Earlier I had written a few posts about John Przybylski, son of Andrew and Frances Rochowiak. See here and here.

What fascinates me about this man is why did he change his name? Family lore has it he was involved in running liquor from Canada. I do not know whether this is true. However, Ken Burns’ series on PBS this week, “Prohibition,” certainly got me thinking. The Detroit “Purple Gang” was quite active in Toledo. While we have no connection for John to the Purple Gang, his name change and exit from Toledo coincides with the organized crime and violence that stemmed from Prohibition.

A couple of good reads to introduce us to what and who composed the “Purple Gang” is Detroit’s Infamous Purple Gang by Paul R. Kavieff and  Unholy Toledo by Harry R. Illman.

When Prohibition was in effect, it was pretty easy for bootleggers to use the narrow waterways of the Detroit River, St. Clair Shores, and also Lake Erie to transport liquor from Canada. One theory existed that it was quite easy to do so as a recreational fisherman or during winter when one could cross the frozen Detroit River into Windsor with little problem. Usually, the booze went to Chicago where Al Capone sold it under the “Log Cabin” label but market demand was strong too in Toledo. The Purple Gang seemed to be in direct competition with Capone–in essence, trying to tell Capone to keep his hands off of the eastern Michigan market. Toledo seemed to be strategically located as a stopover and hideout for gangsters.

A United Press article located in The Southeast Missourian on March 24, 1936 summarizes the situation:

I don’t think we’ll ever find a documented reason for John’s movements and name change. I don’t know if he were ever involved in bootlegging. But history does provides some interesting insight and this situation certainly does give credence to the family lore. My guess would be John Przybylski was not a violent person and the name change was due in part to avoid the violence and from being sought out. Rather because liquor was a commonly consumed without shame or guilt in Polish Catholic families (it is not a “sin” according to the Catholic Church and vodka is a cultural drink for Poles), a theory could be that John likely was seeking sources for personal consumption or possibly playing the role of transport for a while. He certainly was living in Detroit at the time, the 1920 census places him there. But by 1927, we find evidence of him living in Miami.

Prohibition was in effect in the US for 13 years–1920 to 1933. It produced an empire built on crime and violence and created unique and colorful characters in our history such as Carrie Nation. (An interesting observation: A slogan used during Carrie Nation’s tirades was: “All nations welcomed except Carrie.”)

A basis used to justify Prohibition was “immorality”–to combat drunkness and poverty. Instead, it created a monster composed of violence and crime. Reading about the Purple Gang certainly opened my mind–these gangs at first were primarily composed of immigrants who were combating severe poverty and discrimination.

Here is a photo of the 8th grade graduating class of 1933 from St. Hyacinth’s school. Alice and Aloysius (Ollie) Przybylski are twins, my first cousins. Thanks to John Plenzler for sharing this photo. Click photo for larger, high-res copy and to read the attached identification of class members.

St. Hyacinth 1933 8th Grade Graduation

St. Hyacinth 1933 8th Grade Graduation

As promised, here’s the documentation I have on Joseph Przybylski. I don’t know why I haven’t documented him while going through the offspring of Andrew Przybylski and Frances Rochowiak, but better late than never.

Joseph was born February 18, 1885 in Toledo, Ohio and was the sixth of ten children that I’ve been able to verify born to Andrew and Frances. Ironically, I remember stumbling upon Joseph while researching my grandfather, John Plenzler. John and Joseph were baptized the same day, in the same parish, by the same priest, on February 22, 1885. The Plenzlers and Przybylskis definitely had very intertwined lives.

Joseph married Rose Wiczynska in St. Hedwig’s parish on October 25, 1916. Joseph was 31, and Rose was 25.  I’ve transcribed this record as best as I could below:

No. 74
Matrimomium Contrahentium Nomina: Joseph Joannes Przybylski (juv 31 ex par???, St. Stanislaus Koska); Rosalia Wiczynska (coel. 25)
Residentia: Toleti, O., Toleti, O.
Nomen Parentum: Andreas Przybylski, Franciscea Rochowiak; Adalberti Wiczynski, Franciscea Donarski
Dies Matrimonii 25a Oct 1916
Testes: Casimir Wiczynski, Antonius Rochowiak
Sacerdos: B. Rosinski
Dies et Locus Baptismi: Oricudus (sp?) ex paroccia Stae. Antonii, Toleti, O.; Orincunda (sp?) ex paroccia, St. Hedwigis, Toleti, O.
Publicationes Dispensationes Adonationes: 3 procl.

Notice that one of the witnesses was Antonius Rochowiak. That is a link to investigate later for the Rochowiak family. My guess is that Antonius (likely Anthony) was a cousin to Joseph, nephew to Frances.

At the time of the 1920 census, Joseph and Rose had one daughter, Virginia. They were living at 507 Pulaski Street. (Gasp! He was living in the “rival” Polish neighborhood of Lagrinka! Yes, there was a bit of competition between the neighborhoods at that period. I’ve heard stories that men from either neighborhood would tease each other and daring each other to court or date women from “their” neighborhoods.) Joseph was employed as a riveter at a steel factory.

By the time of the 1930 census, Joseph and Rose were living in the Kuschwantz neighborhood, this time on Belmont a few blocks from Vance street where a number of Przybylskis and Plenzlers lived. By this time, the family had a total of four children:

  • Virgina, age 13
  • Richard, age 9
  • Alvina, age 6
  • Dorothy, age 1-3/4

The family lived in what’s called a “shot gun house.” These houses became ubiquitous in the older neighborhoods of Toledo, particularly the Kuschwantz where the lots were long and very narrow. The house still exists and here is a photo I located via Google maps:

Former Belmont Ave. of Joseph and Rose Przybylski

Former Belmont Ave. home of Joseph and Rose Przybylski--good example of a "shotgun house"

These houses were called shotgun because literally, you could point a shotgun through the front door and hit a target in the backyard. There would be one long hallway leading through the house, and all of the rooms were either on the left or right. Typically, these houses were one story with a basement and an unfinished attic and a sharply pitched, high roof. They were efficient to build and designed to fit on small, narrow urban lots. These houses were generally small–perhaps 1200 square feet total. As a family grew, sometimes the family would finish the attic to house older children.

Joseph died on July 8, 1937 at the age of 52. His obituary was published July 9, 1937 in the Toledo News-Bee and is transcribed below:

Joseph Przybylski died Thursday in his home at 1517 Pinewood Ave. He was 51.

He leaves his wife, Rose; three daughters, Mrs. Virginia Napierala and Misses Eleanor and Dorothy, a son, Richard; four sisters, Mrs. Mary Erdman, Mrs. Dorothy Sieja, Mrs. Netti Plenzler, and Mrs. Eva Hejnicki; a brother, Frank, all of Toledo, and another brother, John, Detroit.

Services will be held at 8:30 a.m. Monday in the residence at and 9 a.m. in St. Stanislaus Church. Burial will be in Calvary.

I don’t have a grave photo for him (yet). But I do have his burial record reflecting his grave location at Calvary:

No.: 38869
Name: Joseph Przybylski
Residence: 1517 Palmwood
Age: 51
Cause of Death: Unknown
Date of Interment: July 13
Grave: 100
Range or Lot: 10
Section: 40
Undertaker: F. Czglosz

Rose passed away on April 28, 1958. Her obituary was published in the Toledo Blade on April 30, 1958:

Mrs. Rose Mr. Przybylski, 59, of 1669 Pinewood Ave., died Monday in Maumee Valley Hospital.

Born in Swanton, O., she had lived in Toledo most of her life. She had been a member of the maintenance staff of the Toledo Stamping Co. for five years.

Surviving are daughters, Mrs. Virginia Napierala, Mrs. Dorothy Croniser; son, Richard; sisters, Mrs. Magdalene Admus, Mrs. Mary Konsinski, and Mrs. Clara Rochowiak; all of Toledo, and 13 grandchildren.

Services will be Thursday at 9 a.m. in St. Stanislaus Church. Burial will be in Calvary Cemetery. The body is in the Sujkowski Mortuary.

Note here too that one of Rose’s sisters married a Rochowiak! Another Rochowiak angle to investigate.

Rose’s burial record through Calvary Cemetery is transcribed below:

No. 59179
Name: Rose M. Przybylski
Residence: Maumee V. Hosp.
Age: 58
Cause of Death: Auracular Fibrillation
Date of Interment: May 1
Grave; 79
Range or Lot: 10
Section: 40
Funeral Director: W.K. Sujkowski
Remarks: 1763

Thanks to John Plenzler and Justin Croniser, there are photos of Joseph and Rose:

Joseph Przybylski

Joseph Przybylski

Rose Wiczynska Przybylski

Rose Wiczynska Przybylski

A while back, John Plenzler shared a number of photos with me. In a document with the photos, he explained that he believed this photo to be of the Przybylski brothers–the sons of Frances Rochowiak and Andrew Przybylski. However, Frances and Andrew had only four sons that I am aware of and can document: Frank, John, Joseph, and Stanislaw.  Here is the photo that needs some identification. There is no date for the photo. Click the photo for a larger, high-res version.

Frank Pzybylski, back row, 3rd from left, Joseph Przybylski front row left,  possible John Przybylski front row right--need to identify others

Frank Pzybylski, back row, 3rd from left, Joseph Przybylski front row left, possible John Przybylski front row right--need to identify others

Frank Przybylski is the third from left, back row. Joseph Przybylski is at the left, bottom row. It is possible that John Przybylski is bottom row, last on right. Can anyone identify the other gentlemen? Date of the photo unknown. May be a wedding photo. Stanislaw died in 1919 due to an industrial accident. Might Stanislaw be in this photo?

With this post, I also realized that I have never written up any documentation for Joseph Przybylski. Coming soon.

If anyone has any insight or information, leave a comment here or drop me an email and I’ll follow up.

This post continues on with the siblings of Joseph Plenzler.

Elizabeth was born in Poznan in March 1866. A passenger manifest from Philadelphia places her date of immigration as April 27, 1888 at the age of 22. About a month later, she married Joseph Zalas in South Bend, Indiana on May 30, 1888–making me think the marriage was already planned when she left Poland.

By 1900, Elizabeth and Joseph were living nearby in St. Joe’s, Indiana and had six children per the census:

  1. Stanislaus (b. October 1889)
  2. Joseph (b. November 1890)
  3. Tekla (b. August 1893)
  4. Agnes (b. January 1895)
  5. Martin (b. September 1896)
  6. Wiktor (b. November 1899)

What’s interesting about the 1900 census data for the Zalas family is that it shows that a Kazmier Mruk is living with the family as a border. Elizabeth’s sister, Margaretha had married a Michal Mruk. There very likely is a connection, that perhaps this Kazmier is a brother to Michal Mruk and is an area for future research. Also note that one of the daughters of Margaretha Plenzler and Michael Mruk, Tekla, married John Przybylski. I have not yet found whether there is a link from this John Przybylski to my branch of the Przybylski family; however, my instinct tells me there is some link. These families all came from villages surrounding Gluszyna and Wiorek, Poland. Again, it’s another area for research.

By 1910, the census shows three more children born to the family:

  1. Clara (b. 1902)
  2. Lucia (b. 1904)
  3. Hermonin (Harry) (b. 1907)

Joseph was naturalized in 1924. He passed away July 1, 1927. His obituary was published July 2, 1927 in the South Bend Tribune and is transcribed below:

Joseph Zalas, age 60, died in his home, 1052 West Ford Street at 9 o’clock Friday morning, following an illness of four months. He was a resident of South Bend for 40 years. He was born in Poland March 1, 1867, and is survived by his wife, Mrs. Elizabeth Zalas; three daughters, Mrs. Agnes Kluk, Mrs. Lucille Cwidak, and Miss Clarice Zalas, and five sons, Stanley, Joseph, Martin, Victor, and Henry, and two sisters, Mrs. Mary Janiszczak and Mrs. Hattie Plencner. Funeral services will be held Monday morning in St. Casimir’s Roman Catholic Church, the Rev. S. J. Gorka, C. S. C. officiating. Burial will take place in St. Joseph’s cemetery.

There is a name in this obituary that leads to another Plenzler connection: Mrs. Hattie Plencner. Remember that Plencner is a variation on the Plenzler name and it was used interchangeably within this family. This may mean one of Joseph’s siblings married a Plenzler sibling. However, The only sons that I am aware of within this generation are John (who lived in Middle River, Minnesota) and Joseph (who lived in Toledo, Ohio). So we have another clue to another Plenzler who may have immigrated to the US–another area for research!

Elizabeth passed away December 19, 1950. Her obituary was published in the South Bend Tribune the same day and is transcribed below:

Mrs. Elizabeth Zalas, aged 79, of 1502 West Ford street, died at 4:25 a.m. today in her residence after an illness of three days. She was born in Poznan Poland, March 6, 1871, and came here 65 years ago. Surviving are four sons; Stanley, Joseph, Martin and Harry; two daughters, Mrs. Agnes Jackson and Mrs. Lucille Cwidak; 19 grandchildren; sixteen great grandchildren and a sister; Mrs. Constance (Kunegunda) Zalas, all of South Bend. Friends may call in the St. Joseph funeral home after 5 PM Wednesday until funeral services at 9 am Saturday in St. Casimir’s Catholic church. Burial will be St. Joseph cemetery. She was a member of St. Anne’s Society.

I do not have an original of this obituary as it was shared with me via email as a transcribed copy.

Family oral history tells that Elizabeth, Catherine, and Kunegunda  communicated with the family in Toledo via written letters and that there were personal visits between the families; however, I have no direct evidence of this although find it a credible story. South Bend, Indiana and Toledo, Ohio are only about 160 miles apart. By the 1890s and early 1900s, there were several railroad lines in Toledo that would have made this possible.

As usual, if you have insights, comments, corrections, etc., let me know.

One of today’s themes over at GeneaBloggers is Wedding Wednesday. Below is a photo of the wedding of Raymond Przybylski and Virginia Wesolowski. Date unknown. The groom’s sister, Pearl Przybylski Zarecki is standing next to the bride. Click photo for larger, high-resolution image. If you can identify any of the other individuals in this photo or have more details, drop me a comment here or an email. I’ll follow up.

Raymond was the son of Frank Przybylski and Josephine Mielcarek, born April 4, 1919, died October 27, 1986. Photo courtesy of John Plenzler.

Wedding photo of Raymond Przybylski and Virginia Wesolowski

Wedding photo of Raymond Przybylski and Virginia Wesolowski

Stumbled upon a contact within ancestry.com who is a granddaughter of Martha. She graciously shared a few photos of Martha Sieja and her husband, Casper Roman. Martha was a daughter of Victoria Przybylski and Frank Sieja. She was my first cousin, once removed.  Martha and Casper were married in 1933 in St. Anthony’s parish.

Here are the photos:

Martha Sieja and Casper Roman, 1932

Martha Sieja and Casper Roman, 1932

They seem to look as if they were a pair of tend setters. In 1932, Martha was 18 years old. To my eye, it appears as if she were quite fashionable. Casper cuts quite an attractive figure in that well-tailored double-breasted suit as well.

Martha Sieja and Casper Roman, wedding photo

Martha Sieja and Casper Roman, wedding photo

Martha passed away in 1961. Her obituary was published in the Toledo Blade on December 31, 1961 and is transcribed below:

Martha Roman

Mrs. Martha D. Roman, 48, of 2432 Rosewood Ave., died yesterday in Mercy Hospital.

A lifelong Toledo resident, she was a member of the 14th Ward Oldtimers Auxiliary.

Surviving are her husband, Casper, daughters, Mrs. Bernadine Kajfasz, Mrs. Patricia Augustyniak, Mrs. Rosemary Leady, Mrs. Diana Mumford, and Kathleen, all of Toledo, and Mrs. Marcia Garcia, Findlay; sisters Mrs. Irene Plenzler and Mrs. Alice Gutowski, both of Toledo; brothers, Roman Sieja, Toledo; Edmund Sieja, Burbank, Calif., and Norman Sieja, Sylvania and 14 grandchildren.

The body is in the Sujkowski Mortuary. Services will be Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. in St. Ann’s Church with burial in Calvary Cemetery.

Casper passed away in 1968. His obituary was published in the Toledo Blade on June 16, 1968 and is transcribed below:

ROMAN–CASPER V., age 65, of 2031 Evansdale. Widower of the late Martha; dearest father of Mrs. Bernadine Kajfasz, Mrs. Patricia Augustyniak, Mrs. Rosemary Leady, Mrs. Marcia Garcia, Mrs. Diane Schmidt, Mrs. Kathleen Relily; brother of Mrs. Bernice Jaskowiak, Mrs. Alice King, Mrs. Stella Mitchell, Dorothy Borkowski, Henry and Daniel Roman, all of Toledo; also survived by 20 grandchildren. Funeral Thursday, 8:30 a.m., Sujkowski & Son, 1629 Nebraska. Requiem High Mass, St. Ann’s Church, 10 a.m. Interment Calvary. Recitation of Rosary Wednesday, 8 p.m.

As always, if you know anything about Martha or Casper, please leave a comment here and I’ll follow up.