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The Czechs (Bohemians) from the Austrian Empire began arriving in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1848. They settled in an area of St. Louis which was then called Frenchtown. This section of St. Louis was later referred to as Bohemian Hill and today St. Louisans call it the Soulard area. The boundaries of Bohemian Hill, on the near south side of the city, were Lafayette Avenue, 7th Street, Russell Boulevard, and 18th Street.
Ninety percent of the Czechs who immigrated to St. Louis were literate, making Czechs the most literate of any immigrant group to settle in St. Louis during the 19th Century. They were bilingual with Czech as their native language and German as a second language. German was the required language of the Austrian Empire. In 1976 a comprehensive guide to materials published in the Czech language in the United States was published.(Click here for the complete information.)
The St. Louis Public Library operated the Soulard Branch on Bohemian Hill from 1911 until the late 1960s. At that time materials from the Eastern European (Slavic) portion of the collection were donated to the Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. The Soulard Branch collection was incorporated into a much larger Slavic collection. A bibliography of the entire Slavic collection was then published:(Click here for the complete information.)
By 1895 St. John Nepomuk Parish’s membership had grown so large it became necessary to begin another Czech parish. St. Wenceslaus Parish was formed to relieve the congestion.
In October 1931, the parish of St. John Nepomuk celebrated the 65th anniversary of the founding of the Young Men's Sodality and the Young Women's Sodality with a special edition of the parish magazine, The Saint John Nepomuk Messenger. The digitized version of the Messenger is available in the menu to the right. A link to the index of people mentioned or pictured in this special issue is also located in the menu to the right.
The required religion of the Austrian Empire was Roman Catholic. However, many 19th century Czech immigrants did not remain in the Catholic Church when they arrived in America. In 1854 a group of Czech immigrants in St. Louis formed a secular organization for fraternal and financial support: Cesko-Slovansky Podporujici Spolek, or C.S.P.S. (Czech-Slavonic Benevolent Association)
Within a few years the C.S.P.S. evolved into a national freethinking organization with members in areas with large Czech populations. In 1890 the C.S.P.S. built the Czech National Hall at Allen and Dolman Streets on Bohemian Hill. They also formed several other cultural and social groups. Fenton Historical Society.
In the early 1950s Bohemian Hill became threatened by urban development. The Czechoslovak Society of America (formerly the Cesko-Slovansky Podporujici Spolek) and the other Czech groups still operating in St. Louis moved to one location:
4690 Lansdowne Avenue
There were never many Czech Protestants in the St. Louis area. The Czech Evangelical Church in St. Louis was a mission sponsored by the Congregational Church.
Thanks to June M. Sommer for creating this material. For additional information refer to:
Sommer, June M. “Czech (Bohemian) Resources in St. Louis, Missouri, and the Surrounding Area, Part I,” St. Louis Genealogical Society Quarterly, v. 39, no. 3 (Fall 2006), pp. 80–84
Sommer, June M. “Czech (Bohemian) Resources in St. Louis, Missouri, and the Surrounding Area, Part II,” St. Louis Genealocial Society Quarterly, v. 39, no. 4 (Winter 2006), pp. 115–120.
125th Jubliee of St. John Nepomuk Parish, St. Louis, Missouri. St. Louis; n.p., 1979.
Cada, Joseph. Czech-American Catholics, 1850-1920. Lisle, Illinois: Benedictine Abbey Press, 1962.
Capek, Thomas. The Czechs (Bohemians) in America. (American Immigration Collection, v. 11). Reprint. New York: Arno and the New York Times, 1969.
Centennial of St. John Nepomuk Church, St. Louis, Missouri; history of first Czech Catholic church in the United States and the priests who served this congregation. St. Louis: St. John Nepomuk Church, 1954.
Corzine, Jay and Irene Dabrowski. “The Ethnic Factor and the Neighborhood Stability: The Czechs in Soulard and South St. Louis.” Bulletin Missouri Historical Society, 33 (January 1977), 87–93.
Habenicht, Jan. Dejiny Cechuvy Amerikých. St. Louis: Hlas, 1910. (History of the Czechs in America, published by the Hlas Press of St. John Nepomuk Church. The “Missouri Chapter” was translated and published in History of the Czechs in Missouri, 1854–1904.)
Habenicht, Jan. History of the Czechs in America. St. Paul [Minnesota]: Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International, c1996. (Translation of Dejiny Cechuvy Amerikých).
Harris, Eileen NiNi. Bohemian Hill: An American Story. St. Louis, Missouri: St. John Nepomuk Parish, 2004
Hyde, William and Howard L. Conard, eds. Encyclopedia of the History of St. Louis. 4 v. New York: Southern History Company, 1899. S.v. “Congregationalism in St. Louis,” by R. M. Sarent and M. Burnham, v. I, p. 463. (A discussion of the Czech mission operated by the Congregational Church.)
Jerabek, Esther, comp. Czechs and Slovaks in North American–A Bibliography. New York: Czechoslovak Society of Arts and Sciences in America; and Chicago: Czechoslovak National Council of America, 1976.
Jones, Patricia L. “What Ever Happened to Bohemian Hill?” Gateway Heritage, 5 (Winter 1984–1985), 22–31.
Laska, Vera, ed. The Czechs in America. 1633-1977. (Ethnic Chronology Series, No. 28). Dobbs Ferry, New York: Oceana Publications, Inc., 1978.
Martinek, Joseph. One Hundred Years of the CSA: The History of the Czechoslovak Society of America. Cicero, Ill.: Executive Committee of the CSA, 1985. (History of the C.S.P.S. which was organized in St. Louis in 1854.)
Schlyter, Daniel Martin. A Handbook of Czechoslovak Genealogical Research . Buffalo Grove, Illinois: Genun, 1985
Siller, Vilem, et al. Pamatnik Ceskych Evanjelickych Cirkvi ve Spojenych Statech. Chicago: Krestanskeho Posla Press,1900. (The St. Louis information was translated and published in History of the Czechs in Missouri, 1845 to 1904.)
Sommer, June, ed. History of the Czechs in Missouri, 1845 to 1904. St. Louis, Missouri: St. Louis Genealogical Society, 1988. (Translation of the “Missouri Chapter” of Dejiny Cechuvy Amerikých and the St. Louis information in Pamatnik Ceskych Evanjelickych Cirkvi ve Spojenych Statech.)
Soulard: The Ethnic Heritage of an Urban Neighborhood. St. Louis: Washington University Press, 1975.
Sullivan, Margaret LaPiccolo. “St. Louis Ethnic Neighborhoods, 1850–1930: An Introduction.” Bulletin Missouri Historical Society, 33 (January 1977), 64-76.
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