Pioneering Dreams: The Narrative of Matthew Wasik

Pioneering Dreams: The Narrative of Matthew Wasik

In June 1903, in the rugged hills of Appalachia, a 40-year-old man named Maciej stepped off the train onto the dusty platform of the mining community of Wheeling, West Virginiai. He had traveled across the vast Atlantic Ocean, leaving behind the village of Trześńii, Galicia for the promise of employment in the American coal mines. 

Maciej, with weathered hands and a determined gaze, had heard tales of prosperity and opportunity in the mines of America. He had dreams of earning wages to bring his wife and 4 childreniii to the new world. The reality, however, was far from the dreams that fueled his journey. As he joined a group of fellow immigrants, the weight of uncertainty settled on his shoulders like the coal dust that clung to the air. 

West Virginian Coal Miners in the 1900s, photo taken from

His journey had already begun a month earlier; leaving his wife, Ewa, and his 4 children, Wawrzyniec, Marianna, Michalina, and Franciszek as well as friends and loved ones, he boarded the SS Cassel in Bremen on May 14 with an acquaintance, Ksawery Kasak. With just $3.00 in his pocket, he began to envision the next chapter in his life. 

Passenger manifest for Maciej Wasik – arriving 14 May 1903 at the port of Baltimore, Maryland. Maciej is the first entry on the page. iv 

The mines, dark and unforgiving, echoed with the sounds of pickaxes and the rumble of coal carts. Maciej, clad in worn-out overalls, descended into the depths each day, his body growing accustomed to the harsh labor that awaited him. The camaraderie among the miners became a source of strength as they shared stories in their native Polish, finding solace in the familiarity of their language amidst the alien clatter of the mines. 

Days turned into weeks, and Maciej’s muscles ached from the unrelenting toil. The coal dust settled on his skin, marking him as a miner in a foreign land. Yet, amidst the hardship, a sense of resilience blossomed within him. Within the next year and a half, Maciej’s hard work led to providing his dream for his family – passage on the SS Lake Michigan with a destination of America.   

Passenger Manifest for Ewa Wasik and four children – arriving 15 Dec 1904 at the port of Saint John, Canada.v 

With long overdue kisses for his children, the Wasik family began anew in freezing cold Minneapolis, MN in December 1904vi.  With no mines in Minneapolis, Maciej surveyed the landscape and found a new industry, the railroadvii. He was no stranger to the laborious work, as his muscles were used to the toil that had come from working in the mines in West Virginia.  

Maciej and Ewa, now known as Matthew and Eva in their newly anglicized world, would expand their family with three more children born in Minneapolis: John, Thomas and Steveviii. Five of their children would grow to have families of their own, one passed away before age oneix, and another tragically killed in a car accident before age 20x that ripped Matthew and Eva’s marriage apart.xi  

Marriage entry for Maciej Wąsik and Ewa Kopeć, 12 November 1890 in Brzostowa Góra. Maciej’s parents are Michał Wąsik and Katarzyna Maciąg; Ewa’s parents are Józef Kopeć and Marianna Wójtowicz, born and lives in Huta Komorowska. Witnesses were Franciszek Chruściel and Jakub Trela.xii  

Matthew’s journey was a testament to the indomitable spirit of those who sought a new life in America. Despite the hardships and challenges of being born in Brzostowa Góraxiii, Galicia, the poorest region in the Austrian-Hungarian empirexiv, he forged a path through the coal-laden darkness, driven by the promise of a brighter tomorrow.  

Matthew’s birth entry: Act #10, born 22 February 1863 and baptized 22 February 1863 in house number 12. Maciej (Mathias in Latin), Roman Catholic, male and legitimate son of Michał Wąsik and his wife, Katarzyna Maciąg, daughter of Bartłomiej Maciąg and Ewa Stróż. Godparents were Wojciech Maciąg and Katarzyna, wife of Andrzej Sudoł. Baptized by Father Franciszek Jagoda.xv 

Matthew’s final torch went out July 11, 1936xvi while chopping wood outside at the age 73 in Forest Lake, Minnesota when it was 106 degrees F and high humidityxvii.  A laborer his whole life, Maciej’s dream of taking care of his family burned like a steady flame, guiding him through the labyrinth of the new world.  

Eva and Matthew Wasik, date unknown.xviii 

End Notes

iCitation: Baltimore, Maryland, US, Passenger Lists, 1820-1964. Maciej Wasik, Ship Cassel, arrival May 1903, page 33, line 1.
ii There are three Trześń villages in Galicia, all in today’s Podkarpackie voivodship. Maciej lived in Trześń, a part of Tarnobrzeg county.,_Tarnobrzeg_County   
iii Maciej’s oldest four children were born in Trześń. The State Archive in Sandomierz, Poland holds the birth metrical book for years 1890-1909 where all four entries can be found (Wawrzyniec (1891, act 30), Marianna (1894, act 10), Michalina (1898, act 10), and Franciszek (1902, act 10). The book images can be accessed online:,list,387380,1.  
iv Citation: Baltimore, Maryland, US, Passenger Lists, 1820-1964. Maciej Wasik, Ship Cassel, arrival May 1903, page 33, line 1. 
v Citation: US, Border Crossings from Canada to US, 1895-1960. Eva Wonsik, Ship Lake Michigan, arrival 15 Dec 1904, line 8.  
vi Citation: US, Border Crossings from Canada to US, 1895-1960. Eva Wonsik, Ship Lake Michigan, arrival 15 Dec 1904, line 8. 
vii While the Minnesota 1905 census does list the Wasik family it does not list occupation. The 1910 US Federal Census lists his occupation as ”Helper Lumber Yard” in the Railroad industry.  
Citation: 1910 United States Federal Census, Minneapolis Ward 1, Hennepin, Minnesota. Roll T624_700, page 7B. Enumeration district 0026. FHL microfilm 1374713. Accessed online at  
viii Minnesota Polish Catholic Church Birth Database lists the birth and baptism for John (1905, St. John the Baptist), Thomas (1907, Holy Cross), and Steve (1910, Holy Cross).  
Citation: Rys, John, “Minnesota Births,” Database. Polish Family Information: 2009-2017 accessed 3 Jan 2024. 
ix Thomas passed away in March 1908 at 4 months.  
Citation: Rys, John, “Minnesota Deaths,” Database. Polish Family Information: 2009: accessed 3 Jan 2024. Item of interest: Thomas Wasik 
x John passed away at age 19 in Rusk County, Wisconsin on July 19, 1924.  
Citation: Wisconsin, US, Death Records, 1907-1932,, Lehi, UT; “John V Wasik”.  
xi Maciej and Ewa married in his birth village of Brzostowa Góra.  
Citation: Brzostowa Góra Marriages, 1866-1945, Parafia św. Bartłomieja Apostoła, Majdan Królewski, Podkarpackie, Poland.  
xii Citation: Brzostowa Góra Marriages, 1866-1945, Parafia św. Bartłomieja Apostoła, Majdan Królewski, Podkarpackie, Poland. 
xiii Brzostowa Góra is found southeast of Trześń and north of Kolbuszowa in today’s Southeastern Poland.  
xiv Davies, Norman. God’s Playground A History of Poland, Volume II: 1795 to the Present. Oxford University Press, pages 106-108.  
xv Citation: Brzostowa Góra Births, 1833-8/8/1893. Parafia św. Bartłomieja Apostoła, Majdan Królewski, Poland.  
xvi Citation: Minnesota, US, Death Index, 1908-2002,, Provo, UT.  ”Matthew Wasik” 
xvii Minneapolis Weather in 1936, accessed 3 Jan 2024.  
xviii From Don Wasik family photo collection. 


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