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Box Butte County--1885
As far as is known, the first Czech to inspect Sioux County, (of which Box Butte County is a portion) for settlement, was Alois (Louis) Civis, who came in 1884. Upon his return to Belle Plaine, Iowa, his home, the following year he set out with his bride, followed by eleven families of Czech settlers.
In 1886 Box Butte County became a separate county and was so named because of a square box-shaped butte in the vicinity. Nonpareil, a little town now vanished and gone, was the first county seat. Later, when the Burlington & Missouri Railroad was built through, Hemingford became the county seat, and then that honor passed to Alliance, which town still retains it.
As stated elsewhere, after 1880, when homesteads and cheaper lands were all taken in eastern and central-eastern Nebraska, the western portion claimed attention of settlers, especially since they were entitled to threefold rights: homesteads, pre-emption and timber claims, so that many hoped to take up three quarter-sections or 480 acres each. Many who came were men of mature years, who had owned 80 or 160 acres in the eastern part, but had large families and wanted to get land for their children. It had been rumored that beyond the bare and arid sandhills lay a fertile country, gently rolling, and the first settlers were enthusiastic. They wrote to their friends and in Czech newspapers and in one way and another drew others after them. Northeast of Hemingford was and still is a colony of Czechs, nearly all of whom came from one village in Moravia (Litostrov) or its vicinity. Another colony settled west of Hemingsford, the postoffice, now abolished, being Lawn.
The founder of the colonies in Box Butte County there fore was Alois Civis, born in 1858 in Ceradice, near Slane died in Chicago in 1917. He had informed himself, through newspapers and government reports, that lands in this vicinity were to be opened to settlers, and had spent almost the entire summer of 1884 there, traversing afoot the whole northwestern corner of Nebraska, beginning about a hundred miles east of Fort Valentine. He examined the soil and made notations regarding everything that could be of use to settlers. Then he wrote letters to the Pokrok Zapadu and other Czech newspapers, receiving many inquiries from his compatriots and answering same. In this way his name became known throughout the middle west among his people.
Upon his return to Belle Plaine, Iowa, he interested a number of people so that the following spring some of his compatriots followed him. He himself started in March, 1885, with his bride. They came to Fort Valentine by rail, from there went by ox team to his homestead, situated about eight miles northwest of Hemingford. They met a group of Indians on the way, who offered Civis two ponies for his wife, which offer, naturally, was declined. The young couple was afraid to continue and at night camped near a stream surrounded by a bit of timber. This they piled high and set afire, to serve them as a blind while they took another direction. Shortly thereafter they heard the Indians whoop and hid in a ravine until all was silent. The redmen were indeed looking for them, but did not find them.
Civis's first abode was a hole in the ground, covered with a tent. In the fall he built a log house, which is still standing. He had to make several perilous journeys to Valentine for supplies. Once, during a blizzard which raged for two days and nights, he nearly perished. Fortunately he found a deserted cabin, in which there was a stove and a primitive bed. Wet to the skin and half frozen, he struck one damp match after another fruitlessly, until the very last emitted a tiny flame and his life was saved.
On April 11, 1885, the eleven families arrived, by ox teams from Valentine. Some came from Belle Plains, Iowa, but the majority from Butler County, Nebraska. They were the following:
Thomas Jelinek, born 1817, died 1889; His son John, born 1867 in Litostrov, Rosice, Moravia, as was his father. John Jelinek is living, has been county assessor for three terms. John Urbanovsky, Pribram, Rosice; John Patocka, Pribram, Rosice; John Kovarnik, Karolin, Moravske Budejovice; John Potmesil, Male Opolany, Podebrady; John Liska, Litostrov, Rosice; John Plastik, same; Thomas Peltz and sons John and Henry, same; Frank Docekal.
They camped ten days by streams where Joseph Prochazka's farm is located, while they looked up and found their claims.
In 1885 and 1886 settlers began to come in groups, later they came singly. The only road there was the old Sidney Trail, from Sidney to Fort Robinson and on into the Black Hills. The Northwestern (or Fremont, Elkhorn & Missouri Valley) Railroad extended only to Valentine, the nearest town, and all the Czechs who came in 1885 had to go to and from Valentine by ox team, when hauling provisions, which required three to five days' time. In 1886 the Northwestern built to Hay Springs, fifty miles from Hemingford. The Burlington & Missouri railroad, through the center of the county, was built about 1888, at which time the country was well settled. There was no timber and settlers had to get wood from Dawes and Sioux Counties, which trip lasted two days and was very laborious, for there were no roads or bridges. Many of the first homes were dug-outs, later replaced by log or sod houses. Eight or nine miles northwest of Marsland lay a ravine or valley covered with a fine pine forest. Civis found it and told his friends about it, and it furnished timber for the vicinity. It was called Bohemian Valley. With his brother Charles he found some shallow streams, which gave water to all the first settlers, for wells had to be dug 100 to 200 feet deep.
In the summer of 1885 Alois Civis's brothers, Charles, Anton and Vaclav (all born in Ceradice) followed him and took claims adjoining his. Charles was a good carpenter and helped build railway stations on the Burlington road between Alliance and the Black Hills. He contracted typhoid fever at this work and died in 1888, aged thirty-two. In 1887 the parents (Vaclav Civis and wife), born in Dozice near Plzen, came and after them Joseph Civis, a brother of Alois, born in Ceradice and his family came. Joseph Civis was the father of Stanislav Civis, born in Klobuky near Slane, now living in Hemingford and author of data for this county. Vaclav Civis died in 1900, aged 73, his wife in 1898, aged 68. Joseph Civis, after living in Nebraska eighteen years, returned to Bohemia, where he died in 1923. Other early settlers were:
1885--The Following Came:
Joseph Barta Sr., born in Prosec, Habry. He came with horse team from Valentine. Died aged 74 years. His son Louis, who came with him (born in Prosec), still living. Louis' sons Louis and Joseph live on farms.
Joseph Bem (or Bame) came with his parents. Died in 1920, aged 62.
John Sabatka, born in Albrechtice, Vltavotyn. Moved later to South Dakota, where he died.
Joseph Sabatka, born also in Albrechtice, now living in Kansas.
Henry Simek, born in Velka Retova, Usti nad Orlici. He came from Wisconsin. Died in 1915.
Martin, Charles and John Posvar, all born in Ujezd, Moravske Budejovice. They came with their parents Matej and Antonie Posvar. The parents and John died in Box Butte County, Martin now lives in Thurston County, Nebraska, and Charles in Oregon.
Alois (Louis) Zajic, with his brothers John and Anton, all born in Zajecov, Horovice, and their mother. Alois died in 1924, aged 70, his brothers moved to Minnesota, where they still live. Alois dug many wells.
Matej Duchon, born Feb. 11, 1826, in Tisov, Pribram, died in Box Butte County 1918. His sons Frank, Matej, Joseph and John also took claims. His daughter Alzbeta (Elizabeth) married Joseph Valta, who was born in 1859 in Zezice, Pribram, and also settled there in 1885. He died in 1919.
Joseph Bame Jr., born in 1863 in Lukovice, died in Omaha, 1923, after an operation.
John Moravek, born in 1849 in Slopnice near Litomysl. He came with horse team all the way from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. For three years he used to go to Cedar Rapids in the fall and returned in spring, in the same manner. Now living in Hemingford.
Charles Rendla, born in Nyrany, Plzen. Lived later in Oklahoma and died in Buhl, Idaho.
1886--The Following Came:
Vincenc Dvorak and his wife Annastazie (sister of Vaclav Civis). She died in 1896, he moved to South Dakota, where he died in 1912.
Joseph Turek, born in Nova Ves, Chotebor, came from Omaha via Hay Springs. He died in South Dakota, aged 73.
Anton Chytka, born in Kozlany, Znojmo, came from Butler County. Living in South Dakota.
Vaclav Turek, born in Nova Ves, Chotebor, came from Omaha via Hay Springs, whence he used to haul provisions with ox team. Still hale at 76.
Mike Simek, born in Svinna, Veseli, came from Wisconsin. Living. Jacob Hovorka, from near Chrudim. Came from Wisconsin. Died in 1906, aged 64. His son Thomas was run over by a team in 1899 and killed.
John and Joseph Sebek, now in Iowa.
Joseph Wanek, born in 1862 in Cijevice, Kralovice. His father Vaclav was persecuted for his patriotic expressions and in 1863 came with his family to Wisconsin. In 1870 he took a claim near Madison, Madison County, Nebraska, making entry in the West Point Land Office. Joseph Wanek is living on the farm where the postoffice Lawn used to be. He was postmaster there for twelve years and served as county commissioner for three terms.
Matej Kratky, born in Ceske Budejovice, died in 1924; Vojtech (Albert) Melmer; J. Syrovy.
1887--The Following Came:
Vojtech Chladek, born in Sadska, in 1857, died in Portland, Oregon, April 24, 1927. A very prominent Czech. In company with others he built a mill on the Niobrara River, conducted a store in Dunlap and later a cheese factory. He was postmaster in Dunlap and a force in political and social life, also something of a writer, contributing to the Czech farm paper Hospodar valuable articles in the form of a dialogue between a good and a lazy farmer.
Joseph Planansky Sr., born in Vestce, Nymburk. Came from Boone County, Nebraska, via Crawford. Died in 1894, aged 64. His sons Joseph and Vaclav living.
Joseph Kapr Sr., born in Bezdekov, Benesov. Came from Wisconsin. Died in 1921, aged 82. His son Frank died at the age of 45, sons Joseph and Jacob living.
Charles Tucek. Died many years ago. His wife Marie died in February, 1926, and his three sons live on farms.
Joseph Herrian, born in Brezova Hora, Pribram. Living. John Pavek, from near Chrudim. Now in Oklahoma.
1888--The Following Came:
Joseph Bame Sr. (originally spelled Boehm and Bem), born in Lukavice in 1828. Came to Belle Plaine, Iowa, in 1871. Lived for eight years in Boone County, Nebraska, going then to Box Butte County, where he died in 1915.
Moric Bartos, born in Bobot, Trencin, in 1846. Living in Oklahoma.
Joseph Caha, born in Hor. Vilimov, Trebon. Came from Saunders County. Died in 1911, aged 78. His sons Frank, John and Joseph living. Frank was county commissioner.
Frank Zila, born in Brezany; Joseph Hlousek, unknown; Frank Severin, born in Hamry; Vaclav Bruna, born in Knezice; John Rynes, born in Nova Kdyne; Frank Mracek, born in Volesna, Horovice, in 1845, died in 1917; Joseph and Vaclav Krejci, born in Biskoupky, Zbirov. Joseph died in 1920, Vaclav living. Vaclav Simek; Joseph Subert, born in Kamen, Habry; Frank Kroupa, born in Horazdovice, Strakonice; Anton Hajek, born in Rencov, Nove Straseci; Sturma; Matuska; Joseph, Frank and Anton Pravecek, born in Domazlice; Matej Slajs, unknown.
Most of the following, of whom no other record is available, came in 1885 or 1886:
John Cadek, born in Trebon; Frank Kalous; Frank Krula; Frank Kratochvil; Frank Prochazka, Nova Ves, Chotebor; Anton Soukup; Mrzina; Thomas Kula; Charles Klufa Sr. and his son Charles Jr.; Skrivanek; John Kozel, Olsany, returned to Bohemia, where he died; Morava Sr. and Morava Jr.; Vitovec; Ourek; Holan, who used to be blacksmith in Dunlap; Alois Cermak; Charles and Ignac Studeny; Fr. Ambroz; Fr. Stika; J. Honomichl; Vaclav Vasko Sr.; Joseph Vasko, living in Omaha. Mr. Janda, who in 1893 was killed by lightning on his farm near Lawn, his eighteen-year-old daughter perishing at the same time. Fr. Sr., Fr. Jr., Jos. and Vac. Frank, all born in Jilov, Nova Kdyne. Ant. Novotny; Jos. Forejt, Tynice, Horazdovice; Fr. Fittle, Pohor, Veseli; Josefa Habrman, Hostasovice, Novy Jicin; Vaclac Hamsa, Knez, Habry; Victor Hranac, Cernovice, Horazdovice; Geo. Holub, near Nova Kdyne; Jacob Hrbacek, Radonice, Nova Kdyne; V. Hrncal, Zderaz, Skuc; Jos. and Fr. Jechout, Dobriz, Praha; Fr. Jirsa, Krty, Strakonice; J. and K. Jandera, Bily Kun, Litomysl; Jacob Kriz, Hrotovice, Znojmo; Joseph Klos, Z'eby, Caslav; Frank Koura, Hradecko, Kralovice; Anton Krajicek, Skuhrov, Habry; Joseph Lamplot, Spelkov, Nove Mesto; J. Cecha, Roven, Rychnov; Joseph Mlady, Veselicko, Milevsko; J. Moudry, Lhota, Vlasim; Joseph Nerud, Nova Sedla, Lomnice; Anton Novotny; John Plasek, Provodov, Nemecky Brod; Anton and Cenek Prokop, Strasice, Strakonice; John Sazama, Radonice, Nova Kdyne; John Stanek, Sany, Podebrady; Joseph Strasak, Sedlec, Vysoke Myto; Frank Simek, Velka Retova, Usti nad Orlici; Frank Topinka, Odranec, Nove Mesto; Joseph Zabka, Pecin, Zamberk.
These all lived in and about Box Butte, Dunlap, Hemingford, Marsland, Canton and Alliance.
The colony grew at first and social life developed. Lodges and a reading society were established. As usual where Czechs live, two entirely Czech bands played for gatherings, generally held in a community hall now gone. Besides these two, the band in Hemingford was two-thirds Czech. However, the drouth drove many away. In many instances they sold out at $100 to $200 per quarter section. The dreadful year 1894 brought much suffering. Anton Civis, Charles Rendla and Frank Klima, were the committee that in 1890 received and distributed aid for drouth sufferers. These drouths continued, from 1893 to 1900, when most of the settlers had moved away. At present there are about ninety Czech families in this county.
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