Some saintly souls of St. Wenceslaus were wandering about the cemetery in Spillville in years past during the first annual Cemetery Walk. People came as far away as Urbandale, Iowa to the event. It was a great time and I hope they do this again when the weather is warmer. Until then I will recap the historical event from our little Czech community of Spillville in Northeast Iowa.
I kept notes of that evening and this is what I learned, “St. Wenceslaus Church was built in three separate stages over a period of thirteen years. The construction of the church began in the winter of 1859-60, including stockpiling stone and lumber. Women and children, mostly barefoot or wearing wooden shoes, also helped bring up the rocks from the nearby river bank. In 1873 the church was complete and stands as a monument to the heritage of the first pioneers of Spillville.”
The cemetery tour began at the St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church, which is known as the oldest surviving Czech Catholic Church in America. Inside the church, the groups were met by the ghost of Father Mikota (portrayed by Steven Klimesh). The ghostly Father told the crowd about his history and showed the groups his burial plot, underneath the church floor, where he is to this day watching over the souls of St. Wenceslaus.
Lantern laden ghoulish guides led the crowd into the cool night air, among the ghosts wandering about the cemetery. The crowd was first greeted outside by Ignatz Benda a ghost claiming to be one of the first settlers of Spillville.
As the sun was setting, the crowd huddled together for warmth as they moved on through the cemetery, meeting Joseph and Anna Spielman (Dave Ludwig and Cheryl Novak). There I learned that because of a clerk’s error the town was called Spillville, instead of Spielville, after Joseph. After informing the gathering of their history, the couple vanished into the night.
Other ghosts appearing that evening was a young boy named Vaclav Klimesh (Ethan Adams), John and Anna Klimesh (Michael T. and Kate Klimesh), J.J. Kovarik (Michael F. Klimesh), Joseph Linhart(Russell Baldner), J.J. Haug was portrayed by Dan Silhacek, and Conrad Riehle (portrayed by Joe Hauber).
At the end of the successful cemetery walk, the living was invited down to the school for refreshments, as the ghostly voices glided back to their burial plots to rest peacefully for another year.
The event was sponsored by the Spillville Tourism Education and Promotion group, St. Wenceslaus Heritage Society, Czech Heritage Partnership, Country Road Players, along with other businesses and individuals.
At that time efforts were underway to place the St. Wenceslaus Parish properties on the National Register of Historic Places as a Historic District. The properties include the 1860 St. Wenceslaus Church, the 1870 Old School, the St. Wenceslaus Rectory, and also the historic cemetery.
For more information on what was then called the St. Wenceslaus Heritage Society, contact them at the following address: St. Wenceslaus Heritage Society, P.O. Box 159, Spillville, IA 52168. You may also call the Heritage Society at 563-562-7498 or visit their web site at: www.czechoslavaksmidwest.org.
Everyone who attended the lantern trail of fall fun enjoyed seeing history come alive last Friday in the haunted St. Wenceslaus Cemetery. It was so much fun and a great way for families to learn about the history of the area, that the memories of that wonderful night are still with me. I hope we can again get a group together to do this again!
In the meantime, come and visit our beautiful church where Dvorak once played the organ that is still there!