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History Highlights

Panna Maria History Timeline

September 26,1854   Under the leadership of Fr. Leopold Moczygemba, 150 Polish immigrants departed Upper Silesia, Poland by train for the seaport of Bremen, Germany.
October 1854   The immigrants sailed to America on two ships, the Weser and the Antoinette.
December 3, 1854   After arriving in Galveston harbor, the immigrants secured transportation to the coastal port of Indianola and, from there, traveled by ox cart with their belongings to San Antonio.
December 21, 1854   They arrived in San Antonio and traveled to the place of their settlement on the plateau above the junction of the San Antonio River and Cibolo Creek.
December 24, 1854­   The immigrants arrived at what would become Panna Maria. Fr. Moczygemba celebrated a midnight Mass of Thanksgiving under the now famous Oak Tree.
February 1855   A group of immigrants departed for Bandera.
1855   Indian raids south and north of the colony kept the settlers on edge.
Spring 1855­   The average size of a farm was 68 acres. In order for each farm to have access to a water source, the farms were configured in long, narrow tracts. Settlers planted their first crops of corn, potatoes, melons, cucumbers, and pumpkins. Farm animals and livestock included goats, chickens, milk cows, oxen, cattle and mules.

August 14, 1855   Fr. Moczygemba blessed the cornerstone of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church.
December 1855­   A second larger group of Polish Silesians, about 700, arrived in Galveston aboard the ships. Most settled in Panna Maria, Bandera and a new settlement on Martinez Creek that would later become St. Hedwig.

1856   A third migration of Polish Silesian immigrants arrived in Galveston. Most settled in Panna Maria and surrounding areas.
September 29, 1856   Fr. Moczygemba consecrated the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church, the first permanent Polish Catholic Church in the United States.
1856-1857   Immigrants endured the Great Texas Drought which lasted fourteen months.
1858   John Gawlik built a sturdy stone cottage in Panna Maria.

1858   Classes began at Panna Maria’s first school in a section of John Twohig’s barn.

History Timeline - Continued

April 12, 1861   The United States Civil War began. Texas elected to join the Confederacy.
July 1861   A Confederate Company was formed in Karnes County, The Panna Maria Grays. Four Polish Silesians were on the muster. As months followed, larger numbers of Polish Silesian men were conscripted into the Confederate Army and became part of the 6th Texas Infantry and the 24th Texas Cavalry.
January 11, 1863   Union forces attacked Confederate forces at Dawson’s Post where the Confederate defenders, including the 6th Texas, surrendered. Confederate soldiers of Polish descent were offered the opportunity to join the Union cause and many did so, including Peter Kiolbassa who would later become a civic leader and politician in Chicago.
May 1865   The Civil War ended and federal troops occupied Texas.
November 1866   Polish Resurrectionist Priests, Fr. Bakanowski and Fr. Zwiardowski arrived in Panna Maria.
November 1866   Land was secured and plans were drawn for a two-story school building.
May 15, 1868   St. Joseph School was dedicated and became the first Polish private school in the United States. The monthly tuition cost was fifty cents per child.

June 1869   A major flood destroyed crops and homes.
August 15, 1875   The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church was struck by lightening and destroyed. Plans to rebuild began immediately and the new church was completed within two years.
1909   Three Panna Maria men travelled to the Texas Panhandle to explore the possibility of establishing a Polish Silesian colony in northern Texas. The community of White Deer was established.
1917   The United States entered WW I. Polish Silesians from Panna Maria, and other Texas Polish communities, joined the United States Armed Forces.
1929   Panna Maria celebrated the 75th anniversary of its founding.

1939-1945   WWII was fought. Many courageous young men from Panna Maria honorably served their country.   
1954   Panna Maria celebrated its Centennial Anniversary.

History Timeline - Continued

May 3, 1966   President Lyndon Johnson invited members of the Panna Maria community to the White House Rose Garden in Washington, D.C. where a proclamation was read recognizing Poland’s millennium of Christianity. An icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa, by artist Jan E. Krantz, was presented to President Johnson who asked that The Black Madonna be placed in Panna Maria’s historic Immaculate Conception Church. In June 1966, the painting's arrival in Panna Maria was celebrated by an estimated 10,000 people attending the commemorative event.
1966   The Panna Maria Historical Society was formed to promote the preservation of historic structures. The Panna Maria Historical Society has renovated Pilarczyk's Store to serve as the Visitors' Center, opened a museum in the historic St. Joseph School, and published Silesian Profiles, a two volume set of books that chronicles the genealogy and experiences of the first immigrant families who arrived in Texas in the 1850s through the1870s.

1976   Panna Maria was included on the National Register of Historic Places. The Panna Maria Historic District encompasses 3,500 acres and 25 historic structures.

October 13, 1976   The remains of Fr. Leopold Moczygemba, the father of American Polonia, were reinterred at Panna Maria under the Oak Tree. This is same tree under which he celebrated a Midnight Mass of Thanksgiving with the first Polish Silesian immigrants on December 24, 1854.
September 1987   Pope John Paul II visited San Antonio. The people of Panna Maria were invited to Assumption Seminary to participate in the final event of John Paul II’s Texas visit, a papal audience especially organized for members of Texas’ Polish communities.
December 30, 1994   Fr. John Yanta, a descendant of the early Polish Silesian immigrants whose grandmother was born under the Oak Tree, was ordained a Bishop in an outdoor celebration under the same historic tree in Panna Maria.
July 1998   Former Polish Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek visited Panna Maria.
October 22, 2004   Solidarity Movement Founder and Former Polish President Lech Walesa, accompanied by Polish Ambassador Przemyslaw Grudzinski, visited Panna Maria.

May 7, 2016   Polish General Consul Mariusz Brymora, accompanied by Honorary Consul Zbigniew Wojciechowski, visited Panna Maria. They were hosted by the Panna Maria Historical Society and the Polish Heritage Center at Panna Maria.