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.
General Genealogy Links
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!
The Old Wagon Bridge
The Old Wagon Bridge was constructed so farmers in Trempealeau County, Wisconsin (where many Poles settled) had a means other than ferry to cross the Mississippi River and carry out business in Winona.
History of the bridge and photos
Dedication of the bridge
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.
|The Kashubian Polish Community of Southeastern Minnesota||Arcadia Publishing, Chicago, Illinois, 2001||Can be purchased through the Winona Polish Museum Bookstore|
(There are many other books within this link)
|Poles in Minnesota: The People of Minnesota||John Radzilowski|
MN Historical Society Press, 2005
|Polish Pioneer Families in the Parish of Brudenell to 1870||by Shirley Mask Connolly||This 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)
|Winter 1993||7||Parish Records in the Winona Area|
by Ben Schultz
|Summer 1995||5||Your Canadian Kashub Cousins and Their Trek from Wilno to Winona|
by Shirley Mask Connolly
|Winter 2005||8||Winona’s Polish Museum and St. Stanislaus Kostka Church|
by Mary Ellen Bruski
|Summer 2007||1||A Kettle of Kaszubians|
by Michael A. Derdowski
|Winter 2008||23||Polish Spirit: Polish National Alliance Baseball and Winona’s Polonia|
by Richard V. Kowles
|Fall 2009||10||Winona’s Kashubs, Kowalewski’s and the Hot Fish Shop|
by William Crozier
|Fall 2009||14||The Hot Fish Shop Story|
by Richard V. Kowles
|Summer 2012||1||Drobne 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.
|Polish Settlers in Winona, Minnesota||by 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, 1880-1905||by 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, 1880-1905||by William L. Crozier|
ETD collection for University of Nebraska – Lincoln. AAI7625862.
|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 County||by 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, 1860-1900||by Sister M. Teresa, O.S.F.||*Read article here|
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.