During the late 1800s, the Slovenians began immigrating to the United States in increasing numbers. Instead of finding better economic conditions than they experienced in the "old country," many faced hardship and unemployment.
There were no unions, social security, or welfare agencies to care for the needy. When sickness beset an immigrant he and often his entire family became the burden of friends and relatives. Public collections to pay for burials and to assist widows and orphans were commonplace.
As immigrant numbers continued to increase, the early Slovenians realized that protection was necessary for the less fortunate to keep them from becoming public charges. Slovenians banded together in various states to form fraternal lodges as a mechanism to help each other in time of need. But there were some early leaders who saw a need for a larger and more integrated society.
The early guiding spirits of what was to become KSKJ were Msgr. Joseph Buh, publisher of the American Slovenian (Amerikanski Slovenec), and Fr. F.S. Sustersic, a Joliet priest.
Msgr. Buh urged "Slovenians Unite!" in an autumn of 1893 article. Fr. Sustersic campaigned that Slovenians would have greater security in a united organization.
A committee was formed, and during the first organizational meeting held at the home of Peter Jurjevcic on North Chicago Street in Joliet, IL, the committee approved by-laws to merge 10 independent Slovenian benefit lodges to form the first Slovenian fraternal union on April 2, 1894.
KSKJ began official operations on June 1, 1894 with 333 members and no treasury. It was also on June 1, 1894 that Msgr. Buh's newspaper published the KSKJ Glasilo (Voice) pages within his Amerikanski Slovenec (American Slovenian) newspaper. That nameplate, the oldest Slovenian newspaper in the world, is now part of the KSKJ Voice. The Amerikanski Slovenec is printed in the Slovenian language.