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.