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.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Mr. and Mrs. Karol Bambenek

This post is dedicated to my cousin and dear friend, Anne Dreblow, who made it possible for me (finally!) to put all of this together, by sharing with me the portrait shown below. Looking back at my original blog post about my great-grandmother Franciszka Julianna (Nygowska) Bambenek, I was shocked and ashamed to discover how far my genealogical chops have come along since October of 2010. Even as a tyke, I knew the story about how Grandpa Bambenek's mother died when he was only five, and how his stepmother treated him and his baby sister Helen exactly as if they were her own children. Franciszka seemed (and still seems) to me like a tragic heroine. Being conducted to her grave by my Uncle Jim and Aunt Phoebe in 1988 was a moving experience for me, as was discovering her grave again - a Hail Mary on my lips - 32 years later.

The fifteen-year-old Franciszka's decision to emigrate to the United States in 1886 was brave indeed. Her parents were both deceased; her oldest brother Walenty Nygowski was already living in Winona. Perhaps he sent for Franciska. Even so, the arduous steamship trip from Bremen to Baltimore, and from there via the railroad to Winona must have been an ordeal for a teenaged orphan who could not have possibly spoken any English.

We can but guess where Francziska lived and where she worked upon reaching Winona. Likely she worked in one of the jobs Kashubian Polish women and girls took... she was a housemaid, or a seamstress, or a washerwoman. It is anyone's guess precisely when Franciszka began seeing a young man named Karol Bambenek. Karol, too, was orphaned in his teens. After his father's premature death in 1878, he had been sent out to work on the farm of his sister and brother-in-law, Pawel and Marianna (Bambenek) Wika in Trempealeau County. But obviously, Karol was not content just to stay on the farm. By the middle 1880s his three older brothers, Wojciech, Jan Baltazar, and Walenty were all established in Winona; Jan Baltazar and Walenty were not only saloonkeepers but elected Winona officials. Two of his sisters, Weronika and Katarzyna, were married and living in Winona also.

Franciszka and Karol must have met no later than early 1889. That November, they became the parents of a daughter. The fact that the girl's parents were not yet married must not have troubled the pastor, Fr. Romuald Byzewski, or Karol's brother Jan Baltazar. Jan Baltazar and his wife Marianna were sponsors as Salomea Stanislawa Bambenek was baptized at Saint Stanislaus Kostka on November 16, 1889. Sadly, baby Salomea passed away on March 2, 1890. But Franciszka and Karol affirmed their commitment to each other when they were married at Saint Stan's on April 22, 1890, also by Fr. Byzewski.

My cousin Anne Dreblow provided me with this reproduction of what has to be Franciszka and Karol's wedding picture. It belonged to her father, John C. Bambenek, Jr. It's likely that I am acting on my presuppositions in this case, but Karol clearly looks like the more easy-going of the two. By contrast, I can see the resolve in Franciszka's eyes... she looks to me like she has dreams and ideas of how to go about them. It was not to be. Their son Jan Karol, my future grandfather John C. Bambenek Senior, was born on December 13, 1891; their daughter Helena was born on May 21, 1894. But Franciszka died of complications of childbirth on July 25, 1896. The official cause was sepsis. I have found no record of a baptism or even a birth. Just how Karol felt, I now have at least some idea. He remarried very quickly, as was common for widowers and widows alike.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Monika Brom 1893-1896

The Bohemian surname Brom is well known in Trempealeau County and in Winona. Matias (1829-1918) and Elisabeth nee Maresz (1825-1914) Brom came from Bohemia to the United States in September 1861. Joining them were their first three children, Francis, Mathias Jr., and Eva. Although Matias and Elisabeth, like other Bohemian immigrants, settled in Winona, they soon joined the first settlers of Pine Creek. According to census information, their first American-born child, Martin J. Brom, was born in Winona during November 1862. Matias's parents, Veit and Maria nee Podholla Brom, would emigrate to the United States in 1868. The Broms were likely the most prominent Bohemian family in the Pine Creek (and later, the Dodge) community; several became important social and political leaders. But unlike the Bohemian community of Winona, which coalesced around the 1886 foundation of Saint John Nepomucene Parish, in Trempealeau County the Broms and other Bohemian families were assimilated into the prevailing Kashubian Polish culture.

At some point before 1890, Martin J. Brom was married to Wincentyna Tandeska at Sacred Heart-Saint Wenceslaus Parish in Pine Creek. They had met in Mentor, SD where he was a music teacher. Wincentyna was the daughter of Kashubian Polish farmers who had originally settled in Pine Creek but had later sought their fortune out West. Martin and Wincentyna's third child, Monika, was born on May 6, 1893 and passed away on August 19, 1896. If Monika's elder sister Elzbieta was indeed born on October 28, 1892 that would indicate that Monika was born quite a bit prematurely. Brave little Monika must have fought heroically to survive until age three. Her grief stricken parents buried her on the hill behind the church with an unusually detailed headstone.

The inscription reads "Monika, daughter of Martin Brom and Wincentyna Tandeczka," with her birth and death dates. Interestingly, it is in Polish. No doubt Martin continued to speak Bohemian with his immediate Bohemian family. But young Monika's gravestone proves that her father had assimilated to his wife's Kashubian Polish language and culture. This discovery has a similarly sad side note. In his Dodge, Wisconsin (pp. 96-97), the "intelligent, sensitive, personable" Martin far preferred giving music lessons and guiding the Dodge town band, to working on the patriarch Mathias's farm. In 1904, the forty-eight year old Martin informed his father that he was finished with farming.  A fight ensued, and Martin suffered a permanently incapacitating blow to the head.  Indeed, the 1910 and 1920 US Census shows that "Martin Broom" was an inmate at the Trempealeau County Asylum in Whitehall. His nationality is listed as "Bohemian," in 1910 but in 1920 it is given as "Polish." His obituary in the July 17, 1928 Winona Republican-Herald refers only to "a lingering illness."