Thursday, March 26, 2015

Boilermakers Lodge 201

Winona got its first railroad, the Winona and St. Peter, in 1862. Construction was slowed by the Civil War, but in 1864 the W&St.P. had already built a small shop facility along the river on Winona's
West End. In 1867, the Chicago and Northwestern purchased the W&StP, making Winona but a stop on one of the Midwest's largest railroad systems. In 1880, the C&NW built a massive two-story brick station and division headquarters at Second and Huff (see left). The humble shop facility of 1864 grew into a sprawling complex. The C&NW's Winona Shops also provided steady employment to generations of Winona's Kashubian Polish workingmen. The work was hard and dirty. The hours were long. But the pay was very good for the time, and the shopmen took great pride in their job and in their railroad. It was customary for fathers to get their sons positions in the Winona Shops. Some might call this "nepotism," but Marvin Hughlitt, the famous and highly respected president of the C&NW from 1887 to 1910, felt otherwise. The C&NW itself was too large to be a real family in Hughlitt's opinion, but approved of smaller "families" forming on the towns on his railroad. The son of a good, hardworking C&NW railroader was bound to be a good, hardworking C&NW railroader too.

The years of 1898 and 1899 brought a whirlwind of union activity to Winona. Spearheaded by local organizer George Hess, Winona boasted fourteen organized trades by mid-1899. One of these newly organized union affiliates was Boilermakers and Helpers' "Gate City" Lodges 201 and 28, as seen in this picture. The banner proudly proclaims the lodges' names and the herald of the C&NW, and American flags are distributed liberally on and around the banner. I would guess that the men closest to the banner - who are also holding little hammers - are the lodge officials. The man in the suit could very well be George Hess himself. At first I thought this picture was taken on C&NW property, deep in the Winona Shops. But the buildings in the background are too ornate to be shop buildings (two of which survive in Winona, by the way). And the building at right is definitely not the 1880 C&NW railroad station, which had a much higher roof. Perhaps it was taken somewhere on West Second Street close to a place where liquid refreshments could be served?

Unlike most railroad presidents of his time, Marvin Hughlitt believed in paying his employees a fair salary, instead of trying to get the most work for the least money. He had no problems with his employees belonging to unions, as long as they kept doing their jobs. This was quite likely the reason why the C&NW encountered far less labor trouble than most other American railroads at that time. Certainly the men posing in their overalls are proud of their work, their union, their railroad, and their country.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Pellowskis of Arcadia Township

The descendants of Franciszek and Anna nee Kajzer Pelowski either remained in Dodge or moved across the river to Winona. Sometimes they did both. There are also at least two other, separate, Pelowski families in the vicinity; both of these other Pelowski families set down branches in both Winona and in Dodge. Growing up as Americans of Kashubian Polish descent, we tend to lapse into the popular belief that typical Polish surnames sound, well... weird. As the grandson of Jan Karol Bembenek and Leokadia Pellowska, I fell into this belief, too. All Bambeneks had to be related to each other, and all Pellowskis related to each other too. My family would come up from Milwaukee to Winona on the freeway, stop off in Saint Mary's Cemetery, and then come into town down Mankato Avenue past Bambenek's Grocery. Mom always assured us that we were related through her to all the Bambeneks in Winona (and probably everywhere else.) Turns out we were indeed related to the grocery store Bambeneks, but only distantly to the other set. You can't assume you are related to everyone who has the same "weird" Kashubian Polish surname in their family tree. It's just not true.

All of this is to explain that in my Kashubian soul, I affiliate myself with the clan of Franciszek and Anna Pelowski. Granted, their granddaughter Leokadia married Jan Karol Bambenek in 1914. This would assign me more properly to the clan of Szymon and Magdalena nee Stoltman Bambenek. But the Pellowskis of Dodge (and occasionally Winona) had a background I found much more interesting.  No Bambenek ever had a still busted up by the Feds during Prohibition, as Mom's uncle, Alex Pellowski did in 1928. And none of the Bambeneks had ever managed to get himself electrocuted on his front porch during an electrical storm, as my great-grandfather Jakob Pellowski 0 Franciszek and Anna's oldest surviving son - did in 1937. Granted, the greatest Kashubian Pole in my pantheon was my grandfather Jan Karol "John C." Bambenek, for more than a quarter century Treasurer of Winona County. But certainly the most influential has been my Mom's first cousin and classmate, Anna Rose Pellowski, whose research and writing are really the fundament upon which my own research and writing are built.

Yet these particular Pellowskis - Jakob, his son Alex, and Alex's daughter Anne, were really from neither Dodge nor Winona. The farm where Jakob met his death from on high was actually in Arcadia Township. Likewise the farm where young Anna Rose grew up and the distillery was built were both in Arcadia Township. Franciszek and Anna's ancestral Hungry Valley farm (well within Dodge Township) had become the possession of Bernard "Barney" Pellowski. After Jakob and Franciszka returned from their time as tavernkeepers in Winona, they seem to have bought a large tract along the Trempealeau River just over the border separating Dodge and Arcadia townships. By the 1930s, this tract had become three farms. Of the two farms bordering the Trempealeau River, the western one was operated by Alex Pellowski and the eastern one operated by Albert Pellowski. The farm immediately north of these two (which was left after Jacob retired from active farming in the early 1930s) was operated by Roman Dorawa, the husband of Jacob and Franciszka's daughter Sophie.

The Albert Pellowski farm is where I had the pleasure of meeting Edward Pellowski. The Alex Pellowski farm is where the distillery was discovered and destroyed. And the Roman Dorawa farm is where Jake Pellowski met his end. Jerry Haines, the second cousin responsible for ending my equestrian career at age thirteen, is the son of Albert Pellowski's daughter (Edward's sister) Mary Ann. He now farms all of these properties. Although it seems that the Pellowski name will pass from these properties once Edward Pellowski passes on, the land will still reside within the clan of Franciszek and Anna Pelowski.