Immigrant – Janta-Jainta

Woitek [Albert] Janta Family: Gone to Missouri!
by Janet Dawson Ebrom

A family who brought the richness of their faith to America left their Silesian homeland in 1856. Woitek Jainta lived in the tiny village of Łąka with his wife Johanna and their two children, Maria and Franz. When Woitek and Johanna decided to leave Silesia, they contracted with an immigration agent, Julius Schüler, and joined others from their parish in 1856 for a voyage to the New World. The Schüler Agency listed them as passengers #190-194: Woitek Jainta, age 32, a bauer [farmer]; his wife Johanna Juntzik, age 28; Maria, age 4; and Franz, an infant. Also registered with the family was 24-year-old Franciska Jainta. Based on these recorded ages, their birth years can be approximated as: Woitek Jainta born circa 1824, Johanna born circa 1828, Maria born circa 1852, and little Franz born circa 1855. As members of the Wniebowzięcia NMP [Assumption of the BVM] parish, their sacramental records from the 1800s were destroyed during wartime, so the exact dates of their births, baptisms, and marriage cannot be documented.

When Woitek’s family arrived in Panna Maria, Texas, they were greeted by Anna Sofia, John, and Szymon Janta from their Silesian home parish who had immigrated a year earlier. Soon Woitek and Johanna welcomed their only Texas-born child on December 9, 1857; Thomas Janta was baptized three days later in Immaculate Conception of the BVM Church when Father Leopold Moczygemba spelled their surname as “Janta” rather than “Jainta.”[1] Their time in Texas was brief. Their daughter Maria later explained that her parents chose to move because, “…the country being sparsely populated and the church at such a great distance, they found it very inconvenient to attend divine service as frequently as they wished.”[2] They also had to contend with the great drought of 1856-1857 in Texas and joined some other Silesian families who headed north. “Escaping from the suffering of the rainless period, one party of Poles departed from the settlements and traveled overland to a site near the Missouri River in Franklin County…”[3] When the tired but hopeful group reached Missouri, they discovered the newly erected St. Gertrude Catholic Church which had recently been “…formally dedicated by the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, the Very Reverend Joseph Melcher, on November 23, 1856.”[4] Just as in Silesia, the parish became central in the Janta family’s lives.

On August 1, 1860, the census taker visited the Janta family living in St. John’s Township in Franklin County, Missouri, where the head of the family began using the American name of Albert instead of Woitek. The family of five was recorded as: Albert “Yointer,” a 38-year-old farmer, born in Poland; Anna, age 37; Mary, age 7; Frank, age 4; and “Thos” age 3.[5] Two months after this census was enumerated, Johanna gave birth to a daughter, Anna Caroline, who was baptized on October 27, 1860, by Father Martin Seisl, S.J., the pastor of nearby St. Francis Borgia Catholic Church.[6] The Janta family belonged to St. Gertrude parish in Krakow where the Jesuit missionaries from Washington, Missouri, about five miles away, ministered once a week.[7] The Janta family’s devotion to their Catholic faith was exceedingly strong and had an enormous impact on the children.

Within five years of their arrival in Missouri, Albert and his wife Johanna were able to buy their own farm in Township 43, Range 2W. On January 1, 1863, Albert “Yanta” purchased 40 acres of land for $150 from Catherine Clark of Franklin County.[8] Their home of Clover Bottom was so named by the Jesuit missionaries who were amazed at the beautiful fields of clover along St. John’s Creek.[9]

During the Civil War, Missouri was a border state with both Union and Confederate sympathizers. One of the worst events in Franklin County was Price’s Raid when Major General Sterling Price’s Confederate army entered the county on September 30, 1864, and remained until October 4. “It consisted of about 16,000 men, and, at a low estimate, the amount of property destroyed, including horses and mules driven away, amounted to $500,000 [in 1864 dollars]. The number of men killed by his army was never definitely ascertained, but it was estimated at about sixty [in Franklin County].”[10]

The Janta family did not escape as casualties of the Civil War. Anna Caroline Janta, the younger daughter who was only four at the time, recalled the perilous experience years later: “Distinctly upon her memory were painted the message announcing the death of her uncle and the search instituted by four men to apprehend her father who had already fled into hiding. Not finding anything of satisfaction, they drove away to some neighbors and pillaged the place taking with them food, clothing, horses, etc.”[11] Across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, John Janta, who had also traveled from Panna Maria six years earlier, died in Illinois on September 12, 1864, when he was only 38 years old; this may be the uncle about whom Anna Caroline was speaking.[12]

A few years after the war, life returned to normal with Albert and Johanna teaching their children the importance of the sacraments. On April 4, 1869, their younger son Thomas, age 11, made his First Holy Communion. In the following month, their older son Francis [also known as Franz or Frank], age 14, received the sacrament of Confirmation when his own spirituality was strengthened. Three years later, the Jantas’ youngest child, Anna Caroline, made her First Holy Communion on April 14, 1872, and she was confirmed that same year. All of these sacraments were administered by Jesuit missionaries from St. Francis Borgia of Washington, Missouri, who recorded the lists in their parish books noting that they took place at St. Gertrude’s. [13]

On September 28, 1872, their elder daughter Maria entered the convent of the School Sisters of Notre Dame in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she spent her first two years as a candidate. She had become acquainted with this order of nuns when she had worked as a domestic servant for a family in Washington, Missouri.[14] During the winter season, Maria had been employed to help her parents with expenses of the family and also to save money for her outfit for the convent.[15] Her humble upbringing influenced her vocation and surely reflected her parents’ devout nature. During this time, Albert and Johanna’s son Francis also answered the call to religious life. At the age of 19, he entered the novitiate of the De La Salle Christian Brothers in Carondelet, Missouri, in 1874, where he received the name Brother Fabian.[16]

The Jantas’ prayerful home life infused the spirit of still another of their children, Anna Caroline. When her sister Maria had joined the Congregation of Notre Dame in 1872, Anna Caroline was only twelve years old. “Caroline pleaded with her father to let her go too. She knew that postponement meant stronger resistance. Her father yielded when he saw that the religious life alone could make her happy.”[17] After living with a Catholic family in St. Louis for three years and spending many Sunday afternoons with the candidates of St. Joseph’s School, Caroline formally entered the convent on June 15, 1875.[18]

By the time of the 1876 census of Franklin County, Missouri, Albert and Johanna had only one of their children living at home with them. The family was enumerated in Township 43 as: Albert “Yanta,” age 54; Anna, age 53; and Thomas, age 18. Their livestock was also counted in this state census, and they owned two mules, two sheep, and two hogs.[19] One of the crosses this family had to bear was the confinement of their youngest son Thomas who became a resident of the state hospital. When Thomas left, Albert and Johanna had to maintain their farm by themselves, and they appeared in the 1880 census of Franklin County as: Albert “Yanton,” a 57-year-old farmer, and Annie, keeping house; they both told the census taker that they had been born in Poland, and so had their parents.[20]

Albert and Johanna’s two daughters were School Sisters of Notre Dame. Their older daughter Maria professed her perpetual vows as Sister Heliodora on July 26, 1888. Their younger daughter, Anna Caroline, professed her perpetual vows as Sister Władysława on July 25, 1892, at the motherhouse in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.[21] By this time, their older son, Brother Fabian, was a music professor and band director at St. Michael College in Santa Fe, New Mexico; he also was the organist there in the Cathedral of St. Francis.[22] The religious vocations of these three Janta children had been nurtured on a little Missouri farm by their pious parents from Silesia.

Albert Janta endured one final departure from his life when his beloved wife Johanna died in Clover Bottom. She was laid to rest on September 29, 1898.[23] Albert was alone for almost eight years before making his last will and testament on May 14, 1906. Professing his faith explicitly, he directed that $50 be paid to St. Ann Catholic Church at Clover Bottom to be used for Masses for the repose of his soul and for his family. He further instructed that after the liquidation of all of his property, the proceeds should be equally divided among his four children. He demonstrated profound compassion for his son, Thomas Janta, a patient in the state hospital, by leaving him an equal share so that the institution could use it on his behalf.[24]

Within two months of declaring his last will and testament, Albert Janta passed away on July 9, 1906. His funeral Mass was offered the following day by Reverend Marcellinus Kollmeyer at St. Ann Catholic Church, and Albert was buried in the parish cemetery in Clover Bottom, Missouri.[25] Albert Janta and his wife, Johanna Juntzik, bequeathed a spiritual legacy to their children who, in turn, devoted their own lives to emulating their parents, teaching, and honoring their religious vows.

Spelling Variations: Janta, Jainta, Yanta

Reference Notes:
[1] Immaculate Conception of the BVM Catholic Church, Panna Maria, Texas. Baptism Records, entry #39.
[2] School Sisters of Notre Dame Obituaries. Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Privately printed, 1926.
[3] Baker, T. Lindsay. The First Polish Americans: Silesian Settlements in Texas. College Station, Texas: Texas A&M University Press, 1979, page 58.
[4] 100th Anniversary St. Gertrude Parish, Krakow, Missouri, 1845-1945, unpaged.
[5] U.S. Population Census of Franklin County, Missouri, 1860, Dwelling #1012.
[6] St. Francis Borgia Catholic Church, Washington, Missouri. Baptism Records, page 201, entry #108. LDS Microfilm #1906107.
[8] Franklin County, Missouri, Deeds, Book W, pages 607-608.
[9] Vitt, Mary Ann. “Clover Bottom.” Historical Review of Franklin County, Missouri, Sesquicentennial Edition 1818-1968. Union, Missouri: Franklin County Sesquicentennial Corporation, 1968, page 16.
[10] History of Franklin, Jefferson, Washington, Crawford, and Gasconade Cos., Missouri. Chicago, Illinois: Goodspeed Publishing Company, 1888, pages 243-247, 260.
[11] School Sisters of Notre Dame Obituaries. Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Privately printed, 1945.
[12] St. Pancratius Catholic Church, Fayetteville, Illinois. Burial Records, Volume I, 3rd page, 2nd entry.
[13] St. Francis Borgia Catholic Church, Washington, Missouri. Communions, entries #11 and #16. LDS Microfilm #1906109. Confirmations, entries #22 and #162. LDS Microfilm 1906107.
[14] U.S. Population Census of Franklin County, Missouri, 1870, page 8, Dwelling #70.
[15] School Sisters of Notre Dame Obituaries. Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Privately printed, 1926 and 1945.
[16] Christian Brothers—Pioneer Educators in the South and Southwest Since 1851: Those who died in February. New Orleans-Santa Fe District, 2011, page 11.
[17] School Sisters of Notre Dame Obituaries. Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Privately printed, 1945.
[18] School Sisters of Notre Dame Obituaries. Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Privately printed, 1945.
[19] State Census of Franklin County, Missouri, 1876, entries #18-20.
[20] U.S. Population Census of Franklin County, Missouri, 1880, Dwelling #65.
[21] School Sisters of Notre Dame, Central Pacific Province Archives database, Saint Louis, Missouri.
[22] Christian Brothers—Pioneer Educators in the South and Southwest Since 1851: Those who died in February. New Orleans-Santa Fe District, 2011, page 11.
[23] St. Gertrude Catholic Church, Krakow, Missouri. Burial Records, entry #11. LDS Microfilm #1906168.
[24] Franklin County, Missouri, Probate records, Book 1, page 23.
[25] St. Ann Catholic Church, Clover Bottom, Missouri. Burial Records, page 103, entry #38.

Woitek Janta’s family is listed in the “Ravaged by War” section (p. 239) of
Silesian Profiles II: Polish Immigration to Texas 1850s-1870s.