(James) Vaclav Sleder, founder of Sleder’s Family Tavern

This excerpt comes to us from A Story of Traverse City, Michigan and some of the Early Settlers, written and illustrated by the artist Aldrich Farsky (yes, the Farsky featured in the May 2016 issue of Grand Traverse Journal). This was originally printed in Czech in 1908, in the national Czech publication Amerikan Kalandar. In 1977, Mr and Mrs. Edward Van Leishout and Mr. William E. Votruba translated the story in to English, which details the overseas immigration of the Czechs, as well as profiles a few of the more prominent Bohemain citizens of Traverse City, with an emphasis on their success.  A copy is available for reading at the Traverse Area District Library, Woodmere Main Library.

One of the early settlers featured is (James) Vaclav Sleder, the man who would found the long-standing Sleder’s Family Tavern on Randolph Street:

“From his home, Cvrovic by Klatov in Czechy he emigrated to Traverse City when he was 32 years ol.d Things were not exactly as he had envisioned them to be. With his solid faith in the future and a great deal of hard work, he managed to bring his wife and sons Louis 9, Joseph 7, Andrew 3 and daughter Margaret to his new home.

Victor Petertyl Wagon Works employees at the factory on State Street, 1891. (Note the Hannah Lay store on Front street in the background with almost nothing between them.) L-R: Vic Petertyl, Jim ? (woodworker), Wm. Abbott (horse shoer), Herman Koch (finisher), Albert Petertyl (blacksmith), Vencil Sleder (woodworker), Pat Robertson (helper and horse shoer), Chas. Weland (painter) and Anton Petertyl. (At the far left is either the Union Street Hotel or the back of the Masonic Building. Opinions vary.) Perhaps a member of the Sleder family can inform us the relationship between Vencil and Vaclav. From the Photo Collection at Traverse Area District Library Local History, 718.000001.100.
Victor Petertyl Wagon Works employees at the factory on State Street, 1891. (Note the Hannah Lay store on Front street in the background with almost nothing between them.) L-R: Vic Petertyl, Jim ? (woodworker), Wm. Abbott (horse shoer), Herman Koch (finisher), Albert Petertyl (blacksmith), Vencil Sleder (woodworker), Pat Robertson (helper and horse shoer), Chas. Weland (painter) and Anton Petertyl. (At the far left is either the Union Street Hotel or the back of the Masonic Building. Opinions vary.) Perhaps a member of the Sleder family can inform us the relationship between Vencil and Vaclav. From the Photo Collection at Traverse Area District Library Local History, 718.000001.100.

Having been an apprentice in Wagon Working in Czechy he had found work in the Gramfort Wagon Works, but on arrival of his dependents he found a better position with the Petertyl factory. Here he stayed for 12 years. At this time he invested his savings in a new building which soon became the most favored saloon by all. On the 2nd floor he operated a dance hall and entertainment center. Because of his friendly personality and direct, honest and free thinking attitude, he was respected by everyone.

Hunters on the "Onekama" returning from a Upper Peninsula deer hunt trip: L-R: Guy Cox, Jack Smith, Fred Emerson, Leander Muncey, Richard Emerson, Lewis Franklin, J.N. Martinek, Elija Cox, Gus Petander, William Smith, James Mahan, Louis Sleder, Charles Mitchell & Captain Emory, 1898. From the Grand Traverse Pioneer and Historical Society Collection, 873.
Hunters on the “Onekama” returning from a Upper Peninsula deer hunt trip: L-R: Guy Cox, Jack Smith, Fred Emerson, Leander Muncey, Richard Emerson, Lewis Franklin, J.N. Martinek, Elija Cox, Gus Petander, William Smith, James Mahan, Louis Sleder, Charles Mitchell & Captain Emory, 1898. From the Grand Traverse Pioneer and Historical Society Collection, 873.

After running his business for 10 years Mr. Sleder turned the active management of the saloon over to his oldest son Louis, who continued his father’s practices and profited likewise. He enrolled his 2nd son in an engineering school and the youngest son entered the army for the duration of the war against Spain. It so happened he was discharged about the same time as the second son completed his schooling so finding himself with two fine sons to take over his other duties, Mr. Sleder began to devote his time to volunteer work and good deeds. It was on such a mission that he lost his life. A fellow C.S.P.S. [note: the Czech-Slovak Protective Society] member Mr. J. Ryant has [sic.] passed away and Mr. Sleder volunteered to notify people of his death and make arrangements for the lodge sponsored funeral. This was Dec. 17th 1905. His horse became frightened and ran away throwing Mr. Sleder out of his sleigh in such a manner that he was fatally injured.

After his death his three sons managed his business interests with such good judgement that everything prospered. They soon invested in a brewery which was remodeled, by son Joseph, (who had become a fine engineer), until it became a modern, well equipped and attractive as well as prosperous business, which permitted the three of them to own 2 of the 21 saloons in Traverse City at this writing with very good prospects of expanding still more in the future.

Certainly the 3 sons have proven that the good example their father set for them was not wasted.”

For a complete list of persons listed in this 49-page story by Farsky, see the catalog record at the Traverse Area District Library’s online Local History Collection.

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3 thoughts on “(James) Vaclav Sleder, founder of Sleder’s Family Tavern”

  1. Varclav & Vincil are the same person. Also Vincil died in 1904 not 1905. I am a great grand son of Vincil & a grand son of Andrew

    1. Thank you for reading, John, and for your comments on correcting that 1908 article by Farsky. Yours is not the only note we received on the inaccuracies in the original article, which is one of the brilliant things about republishing old texts… fresh eyes find many errors! Thanks again, and keep on sleuthing!

  2. From reader Susan Quillman: Amy, what a wonderful surprise!!!! So excited to see this. Yes, the man 3rd from the Right is my great grandfather, better known as Vencl Sleder. For some strange reason, Vaclav was translated into either James, William or Vencil. (My father was named after his grandfather: Vencil Hubka.) His only daughter, MARGARET Sleder was my paternal grandmother. I sent this along to John Burch: his maternal grandfather was ANDREW Sleder, 3rd son of Vaclav/Wencl (Vencil). Also to Jo Haase: her father was JOSEPH Sleder, 2nd son of Wencl Sleder. Jo is 94 years of age and still sharp as a tack.

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