70 Years & Beyond: Nolechek Family History
A lot of folks know the story of how Nolechek’s Meats began as the Thorp Locker Plant & Soda Fountain, purchased in 1948 by William F. "Doc" Nolechek. He was an entrepreneur at heart and owned Royal Oil Company and Central Refrigeration, along with the Locker, and was involved in the early days of Thorp Finance Corporation and also served as mayor of Thorp.
Thorp Locker Plant
...but what came before all of that? How did a Bohemian like Doc Nolechek end up in Thorp, Wisconsin, and come to purchase the Locker plant, which 70 years later still exists as Nolechek’s Meats? Sit back my friends, and let me tell you a story...
As we reflected on the past 70 years at Nolechek’s Meats, Chad (Nolechek) was inspired to begin researching the family name in order to learn more about William F. Nolechek "Doc" and where he came from, as well as Doc's own family history. Chad uncovered a plethora of information about the Nolechek family, tracing our roots back SIX generations to when Mathias (also Matej) and Magdalena Nuhlicek (also Nulischeck, Nohlechek, Nulecheck) emigrated to the United States from Bohemia, in September 1854, arriving in New York. Mathias was naturalized and became a United States citizen on July 24, 1860.
Mathias’s Naturalization Card (c. 1860)
Ledger with Mathias’s Military Registration (c. 1863)
Doc’s father, John, was born in May 1857, and his mother, Annie (Cookle), was born in August 1859, both in Missouri. Mathias and Magdalena then settled in the Kewaunee area and John and Annie married in 1876 and had eight children: Joseph, Frank, Emma, Peter, Rosa, William (Doc), Edward, and Walter. The Nohlecheks were farmers and, by the time Doc was born, they were living in Menominee, Michigan.
Doc left the family farm to attend veterinary school, graduating from Grand Rapids Veterinary College in 1915. He served as a 1st Lieutenant for the United States Army during World War I, in the European Theater, as a veterinary surgeon.
Doc’s World War I registration card
Doc’s World War II registration card
After World War I, Doc returned to Thorp, Wisconsin, where he practiced veterinary medicine until his retirement in the 1950s. Doc’s veterinary clinic was located where Senn Law Offices were, which is currently Bratcher Law Office, right across the street from the post office in Thorp.
In the early 1920s, Doc married Ruth Burke and the couple had two children, Elizabeth "Betty" and William J. Nolechek. Doc and Ruth incorporated Royal Oil, along with Wilfred and Dina Vanderhyden, in May 1927, and operated three locations: what is now Bob’s Corner Garage, another where Reis & Reis is on Washington Street, in Thorp, and a location in Gilman, Wisconsin.
Ruth (Burke) Nolechek
Doc was a self-made man and gave back to his profession and community. He served in various capacities with numerous veterinary associations, he was on the board of directors that built the pool in Thorp, he was a director of Thorp Finance Corporation, and he served as mayor in 1954. Doc and Ruth built the house in Thorp where Kelly and Laurie currently reside and the family had a home on Lake Holcombe and also in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. In his later years, he and Ruth spent their summers in Wisconsin and headed to Ft. Lauderdale for winter, enjoying a long retirement until Doc’s death on January 14, 1976.
We’re excited to learn more about the Nolechek family and when Spring arrives, I plan to take a trip to Kewaunee, WI, and Menominee, MI, to visit the cemeteries where Doc’s parents and siblings are buried. Perhaps I'll even be able to research if there are Nuhliceks in the area and meet the extended family and learn their story. There is something special about connecting with past generations that fosters an appreciation for what we have today.
To consider that 168 years ago, my great-great-great grandparents arrived in the United States is hard to wrap my head around. It is humbling to think about what the generations that went before me experienced and how all they endured has brought us to where we are today. I am forever grateful that for reasons unknown, Mathias and Magdalena made the decision to leave their home in Bohemia and depart for the United States. Because of that one decision and the countless that followed, we are blessed to have the opportunity to celebrate 70 years and four generations at Nolechek’s Meats.
I’ll leave everyone with the following that I came across a while ago…
In order to be born, you needed:
16 second great-grandparents
32 third great-grandparents
64 fourth great-grandparents
128 fifth great-grandparents
256 sixth great-grandparents
512 seventh great-grandparents
1,024 eighth great-grandparents
2,048 ninth great-grandparents
For you to be born today from 12 previous generations, you needed a total of 4,094 ancestors over the last 400 years. Think for a moment – How many struggles? How many battles? How many difficulties? How much sadness? How much happiness? How many love stories? How many expressions of hope for the future? – did your ancestors have to undergo for you to exist in this present moment?
Doc’s parents are buried in the Birch Creek Cemetery (Menominee, MI Township)
Mathias and Magdalena Nuhlicek’s headstone located in Saint Joseph Cemetery (Norman, WI)
Magdalena Nuhlicek and her obituary
‘…by hard work and perseverance had to overcome a great many burdensome obstacles…’
As Alyse pointed out, that sounds just like a stubborn Nolechek.
- Lindsey Nolechek