Czech Ghost Town: Mishak, Oklahoma

Authored on
January 3, 2021

I was on a quest to find the Czech village of origin for one of my ancestors (Mariana Žídek who married František Genzer. Spoiler alert, though he was from Frenštát, she was from Brušperk).

This is the distance from Brušperk to Frenštát

On the way I discovered something that is definitely worth writing about: a small ghost town named Mishak, Oklahoma.


Yeah, I was surprised, too.

It wasn't actually very difficult to find her village of origin, since this family has a huge family tree in MUDr. Josef Šimíček's The Pilgrims for Hope Volum II: The emigration to America during 1856-1914 from Frenštát and Trojanovice (which you can buy here). See? Here is her birth in Brušperk.

Mariana Žídek

Part of me wonders if the origin of the surname Žídek has anything to do with Jewish ancestry, or if it has to do with žízeň (thirst) - which seems unlikely - but in any case, this family was Roman Catholic, so my etymological musings are not very relevant.

Šimíček's published genealogy leaves her this way: "She died in Nov 1901 in Mishak, Ok."

So of course I plugged that place into google maps, and surprisingly, it wasn't there. I was intrigued! Where was this place?

I did a google search. The first link was to a 1988 article from the newspaper called The Oklahoman with this gloriously quaint headline: Town of Mishak Had School, Store. Something about that headline makes me smile.

I thought that maybe this town would be mentioned in Dějiny Čechův v Americe. You can read this book online for free in Czech here, or you can get an English translation from the CGSI store here.

History of Czechs in America Cover

Surprisingly, there was very little about this settlement in History of Czechs in America!

History of Czechs in America OK

What does exist mentions "Oklahoma City", but no settlement named "Mishak", even though the book was published during this settlement's prime in 1904. I suppose that this signals either 1) that for whatever reason, there weren't as many or as strong of contacts with the Oklahoma Czechs and Habenicht, 2) the length of time between research and publishing this book was significant, or 3) Mishak was teeny tiny!

I started to do a bit more sleuthing and came across an article about Czechs in Oklahoma by the Oklahoma Historical Society.

origin of Mishak

I found it personally interesting that there was a Texas connection worthy of mention. After all, this Genzer family actually went to Texas first - to Ammannsville. Something or other (perhaps the weather?) pulled them to Oklahoma, which wasn't too frequent of a migration route, to say the least.

When doing genealogy research in a new locality, the first thing I usually do is find the familysearch wiki page about that place. It is a good general collection of all kinds of information, and has links to online genealogy records. 

OK records

Then I started looking in the 1900 census for a place called "Mishak." I didn't find it. 

I read a little more about the town and discovered on the Oklahoma Cemeteries Website that it was founded, apparently, by someone named Frank Mishak. So I just searched for him in the 1900 census and soon discovered that in 1900, it was grouped with the town of Boone.

1900 census Mishak family
Here are the Mishaks on the 1900 census. They founded this small town of Mishak, OK.


1900 census header

See? Boone Township.

Mishak is apparently an air base today.

The Clear Springs "Mashak" Cemetery does not have my Czech relatives (nor very many people with Czech surnames at all). 

Mishak Cemetery

Mine were buried instead at St. Martin's Cemetery. This makes perfect sense; they would have wanted a Catholic burial, and there was apparently no Catholic church in Mishak/Boone.

By the way, my something-eth cousin Angelina Kretzchmar is confused about the very same thing that confuses me, apparently. One of the Genzer children's information seems very wrong. Was this Mary Genzer Cisak even related? The first Mary born to Mary Žídek and František Genzer was born in 1859, not 1856. Also, the couple wasn't even married until 1857 (which... doesn't necessarily mean... but you know. It would not follow the pattern). According to Šimíček, Mary Genzer born in 1859 marred Jan Zrubek (but maybe remarried Cisak?) and died in 1922 in Mishak, Oklahoma. So... is this a typo on her grave, where a 6 was confused with a 9? I am not really sure.

This is why I decided that I would make a quick index of the Czech inhabitants for the "Boone Township" in 1900, which apparently included Mishak. Here it is:

Czechs in Mishak, Oklahoma in 1900

Surname Given Name Relation to Head Birth Year Age Children Born Children Living Birthplace

Immigration Year

Genzer Ferdinand Head 1870 29     Bohemia 1881
  Rosie Wife 1873 26 mother of 3 3 children living Bohemia 1881
  Ladislaf Son 1895 4     Texas  
  Jerome Son 1897 2     Texas  
  Leo Son 1899 7/12     Texas  
  Mary Mother 1820 79     Bohemia 1881
Dvorak John Head 1865 35     Bohemia 1866
  Mary Wife 1872 27 mother of 3 3 children living Bohemia 1887
  Katie Daughter 1891 8     Nebraska  
  John Son 1894 6     Nebraska  
  Mary Daughter 1896 4     Oklahoma  
Sekova John Servant 1860 40     Bohemia unknown
Kolodefcak John Head 1876 24     Texas  
  Mary Wife 1877 23 mother of 2 2 children living Bohemia unknown
  Maggie Daughter 1896 3     Texas  
  Stanley Son 1899 8/12     Texas  
Genzer Martin Head 1870 29     Bohemia 1881
  Mary Wife 1875 24 mother of 4 3 children living Bohemia unknown
  Bozena Daughter 1894 6     Texas  
  Emil Son 1896 4     Texas  
  Martha Daughter 1898 2     Texas  
Harushe Charles Head 1878 21     Wisconsin  
  John Brother 1849 50     Bohemia 1853
  Mat Brother 1881 18     Wisconsin  
Hradecny John Head 1870 29     Bohemia 1883
  Annie Wife 1870 29 mother of 3 3 children living Texas  
  Julius Son 1893 6     Texas  
  Helen Daughter 1896 4     Texas  
  Oldeck Son 1898 2     Texas  
Dorek Joe Father in law 1840 60     Bohemia unknown
Hradecny Francis Mother 1843 57 mother of 7 7 children living Bohemia unknown
Kruta James Head 1860 40     Bohemia 1880
  Johanna Wife 1866 34 mother of 9 6 children living Bohemia 1880
  Frank Son 1883 16     Nebraska  
  Annie Daughter 1888 12     Nebraska  
  Joseph Son 1889 10     Nebraska  
  Gussie Son 1890 9     Nebraska  
  Mary Daughter 1892 7     Oklahoma  
  Helen Daughter 1896 3     Oklahoma  
  Josephine Adopted 1892 7     Nebraska  
  Frank Adopted 1894 5     Nebraska  
Brown Joseph Head 1833 67     Bohemia 1880
  Tracy Wife 1842 57 mother of 4 3 children living Bohemia 1880
Mleynek Wesley Head 1860 40   Farmer Bohemia 1863
  Annie Wife 1877 22 mother of 3 3 children living Nebraska  
  Hellen Daughter 1893       Oklahoma  
  Agnes Daughter 1894       Oklahoma  
  Frank Son 1897       Oklahoma  

Please note that I did not include the German families in this list, which was perhaps a mistake. 

In any case, you can really see that there were Czechs that came first to Nebraska, Texas, and even Wisconsin before settling in this little tiny settlement in Oklahoma.

To my great joy and amazement, I discovered that newspapers.com has heritage newspapers, including the gem "Český Oklahoman". For whatever reason, it is sort of OCRed but the search results are not included when you do a main search. This makes me wonder about if they might have other heritage newspapers that I don't know about.

Here are some ads from ~1909. They made me smile.

česky Oklahoman 18 Feb 1909
česky Oklahoman 18 Feb 1909.2

Are YOU interested in Texas? 

It makes me wonder why the Genzers left to go to Oklahoma. I suppose the grass is always greener. But that's... not necessarily... true of Oklahoma...

In any case, I'm so glad to have found out more about this place, and now I have another interesting mystery to solve: who is this Mary Genzer Zrubek/Cilak?

Also, I think that I very likely have some interesting emigration paperwork for this family. I will need to look into that sometime.





Mishak, OK