Portrait of a Strong Woman: Florentyna Wysocki Stempkowski

#52ancestors Week 10 Theme: Strong Woman

There are so many strong women in Pawlak and Lubinsky ancestries that I feel like I should write about them all! But of course, just picking one for this week’s blog would be enough so I decided on Florentyna Wysocki who married Adam Stempkowski. Florentyna, or Florence as she was known in English, was the maternal grandmother of Elizabeth Lubinsky Pawlak, being the mother of her mother, Susan Stempkowski Lubinsky.

When you first look at her photo, you may not characterize her as a “strong woman” as she is young, petite, lady-like, and has an endearing smile. But researching her story reveals her surprising inner strength and resolve.

Florentyna Wysocki was born in Stawiszn-Laziska, Mazowieke, Poland which was near the city of Radzanow and located near the central part of what was the Poland in the 1870’s. Florence’s birth year varied in the Federal Census listings of 1900 to 1940 but checking her death certificate, her birth year was listed as 1870. However, her gravestone lists 1866! Her parents were Jakob Wysocki and Eva Liliwinski. She and Adam were married in Poland according to the Warszawa, Radzanow (Mlawa) Church Records on 20 November 1884 when Florence would have been about 16 years old. When she was about 18 years old, she bore their first child, a son named Michal Konstanty (Constantine). You can read about Constantine’s story here: https://thepawlakpast.com/2020/02/22/death-in-a-coal-mine/

A second child, a girl, Susanna (Susan) Stempkowski, was born on 17 March 1888 in possibly Poznan, Poland. Things seemed to be going well for the new family or were they? Poland was in a state of unrest and, for some unknown reason, the family decided to make the move to America. Florence had to leave behind her mother Eva and father Jakob and others she knew and loved and travel to a strange country with her husband, young son and small daughter! Since they were living near central Poland, they had to travel probably about 400 plus miles by coach, train or wagon, to a port such as Bremen, Germany to board a ship. Most likely, they traveled in crowded and unsanitary conditions as steerage passengers aboard the ocean liner.

Passenger records for them have not yet been found but they did immigrate in the 1890’s as they first appeared in the 1900 Federal Census living in Cumbola, Blythe Township, Schuylkill Co., Pennsylvania. Florence was now about 30 years old and had another child, a daughter Bridget. According to the census, Bridget was 4 months old. Adam was working as a coal miner and they had two boarders who were also coal miners and born in Poland. Taking in boarders probably helped the family get by but added more daily work for Florence.

By 1910, little Bridget had disappeared from the Census and it is likely she died as an infant or young child. It must have been devastating for the family! Also, son Constantine was killed in a coal mine accident at about age 16! Family story has it that they may have signed for him to work as he was underage. How devastating for Adam and Florence! Between 1900 and 1910, the family buried two of their children! Their son Anthony who was born on 13 Jan 1901 did survive and was 8 years old in the 1910 Census. In 1906, one year after Constantine’s death, Florence and Adam had another daughter who was named Czeslaw or Celia, in English. Celia entered the convent at about age 15 and became Sr. Mary Assumpta.

More distressing news came to Florence around 1905. Back in Rabomo Plock, Poland/Russia, Florence’s father Jakob had passed away and her mother Eva was left widowed and alone. Florence must have been so worried about her mother that her husband Adam actually traveled to Poland/Russia in 1908 to get Eva and bring her to America! Eva was 50 years old at the time and Adam was 39. The passenger list confirms that Eva was a widow.

Florence, her daughter Susan, her grand-daughter Elizabeth Lubinsky and her mother Eva. c1930s

Eva lived with Florence and Adam and they all eventually moved into the Lubinsky home. Adam passed away in September of 1933 and Florence lived until 23 March 1942. Florence died of “obstruction of the esophagus” due to carcinoma of the esophagus. She was buried next to Adam in St. Anthony’s Cemetery near Cumbola. Florence had many challenges to face in her life including her move to America and losing two children. She lived through World War I, the Roaring Twenties and the Great Depression. She was indeed a strong woman!

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