The Church of St. Mary of Bechyn History
In 1867, just two years after the Civil War, Jacob Krell, John Swoboda and Michael Goblirsch settled in the area we now call Bechyn. Located in Henryville Township, Renville County, Minnesota. Wencil J. Kojetin has been credited for naming the hamlet of Bechyn, after Bechyne, Bohemia, a village in southern Bohemia where several families settling in the area used to call home back in the old county.
In 1879, the settlement of Bechyn numbered 20 families. The new Bohemian immigrants celebrated the first Mass in their native language in 1879, at the home of Jacob Krell. In 1880, inspired by the dream of having their own parish church, Jacob and Josephine (Zetah) Krell and John and Agnes (Zetah) Swoboda families each donated five acres of land in section 28, henryville township, for the construction of The Church of St. Mary of Bechyn. Wencel Kojetin, Martin Skoblik and Jacob Frank were the carpenters who built the original church in Bechyn, beginning around 1880, taking two to three years to complete.
Articles of Incorporation were signed June 12, 1896, by Bishop John Ireland, Vicar General Louis E Caillet, Father Jaroslav Cermak, and lay members Charles Zalud and Martin Stepka.
By 1890, the parish numbered 60 families. Needing a larger church for their growing congregation, a new church was built in 1915. Lead carpenter on the present day church was George Halliday, a native of Henryville Township. The old church was moved, made larger and is now Henryville township's town hall.
Although never officially incorporated, Bechyn was a thriving rural community for many years. There was a blacksmith shop, post office and two general stores. Continuing through the decades of the 1920's to 1960's the Church of St. Mary's flurished along with the hamlet of Bechyn. Dances were held at the town hall on a regular basis, the Church of St. Mary hosted annual church festivals and Bechyn was a destination point for young and old.
However, as the age of moderization came to rural America, farms became larger, family size became smaller and others migrated to urban areas (keeping Bechyn close to their heart).
Due to the declining number of parish priests, it was decided by the Diocese of New Ulm that the Church of St. Mary of Bechyn was to close in 1992. The final Mass as a parish was held on June 28, 1992. A group of parishioners came together and formed St. Mary's Preservation Committee for the purpose of preserving St. Mary's by carrying on the traditions and love of her ethnic heritage.
St. Mary's Church building and grounds are still used as a community center, and is the home of the annual Czech Heritage Festival held on the second Sunday of August. Proceeds from the Festival are used for the preservation of the church and grounds. The American Legion from Olivia, Minnesota, honors our soldier's who have passed with an annual Memorial Day service at St. Mary's Cemetery, which is located next to the church building. Now some 137 years after the first Mass was held in the home of Jacob Krell, we look forward to passing St. Mary's history onto future generations.
"The Church of St. Mary of Bechyn history of our parish and henryville township" is beautiful book celebrating the wonderful history of our church and community. Proceeds from the sale of the history book are also used for the preservation of St. Mary's Church building.
"A good name is the best inheritance." ...Czech Proverb