CROATIA AND CROATIANS
By Adam S. Eterovich
In order to understand the history, culture and people of Croatia, one must first be aware that Croatia was ruled, administered, conquered, and federated with Yugoslavia, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, Austria, Hungary and the Protectorate of Hungary, Italy, Turkey, the Republic of Venice and the Republic of Ragusa (Dubrovnik) for up to 900 years. Croatia was partitioned at the same time for up to 400 years between Austria, Hungary, Venice and Turkey. On Croatian territory we have Catholics, Moslems, Jews, Orthdox, Grko Catholics and some Protestants. Further, Croatia has a Croatian ethnic majority, a Serbian minority (5%) that migrated to Croatian territory, Hungarians and Italians.
An individual with a desire to study the history, culture and people of Croatia would out of necessity have to read portions of Austrian, Hungarian, Turkish and Italian history.
ABOUT CROATIAN IMMIGRATION
Croatian immigration would have the same considerations as above. Croatians have migrated for over 300 years. Prior to the discovery of America, Croatians migrated to (and were taken into slavery) Turkey, Austria, Italy, Venice, Spain and to other parts of Western Europe. Croatian Galleons were in regular trade with Spain, Portugal, France, England, Italy and the Ottoman Turks prior to the discovery of America. Croatian immigration to the New World started with their participation in Spanish, Portuguese, and Venetian fleet and mercantile operations.
When Croatians migrated they left as nationals or citizens of Austria, Venice, Hungary or Turkey. Ethnically they were always Croatians, but in immigration Croatians were identified by America, Canada, South America, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia as above or in recent times as Yugoslavs and were recorded as such.
Because of a lack of a Nation-State, Croatians were in most cases identified by the country that ruled them and were not accorded a place in history. Almost all Croatians that made a contribution to any endeavor were misidentified. A few examples:
John Dominis-Gospodnetich--Italian, Venetian--Prince Consort to last Queen of Hawaii, Queen Lilioukalani. Origins were from Island of Brac, Croatia.
Joseph Haydn-Hajdin--famous Austrian composer. Origins were Croatian.
Marco Polo-Pilich--Venetian explorer to China. Origins were Sibenik, Croatia, born on Island of Korcula, Croatia.
Peter Tomich--Austrian. Medal of Honor winner, Pearl Harbor. Born Croatian in Hercegovina.
Ferdinand Konscak-Gonzaga--Austrian. A Priest, proved California was not an island. Origin was Varazdin, Croatia.
Bozo de Raguza..Hungarian. Voyage of exploration in South America, 1520’s. Origin Croatia
Serbo-Croatian was the term used in the English speaking world for the Croatian language since the end of World War 1 (1918); prior to the formation of Yugoslavia and the end of WW I, Croatia and Serbia had never been historically united, they were simply Slavic neighbors. Croatians formalized their alphabet in approximately 1850 with the use of a diacritical-accent mark system.
Croatians coming to America, based on circumstance of where they came from in Croatia, had their names modified on passports. A good example would be that in the Italian alphabet there is no “K”, so those named Kristovic from Dalmatia or Istria would be registered as Christovich on their passport. Some from Dalmatia or Istria would also use two versions of their name for business reasons such as Mladinic-Mladineo, Marijanovic-Mariani.
An accent or diacritical mark was used by the Croatian language. So, a persons name could have been modified to conform to the Italian, Austrian or Hungarian alphabet or language. Then again changed by American authorities to conform to English. Many Croatians also had Clan names that were a legitimate part of their name, and some immigrants used their clan name as it could be easily pronounced in America
COMING TO AMERICA
The first Croatian imigrants migrated to Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Texas. This started approximately 200 years ago. They actually migrated to Spanish and French America which is now part of America. In the South they were fishermen, oystermen, mariners, and business men. They were in Biloxi, Mississippi, Mobile Bay, Alabama and in Plaquemines Parish and New Orleans, Louisiana. In fact, four military companies of Croatians were organized in the Confederate Army. A Croatian Society and Cemetery was organized in 1873 in New Orleans.
With the discovery of gold in California, many left the South for the goldfields of California. They arrived in 1849. They were goldminers, mariners, fishermen, bartenders, saloon and coffee saloon keepers, restaurant owners, fruit, liquor and fish suppliers. The Croatians could be found in all goldmining areas of California and silvermining areas of Nevada. With the collapse of the mines, they purchased farmland and were pioneers in wineries, vineyards, and orchards. The first Croatian Society and Cemetery was organized in 1857 in San Francisco. Some of these Croatians settled in Nevada, Arizona, Montana, Oregon, Washington, Alaska and on the west coast of Canada.
The majority of the above Croatians came from Dalmatia and Istria with a strong Venetian-Italian influence. The Venetians called them Schiavoni or “Slavonians” rather than Croati-Croatians so that they would not rebel and join their inland Croatian brothers. In many cases “Slavonian” was used in the West and South....this became an Americanism and had no relationship to Slavonia in Croatia.
Croatians immigrating to the East and Midwest came during the Industrial Revolution of the 1870’s and settled in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, and West Virginia. The majority were employed in steel mills, coalmining, mining, packing houses and other types of heavy industry. They came with a strong sense and feeling of their Croatian heritage. They formed societies, clubs, social clubs and singing and tamburitza instrument groups. The first Croatian Society was formed in 1894 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Croatians seeking work later moved into Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico and Utah. They worked in open or strip mining enterprises.
In all communities where they settled they formed benevolent societies and cultural societies.
THE FIRST CROATIAN PIONEERS IN AMERICA 1685-1860
There is continuing documentary evidence that Croatians appeared in America from the 1600's to the 1860's. Individuals yes, but a steady stream never stopping.
The first individual and group movement appeared in the South and Mexico, Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Texas became the first landing places of many.
From 1600-1860 they could have been recorded in America as Venetian, Austrian, Italian, Turkish or Hungarian. As they spread thru the South and Gulf Coast, certain events changed their course somewhat. The great gold discovery in California in 1848 plus Maximillian's, the Austrian, move into Mexico at the outbreak of our Civil War in 1860, caused many Dalmatians to venture their capital and ships into Mexican affairs, and others before them left the South to try their luck in the gold fields of California.
Upon arriving in America from 1600-1860 they actually were in French Louisiana, English America, Spanish Florida and perhaps Mexican Texas. This state of affairs plus their own unfortunate Croatian nationality problems caused their identity to be very difficult to determine.
This story does not include the valiant deeds and service of numerous Croatian priests who also ventured into the New World. This aspect has been adequately covered in books and articles.
A "French" Croatian in 1685
In the "Le Conseil De LaVie Francaise D' Amerique" papers in Quebec, Canada, an interesting entry appeared among the French Acadians who had settled in Louisiana:
Georges Mathieu "Croatian", Sergeant of a company of
Marines born around 1685. Married around 1708 to
Marguerite Etheque and a child, Marguerite, in 1709.
Every other entry listed in the birth place and I believe "Croatian" is unmistakable in this case. This would be the earliest Croatian in America.
Matulich the Croatian Selling Whiskey,
Guns and Horses to the Indians in 1770
In Herbert Eugene Bolton's book "Athanse De Mezieres and the Louisiana-Texas Frontier, 1768-1780 - Spain in the West":
A report was sent to the Governor by De Mezieres:
"Likewise I am informed by courier that the persons
named Jeronimo Matulich and Juan Hamilton continue to
make journeys to the mouth of the Trinity, buying horses
and mules off the Indians who live there and who have
joined recently thirty families of Coxos and Carancaoueys,
Apostates and fugitives from our missions, attracted by
the opportunity to barter; and now they get a small
amount of money, I do not know whether stolen or found
in some shipwreck. These traders go in by land as far
as the Bidais Nation, and try to arouse the interior
De Mezieres further reports:
"That a man named Matulich had gone to the mouth of
the Neches River with a boat manned by ten men and there
he was selling liquor to the Indians and maligning the
On August 8, 1774 the Governor ordered the arrest of Jeronimo Matulich but no further mention is made if he was actually caught and jailed.
Matulich was an inhabitant of Mobile and took the Oath of Allegiance and Fidelity to his Brittanic Majesty King George III in 1764. Matulich appeared in many court cases in New Orleans in the 1760's and 1770's dealing with piracy, indebtedness and other sundry matters.
Other Early Croatians
The Calendar of Louisiana Colonial Documents by Winston De Ville mentions many Croatians such as Marco Illich in the 1790's on matters dealing with the selling of slaves and other property. Bondinich and others are listed as witnesses at a wedding.
Peter Dragon, a "Venetian", is listed with a family in the Plaquemines Parish Census of Louisiana. It is not unusual to find Dalmatians listed as Venetian prior to 1800.
The ship passenger lists for Southern ports lists many Croatians arriving in the early 1800's such as Dinavich, Reindich, "John", Pandich, Gavenich, Galmich, Radovich, Savich, Masich , Covacevich, Vidovich, Petrovich and so on.
Business directories of the 1840's and 1850's have many Croatian names well established as businessmen in New Orleans, as an example:
U. S. Census of Population Schedules were an important source for identification of Croatians that they at least stated country of origin as "Austria." The 1850 Census of New Orleans has a great many Croatians listed, such as:
Pavelich, Henry 44 coffee house Austria
Pavelich, Ann 23 wife Ireland
Lucich, John 44 clerk Austria
Gobovich, Lucas 45 marketman Italy
Borich, Nicholas 34 sailor Austria
Raicevich, Tripo 8 fruits Italy
Medin, F. 28 waiter Austria
Marovich, Antonia30 fruits Italy
Bojanovich, Andr 40 fisherman Austria
Petrovich, Paolo 35 fruits Italy
The above are just a few names to indicate the difficulty of nationality and identification of Croatians in America. This is why many think none were here in the 1700's and 1800's. Nationality and identification is not a new problem for Croatians. A most interesting census entry for Louisiana in 1850 was Vincent Crenotich--Austrian--artist in jail for forgery!
Mobile, Alabama in the 1850 census also had many Croatians. A few:
Simintovich, F. 21 merchant Austria
Luzanich, Andre 40 confectioner Austria
Dedich, Frank 24 barkeeper Austria
Carmelich, M. 40 merchant Austria
Bitherich, M. 40 bayman Italy
Elich, John 24 shopkeeper Italy
Biloxi, Mississippi, a fishing port, already had strong Croatian representation and the 1850 U. S. Census shows:
Foretich, John 35 shipbuilder Italy
Foretich, Elvina 24 wife Miss.
Foretich, John 1 son Miss.
Jivich, Nicholas 28 ship carpenter Spain
Porich, C. 35 caulker Spain
Pascagoula, another port town in Mississippi, also had a good colony:
Jorich, Dominic 32 fisherman Italy
Makinich, Peter 26 clerk Italy
Radich, Frank 26 fisherman Italy
Damianich, Peter 33 fisherman Prussia
Farnlich, Thomas 26 fisherman Austria
Sisal, Natale 17 fisherman Austria
Marinovich, A. 30 cooper Dalmatia
Stiglich, Matthew 45 carpenter Austria
Stiglich, Antonia 45 wife Austria
Stiglich, Mathew 18 son Austria
Stiglich, Johanna 12 daughter Austria
Jacob Baptist (Batistich?) from Dalmatia was in Pascagoula with eight children, having arrived prior to 1840. He had a recorded worth of $55,000 and was a Cooper. John Radovich, listed as from Spain with six children, was also there prior to 1840. Nicola Vojvodich was a master carpenter, listed as from Spain with four children in Biloxi and Stephen Vojvodich also listed as Spanish with a family. A most interesting listing was F. Barovich, age 58, born on the Island of Santo Domingo.
The above names are a small portion of what was uncovered. We Croatians in America were recorded as Prussians, Germans, Hungarians, Greeks, Italians, Slavonians, Danes, Venetians and "unknown". This is the major problem of our ethnic identity in America -- yes we do have roots that are prior to the American Revolution in America and these facts and individuals should be brought out and made part of our participation of the making of America.
Croatians were found in voting registors, cemetery records, birth, death and marriage church records, state archives and many other source records. I would like to list a few more interesting entries found to indicate their presence, in numbers in Early America:
Baltunich 1822 Died Mobile, Ala.
Barrich, M. 1839 voted Mobile Alabama
Bassich, John 1844 married New Orleans
Benjanovich 1835 voted Mobile
Bezerich, Nicolo 1811 Died Mobile
Brinich, B. 1832 " New Orleans
Calabich 1832 " New Orleans
Calich, Lorenzo 1790 Lawsuit New Orleans
Caminich, Juan 1782 " New Orleans
Carmelich, Ludovic 1844 born Mobile
Carmelich, Marco 1836 voted Mobile
Cvitkovich, Alex 1860 priest New Orleans
Dragon, Dimitry 1802 born New Orleans
Elich, Marco 1797 lawsuit New Orleans
Guarich, Jose 1829 died New Orleans
Ladevich, M. 1772 died New Orleans
Larich, J. 1780 Louisiana
Lubjavich, J. 1811 marriage Baton Rouge
Marcec, Juan 1815 funeral Louisiana
Marinovich, Andrea 1833 " New Orleans
Morich, Lucas 1786 died Louisiana
Nichovich, P. 1860 ship capt New Orleans
Petrovich, George 1819 planter Louisiana
Rosmanirich, Marc 1835 voted Mobile
Tlesich, Marco 1844 married New Orleans
Tripcovich, G. 1840 died "
Vidich, J. 1843 died “
Our Dalmatian sailors and captains were citizens of the Republic of Venice and the Republic of Ragusa, both seafaring nations. They sailed the seven seas and were in daily contact with individuals who were in the New World from its beginning. In every early part of America you will find the Croatian as businessmen, shipbuilders, mineowners and many other responsible occupations.
In Dalmatia a cigarette is still called a "Spanulet", tobacco came from Spanish America and Croatians brought it to Dalmatia.