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One of the group of counties most heavily settled by our people. The first Czechs to come here were Peter Kastl and Anton Hajek, both in 1867.
Peter Kastl was a soldier in the Austrian army and came to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in the spring of 1866, where he worked at the mason's trade. He wanted to become a farmer, but lands in Iowa began to rise in price, so he came to Omaha, where he looked up homesteads and chose 160 acres in Saunders County. He went by rail to Fremont, where he crossed by ferry and then followed the Platte River until he came to the present town of Linwood. From there he went south, in search of his homestead. After he had gone about twelve miles, he stopped on the farm of a Mr. Garrett, to ask the direction. Garrett told him the homestead lay many miles further south, on Oak Creek, near the present town of Valparaiso. He advised him to buy a farm a few miles south, from a certain American, which Kastl did and settled on it. It was near the present town of Prague and the old rural church settlement called Plasi. Hajek followed Kastl, they being friends. He settled near Linwood.
The country hereabout is rolling, interesected by several timbered streams. This was probably the reason why people were attracted rather than to prairie lands which, while not more fertile, are easier to cultivate. However, it was natural that they wanted to be near water and timber, both so necessary to new settlers.
The first settlers had to go to Nebraska City to the mill, the trip, with oxen, requiring a week. They used to take their grain there to market, too. Later Fremont became a much nearer market, a ferry boat there taking them across the Platte. In calm weather it was all right, but in windy or stormy weather the ferryman would not go, and the poor settler had to turn back, sometimes a distance of twenty-five miles, and try his luck another day. Later a bridge was built and a toll of fifty cents charged. In 1870 Wahoo was the only town in the county and consisted of one large and one small building, but Fremont was the trading-point. Still later North Bend was established and in 1877, when the railroad came through Wahoo, that town became a market place. Later on Weston, Morse Bluff, Prague and other towns were founded. All the precincts in the western part are Czech more or less, Newman most heavily. Czechs live mostly in and about Prague (an entirely Czech town), Wahoo, Weston, Morse Bluff Valparaiso, Colon and Touhy.
The little town of Prague, on the Burlington & Missouri, named for the capital city of Bohemia, is so entirely Bohemian that for many years (and probably now) the only person of any other nationality was the depot agent. It was established soon after the railroad was built through in 1887 and the first inhabitants were:
Thomas Simanek, who with Henry Fisher of Wahoo built the grain elevator; Anton Kaspar and Frank Secor, hardware and implements; Joseph Sedlacek, saloon; Adolph and John Bastar, general merchandise; Frank Kubik and Frank Polak, general merchandise; Mary Belik, hotel; Frank Pop, saloon; Vanous & Maly, saloon; Martin Slamsidlo, blacksmith shop. The town grew briskly, so that by spring of 1888 there were 200 inhabitants, and so it was incorporated. The first councilmen were: Thomas Simanek, Anton Kaspar, Frank Kubik, Adolph Bastar and Joseph Kaspar. John Bastar was first clerk and Frank Polak first treasurer, Frank Secor first postmaster, Adolph Bastar second and Anton Kaspar third. Later a mill was built, then water-works and electric lighting plant. The town is growing, having at the present time a school costing $75,000, a garage for $30,000, a community hall for $28,000, a Catholic and Protestant church, and other buildings. During its existence it has had but four fires. Some of the earlier inhabitants were: Joseph Vlasak, general merchandise; John Nedoma, blacksmith; Frank Dufek, meat market; John Tomek, general merchandise. The first station agent was John McFadden and the first section boss Peter Dolan, the only non-Bohemians in the community. Of those who established the town living there are Thomas Simanek and Anton Kaspar, the rest have died or moved away. Mr. Kaspar furnished data regarding Prague and vicinity. At present there are 450 inhabitants.
1867--The Following Came to Elk and Chester Precincts:
Peter Kastl, born Nov. 2, 1827, in Sepadly near Nova Kdyne, died October 21, 1903, in Prague. His brother Joseph came about two years later, settled near him and died in Brainard about 1922.
Joseph Kaspar, born 1845 in Obora near Kralovice, took a homestead that is the site of Prague. He died there 1916.
Joseph Simanek, born 1828 in Lucice, near Klatovy, died in 1872 on his farm near Plasi. It was in his home that the first Catholic mass for Czechs was said in Nebraska, by a Jesuit missionary Rev. Francis Sulak, in September 1871. His sons, Thomas (born 1853) and Ignac (born 1858) continued farming with their mother. Both are living in Prague at date of writing.
1868--The Following Came:
Matej Vavak, born in Osek, near Podebrady; John Kubalek, Cerna Hura; John Placek, Cerna Hura; Matej Cizek, Jarov near Kralovice. All of the foregoing died on their farms. Cizek was killed by a cave-in, while working on the B. & M. railroad.
Vaclav Kaspar, born 1839 in Obora near Kralovice, died in Prague 1917. Michael Petrzelka, Plzen; Joseph Knajdl and Anton Sedlacek, both from Sepadla; Vaclav Mikulas, Cernikov; John Vanous, Litovany; Joseph Pop, Tesovice, Klatovy.
1869--The Following Came:
George (Jiri) Simanek, born April 24, 1842 in Lucice, living in Weston; John Mach, born 1819 in Mricna near Jilemnice, died 1881; John Kaspar, born in Obora near Kralovice 1842, died in Prague 1923. George Elbling, born 1836 in Miroslavice, Moravia. In 1860 be entered service of the Papal Legion and in 1864 came with Maxmilian's army to Mexico. In 1867 he was made captain. After Maxmilian's defeat and death he came to the United States and in 1869 to Nebraska, settling on a homestead near Prague. Later he sold it and in 1876 settled in Wahoo, where he conducted a hotel and saloon. In memory of his Mexican days he named the hotel 'Hotel di Villa Kona'. In later life he practiced law. Died in Wahoo 1893. In those early days lawyers and physicians were not questioned about diplomas, much less were they required by law to pass examinations, thus it was easy to enter those professions by anyone who wished to do so.
1870--The Following Came:
James Knajdl, born 1851, Zbraslav (living); Matej Curda, Kacerov, Kralovice; James Rehak, birthplace unknown; John Pospisil, Krchlebska Lhota, Caslav; John Novak, birthplace unknown.
1871--The Following Came:
Andrew (Ondrej) Vojta, Bezpravovice, Nova Kdyne; Frank Mach, Lucice; Martin Vanek, birthplace unknown; Frank Vlasak, born 1832 in Zichov, died 1878; Thomas Dobes, Rouchovany, Hrotovice, Znojmo, Moravia.
1873--The Following Came:
Anton Kratky born 1833, Strizov, Moravia.
1874--The Following Came:
Anton Kaspar, born 1858, Smrk, Moravia, who furnished information on history of Prague and vicinity in this county.
l868--The Following Came to Bohemia Precinct:
Joseph V. Shavlik, born 1854 in Cernikov, County of Plzen. He came with his father John and family to Fremont, whence they went to settle on a homestead near the Platte river and the present town of Linwood. Later his father fell from a wagon and died, whereupon Joseph farmed the old place until 1915, when he sold and moved to Wheeler County, he and his sons having a large ranch there.
Thomas Simanek, born in Lucice 1825, died 1869.
1871--The Following Came:
Matej Chmelka, born 1824 in Slavetice, Moravia. He came with sons John and Anton, settling near Plasi and died 1904 on his farm.
John Ficenec, born 1836 in Lokoty, Rychnov, died 1904 on his farm; George (Jiri) Ficenec, born 1833, Lokoty, Rychnov, died Dec. 23, 1899, in Weston; John Bartek, Horni, Becva, Frenstat; Frank Tomes, Horni Becva, Frenstat; Florian Tomes, Horni Becva, Frenstat; John Cuda, Kamenne Mosty, Habry; Vaclav Cuda, Kamenne Mosty, Habry.
Frank Koutsky settled in 1869 near Cedar Hill and in 1888 moved to South Omaha, where he died in 1890. His sons became prominent in Omaha in political life, as shown in chapter on politics.
1874--Wahoo and vicinity.
Thomas Zimola, Vaclav Simodynes, Jacob Novotny, Fr. Konecky and Fr. Noha, (with families); and Vaclav Zimola and Vaclav Navratil, both single, all came from Kouty, Moravia, in 1874. Wahoo was but a mere settlement, consisting of a few frame buildings. Thomas Zimola was born December 22, 1831, the son of a proprietor of a large estate. Prior to the political revolution in 1848 a sort of peonage existed among the peasantry, a remnant of feudal times. The peasants were obliged to work a certain number of days, without pay, on the estate of the nobleman in their district. Failure to do so was punished by fine or flogging. If a peasant was wealthy enough, he could purchase his freedom and Thomas Zimola's father was of that class. As a young man Zimola served six years in the army. Until the year 1868 (when it was abolished) one of the military rules inflicted much suffering on soldiers. It was called "running the street". If a soldier were found guilty of even a misdemeanor and his commanding officer was cruel and severe, he ordered the punishment above mentioned. One hundred and fifty men stood on each side, with birch rods or slender, elastic sticks in their hands. The sentenced man, with back bared, was obliged to run back and forth a given number of times between the rows. Each man struck him as he passed, and not lightly either, for that too was considered a misdemeanor. The victim was often carried away to the hospital in a faint, his back raw and bleeding, for the maximum sentence meant that the condemned man had to run ten times each way. Two soldiers in Thomas Zimola's squadron committed suicide rather than undergo further torture and suicide for this reason, among the soldiers, was not at all uncommon. Upon his return from the army Zimola was married to Marie Simodynes, February 17, 1864, with whom he lived in harmony for sixty-three years. As an example of their pioneer hardships in Nebraska, when their baby daughter Mary died, there was no Catholic church nearby, no cemetery and no casket to be bought. One of the pioneers, a carpenter, made a casket of boards and the child was buried on its parents' homestead. Once a party of Indians, with long knives in their hands, appeared. Zimola thought they surely meant to kill him and his family, but they, seeing a grindstone in the yard, merely sharpened their knives and departed. Thomas Zimola died at the ripe age of 96 years, on April 1, 1927.
1875--The Following Came:
Jan Cernik, Cihalin, Trebic; Martin Mastera, Radosov, Trebic; Frank Jonas, Jacob Matejka, Martin Svoboda and Frank Kremlacek, -- all from Kouty, Trebic; Jilji Rezac, Joseph Svoboda and John Styskal, -- all from Chotebudice near Dacice; John Kavan, Blatnice, Moravske Budejovice. His brother Philip settled near Linwood, Butler County, two years earlier, and still later near Touhy, Saunders County.
1876--The Following Came:
Anton Hrdlicka, Racovice near Moravske Budejovice; Joseph Dokulil, Nova Ves near Trebic; Frank Koutny and Vaclav Virgl, Trebetice near Jemnice; Ondrej and Martin Tejral and Simon Albert, -- all from Lomy, near Jemnice; Vaclav Nemecek, Rudoltice near Plzen; Frank Lanik, Vesce near Dacice, and John Zahourek, Budiskovice near Dacice.
1877--The Following Came:
Anton Jansa, Zdaslav near Klatovy. Jansa came to Chicago, Illinois in 1867, then to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and shortly thereafter to Omaha, where he lived until 1874 and where he was married to Miss Nemecek. In 1875 he settled in Fremont, which was a trading point for the Bohemians in Saunders County and the eastern half of Butler County. He established a hotel and saloon there and his place became known far and wide among his people. In 1877 he settled in Wahoo, where he established a lumberyard and prospered. His brother Vaclav Jansa came to this country in 1873 and moved later to Wahoo. Others who came in 1877 were: Joseph Vanous, Dobronice near Znojmo; Frank Machovec, Rimov near Trebic; Jacob Dolezal, Sokoli near Trebic.
1878--The Following Came:
Frank Dvorak, Jan Marsalek, Thomas Marsalek and Frank Musil, -- all from Brancuze, Trebic; Joseph Jonas, Kouty, Trebic; Anton Ruzicka, Prispo near Jaromerice; Anton Meduna, Rozkos near Jaromerice and Henry Vlcek, Jaromerice.
Among the early pioneers, whose birthplace is unknown, were: Jacob Hofbauer, Matej Trilety, Frank Komenda and Joseph Vogeltanz.
Besides Jansa, some of the pioneers in the town of Wahoo were: John Killian (born June 20, 1857, Janovice near Klatovy) and his brother Thomas, who came to Bohemian Precinct in 1868, later to Wahoo.
Frank Koudele came in 1875. He was born in Stechovice near Kralovice, died in Wahoo.
W. C. Kirchman, born February 11, 1851, in Klatovy, died in Wahoo, July 17, 1924. A well-known banker.
Joseph Ledvina, born in Novy Kycov, Nova Kdyne, died in Market Lake, Idaho.
Vaclav Kliment, born in County Jicin.
Frank J. Lepsa, born January 8, 1852 in Branna near Trebon. Long a prominent and popular citizen. Later he moved to Clarkson, Nebr., where he died January 27, 1897.
Frank Gross, Hodina, Kralovice.
Henry A. Fisher, Kostelec nad Orlici. In 1879 a member of the state legislature. Died in Wahoo a few years ago.
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