Main Street Prague in the early 1900.
The Land Run of 1891 opened the Sac and Fox Reservation and much of present day Oklahoma for settlement wherein Prague, Oklahoma got its unofficial beginning.
Among the early settlers of the land run were Bohemians Eva Barta and her son, Frank Barta. Because of poor political conditions the pair left Austria while it was under the rule of the Hapsburgs. Eva later sold her land to Anton Simek, while Frank sold his to Vencl Kozack.
On April 11, 1902, the title of the land owned by Simek and Kozack was taken by E.L. Conklin, who dedicated the land to the public on May 17. Eva Barta, along with other settlers, named the town after Praha, Czechoslovakia. The name was anglicized to Prague the same year.
The plat of Prague was filed in Lincoln County, Territory of Oklahoma on May 19, 1902. The following day, residential lots were sold for $25 to $75 and more than $30,000 was raised from the sale of business lots.
Conklin also was responsible for the Fort Smith and Western Railroad building a train station and coal chute in Prague as opposed to the town of Lambdin, located two miles east .The first working train arrived at Prague in the spring of 1903. The first passenger train arrived months later in July to a large celebration.
By the time the train arrived, Prague had two banks, two hotels, five restaurants, two barber shops, six saloons, one drugstore, one furniture store, two hardware stores, two meat markets, two lumber yards, one blacksmith, three doctors and six general merchandise stores.
July 1902 also brought about the first newspaper and telephone service.
Cotton was a fundamental cash crop at that time. The first bale was auctioned off at $0.1575 per pound. On October 22, 1904 a record-breaking 200 bales sold in one day. More than 10,000 cotton bales were sold in 1904, bringing in $6,000 to$10,000 per day and helping the town boom.
A $47,000 bond was passed in 1909 allowing the construction of water and lighting systems. The town began to modernize in 1925 when it assumed $30,000 in bonds to install a sewer system and sewage disposal plant. Main Street was paved at that time as well.
St. Wenceslaus Parish was in need of a new church when the Rev. George Johnson moved to Prague in 1947. However, the money needed was not available. Nuns gave Johnson a statue of the Infant Jesus of Prague and said, “The more you honor Him,the more He will bless you.” Johnson placed the statue on a pedestal in the church. Donations became abundant.
Shortly after, Pope Pius XII granted Johnson and Bishop McGinnis permission to start a shrine to the Divine Infant since the world famous shrine in Prague, Czechoslovakia was behind the Iron Curtain.
The Oklahoma town named after the famous Catholic city in Europe seemed to be a fitting place to offer devotion in the Free World, so that all might give honor to the Divine Infant and pray for world peace. Hundreds of visitors from across the U.S. come to pray at the Shrine and many join monthly pilgrimages.
Fifty years after Prague’s establishment, the town’s people were thinking about a birthday party for the town. It was the Lions Club who dreamed up a festival with a Czech theme in honor of those who settled the town. Thus, the Kolache Festival was born.
Kolaches are sweet rolls made by the women of Czech heritage. The first Kolache Festival was in May of 1952 on Prague’s golden birthday. The festival was a huge success and has been held annually since. The festival takes place the first Saturday in May and includes a parade, street dancing, carnival games, rides and great food.
Currently, Prague has two banks, one hospital, one nursing home, 15 churches, a cemetery, golf course, public swimming pool, an expanding public school system, a 400-acre city lake with hiking and horseback riding trails, rodeo grounds, an airport,public library, multiple sporting facilities, a park and many stores and restaurants.
Main Street Prague in the early 1900 Additionally, many civic, cultural and service organizations call Prague home, as do 2,135 people. Information about the history of Prague was gathered from the town’s centennial book, “Prague, The First 100 Years.” To learn more, visit the museum on Jim Thorpe Boulevard.