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Belleville | Craineville | Cuba | Freedom Township | Munden | Scandia

Homesteading in Republic County

Munden and Cuba: The Bohemian Colonies

The Bohemian settlement in Republic County was made in two parts. One group settled in Fairview and Rose Creek Townships. Munden was its center. The other group centered around Cuba, in Jefferson and Richland Townships.

In 1870, John Rechesky with his family and his father-in-law, Mr. Kornele, came in wagons from Muscady, Wisconsin, and took a homestead near the present site of Cuba. There were not many settlers near there at that time but they came in numbers during the next two years.

In the year of 1871 a large group came from Iowa. This wagon train contained about twenty families, most of them from Marshall County. Some of them had come from Cedar Springs. In Marshall County they organized, selecting John Kuchera from the leader of the trip.

The group was composed of young couples, most of them with small families. The wagons were drawn by oxen and the children walked, driving the cattle. It took about three weeks for the trip.

The following named families were in this group: Hanel, Brush, Vech, Sphlical, Drashner, Strnad, Barton, Rechesky, Sedlachek and Novak.

They came for better opportunities offered on the farms of the new land. Many of them had been employed in the stone quarries near Cedar Rapids; others had been shoemakers, day laborers and craftsmen of various sorts. Friends in Republic County had written of the land available in that county.

In 1872 another group of ten or eleven families came. They were from Wisconsin. There was quite a large settlement of Bohemians in Wisconsin at that time but it was [over-crowded], the farms were small, and by selling a [forty-acre] farm there one might buy a much larger farm in Kansas with the money received.

This contingent contained the families of Wesley Kaska, Shorney, Benyshek, John A. Kalivoda, Bart Shulda, Havel, Frank and Joe Kopsa, John Sedlachek, Hadechek, and Lethauchek. Lethauchek and John Shriva had come to the county the year before and Lethauchek went back for his family and guided the rest out. There were few homesteads available by this time.

These people did not drive through but came by train to Waterville.

In the fall of 1869, a young man by the same of John Stransky came out from Chicago where he had been engaged in the tailoring trade. This did not pay so he came west, to Marysville first, and then on to Republic County afoot. He picked out a homestead and went back to Marshall County, Kansas. The next spring he came back, this time with a group.

These people were from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and had been farming there for some time. The group was made up of Frank Janosek, his wife and three children, Jon Houdek, his wife and sixteen children, Mr. and Mrs. Stranskya and possibly others. They settled on Mill Creek, in Rose Creek Township. Houdek had four wagons, eight head of horses, twenty head of cattle, hogs, chickens and geese. He immediately built a rock house that became the home of the Bohemians that came to the community until they might construct homes of their own.

Republic County - Houdek Home

"The first house built by the Bohemians who settled near Munden. This house was built by John Houdek in 1870. It did not then have the frame part that it now has and the roof was of grass. It housed the Houdek family of father, mother and eighteen children and was the temporary home of other Bohemian families coming to the community. It still serves as a home."

Most of the Bohemian settlers in Republic County came from near Prague in Czechoslovakia. Living was a difficult matter in that country then. Farms were very small and the young people could not hope to stay on the farm but must learn a trade of some sort or become day laborers. Children would be sent to different communities and apprenticed to learn the trades of that community or of a particular family.

Other reasons for leaving Czechoslovakia to come to America were the conscription and military training to which young men were subject and the accounts that came to them from friends in the United States of the size of the farms available here.

The group settling in Republic County came here either from Wisconsin or Iowa. Kansas offered larger farms at a lower price than either of these states and also offered free land for a time. Not many of them could afford to buy land at the prices in either of those states and had to work in quarries and as laborers. Those that had farms could sell them and buy much larger ones---large enough that their sons might have land---for the price they received.

Cuba was laid out in the spring of 1884 and Munden in September of 1887 but the Bohemians had a store before that at Tabor, a small village no longer existent."*

Republic County settlements map

Sources

*Ida Lucretia Smith, “A History of the National Group Settlements in Republic County, Kansas” (M. S. thesis, Fort Hays Kansas State College, 1933), 48-49, 51-52, 53-54, 61.

Smith, Ida Lucretia. “A History of the National Group Settlements in Republic County,
Kansas.” M. S. thesis., Fort Hays Kansas State College, 1933.

 

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