The Petru Family of Saint Procopius Parish

From Dlouha Lhota to Chicago

Jan and Josefa Petru would arrive in Chicago in 1876.  They and their children would first live with the Reverend William Coka, the first pastor of Saint Procopius Catholic Church, and the first nuns to staff the school.  Jan Petru would become the first teacher and first principal of Saint Procopius School.

Jan and Josefa's children would attend Saint Procopius school.  Several would participate in the school's musical program and several would marry in their church.  Members of the Petru family would live within a block of Saint Procopius through the decades to 1960, with the death of Quido Petru, son of Quido Petru, son of Jan Petru's death in 1960 at 1706 S. Racine.

Jan Petru, his brother Frank and his father, were veteran teachers living and working in Bohemia.  Jan was blessed with the additional gift of having musical talent, and so would a number of his children.

Jan Petru, born 10-25-1825 in Chotomice married Josefa Kosik in 1853. (Ancestry family trees list this year, but no verified record of actual date or location discovered so far.)

Jan and Josefa began their family in Dlouha Lhota, district of Choustik, with their children born at #47.  Children of Jan and Josefa born at #47: Josefa on 3-19-1860, Emanuel on 12-20-1863, Maria on 1-2-1865, Vaclav on 9-5-1869 and Anna on 4-30-2874.  Other children were born, but apparently did not survive.  During this same time period there were several other Petru families in Dlouha Lhota. (1)

Images below: Left to Right: Aerial Map Dlouha Lhota (from  House #47 (from House #47, street view (from Google Maps).

Jan and Josefa Petru would leave Bohemia and arrive in Chicago in 1876.  Jan was apparently contacted by Reverend William Coka, first pastor of Saint Procopius Church, and Jan agreed to become a teacher at the soon to open Saint Procopius Church school.

In 1895, Chicago papers published articles describing and honoring John Petru's fiftieth year as a teacher.  The articles provided an insight into John's time in Bohemia and his subsequent move to Chicago to become a teacher and the first principal of Saint Procopius school.

John Petru, who is well known among the entire Bohemian population of Chicago, and who taught school at St. Prokop's Parish, corner Alport and Eighteenth street, this city, will celebrate his fiftieth anniversary as a teacher tomorrow. He was born Oct. 10, 1825 in Chotemic, Bohemia, and is one of the twins born to John Petru, Sr., who likewise taught school there for forty years. His brother, Frank Petru, is still teaching and has been teaching school as Sobeslav, Bohemia for fifty years. John Petru Jr. was graduated from the normal school in Jindrichov Hradec, Bohemia, and when 18 years old was appointed assistant at Prohorov, Bohemia and in 1845 obtained and independent place as teacher at Popelin, and thereafter taught school in Tucab, Pohnani, Hostice, Horebnik and finally in Dlouha Lhota in 1853, remaining there as teacher for the space of twenty-two years, when he emigrated with his family in 1875, at the earnest request and solicitation of the parish priest of St. Prokop's Parish of this city, where he has taught to this day. His family consists of three sons and three daughters, residing at Nos. 567 and 568 Center Avenue. (2)

The Saint Procopius School web site contains additional supporting information:

St. Procopius School began in 1876 with Mr. John Petru, a professional teacher and organist, as its first principal. School enrollment grew very rapidly. Two Franciscan sisters from Joliet joined the growing school. The sisters lived in a small house on the north side of 21st Street between Racine and May before they moved into the church building. Within a few years two more buildings and part of a third were acquired for the school. In the building at 1714 S. Racine, seven Franciscan sisters established their convent on the second floor with classrooms on the first floor. (3)

Departing Bremen and arriving at Baltimore on 6-3-1876 aboard the ship Ohio:Petru: Joh 51, Josefa 47, Josefa 16, Onnch (Quito) 9 ½, Emmanuel 8, Maria 7, Wenzl 5, Anna 11/12.  (4)

The 1880 Census lists the Petru family living with other teachers, the nuns, and pastor (William Coka) of Saint Procopius, at 702 and 710 Allport.  (The 1885 Chicago Directory still lists the same address.  The 1892 Chicago Directory lists the Centre Street address)

1880 Illinois Cook Chicago 057 Page 45 at 702 Allport
John Petreno 53, Josephina 49, Josephina 20, Peter 18 (quido), Emond 16, Mary 14, Wenzlaw 10, Anna 6

Quido Petru married Katerina Prucha on 1-23-1888 in Chicago.

Josephine Petru married Paul Slatinsky on 9-11-1881 in Chicago at Saint Procopius Catholic Church.  Reverend William Coka was the presiding priest.

Emanuel Petru married Agnes Kopecky on 11-17-1890 in Chicago. (Departing Hamburg for New York on 9-27-1885 aboard the ship Lessing, listing Hodkovice as last residence.  Agnes Kopecky 18.)

Marie Petru married Thomas Kraus on 9-20-1896 in Chicago at Saint Procopius Catholic Church.

Vaclav (Wencelaus) Petru married Emily Vanis on 8-2-1897 in Chicago at Saint Procopius Catholic Church.

On 9-1-1909 Chicago renumbered many street addresses.  (567 and 569 Centre become 1706 and 1708 Centre) On 8-15-1913 Chicago changed many Street Names. (Centre, Center became Racine)

Between 1885 and 1892 the Petru famlies moved to 567 and 569 Centre Street.  Multiple family members would live at these addresses through the 1940 census.  The building, still just a block from Saint Procopius Church. Image Left - 1706 & 1708 S. Racine - Google Maps)

1900 Illinois Cook Chicago Ward 8 D0208 Page 43 at 567 Center
John Petrie (Appears to be correctly spelled on census record itself) 75, Josephine 71, Annie 26
Same Address (Here 1882)
Kosik: Joseph 53, Mary 51 and family
Paul Slatinsky 38, Josephine 40, Quido 15, Otto 14, Mathod 8, Paul 7
Page 42 at 569 Center
Petrie Emanuel 34, Agnes 29, John 8, Edmond 5, Miloslav 2 (Emanuel is listed as a tea importer)
Wenclaus Petru 30, Emma 21, Emma 2, Agnes 1
Quido Petru 39, Katie 38, Bessie 12, Mary 11, !uido 8

Father John died in 1902.  Mother Josephine died in 1908.  Both interred in Saint Adalbert’s Catholic Cemetery in Niles. (5)

Anna Petru married Anton Nemanich on 5-8-1908 in Chicago at Saint Procopius Catholic Church. (6) (7) (8)


Son of John, Emanuel Petru, became the first Bohemian to establish a national wholesale grocer business.

Emanuel Petru was born on December 20, 1863 at Dlohha Lhota #47.  He arrived with his parents and siblings to Chicago in 1876, lived his entire life and operated his business endeavors within a block of Saint Procopius Catholic Church.

On Augut 18, 1917, Denni Hlasatel posted an article providing more information on Emanuel Petru than found from any other source so far. (8)

Outstanding Example of Czech] Enterprise and Conscientiousness - Denní Hlasatel, Aug. 18, 1917

The Czech community of Chicago can justly boast of a goodly number of men who have become prosperous businessmen, though they had to start with small means.....There are, however, some among them who deserve special mention.

Emanuel J. Petru, merchant, is known all over the United States for he has thousands of customers, Czechs and of other nationalities, who send in their orders for coffee, tea, and spices. This success explains itself by Mr. Petru's conscientiousness which, our fellow-countrymen have good naturedly agreed upon, almost borders on over-punctiliousness. Our readers may, therefore, be eager to learn about his life.

Dlouha Lhota, a small forlorn village near Tabor, southern Bohemia, is the place of his birth. His father was a schoolteacher, and, therefore, struggled to make both ends meet. But it was not finances which compelled the elder Petru to emigrate. Political conditions and the craving for freedom induced him to come to America.

This was in the year 1875. He settled in Chicago in the community of his fellow-countrymen. Emanuel J. Petru was a little boy then. He went through the public schools, and being attracted to business, he became active in it at the early age of fourteen. He started in a dry goods store of our fellow-countryman, Mr. Zavadil on West Twelfth Street, without pay. He stayed there for two months, then changed to work for a grocery store where he drew the "princely" wages of one dollar per week. Naturally, eager for more, he quit to finally find work which paid the highest wages obtainable for a boy of his age at that time.

Mr. Petru was not more than eighteen years of age when he entered business for himself. He sold coffee, and after meeting with success, he opened a store, subsequently extending his activity gradually into the general grocery business. His ambition was not limited to stop at this grade of progress. He sold out, and became a salesman for a wholesale house, only to go into the wholesale business for himself. He was only twenty-two years old when he took this important step of his career. The next one was the establishment of connections with a Czech concern of the old homeland, for which he sold fig chicory in wholesale lots through his newly founded firm named the "Petru American Importing Company." (Note: As early as 1895 advertisements for Petru American Importing Company have been found.) (9)

The years went on, and Mr. Petru's enterprise scored again. The Java Coffee Mills, the first Czech wholesale grocery concern in the United States, a firm of transoceanic dimensions, was founded by him with headquarters at 1708 South Racine Avenue.  (Note: 1706 and 1708, as adjacent addresses in the same shared building, Emanuel operated his business enterprises from his home.)

Mr. Petru's private life is quiet. He is married and is the father of three children. Though he came to this country when only a child, he always hails the Czechs as of his kind.

Advertisements for Petru American Importers and Java Coffee Mills appeared in Czech or German language newspapers for decades, continuing on after Emanuel's death.

Images Below: Left to Right: Amerikan Kalendar 1919, Denni Hlasatel 1916, Amerikan Kalendar 1907. (10)

Emanuel died in 1931.  Wife, Agnes died in 1943. Several of Emanuel's children continued the family business for a few more years, but the entire business enterprise was dissolved in 1949.

Emanuel, Agnes, and his parents and many others  of this family are interred in Saint Adalbert's Catholic Cemetery in Niles.  A number of other family members are interred in Bohemian National Cemetery in Chicago.

Members of the  Petru family lived, from 1876 to 1960 within a block of Saint Procopius Catholic Church on Allport and later on Racine (Centre) avenues.  The last record found, so far, lists Quido Petru, organist and chauffeur, died in 1960 at 1706 S. Racine.  One could assume Quido still had musical talent as his grandfather, Jan Petru, and he practiced that talent at Saint Procopius.

Census records related to the Petru family:

1910 Illinois Cook Chicago Ward 10 D0537 Page 3 at 1708 South Centre.
Emanuel Pet 42, Agnes 35, Edmund 15, Miles 12, Helen 4 (Coffee and Teas – Employer) (Petru actually on the census record)

Page 4 at 1706 S. Racine
Thomas Kraus 45, Mary 44, Mary 13, Anne 10, Thomas Jr. 5
Quido Petru 48, Catherine 47, Bessie 21, Mary 20, Quido Jr. 17

1910 Illinois Cook Chicago Ward 10 D0537 Page 42 at 1632 S. Throop
Wenceslas Petru 39, Emma 31, Emma 12, Agnes 11, Anna 5

Wife Emily died in 1912
Husband Wenceslaus (Vaclav) died in 1917

1920 Illinois Cook Chicago Ward 10 D0621 Page 1 at 1708 S. Racine (Coffee Merchant)
Emanuel Petru 54, Agnes 50, Emanuel 24, Miles 21, Helen Petrie 12

At 1706 S. Racine
Quido Petru 58, Catherine 57, Quido Jr. 27, Mary 28

Thomas Kraus 56, Mary 55, Mary 29, Anna 19, Thomas 14

1920 Illinois Cook Chicago Ward 10 D0633 Page 2 at 1414 S. Ashland Avenue
Paul Slatinsky 58, Josephine 60, Paul 27

Paul died in 1925.  Josephine died in 1926

Quido died in 1928

1930 Illinois Cook Chicago D0930 Page 15 at 1708 S. Racine
Emanuel Petru 65, Agnes 59, Edmund 35, Miles 31

Page 14 at 1706 S. Racine
Catherine Petru 65
Thomas Kraus 66, Mary 65, Thomas Jr. 25

Catherine died in 1937.

1940 Illinois Cook Chicago 103-1382 Page 25 at 1706 S. Racine
Mary Kraus 75

1940 Illinois Cook Chicago 103-1382 Page 25 at 1708 S. Racine
Agnes Petru 70

Agnes died in 1943.

1950 Illinois Cook Chicago 103-2070 Page 17 at 1706 S. Racine
Mary Krouse 84
Quido Petru 54

Mary Kraus died in 1953.

Quido Petru died in 1960 with 1706 S. Racine listed as address.



1.  Archival records for birth of Petru children:

2. Chicago Tribune – 6-17-1895 Page 3 - John Petru to Celebrate His Golden Anniversary as a teacher.


4. NARA immigration and ship arrivals.

5. Find A Grave: John Petru 262604975, Josephine 262605069

6.  Saint Procopius Church Marriage records -  (Not all years available online - assumption - missing Petru children marriage records also at Saint Procopius.

7.  Chicago Census Records -

8. Denni Hlasatel, Czech Language Newspaper, Chicago and Cicero, Illinois.

9. Advertisement for Petru American Importers - Pokrok Zapadu, Czech Language Newspaper, Omaha Nebraska,  August 21, 1895, Page 5.

10. Denni Hlasatel, Czech Language Newspaper, Chicago and Cicero, Illinois.  Amerikan Kalendar, yearly publication of August Geringer, owner and publisher, Chicago,, Illinois.