St. Wenceslaus Parish, Tabor, South Dakota, was officially organized in 1871. St. Wenceslaus is the patron saint of the Czech/Slovak people and was chosen as the patron saint of the newly formed Czech immigrant Catholic parish.
The first Czech immigrants started arriving in Dakota Territory in 1886 and settled west of Yankton. Church services first started taking place in the log home of Vaclav Janda, one mile south of Tabor in 1871. The town site of Tabor was purchased from Johanna Kocer on April 14, 1872. In that same year, work started on the first church of the St. Wenceslaus parish. The church was constructed of chalk rock cut near the Missouri River located six miles south of Tabor. All the labor for construction of the 24' x 50' chalk rock church was donated, and the church completed in 1874. Before the new church was completed, services were held in 1873 in the newly constructed 18' x 24' log school house.
Father X. Shulak, S.J and other missionary priests served the Tabor parish from 1871 to 1877. The first resident priest, Rev. Josef L. Krizek, served the parish from 1877 to 1884. A listing of the St. Wenceslaus Parish priests is listed below:
Rev Josef Krizek 1877-1884 Rev Raymond Koman O.S.B. 1942-1965
Rev J.W. Jutting 1884 Rev Gilbert Laketek O.S.B. 1966-1969
Rev C.H. Quinn 1885 Rev Fabian Pakosta O.S.B. 1969-1971
Rev Josef Weixelberger 1885-1886 Rev Gilbert Laketek O.S.B. 1971-1974
Rev T.A.Bily 1886-1888 Rev Jerome Dobry O.S.B. 1974-1978
Rev Thomas Rabsteinek 1888-1889 Rev Carlton Hermann 1978-1997
Rev Vaclav Dvorak 1889-1892 Rev William Osborn 1997-2003
Rev Peter J. Jeram 1893 Rev Joseph Puthenkulathil 2003-2012
Rev Msgr. E.A. Bouska 1893-1940 Rev Daniel Morris 2012-2013
Walter Liesch 1940-1942 Rev Steven Jones 2014-Present
Among the priests who assisted in the parish throughout the years of its existence were Father Chudecek, Rev. Fidelis Shindelar, O.S.B., Rev. Placid Sasek, O.S.B., Rev. Fabian Pakosta, O.S.B., Rev. Offerman and Rev. Frank Traynor, S.J., Rev David Garcia, Rev. Brian Simon, Rev Joseph Forcelle
Members of the parish who followed their vocations to the priesthood are Rev. Mark Horacek, O.S.B., Rev. Paschal Honner, O.S.B., and Very Rev. Charles Cimpl, and to the sisterhood were Sister Natalie Horacek, O.S.B. and Sister Florence Behensky, N.D.
Since the St. Wenceslaus cemetery, which is adjacent to the present church, was started before the streets were plotted in 1872, there is a small jog in the street on the south side of the church. An outdoor altar, located in the southeast corner of the cemetery, is used for Memorial Day services and on special occasions.
With the coming of the first priest in 1877, the first parish house was built south of the cemetery across the street. Fr. Krizek stayed with the Hruska family before the parish house was completed. The house was used until 1910, when a new two-story brick house was constructed west of the church.
The chalk rock church was quickly outgrown and a new 42' x 132' red brick church was built in 1898 with the bricks having to be hauled by horse and wagon from Lesterville, because that was as close to Tabor as the railroad came. The railroad finally arrived in Tabor in 1900. The bell which is housed in the bell tower on the church was donated by Frank Sykora. It originally sat alongside the first church, due to the fact that there was no bell tower. The original altar and pews from the old church are being used in the St. John the Baptist Church at Lakeport.
The three-story St. Wenceslaus Day and Boarding Catholic School was opened on September 15, 1903, and was also made of brick. Students from a wide area attended school there. Students paid tuition, and living expenses incurred by the sisters who conducted the classes, were deducted from this tuition. In September, 1904, the new dormitory was completed at the school. The system pursued in the institution was intended to imprint on the students a refined and thorough education, with religious and moral training receiving special attention. The music department included instruction in vocal music as well as piano, organ, violin, mandolin and guitar. Thorough courses in English, Czech, and German were also taught. Plain sewing and fancy work were also a part of the curriculum. Sister M. Clara was the superior and principal of the school.
The new church school and parish house were constructed under the supervision of the Rt. Rev. Msgr. E.A. Bouska, who served the parish from 1893 until his death on February 18, 1941. Msgr. Bouska was chosen for inclusion in the South Dakota Hall of Fame in 1986.
The Rev. Raymond Koman served the parish from 1942 until his death in 1965. While serving the parish he supervised the construction of an ultra-modern all-electric school in 1960 located just north of the old school. The old school was dismantled and all that remains is the statue of St. Wenceslaus which stands proudly on a pedestal on the grounds where the old school stood. The Catholic school closed in 1970, but is now rented by the Bon Homme School District. A new gym, which was added to the school in 1983, is also rented by the public school.
The parish is very active with 650 members. In 1882 the Knights of St. Wenceslaus , a social group, was formed and participated in processions, parades, and served as honor guards when the Bishop or other dignitaries visited the parish. It is no longer in existence.
1882 also saw the start of the First Central Union Insurance Group. The first Society Hall, built by the Catholic Fraternal Societies, was constructed in 1885. It was used for all community gatherings, including talent plays presented by the Catholic Dramatic Club, which presented both Czech and English plays. In June of 1900 the Western Catholic Union Insurance Group was organized and took over the members of the old First Central Union Insurance Group. In September of 1903, St. Ludmilla's Lodge was organized. It was a life insurance organization for women only. In September of 1905 the Catholic Workman Insurance organization was formed.
The first society hall was sold to J.A. Dvorak in 1904 and was the home for the Tabor Independent newspaper until 1950. It is now used as a private home. A second, large society hall was built south of the old one and was moved west of Sokol Park. It was then moved a second time, a half block west, and is now owned by Bon Homme County. It is used as a storage building and garage for county maintenance equipment.
The Catholic Sokol Club was formed in August of 1915. It was an athletic organization which trained all year to prepare for annual competition meets held in the fall hosted by various towns. The Sokols also formed a dramatic club which performed an annual operetta and also traveled to other towns in South Dakota and Nebraska.
In 1929, the Catholic Workman and Western Catholic Union merged and retained the name of the Catholic Workman, and is still a very active insurance group today. In April of 1930, Beseda Hall was purchased by the Catholic Workman and Sokol Club as a new meeting place for their organizations. It has been remodeled several times and had a new brick front added in 1955. It is considered one of the finest dance halls and meeting halls in the area. Also in 1930 the Sokols purchased the old Thompson Lumber Yard and turned it into Sokol Park, which adjoins the Beseda Hall on the south.
The Catholic Sokol Social Club, the Catholic Workman and the St. Wenceslaus Altar and Rosary Society are the active organizations in the parish today. The Altar and Rosary Society not only takes care of the altar and recite the Rosary before Mass, but they are organized into ten circles which serve for wedding receptions, funerals, meetings, parish bazaar, Czech Days, and other activities.
The twelve-member parish council is also a very active part of the parish community, supervising the many projects of the parish including building the gym, total remodeling of the interior of the church, overseeing the repair and maintenance of the church grounds and distributing the many fruit baskets at Christmas to the elderly and sick of the parish and community.
The church choir offers fitting worship to God and provides enjoyable listening to the parishioners, singing in Czech, English and Latin. The choir has an album of Czech Christmas carols which was produced in the 1970's.
The success of the St. Wenceslaus parish has to be attributed to the efforts of the priests and the hard-working parishioners. Since St. Wenceslaus Church is the only church in the town of 400 people, it is still the focal point of the community including many farm families.
St. Wenceslaus Parish
205 N. Lidice St. • Tabor, SD 57063 • Tel 605.463.2336 Fax 605.463.2518
St. Wenceslaus Parish has been blessed with a history of believers, who through their determination and dedication established our tradition of faith. The statues, stations of the cross and stained glass windows; bear tribute to the religious conviction of our founders who came to this holy place to worship, pray, celebrate community and to find spiritual nourishment and strength with their fellow parishioners. Thanks to their sacrifices and contributions, the faith has been passed on from one generation to the next.