History of New Hradec

NewHradecgouoldsty2The ancestors of the Czechs of Dickinson, ND originally came from the western part of Czechoslovakia.

“Bohemia” is another name for the western region of Czechoslovakia. Sort of like saying “Dakotas” when referring to the northern plains states.

During the mid 1800’s many central European countries were suffering from wars and economic hardship and the populace was unable to feed itself or advance their own prospects. Russia encouraged these people to settle and farm the rich lands of southern Ukraine.

Crimea and Kherson are provinces or oblasts of the country of Ukraine. Ukraine was formerly a part of the USSR until the breakup in the early 1990’s. Many other Europeans settled there during the 1850-60’s (Germans, Poles, ..) The offer of “free land” and exemption from military duty was the main reason people left their European homelands. This offer turned out to be bogus. Too many wars in the region necessitated drafting the men into service and the success of the settlers in making productive land out of wild land, created friction and resentment between them and the native inhabitants (Russians & Ukrainians). This was one of the main reasons most emigrant families only stayed in Ukraine for 1-2 generations before moving again to the USA.

The first LOCAL Czech families to leave Ukraine (Crimea) in 1886 traveled to Menno, SD where another Czech, who had been in the USA since 1859 and was a immigration and real estate agent, helped them and others to find land around Tabor, SD. The railroad tracks ended at Aberdeen, SD at that time. These first immigrants wrote home and told others about the “free land” (Homestead Act, 1865). This encouraged large numbers of immigrants to follow and soon the land around Menno and Tabor was taken, forcing the immigrants to move further west. A land agent in western Dakota Territory told them of available land around Dickinson, ND and so between 1886 and 1891 the first Czech families began to arrive here and settled land northwest of Dickinson, in what would become the New Hradec, ND area. New Hradec is located approximately 15 miles north/northwest of Dickinson, ND.

“New Hradec”, originally “Novy Hradec”, was named by the settlers after much discussion.  Some had wanted the village to be called “Chrudim” after a town in Bohemia that was centrally located to many of the families home villages. However, it was decided that “Chrudim” was too difficult for American tongues to pronounce, so they opted for “Novy Hradec”, which they thought was easier!!! (‘Novy’ means ‘New’, ‘Hradec’ means ‘Castle’)

(Some of this initial group included the families of: Fred Kostelecky, Joseph Rambousek, John Kinzel, Wenzel Sadowsky Jr. and Sr., Joseph Pavlish, Vincent Kovash, Joseph Hushka and Bernhard Srsen).

After 1891 the pace of immigration soon outstripped the available land and newcomers were either forced to move on or take smaller acreage (<160 acres, which would not be enough to make a living on).  Many failed at setting up homesteads and moved into Dickinson and started businesses. By the early 1900’s the number of immigrants coming to this area diminished, so it was mainly the decade of 1891 to 1900 that saw the largest number of settlers. An approximate number of immigrant families from the Crimea region alone that settled here is between 80-100. There were 26 founding families started the Roman Catholic parish of SS Peter & Paul, New Hradec, ND.

The existing brick church is listed on the ND State Historical Sites. It was built in 1917 after the first wooden church burned down and is still in use. The church cemetery, where many of the original settlers are buried, is located directly north of the church and is well-tended by their descendents.