders. Anna would arise early and fix the men breakfast before they headed out for work. She would then tend to the housework and the expanding family. She was known to deliver a child after the men left for work and still have dinner on the table by the time the men came back home.

Six more children, Rudolph (Ruda b. 18 February 1886), Mary Veronica (Marina b. 24 June 1888), Louis (Aloys b. 8 December 1890), Edward (Edy b. 10 December 1892), Alice (b. 22 June 1895), and Fredie (b. 26 October 1897), were born in Drill. All of the children were baptized soon after birth. Rudy had the distinction of being the first baby baptized in the new St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Kirkwood, Ohio.

Josef and Anna also welcomed Anna’s sister Frances Hnizdil to America in 1889. She lived with them until marrying Rudolph Novotny in 1890. In 1891, Josef had decided to end his allegiance with Emperor Franz Joseph and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He applied for and became a naturalized citizen of the United States of America.

The Fall of 1899 brought another double tragedy to the family. An epidemic of Black Tongue Diphtheria began to spread throughout the area. One house after another was quarantined. By early October the plague reached Josef and Anna’s home. The youngest children Alice (d. 5 October 1899) and Fredie (d. 12 October 1899), died within days of each other. They became the first to be buried in the family plot in Linwood Cemetery, Blaine. Because of the epidemic, they were removed from the home after dark and buried, first Alice and later Freddie, by the light of the moon in a single grave. This was done to discourage anyone from being at the burial and spreading the disease farther.

After the epidemic subsided, the family moved one last time, about one mile East along National Road, to a community first called Goose Farm and later Goosetown. This time they bought a large two story frame home. Anna began raising the geese to pluck their down to make feather ticks, which she sold.

The family grew and the older sons, Frank and Joseph, followed their father into the mine. The eldest daughters soon married and began families of their own. Daughter Anna became Mrs. John Schenk and Rosa became first Mrs. John Herrmann and later Mrs. John Henry Hose.

Son Joseph became the first to serve his country in war. He joined the army and sailed to the Philipines during the Spanish American War. Later he worked as a streetcar motorman in Cleveland, Ohio. He returned to Bridgeport and eventually married a local girl, Anna Novy. He gave up mining and became the owner of a dry goods store and a pool hall.

When Josef could no longer work the mines, he and Anna opened a saloon three doors up the street from their home. Their sons, Rudy and Lou helped with stocking and deliveries. They would hitch the horses Jack and Ned to the wagon and roll the kegs on and off using a plank. Daughter Mary tended the bar. It was tending bar that Mary met her future spouse and she became Mrs. James Arthur Derry.

Rudy and Lou were also known for their practical jokes. Once they reversed the buggy wheels - big wheels in front and small in back - of a visiting friends from Dillonvale. On the return trip home, when the couple came to the sharp turn in Bridgeport, they were unable to turn the buggy.

Josef and Anna did see again Bohemia and the families that they had left behind. In 1905 they journeyed back to Bohemia for a visit. They sailed out of New York on the S. S. Kaiser Wilhelm II on Tuesday 13 June bound for Bremen via Plymouth and Cherbourg. They are listed on the ship’s passenger list as occupying rooms in Second Cabin.

In 1908 the Josef and Anna again welcomed family from Bohemia. Two nephews, James (Age 18) and August (Age 14), and two nieces, Anna (Age) and Elizabeth (Age), arrived. They were the children of Anna’s other sister, Barbara Hnizdil Kunik. They too lived with Josef and Anna for a short time.

On 14 January 1914 tragedy struck again. Son Frank was killed in an accident in Wheeling Creek mine. He was wearing the newly invented kerosene head lamp and had taken a mule and gone into a once worked area of the mine by himself. An explosion was heard and the mule came wandering out a little singed. Frank was found dead. He joined Alice and Fredie in the family plot.

Josef, unable to grieve openly for Frank, never recovered from the loss of his eldest son. He died, at the family home, on 26 February 1915, after suffering a paralytic stroke. Matriarch Anna carried on and became a very prominent and shrewd business woman. Dedicated to keeping her heritage alive, she also was instrumental in forming most of the early Bohemian Societies of Eastern Ohio. She continued to remain an integral part of her children’s growing families.

On 29 April 1918, son Edward enlisted in Co. 36 of the 9th Battalion Depot Brigade of the National Army to fight for America in World War I. Anna gave him a going away party that was attended by scores of family and friends. A band played and everyone danced. Family pictures were taken along with a group photo of everyone in attendance. He was transferred to Co. D of the 330 Infantry and later Co. C of the 7 Infantry. During a battle on 30 September 1918 in St. Mihiel, Meuse-Argonne, France, he was severely wounded in action and lost half of one lung. He returned home 14 July 1919 and Anna nursed him back to health, unfortunately he never fully recovered and was left with a 25% disability. In 1921 he married Virginia Wrixon.

Anna’s health began to fail. She suffered from diabetes. In 1920, she had to have one leg amputated below the knee, but learned to walk again. She first knelt on a chair with the bad leg and moved it along to get around. Later she was fitted with an artificial leg. Daughter Mary, with whose family Anna lived, helped her learn to use the prosthesis. She would loop a roller towel over the artificial foot and move the leg along as her mother moved the good leg. Anna was determined to dance again, and she did.

Eventually though, she lost the other leg and her life to diabetes. Following the amputation of the second leg, she died of gangrene in North Wheeling Hospital on Mother’s Day 12 May 1923. Her family brought her home one last time. She was placed on a pallet in the parlor where friends could pay their last respects. She was buried four days later beside her husband and children in Linwood Cemetery.

In her will, Anna bequeathed each one of her living children a home. The courageous emigrant Bohemian couple left behind much more than just a material legacy to their descendants. During their lives, they had instilled in their children and grandchildren a deep love of life, a respect for heritage, an appreciation of fun and laughter, a hard working and responsible attitude, an adventurous spirit, and a willingness to accept whatever comes their way with grace and dignity.

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