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Czech Protestants in Nebraska are organized as Presbyterians, and take pride in being, nationally, descendants as to faith of the Bohemian Brethren, the first Protestants in Bohemia, and probably, as an organization, the first anywhere. The Bohemian Brethren began to organize, as to congeniality of principle, soon after the burning of Hus and by 1457 numbered many thousands. In the years 1494--1503 there were about 100,000 of these Brethren in Bohemia alone, with many in Moravia. With the fall of the kingdom (1620) they were exiled or left their country in great numbers, some coming to the United States, where they have been called "Moravian Brethren."
The first group of Czech Protestants to meet for worship in Nebraska were the families of six Colfax County pioneers: John Novotny, Joseph Smatlan, Anton Kunhart, Frank Zrust, Joseph Danek and Joseph Vitek. They had come in 1869 and 1870 from Cedar Rapids, Ia., where they had been members of Rev. F. Kun's congregation. Rev. Kun was the first minister of this faith in the middle west. In 1875 their numbers were augmented and they congregated in schoolhouses, having met before that in homes, under the leadership of John Novotny. Rev. Kun used to come twice a year to preach. In 1889 they built a church eighteen miles north of Schuyler (six miles from Clarkson) and called it Sion (Zion). It was dedicated by Rev. Kun (he also had dedicated the cemetery for which Joseph Smatlan gave two acres of land) and the first gathering held there was for the funeral of John Novotny, aged eighty-three, who had lived to see his wish (a church) fulfilled. Rev. V. Losa, born in Nosislava, Moravia, in 1867, studied in Brno, Moravia, Cologne, Germany. and the Union Theological Seminary in New York (where he was ordained May 17, 1891) was the first minister. About that time another church was built in the town of Clarkson, called New Zion, also dedicated by Rev. Kun. Rev. Losa had charge of both churches. In 1900 he was succeeded by Rev. Anton Svoboda, who came from Cobb, Wisconsin. He also took care of both congregations, besides attending to the needs of a colony in Maple Creek Precinct (although there was no church there). In 1913 Rev. Svoboda left and the two congregations divided.
New Sion, Clarkson: After the division Rev. B. A. Filipi, the present incumbent, became pastor. He was born July 4, 1880, in Malcin, Bohemia, and came to this country in 1899, studying in the Union Theological Seminary, New York, and the Western Theological Seminary, Pittsburg, Pa., where he was ordained in 1902. He was active in Pittsburg to 1904, in Uniontown, Pa., to 1906, in Omaha to 1913, then in Clarkson. In 1922 he was instrumental in building a fine church in Clarkson, an ornament to the town.
Sion, Clarkson, was for a time without a minister, until 1916, when Rev. Bedrich (Frederick) Paroulek became incumbent. He was born in Libice near Podebrady, in 1875, and came to this country in 1906. He attended the Western Theological Seminary in Pittsburg, Pa., in the meantime being active in Cannonsburg and Leetsdale, Pa. He was ordained in Pittsburg in 1909 and in 1912 came to Cuba, Kansas, where he remained to 1915. In 1916 he came to Sion, Clarkson, and in 1919 became incumbent in Wahoo, where he is at present. In 1919 he was succeeded in Sion by Rev. Joseph Havlik, present incumbent. Rev. Havlik was born December 10, 1893, in Damask, Bohemia, came to this country in 1907, studied in Dubuque, Iowa, where he was graduated in 1917. He was active in Saratoga, Iowa, until 1920, when he came to Sion. He has been instrumental in organizing the Bethlehem Chapel in Maple Creek Precinct, and at intervals holds services in Howell.
The next oldest congregation is that of Wahoo and Weston, Saunders County, also originally one, but divided at the time plans were being made for building a church.
Wahoo and Weston: In May, 1875, the following pioneers met for worship: Joseph Pestal, Thomas Trutna, Jos. Trutna, Frank Pokorny, Joseph Caha (born in Kersdorf near Merin, Bohemia), Joseph Pallas (born in Tasov) Jos. Caha (born in Roznatin, Moravia). Their numbers were augmented by: Joseph Cejka (Caslav), Joseph Kliment (Jilemnice), Joseph Pokorny, Matej Jasa (Horni Vilimovice), Vaclav Jasa (Pocoucov), Vaclav Pallas, Vaclav Svoboda (Cihelin), John Pokorny (Strizov), Vaclav Pokorny (Pocoucov), Joseph Veskrna (Budikovice), Joseph Sklenar (Vanec) and Charles Smolik (Okrisek). At first they attended the Presbyterian church in Wahoo, but were unable to understand English and the minister obtained an interpreter from Omaha. Others met in private homes for service. In 1879 forty acres were bought for a cemetery, which was dedicated by Rev. Kun, who used to come twice a year to preach. The congregation at that time numbered, besides those listed already: Frank Hledik, A. Trutna, John Houfek, F. Krafka, Vaclav Svoboda, Joseph Svoboda, Vaclav Brich, John Cejka, John Trutna, Joseph Pallas, F. Benes, Joseph Valtr, Joseph Novak, Frank Kolar and Joseph Krafka. In 1887 the disruption occurred. A part of the congregation bought a schoolhouse in Weston and remodelled it for a church, the others built a church four miles from Weston, called the Wahoo church, as the former is called the Weston church.
Wahoo. The Wahoo church was dedicated by Rev. Kun on November 11, 1888. Between 1890 and 1894 Rev. F. Reitinger and Rev. A. Paulu were ministers, succeeded in 1896 by Rev. John Pipal. Rev. Pipal was born in Opatov and ordained in Omaha in 1892. In 1905 he left Wahoo, going to his native land, where he is pastor in Libenice near Kolin. He was succeeded by Rev. Frank Novak, who in 1910 went to Baltimore, Md., where he is engaged in his calling. His successor was Rev. Jaroslav Kucera, who came from Eagle (P. O. Academy) South Dakota, and served from 1911 to 1919, when he moved to Silver Lake, Minn., and from there in 1921 returned to his native land, being at present pastor in Hustopec, Moravia. His successor was Rev. Paroulek, present incumbent, whose biography is given elsewhere.
Weston. Those who formed the first congregation were: Vaclav Brich, Joseph Cejka, Joseph Caha, F. Krafka, Jos. Kliment, John Jasa, Joseph Sklenar, Joseph Veskrna, Fr. Benes, Joseph Svoboda and Vaclav Svoboda. From 1891 to 1893 Rev. A. Paulu used to come from Omaha every fourth Sunday. He was followed by Rev. John Pipal, who served in the same manner. In 1895 Rev. Al. Barta was made incumbent, but he left within a year. It was not until 1900, during Rev. Pipal's time, that Sunday School was taught. After Rev. Pipal's departure followed several years of inactivity and it was in 1912, when the Methodist church building was bought, that activity was renewed. At present Weston is again annexed to Wahoo.
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