East Side of Detroit Polonia


by Jim Tye
As early as 1872 there were some 300 Polish families in Detroit.    These Polish pioneers organized the first Polish Parish in Detroit in 1872, St. Albertus, located at St. Aubin and Canfield.  The area they occupied was
bounded by Canfield, Garfield, Orleans and St. Aubin.  By 1882, the Polish population in Detroit had increased to 1190 families and in 1885, the Polish population of the City was estimated at 22,000. In rapidly increasing numbers
the number of Poles in the City increased to 35,000 by 1892; 48,000 by 1900 and in 1903 in upwards of 120,000 due to increased immigration. 

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(photo courtesy of Susan Tyszka, her mother's communion day   ABT 1923/4) Ballaun 2-Studios   5458 Chene St. and 1466 Canfield Avenue East


Alexander and Mary (nee Hintzka) Gajewski's Wedding Day:

November 25, 1901

This photo below was taken at the Joseph Sowinski Studio on 375 Canfield in Detroit.

(photo   courtesy of Susan Tyszka, granddaughter of the Gajewski's)

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Imprint found on the right of the wedding photo.

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The Polish settlers were self sufficient, establishing their own shops, bakeries, hardware stores, breweries (Zynda Brewery) on Canfield near Russell, as well as even having their own farmers market, The Chene-Ferry Market, which served the community until recently.  There you could buy a porker on the hoof, a live chicken, duck or turkey or buy fresh produce.  In
1916, Joseph Witkowski established one of his clothing stores at the corner of Chene and Adele.   


In 1886,   the Rev. Dominic Kolasinski, Former Pastor of St. Albertus, organized the third Polish Parish in Detroit, Sweetest Heart of Mary, at the corner of Russell and Canfield,  independent of then Diocesan control.  To counter this rapidly growing congregation, the Diocese organized the fourth Polish Parish in Detroit, St. Josaphat's in 1889, at the corner of Hastings and Canfield.  The ever increasing number of Poles resident in Detroit rapidly expanded beyond the original Polish settlement and settled in ever increasing numbers steadily northward.  Another offshoot from St. Albertus,
St. Stanislaus Bishop and Martyr,  was founded in 1898, with a founding population of several hundred Poles, resident in the area near Medbury and Chene. The next East side Polish parishes to be organized was St. Hyacinth's in 1907, at McDougall and Farnsworth, and St. Florian's in 1908. 
There were also religious congregations established for Non-Catholic Poles: a Polish Protestant Church at St. Joseph & Hancock, antedating 1902; and a Polish Lutheran Church , established in 1913, at Elmwood and Griffin.


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"Mothers of the Bride and Groom after a  wedding at St. Stanislaus"--September 1946


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St. Albertus Catholic Church



The East side Polonia found work as unskilled laborers, in the Michigan Stove Works, at the American Car & Foundry Company, at the Michigan Central Depot and many worked at the various tobacco factories or as makers of snuff (Goike's Kashub Snuff), in existence until recently.       
In 1910, the establishment of the Dodge Brothers Motor Car Company (later known as Dodge Main) in Hamtramck,  lured many thousands of Poles to settle northward in Hamtramck.    By 1930, the Polish population of Hamtramck exceeded 50,000.

Webmasters Note: Check this site at Detroit News Rearview Mirror on the "Poletown Battle"

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