For over 150 years, Milwaukee has been home to a large community of people of Polish descent. The Milwaukee Polonia Project hopes to show the interweaving, intertwining family trees that resulted in this community. It is hoped that, eventually, all the families can be connected to one another. The Milwaukee Polonia Project is also a means to explore our common history and celebrate our shared heritage.


Sunday, June 24, 2012

Featured Profile #15 - Frank S. Wasielewski

Francis (Frank) S. Wasielewski (1874 - 1937)

Portrait contributed by Paul Wasielewski

The above is the information on Dr. Frank Wasielewski as of 1909.   He went on to become the President of the Johnston Emergency Hospital, on the staff of St. Luke's Hospital, President of the Polish Physicians and Dentists Association, President of the Pulaski Council (a group composed of representatives of various Polish organizations), Chief Examiner of the Polish Association of America, and a Member of the Milwaukee Board of Education.  On the personal side, Frank and Felice had a third son in 1912 and named him Eugene.

Relation to Nearest Featured Profile (Hattie Baranowski, Featured Profile #12):  brother-in-law.

Path From Nearest Featured Profile:  Hattie Baranowski > sister,  Felecia (Baranowski) Wasielewski > husband, Francis S. Wasielewski

Note:  The above excerpt is from Volume 2 of  Memoirs of Milwaukee County, edited by Jerome Anthony Watrous, and published by the Western Historical Assoc. in 1909.  It contains a large number of similar sketches for other prominent members of the Milwaukee Community at that time, many of them Polish or of Polish descent.  We anticipate using many of those here in the Featured Profiles.  They contain a wealth of information not available from other sources.  However, some of it must be confirmed.  In some cases, the information in these profiles conflict not only with official documents but also with itself.

Other Sources:

"Arrange Rites for Physician", Milwaukee Journal, February 4, 1937, pg. 8 (on Google New)

Wasielewski, Francis, Jr.  in The Pinkowski Files, quoting Who's Who in Polish America

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The $50 Suit

The following story appeared in the Milwaukee Journal on May 21, 1946:

Names Yet to be Connected:

Joseph Pacholczyk
Herbert Schultz (possibly)

Monday, June 11, 2012

Felony Murder - The Death of Dominic Gapinski

Dominic Gapinski, as published in the Milwaukee Journal
By all appearances, the evening of April 3, 1908 should have been quite uneventful for the Board of the Skarb Sobieski Building Loan Association. It started out as every other Thursday evening with members of the Association coming to make their weekly deposit. The deposit was usually a small amount hoarded from the family budget, often only a dollar. Sometimes, after a good week, a few precious extra pennies could be added. But no matter how small the deposit, it was always made with the hope that, eventually, with hard work and persistence, enough could be set aside to qualify for a loan to buy or build a house of their very own.

That week, about 400 men had come to make their deposits. The Association used as its quarters the basement of the Mitchell Street Savings Bank so there was no safe available to it. All the money it had collected that evening, about $230 in cash and $380 in checks, sat in a strong box on the meeting room table. After the deposits had finished, the members of the Board and the officers sat down for other business. Maybe it was to decide who would be lucky enough to qualify for a loan. Maybe it was some other matter. Along with the Trustees and officers were two shareholders. The men were seated around a “T” shaped table. They included Frank Mucha (President), Michael Szymborski (Vice President), Frank Poznanski (Corresponding Secretary), Stanley Maternowski (recording secretary), and Trustees Michael Tomaszewski, Michael Anczak, John Paszkiewicz and Vincent Lewandowski.

Dominic Gapinski was the brother-in-law of Walter Celichowski (Featured Profile #13) and his partner in the business of Celichowski and Gapinski. He was also the Treasurer of the Association, and on that fateful evening, he was seated at the head of the table with his back towards the door. He was making out a receipt for Michael Salaty, and thus, he did not see three men enter the room. The others seated around the table looked at the new men with an inquiring expression. Were they shareholders with some new business? The oldest of the three men was about 24. He had blond hair and mustache and was wearing a light hat and light overcoat. The other two were perhaps 20 or 21. They were clean-shaven. They wore dark clothes, but no overcoats.

Suddenly, two of the men drew revolvers. They pointed them at the officers and cocked the hammers.

“Sit down, be quiet, hands up,” they ordered in “Russian Polish.” The last command was probably unnecessary. Everyone was in stunned silence. They were trying to comprehend exactly what was happening. Was this some kind of joke?

In a matter of seconds, it became all too clear. The eldest robber snatched the cash box from the table and headed for the door. This was something Dominic could not allow. He sprang into action. The door to the room opened inward, and Dominic threw his weight against it to prevent the robbers from escaping. Then, he grabbed the cash box and tried to wrest it from the robber. The two men struggled for a few seconds. Then the thief swore in anger, and in a flash Dominic collapsed to the floor, a bullet to the brain. The robbers fled, but the Association men sat stunned in their chairs. When they did finally take action, some tried to aid Dominic while others tried to chase the robbers, but they were too late in both cases. Dominic was dead and the robbers had disappeared without a trace, (However, the cash box and all but $200 in cash was eventually found in different places nearby.)

The police were notified “by telephone”, an event so new it was still noted in the newspaper. Within a short time, a description of the culprits had been circulated and police had been sent to the depot and the interurban trains to stop the felons from leaving the city. That very evening, Patrolman Kelly saw two men matching the description at First Ave. and Lapham Street. They fled when he approached. Patrolman Kelly chased them for a half mile until they disappeared into the maze of track and switching trains at the Northwestern Railroad yard. However, the game was still afoot, and other police were out chasing down other leads. Before the night was out, five men had been pulled in for questioning. In a cunning move, the police placed an informant, one who spook Polish, in a nearby cell. Soon, the informant heard two of the suspects make incriminating statements, and they implicated a third man was also already in custody. They were F. Szymeczak (20), Joseph Marusik (19) and Jacob Zajaczkowski (20). All three were Poles from Russian-controlled Poland and Szymeczak was just recently arrived from Cleveland. It was Marusik who was accused of doing the actual shooting. Szymeczak confessed almost immediately. (Perhaps he did not realize that committing a felony in which a death results can carry a murder rap, even if you don't pull the trigger.) By way of explanation, Szymeczak said, “I was hungry and I had nothing to eat. I had to do something to keep from starving to death.”

A fourth man was also implicated in the scheme to rob the Association. John Tarasinski, who resided in the same boarding house with the other men, was the supposed mastermind. It was said that he had been a depositor with the Association, but that he had withdrew all his money the week before the robbery. When he had done so, he had gotten $5 less than he had expected, and he had threatened to “get even.” In the end, all defendants were either convicted or plead guilty and sent to Waupun. However, Tarasinski continued to argue his innocence. He appealed his conviction all the way to the Wisconsin Supreme Court where it was upheld. The decision in Tarasinski v. State became a leading case in Wisconsin criminal law for a time. Concomitant with his appeals, Transinski asked the governor for a pardon, but was also disappointed in that cause. However, he did eventually get his sentence reduced from 25 years to 12 years.

At the time of his death, Dominic Gapinski was about 40 years old. He was married with six children who ranged in age from 17 to less then a year. His oldest son, Bernard, would eventually join the priesthood and serve in several local parishes. He became the principal pastor of St. Alexander's parish in 1958 and served in that capacity until his retirement in 1968. By coincidence, St. Alexander's is the same parish at which Bernard's uncle (and Dominic's brother-in-law), Bronislaus Celichowski, was serving as pastor at the time of Dominic Gapinski's death in 1908.

As an interesting coda to this story, the Tarasinski defense team was comprised of the husband-wife law partnership of Charles Peterson and Antionette Jankowska-Peterson. One suspects that Antionette's probable ability to speak Polish may have played a factor in why they were retained.  However, she was not relegated to the mere role of translator.  In fact, it was Jankowska-Peterson who gave the final argument to the jury. In doing so, she may have become the first woman attorney to take part in a murder trial in the state of Wisconsin. 

Antionette Jackowska-Peterson, as published in the Milwaukee Journal
 Sources (all page references in the Milwaukee Journal are to the page on Google News):

"Alleged Slayer Makes Threat,"  Milwaukee Journal,  April 7, 1908, p. 6.

"Fiends' Plot is His Reply," Milwaukee Journal, May 25, 1908, p. 1

"First Woman Lawyer to Argue in Murder Case in Wisconsin,"  Milwaukee Journal, May 27, 1908, p. 1

"Governor Will Refuse Pardon for Tarasinski,"  Milwaukee Journal, July 27, 1910, p. 1.

"Police Say They Have Murderers,"  Milwaukee Journal, April 4, 1908, p. 1

"Sheriffs Dodge Polish Throngs," Milwaukee Journal, April 8, 1908, p. 4

Tarasinski v. State, (Wisc. Supreme Court, 1911) 146 Wisc. 508131 NW 889.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Status Update - June, 2012

First off, I have to make an apology.  Two weeks ago, I wrote that this weekend I was going to post the story of the murder of Dominic Gapinski.   However, in doing so,  I hadn't noticed that this weekend is the first of the month, a time which I usually reserve for my status updates.  Therefore, I decided to do my regular status update this weekend, and post the story of Dominic Gapinski next week.  I'm sorry if I misled anyone.

Second, I wanted to mention again that I have set up a Facebook page for the Project.  I did this mainly so that people could add relevant pictures.  So, those of you who are on Facebook, please feel free to add your family pictures.  I just have two requests.  First, keep in mind that the focus of the page is the Milwaukee Polish community prior to 1950.  Second, please identify the individuals in the pictures to the extent that you ca.

Now, for the regular stuff:

Family Names Added Since Last Update:

Number of Profiles Added Since Last Update:  240

New Intra-Connections (Lucht to Fons)

64) ....Andrew Kitkowski > wife Agnes (Michalski) Kitkowski > sister, Veronica (Michalski) Stachowiak > husband, Leo Stachowiak > sister, Sallie (Stachowiak) Ruszkiewicz .... 

65) .... Stanley Baranowski > sister, Josepha (Baranowski) Celichowski > husband, Walter Celichowski > sister, Blanche (Celichowski) Hibner > son, Bronk Hibner > wife, Esther (Fons) Hibner > father, Louis A. Fons

66) ....Roman Czerwinski (II) > father, Roman Czerwinski (I) > brother, John Czerwinski > daughter, Anna (Czerwinski) Celichowski > husband, Casimir Celichowski > father, Walter Celichowski....

67) ....Walter Celichowski > daughter, Eleanor (Celichowski) [Baranowski] Walsh > daughter, Eleanore (Baranowski) Fons > husband, Alois Fons > father, Louis A. Fons  

PCN: 7.75

Historical PCN Data: 

June, 2012:  7.75
May, 2012:  9.33
April, 2012:  16.67
March, 2012:  16
February, 2012:  12.8
January, 2012:  19

Newly-Discovered Changed Names:

Czaskos to Carter
Napieralski to Napier
Napieralski to Napierla
Ryczek to Rick