Waclaw Soroka's Polonia Wisconsin

Soroka pages 47 - 48

Polonia, Wisconsin

The second oldest Polish agricultural settlement was established in Wisconsin. Usually, we say Polonia, but this is not precise enough.

As early as 1857, attracted by the lumber industry, Michael von Koziczkowski came to the town of Sharon with his family of nine. He was from the province of Gdansk (Danzig), an educated man who spoke Polish and German fluently, and had knowledge of four other languages as well. He lived in Chicago, then in Milwaukee, and finally came to this area with $50.00 in his pocket. Koziczkowski bought his laud, ultimately about 480 acres, from a German immigrant, Joseph Osterle. Koziczkowski was in contact with his countrymen--Polish families who wanted to follow him. In 1858 Adam Klesmit arrived along with John Zynda and Joseph Platta. They purchased their land from the Fox and Wisconsin River Improvement Company. New immigrants began coming and settling in the town of Sharon and the town of Hull.

In 1870, among the population of Sharon, except for 50 families, i.e., 50 x 5 = 250 persons, the entire population of 948 was Polish. In 1880 the, population was 1,640 and included only 28 non-Polish families. In 1900 the population of Sharon numbered 2,225, the majority of whom were Polish.

In the town of Hull, there were 108 families in 1870. Less than half were Polish. In 1880, two-thirds of the population of Hull was Polish; in 1900, the total population was 1,500 with the heavy majority of it Polish.

The origin of these settlers according to marriage acts was Prussia, Pommerania (Prussian or German partition), Poznan (Posen), Gdansk (Danzig), Pomerania. Localities mentioned were Koscierzyna, Lipusz, Brussy-Chojnice, Suleczyn, Kartuzy, Leszno and Gowidlino. A portion of them claimed to be Koszubi-Kashubs (locally pronounced Kashuba, Kaszuby).

The creation of a Polish community in Portage County was early. Apparently it was chartered before Parisville, Michigan. The center of this settlement was today’s Ellis. There was a church, St. Martin’s. Some controversies developed as to the place of the Poles in the church. Another church, St. Joseph’s was then built, with the permission of Bishop John Henni of Milwaukee, in 1864--one block away from St. Martin’s. That church was surrounded by three taverns. According to Rosholt and Zeitlin, this corner with three taverns was called Poland Corner. This assumption does not seem justified. Probably the whole area, including the church, was called Poland Corner.

In 1870, at his own request, Father Joseph Dabrowski was appointed to Poland Corner by Bishop Melcher of Green Bay. After an unsuccessful attempt to free his parishioners from the negative influences of the taverns, he decided to move the parish beyond Ellis. An Irish farmer, McGeer, not even baptized nor involved in any church, decided to donate 20 acres to the east of Poland Corner where Polonia was to be established. The basis for his decision might have been the love affair of his daughter with a Polish boy. The new church was opened in 1872 under the name Sacred Heart of Jesus Church. The parish had already moved from Ellis to Polonia by 1870 and the settlement started at that time. How did this parish develop? This question will be taken up later in this chapter.

By that time, immigrants also started to arrive at other localities in Wisconsin. For example, in 1862-63 at Pine Creek, we see Paul and Michael Lessman, Paul Livera, Frank Meyer, Joseph Lubinski, Joseph Wunk (or Wnuk or Winock). Soon the newly established town of Dodge was a Polish township. This can be considered as the second Polish settlement in Wisconsin and one of the oldest in the country. Other settlements will be characterized together with Polish parishes.

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