Polish place names crop up all over North America and other parts of the globe settled by Poles. Nothing particularly amazing about that, but when you’re lying in bed with the dreaded January virus it’s possible to become a little obsessed with looking them all up. From there it’s a small step to collecting photos of all these geographical orphans, and from there it’s more or less inevitable that one will move on to putting together a blog post about it. It’s a cycle with all the hideous inevitability of the slippery slope from sniffing magic markers to crack cocaine.
You spelled Warszawa wrong
North America boasts at least 15 Warsaws. Like a big lummox I always assumed this was because people from Warsaw migrated there and couldn’t be bothered to think of a new name for their new town. In fact the proliferation of Warsaws in the United States was politically motivated. In 1794 in Poland Tadeusz Kościuszko led a rebellion against the occupying powers of the Second Partition. The rebellion failed and even more Poles found it advisable to seek a new life in the New World. Working from first hand accounts she had heard from these refugees the American author Jane Porter wrote Thaddeus of Warsaw (published 1803) an historical novel based on the uprising and the deeds of Kościuszko, who was already an heroic figure in the US for the prominent role he had played in the American Revolution (War of Independence) twenty years earlier. The novel was a huge success and all sorts of people got excited about Kościuszko all over again. Many of them got so excited that they decided Warsaw was a much better name for a town than, say, Buffalobuttock or Thiswilldoville, so they changed it. Almost none of these towns had any significant Polish population at the time.
To add to the confusion some of the brighter communities remembered that Thaddeus (Tadeusz) wasn’t actually from Warsaw and decided to call their towns Kosciusko instead (two surviving communities; one in Mississippi and one in Texas), and some Polish immigrants also decided to change the names of their towns from New Szczecin or Nowy Katowice to Warsaw for simplicity’s sake.
Warsaw, Kosciusko County, Indiana
Warsaw, Indiana… they have tools.
Warsaw, Indiana is by far the largest of the surviving US communities to bear the name, with a present-day population of about 13,000.
Interesting facts: The town’s motto is “Orthopedic Capital of the World,” which is probably why you’ve never met anybody who admits to coming from there. The first resident to install a telephone was Dr. Eggleston in 1882: his number was Warsaw 1. A shady sounding character by the name of Paul E. “Mike” Hodges was mayor four times between 1952 and 1983 and I like to believe he looked a lot like Boss Hogg off the Dukes of Hazard.
Best website quote: “In addition to orthopedics, Warsaw: 1) is the home of the largest printing presses in the world, 2) home to the world’s largest manufacturer of projection screens, and 3) home of the famous CoCo Wheat’s breakfast cereal.” Just how big are those printing presses?
Warsaw, Duplin County, North Carolina
West Hill Street, Warsaw, North Carolina. Ain’t no trains a commin…
Interesting facts: Originally known as Mooresville the town changed it’s name to Warsaw in 1855. Told you it was true.
Best website quote: “During the same year, a merchant named Thaddeus Love moved to town to be the stationmaster of the Duplin Depot. At the time, a biography of a Polish national hero, Tadeusz Kosciuszko, was extremely popular. The Joane Porter book, entitled Thaddeus of Warsaw, furnished Thaddeus Love a catchy nickname. In fact, Love’s nickname was so appealing, that by 1847, the community was already known in legal circles as “Warsaw Depot.” When the town was incorporated in 1855, the community was officially designated as Warsaw.”
Warsaw, Gallatin County, Kentucky
Small town America… they have hardware
The third-largest of the American Warsaws, just.
Interesting facts: Erm…
Best website quote: “The city has a total area of 1.5 square miles of which 1.0 square mile is land and 0.5 square mile is water.” So, a third of your city is under water, perhaps you should be twinned with Wrocław?
Warsaw, Hancock County, Illinois
The Warsaw post office. You have to wonder what would happen if you posted a letter to Warsaw Illinois in Warsaw Masovia, somewhere a post office employee would just explode surely.
Interesting facts: The first settlement in the area was a fort established by future US president Zachary Taylor to fight the British. Well it’s a fact anyway.
Best website quote: “Whether just passing through or staying for awhile, there are no strangers here in Warsaw.” That might just be because nobody ever goes there.
Warsaw, Richmond County, Virginia
Warsaw, Virginia is for lovers. You can tell I’m running out of real information can’t you
Interesting facts: “Warsaw was originally called Richmond County Courthouse. It was renamed Warsaw in 1831 in sympathy for the Polish struggle for liberty”. I’m sure the Polish struggle felt much better, if not much more liberated.
Best website quote: “To have your child seat inspected, please call 804-333-3737 for an appointment.”
Warsaw, Wyoming County, New York
Warsaw, New York… you can turn left there
Interesting facts, website favorite thing… whatever: “Warsaw’s growth and its physical appearance was especially influenced by the salt industry. Between 1878 and 1894 Warsaw became the nation’s largest producer of table salt.” A whole sixteen years at the pinnacle of the table salt industry can be a powerful rush for a town.
Warsaw, Sumter County, Alabama
Now that’s a small town…
…also not a very busy one
Warsaw, Walsh County, North Dakota
There’s a definite tool, or should I say tuel, theme to these places
A genuine Polish community! Apparently it remained largely Polish-speaking until the mid 20th century. It has about 200 residents and a Catholic church (St. Stanislaus’ of course) big enough to accommodate the population of Nebraska.
Warsaw, Washington County, Mississippi
Warsaw, Mississippi seems to consist of just this bend in the road with its bike/tractor bar
Warsaw, Rice County, Minnesota
A sign! A sign!
This is the kind of road that says “Why are you living in Warsaw Minnesota… get out now!”
Warsaw, Kaufman County, Texas
See comment above on the usefulness of roads
Interesting facts: “The site was settled before 1840 and called Warsaw Prairie. A post office operated in the settlement from 1847 through 1858. The community had a population of fifteen and two businesses in 1936. Afterward, however, Warsaw stabilized at about sixty residents; fifty-eight persons lived there in 1988 and 1990”. ‘Stabilized’ may be a polite term.
Perhaps surprisingly there seem to be very few communities named after Polish cities other than Warsaw. There are a scattering of Danzigs, Breslaus, and Stettins (the former, German names, of Gdansk, Wrocław, and Szczecin respectively) but few others. These are some of the exceptions, all of which seem to have been Polish immigrant communities.
Lublin, Taylor County, Wisconsin
If there’s ever a fire in the village hall they’re sorted
Interesting facts: Population: 108. Churches: St. Stanislaus Catholic Church, St. Mary’s Polish National Church, Holy Assumption Orthodox Church. Town president: Bill Wisniewski.
Best website quote: “Special Features of Lublin: Pig Roast, Municipal Sewer system, Senior citizen nutrition site, …and more!”
Silesia, Carbon County, Montana
The road to Silesia, Montana if you dare
Torun, Portage County, Wisconsin
Not even a usable Google Earth image of this place
Torun, Wisconsin is part of the larger originally Polish community of Portage County. Other communities in the area include Plover, Ellis, Amherst, Custer, and Polonia.
Breslau, Pierce County, Nebraska
Maybe it was a town once
Danzig, McIntosh County, North Dakota
Danzig, North Dakota in about 1915
Danzig, North Dakota cemetery today. Either headstones weren’t in fashion or this was an undead community.
Clearly a German-speaking community, but included here for completeness.
Best website quote: “I am writing this history of my hometown, Danzig, North Dakota, simply because I do not want it to be forgotten.”
That other Poland
If you must live in a Poland, why not this one?
The Pacific island of Kiritimati, formerly known as Christmas Island, has four settlement: Poland, London, Paris, and Banana (honest). Poland, Kiribati has a population of about 250 and apparently got its name thanks to the efforts of a Polish sailor who helped the local inhabitants build an irrigation system.
Poland, from above
In the 1950s Britain put a bit of a crimp in property prices on the island by conducting a series of nuclear weapons tests there (Operation Grapple). At a dull moment in dinner-table conversation you can point out the Britain once nuked Christmas, Poland, and London all at the same time.
If you’re reading this and you’re from one of these places say hello, and I apologize in advance for taking the mick.