The Czech Immigrants

The majority of later immigrants who joined the Anglo and Irish Americans were settlers from Europe."The majority of Czech emigrants who came to Texas were from either Moravia or Bohemia, collectively known as the Czech Lands in the Empire of Austria-Hungary, when they immigrated to the U.S. in the 19th century - not Czechoslovakia, which was created in 1918 after the capitulation of the Empire of Austria-Hungary at the end of WWI. Czechoslovakia only existed from 1918 until November, 1989 when the Communist Regime crumbled as a result of the Velvet Revolution. Most of the emigration from the Czech Lands ceased circa 1914 until 1968 during a short time span during the 'Prague Spring'. After the Velvet Revolution, Czechs could again emigrate.

The three entities that comprised Czechoslovakia were Bohemia, Moravia and Slovakia, which were separate countries until the Empire of Hungary took over Slovakia for 800 years, and the Empire of Austria took over Bohemia and Moravia for over 400 years. In the 19th century, the two empires joined to become the Empire of Austria-Hungary.

The country known as Czechoslovakia existed until March 29, 1990 when the name was changed to the Czechoslovak Federative Republic. At midnight on December 31, 1992, that entity ceased to also exist. Two new countries were created - the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic." (Heunsohn, 2013)

Czechs usually dispersed themselves in Texas counties (Austin, Colorado, Fayette, Washington, DeWitt and Victoria) among the German settlers who had arrived earlier, but this was not the case in the area around Smithville. The immigrants who did settle in the area in the late 1900's mostly came from the Czech settlements in Fayette County which had their beginnings in the 1860's (Machann, 1983, p. 35). They became residents among the other white settlers who had migrated to the area from the United States. At first the new residents were only tolerated by the existing community of Americans. Most of the new Czech residents were farmers and lived in the rural communities outside of Smithville proper. Machann states,

Czechs settle around Smithville, Rosanky, Elgin and Kovar named for early settlers who arrived in 1870. 1894 Rev. Juren and about 30 Brethren organize church in Kovar. Includes both Czech Presbyterians and Brethren. 1895 Josef Psencik moves to Smithville and in 1912 helps build Catholic church. About 200 Czech families by 1900.

(Machann, 1983, p. 260)

Additional information has been written about Kovar in the Bastrop County Times.

Into these communities they brought their religion, education of their children and other social institutions. Many had come to Paradise Valley to find a more prosperous life than the one they had left in Europe while others were moving secondarily from other Czech communities. Theirs was hope for a future that they could carve out of this new land a new and prosperous life. After a few generations many of the Czechs became indistinguishable from their Anglo and Scotch/Irish neighbors. The only remnants of their cultures from Europe lingered in the communities. Their folk customs and language that distinguished them from others in their country of origin were abandoned by many. The last names and religious affiliations are the only vestiges of their beginnings in this country several generations ago.

Personal histories as told by the residents themselves:

  • Francis Julius "Babe" Shirocky, 1996

    Heinsohn, Carolyn. Past board member and current Museum Committee member of the Texas Czech Heritage and Cultural Center. (2013).

    Machann, Clinton, & Mendl, James W. (1983). Krasna Amerika: a study of the Texas Czechs, 1851-1939. Austin, TX: Eakin Press.

    Additional Information About the Texas Czechs

    Czechs in Fayette County, Texas
    Texas State Historical Assn.
    Texas Czech Heritage and Cultural Center


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