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The Polish People Of Thurber

In 1908 John Sumeracki was one of four incorporators of the Mingus Brewing Co., capital stock $8,000. This was a hefty investment for a coal miner and the thought was that all the Sumeracki's might have pooled their money for this opportunity. The brewery was located at the Mingus Little Lake which provided a good water source. With such high beer consumption in nearby Thurber, this seemed a profitable venture. But the brewery never prospered and quit operations in 1910. It is doubtful whether this small Mingus brewery could compete against the Fort Worth Brewery, the latter having Thurber beer sales of $61,105. in 1910. Today the Mingus Little Lake is filled in with silt but the ruins of this brewery are still visible among the heavy overgrowth.

Counting the Baptisms in St. Barbara's Church during the time the Sumeracki's lived in Thurber (until about 1908), there were 12 Sumeracki children baptized. Sumeracki men served as Godfathers 15 times, while Sumeracki women were Godmothers 21 times. This pattern was probably repeated in St. John's Church in Strawn.

The Sumeracki's' American experience began in Thurber and continued in Strawn., But the only Sumeracki buried in Thurber Cemetery is the mother Michalina, who died in 1913 at the age of 73. There are several Sumeracki's buried in Strawn but most descendants were scattered across the U.S., as is the case for all Thurberites for Thurber was only the beginning of opportunity and a new life in America.

Another interesting Polish family was the Rogoski. Adam Rogoski never lived in Thurber but he was a familiar, popular man in Thurber as a photographer. Conversant in Polish and other Slavic tongues, the people craved pictures of their family in America to send back to the Old Country. Adam's studio was in Strawn but two days a week he would work in Thurber, often on Sundays when there were First Communion pictures. Adam was born in 1888 and probably arrived in Strawn around 1906. He married Mary Grabin and their first child Joseph was born in 1908. It is not known where Adam learned photography; most likely he apprenticed in Poland. Business was good in Strawn, because Strawn, like Thurber, had a large foreign-born population; mostly Poles, Italians, and Bohemians (Czechs) and Adam catered to their photographic needs.

When the Bankhead Highway came through Strawn in the early 1920s, and Americans started to travel by automobile, Adam set up a cold drinks kiosk on the highway in front of his house and studio, the featured drink being Triple XXX Root Beer.

Unlike Thurber which ceased coaling operations in 1926, Strawn and nearby Lyra continued producing coal until after WWII. With WWII many Strawn residents left for military service or for work in defense plants, and with decreasing business, Adam moved his wife and two daughters, Barbara and Mamie, to west Texas where he set up photography shops in Kermit and Wink. Adam and Mamie ran the studios and Barbara, being an accomplished musician, taught music in the public schools. Adam's health forced him to retire back to Strawn in the late 1950s. Barbara, an attractive lady, married a very wealthy west Texas oil man. Barbara returned to Strawn to help look after her ailing parents and for many years she served as Church organist in Strawn and was a great benefactress of the Church. Adam, his wife Mary, and daughters Barbara and Mamie are buried in Strawn's Mount Marion Cemetery a quarter-mile from the Rogoski homestead.

Caesar Daszkiewiez came to America around 1885 and worked in the Pennsylvania coal mines several years before moving his wife, nee' Victoria Zajkowski, and family to the warm climes of Thurber in 1890. This move to Texas was in response to circulars telling of coal mining jobs in Thurber. Daszkiewiez is not listed in the 1900 Thurber census because he lived in a house in Grant's Town which was just outside the barbed wire fence marking the Thurber city limits. Caesar's home was about a quarter-mile from downtown Thurber. Joseph 1896, Wadislaus 1899 and Victoria 1905 were born to Caesar and Victoria and baptized in St. Barbara's. Earlier born in Pennsylvania were Charles, John and Nellie. Caesar was active in the 1903 miner's strike, but living in a non-company house he did not have to vacate his home during the month-long strike. Shortly after 1917 Caesar moved first to Chicago with his wife and daughter Victoria, and thence to a settlement of Polish farmers in Boonville, New York where Caesar owned a dairy farm with 50 cows. By 1917 all of the Daszkiewiez had moved away from Thurber, with the exception of Joe.

Joe Daszkiewiez went to work in the coal mines in 1908 when he was 12 years old. At first he worked with his father. Later, John Zinanni became his working buddy and lifetime friend. Joe and John lived a quarter-mile apart in Thurber Junction. In 1916 Joe Married Valeria Wasieleski. There were six children.

Joe worked as manager for Zimicki's Bottling works in Strawn, TX for 30 Years until 1950, after which he worked as an interior house painter until his death at age 74. But Joe was noted for his skill in many endeavors, for in the Depression Era all resources were needed. Joe was also a musician, a fiddle player, and he taught his son Joe on the guitar and second son Anthony on mandolin. And the Daskevich (name modification) family had a convenient band. Joe Daskevich could do anything; butcher, cook, baker, auto mechanic, masonry work, carpentry, soft drink bottler—name it. And Joe could dance the old-fashioned waltz with unusual grace and foot-stomping emphasis. Polish celebration seemed to gravitate towards the Daskevich homestead because of ready musicians; the nearest neighbors were a quarter mile away and there was always plenty of food like a freshly-butchered hog, sausages, and smoked meats, home-baked bread and canned items. Joe was a superb raconteur, and he had many fascinating stories of Thurber. He died in Ranger, Texas in July 1971.

Joe’s two sons, Joe Jr. and Anthony (Tut), were in demand as musicians. Joe played the guitar and Tut the mandolin. In addition to playing with the family band at Polish celebration, Joe and Tut played at local dances and school functions. One of their specialty songs was Who Broke The Lock On The Henhouse Door?. Joe was a Dr. Pepper salesman for several years before moving to Midland-Odessa where he became an insurance executive. Joe continued to play in string bands but he had switched from guitar to the "Bull FIddle". Both Daskevich boys were superb athletes and specialized in fast pitch softball during the Depression years, playing on a championship Thurber Junction (Mingus) team. Tut was a crack wind milling pitcher and Joe played 1st base. This team had its roots in Thurber; for six of the players' fathers had worked in Thurber. And the roster sounded like the United Nations with Krajcar, T. Daskevich, J. Daskevich, S. Fulfer, M. Fulfer, Bielinski, Gazzola, G. Dumith, S. Dumith and Sheffield.

Anthony "Tut" Daskevich had a distinguished military career. He entered the military in WWII as a draftee private, won a battlefield commission and rose to the rank of Brigadier General before retiring in 1975. His decorations included the Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Stars, and Three Purple Hearts. Interestingly, and by coincidence, B/Gen. Daskevich was once assigned to the Tank Automotive Command as Deputy to M/Gen. Piklek, another Pole. And this was in Warren, Michigan which was next door to the well-known Polish city of Hamtramck.


1. 1910 US Census, Erath Co, TX. Justice Pct. 7

2. R. D. Hunter, "First Annual Report to Shareholders,"Feb., 1890, Fort Worth, TX. Copy in author's collection.

3. Statement from Jacob Galik's son Walter to Pete Galik, Jacob's grandson.

4. Dallas Morning News, Sept. 11, 1903

5. R. D. Hunter, "First Annual Report to Stockholders."

6. Don Woodard, BlackDiamonds! Black Gold! (Lubbock, Texas Tech Press, 1998), 84.

7. Dallas Morning News, Sept. 23, 1903.

8. Picture on display at New York Hill Resaurant, Thurber, TX.
9. Rhinehart references Gower 21 times in 21 pages. Marilyn Rhinehart, A Way of Work and a Way of life, (Collage Station Texas A&M University Press, 1992) Chapter IV.
10. R. D. Hunter, "First Annual Report to Stockholders."
11. Gomer Gower to Ben Owens Ltr., Nov 4, 1940, 2. Copy of Ltr. in author's collection.
12. Ibid., 3.
13. W. K. Gordon, Ltr. to Edgar L. Marston Dec 10, 1906. Copy of Ltr. in Author's collection.
14. George Green, "Transcribed Interview With Mr. Lawrence Santi." (Arlington, UT, Texas Labor Archives, 1974), 18.
15. Gomer Gower to Ben Owens, Nov 4, 1940, 2.
16. Gomer Gower to Ben Owens, Ltr., Apr. 12, 1940, 3. Copy of Ltr. In author's Collection.
17. Gomer Gower to Ben Owens, Nov 4, 1940, 4.
18. George Green, 33
19. Ibid., 32.
20. Stephenville Empire, Stephenvill, TX, May 31, 1912.
21. Ibid., June 7, 1912.
22. Assignments of Error, Sixth Assignment, District Court of Erath County, TX, No. 3784, State of Texas v. Frank Wisnoski, June Term 1912,6.
23. Pardons No. 15102, Gov. James E. Ferguson, Texas State Archives, Austin, Tx, July 6, 1917.
24. Ltr from Betty Schilling, Frank W. 's grand daughter, 5 May 1994.
25. Mary Jane Gentry, Thurber: The Life and Death of a Texas Town, Master's Thesis, UT, Austin, 1946, 157.
26. American Brewers Review, Vol. 22, Jan 1908 to Dec 1908, 297.
27. Willie M. Floyd, Thurber, Texas An Abandoned Coal Field Town, Master's Thesis, SMU, Dallas, 1939

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