Thomas Walter Marczynski was born on December 26, 1878 in Poland to Jozef Ludwig and Theresa Katherine (Bonczak) Marczynski. He and his older siblings–Gertrude (b. 1858), Mary (b. 1865), Franciszka (b. 1868) and Casimir (b. 1871)–left for the United States at the turn-of-the-century, and they all worked for the railroad in Dunkirk, New York. Three years later, Thomas married Anna Salomea “Selma” Lasecki, the daughter of Joseph and Hedwig (Charlt) Lasecki, and had ten children: Joseph, Theresa, Lawrence, Theodore, Ignatius, Julia, Charles, Walter, Dorothy and Isabelle. This week’s 52 Ancestors prompt is “ten,” and I’m highlighting the stories of The Marczynski Ten: of robberies, arrests, asylums and not one, but three Bronze Stars.
Thomas and Selma’s oldest child, Joseph, was born on February 22, 1904 in Dunkirk, New York. Joseph’s story is largely a mystery; unlike many of his younger siblings, he rarely published updates in the local newspaper. He married Salomea “Celia” Odebralski, the daughter of William and Lena (Kozlowski) Odebralski, on December 13, 1926 in St. Mary’s Catholic Church, and the couple raised two sons and two daughters together: Joseph, Jr., Leonard, Virginia and Mildred. Joseph worked for a local radiator and boiler repair company, and he and Celia rented their home on East Courtney Street for fifteen dollars a month.
By 1940, Joseph’s oldest son was living at the Newark State School for Mental Defectives, a part of the State Custodial Asylum System in New York State. Joseph, Jr., had turned 11 years old that year, and his highest level of education was second grade. He died in the Newark institution on June 10, 1944 at the age of 15, but because of New York’s restrictions on the public’s access to mental health records, I do not know the cause of Joseph’s death or the reason he was living in Newark. He is buried in one of hundreds of unmarked graves surrounding the now-abandoned facility.
Theresa (Marczynski) Kozlowski
Theresa Marczynski, the second of Thomas and Selma’s ten children, was born on September 13, 1906 in Dunkirk. She was working as a “Sorter and Packer” at a seed factory in the city when she met her husband, Edward Anthony Kozlowski, the son of Anthony and Agnes (Gawronski) Kozlowski. The pair were married on July 10, 1928 and had one child, Thomas, in 1929. Theresa was often in the local newspaper for the parties and events she hosted with her social committee, and Edward, oddly enough, was involved in many accidents over the years that always resulted in a severe head injury: a fall from a scaffold in a boiler shop in 1926 and a car accident in 1945, to name a few.
Lawrence Marczynski was born on July 27, 1907 in Dunkirk, the third child and second son of Thomas and Selma Marczynski. A few years later, on February 18, 1911, Lawrence passed away at the age of 3. It is always painful to discover the death of a young child in my family tree, and I am still searching for more information on Lawrence’s life. Thomas and Selma clearly led lives full, in part, of loss and tragedy, especially in the first few years of their marriage; my heart aches for them.
Theodore Marczynski was born on March 16, 1909 in Dunkirk, and he worked as a laborer and, later, as an inspector at True Temper Corporation, a tool manufacturing plant in the city. He married Helen Louise Dobek, the daughter of Andrew and Rose (Szurlej) Dobek, on November 9, 1931, and the couple had three children: Andrew Leo (b. 1932), Loretta (b. 1934) and John Joseph (b. 1940). The only record I have for Theodore–other than the standard birth, marriage, death and census records–is an arrest warrant from October 1931, one month before his marriage to Helen. He was released without bail in the custody of his attorney, and he was later charged with assault in the second degree.
Next up is Ignatius James Marczynski, who later changed his name to Ignatius Martin. He was born on January 18, 1911 in Dunkirk, and he also worked as a laborer and, later, as a machinist with his brother at True Temper Corporation. In March 1932, Ignatius, Edward Kozlowski (Ignatius’ brother-in-law) and Frank Mazur (a friend) were arrested while attempting to rob a Nickel Plate merchandise car, and they were charged with burglary in the third degree and trespassing on railroad property. The headline of the March 24, 1932 edition of the Dunkirk Evening Observer that morning read, “ALLEGED CAR BURGLARS HELD FOR GRAND JURY:”
“The railroad police claim they caught Kozlowski, Marczynski and Mazur in a box car of a freigh train standing near the Middle Road crossing. A quantity of cigarettes, tobaccos and other merchandise was piled near the door, the seal of which was broken by the trio, police say. The detectives who made the arrests were riding in an empty car of the train watching for car burglars because several merchandise cars had been robbed during the past few weeks.” Bail was set at $1,000 for each defendant, and the trio were taken to the county jail at Mayville the next day after failing to post the sum.
Three years later, in February 1935, Ignatius was arrested again for forced entrance into the home of Mrs. Mary Kuharski: “A quartet of Fourth Ward youths were discussing card tricks in a restaurant late last Saturday night. Between drinks each told of his favorite feat of magic witht he pasteboards. One of them casually mentioned the fact that he knew a fellow who could take a deck in his two hands and tear the cards through as though they were tissue paper. That was too much for Ignatius Marczynski, 24, of 224 Lincoln Avenue. He was, to say the least, dubious.
As the conversation continued he became more and more skeptical. He wanted to see it done. So the quartet borrowed a deck of cards and set out. By this time it was after 1 AM Sunday. They went to the residence of Mrs. Mary Kuharski, 22 St. Hedwig’s Avenue, since it was one of her sons who could do the trick. The Kuharskis were already in bed and the rear door was locked. But Marczynski was so determined to see the trick that he ripped the lock off the door and entered the dwelling.
The result was he was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. Through his attorney, William H. Hayes, Jr., he pleaded guilty in city court this morning. A sentence of 60 days was suspended by Judge Johnson who warned Marczynski to leave intoxicants alone. The youth has yet to see the card trick performed.” It’s no wonder he changed his surname to Martin!
Julia (Marczynski) Voelker
Julia Theresa Marczynski was born on February 11, 1913 in Dunkirk, New York, and her story is just as mysterious as her older brother’s. “The condition of Julia Marczynski, 18-year-old girl who was found unconscious in the Meister home, Eastle Street last Tuesday, remains unchanged. Police are still puzzled by the mystery and, for the time being, one important avenue of investigation has been definitely closed. Dr. V. D. Bozorsky, summoned by the family, has ordered complete rest and quiet for the girl and has placed a ban on all questioning.
While the police have definite theories on the identity of the handwriting found in two notes and a letter and discount the idea that at least one of these notes was written by two men who invaded and ransacked the Meister home, they have not abandoned the investigation or discarded other possibilities. The investigation, however, is decidedly handicapped by the continued comatose condition of the girl.”
The Dunkirk Evening Observer picks up the story a month later: “Six weeks ago today, Dunkirk was startled by the news of the finding of Julia Marczynski, maid in the home of Mrs. Peter Meister of Eagle Street, unconscious in the house with a note from “the X’s” telling that the girl had been “given a good dose of drink” by the unknown visitors. Since that time, Miss Marczynski has told little of the events of that day, except that two men came to the door, and pushed past her into the house. For many days she lay in an unconscious or comatose condition, at the hospital and later at her home, her condition being diagnosed as hysteria by physicians in charge.
For the past few days, she has been recovering her strength, and has taken short walks in the vicinity of her home and seeing her riends. Members of her family say she seems well, but is still weak. Miss Marczynski, when interviewed, said, ‘I am not ready to talk yet about this case, but I will have plenty to say later. When my doctor pronounces me well, then I will talk, but not before.’ She said that she remembers all that happened the morning of February 3, when she was found by Dr. E. A. Foley, Mrs. Meister’s son-in-law, when he returned to the house for lunch.
The Dunkirk police department ceased active investigation of the case when the articles which had disappeared were found in the Meister home, discounting the robbery theory, announcing that they were satisfied that the girl arranged the situation herself.” And she had: for a while, Julia claimed to have been attacked by two gunmen, but she later admitted that the entire story was a hoax.
Charles Arthur Marczynski led a much quieter life than his two older siblings. He was born on February 3, 1915 in Dunkirk and married Emilia Harriet Czekanski, the daughter of Ignatius and Victoria (Andrzejewski) Czekanski, on April 27, 1940. The couple had one daughter, Patricia Ann Marczynski (Charles’ uncle, Casimir Marczynski, also had a daughter named Patricia Ann Marczynski), and they made their home at 528 Franklin Avenue. Like many of the men on my mother’s side of the family, Charles worked for the railroad and, later, as an inspector at Alco Products in the city.
Walter Thomas Marczynski was born on November 11, 1918 in Dunkirk, the eighth of Thomas and Selma’s ten children. He enlisted in the United States Army on September 2, 1942 in Buffalo, New York “for the duration of the war plus six months, subject to the discretion of the President or otherwise according to law.” At the close of World War II, Walter was awarded “three Bronze Stars on his overseas stripes for participation in major operations.” (Bronze Star Medals are awarded to members of the United States Armed Forces for heroic achievement, heroic service, meritorious achievement or meritorious service in a combat zone.) He spent a few months recuperating from wounds in a hospital in Great Britain before returning home to his fiance, Joyce Eileen Royce, and continuing to work in the fabrication of metal products. The couple were married on February 12, 1947 in St. Mary’s Church and went on to raise two children.
Dorothy (Marczynski) Van Valkenburg
Dorothy Loretta Marczynski, the ninth of Thomas and Selma’s ten children, was born on July 7, 1922 in Dunkirk. Her husband, Richard Valentine Van Valkenburg, was working for the state government and living in Highlands, New York when they met, and on April 20, 1942, he enlisted in the United States Army in Buffalo for the duration of World War II. Richard returned home to New York at the end of the war, married Dorothy Marczynski shortly after and started working as a carpenter in the city of Dunkirk. The couple made their home at 49 King Street and raised four daughters and one son together: Paul, Kathryn, Sally, Nancy and Linda. Dorothy, like Walter and Charles, lived a quiet life in the city where she and her siblings had grown up. Richard and Dorothy were a well-matched couple who remained in love for the rest of their lives, and both of them made incredible parents.
Isabelle (Marczynski) Paprocki
Thomas and Selma’s youngest child, Isabelle Sabina Marczynski, was born on September 24, 1923 in Dunkirk. During World War II, she was “a real Rosie the Riveter,” working in aircraft production for Curtiss-Wright in Buffalo to supply the United States Armed Forces. Isabelle later worked for a flower shop and a Senior Care Center in the same city. She married Stephen Paprocki, the son of Walter and Catherine (Sczerbracki) Paprocki, on May 11, 1946 at St. Mary’s Catholic Church: “The bride wore a white gown made with a lace bodice and a net skirt ending in a train. Her tulle veil was arranged in a beaded crown, and she carried white roses and lilies of the valley.
Miss Mae Paprocki was maid of honor, wearing a gown of yellow taffeta and net. Walter Marczynski was best man. The bridesmaids, Miss Lottie Steffan, Miss Valerie Franckewicz, Miss Florence Sobkowski and Miss Joyce Royce, wore gowns of aquamarine and of pink net, with headdresses of white hyacinths and daisies. They carried bouquets of roses, snapdragons and daisies. A reception was held during the day at Holy Trinity hall. Mr. and Mrs. Paprocki left for a short western trip.” Stephen was a steel worker at Alco, and the couple made their home with their two children (Stephen and Susan) at 119 Lord Street, a few houses down the road from my great-grandparents.
I love researching Thomas Walter Marczynski’s line of my family tree precisely because of the different paths each of his children pursued; while all of them remained in Dunkirk for the rest of their lives, their stories truly are not similar in any way. I’m left with so many questions: why was Joseph’s son in Newark’s asylum? What are the odds of Edward sustaining (and surviving) so many head injuries? Will I ever be able to find any information on Lawrence’s childhood? Why was Walter awarded three Bronze Stars, specifically? Was Julia actually trying to steal from her employer? And, most of all, what did Thomas and Selma think about all of this chaos? I may never know the answers to all of my questions, but for now, I’ll keep searching.