Annual Meeting - October 2008
Tom Kajer presented What Made New Prague “new Prague”. The Bohemians had traveled as far west as Dubuque, Iowa in the early 1850s. The Bohemians could either move into Iowa or north to St. Paul.
The Yankees considered the Bohemians lower class. The Yankees were against new immigration. Anything much west of the Mississippi River was still the Wild West with robberies and murders common place. A group of men traveled to St. Paul in 1855. The Bishop there told them to follow the Mississippi north to St. John’s near St. Cloud. They boarded a boat but the Captain went up the Minnesota River instead. They got off the boat at Shakopee and walked south where the land had been surveyed in 1854 and 55.
They then traveled back to Dubuque for their families. They returned to Minnesota since there was a cholera outbreak in Iowa and the New Prague area looked good for the long run. The original houses were dugouts which were practically caves plus an entrance made from logs, straw and mud. The winter of 1856 was a very long winter with over 100 inches of snow.
It took many years to clear the land of trees. One out of every seven men fought in the Civil War. A large Indian uprising took place in 1862. This brought many families into New Prague from the surrounding area. Many immigrants came from Southern Bohemia towns such as Ceske Budejovice, Trebon and Veseli.
Then came the railroad. The tracks were used for roads with many people getting killed while using the tracks. Railroad men would beg for food. The train whistles would spook the horses resulting in runaways. The New Prague area resulted in a shipping center providing wood, livestock, pork, chicken, eggs and flour(mills) for cities to the east. From 1870 through 1940 salesmen traveled the railroad bringing samples of goods for sale. This in effect brought the world to New Prague.
Most immigrants were a level above the serfs. They had a trade which was useful in the new country. Men would bring in their products to town then stop for a glass of beer. The beer halls were the center for communication for new products and news. Surprise parties were common to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries. Card parties were common with games such as Wisk, Euchre, and Sinch. A band would lead a funeral to the funeral home then to the cemetery. The fourth of July was the biggest day of the year with a big parade, parties and dances.