Czestochowa (Cestohowa), Texas


This is the view of the community of Czestochowa one sees when you turn off of State Highway 123.


The Catholic Church is located so that it can be seen from a great distance. Coming from either north or south, it stands out like a jewel in the setting of Karnes County.


This marker is to the right front side of the Church. It reads: "Nativity of Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church, Czestochowa, Texas, Parish founded in 1873. This memorial honors the first forty founding families, the pastors, and parishioners, who have loved God, Mary, and neighbor during these years."


A historical marker stands before the Church. It states: "The second Polish colony in Karnes County, the village in this area grew out of a small settlement known as St. Joe and was formally established in 1873. At times the priest at Panna Maria would conduct services at St. Joseph School in what would become Czestochowa. The "Mother Colony" church at Panna Maria was destroyed by lightning in 1877; Czestochowa settlers decided to build their own church. This was the subject of much controversy among the Polish pioneers of Karnes County. Anton Jarzombek (1836-1922) and Frank Mutz (1814-1891) each donated land for the church. Area residents contributed their labor to build the eighty-five by forty foot church with Gervase Gabrysch (1830-1904) as contractor. Bishop Anthony D. Pellicer blessed the church on February 10, 1878. Father W. Pelczar was assigned as the first pastor that September. As a sign of their reconciliation, the parishioners from the newly rebuilt Panna Maria church presented the new parish a large painting of the Virgin Mary of Czestochowa, the Patroness of Poland. The two congregations often shared leadership in the ensuing years. The Cestohowa church (adopting the Americanized spelling of the community) thrived into the 20th century. In the 1930s the church underwent intensive additions and remodeling. Though the original walls remained, the roof was completely removed and the ceiling raised. The north and south wings were added and the steeple was increased in height. In 1998, the church celebrated its 125th anniversary. At that time, the parish consisted of 380 members. The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church continues in the traditions of its founders."


A second historical marker stands near the Church. It states: "Near this site (about 2.5 mi. N on Cibolo Creek) stood the 18th-century Spanish fort of El Fuerte de Santa Cruz del Cibolo, usually called El Fuerte del Cibolo or El Cibolo. Built to protect the many Spanish ranches between San Antonio and La Bahia (now Goliad), the fort was occupied first from 1734 to 1737, and again from 1771 to 1782. The land between the San Antonio River and Cibolo Creek, called "El Rincon", was part of an area deeded by the King of Spain to missions and many private individuals. The site of El Fuerte del Cibolo was part of a private ranch called El Rancho de San Bartolo which belonged to Andres Hernandez. In 1772 the Spanish government formally authorized the establishment of fifteen presidios (forts) from California to Texas. El Fuerte del Cibolo, which had been reactivated in 1771, came under that authorization and remained an active fort until 1782. Twenty soldiers were stationed at El Fuerte del Cibolo on July 4, 1776. Some of them helped move cattle and horses from this area to the Gulf Coast, where Spanish forces under Gen. Bernardo de Galvez defeated the British during the American Revolution, thereby contributing to the winning of American independence."


The community hall in Czestochowa


The community cemetery located just down the road.


A historical marker stands near the cemetey. It states: "Jacob Lyssy (1837-1880) and John Pawlik, Jr. (1845-1912) of the Czestochowa parish each donated one acre of land to Bishop Anthony D. Pellicer of the Archdiocese of San Antonio to be used as a burial ground for the newly established Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church at Czestochowa (later spelled Cestohowa). The town also was known as St. Joe because of the St. Joseph Catholic School there. Early graves were often unmarked, or their markers were displaced. The earliest marked grave is that of Franciscus Gawlik, who died in August 1878. Spanish influenza attacked the lives of many Texans during the epidemic of 1918 to 1920. Several graves date from that period, including those of Frances Moczygemba Gawlik and three of her children, who died in the same week of March, 1920. Most grave markers were inscribed in Polish until the 1930s. Among the graves of interest are those of many persons who were instrumental in the formation of the Czestochowa parish. The Rev. Stanislaus Przyborowski (1872-1957) served the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church for 35 years and established several other Catholic churches in the area. The Rev. Edward Dworaczyk (1906-1965) was the author of many Polish history books. Of the more than 75 military veterans interred here by the year 2000, several served in the Confederate Army. Others served in World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. At the dawn of the 21st century there were 864 graves in this cemetery. Various caretakers and volunteer labor continued to maintain the site, which remains a chronicle of Polish American settlement in Texas."