The following account of the riots of 1914 had its origins in the increased sense of independence of our immigrant ancestors who had suffered the ravages of the Kulturkamph in Prussia. They believed that after the financial sacrifices they made to build the magnificent Polish Parishes in South Bend, that they had a right to petition and be heard concerning who would minister to their religious needs. Some ascribe the movement to an Independent Catholic Church at St. Mary's of the Holy Rosary and Sacred Heart to these riots. However, the seed's of discontent were sown and flourished as early as 1912. The riots were more the breaking than starting point.

Transcribed

Jim Piechorowski, 2005

 

 

South Bend Tribune

BLOODY SUNDAY FEBURARY 15, 1914

RIOTERS ARE TO BE PLACED UNDER ARREST

 

MEMBERS OF St. CASIMIR PARISH IN CONTEMPT OF COURT

 

TROOPS MAY BE USED

 

PORTION OF CITY IN VICINITY OF CHURCH WILL PROBABLY BE UNDER MARTIAL LAW NEXT SUNDAY

 

BULLETIN

Fort Wayne, Ind., Feb 16, - Rt. Rev Herman J Alerding, bishop of the diocese of Fort Wayne, did not go to South Bend today nor did he communicate with anybody there according to the Rev William Miller, the bishops secretary. “The South Bend situation is not a question for the church authorities to deal with now,” continued the secretary, “It has developed into a situation to be handled by the civil authorities”

 

                                                                      --

 

Wholesale arrest will follow the rioting at St. Casmir's church, Dunham and Webster streets. Sunday morning in which more than 1,000 men and women repulsed a squad of 23 policemen when they attempted to install Rev. Stanislaus Gruza in the rectory of the parish. As fast as the men and women are taken into custody they will be taken before Judge W. A. Funk in the St. Joseph circuit court to face contempt of court charges. Such action will force the defendants to prove their innocence before they can secure their release. A statement to this effect was made today by attorneys of the Rt. Rev. H. J. Alerding, bishop of the diocese of Fort Wayne and also by Chief of Detectives John Kuespert.

 

Another attempt will be made to place Father Gruza in charge of the church and parish next Sunday morning. Previous to the appearance of the priest that section of the city surrounding St Casmir's church will probably be placed under martial law with companies of the Indiana National Guard on duty. It is also understood that the entire Police force will be sworn by Sheriff Edward Swanson's deputies and will be placed under orders to shoot in case a resumption of the rioting which yesterday resulted in scores of people being more or less hurt.

MOST SERIOUSLY INJURED

Among the injured were:

A.M. Moore, policeman, head and face cuts from a heavy fence picket.

John Greenwood, Chauffeur, Jaw broken when struck with an iron bar

Mrs. Charles Niedbalski, scalp laid open by a policeman's club

George Schrock, reporter, head bruised when hit by a thrown marble statue

Vincent Brezezinski, policeman, face badly cut

Michael Rzepka, Ankle bruised by thrown brick

Steven Hans, cut on head

Floyd Stull, Face and hand cuts

Thomas Reed, Detective, head cut by flying glass

The riot was the result of a restraining order obtained by Bishop Alerding against the trustees of St. Casmir church who it was alleged were refusing Father Gruza admittance to the church, the members of the church having requested the assignment of Rev. Leon Szybowicz as priest of the parish. Sheriff Swanson was instructed by the court to use force if necessary to carry out its mandate. The trouble, which brought about the action of the court, is of more than years standing the church in the meantime having been closed.

IN CONTEMPT OF COURT

Local authorities stated today that the question before them now is not weather Father Gruza will be installed, but the arrest of the rioters who are in contempt of court by disobeying the order of Judge Funk.

Father Gruza stated today that while he had no wish to force himself into St. Casmir parish as an unwelcome priest, he would continue to obey orders of the church. Bishop Alerding is expected in the city to hold a conference with him early this week.

“If we go out again next Sunday I suppose we have to have the soldiers out,” said attorney A L Hubbard who is representing Bishop Alerding.

RIOTING BEGINS EARLY

The rioting, which culminated in the pitched battle started at 7:00 am Sunday morning when Sheriff Gamble took Father Gruza to the church expecting to place him in charge, agreeable to the order of the court.  Scores of people, however, barred the way and ordered the officers from the premises. Lookouts posted by parish leaders carried the word to the church that the Sheriff and Priest were approaching and as the taxicab with Father Gruza and the officers drew up min front of St. Casmir's church the ringing of the bell brought men and women from every doorway and alley. Finding the church doors locked the officers without as much as an exchange of words with a single member of the gathering mob ordered the chauffeur to drive to the parish house.

It was then that the crowd with angry shouts swarmed into the rectory yard and denied the Sheriff admittance to the house. Realizing the futility of an effort without reinforcements, the officers returned to the police department where 23 patrolmen and detectives were made deputy sheriffs.

The first information the crowd of people had that there would be another attempt by Father Gruza to enter the church later in the morning with double the forces came when Chief of Police Millard Kerr telephoned to M Markiewicz who conducts a saloon at Dunham and Arnold streets, to get in touch with members of the night police who lived in that vicinity. In some unaccountable manner the news leaked out and the big bell of the church was rung again to warn the parishioners of the second appearance of the police. Pickets were posted on every corner within a radius of several blocks.

At 10:50 am cries of “They're coming” were heard from all sides of the church. Nearly six blocks away a cordon of police could be seen approaching on Arnold Street.

 

 

Get Gruza, Mob Yells

Within five minutes Dunham and Webster Street were thronged with people on all sides of the church property. Get Gruza, but don't touch the Police, was the order shouted from front to rear. As the 23 officers swung into Dunham Street the parishioners first recognized the men who had been sent to the scene of trouble. In the front rank could be seen Chief of Detectives Kuespert, of the Police department; Capt. James Schrock, Detective William Cassidy, Capt. Guy Bunker, Sheriff Edward Swason and deputy Gamble. Bringing up the rear were Human Officer A. M. Moore, Detective James Cutting, and Detective John. E. Stickely and Srgt. William Cordler.

As the crowd broke up to permit the police to pass up Dunham street from Arnold to the rectory a big limousine came at high speed up Arnold street from the north and came to a stop at the corner of Dunham and Arnold streets. Within the car was Father Gruza with several officers. The people however with their interest centered in the activity of the police followed the body of the officers to the rectory.

As the officers approached the fence they were met with a shower of stones, ice and clubs pried from a picket fence. Behind the fence hundreds of women screamed imprecations and hurled a fusillade of bricks. It was here that Mrs. Niedbalski was injured. It is claimed she endeavored to hold the gate and her hands had to be wrenched from the latch. A club hurled at Capt. Schock and Detective Kuespert missed its mark and struck the women in the head, tearing her scalp open. At the sight of blood the fury of the mob increased

“That's our property,” yelled the crowd, the actions of the officer was a signal for redoubled attack. Tearing down parts of the picket fence and uprooting the young saplings in the yardthe crowd charged to the porch.

It was at this time that Officer A. M. Moore was injured by a club hurled from the crowd, an ugly gash being inflicted on his forehead.

Chief Detective Kuespert stepped to the edge of the porch and waved his hand in the direction of the limousine two blocks away. The crowd turned and watched the car start at full speed toward the church on Dunham street. A roar that could be heard through out the entire section of the city went up from more than a thousand throats. The car wheeled again and sped back to Arnold Street. The crowd with increased fury renewed the attack. Capt. Guy L Bunker narrowly escaped death when one of the rioters had a plank raised to strike him on the head. Officer Christian Sorwick brought his club down on the assailant's arm and another angry roar went up from the defiant crowd. Detective Thomas Reed who was standing at one end of the porch was struck by flying glass and received a bad cut on the head. Officer Floyd Stull was struck in the face as the men entered the crowd and one cheek lacerated. Vincent Brzezinski, another member of the police department was struck full in the face by a brick as he entered the parish yard. His face was cut but no bones were broken, and Michael Rzepka local officer received a painful injury to his ankle from another brick.

AUTO IS WRECKED

 

As the limousine retreated to its former position a smaller car at top speed dashed up to the limousine. Someone was seen to jump into the runabout and it was immediately turned straight toward the crowd.

The mob waited. In the hand of nearly every man, woman and child were some sort of weapon. 

The crack of an automatic pistol broke the tension. Bricks, clubs and Ice were thrown at the chauffeur, John Greenwood of the oncoming car. Bravely steering his car through the mob he halted just beyond the rectory. In the melee that followed Greenwood was struck across the face with an iron bar, his jaw being broken and the automobile almost turned turtle. The windshield was completely demolished and the top beaten until the braces were wrecked.  Men and women tried to enter the car to grapple with Father Gruza but were forced back by the two police officers.

Greenwood who was in a sub-conscious state after the injury recovered sufficiently to start his car and speed it west on Dunham.

“Come back again and we'll kill you and every cop” was the threat hurled after the retreating priest.

HOSE COMPANIES CALLED

Realizing the necessity of quelling the riotous action of the crowd, a call was sent to the No.2 and No.4 hose companies. Both companies responded and the street was clear for a moment. Firemen endeavored to attach a hose to the hydrant at Dunham and Webster streets. Hundreds of feet immediately jumped on the hoses and threats were heard when a fireman undertook to slip a wrench on the hydrant.

Inasmuch as Father Gruza had left the officers fell into line and retreated toward Arnold Street. “Beat it, You Boobs! We'll kill every cop on this beat! We'll teach the Pigs to stay away from here!” yelled the mob. Keeping closed ranks the officers passed through the outskirts of the crowd and the battleground was left to the infuriated mob of screaming men and women.

It was at this time that the frenzy was at the highest pitch. Someone yelled, “Take the goods, We paid for them!” and a wild stampede were started for the rectory. Women reached the house first. Tearing down the curtains from the walls, hunting out the costliest items of bedding, they scurried up and down throughout the house in an anxious search for everything that could be removed from the house. When the crowd gained the living room a wild search was made through the desk belonging to the former pastor. Failing to find anything they considered theirs members of the mob rushed to the second floor.

Practically the only thing left untouched was a large crucifix hanging on the wall of the priest's study. The great white image of the Savior looked down upon the mob as it surged through the room.

Reporter is Hurt

George Schock, a reporter for the Tribune forced his way into the house and went to the second floor of the building. “He's a Spy,” cried women and a marble statue of a saint were hurled at him. Striking his head at the base of the skull. Blood streamed from his nose as a result of the concussion and not until several friends of the reporter who were members of the parish came to his aid was he able to gain the outskirts of the crowd.

“We don't want any news,” yelled one man. “Tell them we'll starve Gruza or burn the house if he comes here” 

History of Trouble

The differences between the laymen and St Casmir's church and the church authorities dates back to the preparation of a petition requesting the appointment of Rev. Leon P Szybowicz C.S.C. as pastor of the parish, instead of the priest who was then considered for the place. The drafting of the petition was considered insubordinate by those in authority and disciplinary measures were at once taken. An appeal to Bishop Alerding was answered by a statement that he would not interfere with the authorities of the Order of the Holy Cross, with which the church was affiliated.

Leaders of the 35 societies of the church then addressed an appeal to Archbishop John Bonzano at Washington.

The controversy is said to have started when Rev. A.  Zubowicz was transferred to the pastorate of St. Hedwig church.  Rev Leon P. Szybowicz C.S.C. assistant at St. Casmir's was the parish favorite. He was not appointed pastor, however Rev. W.T. Szaleewski, C.S.C. being named.  On petition of the parish, Father Szaleewski was withdrawn and Rev. Boniface Iwaszewski C.S.C. assigned to the parish. Since that time the societies of the church have waited upon the Bishop several times, but he referred them to the Very Rev. Andrew Morrissey, provincial of the Order of the Holy Cross.

It is said that the people were disappointed over the failure of the bishop to pay them a visit when at St. Mary's College recently. The trustees contend that the trouble could have been quelled at that time if he had appeared and consulted with members of the parish or representatives of the parish.

 


Information submitted by: Jim Piechorowski and John Kovatch

Created: Thursday, August 25, 2005 - 09:09:55