Reverend J.M. Trunk - Wisconsin 1912
Copyright © 1996, 1997, Slovenian Genealogy Society International, all rights reseved
These Rev. J. M. Trunk texts were published originally in 1912. Part 8, History of Slovene Communities, contains significant genealogical information about Slovenian immigrants, the places they lived, the organizations they formed, and the churches they attended.
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Ashland: According to the report submitted by Mr. F. Hocevar, J. Pezdirc was the first Slovene immigrant who settled here on 15 April 1911. About 25 Slovenes are farmers here. The soil is good and the farms are well cultivated.
Belgium: Mr. F. Jost wrote to me that there were four Slovene families here. Altogether about 40 Slovene immigrants live here. They came from Stajerska and work in the quarry.
Crivitz Not far from the above-mentioned town there are a few Slovene families who live on the farms. In 1912 some Slovene immigrants purchased some land here. They are going to move in 1913. There will be about 30 farmers of Slovene descent.
Cudahy: According to Mr. J. Borstnar's report, there were about 50 Slovenes here. Among them are 12 families. They came from the village of Recica in 1894. Among the first ones was B. Vrecko. They work in different factories. Some of them worship in an English church and some in a Slovak church. The children attend either a public or parochial school. Some immigrants belong to fraternal organizations in Milwaukee.
Grafton: The village is situated on the banks of Lake Michigan. The first Slovene immigrant settled here six years ago. He was followed by many more after 1908. The first Slovene wedding of Frank Zakrajsek and Ana Brunec took place in October 1908. In 1910 ten Slovene families, plus some single men could be found here. All together there are 50 Slovenes who took part in village elections.
Now there are nine Slovene families here and 117 single men. Most of them came from Gornji Grad in Stajerska. Some found work in a quarry, others in the furniture (chairs) factory owned by The Northern Chair Company. They worship in a German church. At Easter they go to West Allis or Sheboygan. A Slovene priest is a frequent visitor to the community. In 1911, a fraternal organization, named "The Brothers of Unity" was founded. It is affiliated with the Society "Unity". The first president was A. Grabner, but F. Zakrajsek was the real promoter of the organization. (F. Jost - reporter)
Kenosha: There are about 200 Slovenes in the community. Among them are 43 families. Twenty-nine immigrants have farms and there are 35 single men. Among the first settlers who came here as early as 1897 were M. Rabsel, K. Derganc, F. Skofca and others. In the town there are some Slovene enterprises: one butcher, a dairy and six taverns.
The religious life is favorable although there is no Slovene church. Some Slovenes worship in an Irish church, some in the Polish church of St. Casimir. The SNPJ Lodge "Illyria" has many members. Some slovenes belong to the Croatian Lodge of St. Rochus and some belong to the "Catholic Foresters". The reporter, Mr. Derganc, concludes his report by saying: "It is a pity there are some hoodlums among the immigrants. They go from one tavern to another and try to act as Socialists?
Mellen: Mr. F. Pozenel mentioned in his report that there are no steady settlers here. Some Slovene immigrants are lumberjacks in the forests and about 50 men work here in the summer. The place is undeveloped. There are no fraternal organizations and the people worship in an Irish church.
Milwaukee: Some 30 years ago there were only six Slovene seminarians and one worker in this town which is considered to be the largest city in the State of Wisconsin. They came in larger numbers around the year 1900. Among the first ones was a man named Bevc. By 1903 there were 1,000 Slovenes. They came mostly from the regions of Skocjan, Celje, and Mozirski. Others came from Koroska, and from the Valley of the River Zila (Ziljska Dolina). In Milwaukee, Fond du Lac and West Allis there are about 3,000 Slovene immigrants.
One newspaper reported that their number exceeds 6,000. Most of them work in factories. Some are farmers and some are storekeepers of craftsmen. There are about 40 Slovene tavernkeepers. M. Setina is a tailor, J. Glandlich is a goldsmith, F. Bacun is a Notary Public, Mr. Bevic is a travel agent, S. Hojnik sells musical instruments, J. and M. Ferko are butchers, etc. It is evident that the traditions of the old country prevail. The German influence is present everywhere; wages are mediocre. All-in-all life is more or less mediocre.
Up until 1904 the Slovenes from Carniola (Kranjska) would worship in an Polish church, and the Slovenes from Styria (Stajerska) and Carinthia (Koroska) would frequent a German church. At East time Slovene priests such as Rev. J. Kranjec, J. Plevnik, F. Sustersic and others would come to town and hear confessions.
The Archbishop S. G. Messner wrote a letter on 26 February 1904, and mailed it to Rev. Kastigar, who was the parish priest in the county of Fond du Lac, asking him to take care of the Slovenes. They chose a committee who had the task of collecting money for a Slovene church. The Slovenes became very busy collecting and donating money and the busiest one was Mr. J. Mole.
The Archbishop was very pleased and used the small but diligent group of Slovenes as an example to the other ethnic groups. On 11 May Rev. Kastigar received the sum of $1,030 and on 1 June he received an additional sum of $2,000. On 28 March 1905, the Evangelical Church on the corner of Walnut and 5th Avenue was purchased. But since the church was rather far fro the Slovene community the church was sold to the Slovaks after the departure of Rev. Kastigar. The Slovenes then began building a new church in West Allis under the guidance of Rev. J. Smolej, who was succeeded by the Croatian A. Politeo and later Rev. Marko Pakiz.
The KSKJ has two lodges: Lodge #65 of St. John and Lodge #103 of St. Joseph. There is also the SNPJ Lodge #16 "Unity", the SSPZ Lodge #24 "Balkan", and the SDPZ Lodge #2 "The Price of the Slovenes". Besides the above-mentioned organizations here is an independent Lodge "Unity".
There are some educational clubs and societies. The signing society "The Bell" has an important role in the life of the immigrants. The secretary wrote a letter to me mentioning that the singing club was founded on 1 January 1905. There was little hope for its success, but hard work, pride and love of the mother tongue prevailed. Besides its great love for singing, we are proud to say that the chorus is as stable as a rock in promoting the Slovene language, traditions and songs.
The first banner was purchased in 1906, followed by another one in 1910. This organization was the cornerstone for other organizations. The singing society is featured at all civic affairs, no matter what the political orientation of the organization is. The Slovenes enjoy membership in the Tamburitza Club "Adria", the Socialist Club "Unity", the Socialist singing club "Naprej", and the workers' educational club with a library. Its president up until 1912 was Leopold Zakrajsek who is considered to be an organizer of the Slovenes in Milwaukee.
In 1911, the Rt. Rev. J. M. Koudelka, who is Czech by birth, became Auxiliary Bishop of Milwaukee. He likes to come among the Slovenes and occasionally has a sermon. Just one mile from Milwaukee there is the St. Francis Seminary, founded by the Austrian, Dr. Salzmann. Among the students there are many young people of Slavic descent. Among the alumni are Bishop John Stariha, Anton Ogulin, Peter Jeran, John Pavlin, John Solnce, Francis Bajec, John Kranjec and Anton Hodnik. From 1894 to 1910 there were no Slovenes among the students, but in that year John Plaznik and Anton Pirnat were enrolled. There are also some Croatians among the students.
Port Washington: The first Slovene immigrants came here in 1899. They came from Stajerska and Dolenjska. But by 1903 there were 400 Slovenes including 10 families. They found work in the chair factory and brick yards. They attend a German church.
Sheboygan The first Slovenes settled here in 1889 and by 1903 there were 700 Slovenes. I was told that at the present time there are more than 1,000. They work mostly in the home equipment factories. Up until 1911 they attended a German church, but the Rev. J. Kranjec and the Rev. J. Plevnik heard their confessions. That very year a new church was dedicated to Sts. Cyril and Methodius. It is a splendid building. Bishop Koudelka dedicated the church on 26 November 1911. The church had been built under the guidance of the Rev. Jak Crne who become the priest of the community. There is the Lodge #144 of Sts. Cyril and Methodius KSKJ, and a JSKJ Lodge with 90 members. In July 1912 the Slovenian Home was open for the public.
Willard: This is one of the largest farming communities in the United States that was founded by the Slovenes. The first immigrants came here in 1905. At the present time there are 50 Slovene families here. By the fall of 1912 there will be an additional 30 families. The countryside is attractive and the Slovene spirit and atmosphere prevail. J. Cesnik is Justice of the Peace, L. Legat is the postmaster and J. Justin is his deputy. There is the KSKJ Lodge #136 of The Holy Family here.