Josef Arnost Bergmann, Czech pioneer, was born on August 17, 1798, in the village of Zápudov near Mladá Boleslav (Jungbunzlau) in what is now the Czech Republic, the son of Josef and Katerina (Sindelar) Bergmann. He dropped the name Josef early, perhaps to avoid conflict with his father, and used the name Arnost or Ernst for the remainder of his life. Bergmann began training for the Catholic priesthood at Litomysl, but he left the Catholic Church to study in the Protestant theological department at Breslau, Prussia, and was ordained a minister in 1830. His first assignment was at Strouzny (today Pstrazna) in the Glatz district in Poland (then called Silesia).
Bergmann married Anna Marie Berndt (also spelled Bernt or Pernt) on December 15, 1833, and their first six children were born at Strouzny. On October 2, 1849, he preached his last sermon there and announced his plan to move to Texas. The family embarked on the Alexander at Hamburg on December 20, 1849, and arrived at Galveston on March 2, 1850. They went by coastal and river steamers to San Felipe and then by oxcart to Cat Spring. The German colonists hired Bergmann as their schoolteacher and preacher. He preached their Easter service in March 1850 at Cat Spring. Bergmann bought the tract of land currently called Kollattschny Cemetery, and there preached and taught school in a small log building. A fifth Bergmann daughter was born and died in 1853, and two daughters died of yellow fever in 1855 or 1856.
Bergmann wrote a long letter back to Strouzny soon after his arrival in 1850. This letter told of the freedom to be found in Texas, the large amount of land available at cheap prices, and how he had already acquired many chickens, hogs, cows, and a horse. His letter was eventually published in the Moravské Noviny (Moravian News), and people in Moravia began to discuss plans for following the Bergmann family to the great free state of Texas. Groups of Czech families came in 1852, 1853, and 1854, and this started the waves of migration of Czech and Moravian people to Texas. Bergmann, credited by many Czech immigrants and their descendants as their reason for immigrating to Texas, was the father of the Czechs in Texas.
Bergmann preached and taught school at Cat Spring until 1871, when he moved to Corsicana to be nearer his daughters, who had married German men and moved there with the railroad. In the evening of April 6, 1877, he told his wife that he was going to die and asked her to bring his Bible, gather the family, and light the lamp. He died quietly at midnight and was buried at the Oakwood Cemetery, Corsicana. His wife died in Hempstead on September 14, 1888, and was buried alongside her husband.
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Dorothy Klumpp and Albert J. Blaha, Sr., The Saga of Ernst Bergmann (Houston, 1981). Clinton Machann and James W. Mendl, Krásná Amerika: A Study of the Texas Czechs, 1851–1939 (Austin: Eakin Press, 1983).
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Albert J. Blaha, Sr.,
“Bergmann, Josef Arnost,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 29, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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