Blahnik Family History
I send you and your wife, Mary Ann, and all your relatives all my greetings and my heartfelt thanks for both of your letters. With great interest and joy we read about your life and artistic successes and also the successes of others in the Blahnik family in the state of Wisconsin. We were really glad to hear that you were pleased with your brief stay in Czechoslovakia. We are only sorry that we did not know about your trip soon, then we would have had a chance to meet personally. We hope you will come back soon and our desire to meet you in person will come true. In the meantime, we will be satisfied with letters about the roots of our ancestry in which you have shown such unusual interest. I am going to answer at this time a few questions from your letter after my conversation with my brother, Petr.
Origin of the Blahnik Family
Dr. Frank Roubik in his voluminous scientific work which is called The History of the Chods from Domazlice (Taus), writes about the name ‘Blahnik’ on the list of the oldest families in the tribe of Chods. This family gave its name to a water mill and a big farm on the creek, Andelka, between the villages of Lhota and Pocinovice. According to the old tax rolls it was a mill with one wheel and a farm of 60 acres, 9 teams of horses, 5 cows, 9 heifers, 16 sheep, and 20 pigs. This place is still called "Blahniky" or "By Blahniks," and is registered on all, even the oldest maps of the country and also on a very old map preserved in the Prague Castle. This farm was later divided into four parts among the children. This is the present condition, but the proprietors have different names. The mill was used until World War II (about 1940) but is not operating anymore. From this place the family of Blahnik spread into the neighboring counties of Klatovy and Domazlice. Some of them were owners of mills on Andelka Creek and Uhlava River. Some of them went to the city of Klatovy, others were farmers near the neighboring villages. In the 19th century and especially the 20th century they emigrated further into the cities of Bohemia. Among the most famous was Adelburt Christian Blahnik for whom a street was named in Prague as you noticed. He was a writer of historical plays. He was an historian who wrote the history of the theatre entitled, The World History of the Theatre and also The Idea And Nature of Theatrical Art and other books. There is one other man living in Prague whose name is Frank Blahnik, a popular accordionist, whose brother, Roman, is a music composer. Donna Blahnik, an actress, also lives in Prague. The Sons of Frank Blahnik played as children in the movies. East of Prague in the city of Sadska about 15 years ago lived a miller named Blahnik. He was the last miller in the family. Before that, there was a miller Blahnik in Dobrikov, ½ hour (walking) west of Smrzovice. The last one in Dobrikov between the two World Wars sold his mill and bought a farm near Plzen
There are many Blahniks at present in the following cities besides in the counties of Klatovy and Domazlice: Plzen, Prague, Budweis, Koeniggretz, Jicin, Kuttenberg, Machod, Cerveny Kostelec, Bruenn, Moravska Ostrava, and other places. According to professions they are; clerks, teachers, professors, technicians, salesmen, doctors, pharmacist, a general, a Catholic priest, employees in industry, and others. In the meantime, the oldest probable mention of the Blahnik family is in the Latin writing of the Chods from November 15, 1430, in which is registered the Blahnik name.
Blasius Hoden de Pocinovice — It is possible that this is the Latinized name from which the name Blahnik developed. But because there is not exact proof for the above, we started our family chronicle with the year 1482 when in the village of Libkov, about 3 kilometers east of Smrzovice, lived in the free territory of the Chods, a farmer, Ondra Blahnik. He didn’t forget his free origin and he tried to gain a higher social rank. His son, Martin Blahnik, succeeded and bought in the same village of Libkov from the nobility, a free farm called "Snopkovsky dvur," and in this way he and his heirs became free men (not subjected to serfdom).
This above mentioned Martin called himself Blahnik. The free class had at that time more liberties and freedom than the Chods had. They (Chods) were rich farmers and had access to education and they were the link between the ordinary farming class (serfs) and the nobility. They were directly subject to the king and their farm was listed in the royal register in Prague. Their affairs were handled directly by the royal officers. Out of this free class of Chods came many representatives of farmers, namely, in the Hussite time (15th century) and later. Also the spiritual and political leaders of the Czech nation came from their ranks. Martin Blahnik bought the farm at Libkov for 3000 gulden. The contract was made in the year 1505 on the feast of St. Gregory. The last registration of the family Blahnik on the above farm is from the years 1571-1579 when the owner was registered as Hron Blahnik. Then the farm changed hands. No contract is available. From the same time there are proofs about the Blahnik family from the mill in the village of Lhota, one kilometer south of Smrzovice and also in the mills on the Andelka Creek, especially in the place called "By Blahniks." Perhaps we might succeed later on through research to find out where the family was earlier.
The list of the oldest members of the Blahnik family:
The members of our family were predominantly millers. Millers were free people and in national life they belonged to the class of intelligent, educated, and nationally and politically progressive people. The proofs of this for the family tree were found in the Archives in Prague, Klatovy and in the church parsonages.
The Chods were the farming class of people who settled in the Bohemia—Bavarian boundaries about 900 years ago. Besides their profession as farmers, they were delegated to guard the boundaries between Germany & Bohemia, especially the roads in Boehmerwald. Their villages were conveniently located in the country and were built is such a way so that they could be defended, if need be. Chods were divided into 3 groups, geographically: 1.) The Taus Chods, guarding the exit over Klenci to Taus Vseruby Pass, Eisenstein Route to Klatovy; 2.) The Tachov Chods who guarded the territory north of Taus; 3.) The third was the Royal Men whose territory belonged directly to the King.
The Chods were privileged for their services by the King with many social and other privileges which the new Kings cheerfully confirmed. In the course of peace time toward Bavaria their duty ceased to exist. Ethographically, the second and third group (Tachov & the Royal Men) ceased to exist, only the Chods of Taus kept the Czech language and customs until today. They kept their privileges until the end of the 17th century, but not all of them, 11 villages only - in the western corner of Bohemia. Apparently their territory was very important for a long time. Of all Slavs, these Chods are geographically located farthest westerly. Before the end of the 17th century, they lead the rebellion against the new owner of their territory whose name was Lamminger. He canceled all their privileges. Their cause was lost. The kings from Vienna never confirmed their privileges. The above mentioned tragic fight for freedom was glorified by the novelist of the 19th century, Alios Jirasek, in his famous novel, Psohlavci. The central figure in the novel is John Sladky-Kozina, who was executed in Plzen in 1695. The Chods of Taus used the hounds for guarding the borders and on their flags they had the emblem of the dog’s head as a sign of faithfulness and watchfulness! At the head of each village was the village leader. The rebellion was carried out by the people of Klenci, Postrekov, Drazenov, Luzenice, Chodov, Ujezd, Straz, Mrakov, Klicov, Lhota, & Pocinovice.
Besides the novelist, Jirasek, there is a Catholic priest, Fr. Henry Simon Baar, a native of Klenci. At his grave in Klenci in 1925 my brother Jaroslav gave a eulogy for the farm youth.
The other native of Klenci is a famous teacher and music composer, Jindrich Jindrich, who collected and edited thousands of songs and ballads. Opera composer, Charles Kovarovic, composed the opera Psohlavci in 1905. On the same name, the story was made into a movie. Through the same routes which were guarded through the centuries the U. S. Army came in 1945 to liberate the country. World War II ended here. Only a few shots were exchanged. The Chods greeted the American soldiers very enthusiastically at that time.
Votruba Family — James Votruba was a farmer and village leader in Smrzovice. He was not free, subject to the landowner. In Kout na Sumava he lived on the biggest farm in the community and had a large garden edged by a stone wall. In the 18th century, because of the population explosion, even his farm was divided into two identical parts. One farm was inherited by his son, John, who married Margaret Blahnik and the other half was given to Katherine who married Martin Blahnik. The Votruba family lives on the same farm today. Both establishments are at present time deteriorating because the private ownership was taken over by the state. The young people are looking for better paid jobs in the cities.
Blanik - Blanik is a mountain in the center of Bohemia surrounded by national stories of the past. There are no direct proofs of connection between the name of the mountain and our family. The name Blahnik does not occur in the land register around the mountain. Frederick Smetana, music composer, perpetuated the fame of the mountain as the 6th and concluding movement of his composition, Ma Vlast (My Fatherland). Also an interesting item I add is that a few kilometers south of Smrzovice there is a forested mountain on the map called Blahnik. As it is an important vantage point between the German - Czech border, perhaps the knights who are, by legend, in Blanik with Good King Wenceslaus can be paralleled to the duties of the Chods on the Blahnik mountain. This can only be assumed or proposed. Blahnik Mountain is located in an area nearly surrounded by German population. It is possible that the territory belonged, perhaps, in the past to one of our forefathers who used to farm there. The indirect proof of this is that in the village of Haidel in 1630, one of the seven farmers is listed as Blahnik. His name was later on Germanized by the registrar.
John Huss - This Czech religious reformer was burned at the stake on July 6, 1415. This day was a national holiday after World War I until 1948. I recall well the date of July 5, 1944, the day when I completed the history of the Blahnik Family from Smrzovice, 1482-1944. Because our family tree starts in the Hussite times, and at least some of our forefathers were followers of John Huss, it was more or less in the way of style to mention the Huss name as the old archives do. You will be also interested to know that in Smrzovice, three linden trees were planted in 1915 in memory of the 500th anniversary of John Huss’ death. It was at that time a national political and anti-Austrian action. In our village the action was led by my brother, Peter (My father was at that time the village president). My brother, Peter, who after he graduated in Vienna studied also in Plzen. In 1926 a stone monument was built among those linden trees. This was done by my brother, Jaroslav, and the sketch was made by brother, Otakar. The speech was made by Professor Machnik of Klatovy who later became Minister of National Defense. When you visit us again, I will show you the monument in the trees.
That’s about all very sketchy I can answer of your questions in your letter. The problem of the emblem (the coat of arms) is not solved. It would be possible to look up the emblem in the free branch of our family in Libkov. Such a free man was a nobleman, knight, and also this family member was the link between the vast population and the leaders. Our family didn’t have a coat of arms. Those were distributed by the kings only to individuals for extremely valuable services. There is no news (recorded) about one in our family. On the cover of our family tree we put a coat of arms of the millers wheel in memory of the main trade of our forefathers, You surely will like it. I could imagine next to it also the coat of arms of the Chods with their flag and then the symbol of some musical instrument, a lyre, and that’s the ground for any ‘ex libris.’ It is the original and also modern and democratic family emblem, expressing the genealogy of the family work, privileges, duties, and also your American presence here.
In this letter I will also enclose the pictures of the cross, standing west of our village in the direction of the U.S.A. As you perhaps know, the cross was built by our grandparents in memory of the departure of the first born son, Joseph, your great-grandfather. To those pictures which are not good because the weather was not good, I would like to add that we never forget our American family branch - only the distance and the sad condition in the world prevented a closer family tie. When I came back six years ago from ten years of involuntary cloister and read our family chronicle, I thought about the happenings and decided my first gift toward it would be to put down the last news about the departure of my four uncles and two aunts to the U.S.A. I tried to catch all the last known news about their departure. I also wanted to reflect about the outlook toward America in our villages 100 years ago. From this meditation, I quote you the following words about the cross:
This cross - the bottom part of stone and the upper part of iron - stood in the neighborhood of our village between four stone columns connected with iron bars. Alone in the path in the fields in the summer and the winter, in all kinds of weather it stood. Sometimes the sun shone upon it. Sometimes the rain or snow fell upon it. Sometimes the winds - mild or gusty - blew. Only for a short while the rose bushes blossom in June - planted at the foot of the cross. The cross stood there the same was as your great grandfather in the new country. During World War I my father planted two chestnut trees next to the cross and the place was gayer. The trees grew very slowly. Their foliage was growing but very slowly and the cross was still quite visible on our trips to and from the fields, school, and where ever we went. It always reminded us through its lines, of the hardship of life and the sadness of farewell. Slowly the trees took root - the same way as the children of your great grandfather - rooted into the American community. Six years ago I was very surprised that both trees were grown so large, so that the upper part of the cross was in their branches. When I wanted to see if the cross still carried the image of the Holy Family, I was forced to remove the branches to see. In the front of the cross was a bench and the whole place was so peaceful. It was August when I saw it but I could imagine both trees in full blossom. At that time I knew hardly nothing about the life of our American relatives. From your letter I know that your family is not a single branch, but rather a mightly and blossoming tree. The odor of the blossoming tree also came to Bohemia (when you came to liberate the country in WWII). The cross was not built in vain! Deeply moved in this beautiful reality, I am quoting the last words of our chronicle:
And something more. Our grandmother, shortly before her death, wanted to send a picture of this monument to your grandfather. Because my brother, Otakar, sketched so well, she asked him to make a picture of the cross. She gave him a silver five crown coin, but the picture was not made. Now, after more than a half century, Otakar made a photograph of the cross and sends it to you - fulfilling the old wish of grandmother. It is possibly in the history of modern times, the longest time any commission paid in advance took so long to fulfill. Perhaps the buildings of old cathedrals lasted longer. Let us, not only we, but also our grandparents rejoice in peace that this wish was fulfilled.
I will be happy to know that you will recognize from this letter that thoughts of our relatives across the sea are ever present.
Sincerely, Your great uncle,
Thank you very much for your letter, from which we are very pleased with the information about your arrival into Czechoslovakia. We were looking forward to you this year, Olga Blahnik in Kutna Hora was ready for your visit. You need not take care of accommodation because you will be our dear and esteemed guests. Also interpreters will be provided. From our relatives, my sister-in-law, Olga, in Kutna Hora, my nephew, Jaroslav, in Prague, his brother Otakar in Plzen (who is now a teacher in Sudan, Khartum), then my sister-in-law, Ruzena, in Vseruby near Kydne and one of my cousins know a little English and will be able to speak with you. In Plzen also Mr. Mares and here in Hradec Kralove I have some friends who will be with pleasure at disposal with interpretation.
We are preparing a program for your visit in our country, which we shall beg to propose to you in order to use your time in our country as well as possible. Please, make your plan for your excursion in Europe so that you will have enough time just in Czechoslovakia. Inform us, please, which are your most important interests to see in Czechoslovakia, we want to arrange the program according to your interests and wishes. We suppose that you wish to see the birthplace of your ancestors in Chodsko, then Plzen, Prague, the spas of West Bohemia. My brother, Petr, and I should like to show you Kutna Hora, Hradec Kralove, and. the nice places in the neighborhood of these towns. You perhaps have an interest in seeing Moravia and Slovakia too, and surely any interest in music. We could arrange all after your arrival too, but we would like to know your wishes before. Our country is full of history but you will certainly be interested only in the dominant ones. We suppose that you all will arrive together and will have good memories of Bohemia.
We also thank you for the newspaper with the articles about the significant work of professions and music of the Blahnik family in USA. It is a really interesting joining between job and art. Also my friend was inspired with your letter and articles in newspaper and would like to make your acquaintance. I sent your letter and newspaper to my brothers Petr, Otakar, Vaclav, and our nephew, Jaroslav, in Prague. We shall discuss the program of your visit in Czechoslovakia next year.
We can inform you also about our connection with our cousin John Blahnik in Escanaba, Michigan. He wrote us about his brothers and sisters and family. We hope, he will write us again.
I want to inform you about any details from the old history of our family too:
Blahniks had held the farm in Libkov until 1609, then sold the farm again to an aristocracy family for 250 scores of groats (groats were silver moneys, one score was 60 pieces). The price was accordingly 15,000 groats. The last farmer of our family in this farm was Anna, she was a daughter of Hron Blahnik. The name of her husband was Hronek, evidently, according to the name, Hron, his father-in-law. The family names in that time were not still constant. The farm was in the Blahnik holding for 104 years. In my former letter the price was described badly. In 1505 the farm was bought for 300 scores which is 18,000 groats and not 3,000 groats as it was written in my former letter.
The mill, "Na Blahnikach (By Blahniks)" is now in the same condition as it was 100 years ago. During the World War I it was still driven by water and after the war by motors. Last summer we were there on a trip and we remembered you. The building of the mill is used by a farmer, but the mill is in bad condition. The old water wheel goes to ruin. During your visit we can go there to see the mill and other places in the neighborhood which belonged to the mill in the past. The area described in my first letter relates only to the fields, meadows were not included. The area of -the meadows were nearly so great as -the area of’ -the fields. It is interesting that there were 9 teams of horses in this farm. We suppose our ancestors carried on transport of wood, perhaps iron ore dug near the village of Pocinovice or the charcoal made in the surrounding forests.
You wrote in one letter that you have a book about Bohemian castles. You can find the castle, ‘Roupov’ in it, north of the town of Klatovy. Tomas Blahnik, a son of -the miller Vaclav Blahnik, was living in this castle as a chamberlain and custodian according to the documents from the years of’ 1687-1692. Ferdinand Baunien, captain and the owner of’ the castle was the godfather of Tomas Blahnik’s children, according to the documents of the christening.
In 1622, Natej Blahni, of the mill, ‘Blahniky,’ and Jan Sazama of Pocinovice presented with six scores of groats to the new chalice for the "Lord’s Last Supper," which was a religious present, the religion according to the Czech preacher, John Russ.
In the middle of -the 17th century, about 1657, a long law-suit was led between Lord Lamminger in Kout na Sumava and the town of Klatovy, about Jan & Jiri Blahnik of the mill ‘Blahniky.’ The aristocrat Lamminger did not wish to agree with the exception of Jan & Jiri Blahnik as townsmen of Klatovy, but the townsmen of Klatovy defended successfully these new citizens.
And also an interesting thing of the old history of Chodsko. The Chods, who were the people living in Chodsko, sent in December, 1692, to the emperor, their complaint against Lamminger who ordered to build a farm with sheep-fold in the village of Klicov (near Domazlice), and took away without compensation their chicken farm where they kept the best Indian chickens & turkeys. It is an interesting notice about the keeping of poultry from America in Chodsko. The keeping of turkeys is in our country not so increased as of’ other poultry, such as hens, geese, and ducks. Turkeys are usually kept only in the large farms. -
The mark of Chodsko (the back head of a dog on the white field of an emblem) was undertook into Czechoslovakia Army as a mark of the-frontier regiments. Also the Czechoslovak organization of young people, "Junak," has this mark as a symbol on the international Boy Scout’s lilly. You maybe will take an interest in such insignificant notices also.
The commemorative tablet to the arrival of the US Army in 1945 into Domazlice was ordered to be taken down in 1948, but it is on its place now again. A few Russians soldiers have been near Domazlice presently, but they are now leaving.
According to the newspaper you sent us, we see that one of Blahniks was in America earlier than your great-grandfather, Josef. We take an interest in his origin. He may be from Loucim, from where left 2 brothers (Catholic priests) for America. But maybe he was of Prague because the notice about him is in context with Naprstek. Would it be possible to find out his Christian name and his job? Naprstek left Bohemia in 1848 after an unsuccessful rebellion against Vienna in which he took his part as a student. He lived 9 years in USA and owned a bookseller’s shop in Milwaukee. He was interested in the American Indian life and in the all of American life. His mother obtained an inpunishable return for him. Later, he devoted his entire life to social and technical progress in Czechoslovakia. He founded The American Club in Prague and also the First Woman Association which was the beginning of the Women Emancipation in our country. He brought from America several Indian souvenirs, the first in our country, and made the foundation of the ethnographical museum in Prague. If you are interested in this, we can go into the museum with you. In the newspaper you sent us is also a notice about ‘Jonas,’ who wrote the first Czech-English dictionary. Also Olga Blahnik in Kutna Hora uses this same dictionary in correspondence with you.
We are comforted with your knowledge of the tale about the Blanik mountain, and that you remembered it with the context with the European accident (the Russian Invasion) of last August. The life of our nation, situated in the middle of Europe and hear the division of two political and social tendencies (Germanic & Slavic), has never been and never will be an idyllic life. It is the reason of the characteristic and a little bitter temper of our history, culture, and thought. We are comforted that you are striving for the understanding about our history with your notice and acknowledgment about the Knights in the Blanik Mountain and also according to your described feeling you had when you climbed the hill near Smrzovice and overlooked the villages around. It is as a picture of paradise. We are also pleased that your father is learning Czech in order to speak anything with us in our native tongue.
I think that I write too much. You are surely very busy and I will not detain you from your work. I wish to indicate that your successes please us as one of ours and therefore we wish that our correspondence won’t detain your work of art, but on the contrary, enhance it, if that is possible. We are comforted that you understand our letters and out thinking.
We are waiting for your letter and looking forward to your next visit. We send you, your family, your father, uncle, and all relatives, our best greetings, and we wish you all a Merry Christmas and good luck in the New Year.
In place of your relative in Czechoslovakia;
Lee Blahnik's Website