Tag Archives: Poland

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.

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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.

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Hedwig

It has been said that Hedwig had “fiery red hair.”1

However, by the time color photographs became mainstream, her hair was white.

And, in fact, no color photographs are known to exist of Hedwig at all.

Hedwig (Cichos) Lutz Rindfleisch was born in 1855 in what is now Nowa Wieś Książęca, Poland, but what at the time was the village of Neudorf in Silesia.2 She immigrated to the United States at the age of eighteen,3 settling in southern Minnesota, and at nineteen, she married fellow immigrant Joseph Lutz.4 They had five children together, although the eldest did not survive childhood.5 After Joseph’s death, Hedwig remarried to Albert Rindfleisch and gave birth to five more children.6 She raised her nine surviving children in Minnesota Lake, Faribault County, Minnesota, and spent many years as a single mother, supporting her children as a seamstress and tending her small farmstead where she processed and preserved much of their own food.7

There are no widely known family stories about Hedwig having a stereotypical temper to match her red hair, although she was said to have been stern. A tale that perhaps comes the closest suggests that when her first husband, a butcher, would give generous gifts of meat to new immigrants in their community, she would chide him and say that the newcomers would not even have a pot to cook with.8

Back: Anna (Lutz) Catlin, Melanie (Lutz) Adam, Elsie (Rindfleisch) Beyer, Edward Rindfleisch, and Front: Keith Beyer, Hedwig (Cichos) Lutz Rindfleisch, and Albert Rindfleisch, Danville, Blue Earth County, Minnesota, circa 1937-39; digital image 2010, privately held by Melanie Frick, 2019.

Two of the three known photographs of Hedwig were taken on the same summer day at her daughter’s farm in Danville, Blue Earth County, Minnesota. The year is uncertain, but based on the presumed ages of the children in the photograph, was likely circa 1937-39. Although this gathering may not have included all of her surviving children and grandchildren, four of her children and three of her grandchildren are pictured.

Back: Anna (Lutz) Catlin, Permelia Adam, Melanie (Lutz) Adam, Adelheid (Brandt) Rindfleisch, Elsie (Rindfleisch) Beyer, Mary (Grover) Rindfleisch, Alfred Beyer, Helen (?) Catlin, Vance Catlin, Edward Rindfleisch, Henry Adam, and Front: Keith Beyer, Hedwig (Cichos) Lutz Rindfleisch, and Albert Rindfleisch, Danville, Blue Earth County, Minnesota, circa 1937-39; digital image 2010, privately held by Melanie Frick, 2019.

Surrounded by family, Hedwig, who had celebrated her eightieth birthday in 1936, looks relaxed and content, with a wisp of hair blowing in the breeze and her mouth pressed into a smile. She wears a printed dress in a light color, suitable for a summer day, and squints in the sun.

Hedwig (Cichos) Lutz Rindfleisch, Minnesota, circa 1940; digital image 2019, from a photocopy courtesy of Armond Sonnek, 2002. Provenance of the original unknown.

The only other known photograph of Hedwig shows her seated at the kitchen table in the home she shared with her eldest son and his family during her later years. Wearing a loose patterned house dress, her hair pulled back, she clasps the fingers of one hand in the other as she appears to gaze peacefully towards a window.

It was at this table that she was said to have sat to churn butter and clean vegetables, an industrious soul still determined to contribute to the household as much as possible.9

Copyright © 2019 Melanie Frick. All Rights Reserved.

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