Wilson in Ellsworth County, Kansas — The American Midwest (Upper Plains)
Czech Capital of Kansas
Immigrants find support in a new land
Wilson's Czech culture began with Francis J. Swehla, its first Czech settler. Arriving in 1874, Swehla used Czech language newspapers across the U.S. to spread word of a "Czech Settlement" offering cheap land, rich soil, access to water, and building stone. Bohemians soon flocked to Wilson, continuing to arrive into the early 20th century. While many migrants were from eastern American cities, some also arrived from overseas. Many of the new Czech were tradesmen who came to succeed at farming.
Like other arrivals in Post Rock Country, the new settlers adjusted to the lack of wood. They often lived in dugouts or huts made from bricks of sod until they could
Like many ethnic groups in Kansas, the Czechs of Wilson stayed together in rural enclaves to maintain their language and customs and provide comfort and support while homesteading. Societies like the Bohemian Slavonic Benevolent Union educated and assisted newly arrived Czechs, while the Wilson Czech Opera House and athletic clubs like Sokol provided other diversions while fostering Czech culture. Early settlers preserved their religious heritage, evident today at St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church, named for the Prague-born saint.
The Kansas Pacific and the Midland Railroad Hotel
The Kansas Pacific Railroad (which later was incorporated into the Union Pacific Railroad) was integral to the creation of Wilson. In 1871, the Kansas Pacific bulit Wilson Station near the site of the Butterfield Overland Despatch rest stop station for stagecoach travelers. However, as development continued, a sandstone depot was constructed in 1879. Other substantial buildings in town followed, including the Midland Railroad Hotel. Originally built as the Power Hotel in 1899, the three-story, 20-room hotel became a popular stop where salesmen displayed their products.
Lower Left: Francis J. Swehla and family in 1874.
Lower Center: A family in front of their dugout home sometime in the late 1800's.
Lower Right: Members of the Bohemian Athletic Club (Sokol) pose for a photo, sometime between 1890 and 1919.
Erected by Kansas Byways and Post Rock Scenic Byway.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Railroads & Streetcars • Settlements & Settlers. A significant historical year for this entry is 1871.
Location. 38° 49.45′ N, 98° 28.38′ W. Marker is in Wilson, Kansas, in Ellsworth County. Marker is at the intersection of 27th Street and Avenue D on 27th Street. The marker is located at the World's Largest Czech Egg Park. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 407 27th St, Wilson KS 67490, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 5 other markers are within 11 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. A Culture Lives On (here, next to this Post Rock Architecture (here, next to this marker); World's Largest Czech Egg (a few steps from this marker); War Memorial (about 500 feet away, measured in a direct line); Post Rock Scenic Byway (approx. 10.1 miles away).
Credits. This page was last revised on June 28, 2022. It was originally submitted on June 28, 2022, by James Hulse of Medina, Texas. This page has been viewed 88 times since then and 44 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3. submitted on June 28, 2022, by James Hulse of Medina, Texas.