Moravia School Site - Historical Marker, Granger, Texas

Marker Text

Site of Moravia School In the mid-nineteenth century, Moravian immigrants began moving into Central Texas, attracted by fertile soils and the hope for better lives. One who settled here was Pavel Machu (1834-1907), a native of the Vsetin Valley in what is now the Czech republic. Machu came to Texas in 1870 with his wife, Rozina (Trlica), and their three children, settling first in Austin County. By 1880, the family resided in Williamson County and, in 1884, Machu donated three acres of his farm for a community school that was named for his native land. S.E. Montgomery donated funds for lumber and built the one-room schoolhouse, which also provided meeting space for church services and community activities. Moravia School opened in 1884, replacing the earlier Dykes School (1 mi. S). Charles Lord served as the first headmaster. Moravia became Common School District No. 83 in 1903. It continued to serve the dispersed farming settlement and was a focal point for social and religious gatherings. In 1922, trustees enlarged the schoolhouse to two rooms, providing space for grades one through eight. Older students attended high school in Granger. By the 1930s, the declining agricultural population resulted in the closing of several area schools, and Moravia closed in 1945. The district formally merged with Granger Independent School District in 1949, and the Moravia schoolhouse was soon moved to Granger to the site of Crispus Attucks High School. There it remained until 1964, when the African American Attucks school integrated with other Granger schools. The site of the pioneer schoolhouse now serves as an important reminder of the area's rich cultural history. (2003)

GPS Coordinates
Latitude: 30.685229, Longitude: -97.403401

Address: 606-1000 CR 389

Historical Narrative Of The Moravia School Historical Narrative by Loretta Skrovan Mikulencak, Granger, Texas

Located approximately 51/2 miles southeast of the small town of Granger, in Williamson County, at its inception, Moravia School was but one of many such frame structures dotting the prairie that was Texas. Such was the mode of education of the time. As it evolved, it acquired a uniqueness all its own, assuming the character, mores, rich heritage, and history of the Moravians who built it. However, although so deeply steeped in that culture, from the very onset, the school doors were opened to all. All nationalities and creeds were made welcome and became truly ecumenically united in their common goal—the education of their children. (1) (11)

When the first European emigrants began arriving in Central Texas in the early 1850s, settlers from the eastern United States had already laid claim to vast sections of the prairie that was Texas and had begun the taming of a wilderness. Some of the families already inhabiting this particular area were the Dykes, the McFaddins, the Montgomerys, and the Beards. The Moravia school was erected on the site of the original Spanish grant of 640 acres awarded to Beard (a Scotch Irishman from North Carolina) in the early 1800s. (3) (10)

State archival records reveal that these first settlers sold, traded their original huge sections with frequency, even before the influx of the Moravians, Germans, Czechs, and Poles from Europe.

So it came to pass that the Moravian schoolhouse was built in a meadow owned by Paul (Pavel) Machu on a parcel of land he had purchased from Montgomery, who had secured it from Beard, a part of his original grant. It would be Pavel Machu's drive and dedication and Montgomery's monetary help and carpentry skills that would bring the dream of a school to reality. (5) (10) (3)

That Machu's circuitous life's journey eventually brought him to this central Texas area is miraculous in itself, that it came to be his final home and later his final resting place, even more so. Born in 1834 in Senince, Vsetin Valley in central Moravia, he lost his mother at age two and his father when he was only thirteen years old. Orphaned and alone, he was soon subjected to military service in the Hapsburg Empire. Upon his return, Pavel married Rozina (last name unknown) six years his junior, having been born in 1840.

After many years of struggle, Pavel and Rozina decided to leave their home in Senince and immigrate to the United States. With them came their children, six-year-old Anna and three-year-old John T. Upon their arrival in America, the young family made its way to Kenny, Austin County. Texas, where they settled and resided for eight years. However, the climate in that area continued to cause health problems for Pavel Machu. Thus, the family packed up its belongings and set off for Williamson County in a hand-hewn wagon pulled by oxen. The journey took almost two weeks. Rains had caused streams to swell, and fording them was difficult.

Finally, the Machu's arrived at Boggy Creek (now called Brushy) just southwest of Taylor, Texas, and came upon an abandoned cabin, which they shared with other families who were traveling with them. A year later, the Machu's moved onward, once again, to the San Gabriel River and their final destination about four miles northeast of the Circleville community. There they found shelter in cabins formerly occupied by slaves situated on land owned by the Breeding and McFaddin families. More struggle and hard labor eventually allowed Pavel Machu to purchase the land that came to be the site of the Moravian School. (1) (12)

Pavel Machu, from the day of his arrival, was determined to bind the immigrants arriving daily into some semblance of community to be of mutual help to each other in adapting to their new homeland.

Education of the settlers' children was his top priority. He rode on horseback, welcoming each newcomer-stressing to one and all the need of a "meeting house" that would serve as a school, a non-denominational church, and a social center, open to all in the area. As he made his rounds, he also asked for contributions to achieve this goal. However, most were barely eking out a living and were unable to help, so Machu decided to go to the town of Caldwell, Texas, again on horseback, to seek help for this venture. He returned with a grand total of $10.00. (5) (4)

Undaunted, Machu and the other settlers called for a meeting to be held under a grove of trees in a meadow on Machu's land. It was at this meeting that Montgomery offered $25.00 to buy the lumber and also his expertise as a carpenter, without charge. All the settlers agreed to donate their labor, and together they built the frame, one-room "meeting house" that became Moravia School. When it opened its doors, it also absorbed the students from the nearby Dykes School, which had become too small to accommodate its growing enrollment.

Although all in the community, including the Anglos, were pleased to be able to attend classes at the nearby 64meeting house", a huge outcry of protest arose from the Anglos when they heard that the new school was to be named "Moravia." Mrs. Dykes, the owner of the land that was the site of the Dykes School, thus bearing her name, was particularly incensed at the idea and would have none of it. A face-saving compromise was reached when she "allowed" the name in exchange for the right to choose the first headmaster, a distant relative of hers, Charles Lord. (4) (5)

In time, the "meeting house" enclave grew to include a pavilion donated by the SPJST, one of the many Czech fraternal organizations and societies that were established for the mutual benefit of the immigrants. The pavilion, a large platform, was fully utilized as a picnic site, a venue for dances, plays, box suppers, etc. As the need arose, the Machu Cemetery was added to the site, again on land donated by Machu. (4) (5) (10)

Machu's vision was fully realized. The "meeting house" came to, indeed, be the magnet he thought so necessary to draw and unify the community.

In many ways, it even surpassed his early aspirations. A Sunday School program was put in place, adult evening sessions were added to teach English (a forerunner of today's ESL Program) penmanship and 'sums", religious services and rites were held, a summer school also came into being. Later another room was added to the one-room structure. (4) (5)

The realization of his dream is Pavel Machu's greatest legacy. Although the site of the school is now in the ownership of Hilda Finn and her family, even today "The Machu Reservation" lies a stone's throw away. In addition, various Machu's still own farmland in this early community, all descendants of his kith and kin. One can think of no greater tribute to his memory than that the name of that long-ago forbears, Pavel, continues to resound in this small community and remains a unique, perpetual memorial to his vision. (3) (4) (5)

In addition to the Machu's, the roster of settlers lists the names Rozacky, Cervenka, Martinets, Mikulencak; followed by others such as Vitek, Bohac, Dobias, Kopecky, Pustejovsky, Zett, Mokry, Strmiska, Wentrcek, Loeve, Simcik, and many, many more, throughout the years, too numerous to mention here. The children and grandchildren of these families are the ones who passed through the portals of Moravia School from its inception in the late 1880s to its closing in 1936. Moravia School is no more. Its history now lies only in the memories of those long-ago students who shared the unique experience that was Moravia. (3) (4) (5)

It is fortunate that many of these, most now long dead, left a treasury of oral histories painstakingly recorded by one of these early students, Stacy Mikulencak Labaj.

It is not surprising that the memories of all, throughout all the years of the school's existence, are strikingly similar. It was a simpler time that spanned the two centuries, one marked by frugality, hard work, endurance but also a time of camaraderie, simple pleasures, and exuberance of spirit that seems to have vanished from the United States of today. For example, they all recall the same games they played: Hopscotch, Red Rover, Tag. London Bridge, Drop the Handkerchief, Tug of War. Their modes of transporting themselves to the schoolhouse were walking, horseback, and, for the fortunate few, horse-drawn gigs. They all brought lunches in pails, consisting of nearly identical fare.

There were always sausage and bread, syrup, all available by slaughtering their own hogs, baking their own bread, and the intricate process of concocting the syrup from their sugar cane crops. (today, a lost art.) Fruit supplemented their diets when the orchards produced. They all remember the schoolroom with its pot-bellied stove in the middle. Encircling that stove was 12 to 14 foot long benches built by the parents. They all recount that they learned the ABC's, arithmetic, such as multiplication tables, and how to add, subtract, and divide. Their all-time favorite, throughout the years, seems to have been the spelling bee. The McGuffy Reader was used to teach them to read. Penmanship was stressed and learned by endless repetitive exercises. (4) (5)

The chores they recite that were their lot were also similar-slopping the hogs, feeding the chickens, gathering eggs, sewing, working the fields to bring in the harvest that would allow them to survive another year. (4) (5)

The Mikulencak children were, more than most, totally inundated in the culture of the homeland.

Their eccentric maternal grandfather, Starsky, was part of their household. Daily he led them in songs of their fatherland. He also loudly recited chilling, scary tales of ogres and druids. Though the stories frightened them horrendously, they never tired of hearing them over and over again. (5)

In their recollections, the students cite the names of the various teachers who were their mentors—the first, a Mr. Charlie Lord. Most of the teachers, they remember, rode on horseback from Granger or boarded with families who lived near the school. Some of the teachers, they recalled, were a Mrs. Scott, a Miss Posey, Rosa Mikulencak (Baletka), Maude McLaughlin, Mrs. Betty Schramm, Ann Svadlenak, and her brother, Frank Svadlenak, who substituted. Also recalled were Tom Richey and Claude Teer. (4) (5)

Other data surfaces from an undated account of a reunion of the alumni where Josie Kubala Martinets was honored as the oldest graduate of Moravia School in attendance. At this gathering, Hattie Rozacky Cervenka Cmerek delivered a history of the school that she recalled. At this meeting, it was decided that the next reunion would be held in 1977. Thus we only know that the first occurred sometime before that. (4)

Though the Moravia School closed its doors in 1936 and the students were absorbed by the Granger School District, it was not until 1948 that the formalities of the annexation were duly executed.

Throughout the years, the Granger District gradually brought into its fold all the myriad schools in the surrounding countryside—Macedonia, Circleville, Palacky, Denson, Friendship, and Alligator. All of these and their individual histories are a part of the Granger Independent School District that, today, is at the cutting edge of education in the state of Texas —Technologically, in State ranking, in new, innovative firsts in education in Texas under the tutelage of the current superintendent, James E. Bartosh. Moravia's unique history, as well as the history of all the others thus assimilated into the System, are an integral part of what the Granger ISD is today. (8)

As such, the Moravia School deserves historical designation to attest to its existence and preserve its history for posterity.
Author of Narrative: Loretta Skrovan Mikulencak, Granger, Texas