Footprints of Fayette

A Historical Column From The Fayette County Historical Commission and Fayette County Judge’s Office

Jan Stephan Wrba
Submitted by Carolyn Heinsohn

The following article was originally written in Czech in the “Amerikan Narodni Kalendar,” vol. XXIX, 1906 while Jan Wrba was still living. It was translated into English by Reuben Petrusek of Fayetteville in 1985.  Additional information was researched by the submitter.

Jan St. (Stephan) Wrba (Vrba) was born (4/30/1853) in Frenstat pod Radhostem in Moravia (now the Czech Republic). Wealthy parents gave their son a good education. Originally he was destined for the ministry, but it did not materialize because of sound opposition by the son. He finished central school in Novy Jicin and Olomouc (Moravia). He received the highest honors in the agricultural school in Dobrovice, which gave him the privilege to serve as a volunteer in the Austrian army for one year. He was the agricultural assistant in the estate of Prince Fuerstenberg, the bishop of Olomouc, in Dobromelich under the administrator Krepelka. After a short time as he mastered the agricultural activity, he resigned his position in hopes of a promised place in the great estate of Hungary.

In the years of 1870 and 1871, there was an active movement of people from his area to America and especially to Texas. The entire families of John Srubar, Stefek, Janak, Mojzis, David and Bartos moved as a group to the land across the ocean. Also Wrba, instead of going to Hungary, decided to go to America and straight to Texas.  With him left many families from Frenstat, Stramberk and Pribor, a total of 80 people. They were processed by the well-known agency of Kares and Stotzky of Bremen, and they left Bremen on Nov. 4, 1871. They left on the ship New York which sailed to New Orleans, stopping on the way at Havana. They reached Galveston on Sunday, Dec. 1, 1871. Jan Wrba remained in Galveston while the others went to Fayette County. 

He stayed in Galveston for three months. He worked as a delivery man for 50 cents a day and food for a man named Sasika. Later he met a well-known friend from Cechie (Bohemia) who secured him a place as a salesman in a store in Fayette County.

In the fall of 1874, he married Julia (Juliana Karoline) Sladek (born 2/9/1850 in House No. 5 in Mistek, Moravia, daughter of Jan and Mary Janik Sladek of Fayetteville; the Sladeks immigrated to Galveston, Texas on the Jeverland in November 1860) and decided to farm so that in a true sense, he could become an independent citizen, which had always been his ideal. He farmed until 1883, for ten whole years, during which time he was active in public life, politically a Democrat. For five years, he had been assistant County Collector for Fayette County. As a sideline, he also did some notary work.

In the year 1883, he gave up farming and took a job as a salesman in the wholesale business of R. Wolters and Son in Schulenberg (sic), Texas. In 1885, he visited his home country, Moravia. In 1887, he arranged his own business and made a successful living with a tavern for ten years. Then he again visited his homeland, spending about four months in Cechie (Bohemia) and Moravia.  He returned home in the fall and opened a general store for his young sons and he does some real estate work, serves as a notary public and a legal advisor in his area near Schulenberg (sic), Fayette County, Texas.

Jan (John) Wrba and his wife, Julia, had nine children: Josef, Caroline, Willibald, John, Julia, Arnold, Frank, Rudolf and Marie (Mary).  Jan Wrba died 9/15/1917; Julia Sladek Wrba died 6/19/1924.  Both are buried in Schulenburg, Texas.