In 2005, the Texas Historical Commission designated the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Roman-Catholic Church Cemetery of St. Hedwig, Texas an Historic Texas Cemetery. The following narrative was included as part of the application for historic designation to the Texas Historical Commission.
Traveling from their homeland in Polish Upper Silesia, the first group of Silesian colonists to settle in East Bexar County began arriving in Texas in December 1854.1 In 1856 they bought land from C. G. Napier who divided his farm in the John Springer Survey or Bexar County Survey Number 31.2 Its location on the Martinez Creek watershed, gave the community its first name, “Martinez”(not to be confused with the modern east Bexar county community of Martinez). The first group of settlers included fewer than twenty families. In 1857 the settlers completed construction of a mission church, built of logs, on the land of Ludwig (Zajac) Zaiontz.3 Within a few years, additional Silesian settlers moved into the area and cleared land for farms in the sparsely settled area.
Circuit Riding Priests
From the beginning, circuit riding priests from the church at the Silesian community of Panna Maria in Karnes County served the spiritual needs of these immigrants.4 Records for the church reflect the itinerant nature of the clergy that attended to the community. From 1856 to 1861 the marriages and baptisms of Silesian settlers were frequently recorded at St. Mary’s and San Fernando churches in San Antonio. Often the Silesian settlers traveled to the established churches in San Antonio to receive the sacraments.5
While scheduled services by the circuit riding priests and visits to the churches in San Antonio allowed for planning of marriages and baptisms, burials required more immediate action. Perhaps for that reason many of the earliest burials for the community went unrecorded. Most of these unrecorded burials are a part of oral traditions passed down by families6; only a few records exist for Silesian settlers who were buried in consecrated cemeteries in San Antonio.7
A cemetery at Martinez is mentioned in Church records for the first time in 1863. Fr. Amandus, Pastor of the German Congregation in San Antonio made the entry:
“On the 27 of November I buried Rev. Julian Przysiecki born on 26 January 1826 in Poland and died on the 25 of November 1863 by a fall from his horse near the Martines Church which he attended from Panna Maria, where he has his residence and Pastor of that place. Died without the last sacraments.”
This entry is the first recording of a burial in the church records at Martinez. The second entry records the burial of Valentine Gorzell on October 2, 1867. A subsequent entry dated February 11, 1882 records the movement of Valentine Gorzell to the new and present cemetery. 8
The death of Fr. Julian Przysiecki in November 1863, left the Polish-speaking population of Texas without a Polish-speaking priest until priests of the Congregation of the Resurrection arrived in 1866.9 These priests provided the inspiration for the community to coalesce around the building of a new stone church in1868.10 At the dedication of the cornerstone for new church on April 25, 1868 it was placed under the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is at about this time that the community took the name St. Hedwig. The land for the new church and cemetery was conveyed to the Bishop of Galveston on February 7, 1871.11
From available records it is impossible to determine the exact date when burials ceased at the mission church and began at the cemetery for the new church. The he burial of Father Julian Przysiecki reveal that as early as November 25, 1863 burials were conducted at the cemetery for the mission church in St. Hedwig. The burial and subsequent movement of Valentine Gorzell demonstrate that as late as October 2, 1867 burials were still conducted at the cemetery for the mission church in St. Hedwig. This first mission church and its cemetery no longer exist.
On May 25, 1872 the church members joined with Anton Kosub, the administrator, to charter the present cemetery. The charter included an initial list of subscribers and the terms for burial.12
A comparison of tombstones in the cemetery with written church records reveals missing records for several deaths from 1860 through 1875.13 In the mid 1870s, with resident clergy assigned by the San Antonio Dioceses to the church at St. Hedwig, record keeping greatly improved. Since that date, church records not only note the burial of the pioneer settlers with Silesian surnames, but surnames associated with ethnic Poles, Mexican, German, Irish, Alsatian and other groups. The cemetery is still in use and the church has recently enlarged it in order to accommodate future burials.
1. Albert Blaha, “Gessner From Bremen,” PGST News, Vol. XI, Fall 1994, 18.
2. San Antonio, Bexar, Texas. County Clerk’s Office. Bexar County Deed Records, N2: 46, 94, 95, 96, 97, 125, & 166.
3. Stefan Nesterowicz, Travel Notes, translation of Notatki z podrózy: 1909, trans. by Marion Moore Coleman (Cheshire, CT: Cherry Hill Books, 1970), 89.
4. Adolph Bakanowski, O.R. Polish Circuit Rider: The Texas Memoirs of Adolph Bakanowski, O.R. 1866-70, trans. Marion Moore Coleman (Cheshire, CT: Cherry Hill Books, 1971), 89.
5. John O. Leal, San Fernando Church Baptismals 1851-58 (San Antonio, TX, Oct. 1977), 261, 265, 279, 287, & 302. San Antonio, Bexar, TX. Baptismal Register of St. Mary Catholic Church 1859-1918, (LDS microfilm #25467).
6. “The Passenger List of F. H. Schuler, 1855,”published in PGST Polish Footprints, March 1999, 43. shows Mary Zuber Kosub (the first wife of Anton Kosub, an early settler) traveling to Texas in 1855. Bexar County, Texas: 1860 Federal Census, 465. shows her living with her family in Martinez. John O. Leal, San Fernando Church Baptisms 1858-1863: A Continuation (San Antonio, TX, Dec 26, 1992), 33 #356 Kozub, Agatha. shows the baptism of Mary Zuber Kosub’s last child.
John O. Leal. Marriage Records of the Cathedral of San Fernando 1856-64. (San Antonio, TX, June 27, 1992) February 16, 1863, #40. records the marriage of the widowed Anton Kosub to Francicska Kiolbassa. The recorded baptism of Mary Zuber Kosub’s last child and the subsequently recorded marriage of her widowed husband allow for an approximation of her date of death. Her burial at the cemetery located at the mission Church is a part of the verbal family history. Many families possess similar oral traditions for loved ones buried without record.
7. “Passenger List from the New Braunfels Zeitung: Jan. 4, 1856,” PGST News, Vo. XI, #3, Fall 1994. reports Jacob Lubinsky departing for Texas with other Silesian immigrants. He traveled on the ship Gessner and arrived at Galveston on December 20, 1855. San Antonio, Bexar, TX. County Clerk’s Office. Bexar County Brands, B:1156. show that on December 19, 1856, Jacob Lubinsky registered his cattle brand and recorded that he lived (on the Martinez). John Ogden Leal, Camposanto: An Ancient Burial Ground of San Antonio, Texas 1808-1869 (San Antonio, TX. Oct. 1975), 125:1304. records the burial of Jacob Lubinsky at the Camposanto in 1857.
John Ogden Leal, Camposanto: An Ancient Burial Ground of San Antonio, Texas 1808-1869 (San Antonio, TX. Oct. 1975), 125:1306. records the burial of Anna Pierdolla, the daughter of Adam Pierdolla, a Silesian settler living on the Martinez, at the Camposanto in 1857.
8. St. Hedwig, Bexar, TX. Burial Records of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church 1863-1957 (LDS microfilm #25495), 1 & 2.
9. Adolph Bakanowski, O.R., Polish Circuit Rider, trans. Marion Moore Coleman (Cheshire, CT: Cherry Hill Books, 1971), Introduction.
10. Anton Kozub, Journal. Unpublished personal journal documenting events of daily life in the community of St. Hedwig, Bexar, TX. 1868-1890. Original in possession of Allen and Regina Kosub.
11. San Antonio, Bexar County, TX. County Clerk’s Office. Bexar County Deed Records, W1: 65.
12. Allen and Regina Kosub, “1872 List of Charter Members of the St. Hedwig Cemetery, “ PGST Polish Footprints, Vol. XIX, #1, Summer 2002, 7-9. A copy of the original membership list of the Cemetery of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church as it appears in the cemetery records kept by Anton Kozub 1872-1890, a translation of the original is also included.
13. San Antonio, TX. The Daily Herald, July 13, 1871, p. 3, col. 1 “Local-District Court”. San Antonio Daily Express, July 12, 1871, p. 3, col. 1, “Local Intelligence.” Ibid, July 13, 1871, p. 3, col. 1, “Local Intelligence.” report the murder of Lawrence Anton Ploch, a member of the Martinez community. Attacked on 1 April 1871, he succumbed to his wounds in May 1871. His widow is listed among the original subscribers to the cemetery established in 1872. Although Lawrence Anton Ploch’s grave is prominently marked in the cemetery his burial is not documented in church records.