My parents, Albert Wopata Sr., and Mary Strejc Wopata, were born in the same village in Bohemia, Studena, Kralovice County, Czecho-Slovakia. Father was born there March 15th, 1846, and mother, December 31st, 1856. I will try and tell you something about my parents, what I can remember them telling me.
They did not come from the poor class of people. Their parents on both sides were not rich, but they owned a small tract of land so they had a good home, plenty to eat, and even saved some money be careful spending. But both families raised big families. They always heard of America as the Land of Plenty so they advised their children to go to America and try their luck in the New World, as they called it.
In Bohemia my father was enlisted in the Austrian Army when only sixteen and served there for six years. During that time he served in two wars. My parents were engaged in Bohemia but didn’t think they had enough money to get married on, so father came to America. He and his brother landed in Chicago in 1871, about six weeks before the Great Chicago Fire. They lived with their stepsister and her house was the second house from the O’Leary’s where the fire started so of course they lost everything that they brought from Bohemia in the fire. Father got a job in a factory, worked their steadily, saved his money, and in 1873 he wrote for mother to come to America. She came in the spring of the year and when she reached Chicago they were married. They lived in Chicago until the summer of 1878.
I think it was in August when we came to Nebraska. Father, Mother, Brother Albert and I. We came with Mother’s parents, Grandpa Anton Strejc and his family. Anton Strejc Sr. was born in the same village, Studena, in 1832. His wife, Josephine Pesek, was born the same year in the neighboring village of Slatina, Bohemia. Their eldest son Frank, was the first of the family to come to America. He and James Vondrasek came about the same time as my father. Uncle Frank was so well pleased here that he persuaded the rest of the family to come over, too. His sister Mary, my mother, was the next to come, then came his sister Jane, who married James Vondrasek, and last came Grandfather, Grandmother, Anna (Kovanda) Anton, and Joe in 1878.
When my folks and my grandparents came to Nebraska they came to the home of Frank Kovanda Sr. Grandfather bought 160 acres of land adjoining Frank Kovanda’s farm and we stayed at the Kovanda home until Grandfather built a house. The folks did not come to the Kovanda home as strangers, rather as relatives, as my father’s youngest uncle married Mrs. Kovanda’s oldest sister, and father’s youngest brother married her youngest sister. All three ladies were aunts of former President Benes of Czecho-Slovakia.
Our folks lived with the Strejc family two years, then father bought the Windover 80 acre farm for the price of $750.00. That was his first own home that he worked and paid for. About 1885 father organized a band, which was called the Bunker Hill Bohemian Band. He was a successful leader of the band for several years. Father never was a rich man but he was kind, honest and true. A law-abiding citizen, and one of the best fathers anybody ever had.