Polish Patriot

Waclaw Czerski was my 3x great-uncle, the brother of my great-great-grandmother. He served in the Polish Army during World War I and World War II. He was taken prisoner by the Nazis and worked in a prison camp for more than 5 years.

Waclaw immigrated to the United States in 1949. He was 48 years old, a widower with no children. His port of departure was Bremerhaven, Germany. Sailing on the ship “General Muir,” he arrived in New York City on October 11, 1949.

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Here is a notice about his arrival from The News Journal (Wilmington, Delaware) dated October 15, 1949:

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Waclaw was active in the local Polish Council. This article is dated January 30, 1965:

Clipping from The News Journal - Newspapers.com

Waclaw died on December 3, 1983.

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Here is a photo of his headstone at Our Lady of Czestochowa Cemetery in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. This comes from findagrave.com. The inscription reads “Weteran dwoch wojen” (A veteran of two wars).

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A life of hardship and bravery.

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Sacred Heart Centennial

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The Sacred Heart of Jesus, the home parish of my family in Williamstown, PA, celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1975. Several activities were held to commemorate the event. Here are photographs and an article from The Catholic Witness, the newspaper of the Diocese of Harrisburg, from May 29, 1975. The article mentions my cousin, Fr. Thomas Craven.

I wonder if anything is planned for the 150th anniversary?

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Williamstown parish celebrates centennial
By DON WARD

WILLIAMSTOWN – Children from the Sacred Heart Parish CCD School here and hundreds of parishioners took part in a living Rosary procession last week in memory of Mary Noel, a former CCD teacher who died heroically in a fire in November. The procession was part of a weeklong centennial celebration which included a sisters tea, a community hymn sing, a Latin Mass, a Mass with Bishop Joseph Daley and other events.

Ruth McNalis, chairperson for the living Rosary procession, related that Mrs. Noel had volunteered to help with the procession just a week before she died trying to rescue an invalid friend, Mrs. Sarah Dunlop, who lived with the Noels. Both women died in the fire.

Four CCD students carried a life-sized cross in the procession. Costumed children represented Our Lady’s visit to Fatima in 1917. Miss McNalis said “all who participated in the procession will remember the little lady with a ready smile who had a tremendous love for God and His Mother Mary as well as for her fellow man.”

Many more memories were part of the centennial week. The Latin Mass on May 18 drew enthusiastic response, according to Father Thomas Simpson, pastor. He said the consensus he drew was that parishioners enjoyed the Latin Mass but wouldn’t want to return to it regularly.

Later that Sunday, a centennial display was opened in the Church basement during a sisters’ tea. The display included models of the places in which Mass had been said for the parish — among them were a log cabin, a school, a private home, a town hall and the church, begun in 1870, first used in 1875 and completed in 1885. The display also depicted the school, opened in 1911, a fire which gutted the church in 1930, and the closing of the school. It also recognized eight priests born in the parish and 13 sisters.

Father Thomas Craven, a native son of the parish and a priest of Philadelphia, was the homilist for the Mass with Bishop Daley on Sunday. He recounted incidents from the history of Williamstown and Sacred Heart Parish.

Other activities of the week included a centennial ball, a community hymn sing, a folk Mass, dances for school children and a puppet show. A hardbound parish history was published.

R. Michael Dolan, chairman of the centennial committee, said at least 50 parishioners helped in planning and carrying out the week’s events.

Father Simpson said the celebration “was lovely.”

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Coal Strike

These notes about my great-grandfather James and his son Patrick come from my cousin, Anne Marie (Sis) Craven. She presumably received the information from her father, Thomas, who was another son of James.

Although the date of Patrick’s death is incorrect (he was killed on October 1, 1918 when he was 36), these notes have details that are new to me. This underscores the importance of writing things down. Sis died in 2005 and without these papers this information would have been lost.

The pride Sis feels for her family comes through, something I share and that has grown ever since I started doing research into my heritage.

Sis worked for Morton Salt and so that explains the stationery.

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Civil War Veterans

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My great-great-grandfather Patrick Craven and his wife, Mary Kilraine, were veterans of the Civil War. Their names, along with Mary’s second husband, Patrick Commuskey, are listed in the booklet prepared for the 100th Anniversary of Williamstown, Pennsylvania. The copy of the booklet I have belonged to my uncle, Thomas Craven. Note the variation in the spelling of Commuskey; I am not sure which is correct.

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Here is some biographical information on Patrick Craven:

Patrick Craven was born in Kings County, Ireland in 1833. He married Mary Kilraine in Minersville, PA on June 25, 1857. The priest was Rev. Michael Malone.

On December 12, 1861 in Pottsville, PA, Patrick enlisted in the Army for a period of three years. He was a private in the Fifth Regiment of Artillery Company L. The Company was commanded by Captain Ames. The Regiment Commander was Colonel Henry Stanton Burton.

On the day he enlisted, Patrick’s age was 23 years, 11 months. His occupation was a miner, he was five feet, eight inches tall, had blue eyes and brown hair, and a fair complexion. His medical record showed a history of having small pox.

Some of the questions on the medical form:

Have you ever had the fits?
Have you ever received an injury or wound upon the head?
Are you in the habit of drinking? Or have you ever had the ‘horrors’?
Are you subject to the piles?
Have you any difficulty in urinating?

Patrick signed his enlistment papers with an “X.” It was witnessed by Captain A.V. Delhart of the Fifth Artillery Regiment, Recruiting Officer.

Patrick was discharged from the Army on March 14, 1864. He reenlisted at Camp Marshall in Washington, DC. He died at Fort Jefferson, FL on January 23, 1866. The cause of death was an abscess on the liver. At the time of his death, Patrick was a Sergeant in Company L.

Patrick’s widow married Patrick Commuskey on March 7, 1866.

I was curious about the cause of death. Apparently, an abscess of the liver is the result of infection or trauma. Some of the possible causes are an abdominal infection, such as appendicitis, diverticulitis, or a perforated bowel.

Special thanks to Maggie McCoy Wilson for obtaining the military records from the National Archives & Records Administration.

Worthy Evidence

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Msgr. Thomas Craven, my cousin, was a priest for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. He died on February 9, 2004.

I was looking through back issues of the Catholic newspaper for Philadelphia and discovered that Msgr. Craven was still being mentioned in the years after his death. This brought to mind a quote from Pope John XXIII that I recently came across:

“Do not walk through time without leaving worthy evidence of your passage.”

The photo above is from the Philadelphia Daily News, April 29, 1971, and shows Msgr. Craven in his younger years. Three excerpts from The Catholic Standard & Times are below. They reveal the continuing impact of his life.

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Summer Memories

On a cold and dreary day, it is a pleasure to remember summertime visits to see Grandmom. Here is a photo from 1971 taken in the backyard in Williamstown. I look back at pictures like this and wish I had paid attention more, but I was just a little kid.

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Here are two more snapshots from Grandmom’s album, taken during a visit to see her and Aunt Eliza in Ocean City, New Jersey.

The first half…

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… and the second half.

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Grand Larceny

Another True Crime story.

My Aunt Hattie was the victim of a robbery in her home. The culprit was a 12-year-old kid. This article from the News Journal (Wilmington, DE) dated September 23, 1970 has the details.

I wonder what happened to the little thief and his partner in crime. Hopefully they wised up and didn’t get into any more trouble.

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