Down in the wilds of South Texas, lost in the mesquite and huisache thickets, lie the dreams of a Czech pioneer immigrant and the remains of the town that he founded.
Little is left of the town of Mikeska. The streets are overgrown with brush. The general store is now a garage. The dancehall, schoolhouse and train depot are long gone. Even the memories of the town are dying with the old-timers that treasure them. Peter Mikeska’s dream was only a short-lived reality.
Peter Mikeska was born in the Moravian village of Zadverice in 1855. His father, a miller named Peter Mikeska, and his mother, Anna Siler, died while he was a child. In 1867 he accompanied an older sister to Texas. At first Peter Mikeska worked as a farmhand in Austin County. In 1875 he married Anna Kovar, the step-daughter of Martin Supak, and they settled in Novy Tabor near Caldwell, Texas. While in Burleson County, Peter Mikeska farmed and operated a cotton gin. In 1892, however, he sold his gin and farmland and moved to Live Oak County where he had bought over 1200 acres on the Nueces River.
By 1900 a small community had grown up around the Mikeska ranch. The town came to be known as Mikeska (even though most of the townsfolk were Irish) and Peter Mikeska was its promoter and patriarch.
For several years the closest post office was located at Dinero, some fifteen miles downriver. Peter Mikeska got his town a post office, and he had it installed in a general store that he built.
In the early days of the Mikeska community, children went to school across the river in Gussettville. Mikeska needed a school of its own, so Peter Mikeska sold the county a plot of land for five dollars, and a two-room schoolhouse was built.
Mikeska’s link to civilization was the road to Beeville. The road crossed the Nueces River, which could be forded, but floods made the crossing dangerous. Consequently Peter Mikeska got a bridge. County voters had to approve the bridge project, so Peter Mikeska held a free barbecue and dance on the river bank to promote it. His efforts were successful. The voters said yes, and Mikeska got its bridge.
Peter Mikeska sold his son-in-law, Joe Janak, a couple of lots in the town to build a dancehall. The two-storied building had a dance floor upstairs and two stores downstairs. The Saturday-night dances were the main social events of the neighboring county.
Mikeska had its folklore, too. There were the standard legends of Spanish gold buried somewhere in the surrounding hills. Once there was a rumor that Pancho Villa and his band of Mexican outlaws were going to ravage the neighborhood. Everyone boarded up his windows. Peter Mikeska’s house was turned into an armed fortress. The Mexicans never came, but the people were reminded that their side of the Nueces River was recently claimed by Mexico.
In 1914 the San Antonio, Uvalde and Gulf Railroad came through Live Oak County. For five dollars Peter Mikeska sold the railroad a hundred-foot-wide tract of land through his property, and Mikeska became a railroad town.
Peter Mikeska had great plans for his town. Unfortunately a wealthy landowner and cattle rancher named George West had great plans for a town of his own. In 1918 Live Oak County held an election to determine the site of a new county seat. Peter Mikeska wanted it, but so did George West. West got the courthouse, and while the town of George West prospered, Mikeska did not survive its founder by too many years.
Peter Mikeska died in 1928. He and his wife are buried in the public cemetery in Beeville. His town lies at rest some miles away, lost in the wilds of South Texas.
- Robert Janak
“Mikeska, Texas,” Naše Dějiny (Magazine of Czech Genealogy and Culture published in Hallettsville, Texas, by Doug Kubicek from 1982 to 1989), March-April, 1985, pages 2-5.