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Members Only Area. In Decemberone hundred Polish families arrived in Galveston on the Weser.

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Traveling by wagon down the coast to Indianola and then inland, the group reached a spot on the coastal prairie about 55 miles southeast of San Antonio. Today there are at leastTexans of Polish ancestry, according to the U. But, the history of Polish Texans goes back before Panna Maria.

A few Poles arrived in Texas as early as These were members of the predominately French group that sought refuge near present-day Liberty. So, many Poles had ed the French forces against the occupying powers and at least four of these veterans were members of the short-lived colony in Texas: their last names were recorded as Malczewski, Skierdo, Salanav and Boril. In Poland in an uprising against the Russian rulers failed and the limited independence ended. All segments of society, military and civilian, were assimilated into Russian institutions. The same pressures were also occurring in the Prussian sector of Poland, where the government was encouraging ethnic Germans to move into the Polish territories and, related to that, was not opposed to the Polish moving out.

The effect of these government policies left the Polish people with only their language and the Polish Catholic church structure to distinguish them from the Orthodox Russians and Lutheran Prussians. This situation pushed other individuals to leave for Texas.

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These Poles soon found themselves caught up in the simmering Texas Revolution. Michael Debicki, an engineer, served at Goliad. All died at Goliad. Felix Wardzinski served at the Battle of San Jacinto.

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But it was a series of disasters in the s in Poland that created the real impetus for ificant immigration to Texas. Severe weather, a poor economy, floods, lack of food, epidemics of typhoid and cholera; all these spurred interest in a better life elsewhere.

How that came to be Texas was through the efforts of a Polish priest who had been serving the German parishes in New Braunfels and Castroville, Rev. Leopold Moczygemba. The Franciscan had arrived inand it was his correspondence home to the province called Silesia that served as the catalyst for emigration. The Polish immigrants were not destitute but from a meet class with the resources to finance the long journey by rail, ship, boat and wagon to their eventual settlements in Texas. Father Moczygemba had picked the location in Girl County near Texas convergence of the San Antonio River and Cibolo Creek and had helped arrange the purchase of land.

But Houston, many on the party were unhappy with the primitive conditions of the locale and blamed the priest. As a way of reconciliation, a banquet was arranged to hear the complaints of the settlers. The pastor assured them that the wilderness hardships were behind them. Then, as they all began their meal, a rattlesnake fell to the table from the rafters.

Inwhether because of the continued ill-feeling or merely because of needed service elsewhere, the Franciscans moved Father Moczygemba to the Midwest where other Poles were moving into cities. Today their legacy is seen in the large Polish communities from Illinois to Pennsylvania.

Father Moczygemba died in Michigan in and was buried in Detroit, but in his remains were brought to Panna Maria Virgin Mary in Polish and reinterred at the spot where he had celebrated the inaugural Mass in Other groups of Poles quickly followed their relatives to Polish but many stayed in settled towns such as Yorktown and San Antonio rather than enduring the more rugged conditions of new settlement.

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But some new towns were started. One of the first after Panna Maria was St. Hedwig in Bexar County.

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Inanother group of Polish immigrants moved out to the frontier west of San Antonio, settling in Bandera. In their everyday life, there was ificant contact with the Mexican-Texans living close to the Polish colonies and who worshiped in the same Catholic parishes. Sources say that often the Polish immigrants learned Spanish before they were proficient in English. Bythere were some 1, Poles in the state, and they were quickly faced with the choice of participation in the Civil War. Most, for as long as possible, tried to stay out of the struggle, but they eventually were involved.

In all, some 70, Texans served in the Confederate forces, and this included the unit called the Panna Maria Grays, made up of Anglos and Poles. The Confederate fortifications at Galveston, Sabine Pass and other coastal sites were planned by Col. But, there were also more than 2, Texans who served in the Union Army.

There are s of Poles who, after being captured as Confederates, accepted offers of release from prisoner-of-war camps in return for ing units of the Union Army.

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Colored Cavalry. After the war he settled in Chicago and became the first Polish-born state legislator in America and a leading figure in Chicago politics.

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The county seat in La Salle County, where he settled after the war, is named for him. Back in Poland, another insurrection was put down inresulting in increased restrictions from the ruling powers. Many of them started as sharecroppers on what used to be large plantations and eventually acquired their own land. Thurber, an important mining town west of Fort Worth, was populated in the late 19th century mainly by European immigrants, including a large segment of Poles. When the mining ended in the s, many of the Polish laborers went to mining areas in other states or moved into Texas cities.

The 20th century phenomenon of urbanization included Texas Poles.

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The Polish community in San Antonio grew as young people left the farms for life in the city. Houston attracted other young Poles.

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By there were some Polish families in the port city. A century later there is said to be 55, people of Polish descent in Houston. The isolation that had been a result of their language and other differences had given way through assimilation to closer ties to the rest of Texas society. It was through this war effort that their ancestral homeland would again be an independent nation. Ironically, when they returned from the service to their Texas homes, they were faced with a resurgent nativism during the s.

Ku Klux Klan harassment and anti-Polish and anti-Catholic discrimination were evident at this time.

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Another group of Polish immigrants arrived in Texas in the s when the faltering Communist regime was cracking down on the Solidarity movement. About the same time, the shift of population from the Rust Belt to the Sun Belt brought more Polish-Americans from the northern and midwestern states to become Texans. Polish contributors to Texas culture include Carl von Iwonski.

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The paintings by this German-Polish artist portrayed the pioneers in Texas from the s into the s. In the later part of this period, he also became known for his photography.

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He returned to Breslau now Wroclaw, Poland and died there in Another figure in the arts was Pola Negri, who spent the Texas decades of her life in San Antonio after being a Hollywood star in the silent era. A more recent film star is Nina Kaczorowski, who grew up in Houston, the daughter of immigrants. The importance of Catholicism as the overwhelming factor in maintaining Polish identity can be seen right from that first Mass at Panna Maria.

Almost immediately, as each new location was settled, a church would be started with the priest serving as principal leader and girl to the civil society around them. Important figures among them were Rev. Vincent Barzynskipastor in St. Through the church the Polish community has maintained contact with leaders of their ancestral home. In the last decades, Lech Walesa, who lead polish Solidarity movement and served as president of Poland, has visited in Texas, as have Polish cardinals and bishops who participate in Polish Catholic feasts.

Inamid the last wave of immigration, the Catholic bishop in Houston established Our Meet of Czestochowa Church as a Polish parish. It now has about Polish families and a school teaching the Polish language. A few people in the older rural communities still speak an antiquated Silesian dialect that is difficult for modern Polish speakers Houston understand. Of course, many of the Poles who arrived in the s speak the modern language. Today, two universities in the state, the University of Texas at Austin and Rice University, offer studies of the language and culture.

The Mexican-Polish connection that began in also brought the blending of music, mixing sounds from the polka groups and adding the use of the accordion to Mexican bands in South Texas. However, even though the accordion is a part of Polish polka, the fiddle is the centerpiece and is what distinguishes Polish from Czech and German polka bands. Marshall is from the Houston area but with Bremond roots.

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Polka music is still heard on more than 20 radio stations statewide, including Austin, Dallas and Houston and Polish dance groups are active in those cities and in the San Antonio area, home of the Polish Eagle Dance Group and the South Texas Polish Dancers. The Houston group annually stages the Polish Music Festival in that city. The performances include not only Chopin but also Paderewski and others.