The names of the tombstones are straight from the Old Country: Kokesh. Soukup, Stoklasa. Mlika. Karsky. Pelikan. Their gravestones mark the final resting places for a group of Bohemian immigrants who established farms in the fertile Thompson River valley, west of Cainsville, in Harrison County, MO.
Those Bohemian settlers earned a reputation as a hard-working, yet clannish, ethnic community which retained its own language and customs for generations after moving to America. Though the Bohemians eventually were assimilated into American society, the community’s legacy still is visible in a quiet cemetery on a hillside overlooking the valley where these new immigrants once farmed.
The origins of the Bohemian heritage in Northwest Missouri may be traced by reading the inscriptions — many written in the Bohemian language — on the tombstones in the cemetery, located in a beautiful grove of pine trees. The cemetery dates back to the early years of the Bohemian community which got its start in the mid-1870s.
The Bohemian Cemetery is located just off Route B, about six miles north of the community of Mt. Moriah. Visitors to the cemetery will notice that the grave sites are still well maintained, a tribute to the strong family ties among the descendants of the original settlers.
The Bohemians came to this country from their homeland in western Czechoslavokia. Most came to the New World to “escape the unsettledness and continuous wars” in Europe before the turn of the century, according to E.J. Stoklasa, who grew up in the Bohemian community.
“Most came to Cainsville to get away before their sons had to go into the army,” Stoklasa said.
The Bohemians had their own assembly hall southwest of Cainsville. Stoklasa recalls that the assembly building, which operated into the 1920s, was home for all types of community activities ranging from religious meetings for the predominantly Catholic Bohemians to all-night dances.
The Bohemians were primarily small farmers, Greek and Italian immigrants also came to Cainsville to work in the coal mines which operated there until the end of World War I. At one time, Cainsville had its own railroad and boasted a population of about 2,000 persons (about 4 times as many people as today).
Persons interested in the architecture of the early 20th century will enjoy a visit to Cainsville. One of the most interesting features is the Victorian-style Dr. Nally home, now the site of the Stoklasa Funeral Home. Cainsville is located near the intersection of Harrison County Routes N and B, about eight miles north of U.S. Hwy. 136.
— reprinted from “Treasure the Times,” a tourism guide published by Gallatin Publishing Company in 1988