Plattsmouth, Nebraska   (Bohemian Town)


Notes from the files of Joseph A. Kenny

The Czech's showed up in Plattsmouth in the early 1870's.  

The largest influx of immigrant came between the years 1877 and the  1890's.  This was largely due to the change in the mandatory military service in the Austrian Hungarian Empire that changed to a 12 year term, in which many Czechs came to the U.S. and especially the Midwestern States.  In Plattsmouth, the Czechs settled on the western side of the city.  It was an area that was filled with hills, bramble and weeds.  They developed it though and it was an area to be known as "Bohemian Town".  The language in Bohemian Town was spoken in Czech only.  It had a grocery store and it's own little school which still is standing today.  The first store was opened by John Svoboda on July 4, 1888.    The Kvapil's also had a small store which opened later, on the corner of 15th and Main St.  Today, the stores are gone.   The one room school was built and still stands today with many memories.  Some of the first English words were taught there to the Czech children.  The school was closed in 1932 and someone bought the land and converted the school into their home later moving it to its current location because of the railroad coming in.  

The Missouri Pacific Railroad put its first line in Plattsmouth, connecting it with Union and Gilmore Junction in 1892.                              

There is a Czech adage that says," A Czech, a Musician". The Czechs are natural born music lovers and even in the poorest communities, they will always gather to entertain themselves and others with music and dance.  It didn't take long before many Czech bands formed in Plattsmouth.  As the Janda family started coming to this city, they formed a band called the Plattsmouth City Band.     This band was organized by Anton, Thomas, Frank and Cyril Janda. In those days, Sundays were usually the only time to gather for music amusement and they would make a big fuss over it, polishing their boots and cleaning their clothing, to make a good appearance.  The whole community would gather and listen to songs such as, Money Mask, Virginia Reel, Do-Si- Do and other songs till the morning hours came.  The polkas, mazurkas and waltzes of the Czechs reviled with the American Square dance.  The Plattsmouth Band would walk behind  most every Czech funeral on its long trek, uphill, rain or shine, even in the muddy streets, behind a horse drawn casket, to a solemn mourningful hymn, to their Czech cemetery,  the Holy Sepulcher Cemetery, just outside Plattsmouth. 

Changes eventually came to Bohemian Town .   The late Ernest Janda who was born and raised in Bohemian Town recalled, " Years ago, these people wouldn't think of marrying outside their nationality group.  That is not true anymore."

Schools and stores were not the only establishments created by the Czechs in this  area.  Cyril Janda and Anton Toman formed a committee to build a church in their language.  See Holy Rosary      This Church was organized to serve the Czech speaking community in their own language.  It was built in 1890 and the last day of service was  Sept. 1973.  The late Dorothy Pilny recalls, " there is sadness, and even bitterness, in seeing our beloved Holy Rosary no longer in existence."   Dorothy served as organist for over 40 years.  

Today, the Czech language is seldom heard in Plattsmouth and no longer can you hear the Czech songs and hymns.  

Sources of the above material came from several newspaper articles from the Plattsmouth Journal, and from a Bohemian Town expert, Joe Kvapil.