Friday, March 02, 2007

Poles of Parisville, MI Part 2 of 3

Continued from Poles of Parisville, MI Part 1 of 3:

The Oldest Polish Village in Michigan
Parisville - The Glory of its Pioneers
by Rev. Joseph Szarek from from Poles in Michigan, Vol. 1

Having become familiar with the general outline of those who became the pioneers in the section of Huron country which constituted the parish of St. Mary’s in Parisville, let us begin slowly and carefully to follow in their tracks into those "immense virgin forests," as they are called by Father George Laugel in his manuscript describing the unusual difficulties of Father Peter Kiuck. Let us listen to his extremely interesting story as contained in this sketch: "The crossing of the Alps, the building of the pyramids, the piercing of the mountains, the ascension of the Himalayas, the construction of all the dams in mysterious Hindu land, the breaking the pillars of Hercules fade away before the inhuman work, before the astounding work of clearing with the axe, a farm of virgin forests, of centuries-old trees of fabulous width and height and depth. They had, besides these awful trials, to suffer even from the elements of the sky - twice has the terrible and sinister forest fire, like the Angel of Death, flown over the whole country, pouring out the riot of desolation, of ruin, of panic, of terror and of despair over everything. They settled in these wild, thick forests where they never could see the sun in day time nor the heavens and the stars in the night and endured sufferings and poverty and hardships and hunger and cold and nakedness and want of clothes and privations and danger that could be sung be the poets and are worthy of the inimitable, simple and sublime description of Xenophon."

We must remember this, that in those days there railways and even no roads. It was necessary to hack out a road and mark the trees, as with a thread in a labyrinth, so that one would not become lost in the forest. Besides this it was necessary to be prepared for attacks by all sorts of wild animals and for the bite of poisonous snakes. One could not dream even of hotels.All one’s possesions - if one had any - had to be carried on the back. After an all day exertion one had to consider himself fortunate if he had any sort of patched up hut, or something which would resemble a home or a shanty. One fell into a sound sleep amidst the howl of wolves and the strange sounds of other wild animals who came out to feed in the dark of night. Truly, under these conditions, one could not even venture his nose beyond the door, if one loved life.

"When we turn the pages of Huron county history we findthe first traces of that group of immigrants who today make up a large percentage of the Catholic population of the Detroit Diocese - the Poles - "we read in the Centennial of the Diocese of Detroit, 1833-1933 (Published by the Michigan Catholic in Detroit and compiled under the direction of the Rev. George W. F Pare, historian of the Diocese of Detroit.) According to Mrs. Florence McKinnon Gwinn, Secretary of the Huron County Pioneer and Historical Society and author of the “Pioneer History of Huron County, Michigan, 1922” Mr. Peter Pawlowski compiled the outline of the township’s early history for the Huron County Tribune,"which" - to quote - "no doubt are the most reliable records we have." These "records" tell us that about 100 years ago Mr. Pawlowski’s father, Stephen, landed in this region with some tools and provisions which he had to carry on his back, fording streams, crossing marshes, and going around swamps which he could not cross, to make the first improvement on his farm. Returning to Canada and speaking of felling the trees he said he had only "cut a hole in the sky." Later he returned to this place with his wife. His son’s sketches mentioned above state that "the early settlers were men of great courage and determination, and soon demonstrated this in reclaiming the marshy land, which, under their careful and painstaking mode of cultivation, rapidly became very productive soil."

That the Poles were in this area during this time is attested to by the parish records kept by Father L. Moczygemba, who was also the parish priest of Parisville during the years 1889-1890.

Poles arrived here and in today’s Huron County before 1850 in smaller groups. Of this we read in Father George W. Pare’s book, The Catholic Church in Detroit, published in 1950, on page 494, "Father Constantine Dziuk, pastor of Parisville from 1926 to 1931, maintained that according to a tradition current among his people a few individuals had come into the area as early as 1848, and not knowing how to go about buying land had merely squatted in the woods. Father Wenceslaus Kruszka has a lengthy sketch of the Parisville settlement in his Polish History in America (Historia Poiska w Ameryce) Milwaukee, 1907, Vol. XI, pp. 144-66. He is inclined to give it priority over the “Virgin Mary” (Panna Maria) colony and assigns its beginnings to 1852. He bases his opinion on the fact that the land patent issued to Anthony Slavik in 1857 to be mentioned later - must have had five years residence behind it. He is likely in error as homestead laws had not yet been established, and lands could be purchased outright from the land office."