Mathias M'leziva (1816-1871) and his
wife Anna (1823-1871) emigrated to the U.S. from Hluboka, Kdyne in
Bohemia (now the Czech Republic) and settled near Brussels, WI where
they began to homestead. They also came with their children,
21-year-old Anton, 24-year-old Jacob, 18-year-old Mathias, 14-year-old
Franz and 8-year-old Marie. The story is that Mathias survived because
he had left the home on foot to travel to Krok near West Kewaunee
(either to look for a job in the lumber camps or to get to a current
job there) and headed east toward Lake Michigan, barely outrunning the
fire. He returned to the family homestead when it was safe to do so
and found his family had perished -- badly burned and hanging over a
fence. They had two little piglets in sacks on their backs.
Mathias absolutely refused to return to
the area ever again in his lifetime. He spent the next several years
in the vicinity of Krok as a laborer in the lumber camps until he
married in 1881. He purchased land for a farm in West Kewaunee which
remained in the M'leziva family until at
least the 1970s.
The Door County Advocate listed the
names of 141 people who perished in that county during the fire, plus
"a Bohemian family." Though the M'lezivas are not mentioned
by name anywhere, we do know that they perished in the fire with the
younger Mathias being the only survivor.
There was also another
sister, Barbara, who had married and stayed behind in Bohemia. Her
family was asked to sell everything and join the M'lezivas in the U.S.
when news of the devastating fire reached them. They re-established
themselves in Hluboka for a number of years, but eventually Barbara
her children did make it to the U.S. -- although they arrived at
different times. Barbara was a widow when she left
Bohemia with her youngest daughter. Most of the family ended up in the
same vicinity in Michigan and Wisconsin, while two daughters settled on the east
coast, including my great-grandmother.