John Przybylski, son of Andrew Przybylski and Frances Rochowiak, proved to be elusive. Through correspondence with a few distant cousins, some details on his life became uncovered. I had stories about John, but found no evidence of his existence until locating his brother, Joseph’s, obituary published in the Toledo News-Bee on July 9, 1937.
Family stories state that John had been running from gangs in Toledo and had been involved in obtaining liquor from Canada in the 1920s. I could not find any records of border crossings from Canada; however the 1910 census and the 1920 census indicates that he was living in Detroit during that period. Additionally, these census records indicate that he was married to a woman named Hattie. John’s occupation was listed as a molder; Hattie’s as a dressmaker. The 1920 census indicates the name change.
I then located a marraige index from St. Hedwig’s parish in Toledo that states John had married a Hedwig Krzyzaniak on June 20, 1906. Hattie appears to be an Anglecized version of her name.
While the 1920 census data reflects that John was born in Ohio, it’s likely this data is incorrect. His birthdate of May 7, 1878 was noted on his World War I draft registration card places him as the third child to Frances and Andrew, born before the fourth child, Rose, who was born in 1880. Through census data, I’ve noticed that the family emigrated to the US about 1880 0r 1881, and Rose was born in Poznan according to the 1900 census data that shows her with her husband, Casper Koralewski. So it is reasonable to assume that John also was born in Poznan. Family oral history also places John in Miami as a boat captain and states that he changed his surname from Przybylski to Seblaski to elude the gangs. It’s reasonable to assume that by the 1920 census, he was hiding his identity. At the time of 1917-1918 draft effort, John was already using the last name of Seblaski and has an address in Detroit. His World War I draft registation places him in Detroit and notes wife, Hattie, as his nearest relative. What is interesting to note here is that his birthplace is listed as “Austria?”. This is an angle to research later–we know the family was from Poznan and that Poland during that period was divided between Germany, Austria, and Russia. It is also possible that John hid his true birth place in order to avoid being traced. Also by the 1917-1918 draft effort, John was already using the last name of Seblaski.
By 1927, there is evidence that John was living in Miami. An article in the Miami Daily News on June 12, 1927 mentions a John Seblasky. The article is located here and is transcribed below:
Man Saved from Death by Train By Police Dog
“King” Proves He Has More Than Ordinary Canine Sense in Heroic Feat
“King” may be a dog, but he is no ordinary dog. He has more than common dog sense. He saved a man’s life Friday night.
The man had gone out on a “party,” where a “good time was had by all.” It grew late and slowly and unsteadily he staggered homeward.
A taxicable driver let the man out at Biscayne blvd., between N. E. Sixth and Seventh sts., and he started–a bit wobbly, to be sure, toward the bayfront, apparently intending to “make” one of the boats.
But things sudenly became dark and the man fell across the railroad tracks. He didn’t seem to mind. He really didn’t know his precarious position. So he just slept. In the meantime, a freight train was slowly rumbling nearer and nearer.
“King,” who was being taken out for a walk by his owner, John Seblasky, of the yacht “Hedwig,” moored at Pier 4, broke loose. He apparently sensed something wrong. later, the dog came back and by barking and jumping on Seblasky’s shoulder indicated something was wrong.
Guided by the dog, Seblasky and an F. E. C. railroad watchman found the sleeping man. A few minutes after they dragged the body off the rails the freight train rumbled by.
“King” is a Doverman Pincher German shepherd, commonly known as “police dog.” And he came to the United States in company with a dog which Senator James Couzens of Michigan, its owner, has insured for $8,000.
The 1945 State Population Census of Florida places John in Miami as a boat captain but notes his birthplace as Michigan. Thanks to John Plenzler, a copy of his Captain of Port identification is available here and was issued also in 1945. Note that this identification provides his birthplace at Toledo, Ohio. John Seblaski passed away in 1950. John Plenzler related a story to me that his parents drove to Florida to visit John. When they arrived there, they learned John had passed away just days prior to their arrival.
A Florida state death abstract for John Leo Seblaski states the year but no specific date. No further data is available yet for Hattie and no children have yet been identified.
Below are a few photos of John Przybylski Seblaski, thanks to John Plenzler.
Joseph, Frank, and John Przybylski (left to right)
John Przybylski Seblaski (date unknown)