Winona County

Laird-Norton Lumber Mill, 1867 – Courtesy of Winona County Historical Society

Towns Where Poles Settled in Winona County include: Winona


Winona, Minnesota was the first location in the United States where Poles immigrated. The first few families came in 1855 (the Bronk and Eichman families) and they emigrated from the Kashubia area in Poland, which was part of Prussia at that time.

The families continued to bring others from Kashubia over the next 25 years, which made Winona become known as the Kashubian Capital of America. Winona also acquired Poles from Silesia and Poznan over time, but the largest population of Poles were Kashubian.


County-Wide and City Resources

Vital Records and Land Records

The Winona County Recorder’s Office maintains birth, marriage, death and land records. 

U.S. Bureau of Land Management

The U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management has General Land Office Records where you can pick the state and county, then type a surname. If an ancestor purchased land, you will likely be able to see the document and details about the land and purchase.

Historical Societies and Libraries

Public libraries and history centers have valuable genealogy-related resources, including local books, articles, photos and other documents.

Polish Cultural Institute and Museum

This is a unique museum located in the central part of the City of Winona. It is dedicated to Polish history and culture, with a strong emphasis on Kashubians (though there were some Poles from Poznan and Silesia who settled in the area also). It is well-worth a visit if you are in the Winona area. Their bookstore/gift shop has a great selection.

Church Records Available at the Polish Museum

St. Stanislaus Church, Winona, MN, founded in 1873 – baptisms to 23 August 1912, marriages to 8 April 1918, deaths to 21 March 1970.

Sacred Heart Church, Pine Creek, WI, founded in 1866 – baptisms to 15 December 1935, marriages to November 1874, deaths to 20 February 1929

St. Philip ‘s Church, Wibaux, MT, founded in 1911 – baptisms to 6 June 1942, marriages to 22 November 1941, deaths to I May 1942

Sts. Peter & Paul Church, Independence, WI, founded in 1875 (at first a mission church to St. Michael the Archangel in North Creek, WI) – baptisms to 25 December 1893

Poles in Winona

The link below provides a short summary of where Poles lived in Winona and their occupations.

The following are websites with general resources and genealogy information about Winona County:

Public Library Book Petition

The link below is a copy of an eight-page hand-signed petition, compiled in 1906, to the Board of Directors of the Winona Free Public Library. It is from the Polish residents of the City of Winona requesting the purchase of books published in the Polish language. It is uncertain of the outcome of the petition. If you have ancestors who lived in Winona at that time, you will likely see their signature!

Winona Historic Newspapers

Winona had a number of local newspapers over the years, including two Polish newspapers. The link below provides an overview of the newspapers.

The Winona Newspaper Project is also included in the link – it is an initiative of Winona State University and provides scanned copies of Winona newspapers from 1855 through 1976. You can search by newspaper issue as well as by person, topic, or keywords. If anyone in your family lived in Winona, you will likely find articles about them!

Famous Winona Restaurant

The Hot Fish Shop was a restaurant owned by Henry Kowalewski, a local Polish resident. It was well-known across the country and a source of local pride. The Winona Daily News article links below provide a glimpse of the history of the Hot Fish Shop.

Link to Fall 2009 PGS-MN Newsletter Article about the Hot Fish Shop (scroll to page 14)

Winona Athletic Club

In 1898, a group of young second generation Polish American men formed the Winona Athletic Club, which was the hub of social life in the east end of Winona. It was second only to the church in its importance to the Polish community.

The building had six bowling alleys in the basement. The first floor featured a lounge, a billiard room, a grill room, a card playing room, as well as offices and a meeting room. The second floor had a large auditorium (which often served as a dance floor), a kitchen, and a private dining room. Many Polish wedding receptions were held on the second floor.

The club has had many changes over time and is still in use. An application has recently been made for the National Register of Historic Places. The link below has detailed information about the history of the club.

Polish Family History in Winona

The link below, written by Joseph Hughes, is a wonderful overview of the history of his Polish family in Winona. It includes a wealth of information about life in Kashubia as well as in Winona. It includes many names and many resources related to Polish genealogy.

Books

Titleauthor/publishercomments
The Kashubian Polish Community of Southeastern MinnesotaArcadia Publishing, Chicago, Illinois, 2001Can be purchased through the Winona Polish Museum Bookstore
(There are many other books within this link)
Poles in Minnesota: The People of MinnesotaJohn Radzilowski
MN Historical Society Press, 2005
Polish Pioneer Families in the Parish of Brudenell to 1870by Shirley Mask ConnollyThis parish is in Renfrew County, Canada, but a number of these families eventually moved to Winona

PGS-MN Newsletter Articles

(You will need to scroll down to the page indicated to find the article within the newsletter link)

NewsletterPageTitle
Winter 19937Parish Records in the Winona Area
by Ben Schultz
Summer 19955Your Canadian Kashub Cousins and Their Trek from Wilno to Winona
by Shirley Mask Connolly
Winter 20058Winona’s Polish Museum and St. Stanislaus Kostka Church
by Mary Ellen Bruski
Summer 20071A Kettle of Kaszubians
by Michael A. Derdowski
 Winter 200823Polish Spirit: Polish National Alliance Baseball and Winona’s Polonia
by Richard V. Kowles
Fall 200910Winona’s Kashubs, Kowalewski’s and the Hot Fish Shop
by William Crozier
Fall 200914The Hot Fish Shop Story
by Richard V. Kowles
Summer 20121Drobne Echa article: Installment #22: Winona, from Kuryer Polski, 1906
by Greg Kishel


(Note: * The starred articles below can be accessed by setting up a free account with JSTOR – just click on “Register” when you open the link. You can read up to 6 articles/month without charge.

The Polish American Studies journals are also available at the Hoffman Research Library at the MN Genealogy Center.

Article titleAuthor/Publishercomments
Polish Settlers in Winona, Minnesotaby Paul Libera
Polish American Studies, Volume 15, no. 1-2, (Jan-June 1958), pages 18-29
* Read article here
A People Apart: A Census Analysis of the Polish Community of Winona, Minnesota, 1880-1905by William L. Crozier
Polish American Studies, University of Illinois Press, Vol. 38, No. 1 (Spring, 1981), pp. 5-22
*Read article here
A Social History of Winona, Minnesota, 1880-1905by William L. Crozier
ETD collection for University of Nebraska – Lincoln. AAI7625862. 
1976
You will need to check with your library about obtaining the document through interlibrary loan.
The Making of an American Community – A Case Study of Democracy in a Frontier Countyby Merle Curti et al.,
Stanford University Press, 1959
This is a study of all people in Trempealeau County from 1860, 1870, and 1880 census.
The article may be obtained from your local library through WorldCat.org – see this link.
Polish Settlements in Minnesota, 1860-1900by Sister M. Teresa, O.S.F.*Read article here

Maps

The 1916 Plat map is helpful in showing who owned the land that year. Click on the area you are interested in until you get to the detail level with names.