One of Michigan’s Polish Pioneers—Ambrose Ciechanowski
his gr-grandson: Charles Ciechanowski-Chinoski-Chase
Ambrose was born December
in Sliwice (Gross Schliewitz in German)--Tuchola, Bydgoszcz, Poland to Thomas (Tomasz)
Ciechanowski and Francisca, nee, Dobecka. Ambrose had four siblings: Thomas (b.
December 20, 1830), Josephine (b. March
Johannes ( b. May
and Theodora (b. May 14, 1837). Within a few years after the birth of
Theodora, their father, Thomas, died.
With a family of active young children, Francisca needed someone to help
her raise these children and serve as a father figure.
In this same time
frame, another family had experienced the loss of a parent. Casper (aka Casimir) Smielewski had been married to Catherine, nee,
Gliniecka and resided in Sliwice, Tuchola, Bydgoszcz, Poland. Together they had seven children. About 1840, Catherine died. Casper suddenly was in
need of someone to help raise his children.
Either through previous knowledge of each other, or through mutual
friends, Casper Smielewski and Francisca Dobecka-Ciechanowski formed a close
and mutually supporting relationship which ended in marriage in 1842.
The new Smielewski
couple had a child, Thomas, about 1843.
The Ciechanowski children were either adopted or simply assumed the
surname Smielewski. When Ambrose made his
first land purchase in Michigan, it was done using
the surname Smielewski (misspelled Smelewski on the
Land Patent dated 1 July, 1857). In the 1880 Census for Huron County, Ambrose
Ciechanowski (by then reverting back to his original birth name, although
misspelled in the this census as Cichanowski)
is shown with his wife and children.
Additionally, Casper Smielewski and Francisca Smielewski are included
and are indicated as being Father and Mother respectively.
first into Canada. He and many other Poles entered Canada through Quebec and lived in Canada for a period of
time that probably included, for Ambrose and family, parts of 1854 and possibly
1855. While in Canada, the Poles worked
at building Canada's railway system
and clearing forests. Initially, they
obtained work through an "agent" in the Quebec City area. Their use of only the Polish language
confined them to limited job opportunities.
They were laborers who worked on the railroad during the warmer months,
and felled trees (for railroad ties and buildings) during the winter. Many of them lived with theirs and other families small roughly hewn cabins. During the actual railroad construction the
workers probably lived in boxcars. When
building the railroad, they traveled by train to the end of the line and worked
on extending that line. They built a
railroad from Quebec to Thomasville and later from Quebec to Paris in Upper Canada, Canada West, Ontario. The Smielewski’s
(Ciechanowski’s) eventually settled in the Paris, Ontario area where they
stayed till about 1854/1855. Paris was later
contained within the current Brant County of Ontario.
Ambrose, with his
older half-brother Thomas Smielewski, presumably traveled to the Ontario, Canada port of Goderick and took a boat to
MI---possibly to Detroit. From Detroit he probably sailed
to White Rock in the "Thumb" of Michigan. White Rock is a port city on Lake Huron, located opposite
the location of what became Parisville.
Ambrose recognized the farming potential of the land in what is now Paris Township, Huron County. Much of this land was covered with forest and
included much marshland that needed to be drained to eventually support
farming. His experience in working to help build the Grand Trunk Railroad of
Ontario, Canada taught him how to properly and efficiently drain wetlands.
his first parcel of land for which he received his first Land Patent (#32523) July
for 120 acres in the NE Quadrant of Section 34, in Paris Twp, Huron County. The actual
purchase took place in late 1856 in Detroit. He paid 50 cents an acre,
or, $60 in gold. As stated above, this
purchase was made under the name Ambrose Smielewski (Smielewski was the surname
of his stepfather) and was for the east half of the NE quarter and the SW
quarter of the NE quarter of Section 34.
owned the SE quadrant (160 acres) of Section 27 in Paris Township, Huron County. This property fronted on two roads: 1)
Parisville Rd and 2) Munford Rd. On this
land they primarily grew oats, wheat, Navy beans and some alfalfa. Corn was not grown in this region in large
quantities till many years later when new hybrids were developed to grow in
this Michigan climate. This land in Secton
27 was purchased in 2 parts: (1) on July 21, 1860 he purchased 120 acres for a
cost of $150 that consisted of the following parts of Section 27: the West half
of the SE Quadrant + the NE Quadrant of the SE quadrant and (2) on May 17, 1865
he purchased 40 acres for a total cost of $1 that consisted of the remaining
portion of the SE Quadrant of Section 27 described as the SE Quadrant of the SE
Quadrant of Section 27. It is within
this quarter section that the Centennial Home of the Ciechanowski’s (changed to
Chinoski in late 1800s) still stands.
Ciechanowski is consider to be one of the original pioneers and founders of the
town of Parisville in the Township of Paris, in the County of Huron, in the
“Thumb”: of Michigan. Historical
documents say that it was through his driving force that other key Polish
pioneers came and helped found/develop Parisville in the era of 1854-1856.
In 1861, Ambrose
married Frances (Franzka) Polk, the daughter of another important Parisville
pioneer, Francis (Franz) Polk (my gr-gr-grandfather) and his wife Josephine
(Josefa), nee, Slawik. Frances was born 1
in Dembowa Gora, Lubliniec, Poland. Together, Ambrose and Frances had 14
children: Eva, Peter (my grandfather), Victoria, Louis (Ludwig), Sherman, Simon, Josephine,
Mary, Frank, August, Juliana (Anna), John, Alexander and Joseph.
Ambrose died 23
and is buried in St. Marys’ Cemetery in
Parisville. Frances Polk-Ciechanowski
died 31 December, 1928.
Author: Charles Chase, firstname.lastname@example.org