Early in the 1860s, Kashubians and Bohemians from Winona began buying land in Trempealeau County, Wisconsin. The Pine Creek area was ideal for their purposes: close enough to the market town of Winona but remote enough to create a true farming community. Pine Creek had already been settled, but the landowners (most of whom were from the East Coast) disliked the thick black soil, and happily sold out. In this way, the farming community of Pine Creek was founded. Once the town of Dodge was incorporated, Pine Creek was added to the new town.
For more about the establishment of Dodge, you can consult Ron Galewski’s outstanding book, Dodge, Wisconsin, which can be purchased at the Museum Gift Shop.
Pine Creek’s first Kashubian Polish settlers were led by the Paul Rudnick and Paul Libera families around 1860. In 1862 the Michael Cyrzan family settled in the Big Tamarack Valley. In 1863, the Mathias Brom family became Pine Creek’s first Bohemian settlers. In 1865 the Frank Pellowski family moved into Latsch Valley. Oddly, it quickly became known as “Hungary Valley”, although the Pellowskis were Kashubians, while the Bohemians (who had emigrated from Austria-Hungary) lived elsewhere in the area. These groups of settlers formed the core of the Pine Creek community, which was also in effect a Roman Catholic faith community.
Unfortunately for the Pine Creek settlers, no Roman Catholic parish existed in Trempealeau County. Precisely how and when the Pine Creek lay faith community formed into an actual parish has been lost over time. Long-standing community tradition states that Saint Wenceslaus-Sacred Heart was founded in 1862. But the Rt. Rev. Msgr. Joseph L. Hauck, longtime pastor at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Arcadia, and unofficial church historian, gave this account of Saint Wenceslaus-Sacred Heart’s founding:
It was during the winters of 1862 and 1863 that the first settlers arrived at Pine Creek. They were mostly Bohemians. On Feb. 7, 1864, they organized the parish and called it St. Wenzeslaus’, in honor of the Duke and patron of Bohemia. Having received as a donation from Paul Liberia a site of ten acres, they erected on it a little church, a wooden structure.
This deed for the Libera family’s donation still exists. Yet Father Hauck himself did not set much store by the official date of February 7, 1864; he states elsewhere in his account that “on Nov. 16, 1912 the parish celebrated with great solemnity the fiftieth anniversary of its foundation.” Some of the founding members (including the Liberas, who had donated the land for the parish, and the Broms, who were the first Bohemian settlers) were still alive in 1912, and would certainly have objected if 1912 did not actually mark the parish’s fiftieth anniversary.
For more about Pine Creek and Saint Wenceslaus-Sacred Heart Church, you can consult Rebecca Ann Kaldunski’s beautiful and informative book, St. Wenceslaus & Sacred Heart – 150th Anniversary, which can be purchased at the Museum Gift Shop.