Protivin, Iowa

City of Protivin The Beginning

In the 1850's immigration of people many from Bohemia had already begun in the Northeast Iowa area. Some of the immigrants left parents and families to seek a new life in this land called America. Many followed a friend or relative who had already arrived and wrote back of the availability of land to own and jobs to be had. Some of the early settlers in the area which is now Protivin were the following who arrived in New York harbor on December 13, 1853: Lukes, Kostka, Vojik, Vopava, Kovarik, Zahasky, Riha, Berka, Kolar, Bouska, Doubek, Mikesh. There were many more Bohemian families who came on this same ship. All came through Cleveland, some remained there others traveled on to Iowa and settled in and around the Protivin area, others settled in the Spillville area. On other ships arrived more early settlers, Mikesh, Pecinvosky, Zbomik, Klimesh, Peyer, Krejci (Taylor), Fencl, Koudelka, Lentz and others. Most of the early settlers tried to find land near a spring fed river or creek so they would have water for drinking and a wooded area for firewood and building purposes to construct their homes many of which were log homes. Over the next 10 to 25 years many more arrived.

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First Business Settlement

George Kostka's blacksmith shop in 1924
Kostka's blacksmith shop in 1924 (click to enlarge)

The first businesses in the area was a settlement about one half mile north of the present town. It consisted of a blacksmith shop operated by Anton Petrak, his assistant was Vaclav Kostka. Vaclav and his family immigrated to America in 1853, he came from a family of blacksmiths in Bohemia, there was a dry goods store operated by John Vrba, a grocery store operated by Thomas Novak, a saloon and dance hall. During this time there was no church in this area for people to attend and the people had to either go to St. Wenceslaus Church in Spillville or wait for a Mission Priest that would be passing through the area to celebrate Mass in a private home with everyone attending. Soon there was talk of building a church for the Bohemian settlers at the site of the north settlement. Joseph Pecinovsky offered some of his land as a site for the church. After much discussion a decision was made to build the church on top of a nearby hill as most of the churches in their homeland of Bohemia were built. This hill was located south of the north settlement.

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The present town of Protivin

Protivin, Holy Trinity Church
Holy Trinity Church in Protivin, before destroyed by a windstorm (click to enlarge)

Following the decision for the location of the church, Frank Chyle Jr., who owned that land as well as additional land, offered to donate land for the church site. This was in May of 1878. His father Frank Chyle came to America in 1855, lived in Canada and Dubuque before purchasing land in Howard County in 1858. Frank Chyle Jr. was born in 1847 in Podcepice, Bohemia and came to America with his father. In 1872 and 1876 Frank Chyle Jr. purchased tracts of land on which most of Protivin stands. Frank Chyle Jr. married Maria Jira, also an immigrant of Bohemia in Chicago in 1873. Maria was born in 1852 in the town of Protivin, Bohemia and it is in her honor that Protivin, Iowa was named. In June, 1878, Frank Chyle Jr. filed a plat of the town. The first house was built on the Chyle property directly across the street from the church property in 1892. Frank Chyle Jr. operated his business from this house, which also served as a hotel and boarding house. The house was demolished in 1988 to make way for a new bank building built by Decorah State Bank and is now a branch bank of The Bank of the West. The church cornerstone for the church which was named Holy Trinity was blessed on May 29, 1878 and Holy Trinity Church was completed and dedicated on September 28,1878. It was a frame structure which was replaced by a larger brick church 1907. This beautiful historic church is still used today.

With the church and more homes being built, businesses also began to flourish along the Main Street of Protivin. A fire destroyed most of the business buildings in the north settlement with the exception of the Blacksmith Shop which is still in the same location today. In 1881 there were two saloons and a store on Main Street. One of the saloons was operated by John Hosek while the other saloon and dance hall was owned by Frank Chyle Jr. In 1886 John Vrba built a new dry goods store, in 1895, John Fencl operated a farm implement business and in 1896 W. Jelinek and John Hajek formed a partnership and opened a butcher shop. By 1897 the following merchants were operating businesses in Protivin: Frank Fencl, hardware; Mathias Junko, furniture; Frank Chyle Jr., boarding house; Albert J. Mikesh, furniture; John Fencl, farm implements; W. Jelinek and John Hajek, butchers; Lukes and Cisar, general store; Thomas Chyle, dry goods and grocery; Kopek, shoe repair. 1897 brought the towns first doctor. Dr. J.M. Smittle, a graduate of Iowa State University's school of medicine. In 1898, Charles Kopenda, a shoemaker was making shoes and boots; M.T. Bouska had a millinery store; Charles Pecinovsky was the second implement dealer; J.W. Shaddock opened a jewelry store. In 1901, John Shindelar opened a blacksmith shop in town, the blacksmith shop in the north settlement continued to be operated by the Kostkas and is still there today owned by Dale Fenske. In 1908, Protivin added these businesses: a dressmaker, hotel, another meat market, creamery, crockery shop, telephone company and a sawmill.

The Protivin Creamery
Protivin Creamery (click to enlarge)

The Protivin Creamery Association was formed March, 1891 with the first butter maker being Stener Larson. The exact location of the first creamery is unknown, a new creamery was built along with an ice house along the south side of Bohemian creek. In 1912 the Association was incorporated under the name Farmers Cooperative Creamery and in 1921 a new stucco finish building was completed and occupied until it closed on July 22, 1974.

On June 23, 1894, a petition was filed in the Office of the Clerk of the District Court for Howard County for the incorporation of the Town of Protivin. The Petition for Incorporation was signed by the following: Wenzel Kadlec, J.V. Schuler, Wenzel Cisar, Frank Chyle Jr., Stener Larson, Joseph Kostka, Vit Jankovsky, Ferd Lukes, Martin Kalishek, Philip Bouska, Martin Lukes, Frank Kalishek, Charles Rolfson, Frank Fencl, W.J. Kadlec, Stepan Hruska, Anton Vrba, George Vachta, Mathias Junko, John Fencl, Thomas Chyle, Frank Polansky, John Tuchek, Anton Kacer and Frank P. Pecinovsky. In 1894 an election was held for or against the incorporation, there were 22 ballots cast 21 for and 1 against. On September 12, 1894, the incorporation papers were filed with the Secretary of the State of Iowa, officially making Protivin an incorporated town.

On October 22, 1901, the Protivin Telephone Company was incorporated. The Board of Directors were Frank J. Fencl, John Fencl, Joseph Bouska, Ferd Lukes, Frank Kalishek, Albert J. Mikesh, John Bouska and John A. Dostal. The company was in operation until 1955 when it was sold to the Central Iowa Rural Telephone Company and in 1956 the corporation was dissolved.The local community felt there was a need for a bank in town and after a meeting of a group of townspeople on April 28, 1910 and many ensuing meetings, plans were finalized to open a new bank with the name of Bohemian Savings Bank. The new bank had its grand opening on December 1, 1910. The Besada Hall was built in 1912. This building was used for many years hosting concerts, lectures, theatricals, receptions and other community activities. On July 7, 1925, the Beseda was purchased by Holy Trinity Parish and was then used as an auditorium and gymnasium for Rudolphinum School. This historic building was razed in February 1981 and a new Protivin Community Center was built on the site.

Rudolphinum School
Rudolphinum School (click to enlarge)

Because of the continued growth of families in the Protivin area, a decision was made to build and open a Catholic School. Under the direction of the pastor. Reverend John P. Broz, a grade school was built in 1896. The first teacher was Thomas Ira who taught 40 or 50 students in one classroom. In 1899 the Sisters of St. Francis of Milwaukee took charge of the school. There was need for a larger school, in 1927 Rudolphinum School was built and housed both the grade school and high school as well as the Sisters quarters. Again because of a need for more space, a new Grade School was built next to Rudolphinum which then was used for the high school students. This took place in 1955. In 1960 the enrollment in the Grade School was 215 students. The Grade School is still in operation today, 2005 teaching from Kindergarten through Grade six. It is now taught by a lay faculty. The high school closed in 1968 and was demolished a few years later. Protivin has always held a high esteem for education and has taken great pride in its schools.

Another interesting era in the history of Protivin is the time when a proposed railroad was to be built. It was to be called the Mexican and Manitoba Short Line extending from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. In 1912 the engineering crew were here surveying and planning the route. Actual work had begun with the track beds prepared for the tracks, but the tracks were never laid as the company ran out of funds. Protivin was never to become a railroad town.

Protivin was a very active community in the early 1900s', there are posters in existence today that tell of the Veterans Day Celebrations, the Church Bazaar, Movies that were shown on weekends and the many Theatre Productions an Concerts that took place in the Beseda. The Bohemian people always had a great love of music and the Protivin Band was formed in 1903 under the leadership of Jacob Svestka. It was a note worthy Band and played in many towns around the area. This Band is still in existence today under the name of Protivin Area Community Band, a multiage group of volunteer players make up this band which is currently under the direction of Milton Mikesh of Waterloo, Iowa who is a native of Protivin.

Protivin, Main Street, 1919
Main Street, 1919 (click to enlarge)

An interesting poster for a Threshers' Picnic held on September 17, 1914 lists as advertisers the following businesses: Under Treshers for hire were R. H. Lukes, Fencl Bros., F.C. Novotny, Joseph Vsetecka, Jos. J. Klimesh, Charles Jirak, J.P Pecinovsky and Louis Novak who was a thresher and also a lumber sawer. Other businesses at that time were Kalishek & Holecek-City Meat Market, Charles Tuchek-Barber, Dr. R.E. Jameson-Physician, C.H. Zender-Druggest, Charles Andera-Gas Tractor Operator, Ferd Lukes & Son-General Merchandise including clothing, groceries and hardware, A.J. Mikesh-Fumiture & Caskets, John Sindelar-Blacksmith & Horseshoer, Frank Polansky-Restaurant, Pool Room and General Draying, Mrs. Mary Snopek-Millenery, John Bilek-Shoemaker and Repair, Frank Klima-Feed Grinding, W.J. Kalishek-Restaurant, F.J. Klimesh-Farm Implements, Bohemian Savings Bank, George Vachta-Southside Meat Market, Frank Andera-Auto Livery.The Protivin Electric Light Company began business on February 15, 1915. The first officers were John Bouska, president; Frank T. Chyle, vice-president; Frank H. Chyle Secretary; and John Sindelar, treasurer. Joseph D. Bouska became manager and a twenty year franchise was granted by the town of Protivin. On Christmas Eve in 1915 after midnight church services, electric lights were in operation for the first time. In 1920 The company was sold to S.H. Latimer of Calmar, Iowa.

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Mayors of the Town of Protivin

Oct 1894 - Mar 1895
Mar 1895 - Apr 1898
Apr 1898 - Mar 1899
Mar 1899 - Apr 1900
Apr 1900 - Apr 1902
Apr 1902 - Mar 1907
Apr 1907 - Apr 1910
Apr 1910 - Mar 1912
Apr 1912 - Apr 1914
Apr 1914 - Aug 1915
Aug 1915 - Apr 1920
Apr 1920 - Apr 1924
Apr 1924 - Apr 1936
Wenzel Cisar
Frank Chyle Jr.
Ferd Lukes
John Bader
Frank J. Fencl
Thomas Chyle
John A. Dostal
Ferd Lukes
John A. Dostal
Edward J. Lukes
John A.Dostal
Edward J. Lukes
Joseph D. Bouska
Apr 1936 - Apr 1938
Apr 1938 - Mar 1946
Apr 1946 - Sep 1951
Sep 1951 - Dec 1952
Jan 1952 - Dec 1953
Jan 1954 - Sep 1961
Sep 1961 - Dec 1967
Jan 1968 - Dec 1969
Jan 1970 - Dec 1979
Jan 1980 - Dec 1983
Jan 1984 - Dec 1985
Jan 1986 - Jul 1986
1986 - present
Frank J. Fencl
Joseph D. Bouska
Joseph Kacer
Alois Bernard
Joseph G. Huber
Godlove Lukes
William Houdek
Robert Polashek
Donald Lensing
John Balik
Donald Lensing
Edmund Samec
Michael Lensing

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Protivin Today

In this thriving community the population has ranged from 136 in 1900 to a high of 361 in 1980, it continues to average around the 350 mark. We continue to be a very active community. In 1978 we celebrated the 100 year anniversary of our Catholic Parish, the celebration was a great effort of all the people living in and around the Protivin area. A large parade was held and a great variety of entertainment for our visitors. It was estimated that 35,000 people were present for this event, the people filled all of main street from one end to the other. We have continued to hold a weekend celebration called "Czech Days" the third weekend in August annually. For this celebration plans begin right after it is over with for the next year. Volunteers begin baking in July ending up with a total of about 1300 dozen kolaches and 800 dozen rohliky. They also make 275 Ibs of homemade noodles for noodle soup. We have many visitors from a number of states and have had visitors from the Czech Republic a number of times. For several years we had visitors from Protivin, Czech Republic.

Although many of our historic buildings are gone we continue to have a very active business community. There are 27 business operating in town today including the following: Fencl Oil & L.P., Farmers' Mill, Art's Milling Service, The Mint Restaurant & Bar, Rocking Horse Bar & Grill, Conway Funeral Home, Hugeback Funeral Home, J.P. Building Services, Sam's Service, Panos Farm Supply lumber yard & hardware, Protivin Builders, Ondrashek Construction, Allan Moudry-Ron Novak Builders & Cabinet Making, Jane's Little Villa Salon, Koshatka Farm Equipment, Protivin Guest House, Protivin Locker & Meat Market, Bank of the West for all your banking needs, Fenske Blacksmith Shop, Hansmier Welding, Protivin Community Fire Department, Jestrab Excavating, Shindelar Auction Service, Bill Berka Lawn & Garden, Bob Bader Small Engine Repair, Ernest Fencl Milk Hauling, Micki's Mini Mart.

Protivin also boasts a fine Softball Park, a City Park, newly constructed City Hall also Housing the Protivin Post Office, a Veterans Memorial, a large Community Center, Trinity Catholic School, a very well kept Holy Trinity Cemetery and a short distance east of Protivin is the Bohemian National Cemetery.

This is a condensed history of the City of Protivin. Some information was taken from Gerald G. Pecinovsky's Books, "Protivin, A Czech Settlement" published in 1978 and "Protivin, The First One Hundred Years" published in 1994. These books give a more detailed History of Protivin.

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Protivin, Bohemia

Protivin, Czech Republic
Protivin, Czech Republic (click to enlarge)

Since the City of Protivin was named after Protivin, Bohemia currently the Czech Republic, a short history of that city seems appropriate. During the rule of King Premysl Otakar 11, because of the discovery of gold in the area, a small castle was built surrounded by a fortress, on the banks of the Blanice river. The caretaker of the castle was a servant of King Premysil Otakar 11 named Protiva. The name Protiva is found in documents written in the year 1180, in that time Protivin already existed. Protiva was trusted member of the army of the monarch. The village was named Protivin after him. The first written information about Protivin dates from 1260 and 1282. The town began as a village built around a small fortress, successively sold and bought by a number of noble families. In 1598 there existed in Protivin a brewery and a malthouse, this was during the administration of Prince Adolph Joseph Schwarzenberg. Under the Schwarzenberg administration, Protivin quickly developed economically, especially after 1848. The Church of St. Elizabeth of Portugal was completed in 1662. The building of the PIzen-Ceske Budjovice and Protivin-Zdice-Rakovnik railroads was very significant for the town's development. A new school was built at the beginning of the 20th century. most recently, in the 1980s, traffic was moved outside the town, the water purification facility was built and gas was piped to every house. Protivin is located in a very scenic area surrounded by woods, there are many well kept trails suitable for hiking, hiking and other outdoor activities. There also is a system of ponds which are used to raise a variety offish. This has been developed into a School of Fisheries. In recent years Protivin has renovated many of the buildings as well improving the Town Square making it a very attractive town for tourists to visit. It's major business is the Platen Brewery making a number of different varieties of beer. There also is a firm manufacturing sportswear for the Alea corporation; a firm that manufactures many types of denim wear, a factory that manufactures tile roofing, a building center, as well as many other businesses, Information taken from book written by Antonie Kolafova of Protivin, C.R. and the Protivin Information Center, Protivin, C.R.

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History of Name of Protivin, Czech Republic

It is possible to identify the source of the name of the town and castle Protivin coming from the name Protiva. The name was known during the Rozumberk era. The name Protiva is listed in 1180 and during that time Protivin was already in existance. Protiva is listed as a witness on lists during the years 1181,1183 and 1193. The family Protiva during the reign of Premysel Otakar II were the founders of Protivin in the 12 century.

Taken from "Dejiny Mesta Protivina" by PhDr. Antonie Kolafová pages 8 and 9.


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