Sumner Township


Early history and records show that up to 1862 Lincoln and Sumner Township were linked together as a voting precinct.

Historians say that Norwegians were probably the first permanent settlers since a good sized settlement of this nationality was well established in the northern part of the township in the early 1850's

Descendants of pioneers of Sumner Township, which is named after Capt. Edwin V. Sumner, who was at one time stationed at Fort Atkinson and later became a well known Civil War General, say the first settlers came into the township in early 1850. With the exception of a substantial settlement of Norwegians in the north part of the township, the first families were English. However, within 2 or 3 years Bohemian immigrants arrived and not only purchased land from the government, but also bought out some of the early English settlers including one who was particularly well known, Alva Tracy, who owned land in section 29.

In the Diamond Jubilee History of the St. Wenceslaus parish at Spillville, it is recorded that Joseph Spielman, a German, "A trustworthy man, true Bavarian and a sincere Catholic, arrived in 1851." In 1854 Spielman was joined by pioneer settlers whose residence were recorded in Sumner Township, some of these being: Martin Bouska, Frank Bouska, Joseph Zahasky, Frank Mikota, Thomas Krucheck, Frank Votova, John Valenta and Joseph Pecinovsky.

Sumner Township has the distinction of not ever having had a town built within its borders and of having only one church. In 1856 Catholic Germans built St. Clements church, which is located in section 25 south of Spillville. The Diamond Jubilee, St. Wenceslaus Parish, history says, "Some of the Bohemians assisted in the construction of the little church, but others refused to help. For this, the Germans of the parish dismissed them from the parish. This "neighborly" gesture stirred up the ambition of the rejected Czechs and they commenced the plan of erecting their own church."

The German families located mostly in the southeast part of the township, while the Bohemian families were in either the extreme east or the extreme west of the township. We were told that Bohemian boys eagerly sought work from their English-speaking neighbors in order to learn the language.

An 1875 map of Winneshiek County shows Norwegian names in the north part of the township of Ole Thompson, Hans O. Aker, Augusta Anderson, Erick Albertson, Ole Espeseth, Nels Brenno, John O. Lynda, S. W. Madison, and John Johnson. Bohemian names prominent on the map included: Joseph Ira, Frank Fencl, Frank Bouska Sr., John Pletka, Frank Klimesh, Joseph Kovarik, Thomas Kruchek, Albert Sobolick, Frank Anders, Joseph Soubelka, John Hospadarsky, Joseph Kashatka, John Koudelka, Frank Mikesh, Joseph Kovarik and Mathias Voyek. German names found on the map in the early days were: John Ludwig, Joseph Hauber, Henry Harold, Anthony Schriber, Michael Lichtman, John Frye, Fiet Fisher, and Ferdinand Heit.

The records of St Clements show many early German Pioneer family burials. A Protestant cemetery is located on the Falada farm west of Spillville and the Western Bohemian National Cemetery is in section 17. This cemetery is well cared for and well landscaped. It is owned by a group of Czechs who are descendants of the followers of Jon Hus. The land was set aside for a cemetery in 1897, being donated by Joseph Vopova. About 122 burials are recorded according to the survey by the Winneshiek County Historical Society.

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