Jan Pribyl (1831-1925) and Ferdinand Pribyl (1840-1915) were brothers who were born in the village of Frenštát pod Radhoštěm (see map, history) in the province of Moravia in what is now the Czech Republic. In their era, the Czech lands were part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and living conditions were so poor for the common people that many fled their native lands to join the ever-increasing swell of immigrants who populated the American continent during the 19th and 20th centuries. Most hoped to attain personal freedom, property, and some modicum of prosperity in the new land.

Jan, his wife Wilhelmina (Boehm), and their 4 children – William, Henry, Bedrich, and Libusa – came first, in 1873, and settled in Fayette County, Texas, a destination for many Moravian immigrants. A daughter, Antonia, was born the following year. Ferdinand and his 2nd wife, Anna (Malčak), with their son Anton, followed in 1885, also settling in Fayette County near Jan. In 1887, Ferdinand moved his family to Halletsville to take a teaching job in a newly opened Catholic school. In 1888 Albert Stockbauer, Anna's orphaned nephew who was the same age as Anton, came to live with Ferdinand and Anna. In 1892 the two families purchased 500 acres of land together in Victoria County, where they farmed cotton and vegetables and lived out their lives. Ferdinand died in 1915 at the age of 75; Jan died in 1925 at the age of 94.

Both Jan and Ferdinand fulfilled their dreams of finding a better life and of offering their children a more secure future than would have been possible in Europe. But they also left a legacy for those beyond their immediate family circle. This has come to us in the form of artwork produced by Ferdinand and over 200 intimate letters that were exchanged between the brothers during their periods of separation. The letters tell us not only of the personal lives of the brothers, but are a document of this most important period in modern history. They were carefully preserved and treasured by their descendants, and have been translated from the original Czech into English.

In Jan's letters, he describes in vivid images the struggles he encounters with his new existence in untamed Texas — the locust plagues, deadly centipedes, crop failures, droughts, floods, and malaria. But his determination to succeed in his chosen life is paramount, and as the years progress it becomes obvious that he has established a rewarding life in his adopted country. Ferdinand meanwhile, is having a difficult struggle with the terrible economic and social conditions in Europe, and is trying to come to terms with the fateful decision to break all ties with his native land and join Jan in America. The letters voice their hopes and fears, the tragedies and victories of their lives, and above all, their continuing tenacity, a most necessary virtue when beginning life anew in an unfamiliar land.

Ferdinand's artwork is another legacy prized by the family. In the years after he settled in Victoria, he produced panoramic 3-dimensional Nativity scenes and a number of landscape paintings executed in the traditions of his native country. They are painted with an artistry, imagination, and surety of vision that is remarkable for one who has been so uprooted and struggles to feed his family by working the soil. Ferdinand’s artwork has been exhibited in several venues and excerpts from the brother’s letters have also been published.

We, the descendants of Jan and Ferdinand, wish to honor these two ancestors who left such treasures of their lives for our whole family. Through this website, we share with you their intelligence and creativity, their insight and philosophy, and the uncommon bond that was exhibited between them in a life journey that covered almost a century of time — a century that was pivotal in the history of the world.

The website contains photographic representations of Ferdinand’s art, excerpts from the letters of the brothers, articles that have been written about them, and public presentations that have been delivered on their work and lives. For a comprehensive article about the brothers and the family preservation of their work, please see the article published in Kosmas, a literary magazine of the Czechoslovak Society of Arts and Sciences (SVU).

A listing of the content available on this website follows:  

angel_icon Letters: Excerpts, photographs, and information on the letters Pribyl Brothers Montage
angel_icon Artwork: Ferdinand’s extant body of work contains three complete panoramic nativity scenes, figures from unfinished scenes and several paintings
angel_icon History: Articles that have been written over the years about the brothers–also a genealogy chart
angel_icon Photos: Photos of the brothers and their extended families
angel_icon Exhibitions: Information about museum exhibits of Ferdinand’s work
angel_icon Presentations: PowerPoint presentations on the brothers’ letters and art
angel_icon Contact


Elizabeth Stockbauer

This website is dedicated to Elizabeth Stockbauer. Without her tireless efforts over many decades in researching, documenting, and archiving both her husband's and her own family histories, the documentation of the artwork and letters of the Pribyl brothers as shown on this website would not have been possible. Her genealogy research and her discovery and preservation of many documents, especially the letters of the Pribyl brothers, have helped keep their memory alive almost a century after their deaths.

All rights reserved – 2010.
Website by James Harris & Bette Stockbauer-Harris.