Czech and German Heritage


Two cities in McLennan County trace their heritage to Czech and German roots: West, and Riesel.

Many of the immigrants who made their way to West were Czechs and Germans. The Czechs came to the United States from Bohemia and Moravia in the Austro-Hungarian Empire of the Hapsburgs, and the Germans came from the kingdoms of Hanover, Prussia and Bavaria. Both Czechs and Germans first established themselves in communities near West in 1867. The first known Czech settlers to the area were Martin Cvikel, his wife and two children. They were followed between 1872 and 1874 by the families of Leopold Skrehot, Frank Urbanovsky, John Fojt, Frank Soukup, Vaclav Masek, and John Stanislav.

In 1872 Detrich Blume was the first of the German pioneers to arrive. Many others soon followed.  By the turn of the century, the West Volunteer Fire Department, West Water Company, and electric and telephone service were all established. An opera house and auditorium provided entertainment. Czech and German benevolent societies such as SPJST, the Germania club, and Sokol were founded. The Interurban, an electric railway, connected West to the world. West’s kolache craze began in 1952 when a successful bakery was opened on Oak Street in downtown West. Others followed, and in 1976, the Westfest festival was born to celebrate the area’s Czech heritage. This popular Labor Day festival draws over 35,000 each year and features dance, culture, and food of the area.

 German immigrants helped settle Riesel in the late 19th century. It was founded in 1890 and was named after W.H. Riesel, a local gin owner who was from a German family.  Historical markers in the area celebrate the city’s German heritage, including the Friedens Church and Meier Settlement Methodist Church. 



Excerpted from “Historic McLennan County: An Illustrated History,” ed. by Sharon Bracken. Chapter on West by Mimi Montgomery Irwin. Chapter on Riesel by J. Douglas Guthrie, Jr. Supplemented with information from Texas Historical Commission.