A Silesian Family in Minnesota

Johann and Maria (Kulot) Cichos and their children were not alone in leaving their home village of what is now Nowa Wieś Książęca, Poland, located in a region known as Lower Silesia, to settle in a small farming community in south-central Minnesota. Many of their neighbors had made and would make the same journey, all playing their parts in a story of chain-migration repeated across other Silesian communities and terminating in Minnesota’s Faribault and Blue Earth counties, where farmland was both more plentiful and more arable than in the old country.

Nowa Wieś Książęca (formerly Fürstlich Neudorf) is located approximately forty-five miles east of Wrocław (formerly Breslau), the historical capital of Silesia and Lower Silesia. The older population is said to speak a Lower Silesian dialect to this day, and the nineteenth-century Church of the Holy Trinity still stands near the center of the village. However, it was in the neighboring village of Trębaczów (formerly Trembatschau), at the eighteenth-century Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, that Johann Cichos and Maria Kulot were married on 20 January 1852. They had five children in Nowa Wieś Książęca: Elizabeth, Hedwig, Johanna, Franz, and an unnamed son, their first child, who was stillborn. It seems that only Hedwig and Franz were living at the time that the Cichos family emigrated from Poland.

Johann and daughter Hedwig, who was then eighteen years old, left Poland first. In November 1873, they traveled together from Bremen to New York aboard the Hansa. Six months later, Maria and nine-year-old son Franz followed; they were in the company of numerous others from their home village who were also bound for Minnesota. They departed from Hamburg, rather than Bremen, and arrived in New York aboard the aptly-named Silesia in May 1874.

Little is known about the lives of Johann and Maria in America. No oral history nor photographs remain. They settled in Minnesota Lake, Faribault County, Minnesota in 1874, and census records indicate that they were farmers. Their daughter Hedwig married in Minnesota Lake in 1875; between her first and second marriages, she had ten children, nine surviving, all of whom would have had the opportunity to know their grandparents. Sadly, however, Johann and Maria’s son Franz died in 1881 at the age of eighteen after contracting spinal meningitis.

IMG-8340

Declaration of Intention of Johann Cichos, 19 May 1890. Faribault County, Minnesota, District Court, Naturalization Records, John Cichos, naturalized 13 July 1897; Iron Range Research Center, Chisholm, Minnesota.

At the time of the 1900 census, a teenage granddaughter resided with Johann and Maria; both were by then seventy years of age. It was noted in the census that Maria could not speak English, a fact that is not altogether unsurprising. Although she had at that point lived in America for more than twenty-five years, as Minnesota Lake had a strong Polish presence, there would not have been a shortage of opportunities to hear and speak her native language or languages, which very likely included German as well. Johann, however, did speak at least some English, and had in fact received American citizenship, renouncing the Emperor of Prussia, in 1897.

Maria died in 1902 and Johann in 1907, both in Minnesota Lake, the only home they had known in America. At the time of Johann’s death, he owned forty acres of farmland, valued at that time at about $2,000; his daughter Hedwig was his sole heir. Both Johann and Maria (Kulot) Cichos were buried at St. John the Baptist Catholic Cemetery in Minnesota Lake.

Copyright © 2021 Melanie Frick. All Rights Reserved.

SOURCES

1900 U.S. census, Faribault County, Minnesota, population schedule, Minnesota Lake, Enumeration District (ED) 92, sheet 5-A, p. 4719 (handwritten), dwelling 73, family 73, John Chios and Mary Chios; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 26 April 2021), citing National Archives microfilm T623, roll 763.

Bias, Jeanette, “How Many Cousins Were in Your Eighth Grade Class? Silesian Polish Settlement in South Central Minnesota,” Polish Genealogical Society of Minnesota Newsletter, Vol. 8, No. 3, Autumn 2000 (https://pgsmn.org/pgsmn/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/2000_V8_Issue3_Fall-reduced-size.pdf : accessed 26 April 2021).

Faribault County, Minnesota, District Court, Naturalization Records, John Cichos, naturalized 13 July 1897; Iron Range Research Center, Chisholm, Minnesota.

Find A Grave, Inc., Find A Grave (http://www.findagrave.com : accessed 26 April 2021), record, Maria Cichos (1827-1902), Memorial No. 23967023, Saint John the Baptist Catholic Cemetery, Blue Earth County, Minnesota.

“Hamburg Passagierlisten, 1850-1934,” digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 26 April 2021), manifest, Electric, Hamburg to New York, leaving 13 May 1874, Marie Cihoski and Franz Cihoski; citing Bestand [inventory no.] 373-7I, VIII, A1 (Auswanderungsamt I [Emigration List – Indirect]), Band [vol.] 030 C; Staatsarchiv Hamburg microfilm series K1701-K2008, S13116-S13183, and S17363-S17383.

Katholische Kirche Trembatschau, Heiraten, 1842-1942 [Catholic Church Trembatschau, Marriages, 1842-1942], Johann Cichos and Maria Kulot, January 20, 1852; FHL microfilm 2,396,534. Citation courtesy of Armond Sonnek who noted that the couple was from Nowa Weis and also noted the names and birth dates of their children.

“Minnesota, Territorial and State Census, 1845-1905,” digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 26 April 2021), 1875 Minnesota State Census, entries for John Chris, 44, and Mary Chris, 44, Minnesota Lake and Keister, Faribault County.

“Minnesota Deaths and Burials, 1835-1990,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:FD49-4QH : 26 April 2021), John Cichos.

“Minnesota, Wills and Probate Records, 1801-1999,” digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 26 April 2021), John Cichas, 24 September 1907, Faribault County, Minnesota.

Negative search, Faribault County Register (18 July-01 August 1907), Wells Forum Advocate (18 July-08 August 1907), Winnebago City Press News (20 July-03 August 1907), and Easton Leader (18 July-20 August 1907). A search was made by the Minnesota Historical Society in May 2021 for an obituary of John Cichos; no obituary was located despite a search across the four aforementioned newspapers.

“New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957,” digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 26 April 2021), manifest, S.S. Hansa, Bremen to New York, arriving 13 November 1873, Joh. Cluchas and Hedwig Cluchas; citing National Archives microfilm M237, roll 384.

Radzilowski, John, “The Origins and Legacy of Minnesota’s Polish Community,” https://www.southernminn.com/lonsdale_area_news_review/news/state/article_f8ca045b-9913-59ea-9d4e-e7994bab8a64.html : accessed 26 April 2021).

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