1983 Saunders County History - Family Stories

This is a Saunders County NEGenWeb Project web page


raiso area. He had an 8th grade education. He worked at the Mead bomb plant and on the Alcan Highway in Alaska. Later, he went into the trucking business and sold used cars. He had great talent, playing his accordion by ear for weddings, anniversaries, and other occasions. He died of a heart attack in 1975. He was raised a Catholic and belonged to the Eagle Lodge.

   Hilda was one of 7 children born near Brainard to Frank A. Dvorak and Josephine Slama. She attained 12 years of schooling and belonged to the Methodist Church. At age 16, she took over the household duties for her father and four brothers as her mother passed away.

   All farm implements were horse-drawn and farmers helped each other at harvest and corn shelling time. Bread was baked and food cooked on an iron range heated with cobs and wood. Women raised and butchered chickens, milked cows by hand, churned all the butter. Vegetables were raised and stored in deep cellars the men made. As much as 10 gallons of sauerkraut and barrels of apples and potatoes were stored for winter use. Eggs, milk, and butter had to be kept down there too. Soap was made from used lard and lye. Clothes were washed in a hand-powered wood machine. Later, gasoline engines furnished the power.

   On hot humid nights the family slept on the porch or in the orchard. Mattresses were sewn from heavy material and stuffed with clean straw each threshing time.

   Later the Model-T Ford made life more pleasant. Fourth of July celebrations as well as Decoration Day were enjoyed. Also Saturday night barn dances and house parties entertained us, when young and old both attended. When tractors and electricity came, life became much easier.

   Our children all completed 12 grades in Wahoo and Don and JoAnn earned degrees from Nebraska Wesleyan in Lincoln. The boys married and live in Phoenix, Arizona. JoAnn became Mrs. Jerrie W. Dexter and lives in Waverly, Nebraska. There are six grandchildren.

   Hilda worked outside the home for 20 years, mostly in cafe work. She belongs to the Royal Neighbors of America Lodge, Federated Women's Club, Historical Society and the United Methodist Church.

   In spite of many joys, sorrows, and hardships we are so thankful our grandparents came to America in 1874 and gave us our wonderful life in this, the greatest country on earth. Submitted by Hilda Rezek


   Joseph Anton Rezek, born March 4, 1881, was less than one year old when he arrived in the United States with his parents, Peter and Agnes Rezek, his 2-year old sister, Mary, and his grandparents, Anton and Maria (Ross) Rezek. They had begun their journey in what is now the District of Trebic, Czechoslovakia, and after a wearisome ocean voyage and train ride from the coast, arrived to start a new life on the Nebraska prairie.

   As the oldest son in the family, Joe assumed much of the responsibility for the farm chores, assisting his father, and looking after the seven younger children as a typical big brother protector.

   Joseph married Anna Frances Shimerdla Nov. 6, 1905. She was the daughter of Joseph and Mary Shimerdla. Born in Omaha, Nebraska, she later lived in Butler County where she met Joe. They were married in Holy Trinity Church.

   The 1918, Saunders County Atlas lists Joseph and Anna as owners of 100 acres in Section 21, Rock Creek Precinct. They moved to Wahoo about 1930. They lived in the Valparaiso, Brainard, and Prague areas before retiring to Wahoo. Joe was a carpenter and a musician.

   Anna and Joe had 6 children: Josef (born 12-4-1906, died in infancy); Joseph John (5-30-1908/4-26-1975), married to Hilda Dvorak; Marie (born 6-15-1910), married to Frank Brabec; Helen (born 5-2-1913), married to Joseph Dvorak; Ann (born 11-27-1915), married to John Mastera; Rudolph (born 12-11-1918), married to Helen Charlson. As of January, 1983, there are 10 grandchildren, 31 great-grandchildren, and l great-great-grandchild.

   During Joe's early childhood, local Indians of the Otoe Tribe visited the Rezek family periodically, sending the frightened children into hiding. Generally the Indians were peaceable and harmless when well treated. They were only hungry and took chickens to feed their families. The Indian visits later gave way to an occasional band of gypsies, looking for food, and sometimes, if not watched, helping themselves to things of more value.

   Joseph Rezek died on Christmas Eve, 1956, after suffering a stroke. His wife, Anna, at the age of 96, although confined to a wheelchair, is a delight to all, loves visits from her family and friends. Her alert memory helps her relate many interesting stories about early pioneer life in Saunders County. Submitted by Helen Rezek Dvorak and Betty A. Rezek


   Louis Anton Rezek, son of Peter and Agnes Rezek, was born October 15, 1893, in the house his father had built in 1881, soon after their arrival in Saunders County from Czechoslovakia. Louis was welcomed by three sisters and three brothers. His parents were well settled into their new way of life on the Nebraska plains and the fertile land was beginning to fulfill its promise.

Louis Rezek Family
Louis Rezek Family, 1945. Back, From Left: George, Raymond, Adolph, Louis; Front: Ann Osmera, father Louis, mother Anna, and Rose Novotny.

   Upon their arrival in Nebraska, Louis' parents stayed with Frank and Frances Rezac (Peter's sister), sharing their sodhouse. A surprised Peter discovered a snake in his boot one morning and was quick to decide they would not have a soddy for their first home! The Rezek house was the only frame building between Weston and Valparaiso at that time.

   Directions from the surveyor were misunderstood and it wasn't until the next spring that Peter found he had built his house on the wrong side of the "line." (No road existed at that time). Not only did he have to break sod on a new piece of land, but the house also had to be moved. On the appointed day, with neighbors and the Rezac family gathered to help with the relocation, the house was placed on tree logs and pulled by six oxen, moving the back logs to the front as progress was made. Anezka, inside her kitchen, was preparing the noon meal of pork, dumplings and kraut. When she announced "dinner is ready" the house was set down and remained permanently there until its demolishment almost 100 years later.

   Louis married Anna Pauline Vculek, November 23, 1914 and brought his bride to the farm house. Anna was born June 3, 1895 to Joseph and Pauline Vculek. Louis and six of his brothers and sisters and all of Anna and Lou's children were born in that house.

   Names of their eight children with dates of birth and spouses are: Ann (12-22-1915), Fred Osmera; Louis (9-23-1917), Antoinette Pecha; Elizabeth (11-9-1919/11-12-1919), Adolph (10-7-1920), Marjorie Pecha; Rose (10-27-1922), George Novotny; Loddie (12-30-1924/2-5-1926); Raymond (3-11-1927), Betty McMahon; and George (9-6-1932), Marlene Tichy.

   The 1918 Saunders County Atlas lists Louis and Anna as owners of the original farmstead, 120 acres in Section 28 in Chapman Precinct, where they lived and farmed until 1951, when they moved to a house in Weston.

   Louis died May 9, 1964 from effects of a stroke and Anna died following a massive coronary, March 8, 1975. Both are buried at St. John's Cemetery, Weston.

   Home truly is where the heart is. Thoughts of childhood bring to mind not merely a building with four walls but, rather, a home full of warmth, safety and security and those people with whom we shared our lives. The Rezek home knew love and joy, sadness and illness, bad times and good, birth and death, with passing of Lou's grandparents, a sister, two babies, and his father, Peter, who put his faith in an American dream and established a home on the Nebraska prairie. By Bette A. Rezek


   Moravians found several reasons, in the early 1880's, for looking for a new homeland and hope for freedom, opportunity and prosperity. Most were farmers, allotted only about 3 acres to raise food and take care of the whole family. In addition, the government was taking the young Czechs into the German army.

Peter Rezek Family
Peter Rezek Family. Back, From Left: Edward, Emil, Louis, Joseph; Front: Frank, mother Agnes, father Peter (inset), Amelia Novak Taken 1914; daughter Mary Slama not present

   Petr Pavel Rezka was born May 12, 1856, in Czechoslovakia. His parents were Anton and Maria (Ross) Rezka. Anezka Karolina Hejtmankova, daughter of Eduard and Karolina (Voral) Hejtmanek, was born March 26, 1858, in Biskopici. She was married to Peter Rezek from a neighboring village in the late 1870's.

   Peter's sister, Frantiska, and brother-in-law, Franta Rezac, immigrated to Nebraska in 1880 and wrote glowing reports of life in America. Dissatisfied with conditions in his homeland, and enticed by his sister's letters, Peter moved his wife, 2 children, and his aging parents to the United States in 1881, settling near Weston.

   They arrived in America with $500, what belongings they could carry, and as many household goods and clothes as could be packed into two black wooden trunks. The first 80 acres of land were purchased at $4 an acre. Peter bought a cow and 2 oxen to break the sod. When one of the oxen was found dead, and without money to replace it, the cow was hitched to the plow and the sod breaking continued.

   Nature's elements and fate were not always kind to the new Nebraskans. The blizzard of 1888 was devastating. Grasshoppers, waged war on the plains at several periods in Nebraska history. Great swarms blackening the skies, gobbled up every bit of green, moving on in a week to new crops. They also had to contend with drought, failing crops, Indians and illness. But the family persevered and the land was good to them. In the 32 short years before he died at age 57, Peter made the Nebraska prairie produce abundantly and he was able to acquire farms for each son and dowries for the daughters. Peter died August 25, 1913. Agnes had been a widow for 35 years when she died at the age of 90, April 11, 1948. She was buried at Znojmo Cemetery beside her husband.

   Nine children were born to Peter and Agnes. Their names, dates of birth and death, and spouses are: Mary, 1-13-1879/2-11-1963 (Frank Slama); Joseph, 3-4-1881/12-24-1956 (Anna Shimerdla);

page 387

Hedvicka, 5-6-1883/3-17-1902; Amelia, 1-31-1885/2-22-1970 (John Novak, Gene Weitzel, Mr. Larson, Mr. Fowler, Frank Werner); Pete Joe, 9-30-1888/2-7-1917 (Mary Brabec); Emil 2-14-1891/9-25-1965 (Margaret Flanning); Louis, 10-15-1893/5-9-1964 (Anna Vculek); Edward, 4-24-1898/3-27-1955 (Mary Vculek); Frank, 10-26-1901/12-13-1976 (Emma Roubal).

   The descending generations are grateful to Peter and Agnes Rezek for their strength and courage to chance a new life in a strange country. With faith in God, trust in the land, energy and perseverance they conquered the prairie and developed the roots for the generations to come. With the benefit of their past experiences, surely our future can only be bright! Submitted by Mrs. Ray R. Rezek


   It was in the spring of 1947 when Leroy Riecken bought eighty acres of bottomland near Wann for $100 an acre. With a team of horses and a 1036 John Deere tractor, we started farming. Our house was a two-room cabin and needed a lot of work. My husband, Leroy, was born near Elkhorn to Julius Riecken and Ella Riecken in 1911. Julius Rieken, the son of Nickolaus and Kathrine Rieken, was born in 1871. They traveled up the Iowa side of the Missouri River and crossed where Dodge Street, Omaha is now. Ella Rieken was born in Germany in 1875. She traveled to America alone as a young girl. She married Julius Rieken in 1895. They raised three children.

Leroy Riecken Family
Leroy Riecken, son Mervin, and Kathleen. 1945 or 1946

   I (Laura) Riecken was born near Elkhorn in 1913. My father, Fred Paasch, also came to America from Germany. My mother, Anna Villwok Paasch, was born on a farm southeast of Elkhorn in 1886. This farm is still in the family. They raised nine children. Their home was destroyed by the tornado of 1913, six months before I was born.

   Leroy and I were married in 1936 and lived in Douglas County, until we bought our farm near Wann. Our son, Mervin, was born in 1938, our daughter in 1945, and our son, Harlan, in 1950.

   Besides farming, we had a herd of dairy cows and milked by hand. In 1958, we got our first milking machine. It was a common sight to see farmers helping each other with the threshing or putting up hay. In 1952, our youngest son, Harlan, was taken seriously ill with meningitis, and in 1953, my husband, Leroy, was hospitalized for several months. How thankful we were for our neighbors! They all pitched in and helped with the crops and farm work.

   For recreation we enjoyed playing cards with the neighbors. Hunting was always a popular sport for our family. Now we enjoy softball and baseball games, as most of the children and grandchildren play. I have always enjoyed gardening and canning.

   We quit farming in 1973 but still live on the place. Our sons are farming the land. Submitted by Mrs. Leroy Riecken


   All of my grandparents were born in Germany and came to Cass County in the early 1880's, settling on farms near the Murdock-Alvo area. My parents were born in Cass County and there also, we children were born.

Donald and Iola Rieckman
Donald and Iola Rieckman.

   My wife, Iola, is also a native Nebraskan. One set of grandparents settled on prairie land in Nancy County when it was no longer a Pawnee Indian Reservation. Her maternal grandmother was born south of Papillion, Nebr. in 1873. She traces her heritage on one line to the Mayflower and many of the other lines to before the Revolutionary War. She taught a rural school several years before we were married in 1941.

   After a few years on rented places, we bought a farm near Alvo where we lived and raised our family. When our older son planned to marry, we wanted him to take over the home place. So in 1965 we bought a farm 2½ miles northwest of Memphis and moved there in 1967.

   Besides farming we did carpentry work, especially in the field of remodeling homes. We no longer work away from home but now make furniture for ourselves and our children. Besides our older son who lives with his wife and two daughters on the farm at Alvo, we have a daughter and her husband who live in Lincoln, and a son with his wife and two children in Portland, Oregon.

   We take an active part in our church and have been a part of a home Bible Study Group for almost ten years. It has been a most rewarding part of our lives, learning about our God from His Holy Word.

   We are enjoying our years in Saunders County among some wonderful neighbors and friends. Submitted by Donald Otto Rieckman


   Arthur J. and Ruth Creamer Riedesel moved to Ashland in 1955 from York, having previously lived in Loup City. Mr. Riedesel's parents, Arthur L. (1896-1980) and Marie Lawrence Riedesel (1897- ), were raised in Carroll County, Iowa, and moved to Keith County, Nebraska, in 1920. Mrs. Riedesel's parents, John M. (1881-1969) and Mabel Van Every Creamer (1881-1972) grew up in Cass County, Nebraska, and after several different locations in western Nebraska moved to Ogallala, Keith County, in 1923.

   Arthur J. Riedesel (b. 1921 at Brule) is the sixth publisher of The Ashland Gazette (est. 1879). He bought the property from Marshall C. Howe (publisher 1945-55). He was president of the Ashland Rotary Club and Ashland Chamber of Commerce, and as a World War II veteran, belongs to Ashland American Legion Post 129. He served in district and state newspaper offices, and was the 1979-80 president of Nebraska Press Association, of which he had written a centennial history in 1973. He has been a church organist more than 30 years, and has held other United Methodist church positions. He is a Mason.

   Mrs. Riedesel (b. 1921 at Lincoln) has been active in United Methodist church affairs, especially of United Methodist Women on local, district, and state levels. She is a member of the Ashland Library Board and P.E.O., is a volunteer worker at Bethesda Care Center, and was Ashland's 1979 Stir-Up queen.

   Both Mr. and Mrs. Riedesel are graduates of Ogallala high school. Mr. Riedesel attended Nebraska Wesleyan University and the University of Missouri where he took two degrees in 1947. Mrs. Riedesel is a 1943 graduate of Nebraska Wesleyan. Their children are Dr. Paul L. Riedesel (b. 1949 in Loup City) of Minneapolis; Gordon M. Riedesel (b. 1952 in Loup City) of Concord, N.H.; and Mrs. Nicholas G. (Anita) Troher (b. 1955 in York). The three are all graduates of Ashland-Greenwood high school, and have six college degrees among them. Mr. and Mrs. Paul Riedesel have two children, Gregory and Heather. Gordon Riedesel's 1979 Master's Thesis at UNO was on Saunders County's rural cemeteries. Submitted by Arthur T. Riedesel


   Herbert William Ritthaler and Mae Angee Carstensen were married on a cold December 19, 1938 day in Papillion, Nebr.

Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Ritthaler
Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Ritthaler

   The eve of the 19th, Herbert had returned home from Scottsbluff, Nebraska where he had gone to work in the sugar factory, after having harvested his crops here in Saunders County.

   Herbert and Mae were both children of pioneer families, who had homesteaded in Saunders Co. Their fathers and grandfathers had both farmed the land before them. Herbert was the son of Wm. and Dorthea (Mohrman) Ritthaler. He was born 16 May 1916. Mae was the daughter of Ness Ewald and Josephine (Osterman) Carstensen. She was born 10 Jan. 1917. They were the parents of three boys: Keith Lee, born 5 Sept. 1940; Kent "Douglas," born 4 Aug. 1943; and Steve William, born 22 Jan. 1954.

   There were busy years with busy days with usual operations on the farm with hogs, cattle, chickens, gardens, and field work. In 1954, "Cedar Bluffs Farm Supply," a fertilizing operation was started; a grain storage dealership was also started. Herb was a Director for 9 years for the South Omaha Production Assn. He was a trustee and chairman for the First Baptist Church in Fremont for many years. Improvements were made as time went along, new barn, new house, grain bins, machine sheds and many other improvements made. In 1973-1974, Herb was National Teweles Soybean winner and Dist. 38 corn contest winner. He is on the Saunders County Planning board since 1977. Now this kept Herb busy -- what was Mae doing besides caring for the growing children, tending chickens, cleaning, cooking, and etc.? She was the keeper of the books and always tried to be available when needed for farm help, trips for repairs and supplies.

   Herb and Mae both like and enjoy nature and the outdoors. Herb likes to fish and hunt and spends as much time as he can around the Platte River and lakes around the country and Canada. Mae likes to fish also, but she would rather put it on a canvas with oil paints, and has many pictures in many parts of the country.

   In the late thirties and forties, many changes were being made on the farms. Corn was not harvested by hand any more and wheat was being combined. Horses were losing their place on the farm to more efficient and faster equipment. As time went on more farms were bought. Irrigation was put on most farms to insure a good crop which proved very

page 388

Back Family Index Contents Next

Return to
The Saunders County NEGenWeb Project

© 2002 - designed by Connie Snyder for The NEGenWeb Project.