Pulaski Street runs from Crompton Village in West Warwick to the Quidnick Village of Coventry. Pulaski Street is named after General Casimir Pulaski and the bridge at the former Crompton Mill site is named the General Pulaski bridge. At the Coventry end of Pulaski Street is the Our Lady of Częstochowa church. The two names have an interesting historical connection!
Pulaski was a Polish military leader who was enticed by Benjamin Franklin to lead American troops in the Revolutionary War.
Before coming to the colonies, General Pulaski built a name and reputation for himself fighting against the Russians in his native country of Poland. One of his most notable accomplishments was successfully liberating the city of Częstochowa along with the Jasna Gora monastery (see picture to the left from Wikipedia). The Jasna Gora Monastery was home to sacred the image of the Black Madonna of Częstochowa (image below from Wikipedia). The shrine was also known as Our Lady of Częstochowa. After arriving in the colonies, Pulaski fought at the Battles of Brandywine and Germantown, Pulaski was mortally wounded during a cavalry charge at the Siege of Savannah.
Throughout the 19th century, a growing number of Polish immigrants arrived in the Pawtuxet Valley. Many were fleeing because of Russia’s control and partitioning of Poland. Many also fled because of Russian persecution of Catholics. Many of those Polish immigrants couldn’t understand the French masses at St. Johns or the English masses being held at St. Mary church in Crompton. The Polish population continued to grow, as did a demand for a Catholic church that held Polish-speaking mass. In 1905, the Bishop of the Diocese of Providence Matthew Harkins ordered a census of the area. The census revealed that there were 100 Polish families in the Pawtuxet Valley.
The Bishop sent Father Francis Kluger to organize a Polish parish. Father Kluger began celebrating Mass in the basement of St. John’s Church in Arctic. Father John Nowicki arrived in Quidnick on November 2, 1906. He was also known as Father John Marianski and it is thought that he changed his name so that the Russians couldn’t track him down. He fled Poland after being placed on the Czar’s “black list.” In 1907, a permanent church was built for the Polish immigrants in our area. They chose to name it after the sacred shrine to the Virgin Mary, otherwise known as Our Lady of Częstochowa. They also named a local thoroughfare after the great Polish-American hero, General Casimir Pulaski!
If you like local history or just history in general, check in each week on Facebook or at www.satchellforsenate.com. Each week I’ll be posting a Throwback Thursday picture of West Warwick as well as interesting facts about our town’s great history!