FAYETTE COUNTY, TEXAS
Text of historical marker erected on FM 1383 at Dubina in 1983:
From Fayette County, Her History and Her People by F. Lotto, 1902:
Dubina, which derives its name from the Czech word for Oak Grove, was founded in 1856 by a group of Moravian immigrants, including the Marak Kahlich, Sramek, Peter, Holub, Muzny, and Haidusek families. By 1900 the farming community had erected a church building, mill, cotton gin, blacksmith shop, store, and post office. A 1909 storm and a 1912 fire caused extensive damage from which the town never recovered. As the first settlement in Texas to be founded entirely by Czech-Moravians, Dubina remains an important part of the state's regional and cultural history.
Dubina lies about fourteen miles south of La Grange in a rich, fertile country. The land is postoak and liveoak and black prairie. It lies on Hedden Creek and one mile from the Navidad Creek. Hon. Joseph Peter is the proprietor of a large store and barroom, of a gin and of a blacksmith shop in Dubina. Dubina has a fine Catholic Church building and a hall for public meetings and entertainments. Dubina is a Bohemian name, meaning in English "oak grove." The name was given to the place by Judge A. Haidusek, whose father, Valentine Haidusek, and Joseph Peter were the first settlers in that part of the country. The population is German and Bohemian.
The following descriptions of the Dubina Historic District and the Simon Pytlovany House, with an emphasis on their history, are excerpted from its listing with the National Register. To get more complete architectural descriptions along with cited sources, visit the Texas Historic Sites Atlas, a feature of the Texas Historical Commission website:
Roughly bounded by FM 1383 and Cty Rd. 480, Dubina, Texas
Received National Register Certification on September 27, 2003
The Dubina Historic District represents the heart of a rural community developed by Czech Moravian immigrants. It lies along Farm-to-Market Road (FM) 1383 in southeastern Fayette County, just north of Interstate-10 and approximately midway between San Antonio and Houston, in the rich Blackland Prairie of South Central Texas. Dubina’s immediate surroundings are still predominately used for agriculture, and the character of the landscape has changed little in the past 50 years. The district’s contributing properties include an active Catholic church, Saints (Sts.) Cyril and Methodius, and its associated cemetery, as well as an active social hall of the KJZT, a Czech Catholic benevolent organization in Texas. Although some surrounding ruins attest to the prior presence of commerce and industry in Dubina, only the church, cemetery and social hall have remained in use, and together they form the social and cultural center of this unique rural community. With only minimal changes to the buildings and a remarkably intact setting, the Dubina Historic District retains a high degree of integrity. . . .
The compact scale and informal organization of Dubina are fairly typical of rural communities of its type. Turning west off of FM 1383, a narrow gravel road curves north, passing in front of the church and social hall before curving west and descending toward the nearby Navidad River. This road, identified as County Road (CR) 480 or “Piano Bridge Road,” represents the remainder of the original route through Dubina, and the historic road bed is still visible heading north from the town. Sts. Cyril and Methodius Church sits just a few yards east of the road. Just across the road to the west, and included in the church’s property, is an undeveloped piece of native prairie, referred to as the “Fayette Grasslands.” Although visible from the road, both the cemetery, to the west, and the KJZT hall, to the east, are set further back and accessed by dirt and gravel drives. Although not included in the district’s boundaries, the ruins of a multi-purpose commercial complex are visible just beyond the road’s curve toward the river, facing the historic road bed.
Sts. Cyril & Methodius Catholic Church, Dubina
The interior of Sts. Cyril and Methodius mimics the form of traditional European cathedrals, albeit on a much smaller scale. The entry is at the back of the sanctuary, with rows of wooden pews separated by a central aisle and flanked by smaller side aisles. A choir loft spans the width of the building above the entry, with the altar at the far end of the sanctuary, set back in the apse. The nave is divided into three vaulted sections. The central section matches the width of the apse and stretches up to fill the full height of the building. The ceiling is vaulted, although not a structural feature, coming to a point at its peak. The much narrower and shorter side sections are vaulted in the same way, separated from the central section by rows of columns supporting vaulted, pointed arches. Religious statuary is found throughout the church. A good deal of the statuary was brought over from Europe in the 1910s, as were the elaborately carved, wood stations of the cross, with the text written in Czech.
Interior photograph by Sarah Reveley
All of the church’s interior paintings were covered with solid white paint in 1952, but their existence was never forgotten and faint traces remained visible. After over thirty years, the church’s parishioners decided to uncover and restore the paintings in 1983. Thus began a long and tedious restoration process, undertaken each Sunday after church services by the parishioners themselves. They carefully removed the white paint to reveal portions of the paintings. New stencils were made from each original pattern, and the freehand paintings were documented as thoroughly as possible. With the aid of historic photographs, the parishioners then repainted all of the interior decorations in their original locations. Although the recreated paintings lack historic integrity in terms of materials and workmanship, historic photographs reveal the historical accuracy of their design and arrangement. (Figure-22)
The Fayette Grasslands occupy approximately 15 acres just west of the church, stretching from CR 480 to the edge of the Navidad River valley. Owned by Sts. Cyril and Methodius, this piece of native prairie has been preserved in its natural state since Dubina’s founding. It is an important element of the district’s historic setting and provides a rare glimpse of the area’s natural land conditions.
The Sts. Cyril and Methodius Cemetery, which is owned by the church, has served the Dubina Community since shortly after its founding and continues in use today. It lies west of the church and CR 480, just south of the Fayette Grasslands. The cemetery consists of two distinct parts, a historic section, which is contributing to the distict, and a modern section, which is non-contributing. The historic section, which is further back from the road, sits in a dense grove of oak trees. Its entrance is marked by a large stone cross, dedicated to Dubina’s original settlers. Many of the headstones, which vary greatly in size and style, date to the 19th and early 20th centuries, and many inscriptions are at least partially written in Czech. The graves are often grouped together in family plots, identified by a raised curb around their perimeter and a prominent vertical marker with the family name. A few modern headstones are interspersed among the historic grave markers, either replacements of deteriorated originals or more recent burials in historic family plots.
The modern section of the cemetery stretches toward the main road from the historic section, with graves on both sides of the dirt drive that provides access. Most of the headstones are very similar in appearance, with low horizontal profiles and a massive feel. The tradition of grouping graves in family plots, surrounded by curbs, has continued, although most of the plots are now smaller and less prominently marked.
The 1936 KJZT Hall #6 lies just north and east of Sts. Cyril and Methodius Church. The current building includes the original hall, a rectangular wood framed building with a gabled roof concealed behind a neobaroque façade, and a hipped-roof addition, created from an existing building relocated in the 1970s, extending from the hall’s southeast corner to form an ell. . . .
The 1970s addition to KJZT Hall #6 was originally a free-standing building, located just east of the cemetery and used to house the nuns who staffed Dubina’s St. Edward’s Parochial School. It was moved, altered and attached to the hall to house a large expanded kitchen. . . .
Four ancillary buildings (all non-contributing) are within the boundaries of the Dubina Historic District. A rectangular, wood frame open-air crafts building with a hipped metal roof sits east of the church along FM 1383. Built relatively recently, it is used for community gatherings like bingo games and communal craft sessions. An old washhouse, which originally sat outside the home of the nuns who ran the parochial school, was moved to a location just behind the church in the 1970s, at the same time their former home was added to the KJZT Hall. A simple square building, the washhouse’s wood siding and exposed rafter tails connect it architecturally with the other buildings in the district, but it is non-contributing for having been moved. Two concessions buildings sit just north of the KJZT Hall. The long, rectangular wood frame buildings have flaps made from wood planks, which can be propped open to allow those inside to serve refreshments at large gatherings. The east building has a hipped roof and the west building is gabled. Again, their materials and architectural form associate them with the district, but they were built from spare materials within the past 30 years and are non-contributing.
Dubina’s rural setting is an important component of the district, and certain landscape features are especially significant. The Fayette Grasslands represent a relatively rare, unaltered piece of the region’s native prairie. Although there is no evidence to suggest that the prairie’s preservation was a self-conscious conservation effort, it has remained in this state since the town’s founding and illustrates the community’s connection with and reverence for the land that they worked and inhabited.
Dubina’s groves of mature oak trees are also a significant component of the district’s setting. After providing shelter for the town’s first settlers, the oaks, for which Dubina is named, earned a special place in the community. It was certainly no accident that the cemetery was sited in one of the largest groves, and the buildings were also placed among the oaks, which provided shade and shelter for outdoor activities. Today, the oaks continue to provide much needed shelter from the summer sun and remain an integral part of the community. . . .
Founded in 1856, Dubina was unique in that it was established entirely by Czech Moravians, a distinction that has earned it the title of the first Czech settlement in Texas. A small Anglo community named Hacklyville had occupied the area in the 1830s, but it was completely decimated by a cholera epidemic in the early 1840s. The Czechs who settled Dubina were, therefore, starting from scratch. (Janecka 2003)
The story of Dubina’s founding has achieved a kind of legendary status, and while some facts may be impossible to verify, it represents an experience that was likely fairly typical for arriving immigrants. Dubina’s founders left Europe in August 1856, departing from the Austro-Hungarian port of Bremen aboard a small ship called the Elizabeth. The passengers included the families of Frank Marak, Joseph Kahlich, Ignac Sramek, Joseph Peter, Valentine Holub, Ignac Muzny, Valentine Haidusek and Frank Kossa. After enduring a difficult fourteen weeks at sea, the immigrants arrived at Galveston, Texas, from which their journey would continue inland. A ferry transported them up Buffalo Bayou to Houston, where they arranged for a five-day trip by ox cart to Cat Spring, in northeastern Austin County. While many of the settlers rested in Cat Spring, a group scouting party explored the area for favorable land, which they found in Fayette County. (Janecka 2002)
After arriving in La Grange, the group separated into two smaller parties, one of which continued to the German town of Bluff and developed what would become Hostyn. The other party contracted with two men, Charles and Joseph Brasher, for transportation by wagon to undeveloped land south of La Grange. Their journey ended at a clump of oak trees on the east bank of the Navidad River, where they were essentially left to their own devices. It was late November 1856, and the settlers’ first night would be a difficult one. A terrible sleet storm lasted through the night, from which their only shelter was the grove of oaks. They huddled together under the trees and built a large fire, but few slept and many undoubtedly questioned their decision to come to America. The sky cleared the following morning however, and the settlers were able to build a temporary shelter, beginning the development of a town known as “Navidad,” which would become Dubina. (Janecka 2002)
The young Augustin Haidusek accompanied his family on this original journey to Dubina, and although just eleven-years-old at the time, he later recalled the group’s earliest experiences at the new settlement:
With shelter provided, all began clearing the land, made rail fences and prepared the land for tilling. In the following fall only one small bale of cotton was made by the whole group. It was loaded on a sled and pulled by oxen to La Grange, where it was sold. Indeed this first struggling effort at making a living was filled with forebodings. By now, the savings brought from Europe were spent. Flour was $20.00 a barrel, and an epidemic broke out, caused by hard work and contaminated water. It was truly a fight for survival. But God was with us. The following year, crops were better and with the kind help of those of English speaking extraction, we became firmly established. (UTITC 1972)
Thus, the settler’s early years at Dubina were extremely trying, but conditions improved steadily after their initial struggles. Frank Kossa is credited with building the first log cabin in Dubina, in the spring of 1857, with Joseph Peter, Sr. adding a second log home in 1858. The latter became Dubina’s first meeting place for Catholic services, with a priest from Frelsburg, in northern Colorado County, offering mass three to four times a year. (Janecka 2002)
The Civil War was especially difficult for recent Czech immigrants, including those at Dubina. Most had no vested interest in the war’s causes, and many had fled their homeland to avoid conflict, as well as compulsory service in the Austrian Army. Having faced years of oppression in their homeland, many Czechs were especially hesitant about fighting to preserve slavery. A number of Texas’s Czech immigrants were, nevertheless, drafted into the Confederacy. Some supported the Confederacy and volunteered to fight while others refused or deserted to the Union, but every community was affected. Many men not involved directly in combat served as teamsters, transporting Confederate cotton to Mexican ports. In rural communities, women assumed the daily duties of managing the farms, struggling to keep their families alive when even basic necessities were scarce. Dubina’s settlers persevered and managed to sustain the community, but the town lost some of its own citizens in the war and the constraints of the wartime economy slowed its development significantly. (UTITC 1972; Janecka 2002)
Despite the setbacks brought about by the Civil War, by 1870 Dubina’s settlers were making significant strides in their farming techniques and beginning to achieve a good level of success, adding additional land as their efficiency improved. Like many immigrants, they wrote to their families and friends in their homeland, sharing their achievements and encouraging more to come. With new immigrants arriving almost daily, Dubina grew rapidly in the 1870s. (Janecka 2002)
The community’s original settlers continued to guide its development, although the younger generation had begun to assume the leadership roles. Joseph Peter, Jr. (1845-1924) was an especially successful and influential citizen. A tradesman who first established a blacksmith shop at Dubina, Peter soon began to expand his business interests. He developed an entire commercial complex, the ruins of which remain just north of the district boundary, that included a grocery store, saloon, meat market, blacksmith shop and post office. He also operated a gristmill and a cotton gin, located east of the commercial complex, and owned over 1000 acres of land farmed by tenants and employees. Peter was the unofficial patriarch of Dubina in the late 19th century and was elected to two terms in the state legislature, as a representative of Fayette County, beginning in 1890. (UTITC 1972; Janecka 2002)
Joseph Peter, Jr. also donated land for the construction of a permanent Catholic church. Although it required committments of money and labor from the entire community, Dubina’s first church was completed in 1877, along with a home for a parish priest. The construction of a church and establishment of a parish was a momentous event in the early history of Dubina. It not only affirmed the permanence and faith of the community itself, it also established Dubina as a regional cultural center for Czech Catholics. The parish soon included some 600 families, stretching as far as Weimar, in western Colorado County, and the church had to be enlarged in 1890. (UTITC 1972; Janecka 2002)
Joseph Peter, Jr. also donated land, with Ignac Muzny, for the extant cemetery, as well as a school and convent to be run by the Sisters of Divine Providence. The school and convent buildings, which stood east of the cemetery, were completed by 1886. Surprisingly enough, this was actually the third school established at Dubina. In 1875, a group of the town’s settlers purchased land with the intent of establishing a parochial school, the Slovanic Catholic Academy. Plans for a parochial school were apparently put on hold, however, as a public school was established on the site in 1876. (School taxes were levied in Fayette County beginning in 1867.) The Dubina area also had a substantial enough African American population to warrant the establishment of a Negro school in 1886. With Dubina native Augustin Haidusek serving as county judge, Fayette County funded construction of the school, which was named the Lee School, for Tom Lee, a prominent African American in the Dubina community. By 1893, Dubina’s three schools enrolled approximately 200 students. (Janecka 2002)
It was in this period of intensive development, and perhaps in response to the establishment of a school, that Dubina acquired its name. Although referred to as Navidad, the community had never really been formally named. The public school was initially called Bohemian Settlement East Navidad, but it was renamed Moravia only a year after its founding. The townspeople were increasingly determined to establish an appropriate and permanent name. Recalling the shelter of the oaks on their first night at their new home, the residents decided to name their town “Dubina,” which in Czech means “oak grove.” The town began to be referred to as Dubina around 1886, and the public school was officially renamed in 1888 to reflect the change. (Janecka 2002)
The late 19th-century growth of Dubina reflected the broader influx of Czech immigrants into Texas and their development of a significant cultural presence in Fayette County. Although there were only about 700 Czechs in Texas at the time of the Civil War, by 1900 that number had risen to over 9,000. By 1910, it would reach 15,000. The vast majority of those immigrants were farmers, and they tended to settle in the rich agricultural land of Texas’s Blackland Prairies. Of the approximately 250 Czech communities established in Texas by 1900, most were concentrated in a relatively small area of the state, centered in Fayette County. (“CZECHS”)
Another of Dubina’s younger original settlers, Augustin Haidusek (1845-1929), would play a prominent role in securing Czechs a place in Texas’s statewide society and politics. After serving in the Civil War, Haidusek attended law school and, in 1870, became the first Czech-Texan licensed to practice law. He was elected mayor of La Grange in 1875, apparently the first American mayor of Czech decent. He went on to serve two terms in the state legislature, beginning in 1880, representing Lee and Fayette Counties and was elected Fayette County Judge in 1884, 1886 and 1888. Haidusek became president of La Grange’s First National Bank in 1896 and was appointed to the Texas A&M College Board of Regents in 1905. (“HAIDUSEK, AUGUSTIN”)
Although Haidusek strongly encouraged immigrants to learn English, he was the first editor, and eventually owner, of Svoboda, a Czech-language newspaper published in La Grange beginning in 1885. Under Haidusek’s leadership, Svoboda would amass over 2,000 subscribers, establishing an influential voice in the Czech community. Several other Czech-language newspapers were established in Texas, illustrating the strong cultural ties that bound Czech-Texans. Although most of the Czech-language newspapers disappeared as the younger generation became fluent in English, a few survive to this day. (UTITC 1972)
Czechs were also bound by social traditions and gathered frequently for festivals of music, food and dance. Baca’s Band, Texas’s oldest and most famous Czech band, was established in Fayetteville as early as 1882 and, generations later, members of the Baca family continue to play today. Not surprisingly, then, Dubina hosted countless concerts and social gatherings in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, an important function of a Czech community. (UTITC 1972; Janecka 2002)
Fraternal, benevolent organizations are also an important part of Czech-American culture, meeting practical as well as social needs. They were, and are, common in Czech communities across the country, providing insurance and building social halls. In the late 1880s, Czech-Texans were relying on organizations in the northern United States. Because of stereotypes surrounding outsiders’ perceptions of Texas, however, insurance rates were significantly higher in the state. In response, a group of Czech Catholic men organized the Katolicka Jednota Texaskaä, or KJT, in 1889, specifically to serve Czech-Texans, with one of the six original local societies located at Dubina. With the KJT membership restricted to men, a sister organization, the KJZT (from the Czech Cesko-rimská katolická podporující jednota zen texaských), was formed in 1897, with its Dubina society established by 1900. (UTITC 1972; Janecka 2002)
For about a decade on either side of the turn of the twentieth century, then, Dubina was a significant regional center of the Czech community for commercial, educational, social and religious purposes. The town itself had developed into a substantial rural community with important leaders and significant connections to the Czech community statewide, which was, itself, centered in Fayette County. A brief string of disasters around 1910, however, would soon take their toll on Dubina.
In July 1909, a severe tropical storm reached Dubina from the Gulf of Mexico, destroying the 1877 church. With the community thriving, however, plans for the construction of Sts. Cyril and Methodius began almost immediately. The community collected approximately $5,500 from insurance and the sale of lumber from the old church and commissioned San Antonio architect Leo Dielmann to design the new building. Local contractors Frank and Leo Bohlmann of Shulenburg oversaw construction, but oral history holds that most of the labor was provided by volunteer parishioners. It seems likely that this was in fact the case, as the church was not completed until late in 1911. Three pieces of the original building had survived and were incorporated into the new building. A chandelier was placed at the back of the church. The original bells were also reused, and a metal cross, fabricated by Tom Lee, was replaced atop the new church’s spire.
Leo Maria Joseph Dielmann (1881-1969) was a formally trained architect. He graduated from St. Mary’s College in 1898 before traveling to Germany in 1900, where he received classical training in architecture and engineering. He spent the early part of his career employed in his father’s business, the J.C. Dielmann building materials firm. He served as city building inspector for San Antonio from 1909-1911, where he also served two years as an alderman. He was completely devoted to architecture for the first half of the 20th century, maintaining a prolific pace and earning a reputation particularly for his church designs. Dielmann designed churches across Central Texas, including the Fort Sam Houston Post Chapel (NR 1975) and the Conventual Chapel at Our Lady of the Lake University, both in San Antonio, and St. Peter’s Church in Boerne. (“DIELMANN, LEO MARIA JOSE”)
During the first decade of the 20th century, Dielmann designed several Gothic Revival churches for small Central Texas communities. Although his 1906 design for St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Fredericksburg is much larger and more elaborate, his design earlier that same year of the Nativity of Mary, Blessed Virgin Church in nearby High Hill clearly provided the precedent for Sts. Cyril and Methodius. Although executed in red brick, the form of the church at High Hill, just a few miles east of Dubina, is nearly identical to Sts. Cyril and Methodius, and the plan and interior vaulting are also very similar.
Although Sts. Cyril and Methodius was reconstructed relatively quickly, yet another disaster would strike Dubina in 1912, when a devastating fire destroyed the gristmill and cotton gin, along with Peter’s entire commercial complex. With commerce already consolidating in larger towns with rail access, only the general store was rebuilt, and Dubina would never again establish any significant commercial presence. (Janecka 2002)
Although Dubina’s sphere of influence was diminished significantly by its fall from commercial prominence, it has, nevertheless, remained an active cultural and social center to the present day. Business could just as easily be conducted in La Grange or Schulenburg, but there was no replacement for Dubina’s equally significant role as a gathering place for the surrounding rural community. A close-knit, communal social structure is a defining characteristic of Czech communities in Texas, and it is illustrated well at Dubina. (“CZECHS”)
In addition to the continued use and maintenance of Sts. Cyril and Methodius Church and Cemetery, the KJZT Hall #6 provides a clear indication of Dubina’s lasting significance as the center of a Czech community. Although virtually no business was conducted in Dubina after 1912, area residents continued to gather there on a regular basis for religious, social and cultural celebrations. Construction of the new social hall as late as 1936 attests to the resilience of the cultural ties that bound the community. As with the church, Dubina’s parishioners constructed the hall themselves, under the guidance of Mr. Stoch, a local residential builder.
Since its construction, the KJZT Hall has housed most all of Dubina’s social gatherings, which are relatively frequent and often large. The reuse of the sisters’ home from St. Edward’s School, added in the 1970s to enlarge the hall’s kitchen, as well as the ancillary concession buildings, illustrate the continued importance of such gatherings, which have preserved the community’s traditional Czech cultural practices. Even today, an annual gathering in the first week of July brings together hundreds of former and present Dubina area residents to celebrate their community with Czech food, music and dance.
The persistence of Dubina’s schools, all three of which continued to operate through the mid 20th century, provides another indication of its continued significance in the community. All three schools, including St. Edward’s, were originally funded and maintained with public money. For some time, they also shared a common set of trustees. Both Dubina Public School and the Lee School continued in operation until 1947, when they were consolidated with the Schulenburg District. The buildings were purchased for their materials, but markers along FM 1383 continue to mark each school’s location. (Janecka 2002)
The history of St. Edward’s is somewhat more complicated. From its establishment in 1886 until 1915, the school was supported by the state, with the sisters who ran it paid as state employees. State support ended in 1915, and in what was most likely a related decision, control of the school was changed from the Sisters of the Divine Providence in San Antonio to the Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament in Victoria. State funding resumed in 1935, and a new school building was built in 1936. St. Edward’s was consolidated with the St. Martin’s school in nearby Ammannsville in 1952, but St. Martin’s burned in 1954 and all of its students were reassigned to a reopened St. Edward’s in Dubina. Additional students from Holman were added in 1958, when their own school closed, but St. Edward’s itself would close permanently when state funding was once again cut off in 1959. The school building was purchased in 1961 and moved to Weimar, and the convent building was incorporated into the KJZT Hall in the 1970s. Today, only a small marker, just north of the cemetery, remains as evidence of the school’s existence. (Janecka 2004)
Dubina’s continued role as a social and cultural center, despite the decline of its commercial economy, indicates the significance of the community’s shared ethnic heritage. The town’s function as a gathering place for the area’s Czech-Texans, first to ease the transition to the New World and later to preserve and maintain their cultural traditions, superceded any economic purpose. At places like Dubina, Czech-Texans have continued their traditions to the present day, celebrating their heritage and maintaining a strong and unique cultural presence.
In addition to its significance as a lasting Czech community, resources within the district also illustrate some important architectural practices. Sts. Cyril and Methodius is an excellent example of the Carpenter Gothic, a wood-framed version of the Gothic Revival that drew on the predominance of wood construction materials and carpentry skills in America. Leo Dielmann, the church’s architect, was well-suited to design in this style, having just returned from architectural training in Europe. With his deep knowledge of original Gothic precedents, Dielmann was able to recreate the feel of Europe’s soaring cathedrals in a scale appropriate to this small rural community. Dubina’s residents would have been especially receptive of the design, as it provided a tangible link to the Old Country. For this reason, a number of Czech and German immigrant communities erected similarly styled churches during this period, despite the Catholic heirarchy’s attempts to encourage Spanish Colonial or Mission style church designs in Texas. (Oakes 2001)
The KJZT Hall #6 also exhibits a unique blend of contemporary American and traditional Czech architectural features. In many ways, the hall resembles domestic architecture of the 1920s and 1930s, perhaps in part because a residential builder oversaw its construction. Its gabled main roof and front porch, both of which have open eaves with exposed rafter tails, as well as its wood siding and 6/6 double-hung wood windows would all have been common on a house from the period. The building’s neobaroque front façade, however, with its unique curved parapet, clearly distinguishes the building from any typical American architecture of the time. Across the country, the social halls of Czech-American benevolent organizations built during the late 19th and early 20th centuries often incorporated similar façades. The use of the neobaroque followed a contemporary trend in the Czech provinces of Central Europe, where the style manifested strong, if unfulfilled, nationalist sentiment. (Upton, ed. 1986) . . . .
On ten acres 1.5 mi. south of Dubina on Farm Road 1383, Dubina, Texas
Received National Register Certification on April 14, 1975
The Simon Pytlovany House is a unique example of foreign stylistic expressionism brought Victorian Texas at the turn of the twentieth century. The house follows closely the pattern of the Ukrainian "izba". . . .
In 1896, Simon Pytlovany along with his wife, two children and father, immigrated to central Texas from the Ukraine in Eastern Europe, via Galveston, Texas. When the Pytlovany family arrived in Galveston, they left for Schulenburg by way of the Southern Pacific railroad; staying in Schulenburg for a few months before moving to Ammansville, and shortly thereafter to Dubina. In Dubina, Pytlovany was a sharecropper until 1904, when he bought his own land approximately 11 miles south of town. Here he built his home in 1909. The structural timbers for the house were salvaged from the destruction of the church in Dubina caused by a tropical hurricane that struck the same year. The Pytlovany House closely follows the pattern of the common peasant's hut, or "izba", of the Ukraine in eastern Europe. A traditional system of space allocation outlined the various activity areas in the "izba". Domestic situations were assigned to the cooking corner containing the massive oven or "pech". This area would be used for sleeping in winter. During the warmer times the family slept in the loft. Socializing took place in the icon corner which was diagonally across from the "pech". . . .
Louis Novak, grandson of Simon Pytlovany, maintains a farm on the land where the house stands today; however, the house has not been lived in since 1959. It never had plumbing, a telephone, or electricity. A spring nearby is locally famous for never running dry, even during droughts when others in the county did, and was certainly a reason for Pytlovany's choice of sight. He had a molasses mill along the edge of the abeam where its foundation remains today.
The following histories were written by members of the Fayette County Historical Commission. They first appeared in the weekly column, "Footprints of Fayette," which is published in the Fayette County Record, Banner Press, Flatonia Argus, Schulenburg Sticker, and Weimar Mercury newspapers. A new article will appear weekly.
by Ed Janecka
In the late 1870’s East Navidad Bohiman Community ( later named Dubina ) was a thriving place. The new church was just constructed and Joseph Kocurek just finished building his Cotton Gin. Joseph Peter opened a saloon, hotel, a grits mill, a blacksmith shop and a well stocked general store. There were new immigrants arriving weekly. Joseph Peter being a good businessman was looking for ways to expand his business. The people living west side of the East Navidad River had a difficult time getting to Dubina. On the 13th of August, 1877 the Comissioners’ Couth of Fayette County was petitioned by a group of citizens to construct a 2nd class road from the Schulenburg La Grange Road to the present sight of the Catholic Church in Dubina. The proposed road would start at the Pilot Grove Moravia and Weimar Road, continue southwest in front of the Catholic Church, in front of the Peter Store, continue west to Haydens Branch and continue west to the Navidad River, then southwest, then west to the Middle Creek and continue to the Schulenburg and La Grange Road at the corner of the Morgan and High Hill Rd.
As more and more people were frequenting Dubina from the west, there was concern about the constant floods and the danger of low water crossing . On June the 11th 1885, a group of citizens petitioned the Fayette County Commissioners’ Court to construct a bridge over the East Navidad. On August 15, 1885, the Commissioners’ Court ordered that an iron bridge, the span of which would be 100 feet, would be constructed across the East Navidad and not to exceed the cost of $3,100. The local citizens would come up with the money for the approaches to the bridge. The King Iron Bridge Company of Cleveland, Ohio was contracted to build the bridge. Several months later, the bridge arrived in Schulenburg by train, was unloaded, and was transported by mules to the East Navidad site. Construction was under the supervision of the King Iron Bridge Company of Cleveland, Ohio. The last part of December 1885, there was a large amount of rain in the area which caused the iron bridge which was in the process of being constructed to be laid on its side. Fortunately the only loss was a good portion of the lumber floated downstream. The King Bridge Company quickly uprighted the iron bridge and completed the construction.
Many stories could be told about this old bridge. It is a tradition to blow the horn upon entering the bridge. This started back when Model T Fords became popular. The fuel tank on the Model T was gravity driven, and if the gas tank was low on gas, the engine would stall out going up the incline of the bridge. Consequently, the vehicle had to manage to turn around and travel backwards up the incline of the bridge. Obviously, this caused concern not being able to see someone ….
The bridge was also a source of comfort at times. When some of the locals were hunting fox or coon down in the bottom and a fog set in, it could be difficult to tell which direction you were going. When a vehicle went over the bridge and the distinctive sound of the bridge could be heard, everyone knew which direction they were going and where they were at. The bridge was often a good place for young people to meet and a great parking place. If this old bridge could talk, what very interesting stories it could tell. The bridge was always referred to as “The Big Bridge” by the locals. That was to distinguish it from the smaller bridge across Haydens Branch, or as the locals called it the Hickie Branch. It is unclear who actually was the first person to give the Piano Bridge its name, because of the melodious sounds that the boards of the bridge made as a vehicle drove across it. The new bridge will no longer make that distinctive sound, but we are thrilled to have it back and hope it will be here for the next 125 years.
by Carolyn Heinsohn
There are many varieties of European architecture in this area, but one of the most unique examples is located on private property here in Fayette County approximately one mile south of Dubina. The National Register of Historic Places states that the house is probably the only one of its kind in Texas or even in the United States. Although commonly referred to as a Russian-style house, its design is the creation of its builder, Simon Pytlovany, who was of Ukrainian descent. He combined an old-world architectural style inspired by the izba, a Ukrainian peasant hut, with his own original building techniques.
Pytlovany was born in the village of Kolodruba on the Berach River, which separated his village in Prussia, part of which was located in Austrian Poland, and Russian Poland on the other side. His great-grandfather’s surname was actually Psencik, but later he received the name Pytlovany from his occupation as a flour sifter. The sifted flour was called pytlovana muka, taking its name from the sifting cloth. After his marriage, he was referred to as Mr. Pytlovany, which he eventually adopted as his surname.
In 1896, Simon Pytlovany immigrated to Texas with his wife Sofie Vrstuk, their two children, Mary and Anton, and Pytlovany’s father, Ivan. His mother was already deceased. After several moves, the family eventually got to Dubina, where Mr. Pytlovany worked as a share-cropper and gin worker for Joseph Peter. Another son, John, was born in 1899. Five years later, Mr. Pytlovany bought the 126-acre farm that was originally owned by Valentine Holub, one of the first settlers of Dubina. This is where the family built their unusual home, after spending six years in Holub’s old frame house on the property. That house, as well as many other dwellings and the Catholic Church in Dubina were destroyed in a severe storm, possibly an inland hurricane, in 1909.
Sofie Pytlovany and daughter, Mary, in front of their house, circa early 1950s. Part of the house had already been covered with tar paper to protect the mud walls from further deterioration. Photo by Herzik Studios, Schulenburg, TX; courtesy of John Janacek
Wanting to build a home that would withstand any future storms, Mr. Pytlovany decided to build his house with a special clay-mud mixture. Much planning and work went into his home, which took three years to construct after he began building in 1909. He first salvaged some of the heavy timbers from the wrecked church and bought the remaining lumber at a Schulenburg sawmill. These big timbers are visible in the framework of the porch, the door facings and beamed ceilings. The slab foundation is concrete poured over large sandstones. The exterior gables are built with pine boards, but the lower exterior and interior walls and ceilings are made of a clay composition that resembles plaster, but is fibrous like asbestos.
The framework of the house was first built upside down. Another framework lathing, which supports the ceilings and walls, was made of small oak logs placed flat on the ground; then all the supports were fitted in. Since Pytlovany did not use nails, but splice and hole-peg fittings, he found this method easier. After the pieces of framework had been fitted, everything was taken apart and put back together in the upright position. Split logs were placed 12 inches apart between the supports to form the walls. Yaupon branches were woven between the log supports, and then the plaster-like substance was deposited over the branches and around the logs to form a wall 14 to 18 inches thick. The filler substance was made according to an old European recipe, consisting of black clay mud and horse manure, which was the essential ingredient to keep the mud from crumbling when drying. Straw from shelled milo heads was also mixed in for extra strength. The ingredients were kneaded together like bread dough by the family members using their bare feet. A thin, stucco-like coating of native clay was laid over the mud plaster, which was then whitewashed.
The exterior appearance of the house combined the old and the new – its sharp sloping roof takes one to the past, but its sides, jutting out without any supports touch the modern. The interior of the house consists of two rooms about 14 by 14 feet, divided by a hallway, which is open all the way up to the ridge of the roof, 25 feet above the ground. A canopy-like structure resembling a stove hood was built in the center of the hallway. It narrows like a square funnel to a small opening into a chimney lined with the mud and manure plaster; the exterior of the chimney is a wooden cupola. This provided a natural ventilation system and removed the smoke from a European-style stove. The huge stove located in a cooking corner consists of a long plaster slab, a hearth and a plaster “stovepipe”, which conveyed the smoke through an opening in the wall and up into the chimney. The stove could be used for heating, cooking and smoking their hams and bacon, plus the long slab could be utilized for sleeping on cold nights. But after the house was built, the Pytlovany family discovered that they seldom needed the stove for heating, because of the warm Texas winters and the excellent insulation provided by their 18-inch walls.
After Simon Pytlovany died in 1942, his wife continued to live in their home. Then his daughter, Mary Novak, moved in with her mother in 1949; her husband had already died in an accident in 1940. Mary died in 1953, and Sofie Pytlovany moved in with her son John and his family, who also lived in the Dubina community. She died in 1956. Their home, which never had electricity, plumbing or a telephone, is still standing, although it hasn’t been occupied for 55 years. Mary’s son, Louis Novak, had covered the exterior walls with tar paper and wood, but due to a lack of attention in more recent years, the roof started leaking, causing part of the second floor and chimney to collapse.
In 1991, the house was designated as one of the endangered historic properties of Texas by the Texas Historical Commission. It needed stabilization, weatherization and a roof replacement, which was estimated to cost $100,000.00. Since there were no funds available for restoration, Fayette County Judge Ed Janecka was instrumental in obtaining a $2500.00 donation from the Christina Petrash Estate to help fund the construction of an A-frame sheet metal cover for the house, which is helping to reduce further weather damage.
Although not open to the public, the 100-year old home still stands as a monument to a man who did not fear hard work, and who alone possessed the knowledge to build a home from the very soil that gave him his livelihood.
by Ed Janecka
100 years is a long time ago. Many of us think of those times as uncultured and not very civilized. Nothing could be futher from the truth, especially here in Fayette County. We had numerous poetry clubs, theater groups and many organizations that promoted culture. One interesting place in the county was Joseph Peter’s place at Dubina. Mr. Peter had an extensive botanical garden and peacocks roaming the grounds. He also had exotic animals, including monkeys. As well as having a large outdoor dance platform, he also hosted elaborate dinners parties. One of these parties is described in the March 10th 1910 edition of the Weimar Mercury:
One of the jolliest crowds a man ever saw went to Joe Peter’s park in Dubina last Sunday to spend the day in social intercourse. Of course the refreshments were not forgotten and there was enough to eat for about twice the crowd which consisted of the following menu; Roast turkey, roast beef, fried chicken, chicken salads, oysters on the half shell and fried, roast pork, veal loaf, Hamburger steak, cold tongue, tongue salad, stuffed eggs, boiled eggs, salmon salad, Irish and sweet potatoes salad, baked Irish potatoes, boiled ham, tomatoes, rice, cabbage slaw, coffee, catsup, crackers, pickles, and several different varieties of pies and cakes. Those present were: E.F. Leidolf and family, H. Sachs and family, Robt. Klochmann and family, Wm. Hillje and wife, J. Birkmann and wife, Ed. Seydler and family, A. J. Ratliff and family, Mrs. Eug. Potthast, Mrs. Chas Fahrenthold, Chas. Potthast and family, Alf. Buske and family, Chas Herder and family, Miss Annie Klatt , Mrs Olga Guenther, Grandma Koehn, Ad. Schindler and family, Max Konz and family, Miss Emma Fietsam, W. Tell and wife, E.F. and F. J. Gold. H. Heller, Jr., Joe Schimek and family, Ed. Rabel, Jnoo Schindler, A. Herzig and wife, of Engel, Mrs Barts and family. E. F. Leidolf was the chief oyster opener, but he said he didn’t mind opening oysters for a man that has had his dinner. Adolf Schindler received the medal for eating the most raw oysters, he only ate eleven dozen.
Dubina Catholic Cemetery
Judge Augustine Haidusek
Historical Sketch of the Peter Family
The Peter Family of Dubina, Texas
The Painted Churches of Texas
Web site developed by public television station, KLRU, to accompany its documentary of the painted churches
The Story of Dubina
Written by Susan Rektorik Henley
Photo of Joseph Peter, Sr.
Photo of Mr. & Mrs. Joseph Peter, Jr.
Portrait of Former Slave Tom Lee and Fred Svecina.
Photo of Czech musicians from Dubina, Texas, ca. 1908
Photo of String musicians from Dubina, Texas, ca. 1900.
Winedale Photograph Collection, University of Texas Center for American History