Saturday, May 21, 2016

Castek family of teachers had roots in Dawes County

Many mid-20th century rural school students will remember the name John Castek, who was a long-time Dawes County School Superintendent.  Born in 1894, his parents immigrated from Moravia, the region now known as the Czech Republic, and they settled on land south of Chadron.  The elder Castek was also named John, and his biography was among those included in the 1909 Compendium of History Reminiscence and Biography of Western Nebraska distributed by the Alden Publishing Company of Chicago.  That biography is shared here.

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John Castek, one of the prominent and successful farmers of Dawes county, Nebraska, comes of Bohemian stock, and is a worthy representative of the best traits of his race and blood.

He was born on a farm in Moravia in 1863. His father was a carpenter who lived and died in his native land. Our subject grew up there until he was sixteen years of age, then came to America, landing in New York city in June, 1880, and came west at once to Colfax county, Nebraska, following farm work in the eastern part of the state for several years.

In the spring of 1886 he moved to Dawes county, locating on his present farm, in section 31, township 31, range 48, and there built a dugout and hatched for awhile. His first team were oxen, and he owned a half interest in a plow and wagon, with which the farm was broken up and crops put in. Soon after coming here the drouths struck the section, and as he was unable to raise anything on his land he tried to sell out, offering his place for two hundred dollars, but even at that price could get no buyer so was compelled to stay. He kept on trying to improve his farm, and in '89 had the finest prospects for a good crop and was getting ready to harvest, when a hail storm struck the region and completely ruined his crop.

Mr. and Mrs. John Castek
The next year he took out hail insurance and mortgaged his team to pay the assessment, and was again hailed out, but when he tried to collect damage, he was unable to get a cent, but he kept on carrying insurance for several years, but for some reason dropped it one year, and that very year he was again completely hailed out, having this experience for four years altogether.

During late years he has raised good crops, and he has plenty of hay and pasture for his cattle of which he keeps a large number, most of the time having two hundred head, besides running them for other farmers. He has about nine horses and his range is admirably adapted to stock raising of all kinds.

In 1889 Mr. Castek was married to Miss Anny Potmesil, and she died June 16, 1896, leaving a family of two children, Francis, born August 14, 1892; and John, born September 6, 1894.

In 1898 Mr. Castek was married again, to Miss Jennie Kratochvil, born in Bohemia, daughter of Joseph Kratochvil. Mrs. Castek came to America in 1893 together with a sister, they coming to Chadron, Dawes county, Nebraska.

Mr. Castek spends all his time on his ranch building up his home, and is one of the well-to-do and progressive agriculturists in the county. He is a Republican, and keeps well up with the time in politics locally. He is a genial, whole-souled gentleman and is full of social qualities that bring him many friends. On another page of this volume will be found a picture of their residence and also portraits of Mr. and Mrs. Castek.

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Note:  The younger John Castek received a good formal education, followed by teaching jobs in North Dakota, South Dakota.  He was selected Dawes County School Superintendent and served in that capacity for many years.  His wife, Mildred, was a long-time and well-known legal secretary in Chadron.  Their son, Jack, graduated from Chadron High School in 1961 and also pursued a long and successful career in education.

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