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The Marek and The Peters Family Chapter 2

Chapter 2


The Mareks and the Peters


In 1884, Uriah Lott, an enterprising developer, secured the charter for the San Antonio Aransas Pass Railroad and began looking for a place to build the railroad maintenance shops. The towns of Cuero and Hallettsville refused to pay the requested fee for the privilege, so Lott built his own town halfway between them. He named it Yoakum after his Vice President and General Manager, B. F. Yoakum. The railroad reached Yoakum on July 28, 1887. The Joseph and Anna Marek family arrived there by train a year later.

Joseph and Anna had come to the United States of America from the village of Olomouc in the Czech Republic, where Joseph had worked as a carpenter and his wife, Anna, had worked in a cigar factory. Five of the couple’s six children died in their home country. Only one, Carolina, survived to make the trip to Galveston in 1882. However, six children were subsequently born in Texas: Annie in 1882; Gustav in 1883; twins, Janey and Louise in 1889; Edward in 1891; and John Anton in 1894. The latter two children, Ed and John Anton, were both born in Yoakum.

After arriving in America, the family first stayed with Anna’s sister Theresa in Praha. Six years later the Mareks moved to Yoakum where they rented a farm from a Mr. Hattenbach, while Joseph worked for various local farmers. In three years, he had saved enough money to buy a hundred and fifty acres of land on a hill just west of Yoakum, where the family built a large make-do single-room house. The Mareks immediately started working the farm, growing cotton, the cash crop of the area, sugar cane and corn. They also kept milk and beef cattle, sheep, pigs, chicken, ducks and geese. They made their own butter and cheese and canned vegetables from a large vegetable garden.

As farmers, they followed the seasons. In January and February they plowed the cold earth and prepared it for sowing. In early March cotton and corn were planted. By April, the cotton was about two inches high, growing in straight rows and was ready to be chopped to thin it out. Then by May it was in full bloom. During the summer months, June through August, the entire family spent most of the time out in the fields picking. They wore special knee pads for protection and gathered the cotton in large bags that they dragged by the straps. It took about 2,000 pounds of raw cotton and seed to make one bale which, for the Mareks, was equivalent to two acres of planted crop.

While a small amount of corn was picked early for the family’s own consumption, the major harvesting took place in October and November, when the ears were dry and easier to take off the stalk. The grain was then stored. The cattle and pigs were fed grain from the previous year. Calves were traditionally butchered in the summer and hogs in the winter. The latter were made into sausages and cured as bacon or ham and stored in stone crocks covered with lard. There was

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