The North Bend Eagle

Old Morse Bluff Bar
This saloon stood on Morse Bluff's second street on this spot in 1911. It was destroyed by a fire in 1953 and is now just a memory on an empty lot.

Tales from Old Morse Bluff

by Nathan Arneal
Published 8/8/12

Life was not easy in the Kingdom of Bohemia in the latter half of the 19th Century.

The landlocked territory in central Europe, along with its sister state Moravia, was a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire ruled by Franz Joseph I of Austria.

Land was a highly valued and increasingly rare commodity. If a farmer had four sons when he passed, his land was divided four ways. Those men had their own sons, and the land was further divided until the land being passed on wasn’t big enough to sustain a family.

To some of these people scraping to get by, there was only one solution, and it rested an ocean away.

On the other side of the Atlantic, the government of the United States was having its own issues. Racked with debt from its recent civil war, it couldn’t afford to pay the railroad companies commissioned to connect the quickly expanding U.S. territories with rails. So the government paid with the one thing it had plenty of: land.

In order to make its money, the railroad had to sell the land the government had given it along its rails. That meant it needed people willing to settle the frontier, including the plains of Nebraska, starting new towns every so many miles where the railroad’s steam engines could refill with water.

Posters advertising prosperous and readily available land in America started to spring up in the Roman Catholic Churches of Bohemia– the only churches allowed by Joseph I and the ruling Habsburg dynasty.

With overcrowding and starvation facing the Czech people of Bohemia, Joseph I of Austria allowed them to leave.

Some families left voluntarily. Some did not. Many people were desperately poor and depended on the government to feed and clothe them. Some of the locals saw emigration as a cheaper option than continued welfare support. They gave everyone in the poor family a set of new clothes, packed them a basket of food, bought them a ticket to America, marched them to the boat and forced them to get on.

Josef was born March 12, 1823, in Koryta, Bohemia.

In his homeland, you will find his last name spelled in a variety of different ways, including Hynes and Henesch, but his family eventually settled on the Hines spelling, even as it continued to disagree on its pronunciation.

Josef’s eldest son, Joseph Hines, emigrated to the United States in 1867 and found a home with a growing Czech population near Chicago. In 1870, Joseph was joined by his brother Frank working in the coal mines of Braidwood, Illinois.

The working conditions in the coal mines were harsh and the pay was little. The Hines boys, along with all the other workers, lived in tar-paper shacks that did little to protect against the bitter winter winds. Workers would search for little pieces of coal lying on the ground to feed their stove to provide warmth. Food was purchased in the company stores, so much of the money paid to the workers went right back to the mining company.

Water came from an open well. Once, while leaning in to retrieve the bucket, Frank’s wife Mary fell in and nearly drowned before being rescued.

This wasn’t the dream the Hineses had when they left their homeland for America. They still lusted after the prize those posters back home had promised: their own land and the freedom that went with it.

After a few years of saving money in Braidwood, the Joesph and Frank Hines families, along with a large group of Czech men which included John Zakovec, Anton Soukup, John Virka and John Ruzicka, moved farther west in 1871. Most of the people in the traveling party were also natives of Koryta. The migration ended in northwest Saunders County in Nebraska, a state that had officially joined the Union just four years earlier.

Frank and Mary first lived in a shelter they dug into the ground a little more than a mile southwest of present day Morse Bluff.

Just a few miles west was a village of Pawnee Indians living near Skull Creek, so named because heavy rains would often expose skulls of hundreds of Indians buried along its banks.

Mary was in a canoe on the Platte River when she had her first encounter with a Pawnee. She threw up her arms in fright and promptly fell out of her canoe.

The Indian jumped into the water and pulled her out. After rescuing her, he gave her a kiss, then went on his way.

The Hines brothers had their land, but they were still far from completing their American dream. Heading into their first Nebraska winter, most of the men in the area, including the Hineses, decided to return to Braidwood, Illinois, to work in the coal mines to earn some money. The group left on foot around the first of October 1871.

Two weeks later, Frank’s wife Mary, left alone in their dugout, gave birth to their first son, Frank A. Hines, Jr.

In subsequent winters, Frank, Sr., elected to stay closer to home, and walked only to Omaha in search of work.

In 1873, the rest of the Hines family joined Frank and Joseph in Nebraska, including their brother John, sister Mary, and father Josef Sr., whose wife had died back in Bohemia. The trip across the Atlantic took Josef and his two children two months and a day to complete on the S.S. Main.

From this family would spring all the Hines families that still populate the Morse Bluff and North Bend area.

It wasn’t long before the Hineses were successful enough that they didn’t need to walk for days to find winter work.

Frank Hines Sr. moved into Morse Bluff, where he owned and operated an inn and a hall used for church, graduations and other celebrations.

By World War I, a few decades after coming to America with next to nothing, Frank was able to send money back to family still living in desperately poor conditions in Bohemia — which was now part of a newly formed country called Czechoslovakia.

Josef Hines, Sr., the patriarch of the local Hines family, died on October 11, 1906, at the age of 83, never having learned how to speak English.

His descendents still disagree on how to pronounced the family surname. His son Frank’s line pronounces it “Hinze,” while descendents of his son Joseph, Jr., say it “HIN-esh.”

On Josef’s gravestone in Killian Cemetery, his last name is spelled Hineš. The symbol over the š tells a Czech speaker that it supposed to be pronounced like the English “sh,” meaning the first American Hines probably pronounced it “HIN-esh.”

The Pabian family was stuffed into a small house in Koute Domažlice, Bohemia.

There were 23 people in all sharing living quarters.

Joe Pabian had already gone ahead to America and had no doubt encouraged the rest of his family to follow. His brother John and their father, Joe Sr., listened and made their own plans to join Joe Jr. in the United States.

In all, 11 Pabians covering three generations decided to make the leap in 1876. The family set out overland to the northwest, where they left from a German port, likely Hamburg or Bremen. The next stop was Liverpool, England, where they boarded their home for the next several weeks, the S.S. Helvetia.

The Helvetia made frequent runs between Liverpool and New York. Traveling east it often carried shipments of lumber and other goods from the New World. It needed ballast for the return trip, so it offered cheap fares to human cargo.

The ship included cabins for 72 of its more affluent passengers, but the majority of the travelers were jammed into steerage class, where the Helvetia could hold up to 1,200 passengers. Steerage passengers, including the Pabians, stayed in the hold around the clock, except for 45 minutes a day when they were allowed on deck to wash their clothes and get a breath of air.

Then it was back down below, where adults were allotted a space 6-feet by 18 inches and children got nine inches to themselves.

The Pabian’s journey was not uncommon for many Czechs emigrating to the U.S.
Czechs were in the minority on the Helvetia, however, as Italians, Germans and Irish made up the majority of the passengers.

After a stop in Queenstown, Ireland, the Helvetia, with 11 members of the Pabian family stowed below, set a course for America.

Continue to part 2>>

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