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Joseph Sudik of Schuyler furnished data for Schuyler and vicinity, Jos. M. Mundil and Anton Odvarka Sr. for Clarkson and vicinity.
Colfax County was created out of a portion of Platte County on March 15, 1869 and named (as was the county seat Schuyler) for Schuyler Colfax, vice-president under President Grant. It consists of twelve townships and numbers 12,000 inhabitants. Together with Saline, Saunders, Butler and Knox Counties, it is one of the group containing, in the aggregate, a large majority of the Czech rural population in Nebraska. The vicinities of Schuyler (on Maple Creek) and Tabor (near Howell) were the first to be settled by our people, at a time when there were no roads, no bridges, no money, no provisions, no wells, no trees, but plenty of snakes and wolves. The county is bounded on the south by the Platte river and measures, from south to north, 24 miles. Along the river, in a strip six miles wide, lie lovely level lands, further north the country is rolling but famous for its fertility. Three streams traverse it from west to southeast, Shell, Dry and two-branched Maple creeks. The soil is sandy along the river in a distance of about two miles, aside from that it is rich black and yellow. Every bit of it is cultivated. When the traveler through this county beholds fine herds of cattle in fenced-in pastures, beautiful farms, yards full of hogs, flocks of poultry, poultry-houses costing $500 to $1,000, cattle pens with paved floors, and other improvements, he finds it hard to believe that the bare prairies were changed thus in a little more than one generation. The farm homes often are finer than those in the city. They have furnaces, water piped through them, electric or gas lighting, telephones, radios and in fact all the modern conveniences. Besides various farm implements can be seen tractors, trucks and automobiles. If there is more than one son in the family, each has his automobile. Rich crops of wheat, oats and corn enable the farmers to raise stock for market. Prairie hay has made way for cultivated fields of alfalfa, timothy, clover and other grasses. Indeed, the visitor who does not know the history of our state must stand amazed to think that it is but fifty-eight years since the first settlers came here. Then it was a waste land over which rode Indians on their agile ponies, over which roamed vast herds of buffaloes, deer, antelopes and other wild game. The first settlers paid $14.00 for homesteads, or bought railroad lands for $4.00 to $6.00 per acre. Today farms are sold for $175.00 to $225.00 per acre. However, hard work and countless privations of pioneers are the foundation of this wealth.
This improvement in conditions is true not only of Colfax County, but of all counties in our state.
In 1867, before the Union Pacific railroad was finished, Thomas Molacek and John Novotny came from Iowa to Shell Creek (later Schuyler) to inspect land. They took up homesteads and returned to their families, with whom they set out for their new home two years later, in 1869. They were the first Czechs, as far as is known, to enter Colfax County and take claims, but not the first actual settlers.
1868--The Following Came:
John Moural, born 1822 in Hluboka, County Budejovice, died in Richland 1907, and Frank Kovarik, born 1814 in Trebon, died 1907, buried in Schuyler. Both men brought their families and with Moural came his grown son John, born in Hluboka, County of Budejovice. Some of his reminiscences follow herewith:
"Jacob Moural was my father and Frank Kovarik my foster-father, for Kovariks had no children. Although they never adopted me legally, they made me their heir. My father, Jacob Moural, was born in Hluboka, County Budejovice, Bohemia, in 1822, my mother's maiden name was Elizabeth (Alzbeta) Kovar. Frank Kovarik was born in 1814 in Trebon, Bohemia, and his wife's name was Anna. In 1854 both families set out from Bremen in a sailing vessel, going to America they knew not where, for they knew no one here. My parents brought with them a daughter Mary, a year and a half old. After a stormy voyage lasting thirteen weeks and three days, they landed in Quebec, Canada. Being unable to find work, they went to Cleveland, Ohio, one hundred miles distant, and in vain. Their savings were gone, no employment to be had, they were in a strange country and did not know the language--a desperate condition. At last Kovarik obtained work. He helped a Jewish butcher drive stock to the slaughter-house and as pay he got a head and parts of the viscera, heart, liver, etc. Thus the two families found sustenance for two weeks. They returned to Quebec and in the spring of 1855 the men found work at their carpentering trade, at $l.00 per day. They worked thus for twelve years and having saved part of their earnings, in 1868 Moural went to Nebraska with two friends, Pintner and Peska. In Omaha V. L. Vodicka advised them to go to Colfax County, where they took homesteads near Richland, then of course still non-existent. They built the first frame buildings in the vicinity and returned to Omaha, to work during winter. In the spring Moural and Pesek settled on their homesteads, but Pintner returned to Cleveland, giving up his claim. Pesek sold his farm, after proving on it and moved to Kansas. Moural and Kovarik were the first settlers in the Platte valley between Columbus and Schuyler, the latter being at the time but a railroad station, where one store, that of Smith Bros., helped to make the "town". Jacob Moural had three children: Mary (already mentioned), John, born July 12, 1859 and Anna, born in 1860. Mary married John Stibal. Anna married F. J. Divis and died a tragic death, by her own hand, taking with her five of her six children. Mrs. Kovarik died in 1878, Kovarik in 1907 (both are buried in Schuyler). Mrs. Moural died in 1904 and Moural in 1907 (buried in Richland). John Moural married Anna Rousar in 1879. Seven children were born to them. In 1915 they retired from farming and live in Schuyler. At the present time Moural is serving his second term as county commissioner.
In 1868 also came Frank Folda, the first Czech resident of the town of Schuyler. The Foldas, pioneers of Colfax County, occupy a rather unique position, as a family of financiers, among Czechs in Nebraska. Our people, as a rule, are satisfied with moderate though steady gains for their work, enough to assure comfort in old age. They do not, as a class, possess the daring necessary to grasp financial opportunities where it means risking a larger amount of money. The Foldas, seven brothers and their cousin and uncle, have no compeers in our state in some respects, and therefore are worthy of special mention. They have not only known how to make fortunes, but were ever ready to do their share as good citizens, supporting all worthy public causes.
Martin Folda, father of Frank, was born in Holovousy, 1812, died in Colfax County in 1895. He married Marie Konopik, born in Holovousy, died in 1892, in Colfax County. They came to Manitowoc County, Wisconsin, in 1854, with their children, excepting their eldest son John who was in his native land, in military service. The sons were Frank (born 1839 in Holovousy), Joseph (born 1849 in Holovousy) and daughter Frances. John (born 1836 in Holovousy), after being wounded in battle, was allowed to go home for a while and then escaped in 1860 and followed his parents. With the exception of Frank, they all farmed. Frank early evinced his business ability by establishing in Manitowoc a general merchandise store.
In 1863 our homestead law became effective and Nebraska attracted settlers. Many came from Wisconsin, because clearing land there was slow and hard work. Thus in 1868 Frank Folda set out for Schuyler with his wife (Johanna Ericksen), arriving when the town had but two houses. He built the third. He returned for the other members and in 1869 his parents and brothers followed, the sister having married a Mr. Seibert in Wisconsin, where she died.
The financial genius of the family was Frank and in those days opportunities were great. He knew how to grasp them. He acquired much land and cattle, established a grain and land business, and prospered on all sides, while the settlers poured in. These he helped and advised, for few could speak English, so that an influential and trustworthy compatriot who could, was of great aid to them. In 1887 he established the first Folda bank, in Schuyler, the first of its kind west of the Missouri River. It became the foundation for five more, those in Howell, Clarkson and Rogers (Colfax County), Linwood (Butler County) and Pilger (Stanton County). In 1875 he was a member of our state legislature, as representative, on the democratic ticket. In 1879 he was nominated on that ticket for state treasurer and in 1888 for lieutenant-governor (democrat), but the republicans were in the majority in those days and he did not win. In 1887 in company with several prominent democrats he established a Czech weekly Nova Doba (democrat), which was suspended in 1892. Mr. Folda died in 1892 (his wife in 1914) and left the memory of a kindly gentleman, whose innate courtesy and helpfulness to his countrymen never changed with his rising fortunes. He donated to the Tel. Jed. Sokol the building site in Schuyler, on which they expect some day to build a fine auditorium. He had two children, a daughter Martha, who died in 1919, and a son Engelbert F., who is president of the parent-bank Banking House of F. Folda in Schuyler and of the Bank of Rogers, besides being interested in banks in Omaha, where he now lives.
We have placed Frank Folda first, because he founded the banking business of this family, but John Folda was the elder. With his wife (Josephine Sinkula, born in Prodeslady) he settled in 1869 on a farm near Schuyler. In 1879 his wife died and he married Miss Catherine Panek. His seven sons all became bankers and were destined to follow in the footsteps of their uncle. John Folda died in 1895 and is buried, as are his parents, in the Czech Catholic cemetery near Heun, part of which site he had donated. His sons were: Lambert, Longin, Emil, Adolph, Rainold, Jaroslav and John.
Lambert Folda, (born in Manitowoc 1862, died in 1910), was a druggist until 1887, when with his uncle and Joseph Smatlan he established the bank in Howell, where he was active until his death.
Longin, (born in Tisch Mills, Wisconsin, March 15, 1864, died in Corpus Christi, Texas, April 17, 1923), first assisted his uncle, then took a position in the First National Bank of Schuyler, while being active in the Folda banks. In 1897 he bought the Clarkson State Bank, later removing to Corpus Christi. He was talented in a literary way, having written a play "The Merchant And The Poet" and was author of a system of books to be used in bank accounting, which he copyrighted.
Emil Folda, the oldest of the now living brothers, was born in Manitowoc County, Wis. in 1866. He is president of the Clarkson State Bank, in which town he resides, and also of the Colfax County Bank of Howell, Farmers & Merchants Bank of Linwood and the Pilger State Bank of Pilger, besides being interested in others. At present he is a member of the State Bankers Guarantee Fund Commission. He started in the banking business in 1889, at a salary of $5.00 per month and board. His first home was a sod house. When he came with his parents in 1869 there were only three farms within twelve miles north of Schuyler. No bridges, no roads and no horses, only oxen, with which to travel to the nearest trading point forty miles away, West Point in Cuming County. Most of the settlers made coffee of roasted grain and sugar was scarce. He remembers the grasshoppers of 1874 and several years thereafter, as also the great dust storm in April 1880, which lasted for several days and piled the dirt, blown from the fields, in banks many feet high. He remembers too the great blizzard of January 12, 1888. The early prairie fires that swept everything out of sight, unless well protected; the great snow storms that followed and swirled over the smooth, burned-out lands; the Indians; wild game, that had to be driven off, so it would not eat the seed in the field; antelope and deer; creeks full of buffalo, elk and deer-horns, --all this he remembers and has seen vanish like a scene upon which the curtain falls, to rise again and show a changed landscape. Mr. Folda married Miss Emily Pesek who died in 1904. He then married Miss Antonie Sadilek, daughter of F. J. Sadilek, well-known pioneer of Wilber. By his first marriage he had a son, Albin, killed in the World War, and a daughter, Laura (Mrs. Jos. A. Kucera). By the second marriage a daughter Olga.
Adolph Folda was born in Manitowoc County in 1869 and died in 1914. He was cashier of the Colfax County Bank of Howell at the time of his death. His son, Lambert, is now assistant cashier there.
Rainold Folda was born in 1873 in Colfax County and died in 1906. He was assistant cashier of the Clarkson State Bank at the time of his death. His only son Lorence is now teller in a large bank in San Diego, Calif.
Jaroslav Folda was born in 1875 in Colfax County and is cashier and manager of the Banking House of F. Folda, which totals a million and a half dollars. He is also vice-president of the Bank of Rogers.
John Folda was born in 1887 in Colfax County and is active as managing vice-president of the Colfax County Bank of Howell.
Martin Folda's third son Joseph remained a farmer all his life and died in 1904. More than twenty male descendants of Martin Folda lived in Nebraska (death having taken some in late years) and all attained prominent places. Could they have achieved all this in the little, humble village of Holovousy, whence their grandfather came?
1869--The Following Came:
John Stibal, born May 2, 1847, in Jetrichoves, County Pacov. He came to the United States in 1867, in a sailing vessel, the trip on water lasting 35 days. His goal was Milwaukee, Wis., later he moved to Omaha and then to his homestead near Richland, where he is living at date of writing.
Joseph Papez, born in Jetrichoves, County Pacov, 1843. He came to the United States in 1867 and settled near Milwaukee, Wis., by trade a tailor. Later he removed to Nebraska. More detailed mention of him in the history of Boone County, where he lives in Albion.
Frank Vasko, born in Chrudim, in 1832. He came to St. Louis, Mo. in 1866, then to Colfax County, near Heun, where he is buried.
Thomas Molacek, born in Osek, County Chrudim, 1830, died in 1894 and is buried in Heun. He came to the United States with his family in 1867, settling on a farm near Cedar Rapids, then to Colfax County, where he settled fifteen miles north of Schuyler.
John Faltys, Mr. Molacek's stepson, born in Libejice, Vysoke Myto, died in 1895, aged 44 years, buried in Heun.
John Lapacek, born 1823 in Bezdecin, County Pacov, died in 1871 and is buried in Heun. He came to the United States to Chicago in 1868, then to his homestead in Colfax, thirteen miles north of Schuyler.
Charles Lapacek, his son, born in Krtov, County Tabor, 1844, who also took a claim. Now living with his son Frank near Heun.
Joseph Sobota, born 1819 in Losina, County Blovice, died in 1901 and is buried in Heun. He came to the United States with wife, two sons and five daughters, in 1861. He settled in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin, where they farmed for eight years. Then they came to Colfax County, where he took a homestead eleven miles north of Schuyler.
Vaclav Dvorak, born 1824 in Nebuzele near Melnik. He came to Wisconsin in 1855, then to Nebraska, settling on a homestead twelve miles north of Schuyler. In 1873 he sold it and established a grain market in Schuyler. About that time he built a mill on Shell Creek, five miles northwest of Schuyler, where he prospered. He had four sons: Vincent, Adolph, Stephen and Emil and three daughters: Mesdames Anna Grimmison, Julia Jenkins and Mary Moore. He died in 1916 and is buried in Schuyler.
Martin Lodl, born 1836 in Bucek, near Kralovice and came first to Wisconsin. Died Nov. 1, 1919, and is buried in Heun.
John Novotny Jr., born 1847 in Policka. In 1856 he came with parents and two brothers to the vicinity of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. With his brother Frank and the family of Tom Molacek he came to Nebraska in 1869 in a covered wagon, to settle on the claims taken in 1867, fifteen miles north of Schuyler. In July, 1870, with his brother Novotny returned to Cedar Rapids, to help the rest of his family get ready to move to Nebraska which they did. With them in that year (1870) came the families of Joseph Smatlan, Frank Zrust, Joseph Vitek, Joseph Dudek and Anton Kunhart. The homesteads taken by the members of the Novotny family fifty years ago are still in their possession. In 1878 Mr. Novotny moved to Schuyler, where with Joseph Smatlan he engaged in the lumber business, at the same time farming a large farm near Schuyler which he had bought. Now retired, living in San Benito, Texas, with wife, son and daughter. Spends his summers in Schuyler.
Frank Novotny, brother of above mentioned. Born 1850 in Policka, Bohemia. Came to Iowa in 1856, died in Colfax County 1924 and is buried in Sion cemetery.
Felix Sevcik, born in Mila Ves, County Domazlice, Bohemia, in 1844, came to this country in 1863, to Ohio, where his uncle Peter Steinberger lived. Later his parents followed him and he went with them to Kewaunee, Wisconsin, where he married Margaret Valenta. In 1869 he moved with his father-in-law to Colfax County, each taking a claim ten miles northwest of Schuyler. His four children are: Anna Clara, who married L. J. Palda of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Mrs. K. F. Kirchner, Circle, Montana, Mrs. A. V. Vondracek, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Felix Jr., Hillsboro, Ill. In 1879 Sevcik sold his farm and moved to Schuyler, where he did blacksmithing until 1892, when he moved to Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He died there May 23, 1926.
1870--The Following Came:
Vaclav Vitek, born 1828 in Hnevetice near Vysoke Myto. He came first to Iowa, in 1868, then to Colfax, where he died in 1913 and is buried in Sion cemetery.
His son Joseph, born in 1853 in Cachnov, Hlinsko. He farmed his father's homestead, handing it over to his son John. Living with his wife in Schuyler.
Joseph Houfek, born May 8, 1816 in Knezice, County Caslav. He came to Omaha in 1869 with his three sons and daughter. They had no money and for a year worked in an Omaha brickyard. The following spring they came to Colfax County, taking a claim nine miles north of Schuyler. He died in 1878 and is buried in Dry Creek.
Joseph Smatlan, born August 11, 1844 In Teleci, County Chrudim, married Anna Telecky in 1865 and the next day they started for the United States, landing in New York, after spending 70 days on the sea in a sailing vessel. They arrived in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where Mr. Smatlan worked in a brickyard for $15.00 a month. Then he rented a farm, later removing to Colfax County, where he took a homestead fifteen miles north of Schuyler. In 1878 he moved to Schuyler, where in company with John Novotny he conducted a lumber and coal business. In 1891 he bought out his partner and with his sons continued the business until 1901, when he retired. His wife died January 29, 1912 and is buried in Schuyler.
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