St. Hedwig

St. Hedwig Riot

There are probably a number of Toledoans who are aware of the 1885 riot at St. Hedwig’s. What I was never clear about were the details–why and who was involved. Larry and Rosemary Chorzempa wrote about this in an article, “St. Hedwig Parish: The First Polish Church in Toledo.” The article can be found through the link. That article piqued my interest because of two names that kept coming up in some of my research: Dalkowski and Brzeczka. These names popped up periodically as I would scan the Ameryka Echo archives on Chronicling America.

On 28 June 1885, an argument broke out in the Szelaszkiewicz Brothers’ Saloon at Dexter on Locust between the pastor’s (Rev. Vincent Lewandowski) supporters and detractors. A fight began and two men were killed, several severely wounded, and 30 arrested and charged with crimes. Tension had been rising in the parish for sometime as many did not care for Rev. Lewandowski and wanted him to leave the parish.

Per a report published in the The Palmyra Spectator 10 July 1885 the event that caused this riot: “A week ago, somebody tried to blow up the priest’s house with gunpowder, and (Peter) Szelaszkiewicz and Albert Dalkowski were suspected. Dalkowski lives next door to the saloon.” Dalkowski was arrested for this and Peter Szelaszkiewicz provided his bail. Both Szelaszkiewicz and Dalkowski were opponents of Rev. Lewandowski.

The Palmyra Spectator, Clipping from 10 July 1885, reporting on St. Hedwig Riot
The Palmyra Spectator, Clipping from 10 July 1885, reporting on St. Hedwig Riot

The two men who were killed were Martin Dobrowolczki and Adalbert Dalkowski. Both were still relatively young men in their late 30s or early 40s with families. When word got out that Dalkowski was bailed out, a gathering occurred in the Szelaszkiewicz saloon and fights broke out. Dalkowski’s home was near the saloon and the crowd became thoroughly maddened and demolished his home and furniture and badly beat him, and Dalkowski died shortly after the beating. Martin Doborowoczki was merely an onlooker who was shot through the forehead and instantly killed during the mayhem. Dalkowski’s wife, Michalina was not seriously injured but she and the family lost their home. Adalbert Dalkowski was buried in St. Francis’ Cemetery, Doborowczki in St. Patrick’s.

Rev. Lewandowski left the parish soon after. A little more than six months after this incident, the church burned. Father Augustinski and later, Father Wieczorek, were placed at the parish. Lou Herbert, a former Toledo television reporter, stated the New York Times reported this incident as arson as it occurred during the trials of those who were arrested on various charges during the 28 June riot.

St. Hedwig eventually re-built the church and it was rededicated on 27 June 1886. As the parish grew, a need was identified for a new church. In 1891 the cornerstone was laid and the new church dedicated on 23 April 1893.

Now, to return to the names Dalkowski and Brzeczka. As pointed out earlier, Adalbert died due to a beating he received during the 1885 riot. A lawsuit was filed by Dodge & Raymond of Toledo against the rioters for $10,000 in damages. This lawsuit was filed in behalf of Mrs. Dalkowski who was widowed due to the incident and had two sons, Frank (born in 1871) and Bolesalaw (born 1874).

Law Suit filed, as reported in the Eaton Democrat on 30 July 1885

After a time, Adalbert’s wife, Michalina, remarried. She married Michael Brzeczka. Michalina and Michael married in Cincinnati, at a now-defunct St. Stanislaus parish on the city’s west side on 10 January 1887. It seems Frank and Boleslaw took on a good relationship with their step-father.

Beginning in the mid-1890s, there seemed to have been a rancorous relationship that developed between Boleslaw, his step-father and the Ameryka Echo. Boleslaw worked for a short period for the Echo and it seems this contentious relationship may have started about this time. Both men, Boleslaw and Michael were publicly well known. Each ran for local elected offices within their ward. Paryski spoke his mind clearly. Boleslaw and his step-father did not seem to mind defending themselves against Paryski.

And it appears that the hard feelings within the community continued well after the events of the riot and any criminal charges and sentences were long settled. This played out in the Echo for a while. Boleslaw Dalkowski was a fairly prominent member of the Toledo Polish American community. After Boleslaw left the Echo, he worked for the US Postal Service managing a local branch and later he led Liberty Loan Drives during WWI and recruited local Polish youths who were rejected from service in the US Army to serve France.