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Nebraska...Our Towns

Abie

Butler County

The town of Abie, named for "Yankee" Stevens' wife Abigail, was built around the church, as are many hamlets in Europe. A street scene "Back then..." [Nebraska State Historical Society]
Abie's majestic cathedral was built after the railroad came through about a mile south of the original location. [Harris]

Frank Faytinger, who homesteaded along Skull Creek not far from the present village of Abie, is said to have been the first Bohemian settler in Butler County. Many of his fellow-countrymen settled near by. The early years were plagued by hardship, but these sturdy, strong-willed people survived, and successfully proved-up their claims.

Longing for a minister of their own nationality, Rev. Joseph Hovorka was summoned from Czechoslovakia. Soon after he arrived in 1876, a parish was organized and a church built, named for Saints Peter and Paul. Built on a hill overlooking the surrounding countryside, the first baptism was held on July 22, 1877, making this the oldest established Czech parish in Nebraska.

Reminiscent of the hamlets of Europe, many small businesses quickly sprang up around the church; a store, a blacksmith, a lodge hall, and a parsonage for the priest. In 1878 the store owner applied for a postal permit. Charles "Yankee" Stevens (the title given all non-Czechs) named the post office for his wife, Abigail. Stevens sold the store to Frank Faytinger and Louis Hromas a few years later, but the name, "Abie" remained. [Perkey, in his Nebraska Place Names, says that the name was changed to "Able." However, that spelling does not appear elsewhere.]

The new town had a problem locating a water supply, so a deep well was dug, with the water drawn up by rope and bucket from a depth of 112 feet.

The sound of the Gandy-dancer's sledge hammer signaled the arrival of the railroad in 1887. This ended the relative isolation and gave the citizens of Abie access to travel as well as goods and services from "the outside world."

The depot, established by the Fremont, Elkhorn & Missouri Valley Railroad, was nearly a mile south of the church. A small stockyards was built and new businesses appeared. Gradually the town relocated closer to the railroad, leaving only the cemetery at the original site. By the early 1900s the population was over 200, and the town boasted 20 or more business.

A Golden Jubilee was celebrated by the church and community in 1926, marking 50 years of growth. A parade featured bands from Abie, Appleton, and Brainard, and 50 small girls dressed in white with gold ribbons at the neck. Following solemn High Mass and a community dinner, everyone walked to Pavel's Grove for speeches, a program, and a ball game. The day ended with dancing.

A series of events soon brought an end to the glitter of the twenties. The Crash on Wall Street sent panic across the land, causing many banks to fail. The scramble to withdraw funds brought down otherwise safe institutions. The loss of life savings brought untold hardships and anguish when the bank at Abie closed. Hard on the heels of that disaster came the drought, choking dust storms, and grasshoppers. Father Alcuin Kasny shared these times with his distraught flock. Through his leadership, people learned to accept their lot with faith and humble resignation.

To help meet the financial needs of the parish, Fr. Kasny organized a drama club. "Ticho! Svetla! Opona!" (quiet, lights, curtain) announced the start of many Czech plays performed by this group over the span of 25 years or so. Josephine Belovic, one of the original cast members, recalls that when the church needed funds for a new organ it was "out with the play books and on with the show."

Today Abie has a population of approximately 100. Since the tavern closed, people gather to drink their coffee at the Abie Grain Company, or chat at the post office during morning office hours. Residents of Abie, proud of their postmark and zip code, 68001, have fought to keep it and won.

Abie has a K-8 elementary school, and the fire department is an active group of 35 volunteers. The town's social life consists of anniversary and graduation parties, and an occasional dance held at the auditorium that has featured Eddie Skeets, Six Fat Dutchman, Whoopie John, and Paul Moorhead over the years. Abie is stompin' ground of the Ernie Kucera Polka Orchestra and the Leonard Havranek Trio.

Highlight of the year is the Annual Harvest Festival in October. The traditional Czech meal, which features roast pork, dumplings, kraut, rolicke, and kolaches, is enjoyed by about 1,000 fun-loving people.

From material submitted by Sharon Krivanek, Box 186, Abie, 68001, and Irene O'Brien from her Hardee's Salutes series.