Reputed to be the oldest Polish settlement in America, Panna Maria
is certainly the mother of Polish settlements in Texas. Established December 1854 by
Polish Catholics it was named Panna Maria, meaning Virgin Mary, by the immigrants.
Early years of the colony were severly difficult, plagued by disease, climate
extremes and outlaws who infested the region. Neighboring cowboys and ranchers often
riduculed the strange, non-English speaking foreigners. The community established the
first Polish school in the United Steates, and other villages like Cestohowa, Pawelkville
and Kosciusko sprange from this original settlement.
Today, the older generation still speaks an antiquated Silesian dialect (difficult for
modern Polish speakers to understand), but Polish is no longer taught in local schools,
and the language is being lost.
Visit the community cemetery and Immaculate Conception Cathoic
Church, topped by a cross carried from Poland by the original colonists more than a
century ago. A museum near the church may be visited by request at the church.
Southeast of San Antonio, just off Texas 123 between Stockdale and Karnes City;
near Helena ghost town.
St. Joseph School Museum-
Housed in the oldest Polish school in the US; artifacts (many from
19th Century Poland) depicting the life of Polish pioneers. Second floor, originally
a convent for the teaching nuns, is now a bed and breakfast. Museum open Thurs - Sat
10am to 5pm and Sundays 2 to 5pm.
Panna Maria Visitor's Center-
Administered by the Panna Maria Historical Society, the center is
housed in the 1875 Pliarczyk STore. Souveniers, handmade crafts, religious articles,
local foods as well as information and guided tours are available. For information,