Frank Vap Family Heritage

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THE FRANK VAP FAMILY HERITAGE
BY CECILIA BARBARA KVASNICA

On the week of July 3 to the 6, the United States celebrated the redoing of the Statue of Liberty. As I was sitting here and watching the event on TV, I thought ...about my family. I am so proud. to be born in this country. America is truly the BEAUTIFUL. I think what if my grandparents would had not made that sacrifice and went through what they did, I would have been born in Czechoslovakia, now under Communist government.

GOD BLESS AMERICA AND KEEP HER IN YOUR CARE

“I am proud to be an American”

July 8,1986

(typed by Evelyn Otto, from hand-written stories) (scanned into document form by Kevin Vap, 07-Nov-2001)

Forward

As I'm doing things during the day, like housework, I think back at the things that happened during my mother and father's childhood and my own while I was growing up. Maybe this will never be read by anyone else but I feel better by writing my thoughts on paper.

Since I grew up as an only child, I spent many hours listening to my mother or father talk about their childhood and what they knew about their families. Some of my cousins may disagree with my writing but I'm writing in the way it was told to me. I'm sure mom and dad expressed their own feelings at times too.

Another reason I've decided to write this is I've just finished reading Boots, by Mary Ray Sligar? and Ruth Lowes. Which I did enjoy reading very much and, like the family, traveled in a covered wagon from Tennessee to Texas. My mother's family, Frank Vap, Sr. moved from Atwood, KS to Ponca City, OK. They also traveled in a covered wagon in a small wagon train.

One different problem they did face was the language problem. They knew that they needed to learn to speak the language of their new country and home. I think I realized this the most when I made some tours to Europe. I took a tour to Italy, Austria, Germany and Switzerland in 1980. Then in 1988, I went to Yugoslavia. Each time I returned to the USA I see how God has blessed us with so much abundance. I'm beginning to wonder if we sometimes get so busy with what we own and have, we spend little time in thanks to God for what he has blessed us with.

Before I go any further, I'd like to express my thanks and appreciation to my grandparents for taking such a chance to come to a place and plan to spend the rest of their lives here. Not knowing how to speak the language, know the customs. They learned how to farm and grow crops. In the country where they came from, a couple of acres was quite a large estate. A farm of 160 acres must have been a mighty wonderful thing. One thing about it is they were not afraid of hard work.

Maybe before I go any further in my writing, this might be the best place to start and tell about myself. I was born on a farm east of Anadarko, OK, which is mostly known for the Indian Capitol of the world. I was born and raised there but I myself don't have any Indian blood in me. I might as well say I'm Czech and as to my knowledge, all my ancestors have been.

My parents are now both gone to their heavenly home. My father died July 4, 1961. My mother passed away in November 10, 1962. After my mom passed away, I lived with a lady at Elgin, OK. from December, 1962 to May, 1966. Then I moved to Lawton, where I started to work as a nurses aide at Southwestern Hospital. I rented an apartment for 3 months, then rented an unfurnished home for a year. Then I was able to make a down payment on a home. In 1984, I was able to pay for it and I'm living there at the present time. I was fortunate to pay my home off because of a large oil lease and I wanted to call it all mine. In fact, when I came home after making my payment, I threw the mortgage in the air and said to myself, "Its mine, All mine!" It sure was a wonderful feeling.

I cared for my parents till they passed away. Had I to do it again, I'd do the same, because I had two of the most wonderful people that anyone could have. Since I was an only child, they had a lot to give me so I wouldn't be lonely. Ifs not easy to raise an only child, believe me.

Frank Vap

(This information is taken from the obituary my mother saved of her father's funeral.)

Frank (Francisko) Vap was born March 21, 1840 at Horni Locki, Moravia, Czechoslovakia. He spent his early life, and was married Horni Locki to Mark Callek with whom he had 6 children. He died April 21, 1911 and is buried at Ponca City, OK. His children are:

Frank J. Vap (B. 1867 - D. 1954) Married Aloisia
Fred
Louis (Alois) Stayed at Atwood. KS.
Mary (Cloe)
Fannie Married Frank Malon.
Joe Went to Apache, OK.

Frank Vap married again to Fannie (Frantiska) Noya in 1882. She was born November 29, 1849 and died December 6, 1929 , and is buried at Ponca City, OK. Their children are:

Enoch (Could be Ignac in Czech, language but was Americanized) Born October 24, 1882 in Horni Locki.
Emilia (Minnie and Emma) Pettera Born April 20, 1885 in Horni Locki.
Anna Pittner Born September 28, 1888 at Atwood, KS.
Rose Kvasnica Born October 29, 1892 at Atwood, KS.
Infant son.

Getting back to the story, when Joe was a year old, his mother died and Frank lived a year as a widower. Then he married Fannie Noya. While they lived in Homi Locki, they had 2 children born to them there, Enoch and Minnie. Grandfather must have been a little more well off than some of the other farmers in that part of the country, because my mother said when he came up to see Grandmother before they were married, he drove up with 2 beautiful horses. Usually there, they used oxen to drive their wagons. This made a big impression on Grandmother.

It was kind of a big decision for Grandmother. She was the oldest of the children and Great-grandmother Noya was a widow and my grandmother took care of all the business so it was decided that Fannie was a little older and it looked like that would make a nice marriage. Her younger brother was growing up and could take over so the arrangements were made and Frank and Fannie were married in 1882.

My mother, Rosie, used to tell that Fannie would load her cart the night before with vegetables and anything else she had to sell and get up early next morning, hitch the oxen to the cart and get to Brno quite early and usually have everything sold by noon. Others around would wonder and ask how she sold out so fast. She said she wouldn't say but what she did do was give people a little taste if they came to buy and then they usually went ahead and bought from her.

As far as I know, Grandmother had 2 brothers and a sister. One brother and sister stayed in Czechoslovakia. Her younger brother came here and later went out on his own and the family lost contact with him. I think Grandmother kept in contact with her family till her death. They lived in a village called Stepanovica.

In Europe, marriages were arranged; there wasn't much courtship. You were matched according to what you had and what class of people you were. They had a matchmaker in each village. The family would go to the matchmaker and say, "I have a son that would like to get married" and the matchmaker in his village would go to visit the one in the next village and they would talk it over and then go to see the family and see what they would say or the girl would say. Then the boy's matchmaker would come with him, introduce them, and if they liked each other well enough, a wedding was arranged. That was the way I was told my grandparents got together.

Grandmother went to grandfather's house and took care of his 6 children, and in the next four years, she had 2 children of her own, Enoch and Emilia. It must have been a happy home. The stepchildren accepted Grandmother and loved her. All except Fred. He kind of held the fact that he was crippled on one foot against his parents. Although it happened long before Grandmother came into the family, her being the stepmother, he still didn't like her. I guess she didn't really have any problems with him, but he wasn't as loving to her as the others.

The reason Fred was crippled was that when he was just a baby or rather small, his parents left him home with the maid, and she grabbed him by the foot when he was about to fall off the bed and his foot was pulled out of place. The maid didn't say what happened, afraid she would be punished or something, and he wasn't checked until he started to walk and they found one foot was shorter than the other. By then, it was a little late and he limped the rest of his life. The maid was long gone but this was learned from one of the other children.

A maid in Europe was a girl from a family that was so poor that they let their child go out to a better off family where there was food enough to feed her. She also was paid some money, not very much, but something, so she could prepare her dowry or cedar chest. Grandparents Vap usually had someone like that. Also there usually was a boy or young man to help with the field work too. The maid had a place to sleep in the house and the hired man had a place in the barn. (a little room)

The homestead in Czechoslovakia was built kind of under one roof. The house was built with a small walk or drive through, then would be the barn and chicken house. I found this still that way when I made my trip to Europe in 1980.

Grandparents had some horses, cows, pigs, and a pair of oxen for fieldwork. One day Grandmother was wondering why she was not getting any eggs. So she asked her maid if she had checked and she said yes, but she didn't find any. One of their daughters, Mary, happened to overhear this, so she walked up to the maid, whose name was also Mary, and asked "What’s in your pocket, Mary?" and hit the maid's pocket as hard as she could and broke 2 eggs she was planning to slip to the hired man whom she was sweet on. Well that caused the raid to be fired, and I guess the hired man too.

In about four years after their marriage, they started to talk about going to the USA. The oldest son, Frank, would soon be called to service and the other boys would soon follow, and the next thing coming up was the property would have to be sold and the dead mother's share, which was half, be put in a trust fund for all her children, so when each one at the age of 21 could claim his or her share. Frank was 18 now and when he reached 21, the property would have to be sold and another place bought. With 8 children by now, Grandfather thought about what move he should make.

I don't remember if it was an uncle or cousin who had come to America and written to them what a wonderful place and lots of land there was. He told them to take the money that was left from the land sale and come to America. So they decided to send Frank, Fred, and Louis to America first and see how they would like it and if it was true what they had heard.

It wasn't too long till they got a letter from their sons and it was true and they wanted their family to come and join them here. They had made the trip without any problems to my understanding. So Grandfather sold the property and put his first wife's share in trust there, and took the other half and his family, and came to America.

It was in the spring of 1886 that they left Horni Locki, Moravia, Czechoslovakia. I'm not sure if they left from there by train or by boat from Brno, but they came across the ocean on a cargo ship. One deck was set aside for foreign people coming to America. They said it was quite a long trip. They were beginning to wonder if they would ever see land again. Then one day they saw the Statue of Liberty and there they landed at New York.

Now they were in a country where they couldn't speak the language so all they could do was show their tickets and they were taken where they were to go. Maybe they found someone who spoke Czech. Anyway, they slept overnight in the train depot. In the morning, they were put on a train going west. Once again, on their way. Once the train pulled out of the city, they began to see miles and miles of just land without any buildings. It must have been strange after seeing buildings on every 10 acres of land in their old homeland. Everyone was very happy and full of joy. Maybe they did do the right thing after all!

At this time, they were on their way to grandfather's brother's home in Omaha, Nebraska. I don't think my great-uncle lived in Omaha. but on a farm not too far from there. I guess about the nearest place to meet them. It wouldn't be too long before they would be with their sons again. I don't think anyone to this day knows how it happened. They either didn't change trains or they just didn't get off when the train came into Omaha. They kept going on the train till they came to Atwood, KS where my grandparents and their children were asked to leave the train, that was as far as they could go. I guess the money for their trip was gone. They were now in Rawlins County, KS. They were taken to the train depot and the train ticket agent went about trying to find someone that spoke their language. He would bring someone and when they started to talk, they didn't understand each other. Grandmother started to cry and the agent tried to assure her he would find someone to just give him some time. Sure enough, as they were sitting there, a little man, in size and weight, started to load some lumber that came in, or that he had bought. The agent went over and asked him to come over and see if he understood and could talk to this troubled couple. His name was Mr Hornick, I don't know his first name, but Joe stands in my mind, it might not be right. He was able to talk with them to find out they were a long way from where they were going.

Mr Hornick told them that he would take them to his home, but that he and his wife did have a large family too, but somehow they would work things out. So they got on top of the load of lumber and went to the farm and home of the Hornicks. When they came to the farm, there were six or more children and his wife. Grandparents said they would sleep in the barn and one of the outside buildings, but the Hornicks insisted that the children could sleep on pallets on the floor and they could manage in the two or three room house. Here I would like to express my thanks and express my appreciation to the descendents of that Hornick family for what their family did for my grandparents. God bless all of you.

My grandparents were thinking about how to get in touch with the family in Nebraska. They did have the address. Then Mr. Hornick talked to Grandfather that why they just didn't put in for some timber claims. That he had boys old enough to help him clear the land, and that it wouldn't cost them that much. Grandmother had the money set aside to start their farming and here in America. I kind of wonder if the Hornicks kind of wanted someone from their old country to visit with and have around to talk to. I may be wrong. I don't believe there were too many Czechs, there were mostly Germans, there.

Grandfather, with Mr. Hornick's help, managed to get a timber claim. By this time, they had gotten in touch with their sons, and they came to Kansas to live and help get settled. Once a place was cleared, they built a sod house. By this time, grandmother and Mrs. Hornick were starting to not get along too well. Too many people in one place. Grandmother moved in just as soon as possible with the house finished after the move. I guess they bought furniture as soon as the boys went out to work. I guess the money Grandmother had in her bra during the trip went to buy some and the oxen they bought too. At this time the railroad was putting in railroad tracks, and the sons worked on it. Then the two oldest girls went to work at a hotel, I guess, at Atwood. I guess I don't remember now if mom ever said. It wasn't too long till everything was going well again for them.

It wasn't too long till grandmother was expecting a baby. Everyone was happy to think that they would have a new baby born in their new beautiful country where they were living now. When the time came, my Aunt Anna was born. One of their sons worked at a butcher shop in town. The butcher in those days, went out to the farm to either butcher the cattle or bring them in. One time, the butcher went to a farm to collect for the groceries, the butcher ran the grocery store too. When he came to the grandparents farm, he stopped and asked if they could use a cow for milk because the cow he had just got was soon to bring a calf. He told them that the boys could work for him to pay off the price of the cow. Grandparents didn't have any cattle. It wasn't too long before she had a heifer calf, so now they had a start on a herd. As soon as they could, grandmother started to churn butter and sent some in to the grocer. The grocer was quite pleased to have fresh butter for his home and it wasn't too long the cow was paid for. He thought he got the best of the bargain. Grandparents brought this cow with them when they came to Ponca City, OK later in a covered wagon.

Then about four years later, my mother was born on October 29, 1892. Another baby was born in America. About this time, they had received a letter from their oldest son, Frank, jr.and that he was now living in the New Strip. That’s what they were calling Oklahoma where Ponca City is now. Frank had bought him some school land and had written to Czechoslovakia for a bride. Then it wasn't too long till Aunt Aloysia came to Kildare, OK and they were married at Ponca City in the Catholic Church. Then before long, Aunt Aloysia was going to have a baby and was longing to have his family there with them.

I think that about a year or so after my mother was born, there was a little boy born to my grandparents. He must have lived a few months because my mother said that she had tried to rock him when he cried, but grandmother would get after her, that she was too small. That they lost him while he was quite small, because mother said she was 2 years old when grandparents bought a covered wagon and hitched their oxen and came in a wagon train to Oklahoma or the New Strip in the fall of 1895.

The wagon train must have been made up of Czechs or there were a few families that were. One evening when they had stopped for the night, one of the lady's husbands had killed a rabbit and the lady was skinning it and using a butcher knife. My morn was standing there watching her. The lady turned to her and asked if she wanted the lady to skin mom too. Rose said she got scared and ran back to the family wagon crying that the lady was going to skin her if she could get to her. That night mom was having nightmares about it. Then in the morning, grandfather went over to the lady's wagon and talked quite harshly to the lady. She told him she didn't mean to frighten her that much. This was the only thing I remember mom saying about the trip.

The Hornick family that grandparents first met in Kansas were on this wagon train too, but it wasn't any of them that scared mom. They, like my grandparents, left some of their sons there on their timber claim. Grandparents left the two oldest boys there, Louis and Fred, to farm the land. I think that they were having trouble making crops there because of the lack of water and the land didn't make as nice crops like the land around Kildare. I don't remember anyone saying how long it took them to make the wagon train trip, but I'm sure it was quite a few days to cross Kansas and get to Oklahoma

Once they arrived at Uncle Frank's, they bought some school land across the road from their son. First of all, Grandfather built a house with three rooms. One large room which had the kitchen at one end, and grandparents bed at the other room with a small pantry at one end. Then, a bedroom for the girls and a bedroom for the boys. Once the home was built, they built a nice barn for the stock. Here they lived till grandfather died. This home saw a lot of weddings celebrated there. First it was Uncle Joe's, after his bride came from the old country. Then mom's sister, Emilia, a few years later; her sister Anna's wedding, then Uncle Enoch.

My mother spent a lot of happy times here. She would tell me how she used to help Uncle Enoch hitch up the horses before he went to the field and help him again when he came home from the field in the evening. Since there were two older girls at home, grandmother was teaching the girls to cook and make their hope chests. They mostly sent morn outside. She said she really didn't mind because she kind of liked being a tomboy. She like to go to the creek and fish. She said she usually had pretty good luck.

Another thing I guess, the boyfriends of her sisters would tease her a lot too. She walked to school about two miles. When it was bad, a neighbor boy that was sweet on her older sister used to stop and take her and his brother and sister in a buggy. His name was Ed Atkinson and he was sweet on Aunt Minnie. He was a good friend of Uncle Enoch too. I think they were pretty well the same age. Grandparents weren't too pleased with Aunt Minnie going out with him, but one day, grandfather thought he was going to be at least neighborly with Ed, so he walked out on the front porch, nodded his head, and asked Ed in Czech if he thought it was going to rain. It loses it’s meaning in the translation which Grandfather was hoping Ed would do. The word for rain is a nasty word in English. They said that Ed jumped up and ran home and that was the end of his dates with Minnie. They said they didn't know who was more surprised, him or grandfather. Grandfather didn't realize he had said anything wrong.

It has now been sometime since I have written these last few pages and I have decided to write some on to them, so I'm once more going to write what I remember my mom telling me of her family.

It wasn't too long after the visit with Ed and my grandfather that grandmother wanted to go back to Ludell, KS. to visit with her two married stepsons and their families. It might have been that one of them was expecting a baby. My grandmother was a midwife with whom most of my cousins were born. I don't remember if this was the case or not. Anyway, since grandmother could not speak the English language, she needed one of the children to go along with her on the train trip. Since Emilia was the oldest girl at home, Uncle Enoch had field work to do and by this time, Grandfather was getting up in age, and probably thought one of them should stay with the children. Anyway, Grandmother and Aunt Emilia boarded the train in Ponca City and went to Atwood, KS for a visit. I don't remember if my uncles lived at Atwood or Ludell, anyway, I believe the towns are not that far apart. While they were visiting there, Aunt Emilia met Joseph Pettera and they fell in love and when Grandmother and Aunt Emilia came home, it was not too long till Emilia and Joe were married. Afterward, they went to Atwood, KS to live. My mother, Rose, used to tell me how beautiful she thought her sister was as a bride. The wedding was at my grandparents home at Kildare, OK . two miles south. There was a lot of friends and of course, the half-brothers and sisters all came for the wedding. It was a big celebration with a big dinner and a dance that evening.

Celebrating a Czech Wedding

After the wedding in the Catholic Church of the parish of the bride (or the bridegroom if the bride was a mail order bride: some of them came from Czechoslovakia that the man sent for), everyone went to the bride's parent's home for a big wedding dinner. Usually the wedding party was made up of two bridesmaids and two groomsmen. Sometimes more, sometimes less. This was the couple's wishes. Then the maid of honor and bestman were an older couple that were married and had a family; and not necessarily married to each other. Usually the bridegroom walked to the altar with the matron of honor and the bride with the bestman. The bride didn't walk down the isle with her father. Our generation did though. I guess it just wasn't done like that in our parents day.

The afternoon was spent visiting and the couple opened their gifts. Then everyone went home to do the chores, like they called it. Fed the animals, checked that everything was all right at home. Then came back after supper. The people that didn't go home, ate supper with the couple and their families and got ready to go to the barn or granary for the wedding dance. There usually was one of the men that could play an accordian or a violin. (There were dances at different homes at other times, like on Sunday afternoon, the men would move the furniture out of a room and they would have a dance. That is, if the haylofts were filled with hay and there was grain in the granary. ) When there was to be a wedding, they would be empty for the dance. The uncles, aunts, and cousins by the dozens would come from far off. Everyone would dance and have a lot of fun.

One thing they did do for fun in the afternoon would be that two older women (an aunt or a good friend of the family) would shave the men and the men had to pay them for it. The money was sent to an orphanage for support. All it was that the ladies did, was put some shaving soap on the men's faces, then use a dull dinner knife to scrape it off, wiping with a towel as they did it. They liked to get hold of some of the young boys. Their faces were usually red and they would fight to get away. In that case, one of the ladies would hold him down. and the other would shave him. At first, the boys didn't like it but by the time they finished, they were laughing. Some of the older men or the ones that were married and had a family, gave the ladies some problems, like blowing the suds in the ladies' faces or puffing their cheeks in and out while they were being shaved. Everyone had a nice time laughing. This was sometimes done while the musicians were taking a break at the dance.

The dancing usually lasted till midnight. Then just before the last dance, they would take a break to give the bride to the groom to take her to his home. There was a song they sang to her. Afterward, they removed her veil and placed a hat or pretty scarf on her head.

Now I'm going to try to write the words to a song they would sing to the bride as they took her veil off. These words are in English and they lose their beautiful meaning in that way but I don't know another way to do it. So here it goes!

Mary leaves to live with her new husband John

(I will  use  Mary and John as names for the  bride and  groom.    The  names
changed for the names of the bride and groom.)

Mary, what were you doing?
Mary, what were you doing?
That in front of the altar
Before the face of God
You folded your hands.

I didn't want to
I didn't want to
but I had to.
To kneel before the altar
Then I folded my hands and
Started to cry.

Yesterday you had a wreath of roses on your head.
Yesterday you had a wreath of roses on your head.
But today you have
But today you have
A white cap (or hat).

Yesterday you belonged to your mother
Yesterday you belonged to your mother
But today you are
But today you are
John's wife.

Either before the bride's veil was removed or afterward, the bride was auctioned off. Of course, the bridegroom paid for her but the men there would bid against him. The money would be again sent to the orphanage. It depended if the groom was well off if he paid the full amount but if they were starting off kind of hard, the men that bid would pay the amount they raised to the groom. It was all in nice fun.

There was an orphanage in Chicago that was run by some Czech priests and nuns and the money was sent there. Lots of families sent money there at different times, so then they had some fun before sending the money.

After these things were done, the last dance for the night was played and danced. Usually it was "Home, sweet Home". Then the celebration was over. Everyone went back to their own homes. The bridegroom took his new bride to his home. That’s the way a Czech wedding was celebrated.


Sources and Contributors

  • Cecilia Kvasnica