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Retaining their culture and ethnic identity: Assimilation among Czechs and Swedes in Saunders County, Nebraska, 1880--1910

Raymond Douglas Screws, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, thousands of immigrants arrived in America from Europe. Along with some personal belongings, the immigrants carried with them across the Atlantic their customs, which helped perpetuate cultural conservation and slow assimilation. Many of these immigrants settled in the Great Plains, including the state of Nebraska. ^ In Saunders County, Nebraska, located in the eastern section of the state, most European immigrants were Czechs, Swedes, and Germans. Saunders County had the largest percentage of Czechs and Swedes in aggregate than any other county in Nebraska. Unlike the Germans, the Czechs and Swedes in the county maintained strong ethnic identities through 1910 and assimilated slowly. ^ By 1910, almost 50 percent of Saunders County's population were Czechs and Swedes. Despite their universal strength, both groups carved out separate clustered areas. Only in the town of Wahoo were there many Czechs and Swedes in the same community. In each of their clustered areas, there were a few small villages, but otherwise they were rural. ^ Clustering was the principal reason the Czechs and Swedes sustained their ethnic identities. Both groups clustered to help in the difficult transition into American society. In one precinct of Saunders County, 762 of the 763 people were Czechs. Both ethnic groups were also endogamous, which was fostered through clustering. Endogamy was a key factor for cultural conservation and maintaining ethnic identity. ^ The Czechs and Swedes in Saunders County utilized several tools to maintain strong ethnic identities, including religion, education and social and cultural organizations. Swedish Lutherans in Nebraska founded Luther Academy, in the county, in 1883. This school, which added a two-year college shortly after 1900, was established to train Swedish Lutheran students to teach and minister to fellow Swedish Lutherans. By 1910, both the Czechs and Swedes in Saunders County, Nebraska, had not only preserved their ethnic identities, but also managed to assimilate at a slow rate. ^

Subject Area

American Studies|History, United States|Sociology, Ethnic and Racial Studies

Recommended Citation

Screws, Raymond Douglas, "Retaining their culture and ethnic identity: Assimilation among Czechs and Swedes in Saunders County, Nebraska, 1880--1910" (2003). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3102573.