Thursday, September 01, 2005

Lyle, Kaszubes and Jones Island

I recently heard Lyle L. tell a story about going to Jones Island with his father in the early 1940s and eating fresh caught fish in a shanty saloon. He said those good times ended when the Kaszubes, who had no deed on the land, were kicked off the island. Below is some more information I culled from and

Apparently, Jones Island and the Kaszube are also mentioned in the novel, The Turk and My Mother, by Mary Helen Stefaniak.

Jones Island A peninsula located underneath the Hoan Bridge, began as a fishing village populated by Polish settlers from the Kaszubes region in 1870. Having never officially obtained a deed for the land, they were considered squatters by the City of Milwaukee and evicted in the 1940's to make way for a shipping port. This is where MMSD and United Water Works have the main water treatment plant.

The name Jones Island came from James Jones, who once had a ship building business on the island.

It's hard to imagine, but, years ago, this was a bustling fishing village populated mostly by the hard-working, hard-fishing and hard-living Kaszubes (pronounced and sometimes spelled Kashubes), people of Polish and German descent who emigrated to Wisconsin from the Baltic peninsula of Hel and settled on Jones Island building a shanty village on land they never owned and living on what Lake Michigan provided. At its height, from 1870 until 1943, there were 1,800 people living here and there were 12 saloons.

The Kaszubes created a commercial fishing village. They were squatters, but nobody wanted the land at the time. The Kaszubes were evicted from the island by the city of Milwaukee in the 1940s, and many moved to nearby South Side Milwaukee neighborhoods.

In 1974, a tiny "Kaszube's Park" on the northwest side of Jones Island was dedicated as a city landmark. It's the last tangible piece if history that the descendants have on the island.

Today, in addition to housing the city's sewage treatment plant, the industrial Jones Island has oil tanks, big piles of salt for spreading on icy city streets, and lots of old railroad cars and tracks.