Bohemians Got Freedom in Sumner

Bohemians Got Freedom in Sumner

The News-Examiner, Gallatin, Sumner County, TN Special Edition: Celebrating Sumner County's Bicentennial and Tennessee Homecoming '86, "Religion" section, p. 7-C.Saturday, March 29, 1986. By Steve Driver.

Thanks to The News-Examiner for permission to reprint this article!

Note: All spelling, punctuation, and omissions are as they appeared in the article in the newspaper.

Bohemia lies in western Czechoslovakia near the border of present-day Poland. The Bohemians speak the Czech language which is written in the Latin alphabet.

Always a rugged and rebellious people, many of the Bohemians embraced religions that were quite different from the traditional Russian Orthodox Church. A small group of Bohemians left Czechoslovakia and migrated to the Bolyn province of Russian Poland and there became small farmers and tradesmen.

The Russian Bohemians practiced a curious religion known as Baptists. Resented by the Russian Orthodox, these foreigners fell under persecution by the forces of Czar Nicholas II who was intolerant of religions other than the Orthodox Church.

Among the persecuted Baptist was a miller named Adam Ertner. Ertner and his family left Russian Poland and came to Chicago in 1890. Finding that his services as a miller were not in demand there, the Ertners left Chicago heading south where they settled in the area around Mitchellville, Tenn. Others from the old country, hearing of the bountiful and friendly Tennessee community, immigrated to Sumner County and a Bohemian community was formed bordering Highway 31W just south of the Kentucky line.

The Bohemian families, with names such as Vejr, Mazanec, and Burysek, were free to practice their religion in the newfound land of freedom. This they did maintaining their native tongue and meeting in houses for their worship services.

As the community prospered a church building was constructed, and in 1911, the Bohemian Baptist Church held its first service in the new sanctuary. As the 20th century progressed, the younger generation became Americanized and the use of the Czech language in worship was replaced by English. The church name eventually was changed to Immanuel Baptist Church.

At one time, the congregation had about 200 members.

The church building and one of the original houses still stand in the northern Sumner County community. One might even find a descendant who speaks Czech and remembers the original settlers nad their struggle to find religious freedom in the promised land of Sumner County.

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