Reputed to be the oldest Polish settlement in America; is certainly the mother of Polish settlements in Texas. Established Dec. 1854 by Polish Catholics; in fulfillment of vow, immigrants named their new town Panna Maria, meaning Virgin Mary in Polish. Early years of the colony were severely difficult, plagued by disease, climate extremes and outlaws who infested the region. Neighboring cowboys and ranchers often ridiculed the strange, non-English speaking foreigners. The community established the first Polish school in the United States, and other villages like Cestohowa, Pawelkville and Kosciusko sprang from this original settlement.
Today, the older generation still speaks an antiquated Silesian dialect (difficult for modern Polish speaker to understand), but Polish is no longer taught in local schools, and the language is being lost.
Visit the community cemetery and Immaculate Conception Catholic
Church, topped by a cross carried from Poland by the original
colonists more than a century ago. A museum near the church may
be visited by request at the church. Southeast of San Antonio,
just off Texas 123 between Stockdale and Karnes City; near Helena
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