Tuesday, October 15, 2013


"Lone Star Historian 2" is a blog about the travels and activities of the State Historian of Texas during his second year. Bill O'Neal was appointed to a two-year term by Gov. Rick Perry on August 22, 2012, at an impressive ceremony in the State Capitol. Bill is headquartered at Panola College (www.panola.edu) in Carthage, where he has taught since 1970. For more than 20 years Bill conducted the state's first Traveling Texas History class, a three-hour credit course which featured a 2,100-mile itinerary. In 2000 he was awarded a Piper Professorship, and in 2012 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Wild West Historical Association. Bill has published over 40 books, almost half about Texas history subjects, and in 2007 he was named Best Living Non-Fiction Writer by True West Magazine. In 2013 he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters degree by his alma mater, Texas A&M University - Commerce.

During World War II almost 830,000 Texans, including 12,000 women, donned uniforms, representing more than 7 percent of  the overall American total, even though the Texas population (6.4 million in 1940), comprised only 5 percent of the U.S. population. More than 23,000 Texans died for their country - 7 percent of overall American losses.

This view of the east side of St. Mary's shows
one of the three small chapels, in the foreground.
Another chapel is on the west side, and another
stands in front.

No Texas community was hurt harder by the loss of its young men than Praha. Praha was a Czech-Texan rural community in Fayette County with a population estimated at 100, although many farm families lived in the surrounding countryside. 

Tragically, nine sons of little Praha were killed in action during a one-year period beginning February 1944. In North Africa, Pfc. Robert Bohnslav was the first to die. In France, Pfc. Rudolph Bart fell 10 days after D-Day. Four were killed in July 1944: in France, Sgt. George Pavlicek and Pvt. Jerry Vaculik; in Italy, Pvt. Alvye Ral; in the Phillippines, Pvt. Joseph Lea. In September 1944, Pvt. Eddie Sbrusch was lost at sea in the Pacific and Pfc. Edward Marek was killed in action on Pelilieu Island. And in February 1945, Pfc. Anton Kresh, Jr., died in the Phillippines. 

These brave men are pictured on a granite monument at the entrance to the parish cemetery behind beautiful St. Mary's Catholic Church. The monument also honors chaplain Father Marcus Valenta, a Pearl Harbor survivor. Three small chapels around the church also honor the fallen men. 

Praha is east of Flatonia and south of I-10. From downtown Flatonia drive east on Highway 90 a few miles to FM 1295, then drive south one mile to Praha, dominated by its striking St. Mary's Church. The interior is well worth a visit, and so are the three little chapels. Behind the church is the quiet cemetery, and the monument to the World War II heroes features their photos. The countryside is lovely, and anyone would be moved by a visit to Praha. 

The world's smallest Catholic Church stands on
the west side of Hwy. 237 south of Round Top.

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