“historic and beautiful”
Taken from the "History of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church Praha, Texas published by The Schulenburg Sticker 1995. The History of Praha - "Maticka Praha" Praha - the name spoken by many Czech lips with resounding pride in Fayette County, throughout the mighty state of Texas, even to the far reaches of the United States and across the seas to Czechoslovakia. Praha - the promise of the New World was to be realized here. After years of fighting, revolution and hardships, the Czechs had replaced the Germans as the largest population group in the provinces of Bohemia and Moravia. (These provinces later joined with Slovakia in 1918 to become known as Czechoslovakia). A growth of Czech national feeling led to a movement to obtain self-government in Slovakia in the mid-1800s, but this was stamped out by the Slovakian rulers. It was during this time of change that Matej Novak (1818-1896) of Vadkov Lahnice in Bohemia, sailed on the Jeverland and traveled across the seas to the shores of America. He disembarked in Galveston in 1854 and found his way to this area, eventually settling along Mulberry Creek in the southeast corner of Fayette County. The settlement was not known as Praha at that time, but rather "Hottentot" because of a variety of outlaws and other hard cases who could not get along with even the rough frontiersmen. These people were used to an undisciplined lifestyle and could not understand the hard-working Czechs who were willing to work hard and sacrifice much to wrest a living out of the heavily wooded black land. Matej Novak, his brother Anton Novak, and Mathias Jares worked for wages among the American settlers and by being thrifty they saved enough money to buy land. Matej Novak bought several hundred acres and built a house made of logs, covered with handmade shingles. Many of the settlers who came later and stayed in the area built their homes in the same manner. Matej Novak had brought his family here to prevent his son, John Novak, then 5 or 6, from being conscripted into the Slovakian armies. Ironically, about 10 year later, his son, a member of the mounted Fayette State Right Guard, was killed in the American Civil War. Matej Novak was filled with great sorrow and found it difficult to forget, so he poured himself into farming and raising cattle to help ease the pain. After the Civil War ended in 1865, a great many immigrants came to America, seeking their relatives and friends and looking for a better place to raise their children. They brought with them their faith, and love of music and good cheer. A number of Czech families settled along Mulberry Creek near Matej Novak. The settlement became known as Mulberry because of the abundance of mulberry trees along the creek. Father Victor Gury of Frelsburg came periodically between 1864 and 1865 to minister to the spiritual needs of these Catholic families in this area, though it did not seem to be nearly as often as they would have liked. These families, coming from a strong Catholic background and having been deprived of the opportunity to practice their religion, sorely missed the comforts it provided. Their prayers were answered when Father Joseph J. Martinier came from Hallettsville, some 22 miles south of Mulberry, first when he could, then once a month. Holy Mass was celebrated in Matej Novak's home and then in the homes of others. The faithful came in all kinds of weather, walking, riding in wagons or buggies, on mules or on horseback from as far away as 30 miles for the privilege of attending Mass and to receive the sacraments of the church. Used to hardships on their farms, this was a privilege too precious to miss - a chance to worship God in the celebration of the Holy Mass, and to get to talk to their neighbors in Czech. As the Mass was said in Latin, even those not of Czech descent could participate in this most sacred ritual. At this time there were only eight families in the parish, namely Matej Novak, Frank Branecky, Joseph Vyvjala, George Morisak, Joseph hajek, Mathias Jares, John Baca and Anton Novak. In 1865, the settlers, though having little or no money and barely enough food for their own survival, did build a small chapel. This chapel, measuring 17-feet by 15-feet, was made of stones. The walls were 18 inches thick. Considering the thickness of the walls, the chapel inside measured only 15 1/2 feet by 13 1/2 feet - not much larger than many a room in a modern home. The stones used in the chapel are much smaller than the ones used to build the present church, and appear to be slabs of stone ranging from one to five inches in thickness. About 90 feet slight northwest of the chapel, the people also built a small stone hut measuring 14-feet by 14-feet wherein the visiting priests could stay while in this area. He could also robe for Mass here as the chapel was too small to accommodate a sacristy. The walls of this hut were also 18 inches thick. There was one 14-inch by 14-inch window in the north side with four criss-crossed iron bars imbedded in the windowsill, apparently to keep out large predators. The large door on the south side was made of 1 by 6 inch planks, complete with a hard-carved 1-1/2 inch peg three inches long still in place in the door frame wich appears to have been used to latch the door. These structures still sand on Knezek Road, about 1/2 mile east of the present church, on property now owned by Elton and Henrietta Moeller. Mr. Moeller stated that the sandstone, or rock stone as they are commonly known in the area, still turned up when his pond was shaped and the land was worked. These stones are like the ones used to build the chapel and the hut. The first Mass was offered in the chapel at midnight on Christmas Eve in 1865. The celebrant was Father Joseph Bittkowski, a Benedictine missionary priest who was serving in this area of Texas under the jurisdiction of the Resurrectionist Missionaries. These missionaries had come to Texas to minister to the Polish People. A little imagination can add an altar brimming with beautiful native christmas flowers and flowers from seeds and bulbs which they brought from their homelands, a crucifix, soft light from the candles that burn at all Masses, Christmas hymns sung in the Czech language, and a warmth spreading from those present at the Mass, to provide an all-pervading sense of peace, love and good will toward their neighbors which was surely felt by those participating.
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