Polish American Freemasons: Patria Lodge No. 123 of Toledo, Ohio
I have come across copies of The Universal Freemason, dated 1917 and 1918. Reading these documents, I was amazed to learn that there was a Freemason Lodge that was formed with Polish Americans in Toledo. Some rather familiar names shows up in this document, including a Waclaw Mierzejewski. (I cannot establish any relationship to this man, there is no clue as to who he is in this document. He would not be my father’s brother–these publications were circulated well before my grandparents came to the US and my uncle Waclaw was only 11 or 12 years old when he arrived here.)
This Lodge was chartered 5 May 1918 and the ceremony for its charter was held in the Knights of Pythian Castle Hall in downtown Toledo at Ontario and Jefferson. Routine meetings were held at the Knights of Phythian Castle as well. Today, this building is still in existence. It is now simply referred to as the Pythian Castle and is under restoration. If interested in seeing this building as it is being restored, along with some historic photos of this building, there is a Facebook page dedicated to this building: Pythian Castle, Toledo.
Officers of this Lodge, named Patria Lodge No. 123 were:
- A. A. Paryski
- Stanley Ostrowski
- Nicholas J. Walinski
- Francis Friedel
- Felix Czech
- Waclaw Mierzejewski
- Stanley Nowak
- Anthony Klaniecki
- Antoni Lewandowski
- Andrew Krasucki
- Dr. Anthony Krieger
- Michael Shuchala
- Stanislaw Kozbial
- Edward W. Zygila
- Walter Monczynski
- Adam Solarczyk
- Marian Urbanik
A. A. Paryski contributed an article to the June 1918 publication entitled “Masonry in Ancient Poland.” In this article, Paryski explains on how Freemasonry took hold in Poland. I will provide some excepts below and if anyone would like a full copy of these issues of The Universal Freemason that contain this essay, please contact me and I will be happy to email you a PDF of the full history.
Freemasonry was introduced into Poland directly from Saxony in 1739. Count Rutowski, a natural brother of King August III, organized a lodge called the “Three White Eagles” in 1738 in the city of Dresden, and a year later established a branch thereof in Warsaw. In 1739 John Mniszech, the two Potockis, Wilhorski and Oginski organized a separate lodge in the city of Dukla. This lodge, how ever, did not distinguish itself in any particular manner
In 1747 J. Mokronowski established an independent lodge in Warsaw, which was called the lodge of “The Three Brothers,” and which was soon reorganized by Frederick, son of Minister Bruehl, and thereafter known as the lodge of the “Virtuous Heart.” Several higher degrees were then added to the lodge. This was the beginning of the first Polish Grand Lodge which was organized in 1767 with August Moszynski, son of Countess Cosel, related to the House of Saxony, as Grand Master. This lodge possessed its own meeting place in its own building in the suburb of Bielany, and was ruled by the statute formed in 1769.
The first Polish lodges were connected with the Saxon Royal House. Therefore, it is not unusual that during the reign of Stanislaw Poniatowski they were aligned against the new king, and many Masons were found in the Barsk Confederacy, although its characteristics were almost wholly Catholic and the leading star of the Confederacy was the Rev. Marek, one of the greatest personages in our history who can be well placed on an equal pedestal with Dlugosz, Skarga, Staszic, Brzoska and others.
Ignace Potocki, a brother-in-law of Marshall Lubomirski, through the influence of the latter, who was a member of English Masonry, received a diploma of the highest Masonic honors directly from the Earl of Manchester, then Grand Master of the Grand Scottish East. Potocki made energetic efforts to unite all the Polish lodges into a distinct organization. In 1780 he secured an acknowledgment of this distinct independence from all the foreign East, and was made the first Grand Master of all the lodges united in the kingdom of Poland and Lithuania, after which, with the aid of Heyling and Glayr he revised the existing regulations and augmented them in a separate national direction.
On March 4, 1784, an official opening of the Polish National Grand East, with a pervading Polish character, was held. Thirteen united lodges belonged to this organization, i. e., four from Warsaw, four from Wilna, three from Posen, one from Grodno and one from Dubno.
The time from the formation of the lodge to the third partition was the brightest era of Polish Masonry. The king and the most potent minds belonged thereto as well as nearly all adherents of reform in the Four Year Council. That is the reason why Polish Masonry is being looked on from a wholly different angle than the same organization in an international light. In a way it was a ferment in society during the most important time and the constitution of the third of May which is now so enthusiastically celebrated has much to credit thereto.
What Paryski is explaining to us is that during the reign of King Stanisław August Poniatowski, Polish Freemasonry took a strong foothold and expanded greatly. Those who belonged to a Freemason lodge were highly involved in the fate of Poland and worked to reunite the country as well as to establish civil reforms. The 3 May Constitution of 1791 has been considered one of the most important dates in Polish history. This Constitution was in effect for only a year, until the Russo-Polish war of 1792, which led to the second partition of Poland. While this constitution was only in effect for one year, it has been considered by historians and political scientists as a progressive document–it kept alive Polish aspirations for an independent nation and a just society over the generations that Poland was divided between Germany, Russia, and Austria. It is poignant to understand that this Freemason lodge in Toledo was founded in 1918. That year Poland regained its independence after World War I and the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. Poles who immigrated here often came under duress: harassment by Bismarck, efforts by Germany and Russia to “Germanify” or “Russify” their controlled areas of Poland–Russian language use was required by Poles in Russian controlled Poland, uprisings, and economic hardships. They did not forget their homeland and remained patriotic to their homeland as well as becoming integrated into American society. Many fervently wished for an independent Poland and some wished to return to Poland some day.