fessional actor in Bohemia and a man of deep patriotic feeling who gave of his ability and strength to the artistic upbuilding of the community which he adopted after he had renounced allegiance to Austria. Under his direction the first successful singing societies were organized, and great indeed was the pride and pleasure of each community in the rendition of those fine Czech folk songs, whose lingering melodies haunt and charm and most appealingly hold united all Bohemian hearts.
The earliest performance of a Bohemian play and concert in Saline county was in 1869, in the first log schoolhouse of the district about, midway between Crete and Wilber. The building belonged to John Svoboda and was used as a meeting place for the Bohemian Reading Society, which was organized in June, 1869, its first president being Joseph Jindra.
It is especially significant that this oldest organization of Bohemians in Saline county, and which was among the oldest in the state, was effected for the purpose of meeting to read and discuss books and magazines. Even in those difficult times, when life was mainly a matter of preserving existence in the hard, rough conditions of the day, these recent immigrants from a foreign land to the prairies of Nebraska held to the social and educational ideals of the mother land, bringing into the sordid commonplace of existence the rosy poetry of song, music, the dance, the theatre, and communion with books.
Music, either vocal or instrumental, always had to be present in any gathering of Bohemians, whether it were a meeting of neighbors or a formal session of a lodge. The Czechs are not without warrant called "the nation of musicians", as the Smetanas, Dvoraks, Kubeliks, Kocians, Ondriceks and Destinns fully attest. If a wager were to be made that every Bohemian community in Nebraska today had its own band or orchestra, it is safe to say that the better would win.
The first musical organization west of Omaha was composed of Bohemians. It was the famous Crete orchestra, which used to drive to Lincoln in John Svoboda's wagon, back in Governor Butler's day, to play for dances at the capitol. This pioneer Bohemian orchestra consisted of Frank Nedela, Sr., who still lives in Crete, John Nedela, John Svoboda, Thomas Aron, Joseph Chyba.
From the earliest times Bohemians have
evinced an earnest interest in local, state and national
politics. As a rule, they were Democrats; but very early in
Nebraska's political development an important group of
Bohemian Republicans arose. This change was more rapid after
the establishment by Edward Rosewater of a Bohemian weekly
Republican newspaper. But in latter days partisanship has
become weak among Bohemians, their votes going for men
rather than for party measures.
While the Bohemians are internationally known as the "dove-like race", being conscientious objectors to war in the abstract, they have never been found wanting in the
4The following table contains the names of the members and desig-
BOHEMIAN MEMBERS OF NEBRASKA LEGISLATURES
military ranks when the cause has been just. Great numbers left Bohemia to escape the harsh military tyranny of the Hapsburg rulers of Austria, who were ever exploiting their subjects and forcing them to fight to further their royal purposes. It was not to the taste of the Slavs of Austria to be made the instrument of acquiring new lands for the hated Hapsburgs, and so they fled to free America. But when those same Bohemian immigrants were confronted, in the land of their adoption, with the problem
nates the legislature and the house in which they served, the county in which each resided and his party affiliations:
which Lincoln faced--internal disunion, secession--they joined of their own will the ranks of the army that fought for the union of the states. The Civil War was not to the Czechs so much a matter of freeing the slaves, of which they knew but little, but it was a question of preserving the integrity, the oneness, of the United States. They had known too well what international strife meant, for in Bohemia the arrogant Teuton, strutting swaggeringly in the sun of the Hapsburg favor, had all too long clawed at the throat of the Slav, foaming impotently the blood of resentment made abortive by Vienna's tyranny.
In the crisis of 1917, when the president's proclamation was published, at once, in every community containing Bohemian citizens, large numbers began to enlist. In counties like Saunders, Saline, Dodge, Colfax, and Douglas almost entire companies were formed of Bohemian residents. It is felicitous to note that a large number of districts with a ninety-five per cent Bohemian population did not come under the operations of the draft law. The heavy voluntary enlistments had made the application of the draft unnecessary. In no other foreign speaking district of the state was the same condition noted. A complete list of volunteers is, of course, impossible at this writing, but patriotic societies, working alike for the good name of Nebraska and of the Czechs settled therein, are at work on the compilation of such a record.
The Bohemians, like all pioneers of
western states, had the problem of getting a living to solve
before the question of higher education could be wrestled
with. But that the Czech could not long remain content
without some intellectual pabulum in addition to the simple
necessities is shown by the fact that when barely a handful
of them had settled in the state they clamored for a
newspaper printed in their own language. To be sure, long
before this, Bohemian newspapers from eastern states had
lated here, the first paper in the Bohemian language, Slovan Amerikansky (American Slav), having been issued January 1, 1860, at Racine, Wisconsin.
Edward Rosewater, popularly known as Rozvaril, who was born in Bukovany, Bohemia, in 1841, and had come to the United States in 1854, a green Bohemian youth, had after a number of experiences settled in Omaha where he started the Omaha Bee, in 1871, and his Bohemian weekly, the Pokrok Zapadu (Progress of the West). The first number of this first Bohemian newspaper in Nebraska was issued August 1, 1871. The motto of this, paper was "Pilne slouzic zajmu narodnimu, hledet chci vzdy k vzdelani obecnemu" (While ever serving national interest let me give heed always to the education of all). The first editorial of the first issue insists that Austria must become a Slavonic state, that it stands or falls in correspondence with the success or failure of the Bohemian people.
Special editorial notice is given in the issue of January 15, 1872, of that part of President Grant's message to Congress in which he approves the union of the telegraph with the postal department, arguing that public ownership of the telegraph system along the same lines as the postal business will improve and extend the service as well as diminish its cost to individuals. After all, we progress very slowly. An advertisement in the first issue offers lands in the Platte valley at from $2.50 to $10 an acre.
V. J. Vodicka, the first business manager of the Pokrok Zapadu, who died in Omaha early in 1917, worked untiringly and gratuitously to turn Bohemian immigration towards the virgin prairies of Nebraska and succeeded in establishing six colonies, all agricultural communities. In later days John Rosicky by his pamphlet, Jak Je v Americe (How Things are in America), materially aided Bohemian in Europe in selecting the states to which they would emigrate. In November, 1872, the Pokrok Zapadu absorbed the Amerikan. In 1877 it passed into the possession of
John Rosicky, who sold it twelve years later to a print company under the direction of Mr. Vaclav Bures in whose management it has since remained. Many excellent journalists have sat in the editorial chair of the Pokrok, among them, Vaclav Snajdr, Fr. B. Zdrubek, V. A. Jung, Thos. Capek, Jan A. Oliverius, Lou W. Dongres, F. J. Kutak, O. Charvat.
John Rosicky, who left Bohemia in 1860 to escape military service, has been an important figure in Bohemian journalism and the social life of the Bohemian people, not only in Nebraska, but throughout the middle West. After selling the Pokrok Zapadu, he established other papers, among them the Obzor, the Americke Kvety, and the Osveta, which have been combined in the present weekly, Osveta Americka (Enlightenment of America) which for a time published local editions in various communities of the state. In 1916 it became a literary weekly with the name Kvety Americke. The growth of the paper is well exemplified by a comparison of an early issue with the current number. Some twenty Bohemian papers have been started in this state, continuing with varying success for various periods. A daily was established in Omaha in 1916.
To-day there are eight Bohemian newspapers in Nebraska, three of which are published in Omaha--the Pokrok Zapadu, daily and weekly, politics, Republican; Kvety Americke (American Blossoms), weekly, Democratic; Nova Doba (New Era), semi-weekly; Rozhledy (Reviews), weekly, and one, the Domaci Noviny (Home News) in Clarkson. In addition local editions of each of these papers are printed for Wilber, Crete, Schuyler, Howells, Dodge, and other places. Four monthly magazines are issued in the state, two of them--the Hospodar (Farmer) and the Cesko-Americky Venicov (Bohemian American Country Life)--being very good agricultural journals. The first of these farm journals, the Hospodar,
has been published since March, 1891. Its growth and improvement are shown by a comparison of the second issue with recent ones. Number 2, issued April 15, 1891, advertised as "The only Bohemian Agricultural and Horticultural Journal in the U. S.", edited by Lou W. Dongres, and published by the Pokrok Zapadu Publishing Company, has an interesting article about alfalfa, its history and value, and urging Bohemian farmers to cultivate it.
The Komensky is an illustrated and educational magazine published by the united Bohemian students clubs of the same name. It is the first and only Bohemian periodical ever published at Lincoln. These clubs are now raising a fund for the erection of a statue of Komensky on the campus of the State University.
The Zivot (Life) is a Methodist monthly published at Crete, by Rev. Charles Sladek.
Vaclav A. Jung, a former Nebraskan, has
written a number of fine poems and translated Byron's "Don
Juan" and Pushkin's Eugene Onegin into Bohemian. Mr.
Jung's novel On the Threshold of a New World, or the
Family of Peter Bel (Na Prahu Noveho Sveta aneb Rodina
Petra Bea) depicts Nebraska life and character. In the
capacity of instructor in English in Pilsen Academy,
Bohemia, he has recently completed an English-Bohemian
dictionary. Thos. Capek, one time member of the state
legislature, has written a number of books showing extensive
and valuable research, among them Early Bohemian
Immigration (Pamatky Ceskych Emigrantu), Fifty Years
of Bohemian Journalism in America (Padesat Let Ceskeho
Tisku v Americe). In the English language he has written
The Slovaks of Hungary, Austria-Hungary and the
Slavonians, and Bohemian (Czech)
A. Z. Donato, of Wahoo, published the story of his trip around the world under the title of Kolem Sveta o Jedne Noze.
Rev. A. Klein, of Brainard, at present general vicar of the diocese of Lincoln, has contributed valuable articles to the Otto Encyclopedia.
Rev. Father J. S. Broz, formerly of Dodge, now of Schuyler, in addition to frequent poetic and prose contributions to the Catholic press of this country, is at work upon a history of Nebraska in the Bohemian language. He has published Z Preric (From the Prairies), a book of Nebraska lyrics.
Prof. Jeffrey D. Hrbek, the first instructor in Bohemian at the State University, wrote a large number of English poems which were collected and published after his death under the title of Linden Blossoms.
John Habenicht, now of Chicago, has collected and published in Bohemian some historical data of Nebraska, largely concerned with the history of Catholic communities.
Among English books and articles by Americans dealing with the subject of the Bohemians of Nebraska, especially notable are Our Slavic Fellow Citizens, by Emily Greene Balch, and 0 Pioneers!,, by Willa Sibert Cather, also "The Bohemian Girl," in McClure's Magazine, August,, 1912, by the same author.
Almost every Bohemian lodge or
fraternal society in the state has some sort of a library,
ranging from a few works of fiction to several hundred
volumes embracing valuable works of reference.
Bohemian communities. Miss Charlotte Templeton, manager of the state traveling libraries, reports that these books are among the busiest in the state collection, being constantly loaned out to various Bohemian centers in the town and country districts.
The Komensky Club of South Omaha presented the public library of that city with a goodly number of valuable Bohemian books which are in constant circulation. The State University's Slavonic department also has a growing collection of well selected reference books. Other collections are owned by societies or private individuals in the state.
Ever since the great Bohemian educator,
John Amos Komensky (Comenius), advocated universal education
as well as many other reforms and progressive pedagogical
ideas in his wonderful work The Great Didactic,
written almost three hundred years ago, the Bohemian people
have been steady advocates of education. The little country
has had compulsory education laws for over half a century
and its people have always held a high place among cultured
races. It is, therefore, justly proud of the fact that in
1348 it established the first university in central Europe,
the University of Prague, antedating the first German
university by over fifty years.
As a rule, the Bohemians of this state have upheld this record, giving their children the advantages of public school education, though, to be precise, it is, only within late years that they have been able to send them on through the high school and then to the college or university.
It is interesting to note that one hundred and twenty of the alumni of the University of Nebraska are either of Bohemian birth or of Bohemian parentage. Of this number about 40 per cent have won honors of some sort. There are now seventy-four Bohemian-American students enrolled in the University.
In 1907 a department of Bohemian was established in the State University, Jeffrey D. Hrbek being called from the state university of Iowa to the first chair of Bohemian founded in any state university, advanced Bohemian instruction theretofore having been given only in sectarian colleges. Since the establishment of the department in Lincoln, the state university of Iowa, Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Georgetown University in Texas, German College in Dubuque, Iowa, and the state universities of Ohio and Texas have put in Bohemian departments.
There are 290 teachers of Bohemian birth or parentage in public schools in some forty counties of northern and eastern Nebraska. Two are county superintendents--F. J. Vogltanc of Colfax, and Louis J. Bouchal of Saline
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