Noted in the National Register of Historic Places as the oldest permanent Polish settlement in America. Established in December 1854 by Polish Catholics, immigrants named the town Panna Maria, meaning Virgin Mary. The early years of the colony were difficult, plagued by disease, climate extremes and outlaws. Neighboring cowboys often ridiculed the strange, non-English-speaking foreigners. The community established the first Polish school in the United States, and other villages like Cestohowa, Pawelekville and Kosciusko sprang from this settlement.
The Panna Maria Historical Society is housed in the 1875 Pilarczyk Store. Souvenirs, crafts, information and guided tours are available. The Convent Inn was used by nuns teaching in the elementary school in the early 1950s. www.pannamariatexas.com.
The Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, is topped by a cross carried from Poland by the original colonists. The old painted ceiling has been restored. Open daily. Southeast of San Antonio, just off Texas 123 between Stockdale and Karnes City; near Helena ghost town. (See HELENA.)
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