Czechs in Kansas
Kansas is home to a fairly large Czech population. Most of the current population that identify themselves as Czech come from Bohemian or Moravian ancestry. The Czech influence in the state can be seen in such counties as Decatur, Ellsworth, Lincoln, Marion, Marshall, Rawlins, Republic, Rush, Russell, Shawnee, Sumner, Trego, and Washington.
Perhaps the best known of the Czech settlements in Kansas is in Ellsworth County. The first Bohemian settler in Wilson was Francis J. Swehla who arrived on May 16, 1874, with Ceska' Osada (meaning Czech Settlement) painted on the side of his wagon. He wrote to various Bohemian newspapers in the United States advertising his Czech Settlement. He praised the climate, good soil, plentiful water, building stone, and the fact that land was inexpensive. Organizations and interested individuals responded, and from 1875 to 1910 Czech immigrants settled in and around Wilson.
The largest party of Bohemians seeking homes in Ellsworth County came in 1876 from Chicago. Most of the first Bohemian settlers to central Kansas moved from larger cities in the eastern part of the United States. In 1877 the first group of settlers coming directly from Europe arrived, settling primarily in Lincoln County. A large portion of the Czech settlers were Catholic. Although many settlers retained their native Czech language, many spoke German. Historically, many Germans had settled in Bohemia.
Many of the early Czech settlers were mechanics and merchants by trade. However, many also became successful farmers. Fraternal organizations such as the Bohemian Slavonic Benevolent Union, and athletic organizations such as the Sokol, were formed by the early settlers. Education was highly valued within the communities. Like other ethnic groups in Kansas the Czechs worked hard to preserve their unique cultural heritage.
Traditions 1993 © KSHS
Entry: Czechs in Kansas
Author: Kansas Historical Society
Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.
Date Created: August 2012
Date Modified: August 2012
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