Letters sustaining cross-atlantic migrations : from Frenštát, Moravia to Frenstat, Texas in the decades following the Civil War
Letters and letter writing have played a formative role in the transfer of migrants from country to country and continent to continent, and sustained continuous crossings of the ocean that started in a few Moravian villages and ended in a cluster of Texas settlements. The letters in the current study detail lives of two brothers sharing news generated by daily events of the home town in Moravia, and news of farming and getting adjusted to living in Texas during the transition years of settling down and withstanding the temptation to return in 1874 to 1876 (the dialogue was maintained for twenty-two years). The dialogue is framed not only by the historical situation in Moravia and in Texas affecting migration, as captured in the letters, but also the grief that accompanied the brothers’ parting and despair over the difficulties of acculturation. The dialogue reveals uncertainty of migrating and settling down, intensity of material difficulties that accompany the process, and ways in which letters became the platform to negotiate it. Analysis of the correspondence provided answers to the questions, through what specific knowledge the letters enrich and modify our current representation of migration history to the U.S. in the era of mass migration, and in what ways they once shaped the migration discourse maintained in economically deprived regions of Moravia. The article is intended as the first part of a two-part study. Focus of Part II is the specifics of Texas integration, as documented by narratives in the letters exchanged from the 1870s to the 1890s.