You’ve been granted free access to this subscribers only article.
Panna Maria, a Texas treasure
By Hank Toothman
Not all treasures consist of gold, silver, or precious jewels. On the dusty back roads of Karnes County stands one of the unknown Texas treasures, simply known as Panna Maria, the oldest Polish settlement in the United States.
Located about one-half mile off of S.H. 123 on F.M. 81, Panna Maria stands as a testimony to those Polish pioneers who, 150 years ago, at the urging of Father Leopold Moczygemba, sold all they had, left Poland, and traveled by ship, landing in Galveston and Indianola to start a new life in America. These brave immigrants then made their way by rented carts and on foot, enduring fear of roving bands of Indians and gangs of outlaws, robbers, and rustlers, to the junction of Cibolo Creek and the San Antonio River.
Arriving on Dec. 24, 1854, the settlement of Panna Maria was founded, and the settlers celebrated by holding Mass under the large live oak tree that still stands to this day next to the church.
It merits mentioning that the area surrounding Panna Maria is steeped in its own lawful and lawless history. During the Texas Revolution, armies from both Mexico and Texas roamed the countryside on their travels between San Antonio and Goliad. Located nearby was the ghost town of Helena, known at the time as the “toughest town on earth,” which died because of one killing too many, Dalyville, which had its own version of the OK Corral, and the infamous Cart Wars.
Not much survives from the original settlement, but what did survive includes:
•The second church (and the old oak tree), built in 1878 to replace the original church, which was destroyed by lightning, and still in use today.
•St. Joseph’s School, the first Polish school in America, built in 1868, which today serves as a museum.
•Pilarczyk’s Store, built in 1875, serves as the Historical Society’s Visitors Center and staffed by volunteers to make your visit more enjoyable and entertaining with oral history and tours of the church and museum. Visit www.pannamariatexas.com for more information.
•Snoga’s Store, built in 1855 as a barn and later used as a place of worship and for schooling while the church and the school were being built. Today it houses the post office and is available for small parties.
•A few of the homesteads in various states of repair.
A stroll through the old section of the local cemetery reveals weather-worn headstones that mark the final resting place of these pioneers, the grave of a Confederate veteran from the Panna Maria Greys of the Civil War era, and the final resting place of the lone train robber of the 1893 Brackenridge (now Falls City) Train Robbery.
Hank Toothman is a resident of Karnes County.
Your Opinions and Comments
Be the first to comment on this story!
You must be logged in to post a comment.
South Texas Living Archives
Hear John Muir music at San Antonio Missions (April 27, 2016)
Judy Bolton Mysteries (April 27, 2016)
Kendra Scott Trunk Show in Poth (April 27, 2016)
Merle Haggard tribute to highlight Opry (April 27, 2016)
Mother’s Day Bake Sale (April 27, 2016)
Musical Club hosts a Bealls style show (April 27, 2016)
See ‘Shenandoah’ at Night in Ol’ La Vernia (April 27, 2016)
Suspected bank bandits charged (April 27, 2016)
Sängerfest brings German choral feast to Floresville (April 27, 2016)
Theatre Arts students plan variety show (April 27, 2016)
Treat Mom to a play May 8 (April 27, 2016)
America needs old-fashioned values (April 20, 2016)
Boy Scouts will mark 105 years April 24 in Floresville (April 20, 2016)
Cowboy Breakfast will benefit families in need (April 20, 2016)
Dance to the ‘Countrymen’ April 24 in Geronimo (April 20, 2016)
Davy Crockett lunchbox (April 20, 2016)
Enjoy Parish Festival May 1 (April 20, 2016)
Gospel Music Association plans convention (April 20, 2016)
Historian’s archives secure the past for the future (April 20, 2016)
Jazz Festival to feature Grammy winner (April 20, 2016)
Lions seek vendors for upcoming Car Show (April 20, 2016)
Paper Clover Campaign continues (April 20, 2016)
Road Runners group run April 23 (April 20, 2016)
See Johnny Rodriguez at Texas Theatre (April 20, 2016)
Shop books and more at Falls City library (April 20, 2016)
Annual Cowboy Breakfast set for April 23 (April 13, 2016)
Cutting the cord on sugar (April 13, 2016)
Free Grafting Seminar (April 13, 2016)
Free movie night at El Mesias (April 13, 2016)
Hanging out at Hangar 9 (April 13, 2016)
Match Safe (April 13, 2016)
Play Texas Hold ’em to help children (April 13, 2016)
Powerful illustration takes top prize (April 13, 2016)
Register your ride for the Lions Club Car Show (April 13, 2016)
Saddle up for Poth’s Ride to Remember (April 13, 2016)
St. Hedwig church feast is April 24 (April 13, 2016)
Suspects taken to jail in Floresville (April 13, 2016)
Aggie Muster is April 21 (April 6, 2016)
Beauty hides work to save historic county courthouse (April 6, 2016)
Blue Bonnet Club supports SISD Hope Day (April 6, 2016)
Bluebonnet Festival of Texas is April 9-10 (April 6, 2016)
Celebrate the Burton Cotton Gin Festival (April 6, 2016)
Enjoy free jazz concert in Kerrville (April 6, 2016)
Find out the many uses of native plants (April 6, 2016)
First Baptist to host Bible Conference (April 6, 2016)
It’s not just complaining (It’s about justice) (April 6, 2016)
It’s Swing Dance time in Seguin (April 6, 2016)
Jump-start SA party at Fiesta Fiesta (April 6, 2016)
OLPH plans tour, wine tasting fund-raiser (April 6, 2016)
Pilgrim Opry set for April 9 (April 6, 2016)
Playhouse 2000 features ‘forgotten’ Mark Twain play (April 6, 2016)
Ruby Glass (April 6, 2016)
Service Through Music benefit (April 6, 2016)
Shoot skeet, play washers for ACTS (April 6, 2016)
Witness ‘The Gospel Side of Elvis’ (April 6, 2016)