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Another county of small settlements, about fifty families living there at present in the vicinity of Hubbell, Reynolds, Gilead, Alexandria, Belvidere and Hebron.
The first to come, of whom record is available, was Frank Komrs, who came in 1882. He was born in 1841, in Humpolec, where in 1865 he married Wilhelmina Rosicky, sister of John Rosicky, also born there, in 1839. In that year, 1865, they came to Wisconsin, where they farmed until 1871, when Komrs entered the grocery business in Chicago, with Rosicky, but the great fire ruined their prospects. In 1882 Komrs and family came to Omaha, but city life did not appeal to them and so he bought 160 acres a mile south of what is now Gilead. At first crops were poor. The prairie lands were burned-over and the new growth of grass was not sufficient to prevent the ground heating too much. The newly-broken prairie land was so hot in summer that it was impossible to walk over it barefooted. All about them rain fell, but in their immediate vicinity drouth prevailed. However, in time, as with all pioneers, conditions improved. Komrs and his wife raised eight children, five of whom are living. He died in 1917, his wife in 1912 and are buried in the Gilead cemetery, the site of which he donated.
In 1883 came John Husa, born June 24, 1855, in Dobrejice, County Budejovice. He came to this country in 1869 and settled with his parents in Lancaster County. They experienced pioneer times there, for it was seventy-five miles to the nearest town and there was no work, money, cattle, horses or implements. There was enough land, but crops were scanty and even if they had been plentiful, there were no markets. In 1877 Husa sold out and bought land eight miles west of Blue Springs, in Gage County. In 1879 he married Anna Brt (born in 1856 in Rybi Lhota near Sobeslav). In 1882 he sold and a year later bought land one mile south of where the village of Gilead, Thayer County, stands. There was an error in the sale and he received in exchange land four miles northwest, where he farmed with success.
John Scheinost (Sajnost) also came in 1883. He was born May 15, 1839, in Usilov, near Nova Kdyne. He was a member of the ill-fated expedition that set out under the Austrian Archduke Maxmilian for Mexico, which the Archduke hoped to conquer and become emperor. As students of history know, he failed and was executed by the Mexicans. Schainost then served as cook on several sailing vessels, thus spending some time at sea. Landing in New York, he came to Chicago, where he married Anna Huletz (Hulec). They farmed in Wisconsin seven years, whereupon they moved to Saline County, where they homesteaded. In 1883 they moved to Thayer County, where at date of writing Scheinost lives with his son Adolph.
Frank Hruska, who also came in 1883, was born in Lhota, Bechyne.
A. F. Bulin, who came in 1884, arrived in Philadelphia, Pa., in 1871. In 1877 he came to Crete, Saline County, and later bought 80 acres in Lancaster County, near Lincoln. In 1884 he sold and bought 160 acres in Thayer County, virgin prairie-land, but did not begin to farm it until in 1893. At present he has retired and is living in Gilead.
The Following Lived in This County in The Early Nineties:
P. O. Hubbell: Vaclav Cerveny, Podmokly, Zbirov; J. Levenburg, Vysoke Myto, Chrudim; Frank F. Hruska, lived near Reynolds. His brother John near Gilead. Anton Sajnost, born in Usilov Nova Kdyne, lived near Gilead; Vaclav Houser, born in Brezi, Pisek, and John Kuchar, born in Udraz, Pisek, lived near Alexandria; Ludvik Srsen, born in Chocenice, Caslav, lived near Belvidere; Frank Prachar, born in Sopotnice, Litomysl, lived near Hebron; Charles and Frank Slopansky, born in Chocen, Chrudim, lived in the town of Hubbell; Fr. Kaspar, born in Zamel, Kostelec nad Orlici, lived in the village of Gilead.
A practically small number of settlers living in and about Plainview, Osmond and Pierce.
1883--The Following Came:
Frank J. Synovec, born in Lhota, Zelezny Brod, July 26, 1839, and died May 6, 1898. He settled eight miles west of Pierce. In 1866 he came to Milwaukee with his wife (born Antonie Krunsmiller, Sept. 2, 1842, in Semily) and in 1869 they moved to Saline County, where they lived fourteen years, enduring hardships common to pioneers. Mr. Synovec had been a blacksmith, which trade he practiced on his farm.
1884--The Following Came:
Martin Havel, born in Zahorany, Nova Kdyne. In 1865 he married Anna Spinka and in 1866 participated in the war between Prussia and Austria. In 1872 he moved with his family to Wisconsin and shortly thereafter to Omaha, where he worked on the Union Pacific bridge. In 1873 he moved to Saunders County, where he preempted, the nearest town being North Bend, twenty-five miles distant. He died March 16, 1921.
Frank Synovec, born in Zlata Olesnice, Zelezny Brod, June 1, 1842. In 1863 he married Marie Zeman and in 1872 they came to Saline County, where they lived twelve years. In 1884 he rented near Pierce, the following year taking a timber-claim, where he lived until his death in 1912. The great blizzard of 1888 nearly destroyed his stock and poultry and the drouth of 1894 ruined all crops. Mrs. Synovec is living with her son in Pierce.
1886--The Following Came:
Frank Kratochvil, born in Strampouchy, Caslav, in 1837, died March 3, 1897.
1887--The Following Came:
John Turek, born August 15, 1867, in Strampouchy, Caslav. Came to Butler County in 1886 and a year later to Pierce County. In 1889 he married Antonie Kratochvil, who had come with her parents in 1886. When they were married, he had just $1.00 but lived to amass a competency.
Other old settlers, who were living there in the early nineties, were:
P. O. Plainview:
J. Haba, Chvalkovice, Caslav; John, A., Frank, Joseph and Anton Hladik, Kosumburk, Vysoke Myto; Adolph Krenk, Vrbice, Caslav; John and Frank Fojt, Lhota, Dacice; Frank Seda, Lhota, Dacice; Vaclav Cizek, Ledce, Melnik; Simon Kolar, birthplace unknown; John Hradsky, Novosedla, Strakonice; Joseph Kotrous, Volenice, Strakonice.
P. O. Pierce:
Emil Vrba, Horovice, Praha; J. Kratochvil, Strampouchy, Caslav; F. L. Ksirek, Ceska Trebova, Chrudim; Vaclav Kyn, County Plzen; John Pospisil, Hrabesin, Kutna Hora; Vaclav Vyhlidal, unknown; John and Frank Kaplan, Tatec, Kourim; L. Kolarik, Unovice, Nova Kdyne; John Smola, Kozlov, Ceska Trebova.
P. O. Foster:
Fr. Langman, Zahorcicky, Blatna; John Kubysta, Dlouha Trebova, Usti nad Orlici.
P. O. Osmond:
Thomas Sladek, Skrancice, Planice; Frank Jelinek, Viska, Susice; Joseph Stedry, unknown; Joseph Kratochvil, Strampouchy, Caslav.
P. O. Birch:
Frank Kubysta, Dlouha Trebova, Usti nad Orlici; Joseph Simunek, Vesin.
P. O. Randolph:
John Sarf, Branna, Jilemnice.
P. O. Colbergen:
Anton Sladek, Cerhovice, Horovice.
The latter three postoffices, as so many other small ones, have been discontinued since the rural mail delivery system was installed.
The first Czech settlers began to arrive here about 1884, shortly before the Fremont, Elkhorn and Missouri Valley Railroad (now known as the Northwestern) was extended into the Black Hills. The larger number, however, began to come in 1886, after the railroad was built to Hay Springs. The north part of Sheridan County, the portion extending from the Niobrara river to the boundaries of South Dakota, contains good soil, suitable for farming. In the early nineties there was a large Czech settlement there, but the drouth drove half of the people away. In those days a quarter section sold for $200.00. Indeed, it has been recorded that 160 acres were exchanged for a farm wagon. The southern portion embraces sand hills, lakes and meadows. These lakes contain potash, which was taken out of them during the World War. The Antioch Potash Plants were known all over the United States, but went out of existence with the close of the war. This southern portion was settled by several large ranchmen until the Kincaid law, allowing homesteaders to take up 640 acre claims, went into effect. At that time the sand hills became settled more thickly. Among the first Czech to take advantage of the Kincaid law was Joseph Fisher, who took a claim in 1908. He was followed by Joseph Drbal, Dr. Henry Juren, Nicholas Dukat, James Cerny, Joseph Blazka, Joseph Bolek, Joseph Havlik and Wolf. Dukat and Havlik have large ranches the others moved nearer town and are prospering.
B. J. Chalupa, born in Prehorov, near Sobeslav, Tabor, and at date of writing living in Hay Springs, for two years after his arrival used to go to the Black Hills to work. Vaclav Dremza, Joseph Vybiral, Kruml and others went afoot to Omaha, for the same purpose. Chalupa hauled wood to town for $1.00 per cord, while now it brings $10.00, The people tried it out five or six years, then abandoned their claims, to the satisfaction of the large ranchmen, who were glad to have the farmers leave. Some returned, but not many. Those who did, are now doing well. For instance, Chalupa's son owns 1,780 acres and is worth over $50,000, and there are more like him. The lands now yield fairly well and the climate is healthful. Chalupa Sr. owns four quarters and would trade with nobody. The grass alone keeps stock fat.
One of the early settlers there, Fr. Cilek, came to Nebraska in 1874 from Winona, Minnesota. He arrived in Omaha, then went to Lincoln, which was reached by but one train a day, a mixed train at that, part passenger and part freight. Lincoln was then a very small town. From Lincoln he went to Humboldt, where he met Frank Skalak. They decided to go to northwestern Kansas, and a company, consisting of Frank, Alois, Jacob, Vaclav and Leopold Skalak, their sister Mrs. Lang and Cilek, set out in seven covered wagons. They camped by a stream and were augmented by more, so there were twenty-five wagons in all. However, not all were Czechs. They made 300 miles in twenty-one days and took pre-emption claims in a settlement they called Big Timber. While these homesteaders planted some acres to corn and potatoes, they were more interested in buffaloes. Mr. Cilek remembers that on June 2nd (1874) they saw an immense herd, numbering thousands. The following day a violent wind storm came on, but in spite of that they got five head, so there was plenty of meat for the entire settlement. They returned to Humboldt for harvest, because Kansas suffered from a drouth so severe that there was no water in the streams and wells. Grasshoppers finished the devastation. After harvest they went back and on their way met a sad procession of Kansas homesteaders returning to their former homes,--driven out for good by the drouth and insects. After the fall sowing was done, Cilek and some of the others again went buffalo hunting along the Republican River. He became acquainted with a Frenchman, Henry Colclesser, and in his company hunted buffalo for three months. In 1877 Cilek settled in Howard County, as recorded elsewhere, and in 1888 in Sheridan County, where he still lives. In 1903 he met his buffalo-hunting companion Colclesser, now a miller, and renewed the old friendship.
Some of the early settlers, who lived there in the fore part of the nineties, were:
Frank and Joseph Marecek, Rimovice, Habry; Frank Skoda, same birthplace; Jos. Masek, Nove Dvory, Selcany; Fr. Kubat, Hadina, Humpolec; John Ruzanek, unknown; J. F. Vorel, came from Iowa; Fr. Vomocil, Osek, Litomysl; Adolph and Edward Kruml, unknown; Vaclav Pisacka, Hosti, Vltavotyn; Vaclav Dremza, Vyskytna, Pelhrimov; Joseph Vybiral, Petrovice, Trebic; Fr. Marek, Brezany, Horazdovice; Martin Cilek, Sobeslav, Veseli, Tabor; Anton Stepanek, unknown; F. Stastny, unknown; Vaclav and Mike Kuba, Zahradka, Telc; Votruba, unknown; Joseph Barta, unknown; Frank Bazil, Uboc, Nova Kdyne; Vaclav Kitzberger Sr., Domazlice, came from Iowa; Joseph Krejci, Biskoupky, Zbirov; Frank Cilek, Sobeslav, Veseli; Joseph Rysavy, Hnevkovice, D. Kralovice; Joseph Hestera, unknown; Jacob Bumba, Sr., Cihalin, Trebic; Joseph Jirek, Roudna, Sobeslav; M. Kocian, Duskov, Prestice; Anton Kadlecek Sr., Cernejs, Vlasim; Frank Stava, Hrotovice, Znojmo; Joseph Vodicka, Chlumetin, Hlinsko; Fred Novotny, Kukle, Vodnany; Frank Hrabanek, Podveky, Kutna Hora; Joseph Prokop, Hrusice, Cerny Kostelec.
Birthplace unknown: Joseph Baltizar, Louis Jancik, Joseph Persik, Joseph Cermak, Najbert, Ed. Chalupa, Frank Svoma, Joseph and John Paul, Vaclav Novak Sr., F. and James Novak, Joseph Lenicek, Joseph Bittner, Frank Cerny, Mike Kucera, Frank Stastny.
These and the rest lived in and about Box Butte, Rushville and Hay Springs. There are about forty Czech families in this county.
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