Janeček History: 1907-1937

1907-1937

Trenton NJ Map - 1910

The Janecek Family Moves to Trenton

Trenton Evening Times: 12 Mar 1908

In 1902, the J.L. Mott Iron Works announced it would discontinue business activities in Mott Haven (Bronx, NY). The company moved operations to Trenton, NJ over a period of years as they built or acquired new production facilities. Frank and the rest of the Janeček family remained in Mott Haven until their move to Trenton sometime between 1907 and 1908.

The first mention of Frank and Marie in Trenton is from 1908. They purchased property at 1024 South Broad Street. Frank and Marie purchased the property from the “Williamson Estate” through their legal agent named Lawrence Barden. The Williamson Estate held the mortgage on the property, but Barden as their agent embezzled their $500 mortgage payment and subsequent interest payments. Frank and Marie retained legal representation in March of 1908 and sued Barden for embezzlement. While no outcome for the trial was found, the property remained in the Janeček and used as Frank’s tailor shop for the next 20 plus years.

They purchased a second property sometime prior to 1910, as they are the listed owners on the 1910 United States Federal Census record. It was their first home which was located at 1101 Smith Street in Trenton. Today this area of Trenton is known as the Chestnut Park neighborhood.

Janeček’s Tailor Shop

Frank was employed as a tailor for the J.L. Mott Company, but he also owned his own tailor shop simply called “Janeceks”. The tailor shop was located at 1023 South Broad Street in Trenton, which was approximately 1 mile from his home. There are several want ads for a tailor position that appear in the Trenton Evening Times from 1910 till about 1918. The original building at 1023 South Broad Street stands till this day. Frank worked at his day job at J.L. Mott Company, and would work in the tailor shop during the evenings. Frank and Marie had four daughters and one son – Josef Francis Janecek. As a tailor who made and altered suits and clothing for men, he often joked “I have four children and but I can only make clothes for one of them.”

 

Trenton Evening Times: 22 Oct 1916

The Lessons of Home

Bohemian communities in the United States were well known for their fraternal organizations. These fraternal organizations provided a safety net to their members.

When one considers the social fabric of small villages in Bohemia, the creation of these fraternal organizations was a logical step. In Bohemia, many people lived in the same small villages for generations. These villages were familiar places, not just because people had lived together for so many years, but also because over generations many of these families were connected through marriage. This made the village more than a familiar place, but a place of family, where people looked out for their neighbors – particularly widows who were well respected.

When they moved to the United States, Bohemians lost their language, their customers, and also the safety net of their village; but they didn’t lose their values. What they lost with their familiar neighbors back home, they created in their commonality of experience and values with other Bohemians.

Fraternal organizations were the pre-cursor to what we consider life insurance today. The fraternal organizations would collect financial dues and host community events in order to raise money which they held in trust. The organization would then invest this money and use it to payout to the families of workmen who were members. It insured that people were provided with a proper burial and some financial support for lost income.

1907

Birth of Joseph Janecek

Joseph Francis Janecek is born to Frank Janecek and Marie Chara in Trenton, NJ

1914

World War I

The Black Hand, a Serbian nationalist group, assassinates Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914. World War I started only a month later in July 1914.

1914

Czechoslovak Legion Formed

The Czechoslovak Legion officially formed from Czech prisoners of war in Russia and Czech soldiers who defected from the Austrian Army.

1918

Frank Janecek Addresses the Czech Community

Frank Janecek is one of multiple speakers before the Czech community of Trenton, NJ. The rally was to raise financial support to provide aide the people of Bohemia due to WWI and to support the provisional government who was seeking independence from Austria.

1918

Czechoslovak Independence

The First Czechoslovak Republic formed on 28 Oct 1918, realizing the dream of a independent Bohemia.

1919

Frank Janecek Founds the Trenton Czecho Slovak Association

Frank Janecek and a group of seven other Czech/Slovak community leaders in Trenton start the Trenton Czecho Slovaks Association. This fraternal organization was also known as Rad Komna No. 358, a lodge in the Czecho Slovaks of Association.

1934

Fourth Liberty Bond Default

The United States Treasury issued the Fourth Liberty Bond in 1918, the financial instrument in which the Czech community invested after Frank’s speech in 1918. The U.S. Congress defaulted on payment terms by refusing to repay these bonds in gold. Despite lawsuits, the U.S. Treasury would repay the bond in the late 1930s using devalued U.S. dollars, causing investors to loose 41% of their principal.

1937

Frank Janecek Found Dead

Frank Janecek was found dead in his tailor shop at 213 Liberty Street in Trenton, NJ.

Rad Komna Lodge 356

Trenton Evening Times: 16 Dec 1919

In 1918, Frank Janecek and five other members of the Bohemian community of Trenton formed Rad Komna 356. Rad Komna is Czech, when translated it means “Order of the Chamber,” likely in reference to the Chambersburg neighborhood of Trenton in which many Bohemians lived. Rad Komna 356 was a fraternal lodge of the Czechoslovaks Society of America (CSA). The CSA was once the largest Czech Freethought fraternal organizations in the United States.  During the course of his life, Frank would serve as treasurer of the lodge.

The timing of this event is significant.

Over the course of Frank’s life, Bohemia had experienced a renewed sense of national identity. The political landscape in Bohemia started to change after 1900. One political party known as the “Old Czechs” pushed for political reforms that would grant Bohemia more rights of self rule within the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Conversely, another political party known as the “Young Czechs” pushed for more; a free and independent Kingdom of Bohemia.

When World War I started, Bohemia was a reluctant participant in the Austrian Empire. Bohemians were forced to fight for an Austria who they considered an occupier that governed their country like a police state. As the war continued, Czechs fighting for the Austrians on the Russian front crossed lines nightly to join the fight against Austria. These soldiers later formed the Czech Legion and would execute an amazing military campaigns in recorded history. While this was occurring, Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk and Edvard Beneš were operating a Czech government in exile that gained recognition when the war ended – resulting in the first Czechoslovak Republic.

As a community, Bohemians expressed their patriotism and defiance in similar ways:

  • Many Bohemians, both in the United States and in Bohemia, publicly renounced their membership in the Roman Catholic Church. The Bohemian community saw the Roman Catholic Church as a religion thrust upon them 300 years earlier by the Austrian Empire. After the Thirty Year War, the Holy Roman Empire (the precursor to the Austrian Empire) replaced the protestant Bohemian nobles with pro-catholic nobles who supported the Holy Roman Emperor. The Roman Catholic Church, with the support of these nobles, started the counter Catholic reformation after the war was over. Nobles would force farmers off their land who did not accept Roman Catholicism, and wrote financial support for the church into each farmer’s land agreement. The Bohemian community saw renouncing their Roman Catholic faith as a patriotic political statement.
  • The Roman Catholic Church found themselves at odds with Fraternal orders over their Freethought philosophy. Additionally, the church saw these fraternal orders as taking their role as a community support. Not surprisingly, Bohemians saw that role by the Church as yet another example of the Churches control, only pushing them out of the church quicker.
  • The newspapers in the United States included stories about the treatment of the Bohemian people at the hands of the Austrians, and the stories Czechs defecting to the Russian army and later the exploits of the Czech Legion. In response, Bohemian communities across the United States raised money to aide the people of Bohemia and the Czech Legion.

Trenton Evening Times: 17 Sep 1918

Moreover, despite the official position of the United States Federal Governments that service in military of a foreign power is grounds for the revocation of citizenship, they allowed Czech forces (The Czech Legion to reside in the USA and train, and to have them recruit American Czechs to join their forces. The forces of the Czech Legion were stationed in Stamford CT, and would go to Czech communities to raise funds and men for the cause.

In September 1918, The Trenton Evening Times documents one such event in Trenton, where Frank and others spoke in support of the Legion. It was also documented in this article that the Union agreed to buy $150,000 (2.6 million in 2018 dollars) in Fourth Liberty Bonds to support the military.

The Janeček Family Loses their Home

Trenton Evening Times: 28 May 1922

In 1922, the City of Trenton decided to build a new middle school on what was known as the “Drayton School Tract.” The city used its powers of eminent domain to condemn several properties in the area to make room for the school. The southern end of Smith Street where the Janeček home stood was included in the Drayton School Tract. Frank and other property owners were given low market value in exchange for their property. Frank and many of his neighbors retained legal council to protest the $3,750 that the city offered for the property. No evidence was found if his lawyer was successful in receiving additional compensation.

Today, the south end of Smith Street ends at the intersection with Dayton Street; the last remaining house is number 999. In 1920, Smith Street continued through the intersection at Drayton Street and continued on through the front doors of Grace A. Dunn Middle School. Estimating based on house numbers, the Janeček house stood on the west-side of Smith Street in what is now the school parking lot along Lalor Street.

The house at 1101 Smith Street was the only family home Frank and Marie owned during their life time. When the family lost their Smith Street home to the government, they rented a home 5 blocks away at 923 Adeline Street  in the Chambersburg neighborhood of Trenton. It is difficult to understand how Frank and Marie absorbed the blow of losing their home. They both left a Bohemia where their was little opportunity to own your own home. While the Janecek family worked the same farm for 250 years before Frank left Tynec, they never owned their own property. The land was always leased from nobles, and even when serfdom was officially ended in 1848, the noble class simply became the rich land owners. The opportunity to own their own land in Bohemia was a dream.

The irony is stark – Frank and Marie moved to the United States to find a freedom and land they could not acquire in Bohemia. They achieved that dram only to have a different government take their land. It is hard to describe and imagine it was nothing short of demoralizing.

The Death of Frank Janeček

There are few mentions of Frank Janecek after his community activities in 1919; however, this changed in February 1937…

On February 24, 1937 the Trenton Evening Times reported that Frank was found deceased in his tailor shop located at 213 Liberty Street in Trenton. The police ruled the death a suicide – even mentioning that he had hung himself. While not listed in the newspaper account, we know he was initially found by his son Joseph. When Frank did not return home from work that Tuesday evening, Joseph went to the shop and found his father.

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