Panna Maria - Difficult First Years

Read the first part of the article Early History of the German and Polish Settlements in Texas

The life of Polish immigrants was much harsher in the beginning than the majority of Germans. Germans were provided food by Prince Karl immediately after they arrived. They had 3 meals with meat a day, some of them never ate that well at home. They were provided transportation from their arrival point to the inland Texas and they were also provided some simple housing.

Besides purchasing the 300 acres of land Father Moczygemba did not prepare in any other way any provisions for the immigrants. According to the tradition the Christmas mass was said under an old oak tree in the day of their arrival to their final location. It was said that Father Moczygemba prepared a big pot of soup for the newcomers. But, the venomous snake felt into the soup and all the content had to be thrown away. It was considered as a bad omen.

After the difficult journey that did not finish safety for all the immigrants had to start building some provisional dwellings made from mud and grass. The inadequate condition of living, a lack of food and weather caused a spread of malaria, snakes bites and other diseases therefore some settlers move to another places establishing villages of St. Hedwig, Bandera, Cestohova, Kosciuszko and Pawelekville.

Since the beginning of establishment of Panna Maria father Moczygemba collected funds for building the church. Since the parishioners could not afford donations one story has that the money was a result of collaboration between Moczygemba and Twohig, a landowner. Twohig was charging new settlers exorbitant prices for land and from this he was able to "donate" a significant sum of money towards the construction of the church. The church of theImmaculate Conception was completed in September 1956 as a first Polish church in America.

A second group of immigrants of about 700 Poles arrived from Silesia in December 1855 and the third smallest group consisted of 30 families arrived in late 1856. In 1856 a 14-month draught started and it caused the starvation of many settlers and a migration of the others. The severity of the draught was immense since it also worsened the situation of the new German community that was blossoming so well until 1856. The draught worsened the situation so drastically that the remaining settlers were only sustained by contributions of food from the local landowners and wealthy ranchers. In November of 1956 Father Moczygemba has to depart from Panna Maria under thread for hanging from a disappointed and desperate parishioners.

Read the last part of the Panna Maria story entitled Panna Maria and Cowboys from Helena. Read more articles about Polish immigration / emigration - history and distribution of Polonia around the world. Check also Polish Texans - the history and genealogy website.


"Panna Maria, an Image of Polish Texans", by Joseph Jaworski

written by Jagoda Urban-Klaehn, article #39

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