The Kovar Community

The Kovar Community is located seven and one-half miles southwest of Smithville on the Kovar Road about one-quarter mile west off of Hwy 95 . It was settled mostly by Czechs from the community around Cistern to the south. Some of the families came to Cistern after originally settling in the primarily German community of Industry. The land around Kovar was purchased for farming by the Czechs out of the William Medford and S. Darling leagues which were granted to them by the Mexican government. Medford's land was granted on October 5, 1835 and Darling's on October 29, 1845. The Medford estate was broken up on December 26, 1854 and the Darling estate later on. Some of the Medford land around Kovar was purchased by the Germans E. M. Koch in October 19, 1915 and by William Hillig and P. Lehman in August 27, 1928. Later purchases of parts of the leagues were by J. Zapalac, F. Adamik, F. Psencik, F. Sesuk, E. Vivalu, J. Vasek, S. Zimmerhanzel, E. Hribek, M. Hajdik, and others. (Bastrop Co. , Index to Maps, Vol. 1). These land purchases show a progression of possession of the land from Mexican to Anglo to German to Czech.

The early Czech immigrants who came to Texas were mostly tradesmen and did not know much about farming. They had to learn all they could about their new vocation to be able to survive in the rural farming community settings that they found there. This was a difficult task, since their lives were to be much different from the one's that they left in Europe. In order to accomplish this feat they kept a close watch on their American neighbors in order to learn what they could about the methods necessary to grow crops in the Texas soil.

Many of the farmers in the Kovar community took their crops to be loaded on the MK&T; railroad spur at Togo.

By 1910 the community fathers established the Stasny School. The school had two rooms where children were taught to the eight grade by Anglo teachers who were hired to teach the Czech children the American culture. English was used in the school and the farmers discouraged the use of the Czech language by their children. They believed that it was in their best interest to learn to be as American as possible and to assimilate into the American mainstream. They knew the prejudice that went along with speaking with foreign accent, and because of it and didn't want their children to experience the same thing. These assimilationist ideals were further reinforced by Augustin Haidusek who lived in La Grange from the 1850's.

The goal of a fuller participation in American community life, through increased business and political activity, was prominent among the Czechs who moved into West (Texas) during the final decades of the nineteenth century, and it was becoming increasingly characteristic of all Texas Czechs during this time.

(Machann & Mendl, 1983, p. 221)

Augustin was further quoted as saying:

I hereby notify my fellow countrymen that after the current year the English language must be taught in the public schools. To be sure, other languages may be taught, but English must be used by all teachers and must occupy the most important place in the program, whereas the other languages may occupy second place. I am advising you, my countrymen, to elect teachers who are thoroughly capable of speaking and teaching the English language.

(Machann & Mendl, 1983, p. 224)

In the in January, 14, 1889 edition of the Svoboda the most successful and influential Czech newspaper in the state Augustin said:

We left the country of our birth with the intention of making America our permanent home. We did this of our own free will; no one forced us into it. We selected the United States as our mother country; therefore, our interests are identical to those of the other citizens here. . . . Anything that is beneficial to them cannot be harmful to us. Whoever recognizes this must recognize that our sacred duty is to become American citizens. . . When we do this we are obliged to support the American institutions not only because the law requires it, but because it is our moral obligation. If we do not like some of the institutions, we have a right to point out their faults and make efforts to have them corrected. Our nationality is well suited for American citizenship. We love liberty; we are honest, industrious, economical, and law abiding. These are the essentials of a good citizen. . . . An American citizen must possess certain knowledge, but this we do not have. Every sensible person understands that the most important part of a democracy is its educated citizens. . . In a democracy, the people attend to their affairs through their representatives. In order to get this work done well, the citizens themselves must understand it. That which we do not understand well we are incompetent to manage. The idea that a person who does not know the English language can be as useful an American citizen as one who knows it is truly ridiculous. The people who do not understand are incapable of indulging in politics.

(Machann & Mendl, 1983, p. 225-6)

As the town of Smithville prospered, many of the Czechs decided to take advantage of the town's economic growth. Some of family names of those who moved from the Kovar area were: Psencik, Adamcik, Zimmerhanzel, Vacek, and Shirocky. The Adamcik's, Psencik's, and Shirocky's accumulated enough capital to go into the grocery business. None of the merchants listed in the 1800's businesses (Johnson, 1996, pp. 150-7) in Smithville, however, account for any of the Czech families from Kovar. By the 1900-1909 listing, Joe Psencik Groceries on Main Street was in business. By the 1910-1919 listing, the Adamcik People's Meat Market, Joe Psencik's Grocery, Frank Psencik's Dry Goods are also listed. In the 1930's they were joined by Vacek's Pharmacy and the Vasek Garage. By the 1980's they were joined by Zimmerhanzel's Bar BQ which continues on into the '90's.

Although the Czech community of Kovar is little more of what it was in the early days, it still bears the remnants of its past. The Catholic Church still stands with the graveyard behind, although a movement to relocate it to another parish was recently thwarted by interested community descendants; the Moravian Brethren Church is no more, but the graves of its parishioners is still marked; and the Presbyterian Church was moved to Smithville from Pea Ridge in 1889. The SPJST Hall is still standing and is used on occasion for various celebrations.

One can no longer make a living farming the land around Kovar, but there are still a few older residents still living in the old farmhouses. From time to time the community is visited by the dependents of those early settlers. Each of them hold onto the memories of the many who built a community to better the lives of themselves and their heirs.

Kovar Remembered

Machann, Clinton & James W. Mendl. 1983. Krasna America: a study of the Texas Czechs, 1851 - 1939 . Austin: Eakin Press
Johnson, Valarie. 1996. Unpublished manuscript of the Businesses of Smithville, Texas.
Index to Maps, Leagues, Surveys, Towns, vol. 1. Bastrop County Courthouse.


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