In 1854, about eight hundred Poles—one hundred families from Upper Silesia—arrived in the port of Galveston, Texas. Led by Father Leopold Moczygemba, a Conventual Franciscan, they hired Mexican carts to haul their farm implements, featherbeds and—from their parish church in Poland—a heavy cross and a bell. They walked—some in boots, some barefooted—miles to the site of their settlement. During this walk there were births and deaths, hunger and exposure. They arrived on Christmas Eve, 1854. Beneath a large oak they offered their first Midnight Mass, placing their new community under the patronage of the Immaculate Conception. Thus was founded the town of Panna Maria (Virgin Mary), Texas, the oldest Polish settlement in America. The families camped out until they could put up huts of mud, straw or wood, later building in stone.
These Polish immigrants fled from Prussian oppression and came to Texas to gain economic, political and religious freedom. Here they could even fly the flag of Poland, which was forbidden in their homeland. Despite hardships they built a stable community, aided in settling other frontiers, pioneered in education and gave Texas many patriotic citizens. They built a church in 1856 and St. Joseph’s School in 1858. It was the first Polish school in America. Today the building houses the Museum of the Panna Maria Historical Association.
For more information visit the website http://www.pannamariatx.com/
the Immigrant Dream
PANNA MARIA, Texas (Feb. 1, 2004)—Elaine Moczygemba and the Panna Maria Historical Society (PMHS) have announced a schedule of events to commemorate the establishment of the first permanent Polish settlement in the United States.
NATIVITY SCENE, Immaculate Conception Church, Panna Maria, Texas. The Oldest Polish Church in the United States
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