A History of the Briscar Family
(Submitted by Dolores Briscar Gallagher)
Anna Felegi (John's mother) was
the first to arrive in America around the year 1907 from Slovakia.* John's
stepfather, George Felegi came later on. Baba and Dzedo Felegi lived in Republic,
PA. Next to Arrive in America was John Briscar from Bardejov, Slovakia. John,
not being dissuaded by the barrier of a mere ocean, sent for Anna Mika, who lived in Nova
Ves, Slovakia, and who was to be his bride. Anna arrived in Connellsville, PA on
September 20, 1910. John and Anna were married on November 10, 1910 at St.
Mary's Roman Catholic Church in Uniontown. After a while they took in
relatives and friends as boarders who were coming from Slovakia to live in America.
Then, when financially able, the boarders moved on to other locations.
John Briscar worked at the
Summit Hotel performing various jobs. The Summit Hotel is still located on Rt. 40
East of Uniontown, PA. His next employment was at People's furniture store on Main
Street in Uniontown. While employed at People's, his boss wanted him to learn the
business. They thought John was very artistic and knowledgeable and that could lead
to great possibilities. For some reason or other, John left the store and went to
work in the coal mines. Most likely it was because the pay was better.
Joe Kuharik recently told me
that his Godfather, John Briscar was very artistic, that John made a gun stock for Joe,
and a ball bat for his brother Steve. At one time he asked Joe, "You
still have this old Victrola?" Then John took the cabinet apart and made a
smaller, beautiful cabinet to hold the Victrola and records. Joe also said that John
made a very nice carved casket for a Kuharik baby that was still-born.
John and Anna lived in a town
called Helen, near the town of Dearth off Rt. 40 in PA. They stayed there a short
time and then Baba Felegi asked them to move in with them at Republic, PA. John and
Anna's first child, Mary, was born in Republic on August 29, 1911. Later they moved
to Continental #1. Baby Anna was born there in 1914. She lived only three
days. Helen and Vincent were also born there, Helen in the year of 1915, February
20, and Vincent on January 20, 1917.
Leaving Continental #1, John,
Anna and family moved to Takoch Farm, South of Rt. 119 in Uniontown, PA. The farm is
still there today. The family didn't live there very long. They moved to
Jamison, PA (off South Mt. Vernon Avenue in Uniontown) where their next child was
born. Her name- Sally, October 13, 1919. Then in 1921 another child was
conceived. Her name also was Anna. Anna died as an infant. Then a son
was born on May 18, 1924. They named him Joseph. After Joseph a baby
girl was born. Her name was Catherine. She also died as an infant.
From Jamison, the Briscar
family moved to Lemont Furnace, PA. There John continued to work in the coal
mines. Their ninth child, Veronica was born on April 27, 1929. Four years
later another daughter was born on January 25, 1933. Her name was Dolores.
As the years went by, the
children went in different directions. Mary married William Ellsworth and settled in
Connellsville, PA. Helen and her husband John Chuska stayed in Lemont.
Vincent and wife Agnes Stoots stayed in Cleveland, OH after World War II. Joseph and
wife Betty Valentovich ended up in Strongsville, OH. Veronica and her husband
Joseph Valentovich (brother of Betty Valentovich) stayed in Uniontown. Dolores
married a service man, John Gallagher, who was in the Air Force. They ended up
in Fayetteville, NC (near Ft. Bragg) as transplanted Yankees. Sally and her husband,
Herschel Sampson went to Baltimore, MD.
While living in Lemont the
family had a cow, some chickens, ducks, geese and pigs. Baba Briscar and Baba Felegi
made pillows and bed covers called a perina (feather tick) from feathers of the
fowl. From the milk of the cow was made sour milk, churned butter and cottage
cheese. The cottage cheese made some tasty kolatche.
When the weather got colder,
the pigs were butchered. There was a smoke shanty near the bake oven where the meat
was smoked. We had smoked hams, sausage and bacon. Dzedo made the outside oven
from bricks and then covered it with metal sheeting. Baba then baked bread and
kolatche in the huge oven. There was nothing better tasting than the baked goods
from that brick oven.
Dzedo Briscar was a good hunter
and fisherman. So was brother Vin. They would travel with their friends
to different places to hunt. To fish, there were reservoirs around the area.
The Youghiogenny Lake, Confluence Dam, and Ohiopyle were good places to fish.
Dzedo Briscar made a small
cement pond in the cellar where he kept minnows and crabs that were used for fishing.
Everything was put to good
use. Baba Briscar sewed beautiful aprons, kitchen curtains, dresses and whatever
else she could make from printed flour sacks. The plain muslin flour sacks
were used to make mattress covers, etc. The canvas bags from feed and potatoes were
placed on the floor and used as rugs. Later, as years went by, Baba Briscar and Baba
Felegi and with the aid of neighbors and at times children, made rugs by cutting strips of
all kinds of material and placing different colors of rug string through a wooden
loom. Then working the wooden loom together, a colorful product was finished.
On the land in Lemont there
were apple and peach trees, currant berry bushes, and a couple of raspberry bushes.
The family planted different kinds of vegetables and then Baba would can the
vegetables. There was a trellis just outside the back porch, always covered with
grapes. At times, Dzedo Briscar made wine and home brew. The home made
root beer was something we looked forward to even though it would pop during the middle of
the night and some of us would jump.
There was a brick walkway
leading from the back porch to the dirt road above the house. On each side of the
walkway was a bench. A trellis hovered the benches covered with roses. A brick
walkway also led from the back porch to a one-room house were Baba and Dzedo Felegi
lived. Throughout the yard there were many colorful flowering bushes, such as
lilacs, peonies, and roses. There were iris along the walkway in the back yard and
other small, pretty flowers throughout the yard.
May the peace of
Jesus and St. Francis be with each one of you always.
* Slovakia was
known as Austria-Hungary in the late 19th century and later became part of
Czechoslovakia. In the 1990's there was a separation resulting in independence for
two countries, The Czech Republic and Slovakia. [ Click here
for historical background ]
The Czechoslovak Republic was established in 1918 at the end of the First World War as one
of the successor states to the collapsed Hapsburg Monarchy. Before 1918, the Czechs had
been subjects of the Hapsburg ruler in his capacity as Austrian Emperor and King of
Bohemia since 1620, while the Slovaks had been subjects of the Hungarian Crown of St.
Stephen for almost one thousand years. Bohemia's independent status before 1620 (albeit
with an elected Hapsburg ruler in the decades before the Thirty Years War) gave the Czechs
a different historical status.
Agreement (30th September, 1938) set in train the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia.
President Benes went into exile and Emil Hacha assumed the presidency, but the growth of
German power encouraged Slovak nationalism.
On 14th March, 1939, egged on by German influence, the Slovak nationalists led by
Monsignor Tiso declared the "Independent State of Slovakia". This precipitated
the collapse of rump Czechoslovakia. On 15th March, Hitler's army entered Bohemia and
Moravia under the pretext of re-establishing "public order" and established the
Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. Until the final defeat of the German forces there on
12th May, 1945, Bohemia and Moravia were ruled directly by a German Protector in Prague
albeit President Hacha's government nominally continued to function under his supervision.
The situation in
Bratislava was different. The new Slovak government owed its independence to Hitler's
power, but it was not directly subordinated to a Nazi proconsul. Throughout the years
1939-45, the Slovak regime was in a much stronger position to determine its own internal
policies. In practice, these fell into line with German desires, often anticipating Nazi
wishes (as was the case with other collaborationist states like Vichy France) before they
were formally expressed.
Unlike Bohemia and
Moravia, however, and only partly as a result of more favourable terrain, Slovakia
developed an anti- fascist resistance movement which operated both against the Tiso forces
and the Germans as the fighting front in the east drew nearer to Slovak territory. When
the Red Army entered eastern Slovakia in August, 1944, a partisan rising assisted their
advance by disrupting the German Army's rear.
Despite the formal alliance between Hungary and the "Independent State of
Slovakia" during the Second World War, relations between the Tiso and Horthy regimes
were bad. The Hungarian treatment of Slovakia in the decades before the First World War
was undoubtedly much harsher than the Austrian approach to the Czechs. Attempts at
Magyarization and to suppress Slovak culture left a bitter legacy. The bad blood between
Hungarians and Slovaks was continually stoked up during the inter-war period because the
Horthy regime in Budapest was unwilling to accept the loss of territory by the Treaty of
Trianon. After the Slovak declaration of independence in 1939, Hungary's claims to
southern Slovakia and the trans-Carpathian Ukraine were endorsed by Hitler and the Tiso
regime was obliged to cede substantial territories to Hungary. The renewed suppression of
Slovak culture in those areas enhanced the pre- existing bitterness between Slovaks and
Hungarians, despite the fact that both "Independent Slovakia" and Hungary were
Axis allies against the Soviet Union.
After 1945, the
Sudeten Germans were expelled from Bohemia and Moravia. The bulk of the much smaller
German minority was also expelled from Slovakia. A large number of Hungarians were also
driven out of Slovakia, but this aspect of post-war "ethnic cleansing" was
carried out much less thoroughly. A population of several hundred thousand Magyars
remained in their traditional homes on Slovak soil, especially in the south along the
Danube where they formed the majority in many individual towns and villages.
Warsaw Pact invasion in August, 1968, the pro-Soviet Husak regime tried to bolster its
support in Slovakia by emphasising the CSSR's federal nature. Despite its theoretical
equality with Prague and the presence of a Slovak Communist, Gustav Husak in the Hrad in
Prague, in practice Slovakia did not benefit from "normalisation" except in the
perverse sense that many uneconomic and ill-thought-out projects were started on Slovak
territory. It is doubtful if the "divide and rule" tactics of the Husak regime
did anything to improve the lives of ordinary Slovaks. In fact, the combination of forced
heavy industrialisation and Soviet-style urban modernization in the 1970s and 1980s have
left post- communist Slovakia were a more difficult legacy than the Czech two-thirds of
Although the most
famous dissidents were to be found in Prague before the "Velvet Revolution" of
1989, Slovakia did have its own anti-Communist groups. Some were composed of former reform
communists, like Miroslav Kusy, expelled from the Party and imprisoned after 1968. Others
were focussed around either classic liberal ideas or Catholic religious circles, like the
one led by Jan Carnogursky. One of the last major events of the old regime was its arrest
and trial of Kusy and Carnogursky in the summer and autumn of 1989. Carnogursky's release
from prison marked the collapse of the Communist Party's authority in Slovakia.
post-revolutionary failure to establish a mutually acceptable relationship between Prague
and Bratislava reflected the problems that even East-Central Europe's most exemplary
democracy had in dealing with nationalism. Undoubtedly, many Slovaks felt slighted by the
Czechs. Whether real or imagined, these snubs promoted the Slovak feeling that only
greater self- assertiveness could liberate them from their status as country cousins
condescended to by Prague. How far such feelings came to mean that most Slovaks really
wanted independence may however be doubted. Opinion polls in the run up to 1st January,
1993, suggested that a majority of Slovaks (and Czechs) did not support the separation of
predictions were made about the fate of both republics after the break-up. It was feared
that rows would erupt over the division of their spoils and over border disputes and
immigration. In fact, the split has gone remarkably smoothly. A threatening border dispute
was defused in July 1993 when Klaus and Meciar agreed to maintain border controls only for
citizens from third countries. Relations have been harmonious. Last year Klaus refused to
help Joszef Antall block Slovakia's entry to the Council of Europe and Slovakia supported
enthusiastically the Czech Republic's attempt to gain a seat on the UN Security Council.
It is also noticeable that official comments were fair and objective following the recent
Of course, at the
end of the day Vaclav Klaus was an even more enthusiastic proponent of the federation's
demise than Meciar. While he is in power nothing will be done by Prague to disturb the
status quo. However, there are, no doubt, those who would like to see closer contacts in
the future. On the 23rd June, 1994, Slovak premier, Josef Moravcik, said that the division
of Czechoslovakia was "only temporary" and that by 2000 when both countries
should have joined the EU they would have "the closest possible contacts".
Coupon privatization, the outgoing government's favoured model for privatization, would
certainly tie the two countries closer together as many of the larger funds operate in
both Prague and Bratislava.