Once again, we have Larry to thank for finding a book on archive.org called Bohemia and the Czechs; the history, people, institutions, and the geography of the Kingdom together with accounts of Moravia and Silesia, published in 1910 in Boston. It finally explains the conditions our family lived with for centuries, and why they must have felt almost compelled to leave when they could.
Chapter 17 is "Agriculture in Bohemia", and remember, this was written only 40 years after Johann & Marya left for America.
Bohemia is the richest agricultural kingdom in the Hapsburg empire. Its soil is fertile, the climate is favorable, and the country is well watered. More than half the area is devoted to agriculture; [of the rest,] 5% is given to pasture lands; 10% to grass meadows; less than 2% to vegetable gardening, and 29% to forests. It will thus be seen that less than 1% of the total area of the kingdom is unproductive.
Unfortunately, more than a third of the agricultural lands belong to the nobility. The emperor and the Roman Catholic church are also large land holders. Five families...own nearly 8% of the area of the kingdom, and seven hundred and seventy six landlords...own more than 36% of the area of the country....
The big estates, it is charged, impoverish the people, since each of the feudal families has an enormous staff of overseers, labourers and hangers-on, none of whom are nearly as productive as they would be on small holdings..This last part was particularly galling to our ancestors because a decree from the Emperor in 1849 had "freed the peasants from all obligations to their feudal lords", but it took 20 more years before they could actually determine their own futures.
I think Johann and Marya began the process of leaving immediately (1867), but it took them two years to accomplish.
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Larry found Prague police records online from that time period, with many HESCHs listed. They're written in police shorthand, but I believe they were records of immigrants who lived in local tenement buildings while they earned ship fare. Below is a Franz Hesch who had been a Major in the army (K.K.) and who unfortunately died 10 November 1880, before he made it out of the country.
I believe Johann, Marya and their sons went thru this process too, but survived....and finally arrived in New York in March, 1869.