Polish Immigration to America - the early History

Read more articles about Polish immigration / emigration - history and distribution of Polonia around the world.

Not too many people know that the first Poles arrived in Jamestown, America in 1608. They were skilled workers hired by London Company. Poles created glass house shop as well as pitch and potash burners. Since these were the first products produced successfully for import more Poles were invited to Jamestown. Check the next article about Three Waves of Massive Polish Immigration.

In 1619 another group of Poles arrived in Jamestown to manufacture pitch, tar and resins for ships and also to develop timber industry. Poles soon went on strike and refuse to work since the first Legislative Assembly denied them the right to vote. Since their work was very important the Legislative Assembly granted them, as the first group the right to vote in July 21, 1619.

The next group of Polish immigrants came in the time of American Revolution about 1776. The Poles were leaving Poland as a result of the Polish partitions and unsuccessful Kosciuszko resurrection. They were also eager to fight for American independence and democracy. Of course the most famous Poles of this Revolutionary war were generals Kazimierz Pulaski and Thaddeus (Tadeusz) Kosciuszko.

More Polish immigrants arrived between 1800 and 1860. This group consisted mainly of Polish patriots among them intellectuals and poorer nobles. The reason for their immigration was mainly political. Poland in this time was not a free country. There were still attempts to gain independence. Poles enrolled in the Napoleon army hoping that he would bring freedom. Later after two unsuccessful uprisings in 1830 and 1863 many Poles have to escape to avoid harsh persecutions by occupants, especially Russia. It is not easy to show the estimated numbers of Polish immigrants in XIX century since there was not free Poland in this time so Poles were counted as the citizens of Russia, Austria and Prussia. Read more about a history of Polish immigration in the article: Three Waves of Massive Polish Immigration.

The first Polish settlement in America, Panna Maria, Texas, was led by Father Leopold Moczygemba in 1864. The next article describes the History of Polish Colonization in Texas.

Below is a fragment of the article of Richard Lysiak's about Poles in Texas:

***There were Poles in Texas before Panna Maria. There were Poles in the failed French colony of Champ D'Asile, near present day Liberty, Texas. Polish veterans of the failed revolt of 1831, joined the Texan army during the Texas Revolution. Several Poles fought under Fannin at Goliad in 1836, suffering execution by the Mexicans, along with most of the rest of Texans who had surrendered. A survivor mentions the Texas artillery was commanded by '"all fine-looking Poles". There were Poles in Sam Houston's Army that defeated the Mexicans at San Jacinto, winning independence for Texas. Frederick Lemsky, was one of the musicians who played "Come to the Bower" as the Texas Army charged the Mexicans at San Jacinto. Felix Wardzinski, was present at the capture of General Santa Anna, the Mexican dictator. But these individuals, like those elsewhere in America were acting alone.***

written by Jagoda Urban-Klaehn, article #37

All articles about history and presence of Polish emigrants and immigrants are listed HERE.

Here is the link to a very interesting book about Poles and their character The Xenophobe's Guide to the Poles
by Ewa Lipniacka (Author)

If you are searching for your roots in Poland this book written by Rosemary A. Chorzempa will be very helpul:
Polish Roots

More immigration books are available under links below:

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