Home Sweet Home in Cumbola, Pennsylvania!

#52ancestors: week 5 So Far Away

Last week, I gave you a peek at the home that Charles Pawlak grew up in. This week, I give you a look at a home “so far away” in Cumbola, Pennsylvania, where Charles’ future bride, Elizabeth, grew up. Elizabeth Wierzbicki (later called Elizabeth Lubinsky) lived in a home and place completely different than Charles! Whereas Charles grew up in the big city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin with a population of over 457,000 at that time, Cumbola was a very small town and still is today with a population of 443 souls. This was country living where everyone knew everyone else, not big city life! Here there were mountains, fresh air, farm lands, narrow roads, room to roam, and coal mines.

However, there were a few similarities between Charles’ home and Elizabeth’s home. Both houses were built for multi-family living as Charles lived in a duplex and Elizabeth lived in a three story house. Two or three generations lived together in these homes. Both were Polish speaking Catholic families whose parents had immigrated from Europe. Charles and Elizabeth and their siblings attended Catholic Schools where both English and Polish was taught. Both had seven children in their family. Other than that, I think their lives growing up were quite different.

So where in Pennsylvania is Cumbola? Well, Wikipedia states that “Cumbola is a census-designated place located in Blythe Township, Schuylkill County in the state of Pennsylvania. The community is located between the boroughs of New Philadelphia and Port Carbon along U.S. Route 209.”

What kind of community was this? Cumbola was in a coal mining district. Researching the census for Elizabeth’s family in 1920, I tried to get more information on the community. Just looking at 4 pages of Cumbola census in 1920, there were 68 families which could be a good representative sample. Looking at just the occupations showed that most of the heads of households worked in the coal mines. Of the 68 families, 47 peoples worked for the mines and only 21 worked other jobs. The other occupations included teachers (5), shirt factory workers (3), silk mill workers (2), knitting mill (1), grocer (1), telephone operator (1), drivers (2), railway worker (1), nurse (1), saloon keeper (1), car repairer (1) and salesman (2). From all this, I assume that Cumbola was a “blue collar” town with most men employed by the coal mines.

This is the three story Lubinsky home. If you look up images on Google of Cumbola, PA, you will see that this style of home was fairly typical in the area. Besides the three stories, there was a basement also. In addition to the seven children and parents, the maternal grandparents also lived with the family plus other relatives from time to time. Elizabeth’s dad also had a shed on the property where he raised chickens. I was able to find some pictures with views of the home in the background to give a closer look at the home.

Elizabeth with her mother, Susan Lubinsky, on side steps of home, dated May 5, 1943.
Elizabeth sitting on front porch rail, sister Victoria and brother Bernie in background, dated Aug. 29, 1943.
Here is a good side view of the house with Beatrice Funk (friend), Stella Lubinsky, Ray Funk (friend), Victoria and Celia Lubinsky and Bernie Lubinsky kneeling. Stella, Victoria, Celia and Bernie are siblings of Elizabeth. Photo not dated but probably from the later 1940s.
View of Cumbola and area taken from roof of Pine Street home. Note the mountains in the background! Photo not dated but probably taken in 1940s.

So this is where Elizabeth and her siblings grew up. Elizabeth was the oldest being born in 1914. Her sister Stella Mathilda was born in 1916, Helen Anna in 1918, Victoria in 1919 and Celia Collette in 1921. In 1928, her brother, Bernard Joseph (Bernie) was born and, lastly, brother Gerard (Jerry) was born in 1931. In 1920, Elizabeth’s father Stanley was a driver for a grocery store and in 1930, he was an insurance agent for Metropolitan Life Insurance Company.

More will be coming in other posts about the family!

Home Sweet Home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin!

#52 Ancestors: Week 4 Close to Home

This week’s theme is about being “close to home” and I would like to share the home in which Charles Daniel Pawlak grew up. You can read more about him growing up in my previous posts! If you missed the first post, here is a bit of background on Charles’ family. His parents, Stephan and Bronislawa (Blanche) Pawlak immigrated here from Poland in January of 1905 and, at first, lived at 557 Bartlett Street in Milwaukee.

Their first child, Stanislaus Pauel (Stanley Paul) Pawlak was born on 2 April 1905 and their second child, Edward was born in 1906. Later came Joseph in 1908 and Clara in 1909. The first four children were baptized on St. Hedwig Catholic Church. The family was living at 557 Bartlett St in 1910 according to the 1910 Census. Sigmund Joseph Pawlak was born in 1913 and Zofia Kataryzyna (Sophia Catharina) was born in 1915. Finally the last child was Charles Daniel Michael Pawlak (Karol Michal) on 9 April 1916. The last three children were baptized at St Adalbert Catholic Church.

According to Milwaukee County Records, Stephan and Bronislawa Pawlak purchased a home at 2032 W Becher Street in Milwaukee on 12 March 1917. The address was originally 864 Becher before Milwaukee implemented a new street numbering system in 1931. This is the home that Charles grew up in. It was a two family home with a two bedroom apartment upstairs and a two bedroom apartment downstairs. Milwaukee in 1920 was the 12th largest city in the nation with a population of 457, 147. This was big city living! At that time, many streets were made of brick and a street car ran down nearby Forest Home and Muskego Avenues.

This is what the home on Becher Street looked like a couple years ago.

I was able to find some bits of history on the Pawlak home on Becher Street. The Pawlak family lived in the downstairs and rented out the upstairs until the older children got married. In 1930, daughter Clara and her husband, Raymond Berndt moved into the upstairs until they purchased their own home. After Stephan died in June of 1940, son Sigmund and his wife Christine, along with their infant son, Stephan (Steve), moved in with Bronislawa to help and keep her company. They lived with her for a year.

Son Charles and his new wife, Elizabeth, moved in with Blanche in 1946 lived with her for about five years. Their first two sons, Daniel and Thomas were born while they lived on Becher Street. Joe and Agnes lived upstairs at the time. Bronislawa (Blanche) sold the home to son Joseph and Agnes in the sixties but stayed in the house living with Joe and Agnes. Joseph’s son Alfred and his family lived upstairs. In 1965, Blanche moved in with daughter Clara and Ray who lived on 31st Street in Milwaukee and Joe and Agnes sold the Becher Street home to their son Alfred and his wife Marilyn. Alfred and Marilyn later sold the home and moved to Franklin, Wisconsin. That is all the history I could find!

To show more of the Becher Street home, I searched through old family pictures and found some details in the backgrounds! Stephan had built a playhouse for Clara in the backyard and Clara remembered that she made curtains to put into the little house. She had little chairs and a table in the house. After Clara grew up, the little house was used as a shed. I found picture that shows the little house in the background. The picture is of Daniel, son of Charles and Elizabeth Pawlak in 1948.

Here’s a few more pictures of Daniel showing the neighbors in the background and the sidewalk running from the house to the back alley. Cousins Ralph and Alfred Pawlak lived upstairs. These pictures are from 1948 and 1949.

These were the only pictures I could find to show the Pawlak home – a home with many memories for many people – not only the people who lived there at one time or another – but memories of children who loved to go to “Grandma’s house!” It was the center of family and holiday celebrations and Sunday gatherings. It wasn’t just a house on the block, it was the Pawlak home where all were welcomed and loved.

Meet Elizabeth Wierzbicki of Pennsylvania!

#52Ancestors, Week 3 Long Line

Last week I shared pictures of Charles Pawlak from his childhood. Charles of Milwaukee, Wisconsin eventually married Elizabeth Wierzbicki of Cumbola, Pennsylvania. How they met is a great story for another post! On this post, I will share some childhood pictures of Elizabeth Wierzbicki – also known as Elizabeth Lubinsky. Her family used the two surnames interchangeably until about 1928 when only Lubinsky was used. More on that in another story! Elizabeth was the first of a long line of seven children and came from a long line of Polish ancestors.

Elizabeth Wierzbicki was born on 26 May of 1914 to Stanley Wierzbicki and Susan (Stempkowski) Wierzbicki in Cumbola, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania. Whereas Charles Pawlak, her future husband, was the youngest of seven children, Elizabeth was to be the oldest of seven children. Elizabeth was followed by four sisters: Stella in 1916, Helen in 1918, Victoria in 1919 and Celia in 1921. Then came two brothers which were Bernard (Bernie) in 1928 and Gerard in 1931. The youngest picture found of Elizabeth is a photo of her at six years old with her mother and aunt.

Elizabeth is on the left, her mother Susan is seated. Standing is Susan’s sister, Cecelia (Czeslaw in Polish) who later joined the Bernardine Order and became Sister M. Assumpta.

On 22 June of 1924, Elizabeth Wierzbicki made her First Holy Communion at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Cumbola PA. Elizabeth and her family attended this Roman Catholic Church and the children went to Catholic School where they were taught by the Bernardine Sisters. They not only taught reading, writing and arithmetic in English, but also all of the other required subjects in addition to Polish language, reading, writing and history. There was also time for Art, Music and Drama and, of course, Catholic rites and ceremonies.

On 20 June of 1928, Elizabeth graduated from eighth grade at St. Anthony’s School. She had her picture taken with the other girls in her class. Their matching dresses were blue with gold ribbon trim to go with the class colors of blue and gold. Elizabeth was especially proud of this photo as her mother, Susan, was an accomplished seamstress and made all the dresses for the girls! Elizabeth is in the second row and wearing glasses.

Elizabeth attended ninth grade in the Junior High School of Blythe Township Public Schools in 1929 and then it was on to Blythe Township High School. She graduated June 7, 1932.

One of the surprising things I found out about Elizabeth during her high school years was that she was never absent nor tardy in all the years she attended Blythe Township High School! Below is one of her certificates of perfect attendance.

Upcoming posts will have more stories about Charles and Elizabeth and their ancestry!

Favorite Photos of Charles Daniel Michael Pawlak

#52 Ancestors: Week 2 Favorite Photo

My favorite photo of my father-in-law, Charles Pawlak, was taken when he was a young boy probably around eight years old in about 1924 or 1925. Who could resist that impish grin and mischievous eyes! I can imagine that he was a real rough-and-tumble little boy, especially with four older brothers and an older sister! There is a family story of Charles getting hit in the head with a horseshoe and his mother cured it by using Vaseline and tying a clean rag around his head for a bandage!

Charles Daniel Michael Pawlak was born the 9th of April in 1916, the seventh and last child of Stephen and Bronislawa Pawlak in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His “Certificate of Birth Registration” has his name in the English form, but he was born into a polish-speaking family and named Carolus Daniel Michael in Polish. His family always called him Karl (Karol) but he went by the name of Charles as he grew up.

The family lived on Becher Street on Milwaukee’s South Side, which was a mainly Polish neighborhood in the first half of the 1900’s. They lived relatively close to St. Adalbert’s Catholic Church and Charles was baptized in that Church on 23 April 1916 by the Rev. Waclaw Kruszka. Friends of the family, Adalbert Sobanski and Anastasia Kawicka were chosen to be his godparents.

According to Roman Catholic Church procedures, the church records were written in Latin but I was able to find the official record of Charles’ Baptism.

The family were devoted Catholics and much of their lives and celebrations centered around their church and religion. The children attended St. Adalbert’s Catholic School and learned not only English, but also studied and spoke Polish. Of course, all the children made their First Holy Communion and I am pleased to have a picture of Charles taken in a Photo Studio to commemorate his First Communion and his First Communion Certificate written in Polish! He was seven years old when he celebrated this event on 20 May 1923. Gone is the impish grin replaced by an Angelic countenance!

These are my two favorite pictures of Charles and I will be writing more about him and his family in posts to come! Another precious document I would like to share from his childhood is his 8th grade Certificate of Graduation from St. Adalbert’s school on 13 June 1930.

You can read more about his parents, Stephen and Bronislawa in last week’s post! https://thepawlakpast.com/2020/01/04/a-fresh-start-stephen-and-bronislawa-pawlak/

A Fresh Start: Stephen and Bronislawa Pawlak

#52 Ancestors Theme: Fresh Start

So very many times the millions of immigrants that came to America in the 18th through 20th centuries traveled and endured hardships to find a new home, a better life, a good job – to make a fresh start! Stephen Pawlak and his new bride, Bronislawa Nowicka were no different!

Stephen, also called Szczepan in his native language of Polish, was born in the village of Radlowek, Kries Inowroclaw-Zacod, Poland on 10 Nov 1877 to Michael and Catherina Pawlak. Bronislawa was born almost six years later on 29 Aug 1883 to Michal and Thecla Nowicki in the nearby village of Koscielec. On the 8th of July of 1904, Stephen and Bronislawa married in Koscielec, Poland at the local Catholic Church.

This part of Poland at this time period was actually under German political rule while other parts of Poland, designated as Russian-Poland, were also under German control. There was political unrest, social tensions and general uncertainty for the Polish peoples. According to family stories, Stephen had been drafted into the German army possibly for use as a translator as he could speak four languages including Polish, German, French and English. His real occupation was that of a carpenter like his father, Michael Pawlak.

They decided to travel to America and we can only guess at their real reasons to leave their homeland. Stories have it that they left on the pretense of taking a honeymoon but stayed in America, never to return. Bronislawa was pregnant with their first child on the journey to America which possibly made the trip a bit more difficult for her!

The immigration records for Stephen and Bronislawa reveal that they departed from Bremen, Germany on the ship “Gera” and state that they were bound for Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Now Bremen, Germany was about 420 miles away from their little village of Koscielec, so one wonders how they managed to travel to Bremen! Perhaps they traveled part of the way by rail or wagon. In 1900, the cost of a steerage ticket for one passenger was around $30.00, which would be about $900 today. The records also state Szczepan (Stephen) was 27 years old, a “joiner” (carpenter) from Germany, Hohensalza (now called Poznan). He carried more that $50.00 (about $1530 in today’s money) and traveled with his wife, Bronislawa Pawlak, age 21. They were steerage passengers and the Gera could carry 1900 third class (steerage) passengers!

On 26 Jan 1905, they finally arrived in the Port of Baltimore, Maryland. Bronislawa would later describe the cracking and creaking of the ship throughout the voyage. The ordeal must have been exhausting as the sea voyage took about 14 days and the conditions on the steamship were less than ideal. Steerage accommodations were crowded, dirty and poorly ventilated with hundreds of people sharing basically a large open space near the bottom of the ship. Illness was common.

Upon arrival at Locust Point in Baltimore Harbor, the immigrants were herded into “separation pens” and given a cursory medical inspection. Doctors checked for trachoma, a contagious eye disease, and for symptoms of serious illnesses that would require more inspection, hospitalization or deportation. Next, they were interviewed by government agents who counted and recorded the money they carried and then baggage was inspected and weighed.

They were not free to leave yet after all this! If the immigrant was planning to stay in Baltimore, he was placed in a final pen to await pick-up by friends or relatives as listed on his immigration card. Stephen and Bronislawa planned to go to Milwaukee to their sponsor’s home so they had to purchase a railroad ticket or collect a prepaid ticket and wait in a large waiting room for their train. They were not permitted to leave the facility except to board the train. They traveled on the B&O Railroad which had forged a business partnership with the North German Lloyd Steamship Line in Bremen, Germany. Immigrants could buy a ticket that included both passage on the ship and rail transportation to their destination in central United States. This is likely what Stephen and Bronislaw did.

On 28 January of 1905, after two exhausting days of train travel and immigration processing, Stephen and Bronislawa arrived in Milwaukee at the home of their sponsor, Michal Szndrowicz. A sponsor was usually a relative and provided a place for the immigrants to live and, in addition, had to be at least 18 years old and a U.S. citizen or permanent resident of U. S. Research on Michal Szndrowicz reveals that he was born in Poland in 1876 and lived in Milwaukee at 484 Bartlett in 1905 (Wisconsin State Census). I have not been able to find out if he was related to the Pawlak or Nowicki families but he was close to Stephen’s age and could have been a cousin or close friend.

Whatever the relationship to their sponsor, Stephen and Bronislawa did live with Michal and his wife and two young children for a while until they were able to find a house of their own on Becher Street in Milwaukee. There is so much more to their story but that will be for future posts. Stephen and Bronislawa went through quite an ordeal to get a “fresh start” in America! Thank goodness they did as they were the start of a large and still growing Pawlak family in Milwaukee and beyond!

Sources: The National Archives at Washington, D.C.; Washington D.C.; Records of the US Customs Service, RG36; NAI Number: 2655153; Record Group Title: Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1787-2004; Record Group: 85.


Wisconsin State Census, 1905. Microfilm, 44 reels. Wisconsin Historical Society, Madison, Wisconsin.

Ancestry.com. U. S. City Directories, 1822-1955 [database on-line]. Provo UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc. 2011

Find A Grave. Findagrave.com: Michael Szudrowica, Memorial ID: 103879684.

Dokument urdzenia: Birth record of Stephen/Szczepan Pawlak; recorded 17 Nov 1877.

Dokument urdzenia: Birth record of Bronislawa Nowicka; recorded 31 Aug 1883.

Smith, Eugene W. Passenger Ships of the World: Past and Present. Milwaukee Public Library, R387-S646, P. 2.

A grateful thanks to various Pawlak relatives for sharing information!