By Mike Avitt
I took this picture last week. Last summer, I picked up a brochure about the Bohemian Community, located about three miles south-southeast of Diagonal, at the Diagonal Printing Museum. I knew there was a Bohemian historical account in an old Record-News so I thought I would compare the two histories. I found a few variations, so I'll give the account of the October 25, 1928 Mount Ayr Record-News (page 9) because this information is harder to find. It may help a future historian.
The article starts out with a description of Jerry Zaruba's rock garden in which Mr. Zaruba created replicas of famous geological formations and historical structures. The Nonpareil, a Council Bluffs newspaper had carried an article praising Mr. Zaruba's work. The article was written by Miss Mattie Smith, a sister of Mount Ayr insurance man, R. C. Smith.
Miss Smith describes the arrival of the first Bohemians. Joseph Toman, Sr., his wife, their children, and a family friend, Vaclay Jezek, came to Ringgold County in
1856, on year after Ringgold County was established. The article reports the travelers were intending to continue west but stopped when rumors of Indian uprisings were circulated.
The new settlers were so pleased with their new surroundings, they wrote to friends and family in old Bohemia (Czechoslovakia to you and me) to come and join them. By 1866, the Bohemian families of Jezek, Leopold, Dolecheck, Ziska, and Kafka had joined the community in Ringgold County.
The cemetery in this week's picture was established in 1872 by Joseph and Mary Slavik. It is located in section 16 of Washington Township. It is believed a church was built here in 1857 and was located where we see the tool shed in our photo. The church was removed from this location in the early 1940s.
The brochure I got from the Diagonal Printing Museum contains a history of early Bohemian settlers, a map of the Bohemian Community from around 1900, and a list of the early settlers. Names I haven't already mentioned are: Ricker, Sobotka, Fogle, Novak, Skarda, Rychnovsky, Klejch, Kokesh, Pacha, Karsky, Slovik and Yashack. Most of those names are familiar to use more than 100 years later.
The 2017 Mount Ayr Historic Calenders, a fund-raiser for the Mount Ayr Depot Museum, are in and Aunt Jennie's Attic may still have some left!
Photograph courtesy of Mount Ayr Record-News
Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, June of 2017