Hurray Family 

Slovak Information

For centuries the "Slovaks", as we know them, have occupied the area enclosed on the north by the large "east-west" line of Carpathian mountains, the Danube River on the Southern and SW boundary, and the Theiss River, which lies to the East.  Both Rivers cut deep valleys and ravines through the mountain ridges.  There is a Central Slovak upland between those rivers. The water from the western part of the land eventually flows to the Danube, while the water on the eastern portion eventually flows to the Theiss River.

Throughout the entire vast Slavish lands, there is a long history of in-migration and out-migration for various reasons and from many, many cultures, tribes, etc. who fought over the lands, and/or made claim to them, for many many centuries.  For example, it is not widely known among most American-Slovaks that the Gauls or Gallic Celts once inhabited the western area of Slovakia.  Most of these Celts or "Boii" were pushed out later, and a vast majority of them were killed. A very small few may have survived or were perhaps assimilated.  The term Bohemia is rumored to have been derived from the root-word, "Boii"

Slovaks were mainly tribal, which could be why they have existed so long.  Their tribal names, or versions of them, frequently became the names of the surrounding countries. (eg. The tribe of "polans", for example, eventually was appropriated and the name became the larger political/cultural boundary of Poland).

Spis Castle, in Spisske Podhradie, was built in the 12th Century, on the site of an earlier castle.  Even before the previous castle, archaelogical evidence has been found on/in the hill (on which the castle stands) showing that there was a settlement there around 5,000 years B.C. and stayed that way, uninterrupted by human presence for a few thousand years. Castles themselves were built long before the 12th century, but increased around the 1100's because the existing wooden structures proved inadequate for defense.  Spis castle was mainly built to resist the Tartar/Mongol invasion in that was happening around that area at the time.  The castle was besieged in 1241, but effectively resisted.  The building of castles continued up until the close of the seventeenth century. (In the year 1780 there was a big fire at the castle that left some of it in ruins.  If not for some folks stepping up around the year 1970 to preserve what was left, it may have been totally destroyed).

In 1242, after the brutal Mongol invasion that depopulated parts of Hungary, Germans were invited and welcomed in, to help populate it.  The large northeastern County of Szepes (which contains Szesvaralja), became a German enclave of folks named Zipsers.

In 1349, Prague became the seat of one of the earliest Universities of Central Europe, eventually creating a bastion of freedom of thought in Europe.  The "Reformation" was, among other things, the protest of the European nationalities attaining full consciousness of their own individuality, against the inherited universality of Rome.  By universality, is meant Church and State.(see note 6).

In the year 1412,The Ruler of Hungary, pawned, yes "pawned",  Spisske Podhradie (Szepesviaralja), and 15 other towns that are scattered in the Spis region, to Poland, via the Treaty of Labowla.  He did so to fund his war against Venice. That pawn wasn't cancelled until 1773, and not fully dissolved until 1876. (Which could mean technically the Hurray's are from Poland).

During the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries (1400's through 1600s), the population shifted a bit within the boundaries mentioned in the first paragraph above.   The persons from the central plains and river valleys of the Slovak region started to create new settlements to the north, along the mountainsides of the Carpathian mountains, especially in the Towns of Orava, Trancin, and Zvolen.  They also became skilled at sheep-raising and animal husbandry.

At the end of the seventeenth century (1600s), very small groups of some of those recently settled settlers from the above Towns, (starting with Turiec county), started to emigrate all over eastern Europe to sell their wares of Saffron, medicinal oils, lace, and woven items.  Menders with wire, lace makers from the Hron river region and "glaziers" from Trencin county in the northwest of Slovakia wandered throughout Central Europe.  Sometimes the term "tinkers" and "tailors" are also used to describe them generally.  The most enterprising settled in Germany and Russia.  The poverty stricken Slovaks began to migrate to Hungary, and beyond, in quest of lands and to help repopulate the area. Someone in America today, who says they are originally from Hungary, Rumania, Yugo-Slavia, Bulgaria, and/or the Banat, could actually have ancestors who originally hailed from that Slovak region of this era.  Long, long ago there had also already been a trade route to the mediterrannean.  (Emil Hurray had gone to the area of Trieste, Italy from Slovakia around 1879, and by that time there was probably a train to make the trip.)

There was also the "Drotari", or wire workers, who could make amazing things out of wire.  Mainly fixing clay pots initially, but that skill was used later when the immigrating Slovaks would open their own wire businesses in the U.S. and especially Los Angeles, California, making things such as bird cages, and using that same skill in "plumbing works" (which some of the Hurray's became skilled in).  [It is unclear what Joszef Huraj was initially skilled in, or an expert, if any, and whether that was at all passed on to his children (as the children were too young in Slovakia to be taught it, and would have had to have learned it from him instead at a later age in the Allegheny/Pittsburgh area where they lived for a time)].  But Joseph did work as an Iron Moulder while in Pittsburgh.

In Slovakia, Clergymen became the natural rulers because the students for the priesthood were not as repressed by the Hungarian rulers, as much as the general population.  Most Slovak children could obtain only the rudiments of an education in their natural homeland. (See Reference number 3 below).  Whether encouraged by their parents or because of their upbringing, or a calling, many Hurray's and descendants, entered religious life, such as little Stephen Hurray (Stefan Huraj), Sister Dorothea, Sister Mary Matilda (Alice), John Skrak, Father Carl Kermiet, Don Hurray, and most likely others.

Jumping ahead to Slovak immigration to the United States: Before 1899 it is impossible to count the number of Slovak immigrants to the United States because at that time, immigration authorities counted people according to the country of last residence, and many Slovaks listed "Hungary", because geographically (and some would argue politically), it was so, even though it was termed the "Austro-Hungarian" monarchy at the time, and was so from 1867-1918.

A Slovak's life, generally, was simple, devout, and religious.  Spiritual exercises enriched their average day, but after immigrating to the United States, they felt the need for parish churches in which they might worship and hear the word of God in their own language.  At first they attended whatever churches they found in their neighborhoods-Polish, German, or Czech, etc.-but they understood that they were merely tolerated by these other nationalities. (See note 4)

Once in America, members of the Slovak Lodges and the laymen members, in many instances, became the catalyst for providing Churches for Slovak Catholics.  They did so systematically, by first securing a suitable building, or at least some quarters to house a priest. Then they would look for a suitable priest either in America or Slovakia, Slovenia, Moravia, or Croatia.  After being assured of a prospective pastor they were ready to finally approach the Bishop to seek approval. (See note 5). The Hurray's were instrumental in some way, in founding St. Gabriels Church in "Woods Run", Allegheny, PA. (n.k.a. North Side Pittsburgh, Pa.).

Before 1880, fewer than 7,000 Slovaks immigrated to the United States.  By 1921, however, there were 827,720 Slovak immigrants in America.  Nine out of ten of those Slovaks were Catholics of Roman or Greek (Uniate) Byzantine rite.

What is a Czecho-Slovak?:

The difference between Czech's and Slovak's is mainly historic.  It is not racial nor linguistic, although Slovak language differs a bit in being a little more "archaic", it is essentially an identical language.  The difference was described to me once, by a Slovakian as, like the difference between American English and Australian English.  Slovaks are part of the larger Slav nation, which is huge.  In the early Middle Ages the whole of what we might call the "European Middle East" was inhabited by Slavs.

Many Slovaks' will sometimes correct anyone that calls them "Czech", not because they are offended by it, but perhaps they possess a proud Slovak heritage.  There are also clear differences, albeit subtle.  It was one of the reasons that when the country was combined into one Czecho-Slovakia in the early 1900's, there was some push back to go back and re-separate the two, which was eventually done.  There are two different histories, with one side being more so-called, "Western", and the Eastern part being more rural.  It seems that the population of the whole of Slovakia may have originated from different areas as well, meaning that Czech folks came from the surrounding western European areas, and the Eastern Slovaks may have been populated mainly by Ukraine, Russia, and Poland.  When Moravia had political and geographic boundaries, it was populated on the east by Slovaks and on the west by Czech's.  That "division" was also used as a "tool" by the germans and prussians, who tried to use it later to cause further division, for their own purposes of "conquering".

The Hurray's most likely left Slovakia, for America, for similar reasons that most everyone else did.  It was mainly economic as well.  Many folks who left the "old country" suffered sheer hunger, and others endured a marginal, substandard existence, year in and year out.  With the "Magyarization" program putting added pressure on the Slovak population, there was no hope of anything better.  Slovaks were not as free as others to use their own language, or to learn about it in most of the schools.  Slovak's had a close relationship to the land, and there were were many so-called "pagans" in their far ancient past, long before Christianity, worshiping the "god of lightning" etc.  A proud Slovak would see America as the place where there was freedom, where a man was to be judged not by some feudal standard inherited from the past, but by what he was and what he could do. (See note 7)

The town of Spisske Podhradie (in Slovak language), is also known as, Szepesvaralja in Hungarian, and Kirchdrauf in German.

The Slovak immigrant community in the U.S. prior to WWII was not a small community. In the 1910 Census, no separate "official" Census records were kept for persons Slovakian origin, an intregal part of the Kingdom of Hungary, but according to the 1910 U.S. Census 284,444 people did claim Slovak origin.  The same census recorded over 3 million Slavs/Lettic people (many of whom could have been Slovak).  The 1920 Census, which did record Slovaks separately, recorded 619,866 Slovaks.  Another factor in the accuracy of this data is that many immigrants could not speak or understand English (also, do not underestimate the "willingness" or "unwillingness" issue of the immigrant folks may be reluctant to claim their actual origin, perhaps because of perceived or real discrimination, or perhaps because they only wanted to be considered American). [See note 7}

The 1910 U.S. Census recorded on April 22, 1910 that Joseph and Matilda Hurray along with their children May, Alice, Helen & Joseph Jr., lived at 2362 McCook St. (corner of Halsey and McCook) Listing their country of origin as Hun(Slovak). That would indicate that the Census taker was probably told the word "Slovak" by whomever they interviewed, because the category of Slovak didn't technically exist for the census that year unless the respondent said something.

Just down the street from the Hurray household (corner of Halsey/McCook, vacant as of this writing),  about 10 houses east, is the home at 1308 Halsey Place (A structure that seems to still exist as of the year 2021), the Skrak's lived there in 1910.    Joseph, Mary, John, Josephine; also Fannie (Skrak) Shane and her husband Charles Shane, lived there, and  Joseph Hurray had already married Matilda Skrak by then, so it is presumed that Matilda lived down the street with Joseph.

[According to “The Immigrant church and community” book by June Alexandar, “The first Slovak Laborers reportedly came to Pittsburgh in the early 1880s and worked in Allegheny City” (which later became known as the north side when Pittsburgh incorporated that City in 1907).]

(The first Slovak laborers were employed laying track for the Pennsylvania Railroad)

1896-In 1896 the Slovak newspaper reported the Slovak population of Pittsburgh at 5 to 6,000. (which was actyually 1/3 this amount—apparently misreported.)

1.) Slovakia Vol. 15 No. 38 (1965); Editor: Dr. Joseph Pauco; Publisher: The Slovak League of America
2.) Article: "Early Beginnings of the Slovaks in America", by James J. Zatko 15Slovakia1(1965).
3.) Article: Slovak Catholics in America, by Sister Martina Tybor, SS.C.M., in the book Catholics in America (1976).
4.) The Hurray's attended St. Elizabeth's Church, across the river in Pittburgh, until about 1900 or so, but the "Woods Run" (North Side) Slovak's eventually started their own parish called St. Gabriels.  Also, the rosary, figures prominently in many of the Hurray ancestor's ritual's and was used frequently, and mentioned and encouraged, by many of the Hurray ancestors, both of the religious order and lay person.
5.) Jozsef Huray was a member of Branch 2 of the First Catholic Slovak Union in Allegheny/Pittsburgh.  He was one of the founding members of St. Gabriel Church having donated funds for a stained glass window, which was subsequently destroyed when the building was raised in the late 60's.  Reverend John Skrak, a relation to the Hurray's (Mathilda Skrak's brother), was recruited for the Uniontown, PA. area, a place that had a heavy Slovak population, many Slovak churches, and many mines where the Slovak's and other nationalities worked.  He served from 1931 to 1968 in New Salem, PA. and was very well known. [All signs point to the window being destroyed because at the time the building torn down it was being vandalized and during that time of what was termed "urban renewal" in the late 60s early 70s, there was not as much of a push in general to save, or renovate, historical items and buildings].
6.) The Czecho-Slovaks by Lewis Namier (1917).
7.) Book: Slovakia by Toma & Kovac (2001).