Sunday, April 28, 2013

Jozef von Bronk

Jozef von Bronk (1810 Wiele - 1863 Winona)
Franciszka Grabska (1811 Gostomie - 1874 Winona)

Traditionally, the family of Jozef and Franciszka von Bronk was the first Kashubian Polish family to settle in Winona, in 1855. According to Ron Galewski on page 207 of Marshland and Whistler's Pass on Trail #35 (by the way, both of Ron's excellent books can be purchased at the Polish Museum Store), the von Bronks traveled to Winona from Gostomie, Polish Prussia by way of Quebec. This is true. They arrived in Quebec aboard the sailing ship ELBE, which left Hamburg on May 14, 1859; another passenger was Ron's own ancestor, Martin Galewski.

Paul Libera's celebrated article Polish Settlers in Winona, Minnesota states that "Mrs. Bronk, wife of one of the first two Polish settlers, died during the early days of Winona and was buried on the prairie outside the Polish settlement. When the City was plotted out shortly afterward a street was laid out directly over her grave." In fact, Franciszka Bronk is listed as a widow in the 1870 US Census, living in the house of her oldest son John. Sadly, the name of the actual decedent is lost to time; this is another example of why Libera's account desperately needs updating. Nor do we know anything more about Jozef and Franciszka. A little more is known about their five sons.

Jan "John" Bronk (1835-1898?) married Antonina Lukowicz (1846-1931) in 1873. They were arrested in 1880 for beating their children - quite an achievement in those times of "spare the rod, spoil the child." The children seem to have forgiven though, as the entire family moved out to Seattle, Washington just before the turn of the century. Antonia is listed in the 1899 Seattle city directory as the widow of John Bronk; whether John died in Winona or Seattle I do not yet know. I do know that he was not the John Bronk who died in Winona in 1931. In the Seattle directories from 1899 to 1907, the Bronk sons (Alexander, Lawrence, and Michael) are listed as employed in various segments of the lumbering industry and Frances Bronk is listed as a housekeeper.

Ignacy "Ignatius" Bronk (1839-1896) had three children with his first wife Maria (?-1873) and another six with his second wife Weronika Borszyzkowska (1850-1885). After Weronika died (perhaps in childbirth), he purchased a farm in Buffalo County, across the Trempealeau River from Dodge Township; he married his third wife Paulina Kubicki in Pine Creek. His eldest daughter, Katarzyna "Kate" Bronk (1873-1893) died in Winona under somewhat mysterious circumstances.

Wincenty "Vincent" Bronk (1842-1877) never married. Ron Galewski gives Wincenty's date of death as 1887, but there is no reference to him in the 1880 US Census. Wawrzyniec "William" or "Lawrence" Bronk (1848-1889) married Rozalia Kukowska (1852-1932); three of their seven children survived to adulthood. The youngest of these, Thomas J. Bronk (1888-1875) and his wife Helen Zielinski, were the parents of twelve children, all of whom survived to adulthood.

The youngest son, Jakub "Jacob" Bronk (1852-1919) was married three times and widowed twice. By his first wife Franciszka (1854-1880) he had six children, one of whom survived to adulthood. In 1882 he married Katarzyna Bambenek Czapiewska (1861-1888); this marriage produced two children, both of whom survived to adulthood. In 1889 he married Mary Mudra Kadlec (1860-1925) a Bohemian immigrant, with whom he had one child.

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