First Settlement in Winona: 1859

According to Paul Libera’s 1958 article “Polish Settlers in Winona, Minnesota,” Winona’s first Kashubian immigrants were the Bronk and Eichman families, which arrived in 1855. In fact, the Jacob and Franciszka von Bronk family of Wiele sailed from Hamburg to Quebec on the ship Elbe in May 1859, and reached Winona in time for the 1860 US Census. Larry Reski at Poland to Pine Creek has located the Franciszek and Katarzyna Eichman family in Dubuque, Iowa for the 1860 US Census. Winona’s Kashubian Polish community can more likely be dated to 1859, and included (in addition to the Bronks) the Felckowski, Kiedrowski, Kukowski, Libera, Pelowski, Reszka, and Walenski families. Another tradition, that the first Kashubian Polish settlers sent letters to the old country praising Winona, almost has to be completely true. Even one solitary letter could be viewed by even hundreds of eager readers. But as Larry Reski has pointed out, the Kashubian immigrants already knew each other quite well back in the Old Country, and were often closely related to each other too.

Since the Kashubians were farmers by birth, most dreamed of becoming farmers in the new country too. Thus adjusting to Winona’s cramped quarters and general crowding urban life was difficult as they lived and worked side by side, scrimping and saving toward their dream. Language barriers created further difficulties. As The Kashubians could not possibly have acquired English in the old country. Given their preference for staying among their own kind in the new country, they did not acquire English very quickly in their new homes, either. To make themselves understood they had to use the German they learned against their will in the old country. Because their lack of English excluded them from steadier, higher-paying employment, Kashubians gravitated toward labor-intensive jobs.


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