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"John Rosicky was the best known Czech in the northwest. He deserves great credit for Nebraska being so largely Czech, for he devoted his most productive years to that state."|
("Fifty Years of Czech Letters in America".)
An historian, in the true sense of the word, is one who collects his material for many years before he begins to write; who makes note of events as they occur; who personally interviews people, perhaps undertaking many journeys for that purpose. In that sense, this book is not a history, for I have compiled it from various sources as best I could at this comparatively late day. It ought to have been written fifteen years ago by someone who came to our state a pioneer and could write of what he personally knew, with the aid of his co-evals, most of whom are now dead. However, it was not done and I have tried to record, as well as I could, all that in the future may be an imprint of Czechs and their life in Nebraska. By this I mean, especially, Czech immigrants, which phase in the history of our state is rapidly drawing to its close.
I began this work in October 1925, and with the aid of my many friends, some of whom are not known to me personally, but who have surely evinced a spirit of friendship by cooperating with me, I have been able to collect the data contained herein.
As reference works I used the following publications: Dr. John A. Habenicht's history of Czechs in Nebraska (Dejiny Cechu Americkych--Nebraska); old volumes of the farm paper Hospodar; old files of the weekly newspaper Osveta Americka; the almanach Pionyr, (the last three published in Omaha); the almanach Amerikan (published in Chicago); Rev. Houst's historical work about Catholic parishes (Ceske Katolicke Osady v Americe) published in St. Louis; Rev. Broz's history of his parish (Dejiny ceske katolicke osady sv. Vaclava v Dodge, Nebraska); a history of Czech Protestants (Pamatnik ceskych evangelickych cirkvi v Americe), published in Chicago; Thomas Capek's "Fifty Years of Czech Letters In America", published in New York, and "The Czechs and Slovaks in American Banking", by him and his son Thomas Jr., published in New York.
My sincere gratitude is due the following, who most kindly furnished me needed data. In a general way, on various subjects: Mr. Stanislav Serpan, Czechoslovak Consul In Omaha; Mr. F. J. Sadilek, Wilber, Nebr.; Mr. John Janak, Chicago, Ill.; Mr. Gustav K. Janata and Mr. Charles Duras, Washington, D. C.; Mr. Joseph Michal, Omaha, for information regarding the beginnings of Pokrok Zapadu; Prof. Orin Stepanek, Lincoln, Nebr., for information regarding teachers and physicians; Miss Alice Bartos, Wilber, Nebr., for names of county officeholders; Mr. Adolph Musil, Omaha, for information regarding Komensky Clubs and teaching of Czech in the Nebraska State University; Prof. Charles C. Charvat, Omaha, for information regarding the Czech Club and teaching of Czech in Creighton University in Omaha; Mr. Joseph Drtina, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, for list of Czech Liberals' community halls; secretaries of lodges belonging to the Western Bohemian Fraternal Assn. and present incumbents of Czech Catholic parishes for information regarding schools and cemeteries; secretaries of the general offices of various fraternal and other associations for information regarding lodges. Besides these there were many who kindly furnished me with items concerning themselves. To all, again, my hearty thanks.
In compiling the history of Catholics, Dr. Habenicht's history and that of Rev. John St. Broz were used, in connection with the history of Rev. Houst, augmented by the services of Mr. V. F. Jelinek, Omaha, Monsignore M. A. Shine, Plattsmouth, Monsignore Alois J. Klein, Brainard, and the present incumbents of various parishes.
The history of the Protestants (Pamatnik), published in 1900, was used as a foundation and brought to date through the kind help of Rev. B. A. Filipi, Clarkson, who also furnished information about Protestant cemeteries.
"Fifty Years of Czech Letters in America" (by Thomas Capek, published in 1910) was brought to date by me for the chapter on Publications. "The Czechs and Slovaks in American Banking" (same author, in collaboration with his son Thomas Jr., published in 1920) was brought to date by Mr. Emil Folda, Clarkson, Nebraska.
In addition, the following furnished data on settlements of various counties, some of these kind people taking great pains with the work:
Boone County: Miss Otilie Papez, Albion; Boyd County: Andrew J. Krikac, Butte; Buffalo and Sherman Counties: Frank Fiala, Ravenna; Butler County: Mate] J. Bouse, David City; Cass County: Mrs. Marie F. Belohlavy, Plattsmouth, (whose account of the abduction of Josephine Scheinost, as given in the history of Brown County, also was used); Chase and Perkins Counties: Mrs. Frances Vancura, Elsie; Cheyenne County: Andrew J. Krikac, Butte; Colfax County: Joseph Sudik of Schuyler (the lion's share), Jos. B. Sindelar, Howell, and J. M. Mundil and Anton Odvarka Sr., Clarkson. Joseph F. Zajicek of West Point wrote Mr. Cejda's recollections, from his dictation. Cuming County: Joseph F. Zajicek, West Point; Custer County: Vencl Krikac Sr., Comstock; Dawes County: Stanislav Civis, Hemingford and B. J. Chalupa, Hay Springs; Dodge County: Charles Brazda and F. A. Janecek of Dodge; Fillmore County: Dr. V. V. Smrha, Milligan; Gage County: Mrs. Frank Belousek, Council Bluffs, Iowa; Garfield County: Frank Misko, Ord; Hayes County: Frank Broz, Tampa, Kansas; Holt County: George Jonas, Stuart; Howard County: C. V. Svoboda, St. Paul; Johnson County: Frank Sikyta, Beatrice; Knox County: J. V. Holecek, Jos. P. Sedivy, Mrs. Anna Kalal, and Anton V. Kouba, Niobrara and Verdigre; Lancaster County: A. F. Bulin, Gilead, Fr. Rejcha, Wilber and L. M. Hromas, Lincoln; Madison County: Joseph Storek, Madison; Pawnee County: F. G. Dobrovolny, Pawnee City and A. R. Kovanda, Table Rock; Pierce County: A. Silhacek, Pierce; Richardson County: Otto Kotouc, Humboldt; Red Willow County: Mrs. Justina Horky, Indianola; Saline County: Mrs. Marie Jelinek, Crete (the larger share) and F. J. Sadilek, Wilber; Saunders County: Anton Kaspar, Prague, F. Kaplan, Morse Bluff, Fr. Dolezal Sr., Wahoo; Sheridan County: B. J. Chalupa, Hay Springs; Thayer County: Henry Komrs, Gilead; Valley County: Vend Krikac, Comstock and Frank Misko, Ord; Webster County: Vaclav Maruska, Red Cloud.
All records of clerical incumbents, political officials, teachers, physicians, dentists, lawyers, banks, etc., are as of 1925--1926, when this history was written.
It may be in order to insert here a few explanations:
More pioneers arrived in each county than are listed, in some instances many, many more, but the names shown are all that could be verified at this late day. It was the desire to list only those with date of arrival in connection, as far as possible.
The first three volumes of the Czech farm paper Hospodar contained a directory of Czechs in Nebraska, except Omaha, and the birthplace of each person was given. From those volumes were taken the birthplaces as shown in this book. It will be seen that most of the addresses give the names of two or more places. This means one of two things, customary with addresses in Czechoslovakia. The second name may be the name of the nearest postoffice station, for many villages there, especially in years gone by, were not railroad stations and the mail was brought by a carrier. Or it may mean the name of the county. It is interesting to note, in this connection, that many followed others from the same neighborhood.
While only the names of the men are given, it is safe to say that the large majority brought families with them. The wives and children toiled hard and suffered hardships too, and though here nameless, deserve a large share of credit.
Inasmuch as it was given me to know both languages, and also because I had always been in a position to observe conditions pertaining to Czechs in Nebraska, and last, but not at all least, because I have always had a great interest and love for my people, I felt it my moral duty to record the story of their life in our state. There must be a great deal lacking and some of the material may not be absolutely correct in minute detail, but I have done my best under the circumstances. If nothing more, my work may serve someone else as a foundation, for correction and completion.
Books of an historical nature often gain value and appreciation with time. If that proves true of this and descendants of Czech pioneers in Nebraska in future will peruse these pages, I wish to leave, as my message to them, this quotation from the monumental history of Bohemia, written by Francis Palacky: "Were I but a gypsy by birth, and the last of that race, I would still deem it my duty to try to perpetuate an honorable mention of it in the annals of mankind."
Verily, the history or at least such record as may be secured ought to be perpetuated even of the most lowly and insignificant of peoples, for each is a component part of the human race. How much reason, then, have descendants of Czechs in this country to feel proud of belonging to an ancient and illustrious race, even through ancestry overseas,--a nation one of the first in Europe to conceive and promulgate religious and intellectual liberty.
Bohemia was the first Protestant nation in Europe and the first to fight for democracy, for the Hussite Wars were first in that respect. Not only in this were Czechs pioneers but their king (George of Podebrad) made the first attempt to form a peace league. Antoine Marini, a French member of his court, presented the idea to him in 1461 and the following year the King of Poland was won for the plan. It was called The Peace Federation of Christian Princes. About that time negotiations also took place in the Venetian republic, where a league with Bohemia, France, Poland, Hungary, Burgundy and Bavaria was welcomed, provided the Pope were not excluded. In 1464 King George sent to Paris a Czech embassy, representing Bohemia, Poland and Hungary, to ask the French king to convoke an assembly of Christian kings and princes for the purpose of forming a league which would preserve peace among themselves and weld them together in protection against the Turks. However, the French king decided it was more fitting that such matters be left to the Pope.
The Bible was translated into Czech before it was translated into English. The first hymn-book in a native tongue was in Czech. The first picture-book for school children was arranged by the first great pedagogue, Jan Amos Komensky (Comenius, born 1592, died 1670) whose motto was: "The school is the workshop of humanity."
In closing I repeat once more my heartfelt gratitude to those who assisted me. Nearly all the Czechs in Nebraska knew my father, personally or by name, and even now, sixteen years after his death, many helped me out of friendship and love for his memory. "To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die" is inscribed on the monument dedicated to him by his fellow-countrymen, -- an axiom demonstrated by the cooperation I have received.
Omaha, Nebraska, October 25th, 1926.
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