Kaczmarczyk Orphans Journey to America
by Mary Ann Moczygemba Watson
In 1856, Johann Kaczmarczyk shepherded three younger sisters to America. They had contracted with Julius Heinrich Schüler for emigration and were recorded as passengers 73, 74, 75 and 76, on the Schüler Agency List departing from the village of Prusków in Silesia. Johann was listed as 20 years old, born circa 1836. Johanna, the oldest sister, was almost 17; Maria would soon have her 14th birthday; and the youngest, Susanna was only 10 years old.
This family had encountered tragedy at very young ages; Susanna was only a year old when their mother died. Maria Katzmarzik passed away on January 20, 1847. Her burial service took place eight days later at the Św. Piotra i Pauła Church in Sieraków, Silesia, Poland (LDS Microfilm #2099592, p. 73, entry #19). The priest noted the cause of death in German, umbestimmt or “unknown.” Maria, whose maiden name was Moy, lived only 30 years.
Less than a year after his wife’s death, Blasius Kaczmarzik, whose occupation was a gärtner or “free farmer,” died on October 13, 1847. He was buried two days later, and the sacramental record at Św. Piotra i Pauła Church stated that the cause of his death was nevenfieber meaning “nervous fever or typhus.” The priest recorded Blasius’ age at death as 40 years old (p. 83, entry #149). The more common spellings for the surname in the sacramental records appeared as “Kaczmarzik” or “Katzmarzik” rather than “Kaczmarczyk” as the siblings had been listed on their passage to America.
So the children of Blasius and Maria were orphans who dreamed of a brighter future in America. They arrived in Galveston in the spring of 1856 and eventually settled in Panna Maria to begin their new lives in Texas.
By 1860, Johann had acquired a horse valued at $25 and 3 cattle worth $18. He paid a poll tax of $1 and a combined state and county tax of 57 cents (Karnes County Tax Assessments, 1860). The Civil War interrupted Johann’s plans for establishing a farm.
In April of 1862, Johann enlisted in the Confederate Army at Camp Henry E. McCulloch in Yorktown, Texas, and served in Company I of the 6th Texas Infantry. In the remarks section of the Company Muster Roll for November/December 1862, his captain noted that “J. Katzmark” was “on extra duty building cabins for field staff.”
“John Kazmazeck” was one of several thousand Confederate soldiers taken prisoner after a fierce battle at Fort Hindman, Arkansas Post, Arkansas, in January of 1863. He was sent to Camp Butler, a Union prisoner-of-war facility in Springfield, Illinois. Official records showed that he was 5 feet 9 inches tall, with light hair and blue eyes, single, occupation of farmer, resident of Karnes County, and nativity in Prussia. Given a choice of remaining in prison under harsh conditions or fighting for the Union as a liberated soldier, Johann, like many others, opted for the latter in March of 1863, and was assigned to Union Company D, 16th Illinois Cavalry (Compiled Service Records). On August 19, 1865, he was mustered out in Nashville, Tennessee, and could finally return to Panna Maria.
Re-establishing himself as a farmer, John, under his Americanized name, registered for a cattle brand on August 30, 1866. He created a design with his initials joined: J-K (Karnes County Marks and Brands, Book 1, p. 181, #157). On October 13, 1866, John Kaczmarczyk married Mathilde Palica (Bexar County Marriages, Book E, #2764). The future looked very promising for the young couple. They were blessed with a daughter on August 1, 1867; she was named Maria and was baptized two days later (Immaculate Conception of the BVM Catholic Church, Panna Maria, LDS Microfilm #0025335, entry #313). Her sponsors were Joseph Dupnik and Maria Olynik.
Sadly, John did not live long enough to fulfill his dreams in the New World. He died on October 10, 1868, and was buried the next day. His funeral Mass was offered at the parish church in Panna Maria, and Rev. Felix Zwiardowski noted in Latin that “Joannis Kaczmarek” was 34 years old and “had received the sacraments yesterday and returned to God” (p. 3, entry #11).
In the 1870 Karnes County census, Mathilde Kaczmarczyk, John’s widow, was recorded in the dwelling next to her parents, Stanislaus and Francisca Palica. Mathilde’s child Maria was not documented in the census, nor did she appear in future censuses with her mother. On April 1, 1871, Mathilde re-registered the cattle brand that her husband John had designed (p. 183, #633); then Mathilde Palica Kaczmarczyk married Simon Lipok on November 7th of the same year. (See Silesian Profiles II, 2004, pp. 148-149 for more information about the Lipok family and pp. 170-171 for the Palica profile.)
Johanna, the oldest daughter of Blasius Kaczmarzik and Maria Moy, was born on June 4, 1839, and was baptized five days later in the quaint village of Sieraków at the Św. Piotra i Pauła Church (LDS Microfilm #2091508, p. 90, entry #61). Her father had also been baptized 30 years earlier in this church.
Leaving her ancestral home in 1856 must have caused Johanna excitement coupled with apprehension. Not quite 17 years old, she probably took on a motherly role as she felt responsible for the care of her two younger sisters on the long voyage.
When Johanna was 20 years old, she married Joseph Dupnik, also a Silesian, born in Stare Karmonki. Their wedding took place on November 20, 1859, at the Immaculate Conception of the BVM Catholic Church in Panna Maria (entry #15). Johanna and Joseph were blessed with 12 children, were active parishioners at the Immaculate Conception Church, and lived in the Panna Maria community until their deaths. Johanna was 85 years old when she died on July 26, 1924. She and Joseph are both buried in the Panna Maria parish cemetery. (For a more detailed story about their life together, see Silesian Profiles, 1999, pp. 42-43.)
Maria, the second daughter of Blasius Katzmarzik and Maria Moy was born June 17, 1842, in Sieraków, and she was baptized on June 21st at the Św. Piotra i Pauła Church (p. 133, entry #97). Leaving her childhood home as a 13 year old, Maria faced a major change in her life.
Only three years after she arrived in Texas, Maria married Joseph Kasprzyk. The young bride was just 17 years old when the wedding was celebrated on August 2, 1859, at the Immaculate Conception of the BVM Catholic Church in Panna Maria (p. 7, entry #14). The priest documented that Maria was the daughter of “Blasus and Marianna Kaczmarczyk” and that Joseph was the son of “Franciscus and Francisca Kasprzyk.” The following summer, the new couple’s first child John was baptized in Panna Maria on July 5, 1860 (entry #119). His godparents were Peter Kiolbassa and Marianna Ledwig. Ten years later, the 1870 federal census of Karnes County, recorded “J. Caspit” [Kasprzyk] as 40 years old with personal property valued at $300; his wife Mary was listed along with son John, 10 years old, and two daughters: Paulina, 8 years old, and Mary, 6 years of age.
The Kasprzyk family enjoyed a long life together in Karnes County; Maria died on December 17, 1910, and she was buried the next day (Holy Trinity Catholic Church, Falls City, LDS Microfilm #25081, p. 1, entry #2). In the 1920 federal census of Karnes County, Joseph, a widower, was enumerated with his son Frank (46 years old) and his family. The census taker noted that Joseph’s parents had been born in Posen/Poznan. Almost 12 years after his wife’s death, Joseph died on July 7, 1922. His burial Mass was offered the next day. The priest recorded that Joseph lived 89 years and 3 months (p. 4, entry #3). Maria and Joseph are buried at the Falls City Catholic Cemetery, and their tombstones are inscribed in Polish.
In Sieraków, Susanna, the youngest of the Kaczmarczyk orphans, had been born to Blasius Katzmarzik and Maria Moy on July 29, 1845. She was baptized on August 3rd at their village church, Św. Piotra i Pauła (p. 9, entry #95). Susanna, who spent only 10 years in her beautiful Silesian homeland, endured the long and arduous journey to Texas, but she had her older sisters to reassure her.
At the Immaculate Conception of the BVM Church in Panna Maria, a wedding was celebrated on January 29, 1862. The priest joined “Suzanna Kaczmarek” and Franz Wacławczyk in marriage (p. 10, entry #22). Parents of the bride and groom were not recorded, nor were the ages of the newly wedded couple. The witnesses were noted as Kasper Ploch and Jackub Josko.
The Franz Wacławczyk family lived in Bandera, and in 1870, the federal census taker enumerated Franz, age 49, as a farmer and Susanna as a 25-year-old housewife with three children who were born in Texas: John, Andreas, and Bregida. Poland was the place of birth recorded for Franz and Susanna. Ten years later, in 1880, Franz was still farming in Bandera, and his 36-year-old wife Susanna had given birth to another child Catherine. The Wacławczyk family enjoyed the proximity of several other Silesian families as reflected by the 1880 federal census of Bandera County, Texas.