In the last decade of the nineteenth century, struggling Slovak coal-miners and farmers of the north-eastern USA (e.g. Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois) pay heed to the advertisements in Slovak promoted by the National Slovak Society which was presenting agricultural settlements in Arkansas. The so-called `colonization companies` of the time were buying land in the remote rural areas of the USA with the purpose of building up communities that would eagerly start a new life there.

This was the case of the Slovak settlement, initially called Slovaktown, established in 1894 by the Slovak Colonization Company organized in Pittsburgh by Peter V. Rovnianek. 25 Slovak families settled in the Eastern part of Arkansas, more precisely, in a subregion of the Grand Prairie, which itself was, and still is, a subregion of the Mississippi Alluvial Plain, aka Mississippi Delta. They built their farms, a school, and a church. They mainly subsided on cutting prairie hay, until 1910 when they started farming rice to the extent that rice crop became their main source of living. The area`s type of flat land easily flooded by the nearby rivers made it exceptionally fertile, particularly for rice.

The first church of the Slovak settlers was Roman Catholic, and it was built in 1900. Until 1917, the community did not have a parish priest, the religious services being conducted either by a priest of Stuttgart*, the town located 20 km away, or, in the absence of any available priest, by the male members of the most important families of the community (e.g. Matoske, Konecny, Dolny). In 1914, The Church of Saints Cyril and Methodius was built (i.e. Cyril and Methodius were important symbols of all Slavs). To this day, the church has a central place in the life of the small Slovak, and through extension, Slavic community.

In 1948, the community amounted to 90 families, and at the end of the next decade, there were roughly 500 people of Slovak descent scattered around the area.  

Below you will find two types of photo materials of the Slovak settlement of Arkansas: first, photos that show today’s community strong bond with the Slovak culture; second, photos of the Sts. Cyril and Methodius Catholic Church and cemetery. The Church in the images is not the original one. It now belongs to the bishopric of Little Rock, the capital city of Arkansas. 

  

* Stuttgart was established by the revered Adam Bürkle, a Lutheran pastor, who came to the USA  from Germany in the mid-nineteenth century and, in the last decades of the nineteenth century, established in Eastern Arkansas a community around a lake known as Gum Pond at the time. In the honour of his mother country, he named the area Stuttgart in 1880, which became a town in 1884. Soon after, it became a place famous for its rice crops and duck hunting.

Sources: 

https://encyclopediaofarkansas.net/entries/slovak-prairie-county-5362/  [accessed on 9th of September 2019]

Glenn Mosenthin, Images of America: Stuttgart, Arcadia Publishing, Charleston: South Carolina, 2015, pp. 10.

 

 

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