Saturday, May 31, 2014

Monika Brom 1893-1896

The Bohemian surname Brom is well known in Trempealeau County and in Winona. Matias (1829-1918) and Elisabeth nee Maresz (1825-1914) Brom came from Bohemia to the United States in September 1861. Joining them were their first three children, Francis, Mathias Jr., and Eva. Although Matias and Elisabeth, like other Bohemian immigrants, settled in Winona, they soon joined the first settlers of Pine Creek. According to census information, their first American-born child, Martin J. Brom, was born in Winona during November 1862. Matias's parents, Veit and Maria nee Podholla Brom, would emigrate to the United States in 1868. The Broms were likely the most prominent Bohemian family in the Pine Creek (and later, the Dodge) community; several became important social and political leaders. But unlike the Bohemian community of Winona, which coalesced around the 1886 foundation of Saint John Nepomucene Parish, in Trempealeau County the Broms and other Bohemian families were assimilated into the prevailing Kashubian Polish culture.

At some point before 1890, Martin J. Brom was married to Wincentyna Tandeska at Sacred Heart-Saint Wenceslaus Parish in Pine Creek. They had met in Mentor, SD where he was a music teacher. Wincentyna was the daughter of Kashubian Polish farmers who had originally settled in Pine Creek but had later sought their fortune out West. Martin and Wincentyna's third child, Monika, was born on May 6, 1893 and passed away on August 19, 1896. If Monika's elder sister Elzbieta was indeed born on October 28, 1892 that would indicate that Monika was born quite a bit prematurely. Brave little Monika must have fought heroically to survive until age three. Her grief stricken parents buried her on the hill behind the church with an unusually detailed headstone.

The inscription reads "Monika, daughter of Martin Brom and Wincentyna Tandeczka," with her birth and death dates. Interestingly, it is in Polish. No doubt Martin continued to speak Bohemian with his immediate Bohemian family. But young Monika's gravestone proves that her father had assimilated to his wife's Kashubian Polish language and culture. This discovery has a similarly sad side note. In his Dodge, Wisconsin (pp. 96-97), the "intelligent, sensitive, personable" Martin far preferred giving music lessons and guiding the Dodge town band, to working on the patriarch Mathias's farm. In 1904, the forty-eight year old Martin informed his father that he was finished with farming.  A fight ensued, and Martin suffered a permanently incapacitating blow to the head.  Indeed, the 1910 and 1920 US Census shows that "Martin Broom" was an inmate at the Trempealeau County Asylum in Whitehall. His nationality is listed as "Bohemian," in 1910 but in 1920 it is given as "Polish." His obituary in the July 17, 1928 Winona Republican-Herald refers only to "a lingering illness."

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