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Catholic Parishes

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   A mixed parish, containing about thirty Czech families, who are served by neighboring priests. The incumbent, Rev. J. J. Loughran, is not a Czech.


   A mixed parish, although it numbers a great many Czechs, who are served by neighboring priests. Rev. L. L. Mandeville, present incumbent, is not a Czech.


   The first priest to preach here was the missionary Rev. Francis Sulak, who came at intervals, but the people were too few and too poor to build a church until 1884. Beginning with 1880 Rev. Joseph Krizek used to come at times from Tabor, South Dakota. In May, 1885, the first mass was celebrated in the church, the site for which was donated by Joseph Mlady, the building being 26x36. Later Rev. Chas. Kolin came twice a year from Atkinson, Holt County. Rev. Kolin was born January 7, 1865, in Mala Chyse, Bohemia, ordained June 24, 1888, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In 1888 he was assistant in O'Neill and in 1889 was in Atkinson. More data unavailable. He came to Verdigre twice a year. From 1890 to 1893 Rev. John Vranek used to serve this mission. Between 1893 and 1901 Rev. Joseph Macourek came from Creighton, then became resident priest until 1902, succeeded by Rev. Chas. Z. Petlach, during whose time the new church was built and dedicated October 25, 1916. May 30, 1920, Rev. Petlach was succeeded by Rev. Joseph Bata, present incumbent. Rev. Bata was born August 10, 1886, in Lhota, near Skutec, Bohemia. He attended grammar school in Zboznov, then in Vysoke Myto and later studied in Hradec Kralove, where he was ordained in 1908, by Bishop Brynych. He came to the United States August 1, 1913, and served at first as assistant in St. Wenceslaus church in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, coming to Nebraska January 28, 1915, first to Heun, then to Schuyler.


St. Wenceslaus Church in Wahoo

   The first Catholic Czech settlers in the vicinity were: W. Simondynes, Jacob Novotny, Thomas Zimola, Frank Konecky and Frank Noha, who came to Wahoo August 15, 1874, from Kouty, Moravia. They used to go sixteen miles to hear Rev. Bobal preach in the school house near Plasi. The following year another party of emigrants arrived from Moravia, and Rev. Bobal said the first mass for them in the farm house of Frank Konecky, two and a half miles from Wahoo. On July 9, 1877, Rev. Francis Sulak came from Chicago, and held services Saturday and Sunday in the public school in Wahoo and Monday in the court house, the first mass said for Czechs in the town of Wahoo. That day the first Czech wedding occurred, that of John Simondynes and Antonie Svoboda. When mass was not served in Plasi, these people used to go to Fremont, twenty-two miles distant.

   On November 17, 1877, Rev. Joseph Hovorka of Abie held services in the court house and married John Prokes and Anna Simodynes. The necessity for having a church became evident and a meeting was called in 1877. The plan of buying a large store in Cedar Hill and using it for a church was discussed, but it was thought too far and a decision reached to build a church in town, which was begun in July, 1878, and finished the same year, 30x50, a perfect imitation of the church in Plasi. Rev. Vaclav Kocarnik from Plasi celebrated first mass at the close of the year and visited the congregation every third Sunday. From September 28, 1884, to October 4, 1885, Rev. Jordan Stutz (not a Czech) came to serve, when he was succeeded by Rev. V. Coka of Omaha who used to come twice a month until February, 1889. On March 9, 1889, Rev. Matej Bor was assigned as pastor of Wahoo, Weston and Brainard, with residence at Colon. Two months later he moved to Wahoo, where a rectory had been built costing $1,000. October 9, 1889, Rev. Bor was succeeded by Rev. Alois J. Klein, who remained until November, 1891. During Rev. Klein's time a new church was built on Linden Avenue, at a cost of $3,600. The work was begun in the spring and finished in December, 1891. After Rev. Klein's departure Rev. Bouska served twice and was succeeded by Rev. M. Bor, who again became pastor February 6, 1892. He celebrated the first mass in the new church on June 5, 1892. In the spring of 1893 the house was removed from the old place to the new church and enlarged. The dedication of the new church and the sacrament of confirmation to sixty-two persons was administered by Bishop Bonacum on July 4, 1895.

   Rev. Bor continued in the pastorate of this church until February 27, 1915, when he was succeeded by Rev. Jaroslav J. Hancik in February, 1915, who cleared the debt of $4,000 on the school and instituted the teaching of Czech therein. In September, 1916, he was succeeded by Rev. Matej V. Nemec. The splendid St. Wenceslaus school was built in 1911 and is a credit to the Catholics of Wahoo and vicinity. Rev. Nemec immediately made plans for the building of a larger church, much needed, but the World War intervened. At the close thereof agitation was renewed and the following building committee elected: Frank Vybiral, treasurer, Louis J. Kudrna, Anton Havelka, John Zimola, Anton Kralik, Joseph Tomek, Vaclav Pelan, Mathias Hobza, Jacob Sladky and the pastor Rev. Nemec. About $80,000 was subscribed in three weeks and a handsome Gothic structure completed in 1922. The church was dedicated on the feast of St. Wenceslaus (or St. Vaclav, a Bohemian saint, called the patron of Bohemia) September 28, 1924, by Rev. James A. Duffy, Bishop of Grand Island. As the site was just large enough for the building, Rev. Nemec purchased two and a half lots across the street, north of the church, for $4,100.00 to replace the old rectory, which was sold and removed from the premises. This property was remodelled and paid for before the building of the new church was undertaken. Two other lots, south of the church, costing $1,200, were purchased, to provide a playground for the children of St. Wenceslaus school. The new church cost approximately $100,000. Altogether the improvements made in the parish, since Rev. M. Nemec took charge, amount to $108,000.

Rev. Matej Nemec

   Rev. Matej V. Nemec was born in Omaha, February 12, 1875, his parents being Frank Nemec and Mary (nee Budin) from Sobeslav. They came to this country in 1871. He made his college studies in St. Benedict's College, Atchison, Kansas, graduating there June 20, 1893. Having been accepted as a clerical student into the diocese of Omaha, he was sent to Mt. St. Mary's Seminary in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he completed his philosophy. He was then sent by the Omaha bishop to St. Paul Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota, being the first theological student sent there from Nebraska. February 4, 1899, he was ordained in the chapel of St. Mary's Convent on 14th and Castellar streets, by Bishop Scannell. His first charge was a German parish in Petersburg, Nebr., where he remained to August 15th, when he was sent to Geranium, Valley County. He began the task of collecting funds for a rectory, but as the countryside had been suffering from the effects of a prolonged drouth, it was not an easy task. Geranium was merely a postoffice station, about twelve miles west of Ord. While there Rev. Nemec was obliged to lead the life of a hermit for about seven and a half years. As the nearest neighboring priest resided about thirty-five miles away, Rev. Nemec had to attend all the sick calls within about three counties. For about four years he also attended to the spiritual needs of the Polish mission at Bolesczyn, six miles north of Geranium. His health failing, after persistent requests for a transfer to a more comfortable church situated on a railroad he was sent to Dodge, in November, 1906, where he had charge during Rev. Broz's illness. On March 21, 1907, Rev. Nemec took charge of the church in Fairfield and the Czech mission in Loucky, about eight miles south of Fairfield. At the latter place he built a church costing $6,000. While at Fairfield he was commissioned to provide for the spiritual needs of Czech Catholics in Clay, Webster and Nuckolls counties, and served five times a year to the thirty-five Czech families in Lawrence. January, 1909, he was placed in charge of Abie, where he paid off a debt of $1,200 and had the church and parsonage remodelled and painted at a cost of $700. September 16, 1916, he was transferred to Wahoo, which parish consists of about 150 families, 95 percent of which are Czechs or their descendants. The main altar of the new church, costing $1,750, was donated by Joseph Tomek, a member. Rev. Nemec is present incumbent.


   A country church, named for the postoffice of that name (which is a mile away to the southeast), and for the precinct in which it lies. This was the first Catholic church built in Howard County and one of the first Czech churches in the state. The building of this church is so closely connected with the development of the Czech colony Slovania and is so typical an illustration of the beginnings and evolution of the first Czech settlements, that a more detailed account will not be amiss.

   In 1876, when the need of a cemetery was felt, the settlers accepted Martin Slobodny's offer of two acres of land in the northwest quarter of Section 10, Township 14, Range 11, for that purpose. Anton Francl's child, buried in the northeast corner, was the first inhabitant. The majority of the settlers were Catholics and not having a church as yet, they set a large wooden cross in the cemetery ground and worshipped before it. In the spring of 1877 the Burlington & Missouri (now the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy) Railroad began to sell its lands (every other section in a larger part of the county). The settlers decided to ask the company to give them a piece of land as a gift, whereon to build their church and Peter Vacek was sent as emissary in the matter. The railroad company sold them forty acres (southwest quarter of southwest quarter 3-15-11) for $50.00 and they bought another forty acres at $4.00 per acre.

   A meeting was called and the following elected officers: Anton Chalupsky, president (chairman); Martin Vacek, secretary; Martin Slobodny, treasurer; Vojtech (Albert) Sevcik and John Holecek, trustees. It was agreed that each settler contribute $10.00 and $60.00 was gathered. Building material was bought in Grand Island for this and credit given for the rest. (A. Chalupsky has furnished part of this data.)

   The next problem was to find a carpenter. There was none in the settlement, but George Leftwich had built his dwelling and a chicken-coop and therefore was considered to have had some experience. He had a hammer and a saw, he borrowed a carpenter's square and with the help of all the settlers the work went forward. A structure 16x28 was erected and divided into two compartments. One served for the priest's dwelling, the other for the church. When finished, it became apparent that a chimney would be needed. There was no mason and so Vaclav Toman offered to build it gratis, which offer was gratefully accepted. Martin Papousek and Frank Barta, two young men recently arrived from Winona, Minnesota, helped Toman. Papousek did the carpentering work and labored under some difficulty, for he spoke in English to Toman, who could not understand him. Barta, who was hod carrier, had to interpret. When Sunday came and the settlers congregated for service, much criticism was heard to the effect that the chimney was crooked in three different places, but Toman explained that that was the way chimneys were built in the city of Kutna Hora, Bohemia, whence he had come.

   While the church was being built, Rev. Francis Sulak from Chicago, a missionary priest, held services. In that year, too, Rev. Klaviter, a Polish priest, came from Pittsburg, Pa., for the purpose of viewing the lands, thinking to establish a Polish settlement and brought with him a cook and organist, but they had nowhere to stay. Rev. Klaviter thought that they might lodge in the Bohemian church temporarily and the settlers agreed. There was no furniture and no kitchen utensils, but the Poles were not discouraged. They drove two stakes into the ground, stretched a wire, hung their pots and pans on it and began preparing meals. When the settlers came to church on Sunday, Rev. Klaviter taught the housemothers how to cook Polish foods. The organist soon learned to play Czech songs, the priest learned to read in Czech and everybody was satisfied.

   The Polish settlers began to arrive in large numbers and settled west of the Czech church, in the western part of Howard County and eastern part of Sherman County, almost altogether on Burlington & Missouri railroad lands. As mentioned elsewhere, railroad companies were given every other section of land along their route, by our government, and in the spring of 1877 this company put theirs up for sale. The Poles, through their agent John Barzynski, held the sole rights to buy these lands for a term of two years. In 1878 they built a church in 13-14-12, about five miles southwest of the Bohemian church, where the railroad company in question had donated a quarter section and built an immigration home, for the temporary lodging of their settlers. The land was platted into lots and every Pole who bought land got one lot free. This settlement was called Poznan (Posen). Rev. Klaviter, their priest, also took care of the church in Warsaw. In 1878, St. John of Nepomuk Day, the members of the Warsaw congregation met and plowed the larger portion of the church land. About a year later this priest was transferred and was succeeded by Rev. Sebastyanski. who took care of both congregations. In August, 1880, he was succeeded by Rev. Alexander Matousek, who in that same year was succeeded by Rev. Philip Maly. Rev. Maly took care of the Warsaw congregation until November, 1883, serving also the Poles. In his time the Warsaw church was enlarged and a lean-to, sacristy and sanctuary were built, which improved the appearance of the building. When Rev. Maly left, Rev. Stuer, who was priest of the Polish church in Chojnice, a Polish settlement in the northwestern part of the county and Rev. Sebastyanski of Poznan, alternated. November 22, 1890, the parish cane into the care of a diligent Czech priest, Rev. John Stephen Broz, who was resident priest in St. Paul, a mixed German-Polish-Czech-Irish parish. Rev. Broz took great interest in the purely Czech parish of Warsaw and during his time (1890-1894) it improved greatly. The young people learned to read and write Czech, through the endeavors of Rev. Broz, who instituted many beautiful Czech customs. Pilgrimages in the form of picnics at Warsaw, arranged by him, were visited by thousands of participants. Beautiful old Czech songs were sung in church by the entire congregation and it would be difficult to describe the sensations of these pioneers when their lovely and ancient religious songs, at midnight services, pealed forth and were borne through the silent night over the snowy Warsaw prairies. The Warsaw church was always filled to overflowing by Catholics and non-Catholics, who came to listen to the inspiring sermons of this priest, a gifted speaker, an idealist and an ardent Czech patriot. Through his efforts the cemetery was improved and in 1892 a fine bell was bought. Rev. Broz gave fifty dollars for this purpose, out of his scanty pay. The building of a new church was discussed, but 1893 was dry and the following year was made memorable in the whole state by a terrible drouth, no crops whatever being raised. And in that year too (1894) Rev. Broz was transferred to another parish. His absence left a vacancy never since restored and his departure was deplored by Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Rev. John Vlcek was his assistant. He was followed by Rev. S. Chundelak, Rev. Anton Duda being his assistant.

   The year 1895 was better and in 1896 very good crops were raised, but prices for grain and corn were low. Those farmers who in 1894 had to sell stock, having no fodder, were obliged to sell corn for 9 or 10 cents per bushel, for they had nothing to feed it to. The following two years brought normal conditions and the congregation again began to think about building a church. A meeting was called and with the permission of Rev. Chundelak, subscriptions sought. C. V. Svoboda gave $200, Albert Sevcik $300, Joseph Trubl $150, Frank Manasil $100. Joseph Trubl, Jacob Blaha and Albert Sevcik visited the members as a committee and got $2,017.00. Plans for a brick church were accepted, but no contractor could afford to put up a building like that for the contributed sum. Therefore C. V. Svoboda, who owned a brick-yard in company with A. Gruber, offered to build the church for $2,737.50. This was done and on St. Wenceslaus Day (the patron saint of the church) the new building was consecrated. Mr. Svoboda received what money had been contributed, $500 was borrowed on the property and the balance of cost of the building was paid by him personally. Clementina Svoboda bequeathed $100 for church furnishings and pews were bought for $310.00, the difference being paid by the congregation. In that year the altar society bought a fine new altar and in 1911 side altars, which were embellished the following year by a statue of the Virgin Mary, presented by Mrs. Katherine Sevcik and a statue of St. Joseph, presented by Mrs. Mary Svoboda. As mentioned before, this parish is under the parish of Ss. Peter & Paul, in St. Paul, the priests of which latter church serve here.

   Rev. Chundelak was succeeded by Rev. Macourek, he by Rev. Jos. Rose (a German), he by Rev. P. Groebel (a German) and he by Rev. C. E. Hovorka, a Czech priest. Rev. Hovorka was succeeded by an Irish priest, when differences arose and these were smoothed out through the offices of Rev. Broz. Once again, and for the last time, did the Czech congregation meet in Warsaw church to hear their beloved priest, the one who had left in their minds and hearts a cherished memory. He was followed by Revs. Jos. Gebauer, Michal Gruppa, and Jasczinski, Poles, and Rev. John Gleason, Irish, the present incumbent.

   The Czech language is seldom heard in the Warsaw church. No longer do the beautiful Czech songs of a by-gone time echo over the Warsaw plain! True, Revs. Rose and Gleason learned to pray and read in Czech, for the sake of their Czech parishioners, and Jacob Blaha, with some of the older members, prays in Czech at the close of the services, and occasionally a Czech priest is called at the express wish of the old parishioners--but they are diminishing and the fingers of one hand almost suffice to count the remainder. The time is not far distant when, as Rev. Broz says: "The bell will toll, in heartrending tones, for the last sermon of a Czech priest in Warsaw." The time is not distant when the dear Czech language will vanish and only the Czech inscriptions and names on the monuments in Warsaw cemetery will remind the passer-by of the fact that there lie loyal Czech pioneers, who struggled for a livelihood and a better future of their descendants. (Written by C. V. Svoboda, St. Paul, Nebr.)


Rev. Matej Bor

   The first mass for Czechs in this vicinity was celebrated by Rev. Jordan Stutz in the home of a Mr. Fajmon and communion administered. In July, 1885, a lot was bought, although the parish numbered only eighteen families, and a church built, 24x30. The first services were held that year. Until 1889 Rev. Coka and Rev. Stutz alternated, then Rev. Matej Bor began to come from Wahoo. In November, 1889, he was succeeded there by Rev. Alois J. Klein, who also took care of Weston. In 1891 he was instrumental in enlarging the church building, adding five lots to the church site, increasing the membership from 32 to 140 families, completing the organization of the congregation and founding three sodalities. He was succeeded February 11, 1901, by Rev. Bor, who used to come from Wahoo every other Sunday until February 27, 1915, when he was made resident priest. Rev. Bor built the rectory in 1914 and retired September 17, 1925. His biography is given in the history of Wilber parish. His successor is Rev. F. J. Kopecky, present incumbent.


   This is a mixed, largely German parish, taken care of at present by Rev. E. A. Klementz from Beemer. There have been no resident Czech priests, although Rev. Hancik and Rev. Vlcek assisted for a time. Rev. Coka was incumbent in Monterey, this county and in 1900 Rev. Lad. Kloucek was there also. No other records of Czech priests.


   The building of the first church was begun in 1878, across the street from Hokuf's Hall. Before it was completed, lightning struck it and the partly demolished structure was sold. In 1878 Rev. F. Smutny, one of the three pioneer priests, came and stayed but a few months, being in ill health. In 1882 Rev. Philip Maly came and built the present church. He was born in Paclavice near Kromeriz, Moravia, in 1840, ordained in 1869 and came to the United States some time in the early eighties, serving in various places as missionary. He died on a hill known in Moravia as Holy Hostyn, where pilgrimages are held, May 21, 1912. He served in Wilber a year or two and there is no record of his immediate successor, for Rev. Matej Bor, whose name is entered next, came in 1888. Probably various priests from the vicinity assisted. Rev. Matej Bor was born December 21, 1863, in Chrastavice, studied in Domazlice and Ceske Budejovice in Bohemia, and St. Francis near Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he was ordained March 18, 1888, by Archbishop Hess. In that year he came to Wilber. Rev. Bor, at the time this history was written, was the oldest Czech priest in Nebraska, in years and also in time of service here and was retired, living in Weston. He was killed in an automobile accident November 20, 1927. In 1892 he was succeeded in Wilber by Rev. Alois S. Klein, who in 1894 was followed by Rev. Francis Zalud, who served until 1897. Between 1897 and 1899 Rev. Bartik from Milligan assisted. Rev. Vaclav Pokorny served from 1899 to 1902 and was followed, to 1908, by Rev. Adolph Mosler from Crete. Rev. Hancik then came from Crete from 1908 to 1914; Rev. F. J. Kopecky 1915; Rev. V. Supik, 1917--1920; Rev. Francis Cerny from October, 1921, to March, 1922; then Rev. Michael Pazourek and Rev. J. S. Hotovy in 1925. The records do not seem to be entirely clear in this parish.


   A country church, at present a mission attached to Schuyler. The church was built in 1882 on land donated by Joseph Mrazek. Priests from Heun came until the church in Schuyler was built, since which time they serve from there. A new church was consecrated on August 27, 1918.

   In looking over what records there are at hand of pioneer and now extinct parishes, we find that in Brown County, in Midvale and vicinity, in the early eighties lived about twenty Czech families, the first coming there in 1884. In that year they built a sod schoolhouse. On February 26, 1890, Rev. Charles Kolin of Atkinson celebrated mass there and baptized. No church was built. Our people left the country almost entirely, driven out by drouth.

   In the late eighties a church was built in Flowell, Dodge or Colfax counties.

   In 1890 about 150 families were living in the vicinity of Liberty, Fillmore County, and met for worship in the church there.

   In the early days Rev. Sulak and Rev. Blaschke preached to Czechs in a mixed parish in Memominee, Cedar County.

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