Oldest Permanent Polish Colony in America - Panna Maria, Texas. Settled by 100 Polish families who came to Texas to gain economic, political and religious freedom. Led by Father Leopold Moczygemba, O.F.M., Conv., they made a contract in 1854 with John Twohig, a San Antonio banker and merchant, for land at this site. The colonists, natives of Upper Silesia and Krakow, landed at Galveston after a hard voyage of nine weeks on a sailing ship. They hired Mexican carts to haul their farm implements, featherbeds, and the cross from their parish church in Poland. The 800 men, women, and children walked-- some in boots, others barefoot-- the 200 miles inland to their new home. Babies were born on the way, and some of the people died. All suffered from hunger and exposure. On Dec. 24, 1854, they reached this site. They named it Panna Maria (Virgin Mary), placing it under the patronage of the Immaculate Conception. Beneath a large oak they offered their first Midnight Mass of Thanksgiving and petition for strength and courage. They camped out until they could put up huts of mud, straw or wood, later building in stone. In spite of hardships, they founded a stable community, aided in settling other frontiers, pioneered in education, and gave Texas many patriotic, dedicated citizens. #6074
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