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Transplanting a Culture:  Silesian Settlements in Texas
Dr. Orville Boyd Jenkins
A review of the book by T Lindsay Baker
The First Polish Americans (College Station/London:  Texas A&M Press, 1979.  268p.)

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This is a beautifully presented story of the first Polish settlements in the United States.  The first settlers came from Upper Silesia, a part of Poland that was at that time part of the Prussian Empire.  This excellent story flows here from the author's personal research from historical sources and personal interviews on site in the Hill Country of Texas by the author.

Lindsay details this fascinating story of US and world events from the Silesian Polish perspective from the 1830s and 1840s.  Then he follows the community's descendant sinto every generation up to the present.  Great boatloads of Silesians shipped to Texas to escape the famine and poverty imposed by the feudalism still prevailing in 19th century Prussia and eastern Europe.  This was exacerbated by the huge loss of the potato crop in a drought.

These Silesians migrated to Texas to establish a new life.  This masterful and detailed ethnic history covers their story in every fascinating nuance, introducing us to the key people, places and events in Texas history.  The writer makes sure we fel the political and cultural ambience of the situation and the era.  Lindsay fills in a lot of common gaps in the connections related to the US Civil War and European events of distress.

We are introduced to specific personalities and the role they played in the life of the Silesians of Texas and the US at large.  This story tells how the Polish language and culture were planted in Texas, and later the upper Midwest in areas like Wisconsin and Illinois.

In the Texas Hill Country towns Americans and Germans learned Polish as they lived among the majority Poles in certain towns.  Tidbits of the likewise intriguing story of German Catholic settlers is intertwined here.

Ethnic Germans from various parts of the Prussian Empire had settled in Texas the early 1800s, and continued to immigrate through the 19th century.  There were connection and similarities between the Poles and Prussians who found themselves together in Texas counties as a result of their separate migrations.  Germans had been well established in the eastern colonies before the American Revolution, especially in Pennsylvania.

Many of the Poles arriving as a whole community from 1854-56 had lived in a German political and legal situation for a long time, and their leaders spoke German to various degrees, and felt an affinity for the German speakers they met upon arrival in Galveston and along their trek to counties west.

This study from a key Texas scholar in history will be an entertaining and informative read to most action and adventure fans.  But this is a true story and many will find a personal connection in their own family history in this story of migration, resettlement, the rich mix of cultures along with the picture of a tenacious social and cultural life and ethnic identity moving in partnership with Americanization of a prominent ethnic community.

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Reading notes written 16 December 2009
Posted on Amazon and Thoughts and Resources 19 December 2009
Reviewed on Barnes and Noble 12 January 2010

Orville Boyd Jenkins, EdD, PhD
Copyright © 2009 Orville Boyd Jenkins
Permission granted for free download and transmission for personal or educational use.  Other rights reserved.

Email:  orville@jenkins.nu
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