Ashland Wisc

Research History Ashland Wisc

History & Culture

The Poles of Ashland, Wisconsin: 1884-1888

Rev. Ladislas J. Siekaniec, O.F.M.


Though the Polish parish in Ashland, Wis., was first organized in 1899, the Poles had already been there for at least fifteen years. Therefore, this year would mark 65 years for the Polonia of Ashland. For the years 1884-1885 there is definite evidence of the presence of Poles there.1


The first Catholic parish in Ashland was that of St. Agnes, organized in 1874, and placed in charge of the Franciscan Fathers of the Province of Sacred Heart in 1878.2 Accordingly, records of the first Poles in this city are found in the files of St. Agnes' Church.


In the parochial records of St. Agnes from 1885 to 1888 we find the following Polish names:3 Andrzej Frelka4, Stan Brzezinski, Martin Kontny, Julianna Kontna, W. Powaser, Joz. Mrotek, Rozalia Kaczmarek, Winc. Ziolkowski, Ant. Butkowski,5 Ant. Piniachowski, Mr. & Mrs. L. Zlaczewski, Mr. & Mrs. John Pufall, Mr. & Mrs. L. Gilmeister6, Mr. & Mrs. Julian Ligman and Mr. & Mrs. Franc. Szopinski.7


A check of the city records of Ashland for the year 1888 gave the following additional names:8 Stan. Bonk,9 Leon Daniel,10 Lud. Fromholc,11 Michal Hinc12 Pawel Jeszka, Joz. Konopacki, Piotr Kupczyk, Martin Kurszewski, L. Lewandowski, Antoni Marzejan,13 Woj. Matuszewski,14 B. Pyka,15 Ign. Platowski,16 Freder. Printz, Joz. Wolski, Mich. Wolski, Woj. Zielelinski, Franc. Zasada.17


Through chance conversations with local Poles, I have come upon data that Andrew Fralka18 arrived in Ashland, Wis., in 1886. From the children of Anton Ziolkowski, I learned that this Anton (now deceased) came to Ashland for the second time in 1885. They inform me that he had been here prior to that date, possible in 1882. Between those years he had returned to Poland and brought back a wife.


The baptismal records of St. Agnes' Church show that probably the first child of Polish parents to be baptized in Ashland was Anna Maskowski, the daughter of Charles Maslowski and Catherine nee Kubera19. She was born 7 May 1885 and baptized 10 May 1885. The godparents were Anton Daniels and Mrs. Leo Daniels. Baptism was administered by Rev. Damian Koziolek, O.F.M.


I have personally checked the baptismal records of St. Agnes Church and have found between the years 1885-1888 some clearly Polish names which are not in the above lists. These names also include maiden names of women married to Poles and non-Poles, without identifying their husbands as such. Elizabeth Karzarowski, Frances Wadzinska, Rosalia Slominska, Charles Badowski, John Borzistowski, Walter Lukowski, Rosa Matuszewski20, Eve Kaminski, Anna Roski, Mary Chorkowski, Rosalia Mochlinska, Louise Sarinski, Charles B. Subuski (or Sukuski), Klocowski, Joanna Litewski, Pelagia Staoski, Catherine Taszarska, Cosobucki, John Kedrowski, Katzorowski, Pisatzki21, Barbara Bielawski, George Petroczewski, John Ravolinski,22 Juski.23


For those interested in Slavic names, I quote the following, which may be Bohemian, Slovak, Lithuanian, Ukrainian, Russian or even variations of Polish. The spellings are mutilated apparently and indistinct. They are: Kubera, Nimietz, Duda, Stachowitz (possibly Stachowicz), Zuentek (maybe Zientek), Kukzok, Katzmarzkik (possibly Kaczmarczyk), Kartzmarek. Berozinska and Berazinsky from the content appear to be derived from Brzezinski. Then come Juskewitz and Joskiwitzk, both apparently for Juszkiewicz.24 We have also: Wondkosky, Wartruba, Warzozky, Marek, Revolinsky25, Butkowski and Butkofski26, Stanck and Stanik, Mrotchek, Mrozek, Mrotek, Morik, Wenzel, Schefts27, Akufska, Lishinska, Litow, Simon (corrected in records to Semanko), Wallokawitz, Stefan, Konopozki28, Madokat29, Jefranzka, Yemietz, Buca, Maloteck, Pilawa, Kosobuska, Kosbuska30, Vereck, Pschka, Mozuch31, Forgeish (corrected later to Forgac), Zovoranez (also corrected by later hand to Zachoranez), Puepka (adjusted later to Pipka)32, Klimek, Freshek, Mach Korinek, Kontni33, Rusitschka, Budnick, Firek, Fierriek, Haberek, Kohanek, Kezina, Kralicek, Stapak, Nemic34, Mindack, Wojtruzka, Roman Valukas. Judging roughly from the Baptismal Records for the years 1884-1888, it would appear that about 50 percent of the Catholic population of Ashland at that time was some Slavic or Lithuanian descent.35


Among the diocesan (or secular) priests taking care of the spiritual welfare of the Ashland Poles were Father Kunes, from Bessemer, Mich., and Rev. A. Gara, possibly from Polonia, Wis.36 The chronicler adds that there were others whose names are not known.


Franciscans, from the above mentioned Province, also ministered to the local Poles. In fact, Rev. Anastasius Czech, O.F.M., and Rev. Ladislas Czech, O.F.M., came all the way from Columbus, Neb., a distance of some 650 miles.37 In 1888, the Rev. Damian Koziolek, O.F.M., who was then stationed at Superior, Wis., came to Ashland for a few days.38 He is the one who eventually organized Holy Family Parish and became its first pastor.


In the course of the year 1949-1950, the Holy Family Parish will celebrate its Golden Jubilee. A booklet to commemorate the occasion is in preparation. For completeness I would like to add the history of the early Poles in Ashland. This note has therefore been written to revive the memories of the pioneers who have moved from Ashland. The "boom" days saw many more Poles here, who since have scattered all over the United States. An article in the Nowiny Polskie, under the date of 27 Sept. 192339 tells that many Poles from Ashland can be found in Milwaukee, Racine, Kenosha, Stevens Point, all these in Wisconsin, and in Chicago, Ill. I know of some in California.40

1 Data Historica Parochiae S. Familiae, Ashland, Wis., (manuscript in Parish Archives), p. 1.
2 St. Agnes Parish, Ashland, Wisconsin, Historical Souvenir, ...1885-1935, (Badger Printing Co.. Appleton, Wis.; 1936), no pagination.
3 Data Historica, op. cit., pp. 1-2. These names were collected either by Rev. Damian Koziolek, O.F.M., or the Rev. Cyril Mitera, O.F.M. In the course of the article, I refer just to the "chronicler."
4 Also: Fralka and Frohlka.
5 The chronicler mentions that he is of Lithuanian descent; originally a number of Lithuanians, Bohemians and Slovaks attached themselves to Holy Family Parish and were active in its development. Many of these moved out along with the Poles into other cities, when the "boom" days of Ashland came to an end.
6 Also Gilman.
7 1 have transcribed the spelling exactly as the chronicler has it in the Data Historica (note 1). The chronicler indicates that these were active Poles.
8 The city records were checked either by Fr. Damian or by Fr. Cyril - i.e. by the chronicler of the
Data Historica
9 Also known as "Stach" Bonk. 
10 Also: Daniels.
11 Also: Fromholtz. 
12 Also: Hintz.
13 Also: Mason.
14 Also: Mattis.
15 Also: Pippke.
16 Possibly also: Piletowski.
17 The chronicler adds "and others." The last paragraphs contain Polish names as found in Data Historica, op. cit., pp. 1-2; the variations and changes I have cited are from there also and exclusively so. Here I must pay tribute to the Rev. Cyril Mitera, O.F.M., pastor of Holy Family Church: 1918-26. He transcribed from the personal notes of Rev. Damian Koziolek, O.F.M. the early history of that parish. It is only because of this that I have been able to write what I have thus far. It must be mentioned that Fr. Cyril did the same when he later became pastor of St. Francis Church, Sioux City, Iowa.
18 The same as the Andrzej Frelka above; see note 4. The information in this entire paragraph was obtained in July, 1949.
19 This entry was made by a later hand and is an insertion. I have not been able to prove that Fr. Damian Koziolek, O.F.M. was here in 1885. Cfr.: Liber Baptizatorum Congregationis ad St. Agnetem, V. & M. in Civitate Ashlandiensi, A.D. 1882 (1881-1893), pp. 26-27.
20 No doubt it should be: Matuszewski.
21 Pezacki also occurs: apparently a variant of this name.
22 May be the same as Revolinsky in note 25.
23 1 have deliberately included the maiden names of the women to help others trace the Poles in this region. There are numerous Poles to be found in the neighboring towns and cities about Ashland. These names are not included in my listing, though they are found in the Baptismal Register of St. Agnes' Church. I will be glad to help anyone interested in the information I am able to obtain locally.
24 The chronicler in Data Historica, op. cit., p. 2, indicates that this family is of Lithuanian origin and connected with local Matukat family (also Lithuanian).
25 See note 22.
26 See note 5.
27 Possibly the Polish "Szewc"; the sponsor in question is for a Polish child. 
28 Likely the same as Konopacki in the fourth paragraph of this article.
29 See note 24.
30 May be variants of Cosobucki, as above.
31 Apparently Polish, since she is godmother to a Polish child. 
32 See note 15.
33 In present and more correct usage: Kontny; it is found in the records also as Contenie, and Conteni.
34 This is found in a number of variations, such as Nimietz etc.; it may possibly be originally Niemiec.
35 Many of the names in the last paragraph are definitely not Polish; but I thought it best to print them, while I had them on hand and thus aid others seeking traces of Slavic history in the U. S. To the above must be added from Data Historica, p. 2, the Slovaks: Stefan Hric (Hritz), later "Reed," and Andrew Zahuraniec (apparently same as Zovoranez and Zachoranez, already mentioned).
36 A sketch of these two priests might produce some interesting items; and research on them may lead to the other priests.
37 The exact years for their appearance here are not given; from the context in the Data Historica, P. 3, it may be from 1884 to 1892.
38 This is the first mention of him with a date in the Data Historica (p. 3); this explains note 19.
39 In the files of the Archives of the Holy Family Parish. The article is bylined "Korespondencja z Ashland, Wis. " and is on p. 8 of that issue; the writer is anonymous.
40 I ask readers of this article to assist me in compiling the necessary data about the Polish pioneers of Ashland. Those who have any information, or know where it is (with the exception of Ashland sources), please notify me immediately. Address - correspondence to: Holy Family Rectory, 110 Willes Ave., Ashland, Wis.


This article is reprinted from Polish American Studies, Vol. VI. No. 1-2, January-June 1949, with permission from the Polish-American Historical Association.