Early Schools


from: The History of Linn County Iowa, Pub. Chicago, Western Historical Co. 1878. Transcribed by Terry Carlson for IaGenWeb.

"School was first held as a primary department of the College, at which there was an attendance of twenty during the first year.  A district school was then organized and held in a small dwelling now standing vacant in the western part of town.  School was held there until 1861, when the present two-story brick building, about 24x40 feet in size, was constructed west of the business part of town.  There are two rooms, now taught by Stephen I. Harrison and Miss Sadie Bowman." p. 581.

"The first school house in this vicinity was erected in 1850.  It was a little cabin, made of lynn poles, and school was first taught there by Israel Clark.  Another, one-quarter of a mile east of town, afterward known as the Ely school house, was built in the fall of 1854, and first taught by R. Rowe.  This was moved nearer to the town plat when the latter was laid off.  A new frame school house of one room was built in Ely in the fall of 1876, where school was first taught by Isaac Heller, who was afterward drowned in the Cedar River.  Al Weaver taught the next winter." p.585.

Source: 1883 History Of Johnson County, Iowa

"But Mr. Lingle reports the first school house as built on section 9, by Chauncy Fowler, in 1848 or '44. He says it was about fourteen feet square-built of round logs; but there was one log left out, and the hole was covered with greased paper for a window. There was no floor; and a big fireplace at one end, with huge back-log and forestick, and then plenty of small wood, served to keep it warm in the coldest days.


Big Grove Township
Section 11 -Stone Academy (N. of Solon, highway 1)
Section 3 - Hazel Green
Section 5 - Salubria
Section 7 - Buresh

Jefferson Township
Section 1 - Sulek
Section 3 - Shueyville
Section 5 or 7 - Houston (or Swisher)
Section 19 - Strang
Section 22 - Anderson
Section 24 - Vorel


Linn County history links

Thank you to Michael Clark for calling to tell us we had a mistake in one of our links! It has now been fixed. Micheal descends from the early Clark family in Putnam township.

The error was the link to "People in Putnam Township" in the following ....

(Places to search on-line)

*The History of Linn County (1878-1878)   812 Pages
*Pioneer Life In and Around Cedar Rapids - (1839-1839)   258 Pages (you will need to log in to FamilySearch.org to view this)
*1907 Linn County Atlas - (1907-1907)   175 Pages

 Early Clark family photos from the 1907 Linn County Atlas (click the photo to enlarge it)


Ely School Sports Teams

 Mark Krob submitted these two mid-1930s sports photos.
They are from the collection of Bob Krob.

Click each photo to enlarge it, then click again to enlarge more.

Top row, left to right: Dave Clark, Chuck Vavra, Walt Wagner, Leo Pizarek, unknown
Middle row: Dean Lockwood, Norbert Krob, Verne Upmier, Jack Clark, Bob Krob, Joe Becicka
Bottom row: Frank Sladek, Lumir Skripsky, Bud Stahle 

Back row: Frank Sladek, Jack Clark, Walt Wagner,Norbert Krob, Dave Clark
Front row: Lumir Skripsky, Bud Stahle, Verne Upmier, Dean Lockwood, Bob Krob, Chuck Vavra


Esther Zvacek Recital

Bud Goodrow posted this photo on Facebook of an Esther Zvacek piano and accordion recital held at the Ely Legion about 1960. Thanks, Bud! 

Esther Zvacek (1905-1991) taught music to many young people in the Ely area. 

If you wish to identify any of these people please comment below.

Click the photo to enlarge it - then click it again.


Esther Zvacek

Cedar Rapids Gazette, November 6, 1991.
Esther Zvacek, 86, of 2800 Wright Brothers Blvd. E., died Monday in St. Luke's Hospital following a short illness. Esther was born Oct. 13, 1905, in her home at 2800 Wright Brothers Blvd. E. and had resided there all her life. She taught piano, organ, accordion, and guitar for over 60 years in the Ely area. She was a lifelong member of First Presbyterian Church near Ely, and a member of Johanna Society, American Legion Auxiliary and was Past Noble Grand of Ely Rebekah Lodge 56. 


Many of you know "Barefoot Becky". She was a student of Esther's. From her web site at https://barefootbecky.com/about/

In 1980, when she (Becky) was ten years old, Becky took her first accordion lesson from Esther Zvacek. Esther was an elderly lady who still only charged a dollar for a lesson! Becky was very close to her teacher. Both Becky and her mother would go over to Esther’s house every Friday night for supper before having their lessons. Her mom even kept a garden there for Esther and Becky mowed her lawn.

Becky's first recital - 1981. Left -Becky, middle-Esther Zvacek, right - unknown


First Presbyterian Church Near Ely

The church prior to 1893 - click to enlarge 

Around 1856 immigrant families from Bohemia began meeting in their homes on Sunday for simple worship services using prayers and song books they had carried with them from the "old country".  They helped their German neighbors build the Banner Valley Lutheran Church (located at Ely Rd and Hoosier Creek Rd) which was dedicated in 1859.  As thanks for their help, the congregation allowed them to use the church buildings on Sunday afternoon.  

By October of 1860 the families had secured a minister from their homeland to lead their services. Rev. FrantiĊĦek Kun dutifully served his people and the community in these early years and after the Civil War ended, he called upon them to build a church of their own. Funds were raised and the cornerstone laid in 1867.  By July of 1868 the building was completed on the ground where the First Presbyterian Church cemetery now sits west of Ely.  The church was a simple structure, 30 by 40 feet with 3 windows in each side and 2 doors in front - one for the men and the other for women.  

Originally, the church was called the "First Bohemian & Moravian Brethren Church".

In 1883 the church was moved 1 mile north to its current location and in the fall of 1893 the church was expanded to include a balcony and bell tower.  The bell first tolled for Rev. Kun's death in January of 1894 where over 1000 people from the Midwest attended his funeral. 

In the following years the Chadima or "West Church" branch was started to serve the people of Swisher and the Rogers Grove Church was purchased and used to serve those East of Ely - all served by the same minister from the "Mother church", now almost 50 years old.

The church and congregation in late 1920s / early 30s - click to enlarge

Over the next 50 years descendants of the first families still made up much of the congregation and until the 1950s services were conducted in the Czech language.  The year 1958 brought big changes; first the congregation joined the Presbyterian church and became known as the First Presbyterian Church near Ely.  The other event was a major addition where Sunday school rooms and a modern kitchen were added as the church celebrated its centennial. 

The history and heritage of this church and its first minister, Rev Kun, is unique. It has a very special place in Czech-American history as the first Bohemian/Moravian independent church in the United States. The same building that is at the center of the current structure is mostly unchanged over the years and the Czech spirit that built it is still as strong as ever. 

In August 2008 the church that started out as the Bohemian and Moravian Brethren Church celebrated its dedication after 150 years of prosperity and serving the Ely community. A special service and potluck were planned. Descendants of the original families still can be found on membership rolls where they and other faithful families are still carrying on the work that was started so long ago.

Taken after the 150th Anniversary celebration at First Presbyterian Church near Ely in August of 2008.

**Note: Also view a bit of history about this church at http://www.elypres.org/our-history.html