to the History of St. Isidore's
Roman Catholic Church of Riverhead, New York
by my Grandparents, Stanley and May
in the Permanent Record
History of St. Isidore's Parish, Polish Town, Riverhead, Long Island, New York
published on the occasion of the completion of St. Isidore's School and Convent in 1962.
About the 1962 History Book Project
to the Kuźniewski Genealogy Website
The history of the immigration of the Polish people to America shows that the greatest percentage of this national group came to the United States in the year 1870. Statistics indicate that in the year 1900 there were over 383,000 Poles, and by 1913, the number exceeded two million. The immigrants came to this country for various reasons. Perhaps the most pressing situation was the threefold partition of Poland, during which her children came under the rule of three foreign powers: Prussia, Austria and Russia. While living under these powers, the Polish people faced many and severe persecutions. Many of them, therefore, to avoid this oppression, and especially for religious reasons, fled their homeland and migrated to other parts.
Many of the immigrants who had to leave their homeland for peace of mind and peace of conscience came from the towns and villages. They were accustomed to hard work, but they could not always find even the most unspecialized work. One of their handicaps, of course, was their inability to speak the English language. At times they were discriminated against, presenting another difficulty. With the help of the immigration departments and special employment and placement bureaus, they were able to find work in factories, hotels, private homes and especially on the farms. The numerous farms in the area was a prime reason that so many settled in the vicinity of Riverhead. The records of birth and marriage it the Riverhead Town Hall for the beginning of the 20th Century show that most immigrants to Eastern Long Island were engaged in farming.
In 1886, a Polish immigrant named Francis Kruszewski settled in Riverhead with his wife Regina, being perhaps the first polish immigrant to Riverhead; he only stayed there three years. He moved to Bridgehampton in November of 1889, and finally settled in Southampton in 1890. He would be one of the founding members of the Polish Community and Parish "Our Lady of Poland" in Southampton. That church opened in 1918 so that Polish immigrants would not have to travel the long distances to Riverhead for Polish mass, as did all of the 331 Polish families betweeen Remsenberg and Montalk up until 1918. They came by railroad, horse and buggy, and bicycle to receive the Sacraments of the Church from Pastor, Father Rysiakiewicz.
One of the next families to have settled in the Riverhead area, according to the records of the Riverhead Town Hall (which only date as far back as 1881) was a Cacleski Family. "Cacleski" may be a misspelling of the name Sendlewski; for, upon checking the Baptismal records of St. John's Church in Riverhead, which date back to 1879, we find a person of this family being baptized under the name of Veronica Sendlewski. Veronica Sendlewski was born on March 5, 1888. This was verified by Mr. Thomas Sendlewski, Sr., a member of the Parish and a brother to Veronica. He was born the following year in Setauket. His father, Andrew Sendlewski, was at that time employed by Henry Howell, a farmer.
Early Parishioners Michalena and Antoni Kuźniewski
Antoni Kuzniewski, the son of Gabryel and Katarzyna Kuzniewski, emigrated in 1890 from Mala Wies, Plocka Gubernya, Polish Russia to Flushing, New York. His wife Michalena and son Adam followed in 1891. They later moved to Bayside and then Calverton sometime before 1907 following the wave of Polish immigration eastward. Their son, John Kneski, baptized Jan Kuzniewski, received the Sacrament First Holy Communion in St. Isidore's Parish in 1914 by Ks. Stanislaw Rysiakiewicz, mentioned below in the 1962 history text. Link to the Kuzniewski Genealogy Website
Jan Kuzniewski's First Holy Communion Certificate,*
from 1914. Records were officially kept from 1904 according to the 1962 church history publication. The church is in desperate need of a volunteer historian and an archives assistance mechanism after 100 years of history.
In conversation with the older residents of Riverhead and members of St. Isidore's Parish, it was established that among the first 'colonists' of Polish birth were Ignatius Ruszkowski and Joseph Przyborowski. They were the first to have purchased their own farms. Others who followed were: Frank Fafinski, Adam Danowski, Antone Danowski and John Danilowicz. Prior to 1900 there are still other Polish names appearing in the local records. Among these are: Joseph Stijecki, Antone Fafinski, Matthew Kruszeski, Adam Mackiewicz, Michael Kujan, Antone Palembas, Joseph Zawieska and Antone ,Zawieska. There are many other names, familiar to us today in this vicinity, which also appear in the records. They are: Alexander Rolle, Martin Panewicz, Peter Panewicz, John Romianski, John Rykaczewski, John Rogozinski, Lawrence Bakowski, John Tylicki, Bernard Balser, Stanley Gaura, Louis Tyska, Joseph Malinowski, Joachim Orlowski, Frank Haupt (Opcinski), Antone Sidor, Joseph Cybulski, Joseph Filmanski, George Nauwialis, Valenty Adamczewski, Joseph Choenski, W. Polakiewicz and Michael Wojciechowski. There may have been others, but these were the ones available from local records. We might mention that the widow of one of the above mentioned is still living today, being 98 years of age, Mrs. Anna Kujan, wife of Michael Kujan.
SAINT ISIDORE SOCIETY
Shortly after these people had settled in this vicinity, the men began to organize themselves into a Polish Fraternity bearing the name "'Towarzystwo Polskie Rzymsko-Katolickie Bratniej Pomocy pod Opieka Sw. lzydora, Patrona Rolnikow ~The Polish Roman-Catholic Society of Fraternal Assistance under the Patronage of St. Isidore, the Patron of Farmers." The first meeting of this Society was held in the home of Mr. Frank Fafinski. By March 14, 1895, they had formulated their constitution, the committee consisting of Messrs. Joseph Przyborowski, Marian Wiktorowicz and Bruno Pitnewicz. The official date of the organization of the Society of St. lsidore is given as October 14, 1895. Its first board of officers consisted of: Ignatius Ruszkowski, President: Isidore Rosko, Vice-president; Andrew Sendlewski, Treasurer; John Liszewski, Secretary. 'The photograph included in this book shows that their original membership was approximately twenty. Those missing from the photograph are: Frank Fafinski, John Danilowicz and Marian Wiktorowicz.
this Society had, as one of its objectives, the joining together in
fellowship so as to bring help to those who needed it among their members,
their widows and families, they were insistent upon organizing a Polish
Roman Catholic Parish. At the time, they were attending St. John's Parish
in Riverhead. In fulfilling their obligation of hearing Mass on Sundays
and Holy Days in St. John's Church, they missed hearing the Gospel of
Christ and His teachings in their own native tongue. Provision was made
for them to receive the Sacrament of Penance twice a year when a certain
Father Baran came from Newtown, New York. Even though their needs were
being satisfied in a minimal sense, they felt they would be more content
with a parish of their own, in which they could have all that they needed
and desired spiritually in their own native tongue.
With the help of a Mr. Ruzicki from Newtown, N.Y. and through their own untiring efforts, they purchased a piece of property on which stood the Academy, the first schoolhouse ever built in Riverhead. This parcel of land was located on Cemetery Road (now Pulaski Street) bounded by Marcy Avenue and Sweezy Avenue. 'This parcel and building, which was to become the first St. Isidore's Church, was purchased at a cost of $53,000.
'Through the efforts of these pioneers, the seed was sown for the largest Polish Roman-Catholic Parish on the eastern end of Long Island. A great deal of recognition and respect is due these men who labored so hard to organize this wonderful parish that is ours today.
Isidore's Parish was canonically erected in 1903. It was in this year
that the First Mass was offered in the school building, which was purchased
by the St. Isidore's Society. Even though the canonical date for the
erection of the Parish is 1903, the parish records date back only to
1904, because a permanent pastor was not assigned to the Parish at that
time. During the first two years of its existence, Redemptionist and
Franciscan Fathers traveled weekends to minister to the faithful. Among
these our records re veal such names as Fathers F. Jasinski and F. Supik
of the Redemptionist Fathers. Among the Franciscan Fathers (Order of
the Friars Minor, Conventual) , we find Fathers P. Topolski, C. Rybinski,
Stanislaus Lepich and F. Wilk.
early photo of St. Isidore's Choir under the patronage of St. Cecilia.
Young Ladies of the Parish,
The first resident Pastor, assigned to the Parish in March of 1905, was Father Louis P. Muszynski. Shortly after his arrival, the parish really began to take shape. One of the first projects undertaken by Father Muszynski was the building of the present Church, which began somewhere near the end of 1905, or at the beginning of 1906. In order to break ground for the new St. Isidore's Church, the temporary Church (the schoolhouse) had to be moved to a site immediately adjacent on the corner of Cemetery Road (Pulaski Street) and Marcy Avenue, which at that time was merely a narrow dirt path. During the period of construction, this temporary Church also served as the rectory where the Pastor took tip his residence.
'There is in our possession a placard which announced the blessing of the cornerstone on Sunday, November 4, 1906. 'The blessing was executed by the Right Reverend P. J. McNamara, who at that time was Vicar General of the Diocese of Brooklyn. The sermon was preached in the Polish language by Father Boleslaus Puchalski, Pastor of Our Lady of Czestochowa Parish in South Brooklyn. The English sermon was preached by Father L. Kwasniewski, Pastor of St. Adalbert Parish in New York.
Interior of the Church,
The building of the Church took approximately one whole year, since the date of the dedication of the church was September 19, 1907. Father Muszynski must have been a man of great foresight in constructing a church of such proportions when the congregation was comparatively small. To this day, the Church has been adequate for all the faithful of the parish.
The number of parishioners began to increase. Poles from all sections began to join in the ranks of the parishioners. We have proof of this from the various memorials in the Church. Two of the Stations of the Cross were gifts from "The Polish" People of Southampton" and "The Polish People of Patchogue." Others came to St. Isidore's by train front such places as Orient, Manorville, Cutchogue and other points along the main line of the railroad. A good number of people came from Speonk, Westhampton and Eastport.
According to the Baptismal records of the Parish, the first person to have received the Sacrament of Baptism in St. Isidore's Parish was Anna Gwozda, the daughter of Basil and Mary Bialochlawek. She was born on February 24, 1904, and was baptized on February 28th. The priest who administered the Sacrament of Baptism was Father Patrick Topolski, O.F.M., Conv. The second Baptism recorded was of Martha Zaluski, dated as March, 1904.
'The first to have entered into the holy bonds of Matrimony in St. Isidore's were Joseph Kazmierczyk and Victoria Dzielak on April 25, 1904. The officiating priest was Father F. Wilk. The second marriage was between Peter Borodenko and Anna Jasinski on August 14, 1904, in the presence of Father Rzesutek. The first recorded burial was that of Alexander Tamulewicz, 36 years of age. The burial took place on January 23, 1905.
Pastors of St. Isidore's Parish in chronological order were:
who served in the capacity of Assistant:
Every Pastor in the history of St. Isidore's has contributed his share to the development of the parish. Father Muszynski, the first Pastor, indeed laid the ground work and each of the others built upon it. There is no doubt that a great deal was accomplished in the pastorate of the late Rt. Rev. Monsignor Anthony F. Zasowski.
As with all buildings, so also with Parish buildings, there is need from time to time for repair and even replacement. 'The most significant changes in the history of St. Isidore's began with the remodeling of the Church in 1953 when, under the pastorate of Monsignor Zasowski, the Church was completely repainted, a new organ and heating system installed and all the stained-glass windows releaded. Along with this, Monsignor also improved the landscaping of the parish grounds as we see it today. A few years later, automatic bell ringers were installed to make easier the announcement of Divine Services and the ringing of the traditional Angelus at 6 A.M., 12 Noon and 6 P.M.
One of the first great building projects undertaken by Monsignor, during his pastorate, was the building of a new rectory. The old rectory was the original Church, which became the residence of the priests of the Parish. It was necessary to replace this with a new, building because the other, badly in need of repair, and being about 100 years old, proved too costly to renovate or rebuild. Construction on the present rectory began in May of 1956, and on May 1, 1957, the priests of the Parish took tip residence in this beautiful and very practical home. In September of that year, much to the regret of all, the original St. Isidore's Church - Rectory was necessarily torn (to make room for the spacious green lawn and the approach to the front door of the new rectory.
Continuing with the plan to beautify St. lsidore's, a few years later the parking area, which in times of rain and snow became a field of mud, was blacktopped and made more convenient to those who would then and in the future attend St. Isidore's Church. Today, it is possible to park many more cars than ever in the parking area of the Church. We can all, today, be justly proud of our Parish because it is truly one of the most beautiful in this area.
Much has been said about the material aspects of St. Isidore's development. It is not possible, however, to speak quite as factually about the spiritual development. These facts and figures are known only to God. We are confident, though, that the fruits of the spiritual ministrations of the priests of the parish and the efforts of the faithful have caused many of our former parishioners to be in the presence of God today where, says St. Augustine, we find our true peace.
Early Parish Organizations
There is a saying which states that the beginnings are always the most difficult. There is much truth in this statement, as the pioneers of St. Isidore's had experienced. Though they themselves had very little and had to work exceedingly hard to make a living; nevertheless, they were able to organize themselves to form their own parish. These individuals worked together for the good of the parish as well as their own well-being. Each knew of the difficulties the other had to cope with and tried to help. This was again made possible through their close attachment and affection for their parish.
parish has certain organizations or societies. This was true also in
the history of St. Isidore's. We saw previously that through the efforts
of a society, which predates the parish itself, this parish became a
reality. This great group was the St. Isidore Society. Shortly
after the organization of the parish, other societies began to form.
The Parish, of course, did not consist only of men. There were also
their wives and children. They also wanted to congregate and to feel
more attached to their parish and their priests.
of the St. Stanislaus Kostka Society,
Full of enthusiasm, the women organized into The Rosary Society. Their official date of aggregation to the Archconfraternity of the Rosary is March 12, 1905. The youth, following the example of their parents, also began to organize. The boys and young men started a group of their own under the title of the St. Stanislaus Kostka Society. They were organized fully by April 23, 1905. The girls and young women, by December 8, 1904, formed their Sodality of the Blessed Virgin (The Children of Mary).
In the meantime, another fraternity of men appeared on the scene. This was the St. Joseph Society, organized on April 9, 1905. Unfortunately, this Society no longer exists today. Approximately three years ago, having only a handful of its members surviving, the Society disbanded. In those early years of St. Isidore's, one more fraternity was organized consisting of both men and women: The Archconfraternity of the Sacred Heart or the Apostleship of Prayer. It takes its beginnings as of September 28, 1905. In 1918, the Third Order of St. Francis was organized.
of the St. Joseph Society,
Almost twenty-one years elapsed before any new societies or organizations appeared in the annals of St. Isidore's. In 1939, the St. Isidore's Holy Name Society and the Altar - Rosary Society were organized. Today, these are perhaps the most active of all the societies. After some time, the Sw. Stanislaus Kostka Society became inactive and, in fact, almost defunct. In January of 1956 it was, therefore, reorganized into the St. Isidore's junior Holy, Name Society. The parish consists of many souls. Not all of hem join the societies under parochial auspices. Others join, besides these, their national or patriotic societies which meet within the confines of the parish. These, we might say, take their origin indirectly through the parish.
Near the very beginning of the foundations of the Polonia in the Riverhead area, there arose, in 1904, a dramatic society. Proud of their ancestry and, in most cases, their native culture, the men and women organized what was called the Dramatic Circle (Kolo Dramatyczne) . Their chief aims were to take an active part in uplifting the Polish Spirit and the Polish language. One of their activities consisted in presenting theatrical plays and skits in Polish. This organization has since ceased to exist. A nonpolitical group was organized in 1908 bearing the name of "The Riverhead Polish Independent Club". It was through the efforts of this organization throughout the years that we have had a Polish Hall in Riverhead, where many of our parish activities have taken place. The Women's Auxiliary was formed in 1929.
Locally, during the year of 1917, there was organized also a group of men who are popularly known as "Rolniki", literally translated, "The Farmers". Its official name in English is the Agricultural and Commercial Society of Riverhead. Yet another group, indirectly connected to St. Isidore's Parish, is the local unit of the Polish National Alliance, known here as Group #2691. It is also known as the Society of Casimir Pulaski. It marks its beginning in 1932.
Many significant events -have taken place in the history of St. Isidore's since its founding. Here are presented the earlier facts which truly constitute the foundations of the parish. There are many alive today who cherish many thoughts about their parish. There are many who through varied circumstances have left the confines of the parish but are still with us in spirit.
St. Isidore's has been blessed in many ways. One of the greatest blessings was through one of her native sons who is now a member of the hierarchy of the Church. This native son is the Most Reverend Alexander M. Zaleski, D.D., presently an Auxiliary Bishop and Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Detroit. Bishop Zaleski was ordained July 12, 1931, in Belgium. He offered his first Solemn Mass in St. Isidore's Church shortly upon his return from Louvain. He received the fullness of the priesthood, through the Episcopal Consecration, on May 23, 1950. Our Parish, being justly proud of Bishop Zaleski, honored him with a banquet on July 29, 1956, on the occasion of his Silver Jubilee in the Priesthood. Bishop Zaleski is presently Pastor of St. Alphonsus Parish in Dearborn, Michigan.
Reverend Alexander M. Zaleski, D.D.
Others of our native sons who have been called by God to the Holy Priesthood are: The Reverend Joseph C. Kazmierczyk, ordained in 1932 for the Diocese of Syracuse in New York; The Reverend Leon L. Adamcewicz, O.S.B., ordained May 31, 1940, for the Order of St. Benedict. Father Leon Adamcewicz offered his First Solemn Mass in St. Isidore's Church on June 9, 1940. He has since been called to his eternal reward. A third son of St. Isidore's in the Priesthood is the Reverend Francis Filmanski, ordained June 6, 1953. He offered his First Solemn Mass in St. Isidore's the following day and has since been assistant pastor at Our Lady of Poland in Southampton.
St. Isidore's has also given two daughters to the Church. These are Genevieve Macksel and Lottie Kruk. Genevieve Macksel entered the Dominican Sisters of the Sick Poor in 1932 and was professed in 1957. She is presently assigned to their Motherhouse on Henry Street in Brooklyn. Her name in Religion is Sister Mary Trinitas. Lottie Kruk entered the Congregation of St. Felix (C.S.F.) in 1921 and was professed in 1925. She is known in Religion as Sister Mary Pudenciana and is presently in the Felician Sisters hospital in Bangor, Maine.
From its earliest days, St. Isidore's began to grow and expand. At present it has approximately 850 families and about 2700 souls. It has had many priests serving these souls throughout the years as Pastors, Assistants and Administrators. Every Parish in the Diocese is legally, in the eyes of the State of New York, a corporation. The President of the corporation is the Bishop of the Diocese. The others on the Board of Officers include the Pastor and two lay trustees. Mr. Felix Rutkowski and Mr. Frank Doroski are its present trustees. In the course of the 58 years of the existence of the Parish, we find such names as Messrs. Bruno Zaloga, Ignatius Ruszkowski, Michael Bakowski, Antone Danowski, Stanley Gaura, Konstanty Kobylenski and Peter Zawieski, who also bore this same title.
The publication of this book and the printing of this history of St. Isidore's Parish was occasioned by a very important event and another milestone in the history of the Parish - the completion of the School and Convent. These, like the other beautiful buildings which grace the parish properties, are another indication of the continued love and interest of the people of the Parish for their own Parish Church. We see from this that the spirit of our "founding fathers" continues to this day.