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The First Polish Americans Silesian Settlements in Texas

Reviewed by Richard A. Sowa, PGSA Fall 1984 Bulletin

By T. Lindsay Baker Published By Texas A & M University Press Drawer C, College Station, Texas 77843 @1979 $14-95

This excellent volume has become an invaluable handbook for all Polish-Texan genealogists. It covers the period from the Polish migration to Texas in the 1850's to the present. The depth of the research is evidenced by the detailed endnotes which are listed chapter-by chapter in the back of the book. These endnotes alone provide a virtual treasure chest of information for genealogical researchers, because they reveal clues to what are perhaps unthought of sources for information.

Baker begins this volume with a concise yet thorough overview of the political and economic conditions in mid-nineteenth century Poland which provided the impetus for the emigration to Texas. Baker dispels many myths concerning the Polish emigrants; for example, he points out that "unlike the stereotype of Slavic immigrants as poverty-stricken masses longing for just enough bread to live, the Silesians who were leaving for Texas were propertied people with a stake in society."

The role of Father Leopold Moczygemba as the primary motivator for the emigration of his relatives and friends is chronicled. Baker goes on to detail the many hardships endured by these early pioneers on the Texas frontier with fascinating narratives about Indian raids, severe weather conditions, and desperados.

Baker vividly describes the Silesian way of life in Texas with descriptions of religious, political, and social activities within the Polish community. As the colony grew, groups of families moved to establish new settlements on the Texas frontier, yet they always preferred to remain within their own close-knit ethnic group. The volume ends with a chapter detailing the significance of the Silesians in Texas and Baker emphasizes ". . the Silesian Texans will be remembered as the pioneers who led the way for the thousands of Polish peasants who came after them to what they hoped would be the land of opportunity."

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