Oconto County WIGenWeb Project
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Oconto County
Wisconsin

SOBIESKI 

Named in honor of King John Sobieski of Poland, the Polish immigrants who settled here bought the land for farming with the few precious dollars earned by hard city labor. The land was owned by logging baron J.J. Hoff who opened the first land office in Sobieski to sell the cut-over property for farming at $15 an acre in 1895. Prior to that time, there had been a few sawmills along the Suamico River, which were manned by local Native Americans and a few white managers, but no permanent settlers as far as is known. Buying 20 acres to start with, the Polish families saved and expanded their farms to 40 then 130 and finally 160 acres, hand clearing the stumps and turning the soil. Hard working and industrious, the families, though not wealthy, were very successful.
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The saloon, which still stands and has been run by the members of the same family since 1908 , is a very old building and possibly one of the original buildings in Sobieski. Originally the saloon was owned by the Rhars Brewery.  It had the only well in Sobieski for a while, a flow well. The water from this well was used by the residents, and to fill Bass Lake, a lake the JJ Hof had dug out just to the north of his land office.  contributed by Mike

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The following gives a detailed, first hand account of the Polish people who settled in Oconto County in the later 1800's. Coming from a homeland that had known foreign occupation and poverty for centruies, these people somehow managed to immigrate to North America and start a new life of freedom. Hard work was not a problem; it was the only life they knew well in order to survive. Owning land, having a homestead, and learning to read and write were great achievements in and of themselves. Many were the first in their entire line of ancestry to achieve this status. The following report was written by  Reverand Francis Wlaslowski (Laslow in English), a Catholic Priest who was raised in the Polish homeland, studied in Europe while working as a laborer to meet his expenses, and came with his people to serve them in America. He spoke and wrote fluiently in his adopted English language, also in German and French, beside being one of the few educated Poles it immigrate. His great passion for these settlers, and for his religious calling, is understandable, even in this modern day and age, and should be taken in context of that late 1800's time. RITA

The Polish In Sobieski
from
"The Catholic Church In Wisconsin"
1898
Sobieski is without a place of worship, although the people, who are exclusively Poles, intend to build one in the near future, and would in fact, have done so long since but for lack of neccessary mans. The people in this vicinity are very good Catholics, but, being poor and but  recently arrived, they cannot  accomplish  all their sense of duty  inspires.  Another drawbacks to the interests,  is the want a school, which is badly needed; however, that is also an impossibility for the present time at least.

Here, also, as in the rest of the congregations attended from Flintville (note: in Brown County - the main parish at this time for the Oconto County missions of Chase, Sobieski, Brookside and Spruce),  the   Poles  constitute the larger  element.  They are as a class a thrifty and industrious people, showing marked respect for the authority of the Church and devotion to  its institutions.  It would not, therefore, be surprising, although their number at present is quite limited, should they at no distant time establish in this vicinity one of the most substantial and influential Catholic centers within the diocese. 

At present these people are very poor, and many of them are compelled to be satisfied with a dugout for a dwelling.   The interior of these wretched places is no more inviting than is their external appearance, a bench and table, made of the , roughest kind of lumber, an old wooden traveling chest and a rude bed, constituting, in many instances, the entire furniture possessed.  The struggle made by these people to obtain a foothold is sometimes a protracted and arduous one, as upon arriving at their location, they have but little, if any, money to do with.  In some instances, and they are by no means of rare occurrence, the head of the family buys forty acres of land for $300 or $400, one-eighth or one-tenth of which,  or even  less, is all the money he possesses. In this condition he undertakes to clear the land, build a home, support a family and pay interest and principal on the investment. A few succeed in effecting their purpose, but there are many who fail, it often being the case that, after years of effort upon their part, they are compelled to yield up their interest in the property and, seek an opportunity elsewhere, to begin life over again. Such surroundings and conditions are certainly no sinecure for the poor settler, no matter how stolid a disposition he may possess, nor are they overwhelmingly inviting to the one who is sent among these people to administer to their spiritual necessities; not that they are unwilling or indifferent, but rather that it is absolutely impossible for them to do for the cause of religion that which is oftimes required of them.

Once established in his new home, however, the immigrant begins life in earnest and faces its various problems with a fortitude that deserves a more propitious fate than that with which it is generally rewarded.

If  money is limited and he is compelled to buy on time, prices are commensurately exorbitant; and there are so many things that he must need have — a wagon, a cow, poultry and numerous implements — all of which, of course, he can obtain, for in  every  settlement are to be found men both willing and anxious to extend credit for these purposes; but the price that he is compelled to pay virtually makes of him a slave for many years to come, and, in fact, he is lucky if he manages to escape from their clutches at all. As to the necessaries of life, why, such are generally obtained in abundance from the little garden patch, a sort of dernier resort, when all other means of obtaining sustenance have failed. The smaller tools used about the place are generally made by the farmer, and are naturally of the crudest, while he, in many instances, besides attending to his numerous other duties, converts himself into a clothier, shoemaker and hatter for the entire family. But, amid all of these discomforts, these people adhere to the teachings of the Church, and with really sublime confidence struggle along in the firm belief that affairs will ultimately turn out for the good. The foregoing gives but a brief and unsatisfactory idea of the original condition of many of the settlements throughout the Northwest, and it is from the knowledge born of experience that the pastor of the parish at Fliiitville and adjoining missions, whose people are fast nearing a stage of comfort and independence, expressed it as his opinion that this settlement will at no distant date become one of the strong Catholic centers of the diocese.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

The Rev. F. Laslow, pastor of the congregation at Flintville, is a Pole by birth, his proper name being Wlaslowski, which, however, to facilitate the pronunciation in America, was shortened to Laslow. He acquired his education for the priesthood in the schools of Europe, and was ordained in Germany. There, too, he acquired that breadth of mind which has ever made him a friend and sympathizer of the down-trodden and oppressed. Father Laslow acquired the rights of citizenship in the United States a number of years ago, and as such has ever been an ardent and consistent supporter of the Union. The one thing, however, of which he is particularly proud, is the fact that he is "by the grace of God, a priest of the Holy Roman Catholic Church." That he thoroughly appreciates that fact is strongly evidenced in the untiring and zealous manner in which he has labored for the interests of the different parishes which have been placed under his charge since coming to America.
 


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