IAGenWeb Project - Clayton co.

St. Wenceslaus cemetery
Section 9, SW/NE, Giard twp.


McGregor, Iowa
Spook Cave Road
Located between County Road B45 and Highway 18

A Brief History & other information


see also: Alphabetical list of burials * Burials by family groups


A brief history of St. Wenceslaus Cemetery

St. Wenceslaus Cemetery was established in 1880 by a group of Czech families living in the area. Thomas and Mary Papacek purchased of an acre of land from Henry Weithorn to establish the cemetery and they later deeded the land to the Trustees of the St. Wenceslaus Cemetery for $1.00. St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Monona took over the cemetery in the early 1900’s, when the congregation switched from their local church to Monona.

A church was built at the site in 1883, but the congregation dwindled and the church was sold in 1946 to Mrs. John T. Havlicek. It was torn down and the lumber reportedly used in her home. A crucifixion statuary was erected on the site of the old church.

The first recorded burial was in 1881. It is recorded in a Czech history book of the St. Wenceslaus Literary and Chorale Society, which established the cemetery and built the church.

One hundred and eighty eight people are believed to be buried here. A number of other burials certainly occurred which did not get recorded. Of those known, there are:
17 infants
8 children aged 2-13
17 young adults between the ages of 17 and 30 (mostly accidents and disease)
17 adults between the ages of 30 and 50
14 adults between the ages of 50 to 60
63 adults between 60 and 80
52 adults over age 80

The oldest person known is Antoinette Samek Olson, aged 98 at the time of her death.

There are 11 veterans buried here, two from WWI, seven from WWII, and two from Vietnam. None were killed in action. Three young men are buried here who drowned in the Beulah flood of 1896. In addition, Gerald Havlicek’s obituary states he was a member of the National Guard in 1956.

There are at least 18 unmarked graves. Many of these unmarked graves are infants. Some are the last family member to die.

Little information could be found about a number of people buried here.

I was not able to compare the information in this book with the records at St. Patrick’s Church at Monona.

The cemetery was known by a number of names. St. Wenceslaus, St. Vincent’s, St. Vaclav,
St. Vaclava, Buelah, Bohemian, and Watson are all names found on the records. There are also misspellings of the St. Wenceslaus and St. Vaclav names.

Early records are written in Czech and translation was sometimes difficult. Some of the terms and uses of words are no longer current and it seems various dialects appear in the records. I trust there was a basic correctness to the translation, and that I will be forgiven by my ancestors for errors. Early records contain the name of the area where the family originated in Bohemia. These localities were especially difficult for me to identify correctly.

The Czech records don’t contain any deaths for the years of 1885, 1886, 1887, 1888, 1899, 1890, or 1900. It seems likely there were burials in these years that did not get recorded. There are several tombstones on the cemetery for this time.

My thanks to the Monona Historical Society Museum and Willa Helwig Historical Center for the extensive use of their records. Jym Montgomery and Adelbert Whittle shared information they had obtained during their research of the same cemetery, and I am grateful to them for their willingness to share. Together, it makes a more complete and true picture of the history of the cemetery.

But most of all I am thankful for the group of Bohemian immigrants who came to Iowa and established this cemetery to honor their dead. Some families appear to be related prior to immigration, and intermarriage after their arrival in America resulted in many of the people who are buried here being interrelated. All of them were remarkable people, but I am especially honored to know that my great grandparents and grandparents, Lestinas and Plozels, were so involved in the church and cemetery. They have become not only faces on photos and names in a book, but real people who loved and then lost family members. My great grandmother, who died quite young, has a beautiful poem on the back of her grave stone, obviously written by a loving and grieving family. It tells so much more than the photos and written obituary.

Od povcivej v pokoji
“Rest in peace.” May they all rest in peace.

Deanna Krambeer
December, 2015

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Crucifixion Statuary at St. Wenceslaus Cemetery

After the St. Wenceslaus Church was sold in 1946 to Mrs. Anna Havlicek (Mrs. John T. Havlicek), the crucifixion statuary was removed. A large statue of Jesus on the cross with St. John, Mary Magdelane, and Mary, the mother of Christ, was added. According to early histories, the statuary stands on the site of the St. Wenceslaus Church. Oral history reports say the cement base of the statue is the first step that entered St. Wenceslaus Church.

Four families were donors for this statuary, with each family donating a life-sized figure. The donors and figure donated were:
Cross and figure of Christ---Mr. and Mrs. Martin Vlazny
Mother of Christ---Mr. and Mrs. Frank A. Lestina
St. John, Evangelist---Mr. and Mrs. J. W. Lotza and Family
St. Mary Magdalene---Mr. and Mrs. John T. Havlicek and Family

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