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Columbus, Nebraska


Stretching proudly above the treetops into the bright sunshine you will find the church steeple of St. Michael’s Church clearly marking the Village of Tarnov.

Originally named “Burrows” and founded in 1890, the village was renamed a year later when the post office was established. Tarnov was chosen as many of the early settlers to this area were from Tarnov, Poland. Tarnov is a close farming community of about 70 people.

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Older citizens still remember the early farming days – the building of the grain elevator in 1916 and loading bundles of grain for the threshing machines and even hauling wagons of wheat, oats, and barley to the granaries. There was plowing, planting, and cultivating to do between cuttings of hay, and always chores to do before and after the day’s work. Corn picking lasted most of the winter, with shelling done by hand or by a big crew using a steam powered engine.

During the First World War, Tarnov sent 16 young men off to war. One, Andrew Matya, lost his life. When Andrew Jarosz returned, he remembered his visitation to the world-famous Our Lady of Lourdes Shrine in France, and dreamed of making a replica of that shrine in Tarnov. He promoted the idea as a memorial to Andrew Matya, and as a memorial for the safe return of the other soldiers from the community. He started the drive with a $300 donation and was successful in collecting enough money to see the project completed. The “Our Lady of Lourdes” construction and dedication is a fond memory for the town and a Tarnov landmark you can still visit today.

Tarnov may seem like some sleepy little town, however, the town has survived a bombing, the church almost being shut down, and the closure of their post office.

The bombing of Tarnov occurred shortly after the annual Harvest Festival Dance in 1943. The whole parish had enjoyed the annual Harvest Festival Dance under strings of lights. A few hours later, the “bombs” (100-pound sand-filled practice casings) came crashing to the ground. They had been released by a bombardier on a night training mission who had mistaken the lights of Tarnov for a lighted bombing range located a few miles south of Stanton.

Another big Tarnov story, one that a younger generation remembers, was when word was received that St. Michael’s Church was to be closed. Father Len, backed by 85 parish families, led the way to a meeting of the archdiocese in Omaha to say, “NO, you won’t close our church.” He successfully convinced the parish council to not only preserve the old church, but also to approve a $20,000 loan “to fix the place up.” Giving full credit that “God saved our church,” the community continues to enjoy the spiritual blessings and fellowship provided by their church.

The Tarnov post office was closed in 1977, but the town still did not die. Each year the townsfolk celebrate together with the famous St. Michael’s Parish Bazaar, and live comfortably in the peace, quiet, and fresh air of the Village of Tarnov.

Adapted from a story by Irene O’Brien. Photos by Ray and Mary Ann Jaros, of Tarnov.

Additional material: The Franciscans in Nebraska, by Rev. Eugene Hagedorn; Past & Present of Platte County, by G.W. Phillips; and Platte County Nebraska, by Margaret Curry.

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