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POLONIA: THE GREATER LOWELL 
AMERICAN COMMUNITY PAST & PRESENT
 
HISTORICAL SKETCH OF POLONIA
IN LOWELL

Polonia means a community of people of Polish
ancestry living outside of Poland.  Lowell's
Polonia began in the early 1890's.  By 1910 only
20% of Lowell's population of over 100,000 were
native-born Americans of native parents.  Poles
counted for 2,000 of the remaining 80,000.  The
1915 Massachusetts Census listed 3,108 people of
Polish descent living in Lowell.  An International
Institute social worker's report claimed that 5000
Poles were living in Lowell in 1918.

     They generally came looking for a better economic and political life.  For a significant number who came from southern Poland, Lowell was their first destination.  Others found their way here after having sampled mining in Pennsylvania or factory work in other cities.

     Once in Lowell they banded together for identity and support.  They pocketed certain neighborhoods, notably in Centralville, Belvidere, and two small areas on either side of the Concord River.  Many could only afford rented rooms in crowded buildings.  An International Institute social worker's report praises the cleanliness of their homes while decrying the deplorable conditions of the buildings.  Recently, a man in his seventies recalled that his mother, who was born on a farm in Poland, was disheartened by these conditions and hardship and "never wanted to talk much about Williams Street."

     Some traded their hard life in "the old country" for a hard life in the factories.  Both men and women toiled in Lowell's textile mills, many crossing the bridge daily to the Boott Mill.  Some Polish workers supported the 1903 textile strike and unions sympathetic with homeland politics.  Although Poles from various social and economic backgrounds came to Lowell, many were farmers.  Some of them, loyal to their roots, bought small farms in Lowell's outlying areas and neighboring towns.  A few started small businesses to serve basic needs and interests.

     Grocery stores, bakeries, funeral parlors, and the chronicler of the community, the photographer, soon became evident in Polonia.  Centralville was home to many of these new enterprises.  One storefront on Lakeview Avenue was an early grocery store, then a

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