Tama County Historical Society & Genealogical Library
200 N. Broadway
Toledo, IA 52342

Czech Pioneer Log Cabin
The log cabin located upon the grounds of the Tama County Museum and Genealogy Library was moved to this site on October 18, 1990 from section 24 of Otter Creek Township about seven miles east of Toledo. The cabin was moved from land owned by Mr. and Mrs. Charlie Balloun who donated this historic home to the Tama County Historical Society. 

The cabin has seen many uses over the decades. It served as a home, a chicken coop, as a place to store hay, corn cobs and grain. It now stands as a tribute to Tama County’s Czechoslovakian pioneer heritage.

Log cabin restoration expert Brian Bitteridge, Decorah, Iowa, was a consultant for the restoration of this cabin. He assured the Society that the cabin was originally erected by Czech people since each nationality used somewhat different methods of construction.

This cabin was constructed in about 1870. This home is built of native oak that was harvested from or near sections 23 and 24 of Otter Creek Township. Ax marks can still be seen in the hand hewn logs that comprise this cabin. 

It has widely been believed that this cabin was originally constructed by a Czech immigrant named John Kremenak. However, research reveals that the cabin may have been built by a Czech immigrant with the surname of Cibula. Martin Cibula may have been the actual builder of this home prior to the John Kremenak family taking ownership of it.

The cabin appears to have originally been constructed within section 23 of Otter Creek Township and later moved by Cibula about half a mile to the east to section 24. The cabin sat at two locations within section 24. The cabin’s current location is the fourth known location where this home has sat.

John Kremenak was born August 3, 1849 in the village of Podmesti, in the county of Skutecky, state of Chrudimsky, Bohemia. In 1867, when 18 years of age, John left his parents, brothers and sisters in Bohemia and came to the United States, settling in Otter Creek Township, Tama County, Iowa, where he worked as a farm hand for various farmers. Three years later his parents and two brothers followed him to the United States and made their home with him on various farms which he rented in the vicinity of the present site of Vining.

For a period of 40 years, from 1876 to 1916, the John Kremenak family owned the log cabin and the land it sat upon in section 24 of Otter Creek Township. John and Mary Kremenak had five children, two of whom were born in this home. John and Mary’s son Anton was born in this home in 1887 and their daughter Agnes was born here in 1889. 

Upon moving to the cabin site in 1876, John and Mary moved here with his parents, his parents making their home here until their deaths. John’s parents, Wencel and Lidse Kremenak, may have lived in our cabin for about 20 years until their deaths in 1898 and 1894 respectively. Wencel and Lidse may have died in our cabin. Wencel’s death appears to have occurred in the cabin and his funeral service appears have been held in the cabin (1898). Eight persons could have been living in the cabin when Lidse died in 1894.

It appears from 1897 to 1906 that a family headed by John Koutney Senior lived in the cabin and rented it from the Kremenak family. John and Antonia Koutney had three children. Their daughter Julia was born in the cabin in 1897 and their son John was born here in 1900. 

The Kremenak and Koutney households were farmers who at one time called our cabin home. Their children passed down stories pertaining to our cabin including the many memories they had of growing up here. Their stories can be read inside the Genealogy Library.