Discovering our Ancestors' Travels and Travails

Why Buffalo?

The city of Buffalo bustled at the turn of the twentieth century. It was a major manufacturing and transportation hub. It had electricity from Niagara Falls, shipping from the great lakes, and was a day’s journey by rail for 40 million people.

It was the nation’s eighth largest city, and it had more millionaires per capita than any other city at that time. In 1901, it hosted the Pan-Am Exposition, the world’s fair at which President William McKinley was shot. Theodore Roosevelt was sworn in as president in Buffalo. Manufacturers such as the Larkin Company sold mail order and various manufacturers, including Pierce-Arrow, built railroad cars and automobiles.

As it grew, Buffalo manufacturers recruited Europeans to work in the factories. In addition to general laborers, skilled artisans and technicians were in demand. The different ethnicities formed enclaves generally grouped around churches. The major church for Polish people on the east side of Buffalo was the Roman Catholic St. Stanislaus, Bishop & Martyr. It is where our parents were married and I was baptized. That’s where I found the records for several of our grandparents’ siblings, and the 1896 death record for our great-grandfather.’

St. Stanislaus Cemetery, in Cheektowaga, right outside the city limits of Buffalo, is the place where many of our relatives were buried. Some of the old tombstones were laid flat to stop vandalism. I never found Jan Maciejewski’s stone, but our Aunt Imelda remembers her father personally carrying it from the mason’s to the cemetery to mark his grave. The old cemetery records were bare bones, but the more recent ones had information provided by funeral homes. Two of our great-grandparents and all four of our grandparents are buried there, as are our parents.

Both of our grandfathers died in Buffalo in 1936. I don’t know the circumstances, but I suspect the economy of the Great Depression had something to do with it. It was devastating. Thousands lost jobs as manufacturers went out of business.

Our grandfather Anthony Maciejewski worked as a custodian to keep his family afloat. Our grandmother Marie turned the housefront on Strauss Street into a local grocery store. Anthony’s brothers Konstanty and Ludwik used the names August Warner and Louis Warner to find work. Their sisters Marie and Anna used the name Mack. Anthony & Marie’s oldest daughter Sophia used the name Lou Mack.

John, Veronica, and Anthony Maciejewski came from the area of Poland known as West Prussia. I had mistakenly thought they had come from  Lower Silesia. In the 1880s, both areas were part of Germany. Thus, while ethnically Polish, our Maciejewski ancestors were technically German. And the difference seemed to matter to them, since both American born younger brothers opted to use a Germanic name in the trade as mechanics and manufacturing inspectors.

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