Institute of Texan Cultures' Texans Series
Many people from Poland left in search of better living conditions. Between the late 1700s and the beginning of World War I in 1914, Poland was conquered and taken over by powerful neighboring countries. The land was divided and the people of Poland had little political freedom. In 1854, sickness and flooding caused many people to look for new places to call home.
The first Polish colony in the United States was in Texas. Polish immigrants settled at a place they called Panna Maria in 1854. Panna Maria is on the San Antonio River, about 50 miles from San Antonio. Although some Polish individuals came to Texas as early as 1818, it was not until the 1850s that Polish families began to come in large numbers.
A Catholic missionary named Father Leopold Moczygemba lived in the San Antonio area and encouraged families to move to Texas. He helped to start the town of Panna Maria and within one year, the colony was home to over 800 Polish families. From Panna Maria, some Polish families moved to other parts of Texas and helped to settle towns such as Chappel Hill, Polonia and Bryan.