Driving down the southeast Texas back roads, you might not pay a lot of attention to the simple country churches. That is, unless you knew what you were looking for. In that case, you would know that though many of the churches are painted a stark white, the interiors reveal a kaleidoscope of colors and intricate patterns. These are the Painted Churches of Texas.
Early German and Czech immigrants looking for awesome land deals offered by the Mexican government settled in the are around Schulenburg. They built their settlements and then they built their churches. In the case of those settling in Dubina, their plight began with 14 weeks at sea in a wooden ship.
Seven families and four single adults from Moravia (the Czech Republic) landed in Galveston, then boarded a ferry for the mainland, where they took ox carts full of cotton seed to La Grange in 1865. Their scout sent them on to Dubina. They weren't the first to settle in Dubina, though. The little town was originally called Navidad - and as the Europeans moved in, Bohemian Navidad, but the earlier settlers had all died of cholera in 1831.
That first year wasn't great for this group either apparently. The 7 families planted cotton, but the lot result was a single bale of cotton. That's pretty tough going for a season's crop.
Eventually the town, renamed Dubina ("dub" is the Czech word for "oak tree") thrived, to the count of roughly 3,000 inhabitants.
In 1877, they built their first church. It was destroyed by a hurricane in 1909. They managed to save the cross, made by a highly regarded emancipated slave named Tom Lee. They also salvaged the bell and chandelier.
It took them two years to complete the new church, which was finished in 1912. And so it stands.
Guide Sharon Rankin described some of the Gothic Revival features: The steeples and windows that point to God, and the interior ceilings shaped like an upside down Noah's Ark, many with simulated wood plankings like those of a ship.
In Sts. Cyril and Methodius Catholic Church there are 3,263 white gold-leafed stars painted upon the vivid blue ceilings. There are stencils and frescoes patterned along the walls and ceilings.
Then, the move to modernize coated the work in dull paint in 1952. It was in 1989 that Judge Ed Janecka, retired and returned home to Dubina and spear-headed the church's restoration.
Janecka, assisted by church volunteers, removed the paint and stenciled around the original designs so that they could once again be painted in.
So, the Dubina Church sits quietly on that rural road. It is a mission church, the priest traveling to the site each Sunday. The residents have dwindled to about 200. There is an old cemetery adjacent to the church, and next to it a road that leads to "Piano Bridge", so named by Judge Ed and some kids for the sound it makes as one drives over the wooden planks crossing the Navidad River.