THE ORIGIN OF SEVERAL OXFORD PIONEERS

Dzbanov is a village south of the city of Vysoke Myto, Czech Republic. In the 19th century 30 or more families emigrated from there to Oxford Township in Jones County, Iowa. The brothers-in-law Frantisek Beranek and Vaclav Jilek were the first, arriving in 1854 or 55. History of Czechs in America by Jan Habenicht states “The first Czechs arrived in 1855 to the countryside where the present day little town of Oxford Junction is located. They are: Frantisek Beranek from Dzbanov……Vaclav Jilek born in Dzbanov near Vysoke Myto…”

We know not why or how they came to this part of the Iowa prairie. We can assume that they wrote letters to their friends and relatives in Dzbanov, encouraging them to follow. Others who came to our area were Balicek/ Balichek, a second Beranek, Bures/Buresh, Dlouhy, two Dolezal, a second Jilek, Kubik, Kusy, Nespor, Pekar/Peckosh (also from Lhuta), Pekarek/Pegorick, Slouha, three Vozenilek, Zamastil, and probably Friouf, Lacina, Stoklasa, and Vanicek. Most of the Dzbanov emigrants settled in the northeast quarter of Oxford Township. Two Peckosh brothers operated a clothing store in Oxford Jct. from 1910 to ?, cleverly advertising their Wisconsin-made overalls as “Oshkosh B’Gosh from Peckosh”! Czechs are clever, smart, musical and hard-working.

A cluster emigration occurred with so many leaving Dzbanov for Oxford, just as the cluster emigration from the Suchdol nad Luznici area in South Bohemia to Oxford. Delaware County in Ohio sent a few. Vamberk, Pisek, and Kostelec nad Orlici in Bohemia also shared their human wealth.

The peasantry of Bohemia had little chance to improve their social and economic status. The promise of cheap land, personal freedoms, and opportunities for their children was a stronger pull than the natural desire to remain in a familiar place among extended family and their roots. The 1848 emancipation of serfdom, the loosening of the Hapsburg’s control, and the improved ocean passage service were major factors in emigration from Europe to America. Additional factors in Dzbanov were the poverty in the village in the 1860s, the many fires that forced them to decide between re-building or following friends to Oxford Jct., and the industrial revolution that made farming on small plots all but impossible. Their lives weren’t their own under serfdom but they were simple: they worked hard alongside their neighbors, paid their robota (service to the noble), and looked forward to Sunday’s walk to church and minimum chores.

The town of Vysoke Myto began in the Stone Age. It was on an important trade route by 1262 and a royal dowry town since 1307. While it was part of the Austrian Empire it was called Hohenmauth. Today it is a protected zone of historical interest, like our National Historical Register. The Gothic town square of 2 hectares has original towers and gateways, and an early 15th century town hall. It is approximately 90 miles east of Prague in East Bohemia. Vysoke Myto has about 12,000 residents who welcome many tourists. The area is called “Czech Paradise” because of its natural beauty in the picturesque foothills of the Orlice Mountains.

Dzbanov (caret/hacek over the z & carka over the a, and sometimes spelled Zbanov) is approximately 5 km (3 miles) south of Vysoke Myto at 49 degrees 55’19” Latitude & 16 degrees 9‘ 52“ Longitude, and 293 meters above sea level. Three local roads enter the town, one meeting Highway 357 at Lhuta to the west. Since 1882 railroad tracks pass about 2 km to the northeast with the tiny Dzbanov depot the likely scene of fond farewells said by our Oxford pioneers and those who stayed behind. The village now consists of 326 people in 146 houses, nestled between the surrounding farm fields and woods, with a town center that includes two ponds, a town hall, a large cross (there is no church or chapel), a WWI memorial, tennis courts, etc. Most houses have vegetable gardens, an orchard of fruit and nut trees, and sheds for animals, tools and the like. A unique, well-groomed village, it has many structures partially built with stone from the now-closed Dzbanov quarry. There is a mix of old farmhouses (house and outbuildings surrounding a courtyard), old cottages, remodeled, two story, and new houses plus apartment buildings.

At various times Dzbanov was attached to various towns but mostly to nearby Vysoke Myto and to Litomysl where there is a large castle complex. There is evidence that Dzbanov existed in the year 1113. House numbering began in ca. 1770 in this area. As in Oxford Jct. the people support themselves by farming (potatoes, millet, barley, dairy, goats, chickens), operating small businesses, and working in nearby towns. In 2003 44 households in Dzbanov had telephones, including a Jilkova (Jilek) in #111, a Stoklasa in #131, and a few others who might have relatives in Oxford Twp. whether they know it or not. In Vysoke Myto and suburbs listed as such in the phone book, there were no Balicek, 73 Beranek, over 200 Bures, 28 Dlouhy, over 200 Dolezal, no Friouf, 105 Jilek, 48 Kusy, 15 Lacina, 26 Nespor, 55 Pekar and Pekarek, no Slouha, 49 Vanicek, 46 Vozenilek, and 25 Zamastil. A Zamastil lived in Dzbanov in 2005.

During my September 2005 trip to the Czech Republic, I had a pre-arranged meeting with representatives of Dzbanov. The village is one of my ancestral origins, and I represented Oxford Jct. to further the new relationship between the two towns. Waiting outside the Obec Urad (community office or town hall) were then-Mayor Jindrich Svatos, three town councilmen, and Zdenka Cermakova who translated. After greetings and introductions we (my friend Diane and I) were invited into the unique town hall and seated at a large table. I presented gifts from Oxford Jct. and a letter from Mayor Richard Wherry extending O.Jct.’s friendship. I explained that at least 30 families from Dzbanov had emigrated to O. Jct. in the 19th century. They were interested in this history and the destination of their former residents. They welcome genealogies of Dzbanov lineage which are kept in a library in town hall. [Obec Urad, 566 01 Dzbanov u Vysoke Myto, Czech Republic] Start a new line after each comma.

The Dzbanov officials presented items for O.Jct.: a village chronicle, DVDs of aerial photography, a 1908 Cadastral map, etc., including a local-made clay jug with Dzbanov’s crest (emblem). Dzbanov means jug and was probably named for jugs left at the river for early travelers to drink from. The gifts are available for viewing/use in Wregie library, O.Jct., as are my photos from this trip.  You may also ask me to e-mail files on the families named in the second paragraph, above.

Our hosts escorted us around the village, explaining past and present homeowners, the two ponds, monuments, etc. There are 146 houses with 326 people now, half the population of 1910. There is no church or chapel in Dzbanov – they walk or drive to church at Knirov, through the woods called Hajku, northwest of Dzbanov. I had requested entry into house number 15 which had been my Vozenilek ancestors’. The back portions of this farmstead were intact but the front (dwelling section) was a two-story replacement which had served as a pub and residence, then a community center under Communism, and now being remodeled as a modern community center. The village chronicle states that Vozenilek’s #15 burned in 1861, the October 19th fire that claimed 33 houses. I wonder where they lived from then until they emigrated to Iowa in October of 1869. A daughter’s birth record of 1867 has them in nearby Lhuta where the mother was from, so perhaps they stayed with relatives. Displaced families were the norm in Dzbanov due to its many house fires. Because of the fires, the houses of Dzbanov were built in various years. Your ancestral home might be the second or third on the site. At least two house numbers moved with the owners: #21 rebuilt on the east edge of town, taking the number with them; #33 moved to its present location from another.

We drove to Knirov to see the church on a hill. This is where our Dzbanov and Lhuta ancestors walked to attend Sunday services, weddings, funerals, etc. The exterior has a thick bell tower and is surrounded by a walled cemetery. Family gravestones included Zamastil and Pekar (Peckosh), O.Jct. names. The interior was beautiful and had framed religious paintings which escaped damage by the Communists. The area’s school for children age 10 and under is also in Knirov. Older children are bused to Vysoke Myto. I was thrilled to have spent the day with those warm and welcoming Czechs, experiencing a village so vital to Oxford Jct.’s history.

The Heritage Museum in Oxford Junction displays a travel trunk that was brought in 1870 from Dzbanov to Oxford Township by John Beranek (b.1827). The words “Dzbanov” and “Beranek” appear on the front. The museum also has a doll from Vysoke Myto brought by Mr. & Mrs. Josef Vozenilek to Oxford. See Dzbanov Items list for other items in Oxford Jct. Please contact me if you have ancestry from Dzbanov or near.  JudyNelson08@gmail.com

1908 Cadastral Map (plat) of Dzbanov. To the right (east) of 83 is #21.
Above (north) #17 & 19 are 78, 94, 80, 86, 45, 81, & 18.