Notes and Documents
Four Letters from Texas to Poland in 1855
Edited and Translated by T. LINDSAY BAKER*
ANNA MARIA, TEXAS, A RURAL COMMUNITY SOUTHEAST OF SAN
Antonio, has the distinction of being the oldest Polish colony in the
United States. In addition, it possesses both the oldest Polish Catholic parish
and the oldest Polish parochial school in America.'
The colony of Panna Maria was founded in December, 1854, by a group
of Silesian Polish peasants from the Regency of Opole, a political subdivi-
sion in the southeastern tip of Prussia. The region of Silesia was itself prob-
ably the poorest in all the Kingdom of Prussia. About the time when the
first colonists of Panna Maria were leaving their homes, The Times of
London called their homeland "the Ireland of Prussia . . . an ever open
sore in her body politic."2 Silesia in the mid-850os was a region of great
poverty, rising food prices, rampant cholera and typhus epidemics, and an
oppressed Polish peasantry.
The Polish peasants who founded Panna Maria were encouraged to im-
migrate to America by the Reverend Leopold Moczygemba. This priest, a
native of the village of Pluznica in the Regency of Opole, had served for a
while as the pastor in New Braunfels, and then for three years in Castro-
ville, Texas.' Seeing the material progress of his German parishioners in
*Mr. Baker is a part-time instructor in the Department of History at Texas Tech
1Among the sources available to American students on the history of Panna Maria are
the following: Adolf Bakanowski, Moje Wspomnienia: 184o-1863-19r3 [My Memoires],
edited by Tadeusz Olejniczak (Lw6w, Austrian Empire, 1913); Edward J. Dworaczyk,
Church Records of Panna Maria, Texas (Chicago, 1945); Edward J. Dworaczyk, The
First Polish Colonies of America in Texas (San Antonio, 1936); Waclaw Kruszka, His-
torja Polska w Ameryce [Polish History in America] (rev. ed.; Milwaukee, 1937); S.
Nesterowicz, Notatki z Podrozy po Polnocnej i Srodkowej Ameryce [Travel Notes] (To-
ledo, Ohio, 19o9); Jacek Przygoda, Texas Pioneers from Poland: A Study in the Ethnic
History (Waco, Texas, 1971); Maria Starczewska, "The Historical Geography of the
Oldest Polish Settlement in the United States," The Polish Review, XII (Spring, 1967),
2The Times (London), September 13, I854.
SParish Records, St. Louis Church (Castroville, Texas); Parish Records, Sts. Peter
and Paul Church (New Braunfels, Texas); Joseph Swastek, Priest and Pioneer, the
Reverend Leopold Moczygemba (Detroit, 195), 3-4.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 77, July 1973 - April, 1974. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117148/. Accessed January 27, 2015.