The Village of Tarnov, two miles west of Highway 81 and about four miles south of Humphrey, can be located from a distance by the church steeple of St. Michael's Church, stretching proudly above the treetops into the bright sunshine.
Tarnov, inhabited by approximately 70 people, was founded in 1890 as "Burrows." It was renamed a year later when the post office was established, and called "Tarnov" because many of the early settlers to this area were from Tarnov, Poland.
A farming community from the beginning, the elevator was built in 1916. Older citizens still remember their early farming days. Starting in their early teens, boys loaded the bundles of grain for the threshing machines, and then hauled the wagon loads of wheat, oats, and barley to the granaries. There was plowing, planting, and cultivating to do between cuttings of hay, and always chores to do before and after the day's work. Corn picking lasted most the winter, with shelling done by hand or by a big crew using a machine powered by a steam engine.
A fond memories is of the construction and dedication of the Tarnov landmark, the memorial grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes.
During the First World War, Tarnov sent 16 young men off to war. One, Andrew Matya, lost his life. When Andrew Jarosz returned, he remembered his visitation to the world-famous Our Lady of Lourdes Shrine in France, and dreamed of making a replica of that shrine in Tarnov. He promoted the idea as a memorial to Andrew Matya, and as a thank-offering for the safe return of the other soldiers from the community. He started the drive with a $300 donation and was successful in collecting enough money to see the project completed.
Then, of course, there is the memory of the bombing of Tarnov! This village holds the dubious distinction of being a Nebraska town that was "bombed" during World War II. (Another town to be "bombed" was Dickens in Lincoln County.)
Tarnov's bombing happened in the wee-hours of the morning, August 16, 1943. The night before, the whole parish had enjoyed the annual Harvest Festival Dance under strings of lights. Tired, but happy, the party broke up soon after 1:00 a.m. A few hours later, the "bombs" (100-pound sand-filled practice casings) came crashing to the ground, making a terrible clatter. They had been released by a bombardier on a night training mission who had mistaken the lights of Tarnov for a lighted bombing range located a few miles south of Stanton.
In night clothes, robes, and slippers, the townspeople dashed around the village, by moonlight or with lanterns, making certain their neighbors were all right. In the middle of the excitement, a barn fire was reported two miles away. It was soon confirmed that the fire and the bombing were not connected.
Another big Tarnov story, one that a younger generation remembers, was when word was received that St.Michael's Church was to be closed. Father Len, backed by 85 parish families, led the way to a meeting of the archdiocese in Omaha to say, "NO, you won't close our church." He successfully convinced the parish council to not only preserve the old church, but also to approve a $20,000 loan "to fix the place up." Giving full credit that "God saved our church," the community continues to enjoy the spiritual blessings and fellowship provided by their church.
The Tarnov post office was closed in 1977, but the town still did not die. Each year the townsfolk celebrate together with the famous St.Michael's Parish Bazaar, and live comfortably in the peace, quiet, and fresh air of the Village of Tarnov, USA.
By Irene O'Brien, 2702 8th Street, Apt 2, Columbus, NE 68601. Photos by Ray and Mary Ann Jaros, of Tarnov.
ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: The Franciscans in Nebraska , by Rev. Eugene Hagedorn; Past & Present of Platte County, by G.W.Phillips; and Platte County Nebraska, by Margaret Curry.