Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Paris Township Land Purchase-Date Comments

Paris Township Land Purchase-Date Comments
by Charles Ciechanowski-Chinoski-Chase

Accepting a document at face value sometimes causes erroneous dates to be used and thus seemingly accepted by a researcher. As many of the Parisville, MI researchers know, Mr. Harry Milostan edited a fine book entitled: Parisville Poles First Polish Settlers in the U.S.A.?

This book provides a wealth of important information about the circumstances leading up to Polish migration to Michigan and the efforts of many hard working pioneers to establish the town of Parisville in Paris Twp., Huron Co. in the “Thumb” of Michigan.

I have used this book many times over the past 20-years to help guide many of the avenues I have taken in my research on my ancestors: Francis and Josephine Slawik-Polk; and Ambrose and Frances Polk-Ciechanowski. One of the key areas of my interest in their early life in Paris Twp was when did they purchase land.

Establishing land purchase dates helps establish when the pioneers were present in Paris Twp. The first and second land patents for Poles in Paris Twp. were obtained by Francis Susalla and Francis Polk. Both of these Land Patents bear the date of July 1, 1857, as issued by the US Government in Washington City. The actual purchase of these parcels was some time earlier.

Page 25 of Milostan’s book shows document 32511 for the actual purchase of land by Francis Susalla. It is dated September 16, 1854. Look at the copy of page-25 below and note the author’s emphasis on the date of September, 1854.
I knew that my gr-gr grandfather, Francis Polk, was the second Pole to purchase land in Paris Twp. His land purchase document, number 32512, was dated September 16, 1856. It did not make sense to me that two land purchases with documents one number apart could have occurred two years apart. The other curious point was that the two documents bore a date with the month/day of September 16.
This caused me to do additional research concerning Francis Susalla. Fortunately, I was able to locate another page of Francis Susalla’s land purchase document and, in fact, it shows a date of September, 16, 1856, as can be seen in the copy shown below:

Therefore, it is quite evident that Francis Susalla and Francis Polk both went to Detroit on the same day in September, 1856. On this day they became the first two Poles to purchase parcels of land in Paris Twp.

Francis Polk: A Founding Father of Parisville, MI

Francis Polk: A Founding Father of Parisville, MI
By: Charles Ciechanowski-Chinoski-Chase and Evelyn Osentoski-Clor

The following tells some of the history of the great-great grandfather of Evelyn Clor and Charles Chase.

At the tip of the “Thumb” of the Michigan’s Lower Peninsula can be found Huron County. Within this county is Paris Township which contains the historic town of Parisville. Parisville is, arguably, the first Polish community within the United States. One of the founders of Parisville was a Polish farmer by the name of Francis (Franz) Polk who left the tyranny of Poland to provide a better life for his family.

Francis Polk, the 7th of 9 children born to Andreas Polk (1764-1843) and Mary (Maria) GeĆ¼ssler (1774-1835), was born on 27 April 1812, in Boronow, Lubliniec, Poland. Francis married Josephine (Josefa) Slawik on 14 September 1835 in Dembowa Gora, Lubliniec, Poland. Josephine, the 3rd of 5 children born to Valentine Slawik (1787-?) and Francisca Boron (1796-?), was born on 4 July 1819 in Dembowa Gora, Lubliniec, Poland.

The 8 children born to Francis and Josephine Polk in Dembowa Gora, Poland were Mary (Maria) in 1836, Josephine (Josefa) in 1838, Bartholomew (Bartek) in 1841, Frances (Franzka) in 1843, Caroline in 1845, Josef in 1849, Sophie in 1850 and Vincent (Vinzens) in 1852. Josef and Sophie died before the 1860 Federal Census for Paris Township was taken. No records of their deaths have been found. Their ninth child, a son, Frank, was born in Paris, South Dumfries Township, Brant County, Ontario, Canada, in 1855. The last two children, 2 sons, were born in Paris Township, Huron County, Michigan: Anthony Peter in 1861, and Peter E. Polk in 1865.

Few records have been found concerning the migration, in 1855, of the Polks from Poland to the U.S., via Canada. We do know that the family left Hamburg, Germany on 18 or 19 April, 1855 aboard the ship Archimedes. The Archimedes then sailed to Hall, which is on the east coast of England. The typical route would then take them by train to Liverpool, to catch a ship to North America. It is most likely that they took a ship to Quebec City in Canada. Unfortunately, Canada does not have any records for sailings to Canada before 1865.

Upon arrival in Canada, probably mid-June 1855, and not speaking the local language, they had to depend on an agent to find employment while they determined the final destination for their family. Employment involved helping to build some of the railroad systems that would help the Canadians enhance travel between cities within Canada and ports within the U.S. where shipping could occur during the winter months. The port of Quebec closed during the winter.

The primary Canadian railroad project involving the Poles in the 1850s, was The Grand Trunk Railway from Toronto westward to Sarnia. This railway was started in 1853 and completed in mid-1856 and provided relatively easy access to Michigan.

Some reports indicate the Polish families initially lived in shacks/cabins along the Canadian railroad tracks. At times, the men probably had to live in box cars so they could easily move with the progress of the railroad projects. This work allowed the Polish families to gradually accrue funds with which they could eventually purchase land for farming.

We know that the Polks had moved further west within Canada by some time in July. Josephine Polk gave birth to their 9th child, Francis (Franz) Polk, on 27 July 1855 in Paris, Ontario, Canada (in an area called “Canada West”) which is about 60 miles southwest of Toronto. We therefore know where the Polks lived during most of their stay in Canada.

Somehow, these railroad builders received word that cheap land, with great farming potential, existed in the “Thumb” region of Michigan. Francis Polk, along with others, such as Anton Slawik, Francis Susalla and the step brothers Thomas Smielewski and Ambrose Ciechanowski (step-father was Casper Smielewski), explored this area (it had been officially surveyed around 1835) for its possibilities. Through their foresight and very hard work, they were eventually able to develop an area of thick forests and marshes into fertile farming land similar to that which they had to leave in Poland. These hearty pioneers drained their marshes using methods they learned while working on the railroads in Canada, where the railroads periodically encountered wetlands in the path of the track system.

The actual timing of the immigration to Michigan was helped by John Susalla, the son of Francis Susalla. During the fall of 1855, John was working in a quarry where they prepared the local rock to be used for railroad beds. John was working with a Frenchman with whom John did not get along. Apparently, the two men had a significant disagreement as to how the rock should be quarried. The Frenchman threatened John by raising a pick over John’s head. Before he could bring it down, John swung his shovel, hitting the Frenchman in the throat, killing him. John was thrown in jail, but escaped that evening. Shortly after his departure, it was found out that Mary Polk (daughter of Francis and Josephine Polk) was pregnant. John and Mary were very close friends. Polish Catholics looked down on illegitimate births. Therefore, the Polks and Susallas followed John, who had taken refuge in Michigan. John and Mary were married in Michigan and eventually had 15 children. Their first child, Mary, born in June 1856, was the first Polish child born in the new territory.

It is believed that this early Polish group probably went from Sarnia, Ontario by boat to Detroit, MI in order to purchase land. Subsequently, they most likely took a boat from Detroit to White Rock, in the “Thumb”. They then had a tortuous walk through dense wilderness to the area now known as Parisville. Parisville is located in Paris Township, which received its name from the city of Paris, Ontario where a number of Poles resided until their final move to Michigan.

The list below shows the names of the Poles who were the first to purchase land in Paris Twp.
Early Land Patents--Paris Township

Land Patent #, Patentee, Patent Date, Land Section, Township, Range

32511, Francis Susalla, 7/1/1857, 22, 15 N, 14 E

32512, Francis Polk, 7/1/1857, 23, 15 N, 14 E

32513, Anthony Slawik, 7/1/1857, 22,15 N, 14 E

32522, Thomas Smielewski, 7/1/1857, 34, 15 N, 14 E

32523, Ambrose Smielewski*, 7/1/1857, 34, 15 N, 14 E

(*)—NOTE: Ambrose Ciechanowski was adopted by Casper Smielewski, thus using the Smielewski name for early land purchases. Subsequent land purchases were completed using his birth surname: Ciechanowski.

According to Certificate # 32512 of the Land Office in Detroit, MI, Francis Polk, of Richmond County, Canada West, on 16 September, 1856 purchased from the U. S. Government the W ½ of the NW ¼, of section 23, Township-15N, Range-14E, containing 80 acres, for 50 cents per acre, amounting to $40.00 gold. Then, on 1 July 1857 Francis Polk received the official Land Patent for the above land from the US Government in “Washington City” Francis Polk was the second Polish settler to obtain a patent for land in Paris Township.

Upon arrival in the wilderness of Michigan, Francis and others erected wigwam-type structures as temporary shelters. Upon the felling of trees, they built crude log cabins to withstand the cruel winter weather. Some land was cleared for farming, but trees were also important in order to supply lumber mills that were gradually built in the area. In 1871, a massive fire storm destroyed about 2500 square miles of forests in the region. Many homes, animals and some residents perished in this fire. A side benefit of this fire, however, was that it was a means of clearing the land to allow farming to become a more important industry. A smaller, but still devastating fire occurred in 1881.

Becoming a citizen of the United States was very important to Francis Polk. On 3 May 1858 at the Circuit Court in Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan, Francis filed Declaration of Intent papers to fulfill that dream. Francis renounced forever his allegiance and fidelity to the King of Prussia under whom he had been a subject.

Josephine Slawik Polk died on 20 December 1880, at age 61, in Paris Township, Huron County, Michigan. Cause of death was inflammation of the lungs.Francis Polk died on 1 December 1906, at age 94, in Paris Township, Huron County, Michigan. Cause of death was old age.

Author: Charles Chase

One of Michigan’s Polish Pioneers—Ambrose Ciechanowski

One of Michigan’s Polish Pioneers—Ambrose Ciechanowski
By his gr-grandson: Charles Ciechanowski-Chinoski-Chase

Ambrose was born December 8, 1833 in Sliwice (Gross Schliewitz in German)--Tuchola, Bydgoszcz, Poland to Thomas (Tomasz) Ciechanowski and Francisca, nee, Dobecka. Ambrose had four siblings: Thomas (b. December 20, 1830), Josephine (b. March 16, 1832), Johannes ( b. May 5, 1835) and Theodora (b. May 14, 1837). Within a few years after the birth of Theodora, their father, Thomas, died. With a family of active young children, Francisca needed someone to help her raise these children and serve as a father figure.

In this same time frame, another family had experienced the loss of a parent. Casper (aka Casimir) Smielewski had been married to Catherine, nee, Gliniecka and resided in Sliwice, Tuchola, Bydgoszcz, Poland. Together they had seven children. About 1840, Catherine died. Casper suddenly was in need of someone to help raise his children. Either through previous knowledge of each other, or through mutual friends, Casper Smielewski and Francisca Dobecka-Ciechanowski formed a close and mutually supporting relationship which ended in marriage in 1842.

The new Smielewski couple had a child, Thomas, about 1843. The Ciechanowski children were either adopted or simply assumed the surname Smielewski. When Ambrose made his first land purchase in Michigan, it was done using the surname Smielewski (misspelled Smelewski on the Land Patent dated 1 July, 1857). In the 1880 Census for Huron County, Ambrose Ciechanowski (by then reverting back to his original birth name, although misspelled in the this census as Cichanowski) is shown with his wife and children. Additionally, Casper Smielewski and Francisca Smielewski are included and are indicated as being Father and Mother respectively.

Ambrose immigrated first into Canada. He and many other Poles entered Canada through Quebec and lived in Canada for a period of time that probably included, for Ambrose and family, parts of 1854 and possibly 1855. While in Canada, the Poles worked at building Canada's railway system and clearing forests. Initially, they obtained work through an "agent" in the Quebec City area. Their use of only the Polish language confined them to limited job opportunities. They were laborers who worked on the railroad during the warmer months, and felled trees (for railroad ties and buildings) during the winter. Many of them lived with theirs and other families small roughly hewn cabins. During the actual railroad construction the workers probably lived in boxcars. When building the railroad, they traveled by train to the end of the line and worked on extending that line. They built a railroad from Quebec to Thomasville and later from Quebec to Paris in Upper Canada, Canada West, Ontario. The Smielewski’s (Ciechanowski’s) eventually settled in the Paris, Ontario area where they stayed till about 1854/1855. Paris was later contained within the current Brant County of Ontario.

Ambrose, with his older half-brother Thomas Smielewski, presumably traveled to the Ontario, Canada port of Goderick and took a boat to MI---possibly to Detroit. From Detroit he probably sailed to White Rock in the "Thumb" of Michigan. White Rock is a port city on Lake Huron, located opposite the location of what became Parisville. Ambrose recognized the farming potential of the land in what is now Paris Township, Huron County. Much of this land was covered with forest and included much marshland that needed to be drained to eventually support farming. His experience in working to help build the Grand Trunk Railroad of Ontario, Canada taught him how to properly and efficiently drain wetlands.

Ambrose purchased his first parcel of land for which he received his first Land Patent (#32523) July 1, 1857 for 120 acres in the NE Quadrant of Section 34, in Paris Twp, Huron County. The actual purchase took place in late 1856 in Detroit. He paid 50 cents an acre, or, $60 in gold. As stated above, this purchase was made under the name Ambrose Smielewski (Smielewski was the surname of his stepfather) and was for the east half of the NE quarter and the SW quarter of the NE quarter of Section 34.

Ambrose eventually owned the SE quadrant (160 acres) of Section 27 in Paris Township, Huron County. This property fronted on two roads: 1) Parisville Rd and 2) Munford Rd. On this land they primarily grew oats, wheat, Navy beans and some alfalfa. Corn was not grown in this region in large quantities till many years later when new hybrids were developed to grow in this Michigan climate. This land in Section 27 was purchased in 2 parts: (1) on July 21, 1860 he purchased 120 acres for a cost of $150 that consisted of the following parts of Section 27: the West half of the SE Quadrant + the NE Quadrant of the SE quadrant and (2) on May 17, 1865 he purchased 40 acres for a total cost of $1 that consisted of the remaining portion of the SE Quadrant of Section 27 described as the SE Quadrant of the SE Quadrant of Section 27. It is within this quarter section that the Centennial Home of the Ciechanowski’s (changed to Chinoski in late 1800s) still stands.Ambrose Ciechanowski is consider to be one of the original pioneers and founders of the town of Parisville in the Township of Paris, in the County of Huron, in the “Thumb”: of Michigan. Historical documents say that it was through his driving force that other key Polish pioneers came and helped found/develop Parisville in the era of 1854-1856.

In 1861, Ambrose married Frances (Franzka) Polk, the daughter of another important Parisville pioneer, Francis (Franz) Polk (my gr-gr-grandfather) and his wife Josephine (Josefa), nee, Slawik. Frances was born 1 October, 1843 in Dembowa Gora, Lubliniec, Poland. Together, Ambrose and Frances had 14 children: Eva, Peter (my grandfather), Victoria, Louis (Ludwig), Sherman, Simon, Josephine, Mary, Frank, August, Juliana (Anna), John, Alexander and Joseph.

Ambrose died 23 May, 1911 and is buried in St. Marys’ Cemetery in Parisville. Frances Polk-Ciechanowski died 31 December, 1928.

Author: Charles Chase

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Parisville, Michigan: First Polish Community in USA
by Arthur A. Wagner
October 3, 2002

Which was the first Polish settlement in the U.S., Panna Maria, Texas, or Parisville, Michigan? That is a thorny question because their founding was almost simultaneous.
The late Harry Milostan, a Mt. Clemens attorney, made it one of his life goals to establish that Parisville was the first Polish settlement in the U.S. He preached that gospel to any audience, including me when I first met him. His book, "Parisville Poles: First Polish Settlers in the U.S.A.?" (Mt. Clemens: MASSPAC, 1977) was published under the pseudonym Natsolim.
He gets to the point of his book on page 92, where he states that the first Michigan settler of Polish ancestry was F. Susalla, who registered a claim or deed on September 16, 1854, allegedly three months earlier than the founding of Panna Maria. He also claims that Polish settlers (he uses the term Polanders) had been in Michigan since 1850, when they began to clear some farm lands. On p. 112 he states that the first Poles in Michigan began arriving in 1848, many by way of Canada. He cites an article in the journal, "Sodalis" (Orchard Lake, Ss. Cyril & Methodius Seminary, January, 1955), which also alleges that Parisville was the first Polish settlement in the U.S. and gives Fr. Leopold Moczygemba’s arrival date in Texas as 1852.

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