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John Barzynski

When the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad settled its controversy over taxes on its lands in Nebraska counties, one of the terms of settlement was the company's promise "to use any inducement possible to bring settlers into the country." The railroad advertised abroad and in foreign language newspapers in the United States. Scandinavian, Czech, English, and Polish agents, as well as those of certain religious congregations, became active in Nebraska. In Sherman and Howard counties, in central Nebraska, the railroad had been granted title to the odd numbered sections, and Polish immigrants settled in these two counties. Nebraska History (June 1955) included an account of John Barzynski and the Polish presence in central Nebraska.

Barzynski, born in Poland, had an unusual background. His two older brothers entered the priesthood and after an 1863 insurrection in their home country, relocated in Karnes County, Texas. Barzynski at first stayed behind in Poland, studying for a time in Warsaw and Rome, and then joined his father and brothers in Texas. He served as superintendent of a parochial school in San Antonio and then entered the newspaper field. He was later editor of the Polish Catholic Gazette in Chicago and the author of the first Polish primer published in the United States.

While in Chicago he became agent for the Burlington lands in Howard, Greeley, and Sherman counties, Nebraska, and settled in Howard County. The railroad's desire to sell land coincided with Barzynski's desire to keep Poles in the United States in touch with each other and within the Roman Catholic Church. He saw the possibility of establishing a Polish colony in central Nebraska and within two years had settled four hundred Polish families in Howard, Greeley, Sherman, and Valley counties.

Barzynski became a permanent resident of Howard County in 1880. He tried in 1883 to establish a new town named Krakow west of the county seat town of Loup City, begun in 1873. The proposed town site was sandy and less desirable than that of Loup City, and the new settlement did not materialize. Barzynski lived only five years following his return from Howard County to Chicago in 1884, and died at the age of forty. Although his proposed town of Krakow did not succeed, the presence of many Poles in central Nebraska is proof of his influence.

(March 2003)

 

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