A History of the KOWALLEK Family in America…

Chapter IV. Cleveland, Ohio


The first three generations of the Kowallek family are listed here. More information regarding living individuals is available to family members by contacting the author.
Let me start by saying that the microfilm records that I have used to put together this piece of the puzzle (Baptism/Marriage/Burial Records of the Catholic Church in Graudenz, Westpreußen for the years 1661-1900 ) spell the surname both as “Kowallek” and “Kowalek”. The same is also true for “Witkowska/ski” and “Wittkowska/ski”. I will use the former spelling from this point forward in both cases.
And in case you didn’t already know, names which end in “-ski” are masculine and names which end in “-ska” are feminine.

I. The Kowallek’s in Westpreußen…

Map of West PrussiaI have been successful in tracing our Kowallek family back to the year 1841 in Graudenz, Westpreußen (West Prussia). As a point of reference, you can use the map on the right to locate Graudenz, which is now the city of Grudziadz in Poland.
The earliest recorded evidence that I have come across regarding our Kowalleks are the baptisms of the children of Matthäus (Matthew) Kowallek and Marianna Bielicka. I can find no reference to his birth nor to his marriage to Marianna Bielicka in the records from Graudenz. As a matter of fact, I can find no mention of Kowalleks in Graudenz prior to 1835 at all. This leads me to conclude that the Kowalleks may not have been originally from Graudenz.
Matthäus Kowallek (my great-great-grandfather) and Marianna Bielicka had the following children:
Maria (1841 – ?)
Auguste (1843 – ?)
Anna (1846 – 1862)
Ignaci (1849 – 1849)
Ignaci Kowallek died in 1849 at the age of 2 months. His mother, Marianna Bielicka, died a few days after the birth of Ignaci, probably due to a complication from childbirth. Anna Kowallek died in 1862 at the age of 16. She never married. Further research is required with regards to Maria and Auguste. Did they marry? When and to whom? Did they have children? Did they come to America? When and where did they die?
Kowallek/Piasecka Marriage RecordMatthäus Kowallek married Anna Piasecka about 10 weeks after the death of his first wife, Marianna Bielicka. In those days, it was not uncommon for a widower to remarry soon after the death of a wife, especially if there were young children at home. A notation on this marriage record translates roughly to…
“Matthias Kowalek shoemaker and widower in Graudenz with Anna Piasecka, daughter in Zlotori near Thorn of the deceased landowner Johann Piasecki”
Zlotori is modern day Zlotoria, about 30 miles SSW of Graudenz. Thorn is modern day Torun, which is due south of Graudenz.
Matthäus Kowallek (my great-great-grandfather) and Anna Piasecka had the following children:
Julius Franz (1850 – 1896) – my great-grandfather
Johann Mathäus (1853 – 1884)
Matthäus Kowallek died in 1867 at the approximate age of 51.
In the church records from Zlotoria I have found the baptism record of a Johanna Piasecka, born to a Johann Piasecki and (what looks like) Heva Bukrowna, in 1817. Another child named Pedrum(?) was born to this couple in 1819. More research is needed with regards to the Piasecki’s from Zlotoria.
A Johanna Kowallek died in Graudenz in 1867 at the approximate age of 49. A notation on her burial record mentions Marie, Auguste, Julius, and Johann. This leads me to conclude that Anna and Johanna are the same person, and that in this specific case, “Anna” is a shortened form of “Johanna”. A Lukas Kowallek is also mentioned, but his exact relationship is unknown. I suspect he was a brother of Matthäus, but have nothing to back this up with.
Kowallek/Witkowska Marriage RecordJulius Franz Kowallek, the son of Matthäus Kowallek and Anna Piasecka, married Maria (Mary) Witkowska in 1874. I was unable to locate Maria’s baptism record in Graudenz. However, the marriage record mentions the nearby towns of Gorzno and Strassburg. Gorzno is about 35 miles SE of Graudenz. It is here I found what appears to be her baptism record (as Marianna Witkowska) in 1853. Her parents were Bartholom Witkowski and Julianna Gotebiewska (or maybe Gotembiewska). I also found several sisters … Katherina (1856), Francesca (1860) and Julianna (1862). The latter two appear to have died at a young age because the baptism record has a cross next to their names.
Mary KowallekIt appears that Maria’s sister, Katherina Witkowska, also made the trip from Westpreußen to the United States. While browsing the Cuyahoga County Recorder’s website, I found this deed, which indicates that Katherina (Catherine Scinski a.k.a. Trzcinski) lived near the Kowallek’s in Cleveland. I have located the 1900-1930 census records for Catherine and her husband Bartolomej and it appears that they married about 1874 and did not have any children. According to his naturalization papers, Bartolomej came to this country in June of 1884, petitioned for naturalization in November of 1887, and was naturalized in 1890. Bartolomej died in 1917 and Katherina died in 1935. Further research is required with regards to the Witkowski ancestors from Gorzno.
Julius Franz Kowallek (my great-grandfather) and Maria Witkowska had the following children in Graudenz:
Bertha Ottilie (1874 – 1954)
Anna Rosalie (1875 – 1876)
Paul Johannes (1877 – 1958)
Marguretha Maria (1879 – 1924)
Martha Pauline (1881 – 1971)
Anna Rosalie Kowallek died in 1876 at the age of 1.
Several other Kowalleks are mentioned in the church records, but I have not yet established the exact relationship to our Kowallek family (although I do feel that most, if not all, are related in some fashion).

II. The Journey to America…

S.S. OderThe series of books, Germans to America, indicates that the family of Julius Kowallek, including his brother Johann, came to America in 1881 and 1882. Julius arrived first in 1881, sailing to Baltimore from Bremen, Germany on the S.S. Oder..
Passenger’s Name: Julius Kowalck
Age: 31
Gender: Male
Occupation: Laborer
Last Residence: Germany
Date of Arrival: Dec. 19, 1881
Final Destination: USA
Purpose for Travel: Staying in USA, but not a citizen of USA
Ship’s Name: Oder
Manifest ID Number: 60656
Port of Embarkation: Bremen
Mode of Travel: Steerage
This account is in agreement with the Immigration and Naturalization papers of Julius Kowallek, which indicate that he arrived in the United States in December 1881.
S.S. StrassburgJohann and the remainder of Julius’ family arrived in Baltimore (from Bremen) on 3 Mar 1882 on the S.S. Strassburg. Several of the names have been munged, but it is obvious that this is our Kowallek family.
Passenger ManifestWhy did the family decide to leave Westpreußen and come to America? Where was Julius for the 4 months between December 1881 and March 1882? Did he get a job and set up a home in Kansas City? Or did he wait for his family in Baltimore?

III. Kansas City, Missouri…

From what we know, the family originally settled in Kansas City, Missouri. They appear to have lived in Kansas City from 1882 through 1888. It would certainly be interesting to find out why they chose Kansas City to settle. It would also be interesting to hear the story of their trip from Baltimore to Kansas City. My guess is that they traveled by train.
The 1882 Kansas City, Missouri city directory lists Julius Kowallek. His occupation is listed as shoemaker, which is followed by “E. Hoernig,” which refers to Ernest Hoernig, a shoemaker located at 507 E. Main. Julius’ residence is listed as Grand Avenue on the southeast corner of 20th Street.
The 1883 city directory shows Julius Kowallek at 717 Independence Avenue. It also shows a “John” Kowallek, shoemaker, at the same address, so it seems most probable that this is his brother Johann, with an Americanized spelling of his given name.
The 1884 and 1885 city directories do not show either Julius or John, but do show a George Kowallek, shoemaker, at the Independence Avenue address. This very well may be Julius, because the 1886 directory shows Julius, but no George, back at the same address.
The 1887 city directory has a Julius “Kowawek” at 711 Independence Avenue.
The 1888 city directory has a Julius “Kowawek” back at 717 Independence Avenue.
Julius Franz Kowallek (my great-grandfather) and Maria Witkowska (my great-grandmother) had the following children in Kansas City:
Bernard (1884 – 1942)
Emma E. (1887 – 1981)
Emma appears to have been baptized at Saints Peter & Paul Roman Catholic Church. The church has since been torn down, but was located at the corner of Ninth and McGee Streets. I contacted the Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph and requested any information they might have on the family of Julius and Maria. The email I received from Fr. Michael Coleman said the following…
“The only record I can find is the following:
Ema Kowalek
Date of Birth: Not given.
Date of Baptism: Not given.
Priest Ernest Zechenter
Mother: Maria Witkifker
Father: Julius Kowalek
Parish: SS Peter and Paul Kansas City MO.
Sponsors: John Swidlek and Cecilia Paradolfki (could be –ski).
There is no way to establish a context for the record as it was not recorded in a register, but on a scrap of paper which was found in a drawer when the parish was closed. It could have occurred between 1867 and 1929.
I have checked marriages and burials and do not find any other record.”
Fr. Michael sent a followup email a few days later…
“I decided to look again and by chance came across the following record:
Eugen Kobalick
Born: Not given
Baptized: Not given
Mother: Maria Witkowska
Father: Julius Kobalick
Parish: SS Peter and Paul
Priest: Ernest Zechenter
The same explanatory note is true of this record as well.”
This looks like it could be our Julius and Maria. But who is Eugen? Is this really Bernard? Or another child we don’t know about? More research is required.
Johann Mathäus Kowallek, the brother of Julius, died of consumption (tuberculosis) in 1884 at the age of 31. As far as I know, Johann never married.
Mound City House - 1885Here is a transcription of the article from the Kansas City Daily Times of Friday, April 18, 1884…
“John Kowelick(?), 31 years of age, who was taken to the city hospital Wednesday from the Mound City house on Main street, died yesterday of consumption. The remains will be interred at Union cemetery to-day.”
The 1882 city directory lists the “the Mound City house” at 416 Main under “Lodging Houses”. So it does not appear to have been a hospice or sanitorium.
An 1889 fire destroyed the records at Union Cemetery in Kansas City, so the exact location of Johann’s grave is unknown.

IV. Cleveland, Ohio…

Our Kowallek family moved to Cleveland, Ohio in about 1889. I don’t know for certain why they decided to leave Kansas City, nor why they chose Cleveland as their new home, but I suspect it may have had something to do with the fact that Maria’s sister Katherina Trzcinski already lived in Cleveland.
The 1889/90 Cleveland city directory lists…
“Kowallek, Julius, saloon, 19 Heisley”
Elaine Clayton, the granddaughter of Bertha Ottilie Kowallek remembers her great-grandmother running a “family-style” saloon. Did Julius give up his occupation as a shoemaker? Elaine also says that Julius specialized in riding boots. I wonder whether or not there was a great demand for riding boots in Cleveland.
The family settled in the Little Bohemia area (Broadway and E. 65th) on Cleveland’s east side. They lived in several homes in the area, but eventually ended up at 6215 Hinde Avenue.
Julius Franz Kowallek (my great-grandfather) and Maria “Mary” Witkowska (my great-grandmother) had the following children in Cleveland:
Hattie C. (1889 – 1979)
Leo William (1892 – 1968) – my grandfather
Julius Edward (1894 – 1984)
Coroner's VerdictJulius Franz Kowallek died in 1896 of accidental poisoning at the age of 45. The coroner’s verdict was that he died of an accidental overdose of aconite. He was given the drug by tenant John Kilbow and instructed to take 15 drops for his rheumatism. But he drank more than the recommended dosage. His wife, Maria “Mary” Kowallek (nee Witkowska), died in 1941 of a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 88.
Leo KowallekMarguretha “Margaret” Maria Kowallek died in 1924 of lethargic encephalitis at the age of 44. She never married. Bernard Kowallek married Nettie Kouba in 1909. He died in 1942 in an accident (run over by a bicycle) at the age of 57. Bertha Ottilie Kowallek married Thomas Clayton between 1896 and 1898, possibly in Pennsylvania. She died in 1954 of natural causes at the age of 79. Paul Johannes Kowallek married Genevieve M. Waltjen in 1905. He died in 1958 at the age of 81. Leo William Kowallek (my grandfather) married Jadwiga “Hattie” Sinarski in 1926. They moved to Parma, Ohio between 1927 and 1930 where they lived at 4611 Yorkshire Avenue. Leo died in 1968 of congestive heart failure at the age of 75. Martha Pauline Kowallek married Michael Gilmore in 1899. She died in 1971 at the age of 90. Hattie C. Kowallek married Joseph Zak in 1909. She died in 1979 of a stroke at the age of 89. Emma E. Kowallek died in 1981 of cardiac failure at the age of 93. She never married. Julius Edward Kowallek married Emily Sladky in 1925. He died in 1984 of acute myocardial infarction at the age of 89.
Kowallek GraveBoth Julius and Emily are buried at Calvary Cemetery in Cleveland. Julius and Mary Kowallek, as well as his two unmarried sisters (Margaret and Emma Kowallek), are also buried on this same plot, but I am told by the person who took this photo that no headstones could be found for these family members. I wonder if the intent was to engrave the names of these other family members below the names of Julius and Emily? This stone looks relatively new. Did it replace the other older headstones?

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