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This webpage reproduces an article in
Polish American Studies
Vol. 9 No. 1 (Jan.‑Jun. 1952), pp24‑27

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!

 p24  The Polish Colony of Sioux City, Iowa

Rev. L. J. Siekaniec O. F. M.

This sketch is based on the "Acta Chronica: Kościól Ṡw. Franciszka" (Chronicle of St. Francis Church) in Sioux City, Ia., and upon the letters of two former pastors there, Rev. Thaddeus Wołoszyk, O. F. M. and Rev. Cyril Mitera, O. F. M. It is supported also by a perusal of the city directories and by personal interviews with old settlers.

A search of the city directories in the local library produced some indications of Polish names in 1883‑1884. However, the mutations may be from the Polish, or they may be simply Bohemian, or Slovak names, or possibly Russian. There were five such names. So there is nothing definite about Poles until 1905 (or maybe 1904). About 1906 (or 1905), there was talk of eleven to fourteen Polish and Lithuanian families and a few single individuals. They came from Omaha and other cities. In the years 1905‑1907 the work in the packing houses of Sioux City increased, more Poles, as also Lithuanians and Russians, came.

The more devout Poles attended St. Joseph's Church. At this time there was no resident Polish priest, nor any Polish or Lithuanian priest in the entire diocese. When the Rev. Cyril Mitera, O. F. M., came to Sioux City from Omaha to hear confessions during the clergy retreat (ca. 1905), he was asked by Bishop Garrigan about the possibility of a Polish priest from among the Franciscan Fathers of the Sacred Heart Province. At the same time the more eager Poles began to search around for a possible priest and parish of their nationality. The most active were Valentine Pietrucha and Andrew Sobczyk, the latter of whom was the spokesman before the Bishop.

In 1907 the pioneer families were those of Valentine Pietrucha, Andrew Sobczyk (who soon returned to Omaha, Neb.), F. Toczko, Francis Bujarski, Malita, F. Klesiewicz, A. Pryć, Joseph Szyperski. There were also some single persons.

The bishop ordered names to be gathered, i.e. of Poles, and also of Lithuanians and Russians. This was in 1906. As an old pioneer says, "We collected, with difficulty and persuasion, 100 names. God helped us."

Incidentally, Fr. Cyril was possibly the first Polish priest to visit  p25 Sioux City. The first quasi-pastor of the Sioux City Poles was Rev. Wolfgang Kraus, O. F. M., who remained only three months in 1906‑7; he was recalled, because the superiors considered the number of Poles there too small for a full-time pastorate.

Finally in 1907, the Rev. Flavius Kraus, O. F. M., came as the first official pastor and remained for seven years. His Polish limped, but he learned it and became very well liked. The parish was organized the same year in the section of the city called the "Bottoms" or "South Bottoms"; this was a valley along the Missouri River. The choice was not the best, but the greater part of the people, or at least the more influential, wanted it there. Shortly after, the Church, Sister's home and school were erected. The structures were built of wood, since they were meant to be temporary.

There was some difficulty in convincing the parishioners to put up a school. They were poor, most of them immigrants. Among them there were only about six property owners. The rest were renters. To buy land was also difficult, since most of it in that neighborhood was owned by the stockyards or railroads. Land could be leased, built on, but not bought. The tenants were subject to vacating the land on thirty days' notice.

Other pioneering families of this period included Grochowski, Pietrusiewicz, Kozlowski, Frodyma, Kuzniarski, Lembas, Dziurawiec.

Another immigration of Poles into Sioux City came in the years 1910‑1913. Many of these came directly from Poland, because they heard that a big war was ready to break. Rather than fight for the partition-rulers of their country, many came to the United States. About this time, new families were added to the parish: Tokarczyk, Buddi (Budaj), Paczesa, Pniak, Pirogowicz, Szyperski.

A census in 1913 showed that there were in the parish 101 families, ten of them non-supporting. The census taker added a footnote that there were more than 100 Lithuanian families, and possibly 400 single Lithuanians. He also noted that while there was none on the parish records there were many Russians in the city, mostly Orthodox; in fact, there were more Russians than Poles. However, no one gave the Russians any spiritual attention, and Protestant preachers began to attend them, baptizing their children.

At this time there were eighty children in the Polish school. Between 3,000 to 4,000 confessions were heard, and as many Communions distributed.

 p26  In 1914, a group of young men, married and single, came to Omaha by train (100 miles) as a delegation to the 3rd of May celebration held at St. Francis Parish. They were accompanied by their pastor. In July of the same year, a terrible fire destroyed the grain elevators and consumed some of the homes of the parishioners.

Under the guidance of Fr. Thaddeus, O. F. M., who came in summer of 1914, the Poles began to move from the "South Bottoms" to a more desirable and a residential section called Morningside. The "Bottoms" were looked upon as the slums. By 1928 almost all of the parish either lived or owned property in Morningside. The first ones to buy lots in the new locale were the families of: Szyperski, Lisowski, Pirogowicz, Siekaniec, Sikorski, Rams, and others.

This transfer to Morningside was not accomplished without some opposition. A number of Poles ceased supporting their parish, and a group formed a Polish independent parish about 1922.

Between 1921‑1923, there was an exodus of Poles from Sioux City towards Detroit. Some of these went to search for work particularly in the automobile factories, where there was a boom. In 1921, also, there was a serious strike in the packing industry; this threw many out of work. They could not return to jobs in the Sioux City plants, since they were blacklisted as strikers. Other Poles went to St. Paul, Minn., Cudahy, Wis., and Hamtramck, Mich. Some went to South Sioux City, Nebraska, where living was cheaper. Of these, many never returned to join their parish in Sioux City. At this time altogether over twenty-four families left Sioux City permanently. For a small parish this was a serious withdrawal.

In the new location on Morningside, about 1926‑28, a temporary wooden Church (still such) was constructed, a brick Sister's home, and a brick school. In 1928 the school children numbered 162. The school was in the competent hands of the Franciscan Sisters of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, whose Motherhouse is in St. Louis, Mo. The census of 1930 reported 316 Poles in Sioux City. Since 1924, all church services had been held in a hall at the new place. Here most of the people bought property and still own it. In time, they spread out away from the church.

The parish now numbers about ninety families. Many of the people still work in the packing houses, three families are restaurant owners, one has a tavern, and three own grocery-stores. There have been numerous inter-marriages with non-Poles, so as to affect the strictly Polish character of the parish.

 p27  There exists quite a bit of Polish life in the parish. There is a branch of the Polish National Alliance; there are two Polish organizations, and a phoenix-like Pulaski club. A park in the vicinity has been named after Pulaski.

Among the spiritual fruits of the parish are proportionately many vocations. Three priests (all Franciscan) have come from here. According to my knowledge, at least thirteen young ladies have joined various sisterhoods, but especially the St. Louis sisterhood mentioned above.

Though brief and far from complete, this sketch shows that there is a Polonia in Sioux City. Many of the above details need to be expanded by further research. It is hoped that this will be undertaken by some enterprising son or daughter of this thriving Polish colony in the State of Iowa on the shores of Missouri.

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Page updated: 18 Jul 10