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MARDOS Memorial Library Collection.
This county is adjacent on the west to Saline County, and the original settlements were really an overflow from the latter county.
1867--The Following Came:
Frank Znojemsky, birthplace unknown; John Steinachr, Sobeslav, Tabor; John Kral, Holsice.
1868--The Following Came:
Ferdinand Sluka, Volenice; John K. Barbour, an adopted Czech boy and a Civil War veteran, who came from Michigan.
1869--The Following Came:
Frank Becvar, Nezamyslice; John Zelenka, Nezamyslice; John Kolar, Milin, Pribram; Joseph Jez, Skrejsov; Fr. Kebrle, Vejvanov, Zbirov; John Zizka, Ertisovice, Pribram; Vaclav and Joseph Kralicek, birthplace unknown; Frank Kostlan, birthplace unknown.
1870--The Following Came:
John Kotas, Kozojedy; John Bernasek, Prodeslady; Joseph Kasik, Zhor, Kralovice; Frank Motys, Koryta; Frank Barta, birthplace unknown. He invented a method for making binder twine and sold the patent to the McCormick company, the grain straw to be used as the binder. It worked when the straw was green, but not when dry. While planning how to overcome this defect, Barta became insane and died. Danek, birthplace unknown.
1871--The Following Came:
John Kasak, Zichovice, Susice; Ignac Podlesak, Slatina, Blatna; Martin Bedlan, Maresovice.
1872--The Following Came:
Anton, Rudolph, John, Vaclav and Celestyn Ulrich, who came from Trtice, Nova Straseci; Paul Anton, Lhota, Dacice; Paul Buzek, Radlice; Joseph Korbelik, Ledmerice, Manetin; John Placek, Rakolusky, who had settled first near Crete (1869); Anton Vavra, Horazdovice; Joseph Sladek, Horazdovice; M. Cizek, birthplace unknown; Matej Kubicek, Nezamyslice; Frank Hotek, Koryta.
1873--The Following Came:
John Cudly, Radlice.
1874--The Following Came:
Frank Tvrz, birthplace unknown; Vaclav Koca, Zibenice; Frank and Matej Stech, Skalice, Sobeslav, Tabor; Matej Jech, birthplace unknown; Frank Hrdy, birthplace unknown; Matt. Votypka, Nalzovy. Planice; Ondrej Linhart, Susice; Andrew Kotrous, Volenice; Peter Kotrous, Strakonice.
1876--The Following Came:
Bohumil Girmus, Praha.
1877--The Following Came:
Fr. Ruzicka, birthplace unknown; Ignac Baroch, birthplace unknown; Joseph Jez, Skrychov, Tabor.
1878--The Following Came:
John Hromadka, Volenice; Jos. Krejdl, Cekov, Zbirov. Killed by run-away team while hauling flour from Fairmont. Joseph Janousek, Stechovice, Manetin; Isidor, Vitus, John, Anton and Joseph Laun, and Anton Petracek, Trtice, Nove Straseci.
1879--The Following Came:
Joseph Klima, Trtice, Nove Straseci; Joseph Rohla, Trtice, Nove Straseci.
Other pioneers, date of coming not exactly known:
Joseph Podlesak, Slatina, Blatna; Joseph Svec, Trtice, Nove Straseci; Stephen Hlina, Kasejovice, Blatna; Vaclav Svec, Trtice, Nove Straseci; Frank Andrle, Bezdekov, Klatovy; Karel Masek, Zichovice; John Doupnik, Radnice, Moravia; Fr. Krejci, Zbirov, Horovice; Joseph Krejdl, Cekov, Zbirov.
Birthplace unknown: Anton Doupnik, Joseph Macku, Frank Suda, Joseph, John, Paul and George Kouba, Fr. Mrkvicka, John Simanek, Matej Benes, Frank Kopac, Pasek, Hess, Volin, Kuticka, Kostlan.
George Newer (Novak) now of Kingfisher, Oklahoma. His brothers Frank and John were killed at a picnic dance about 1885.
The following is an example of what pioneers in that county had to endure. It is taken from an account given by John Placek, father of E. E. Placek, well known attorney and business man of Wahoo, who this year refused the candidacy for governor (democrat).
John Placek was born in 1837 in Rakolusky, Kralovice County and in 1863 married Catherine Kotas (born in Kozojedy). In September 1868 they came to Chicago, then to St. Louis. The following year they went up the river (a seven days' trip) to Nebraska City, where they found Vac. Petracek, who conducted a boarding house at the time. Petracek informed Placek of a countryman named Koleno, from Brezi, Bohemia. Koleno advised him to wait until the Czech settlers from the Big Blue country came down, that they would take him back with them. Shortly thereafter Matej and Frank Kovarik, John Brabec and George Krajnik did come down to get a seeder they had ordered. Placek bought a wagon and other necessities and set out with them. They stayed at Krajnik's for three days, sleeping in their wagon, because Krajnik's sod house was filled to overflowing. Vincenc Aksamit had a homestead in that section and on it a little shed, so they moved in and lived there one winter. Placek had to go to Nebraska City, seventy-five miles, for furniture. In the spring he took a claim, broke up thirty acres and lived in an open camp. Later he built a dug-out, where their son was born. When the child was three days old, the mother came to the field with it and helped Placek plant potatoes, the other children staying at home alone. A cloudburst occurred, the mother and child sought shelter under the wagon and Placek hurried home. He found the dug-out filled with water, the frightened children in bed. At the time of his coming, he had brought with him a nephew, who found work with a settler, but sickened and came to Placeks to die. Their home measured 4x6 feet, they had to place the corpse outside and cover it until the funeral.
The next year Placek planted seventy acres. Many settlers poured in. The year following that he bought railroad land in Fillmore County, selling it two years later, an eighty, for $800.00 and buying a quarter section for $700.00. Then he bought another eighty for $400.00 and still later school land for $1,000.00, all in Fillmore County. As his boys grew to manhood, he kept on selling improved land and buying unimproved, to give them farms, -- all earned by the hard work of himself and his family. It was a good example of the way many others did and in time were rewarded.
Settlers kept coming, railroads were built, towns were established and Placek was able in his old age to retire with his wife to Milligan, to enjoy a well-earned rest, and, as he said, to await the time when they were to abide in that last and smallest "sod house" of all, which measures but 2x6 feet but in which its occupants find eternal peace
Czechs live pretty well over the county, most heavily around and in Milligan, which is almost entirely Czech.
The site of Milligan was formerly a farm owned by Joseph Svec (born in Trtice, Nove Straseci). He bought it from the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Company June 5, 1885 for $758.40, sold it May 23, 1887 to John M. Ragan, Trustee, for $2,022 and Ragan sold it June 9, 1887 to Chas. F. Smith, Trustee, for $2,821.20. Smith sold it to the citizens of the newly established town of Milligan, the vicinity of which was largely settled by Czechs. In the fall of that year the Kansas City & Omaha Railroad Company built a branch line from Fairbury to McCool Junction.
The first inhabitant of Milligan was Karel (Charles) Polansky, a blacksmith and the first owners of lots Kotas and Bulin, hardware merchants. The former was born in Kozojedy, Kralovice, the latter in Vyrov, Kralovice. By the end of that year the following firms were already in business: Kotas & Bulin and Placek & Vozab, hardware; elevators: Taylor & Burke (A. A. Hamouz, assistant, born in Trtice, Nove Straseci) and Davis & Co. (Frank Stech, assistant, Skalice, Sobeslav); Milligan Exchange Bank (W. J. Zirhut, cashier, Bezdekov, Klatovy); Anton Vodicka, furniture; Karel Polansky, blacksmith; John Havel, John Luksik (Zbirov, Horovice) and Anton Vodicka, carpenters.
The town was incorporated February 15, 1888 and Anton Vodicka was elected one of the trustees, Karel Polansky marshal, the rest were not Czechs. The first postmaster was Anton Vodicka, from January 19, 1888 to April 15, 1890. In that year (1888) there were in existence the following firms: F. A. Placek hardware; Kotas & Bulin, implements; Kotas & Kotas, saloon; Mrs. A. Vacek (Jelmo, Dacice) millinery; Joseph Kotas (Kozojedy, Kralovice) meat market; W. J. Kotas (same birthplace) cattle buyer. Shortly thereafter these were added: A. V. Kouba (Netes, Roudnice) and Bernasek (Prodeslady, Kralovice) & Girmus (Praha) general merchandise; Stech & Bernasek, saloon; Joseph Eret (Plane, Kralovice) hotel; John Kotas, lumberyard; Pulec & Simacek (Cista, Kralovice) cigarmakers; Frank Mengler (Skrejchov, Tabor) blacksmith; Anton Petracek, meat market; John Masek (Sebcice, Nepomuk) wheelwright. The municipal organizations also began to be more and more in the hands of Czechs, the only non-Czech was W. M. Chase, chairman of the town board. A. V. Kouba, Anton Vodicka, Thomas Pulec and Joseph Eret were members, W J. Zirhut was justice of the peace and Frank Mengler marshal. These were the new business firms: Vaclav Simacek, saloon; Frank Hajek, implements; Joseph Kunc (Peklo, Rychnov) furniture and harness; Victor Laun (Trtice, Nove Straseci) & Co., general merchandise; Frank Mengler, blacksmith; Wanek (Kardasova Recice) & Wehn, drug store and Joseph Dusek (from near Dacice) meat market.
The first members of the school board (1888) were: W. M. Chase, director, W. J. Bulin, moderator, V. Koca (Ondrejov, Manetin) treasurer. In the next annual meeting W. J. Zirhut succeeded V. Koca and A. V. Kouba succeeded W. M. Chase, so that the board was entirely Czech. The first principal was P. H. Ryan, succeeded by a Czech, in 1891, J. V. Selement.
So the town became more and more Czech until now it is entirely so. Charles M. Smrha has always been in the forefront of all patriotic and civic movements. He is the son of an old settler, Charles Smrha Sr., a harnessmaker of Rabi, and Catherine Stulik, daughter of a miller in Horazd'ovice and Rabi. Charles M. Smrha was born September 14, 1876 in Vordenberg, Styria and came to this country with his mother and brothers and sisters in 1884, his father having preceded them the year before. They settled in Exeter, in 1888 moved to Geneva, in 1891 back to Exeter and in 1894 to Milligan where they have lived since. Mr. Smrha attended the public schools, Western Normal and Normal in Lincoln, taught about a year and was deputy in the office of county judge. In 1898 he served as volunteer in Company G, 1st Nebraska Regiment, during the Spanish-American war, spending a year in the Philippine Islands, where he was very ill of malaria. Upon his return home he served two terms as county school superintendent, held office in township, town and school boards, was state senator twice (1923--1925 and 1927--1929). He was very active in the Bohemian National Alliance work during the war (1914--1918) and is always ready to help in all patriotic or civic matters, Czech or American. He married Miss Agnes Barta, born in Kamen, and is the father of several children.
Another son of Charles Smrha Sr. is Dr. V. V. Smrha, who is Supreme Medical Examiner of the Western Bohemian Fraternal Assn., a large fraternal order. Dr. Smrha was born in Kolinec, Bohemia, November 7, 1878 and came to Exeter in 1884, in 1894 to Milligan. After graduating he taught three years in the country and two years, in town, then studied medicine in Creighton Medical College, Omaha, where he graduated with the highest honors. He has always been active in Czech lodges, was city treasurer for many years and justice of the peace. In 1904 he married Miss Anna R. Hamouz and is the father of several children.
Joseph Jicha and Frank Hrdy are also active in national and civic affairs. Frank Hrdy was born in 1860 in Novy Bydzov, where he learned the shop-keeper's trade. He worked at it in Horni Jeleni, then in Holice. In 1880 came to Chicago, then to New York, where he married Miss Aloisie Stepanek and was in business there nine years. Came to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, then to Milligan, where he has been in business since.
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