Bohemian Hall History
The wfla/ZCBJ Bohemian Hall is an historical site and a landmark in the Cadott area
located 7 miles North of Cadott, WI at the intersection of State Highway 27 and
135th Avenue. ZCBJ Lodge membership was formed in by Czech/Bohemian settlers from
the Crescent, Drywood and Cadott areas. Named Bratri Novych Hradu (Brothers of New
Castles) ZCBJ Lodge No. 141, they were inducted into the ZCBJ National Organization
in 1904. The Bohemian Hall was built 3 years later , in 1907, as a meeting hall
and a gathering place for its members.
ZCBJ Lodge No. 141 proudly celebrated its Centennial Membership with the wfla/ZCBJ
organization in 2004.
Zapadni Ceska Bratrska Jednota (ZCBJ) translates to Western Bohemian Fraternal Association
(WBFA).The name of the organization was formally changed to Western Fraternal Life
in 1971. wfla/ZCBJ is a fraternal association organized in 1897
with its national headquarters in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. From its beginning, the organization
was important to its members, offering life insurance and also a support system
for Czech immigrants and those of Czech descent. In 1947, ZCBJ lodge membership
and insurance was opened to all people, regardless of whether or not they were of
Czech ethnicity. Lodges, lodge buildings and lodge members are scattered throughout
the United States. ( wfla insurance and other benefits are available to everyone
today; to become a member, ask for info: firstname.lastname@example.org or ask a member of
the wfla Lodge No. 141 of Cadott. )
Throughout history, the European regions, now known as the Czech Republic (Bohemia
and Moravia) and Slovakia, have been areas of turmoil. For centuries, the Czech
people suffered through invasions and wars by foreigners competing to control their
much desired land and resources or to gain religious power. Constant conflict in
their homeland made the opportunities in America a good reason to emigrate.
The first Czechs came to America as early as 1633. But in 1848, a large Czech emigration
was prompted by revolution. There were those who came to America to escape religious,
political or military oppression. Some wouldn’t conform to the conditions of the
conquering rulers and were exiled and many just chose to leave their semi-serfdom
status. Others came for land ownership or economic opportunity. Many would later
send money to bring their families here; but some had plans to return to their homeland
one day. Whatever the reason, once n America, it was important to the Czech immigrants
to settle and stay together in an attempt to preserve their ethnic identity and
culture and also to support and protect their families from hardship. One such settlement
was here, just North of Cadott.
The ZCBJ was only one of the many Czech organizations to offer life insurance benefits
to its lodge members. Also, as a means of preserving their Czech heritage, the ZCBJ
provided a support-like system of social and ethnic activity to promote friendships
with the idea of "neighbor-helping-neighbor". Since 1904, as a fraternal
organization, Lodge No. 141 has donated to many worthy causes: the Red Cross, scholarships,
various charities, school projects, hurting families and food pantries, are just
a few. wfla/ZCBJ encourages fraternal activities and also promotes the cultivation
and preservation of the Czech/Slovak history and culture. These traditions live
on at the wfla/ZCBJ Lodge No. 141 of rural Cadott. They continue to place a strong
emphasis on families, fraternal and community friendships, volunteer service and
working with area youth.
Monthly Lodge Meetings are held at the local Bohemian Halls all across the U.S.
, District and State meetings are held annually and National Conventions are convened
every 4 years in various cities. But there was also "school" to cultivate
the "mother tongue" and to teach English. Organized Gymnastics (Sokol
) helped to make the youth physically and mentally strong. Through the years, the
Hall was the site for many social gatherings such as wedding and anniversary celebrations,
birthday and card parties, funerals, reunions, etc. Its walls have echoed the sound
of music : country, gospel, some rock ’n roll, but most often the "squeezers"
and Old Time Polka Bands played for the dancers ‘til dawn! Numerous plays and musicals
were performed on its stage surrounded by hand-painted backdrops. And, with all
the activity, there was always plenty of food and drink : Bohemian specialties,
such as vepřové (pork), knedlίčky (dumplings), kysané zelí (sauerkraut), jaternice
(sausage), koláčhy (Bohemian pastry) and pivo (beer). For many years, the Bohemian
Hall was a place where people celebrated life. It has socially served both lodge
members and the community, as well.
However, by the early 1970’s, the use of the Bohemian Hall had lessened, and the
main activities taking place were lodge meetings and the meals sponsored by the
including a Memorial Day Service with a Potluck Lunch for the
community and the Father’s Day Charcoal Chicken Dinner, a fundraiser for the Bohemian
National Cemetery, located just ½ mile North of the Hall. The Lodge Hall was not
being used as much as in the past, and time was taking its toll on the area landmark.
In 1992, through the combined efforts of wfla/ZCBJ Lodge No. 141 and the Cadott
Historical Society, both the Bohemian Hall and the Bohemian National Cemetery were
recorded as Historic Sites on the State and National Registers of Historic Places.
What an honor for this unique place of Czech heritage … this place with its own
historical charm, special sprit and grand character. What an honor for the Cadott
Area, as well… the Bohemian Hall is truly a cultural monument to the early Czech/Bohemian
Settlers and to this community.
By 1999, out of the 272 lodge members of Lodge No. 141, only a handful remained
active. Of those few, many were in their 70’s and 80’s and it was getting harder
for them to host events. Also, the Bohemian Hall was receiving only minimal repairs
and upkeep. However, that same year, there was spark of new, younger interest in
the old lodge building. It was thought that the once lively Bohemian Hall should
not remain so idle and with a little help from new members and volunteers, could
have a more hopeful, useful and active future. (The alternative, at the very worst,
that the building may eventually fall to total disinterest, only to be lost into
the pages of history.)
With renewed interest, the "Restoration and Preservation of the Bohemian Hall"
began. Members are, again, becoming involved, and even non-member volunteers are
lending helping hands. The Lodge No. 141 membership has once-again grown to nearly
300. In support of the restoration, there have been memorials and monetary donations,
as well as prize and food donations for new lodge fundraising activities, and also
donations and discounts of supplies and materials needed for improvements and repairs
of the Hall. All of this and more is from individuals, businesses and charities
in support of the restoration effort, and the lodge is most appreciative. Still,
there is the hope for more new members and the need for members to become active,
even in some small way.
Community response for restoration fund-raising events has been positive and supportive.
Some events held in the last 10 years include: the "Long Live the Squeeze Box"
Program, a "Potato Pancake and "Jaternice" Breakfast", Koláchy
classes, Bohemian Bake Sales, thrift sales, a Gospel Night, Pork Dinner & Polka
Fests and Old Time Dances. Non-profit youth events include Join Hands Day, 50’s-60’s
Sock-hops, and a Youth Koláchy Class to teach this classic art and tradition for
posterity’s sake. Tours of the Bohemian Hall have been given for individuals, families,
girl scouts, organization groups and bus tours. Members and volunteers have represented
the Bohemian Hall by participating in Ethnic Cultural Festivals and sharing the
Czech heritage with the UW Eau Claire, Chippewa Valley Museum, CESA, Genealogy Societies,
school classrooms and presentations at assisted-living facilities. A grand Centennial
Celebration was held in 2004. The sale of our wfla/ZCBJ Bohemian Hall Centennial
Cookbook, Lodge No. 141 continues to be a great success.
To date, some improvements and replacements completed at the Bohemian Hall include:
interior painting and stenciling; window and balcony dressings; wheel-chair-accessible
ramp and deck; kitchen stove, sink and cabinet, refrigerator, soda and beer coolers,
center-stage steps; electrical wiring updates; charcoal pavilion rebuilt; main section
of hall roof trusses replaced and insulation added; new tables and chairs; new windows
for the entire hall; and a large library display of photos and written articles
exhibits an excellent record of the past 100 years. (if you have any photos of lodge
events or personal celebrations, copies would be appreciated.) In 2008 the restroom
facilities were upgraded with 2 extra-large portable restrooms (more user-friendly
and wheel-chair accessible) with a roof covering and a storage shed. The hall’s
maple wood floor has been re-finished to its original beauty. The community is using
the Hall, once again, for community events and personal celebrations. Most recently,
the Hall has been rented for Wedding Ceremonies, Anniversaries, Receptions, Showers,
Reunions, Dances and Birthday Parties; and the stage is once again being used by
4-H Clubs for Plays.
The Restoration and Preservation of the Bohemian Hall has been a huge undertaking;
but, in the past 10 years with the help, willingness and support of those interested
in preserving this piece of history, many goals have been accomplished. wfla/ZCBJ
Lodge No. 141 thanks anyone who has participated in any way and welcomes everyone
to join them in the upcoming events and activities. This continued support will
help the Restoration of the Bohemian Hall and Preserve this historical site for
years to come.
Information for this article was gathered from : The wfla Fraternal Herald, 7/1972
; The Cadott Community Centennial Pub., l965 ; The Czech Book Recipes & Traditions,
by Pat Martin, 1981 ; The Czech Republic in Pictures, Lerner Pub., 1995; The Cadott
Sentinel ; and Shirley Starck, by-line author for the Cadott Sentinel. To: become
a member, insurance information & to join wfla ; help or volunteer with activities
or the restoration project; request a calendar of events, help work on the library
; share photos or news articles (we would like to copy them for our photo library
& will return the originals to you); or to recount & share any hall history, stories
and memories (we would like to journal that info. also) ; purchase cookbooks; to
rent / book the hall for a gathering or to arrange a tour the Hall for individuals