Kovar Remembered

by Henry Krusekopf

The Bastrop County Times, Thursday, November 26, 1987, p. A10

Driving down Kovar Road today, the first question one is likely to ask is "where's the town?" Today, Kovar consists of two churches (a Catholic and a Brethren), several cemeteries, and the SPJST Lodge #38. There are no city limits signs to mark the boundaries of the community, and anyone who claims to live in Kovar most likely means that he lives within a two or three mile vicinity of the two churches and the SPJST Hall, or that his property fronts the winding Kovar Road.

That is Kovar today. But at one time, Kovar was a thriving little Czech farming community. Not only did it serve the religious and social needs of its citizens, but their commercial, business, and educational needs as well.

Running in an east-west direction across what is now August Hajdick's property was what was commonly referred to as Kovar Lane, which was the center of the Kovar community in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Kovar Lane, at that time, ran across the property of the Kubicek, Kovar, and Stasny families, three of the earliest Czech immigrants to the area.

After establishing their homes and farms in the 1870s, these three families, along with other early settlers, began to turn their attention to other needs of the developing settlement. Along Kovar Lane were built a general store, a dance platform, a saloon, and a steam powered cotton gin. A brass band was organized among the settlers to provide music for dances at the platform, as well as for weddings and other celebrations. In February of 1904, a post office was established at the general store, and the community became officially known as Kovar.

Another early concern for the settlers was education for their children. In 1891, the Stasny School was built, just south of the present day Brethren church building. Although the original school building was later replaced by a larger one, the Stasny school continued to serve area youngsters from the first through twelfth grades until the 1950s, when children began to get bussed into Smithville.

The building was later donated to, and moved by, the Smithville Independent School District, and is now located on the campus of Brown Elementary School, where it is used as the Smithville Community Center.

Lessons at the Stasny school were taught in English, and the children were expected to speak English while at school on the threat of being whipped with a willow branch (of their own choosing!) Of course, like most of Kovar's other citizens at the time, the children conducted most of their affairs speaking Czech.

The first Protestant church in Kovar was built in 1895 by a combined group of Presbyterians and Brethren followers. Although built jointly, the church building was owned by the Presbyterian church, and this created a controversy when some of the Brethren members tried to hold separate services in the building. The Presbyterians promptly locked the Brethren out of the building. This disagreement has come to be known as "the controversy of Barden's (Barton's) Creek."

Even today, the cemetery directly east of the present Brethren church is divided into Presbyterian and Brethren sections. After being locked out of the Presbyterian church building, the Brethren continued to meet in homes and at the Stasny schoolhouse until current church building was constructed in 1949, where the congregation still meets today.

The Presbyterian congregation did not fare as well after the incident, however, and their building was eventually torn down.

The first Catholic church was built in 1899, and a cemetery established. Prior to this, the Catholics had been meeting in homes, probably since the early 1880s. In 1921, a new Catholic church building was constructed about a mile east of the original site, and the active congregation still meets there today.

SPJST Lodge #38 in Kovar was organized on January 26, 1902, and the large, wooden hall was built in the 1920s. Although originally set up as an organization to provide fraternal life insurance for Czechs, membership in the SPJST is now open to anyone. Throughout its many years of existence, the SPJST Hall in Kovar has seen hundreds of dances, wedding receptions, and other events.

The decline of cotton as the major cash crop in the area, improved transportation, young people's flight to the cities, and increased Anglicization all contributed to Kovar's demise as the thriving little community it was at one time. Much of the social, religious, and commercial activities were shifted to neighboring towns such as Smithville.

By the early 1960s, Kovar looked pretty much as it does today, with its two churches and SPJST Hall. The other structures had either been torn down, fallen down of their own accord, or been moved to other locations. Driving down Kovar Road today, it is sometimes hard to imagine a prosperous community existing where now all one is likely to see are trees, brush, and pastureland.

Yet, although the physical reminders of Kovar's past are mostly gone now, many of the people living in the area today are descendants of the earliest Czech settlers, and many still remember those bustling years of of an earlier Kovar. Each of these people has different memories of growing up and living around Kovar. As long as there are those people with roots to the community, you can rest assure that there will always be a Kovar.

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