Macedonians in the US Census

Macedonians in the US Census

Macedonians in the US Census

By Dusan Sinadinoski

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp besides the golden door.

From The New Colossus by the 19th Century American Poet, Emma Lazarus

The majority of the several million newly arrived immigrants had no idea that these words were inscribed on a plate at the bottom of the Statute of Liberty – the Welcoming Lady, whose height and beauty combine for an awesome visual experience. These arrivals came from different countries of the world, spoke different languages, and practiced diverse customs. Some of them were more educated and skilled than others. And some were full of dreams and high hopes of becoming rich or famous; but most simply wanted a new and better life for themselves. In that midst of the myriad of people from all races, nationalities and social classes, a handful of Macedonianpeca lbari (wage earners) had more pressing issues on their minds rather than thinking of making history – but they did.

The first Macedonians who planted their feet on American soil left behind Macedonia, a country ravaged by wars where political persecution and ethnic cleansing occurred daily. Regardless of who controlled their homeland, and no matter to which nationality, ethnicity or religion the Macedonians belonged, they were poor, illiterate and deprived of hope for a better future. Following the Balkan Wars of 1913, the Macedonia was completely erased from the map. A few decades later, they were renamed Greeks, Bulgarians, Serbs or Albanians depending on which country their part of Macedonia ended up in. But in spite of this the Macedonian pecalbari brought over Macedonia in their hearts to America, where they were free to call themselves Macedonians and to speak their Macedonian language.

It would have probably never been known who the first Macedonians to settle in America were if it wasn’t for the United States Census Bureau. The first census taken in America was in 1790, when the country numbered 3.9 million people. We do not know if there were any Macedonians among those first Americans; but in 1860, only half a century later, the name Macedonia appeared for the first time on a U.S. census. The assistant marshal and census taker at the post office of Empire City (the Empire Precinct in the county of Coos, Oregon) on the twelfth of September in 1860 documented that a certain Richard Casaus was born in Macedonia. He was 54 years old at the time and was married to Harriet Casaus, who was two years older than he. They had three children: Charlotte 14, Elizabeth 4 and Victori 1. Also listed on the same document was Joseph Casaus, age 40.

Initially, given the fact that none of the listed names appear to be traditional Macedonian names; it would seem very preposterous to make a claim that Richard Casaus was Macedonian. But Richard Casaus, if that was his real name, gave that information. Knowing also that Harriet, his wife, was born in Florida further shows that Richard could have come to Florida from some place else. Prior to 1860, Florida was still mostly a Spanish speaking state and he could have got his last name there because the name “Casaus” is often found in Spanish speaking countries. Macedonians rarely used last names prior to prior to 1913.

Also listed living at the same address was Joseph Casaus (MacedonianJosif) who was 40 years old and was born in Russia. This definitely implies that Richard could have traveled to Russia where Joseph was born and they probably together came to Florida. The census does not say whether Richard and Joseph were brothers. But since Richard is only 14 years older than Joseph it makes it quite unlikely to assume that they were father to son related.

One can also make the case that Richard could have been born in some of the towns named “Macedonia” in USA. This postulate makes sense but in 1805, when Richard was born, there were no places in USA called Macedonia. In addition, the census only asked that the head of household give the US state or territory, or a country if foreign born as place of birth. The towns, cities and villages were not accepted as valid answer.

Moreover, since neither their first or last names are typical Macedonian, Slavic or Orthodox Christian sounding names, it makes no sense to maintain the validity of the census data. It is a known fact that most immigrants change their names upon arrival to USA either for economic reason or some other factors. Having the historical perspective in mind, it is only reasonable to assume that they would want to give their children English names. In any event, Richard Casaus is the first known person to list Macedonia as his birth place. Hopefully, further research could shed some more light on the life of Richard Casaus.

The next census of 1870 show no entry for any citizens born in Macedonia. But two immigrants from Turkey with typical Macedonian names stand out in the list of citizens who were born in Turkey: Pano Gospondonof and Andrea Isanoff. All we know about these two gentlemen is that Andrea Isanoff was 23 years old and lived in Ithaca, New York while Pano Gospondonof was 23 years old and lived in Royalston, Massachusetts.

The 1880 census records show that three people were born in Macedonia. They were Thomas and Anthony Protopsaltis, and Constantine Trico. The spelling of the last names for Thomas and Anthony was difficult to ascertain because the document is smudged. But what the document shows is that Thomas was a 32-year old physician and a widower who was born in Macedonia. He also said that both his father and mother were born in Macedonia. Similarly, Constantine was born in Macedonia in 1848 with both parents having been born in Macedonia, and he was also single and a minister. Constantine’s last name may have been Trajko because the letter “i” corresponds to the Macedonian pronunciation “aj” and the letter “c” when written before “o” is pronounced “k”.

The next few censuses produced several people who state Macedonia as their place of birth. What is notable and interesting for us is that we now find Macedonians who are boarding in larger groups, which indicates that those people were trulypecalbari. For instance, the 1900 census shows that ten Macedonians listed Philadelphia Ward 14, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania as their address reported that they were born in Macedonia. Also, the 1900 census shows that Simon Vasoff to have been the first known Macedonian to have lived in Alaska.

A significant increase in number of people shown to have been born in Macedonia occurred in the 1910 census. Here we find 423 people have listed Macedonia as their birth place. Again, the pattern appears more and more evident that these Macedonians werepeca lbari because the majority lived in boarding houses throughout the United States. Sometimes these men were listed as singles and lived in boarding houses in groups of ten or more people. Evidently, they must have worked in some large factories, lumber yards, ship docks, coal mines, etc. The largest masses of Macedonian immigrants are found in Gary Ward #4, Lake, Indiana; Indianapolis Ward #13, Marion, Indiana; Wayne, Owen, Indiana; Zumbrota, Goodhue, Minnesota; Havre Ward #2, Chouteau, Montana; Pembroke, Merrimack, New Hampshire; Manhattan Ward #15, New York; Springfield Ward #2, Clark, Ohio; Madison, Armstrong, Pennsylvania; Salt Lake City Ward #2, Salt Lake , Utah; and Castlewood, Russell, Virginia.

The Fourteenth Census of the United States of America taken in 1920 shows 5,411 people who have listed Macedonia as their birth place. Although many Macedonians were still found in boarding houses, the vast majority of them listed individual addresses and had their wives and children living with them. But what is of more significance to the Macedonians is that this census, in addition to place of birth, also asked for the father’s place of birth and his mother tongue, as well as mother’s place of birth and her mother tongue. Many thousands of Macedonians in addition to calling themselves Macedonians they also listed that their fathers and mothers were born in Macedonia and their language was also Macedonian. For instance, in Lackawanna Ward #1, Erie, New York, we find twelve men who responded as such. Those men were Risto Simoff, Risto Feftim, Jose Cortkoff, Joseph Androff, Stephan Naum, Nielier Strfoff, Nickolas Traickeff, Janes Hristeff, Dimitry Setreff, Nicholas Strfoff, Kosta Sonteroff and Talle Mitroff.

The last census which shows Macedonia as a birth place, a nationality, and a language was the 1930 census. These census documents show that 1, 788 people were born in Macedonia. But this number is now significantly less than that of 1920 census. There are many reasons why this happened, but those reasons were far beyond the control of ordinary Macedonians. Perhaps if Greece and Bulgaria let their population census become available to the world we could answers many more questions.

These several thousands Macedonians made history without trying. They came to America to escape tyranny and devastation and all they wanted was to make a better living for them and their families back home. Yet, decades later their names would be immortalized. Who could have imagined that one day a small country of Macedonia thousands of miles away would be forever thankful to those United States census takers who dutifully wrote what they heard?

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