in Conflict in
Polonia1: Class, Religion, and Ethnic Tensions in the ­Formation of Wheeling’s Polish Community, 1895-1917

W. Hal Gorby


With the nation caught up in wartime patriotism, Wheeling was no different as anti-German propaganda and animosity toward foreigners plagued the city. Public schools ceased teaching German as a second language, and banks and institutions took the word “German” out of their titles. Many organizations, including the Catholic Church, placed their full support behind the war effort. This time marked a transition for St. Ladislaus’s first generation, which forged a unified religious community in response to a class-based interpretation of modernity.


Waking up to the sweltering heat of July 23, 1915, Wheeling’s Southside appeared ready to erupt, as five hundred workers of the Wheeling Can Company discussed a strike. Tensions finally reached their breaking point when management demanded that employees work added overtime and fired those refusing to comply. Angered by the unfair demands, the can workers organized themselves by passing out flyers to workers as they left the factory at 6:00 p.m. That evening, they held a mass meeting at Scherwinski’s Hall at Forty-sixth and Jacob Streets, just several blocks from the plant. Most of the strikers and hundreds of others listened intently as Walter B. Hilton, Socialist editor of the Wheeling Majority, and L. M. Greer and Smith Calvert of the Ohio Valley Trades and Labor Assembly helped the strikers draft their demands. They sought a nine-hour day, time and a half for overtime, a return to the wages of 1912, pay for lost time caused by machine breakdowns, recognition of their union, reinstatement of the fired employees, and the weekly payment of wages.2 The next morning, the strikers set up a picket line around the plant at 7:00 a.m., shutting down the plant for that day. Another mass meeting occurred that night at Polish Hall on Wood Street, below Forty-fifth. This “meeting was larger and more enthusiastic than the last one,” as the largely immigrant audience agreed to hold out against management. After management supported all of the demands, except for union affiliation, another meeting at Scherwinski’s Hall led to a “loud and unanimous demand for affiliation with the American Federation of Labor.” While members of the local Socialist Party and the Trades Assembly were present, “none of these spoke” so that the workers’ decision “could not be twisted by the Can Factory Management into a claim that ‘the agitators’ had influenced them against their will.”3

The role of recent Polish immigrants in this strike makes it all the more intriguing. During the meeting at Scherwinski’s Hall, when the strikers sought AFL affiliation, Charles Ajmar of Bridgeport, Ohio, translated the demands and meeting minutes into “Polish for the benefit of a large number of girls” who worked at Wheeling Can. Enthusiastically, the women “flocked to the front and paid their initiation.”4 That these recent female Polish immigrants vigorously supported organizing efforts by the local Trades Assembly and prominent socialists surprised the local Catholic leaders, especially since they met in spaces usually reserved for Polish social functions and the Catholic religious festivals of the local Polish parish. The strikers also promoted a lawn fete to be held at “Pulaski Field” in expectation of selling over three thousand tickets for “probably the biggest [fete] ever held in the Eighth Ward.”5

The “radical” use of Polish Catholic social spaces contrasted greatly with the goals of the parish priest, Father Emil Musial, and much of his Catholic laity. For Musial, the successful formation of a thriving Polish community was tied to a vigorous Catholic populism, seen most vividly through Polish popular religious practices and Polish cultural nationalism. By disseminating and promoting these ideals through the parish, social halls, and the parochial school, Musial sought to unite the Poles to combat the trials of life in industrial America. This vision was particularly important because the Catholic Church and the immigrant working class felt embattled as nativists sought to limit their potential political voice by impeding their full rights of citizenship. But Musial was no reactionary. While rejecting socialism, his brand of Catholicism offered a moral critique of economic individualism, and reinforced a working-class activism based on the social teachings of Rerum Novarum (1891), nourished by Catholic culture and religious practices within ethnic parishes.6 Ultimately, these two visions of how to best promote the needs of the Polish community—one advocating class solidarity, the other Catholic ethnic solidarity—clashed in the streets of South Wheeling in 1915.

This article will explore the interaction of ethnic communities, ­Catholicism, and class formation by focusing on Emil Musial and the Poles of South Wheeling. For them, ethnic identity and class experiences were linked. Poles and their immigrant neighbors in South Wheeling did not compartmentalize their ethnic, religious, or class feelings. Core values of cooperation, mutual trust, equality, and mutual assistance were vital to each of these sentiments in South Wheeling.7 Still the questions remained: which way would working-class immigrant communities go? Would they follow their Catholic, ethnic traditions, or the class animosities promoted by the socialists?

For Musial the path that would best benefit the Polish community was clear. His religious and nationalistic worldview led him to centralize control and create a strong parish with the help of local Polish businessmen. His worldview and policies also led to constant fights both with Bishop Donahue over the use of parish funds, and with Wheeling socialists who sought to move his parishioners in the direction of secular working-class organizations. Indeed, the socialist threat served as a weapon Musial could use to vigorously develop the community even more. He spent the 1910s strengthening the community by encouraging Polish-run boarding houses for immigrant workers, by purchasing halls to serve as social centers, and through the construction of a parochial school. His policies fit within a wider Catholic social movement of the 1910s that sought to mobilize for mutual benefit as well as to fight off a socialist threat. To accomplish these things, however, Musial required the services of and loans from ethnic small businessmen, who benefited materially from the growth of St. Ladislaus parish and its institutions. Consequently, Musial and St. Ladislaus provided a bulwark against the secularization and radicalization of Wheeling’s Polish community. In return, he earned a prominent role for himself and his parish in the Catholic world of Wheeling.

Father Musial and St. Ladislaus Church

In the urban North, Catholicism and its “parish boundaries” form the essence of the long-term attachment of ethnic groups to their communities. A shared sense of collective ownership fostered a genuine and vigorous support for community cohesiveness.8 Was it the community’s industries or the social institutions that held the people’s allegiance? Wheeling novelist Keith Maillard sheds some light on these topics. In The Clarinet Polka, Maillard’s narrator, Jimmy Koprowski, describes the timeless feeling of his childhood community and provides a vivid description of Polish-American life in South Wheeling: “Our neighborhood is a narrow strip from 43rd Street down to 48th Street where Millwood [Benwood] starts. One set of railroad tracks runs along the river, and then there’s three Streets and another set of railroad tracks and, bang, you’re slapped up against the side of the Hill. That’s South Raysburg [South Wheeling]. We just called it Polish Town, but the old Folks called it Stanisławówo, you know, after the church, and they got that right because St. Stanislaus was pretty much the center of everything.”9

The increasing numbers and varied backgrounds of Polish immigrants in South Wheeling made it necessary for the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston to construct a Polish parish by the 1890s. Polish immigrant steelworkers began arriving around 1880. Drastic growth came after 1900, as the community of around 500 grew to 1,836 by 1920.10

Fr. Emil Musial at the time of the celebration of his 25th Year Jubilee, 1926 Courtesy of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston

The process of ethnic parish construction, in part, highlights actions of immigrant laypeople. Unlike in Europe, American parishes often faced financial troubles since most of their funding derived from lay initiative and members’ contributions in place of state subsidies.11 For most immigrants the process of coming together collectively to build the church was their first sacramental act as a community in America.12 This usually included the formation of religious societies for the men and sodalities for the women, which both honored patron saints and reflected a strong ethnic religiosity. Before 1900, some Poles attended the German St. Alphonsus parish uptown, while others attended Immaculate Conception Church located in South Wheeling. There, Father Joseph Mullen helped bring in a Polish priest to minister to the Polish Catholics during the Lenten season. This priest, Father Ladislaus Miskiewicz, advised them to form the necessary societies to attract assistance from Bishop Donahue. Thirty men formed the St. Ladislaus Society, while the women later formed as the St. Hedwig’s society.13

Bishop Patrick Donahue also played an important role in the development of St. Ladislaus. Donahue began his service as the Bishop of Wheeling in 1895 at a time when Wheeling and the state suffered from anti-Catholic nativism. In the late 1890s, Donahue fought vigorously against the American Protective Association’s attack on immigrant workers.14 Donahue used his influence to gain concessions from state politicians. Complaining that some schools disseminated nativist literature, Donahue convinced Democratic Governor William MacCorkle to reject any “criticism of the Catholic religion” and to order “that the dissemination of any such intolerant doctrine should [not] be tolerated in any institution of the state.”15 Likewise, Donahue cultivated a close ally and friend in the Republican Party, Stephen B. Elkins, who ensured that state Republicans did “not sympathize in any way with the A.P.A. movement.” Elkins hoped to secure the Republican victories in 1896, and even utilized Donahue to appeal to Catholic voters against his Democratic rival John McGraw.16 Donahue, in turn, espoused the diocese’s positive contributions in the monthly Church Calendar, the local Catholic newspaper, which countered the secularism of the local papers and fostered the “nourishment of the soul.”17 This medium allowed Donahue to address pressing Catholic issues, particularly his editorials attacking socialism and promoting a more conservative trade unionism.

Nevertheless, nativist sentiments kept Donahue concerned about the reaction to new Catholic immigrants and made him anxious to maintain control over their religious services. Donahue was no doubt aware of the national dilemma caused by schismatic Polish clergy, who argued that the Catholic hierarchy cared little for the poverty of the growing Polish population and did little to improve their economic position or meet their spiritual needs. This movement criticized a church that had not one Polish bishop, asserting that “the Irish and German Bishops object to it, because they consider the Poles unfit for such dignity.”18 This statement had implications for an Irish Catholic like Bishop Donahue, who constantly fought against anti-Catholic statements. The committee did not advocate the selection of a Polish bishop but suggested the hiring of more ethnic Polish priests, the formation of more Polish ethnic parishes, Polish societies and sodalities, and for parochial schools to inform their students against the movement.19

Responding to both lay initiative and broader church issues, Bishop Donahue thus gave support for the construction of a Polish church and initiated a search for a youthful and energetic Polish leader. There are many difficulties and snares that arise when constructing any new parish. Growing religious bodies require the leadership of a clergyman who can guide the new church as well as settle any disputes.20 As a result, an intense search process of the various seminaries in the Midwest resulted in Donahue selecting twenty-five-year-old Emil Musial.

For Wheeling’s Poles, Father Musial was the heart and soul of their community at St. Ladislaus. Born in German Silesia in 1875, Musial came with an “inborn stubborn persistence and set purpose of mind.”21 Keith Maillard’s novel also gives a thinly-veiled personal and amusing biographical sketch of Musial. The narrator recalls: “Our priest was old Father Joe Stawecki [Emil Musial]. He was a little guy with a face like a bulldog, and he used to brag that he could say mass faster than any priest in the Ohio Valley, and he wasn’t kidding—in and out of there in twenty minutes flat. He’d get cranked up, he’d be going faster than a hillbilly auctioneer. . . . You go make your confession to him, same thing—in and out of there, bingo, five minutes tops. . . . He preached short and sweet too, all in Polish, and he’d get real personal sometimes. ‘Hey, I heard Stas Rzeszuski’s been stepping out on his wife again. He better stop that.’ No parish priest today could get away with that.”22

Musial’s childhood experiences in Europe shaped his personality. Born within the German partitioned part of former Poland, Musial met several roadblocks to achieving his goals. Early on, the Prussian school system hindered his academic progress, which often slighted young and intelligent Poles. He was then drafted into the Prussian army in his late teens. As a Pole, he was sickened by the possibility of serving his country’s occupier and perhaps fighting against Polish rebels. As a result, Musial fled to the United States and entered the SS. Cyril and Methodius Polish Seminary of Detroit, where Musial’s instructors spoke of how “his conduct was very good, [he was] uniformly obedient, pious and diligent,” and he was fluent in Polish, German, Italian, and French.23

Ironically, given his long tenure at St. Ladislaus that lasted until 1961, Musial almost chose not to serve in Wheeling. Throughout 1901, he found several reasons to delay acceptance of a position in Wheeling, first claiming that he did not speak English well enough.24 Then in June he delayed going to Wheeling as he assisted the Archdiocese of Detroit with an outbreak of smallpox.25 Musial shocked Donahue on September 5, 1901, informing the bishop that it would be “virtually impossible for me to labor as a priest in the diocese of Wheeling,” since he learned in Baltimore that “the Poles are very much scattered in W.V. on which a polish priest is obliged to be always on missionary journey.”26 Eventually, however, Musial changed his mind, and was ordained in Wheeling in late November 1901. In September 1902, Musial was on hand for the laying of the cornerstone of St. Ladislaus at Forty-fifth and Eoff Streets in South Wheeling with exuberant processions lasting all day.27

Musial’s training at the SS. Cyril and Methodius Seminary made him an important asset for St. Ladislaus and the Polish Catholic community in Wheeling. Founded in Detroit in 1886 by Father Joseph Dabrowski, this seminary functioned as a primary bulwark against the full Americanization of the Polish ethnic clergy. It was one of the few schools of theology in America that actively promoted an ethnic education and the unity of Polish Catholicism with Polish nationalism.28 Musial’s negative experiences in German Poland, his devout support of Catholicism, and his ethnic, nationalist training all shaped his personality and his understanding of what constituted a Polish national identity.

Musial also performed valuable services for the Wheeling Diocese. He acted as an intermediary to assist in attracting Polish ethnic clergy to West Virginia. As the first Polish-appointed priest in the state, Musial helped Donahue recruit other seminarians from SS. Cyril and Methodius. This process was a key extension of his conservative ideology of fostering strong, inward-looking ethnic communities. Musial was selective in choosing other Polish priests for the diocese. After recruiting several fellow seminarians, he learned that these students had been among those who engaged in an “open rebellion against the authority of the Seminary,” openly protesting the removal of the vice-rector and threatening to take their complaints to the newspapers.29 Dabrowski immediately removed them from his seminary and the path to the priesthood. In January 1903, Donahue, with the tacit consent of Musial, accepted the resignation of the recruits. Like the bishop, Musial wanted respectable Polish priests who shared his ideological views, so that their loyalty to their congregations would not be questioned.30

Following the removal of the ethnic Polish seminarians, Father Musial continued to attract Polish clergy to the diocese. In 1904, Dabrowski’s successor praised the abilities and sensibilities of Master Leo Dzicek, who recently arrived in Wheeling to serve the diocese. Musial informed him of Dzicek’s appointment, and he talked of his good, moral behavior as a young priest.31 Over the years Musial assisted in attracting many more priests in line with his efforts to promote other Polish communities. As he became well known throughout the entire diocese, Musial achieved a position of authority in assisting not only the religious, but also the social and political needs of Polish Catholic immigrants. As a diocesan consulator under Bishop Donahue, Musial became an important Catholic figure.32

Once committed to Wheeling, Musial and his Polish laity embarked on a two-decade-long campaign to forge a strong and successful center for the Polish Catholics. This locale allowed them to meet their spiritual and economic needs, but also provided a place to discuss their homeland, politics, and labor activities. The task of constructing the church and allocating the necessary financial support placed many burdens on this small ethnic community, which numbered only about eighty families living between Forty-third and Forty-eighth Streets in South Wheeling.33 Still, the parish thrived due to the determination of a Polish working class that struggled for autonomy and Musial, who put in long hours and sweat, which consequently earned him the love and gratitude of not only the Poles but many city officials and organizations. Parish histories note how he helped organize not only Polish and Catholic drives for moral issues, but also civic and city-wide religious groups that wielded considerable influence in Wheeling.34

Building the Parish and Social Life at St. Ladislaus Parish

On February 22, 1903, the Southside witnessed the exuberant festivities that went along with the founding of a Catholic church. With a massive march starting at the cathedral on Thirteenth Street and proceeding all the way to St. Ladislaus on Forty-fifth Street, Wheeling witnessed a lively parade headed by Musial, followed by the St. Ladislaus and St. Stanislaus Societies and ending with the Grand Opera House Band.35 There are many possible explanations for Musial’s early success and his parish’s long devotion to him for sixty years. The most plausible explanation stems from his willingness to put the needs of the Poles in South Wheeling ahead of the Catholic Church in general. While he contributed necessary funds to the diocese for regular curia and special diocesan collections, he often ran afoul of the local diocese. Before the dedication in February 1903, Musial was struggling to complete the necessary building projects with limited funds. On December 31, 1902, with most of the building complete, the debts of the church were $13,402. Musial owed money to the South Wheeling Bank, to contractors, and to his own St. Ladislaus Society. Musial was also indebted to two prominent parishioners, Vincent Ciak and Stanislaus Klos, who loaned him a total of $2,900.36

Photo of St. Ladislaus School Students, 1914 Courtesy of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston

This sort of outside borrowing was necessary for any new parish, and over the years became characteristic of Musial’s financial philosophy. Assistance from his prospering laity and private institutions fostered a level of ownership, which tied the Poles to their church. One older Polish-American parishioner candidly recalled the tension in this relationship: “Everything belongs to the diocese. . . . We built it, yeah, our parents and all built this church, mortgaged houses and all to build this church, but it ain’t ours, no way.”37 She was disappointed and resentful that the diocese ignored the strong sense in the Polish community about the collective ownership of its local church.

Musial’s financial practices often exasperated diocesan leaders. Using some diocesan funds, Musial in the spring of 1902 contracted through Fahey Brothers for the principal ironwork and carpentry for the church’s façade, at a price of $5,644.38 In the fall of 1902, Musial increased the overall price of the church with his plans to add a tall steeple, but the bishop stipulated that the total cost would not be more than $1,000.39 Then during the Easter season of 1904, Chancellor Weber had to remind Musial of his obligatory Good Friday Collections as well as the interest on his loans.40 These records are vital not only to understanding the financial difficulties of the church in its early years, but also they reveal that Musial saw fit to stretch the money he collected and borrowed as far as possible to help create a church that was beautiful in appearance and effective in acting as a spiritual and community meeting place.

Musial made several other plans to expand his church’s influence in South Wheeling. While a church edifice was important to effectively minister to the Poles, the parish also needed to purchase necessary buildings throughout the area. The first was a better parochial residence for Musial himself, located directly across the street from St. Ladislaus. This convenience eased his burden as a renter and gave him a larger residence where he could host his parishioners.41 He also hoped to expand the realm of the church’s influence by expanding its parish school, which he directed in the parish’s basement with less than standard equipment.

In 1906, however, Musial delayed these plans until he paid off his growing debts. When Musial explored further purchases for the community around St. Ladislaus, Bishop Donahue finally addressed his spending habits. Expressing his position strongly, Donahue instructed Musial that “it is my will that you borrow no more sums of money from parishioners or other people or from any private persons or banks or corporations of any kind.” Although willing to help, the bishop wanted a detailed account of Musial’s “indiscriminate” spending for 1905 and the interests and loans of all parties involved.42 This letter illustrates the tension between Musial and the diocese over his efforts to seek collateral from Poles and private financiers. Hoping to preserve the community’s Polishness, Musial desired to build a strong economic base so the church could function with almost complete self-sufficiency, even when it meant conflict with the bishop.

As Musial’s church gradually grew in numbers, St. Ladislaus also became the center for the social and cultural life of this edge of the city. Sponsoring numerous religious societies and sodalities, these organizations added a Polish flavor to the Catholic culture in Wheeling. St. Ladislaus boasted a large participation in its many social events for both men and women. Musial continued to preach and conduct services in Polish and many of the hymns were sung in Polish, and he worked at passing down various ethnic and cultural experiences at St. Ladislaus. Common events included the Polish Catholic processions, which became a fixture of the Wheeling cultural scene after 1900. Such processions were often the clearest way for the entire city to witness the unique religiosity of the ethnic parishes.43 Delores Skrzypek recalled how the first generation of Polish immigrants taught many of the children how to dance the Polka Bianca while wearing the native Polish garb. Another important annual event, especially for the children, were the May Processions, when children marched around the school and neighborhood in white dresses and carrying flowers celebrating the end of the Lenten season.44 The community maintained religious customs involved in an infant christening, marriage, and even funerals. No matter the occasion, these events always centered on St. Ladislaus.

The church’s religious societies and sodalities proliferated with the growth of the church to assist in the moral and civic duties of the ­parishioners. During the church’s early years, these social groups incorporated many individuals in the community, and they also gave parish women a strong place of authority. A pamphlet celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of the parish lists those prominent first-generation parishioners; among the fifty-two people mentioned, twenty of them were women. Many were influential in numerous church functions and sodalities, and some assisted in providing major community needs.45 For example, one of the parishioners, Rose Matulewicz, ran a boarding house in the neighborhood, part of Father Musial’s plan to provide houses headed by Polish women to assist in the acculturation of Poles.46

Catholic historians emphasize the important part of women within the numerous Catholic Church societies. The Women’s Rosary for adults and the Blessed Virgin Mary’s Sodality for young girls both provided moral uplift but also brought working women together for the social welfare of the Polish community. Since its inception, one of the largest events for the church was the making of pierogies for the annual bazaar held each year to benefit the church community and raise necessary funds for the upkeep of the church. Led by the women of the St. Hedrick’s Society, these events, as Jane Murray remembered them, were vital for women during the Lenten season and the Forty Hours Devotion fast times.47

Fr. Musial with St. Ladislaus School Graduation Students, 1920 Courtesy of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston

Many of these societies promoted social engagement, but the primary purpose was for spiritual uplift. This was especially true for the youth sodalities, which addressed issues surrounding what many parish priests saw as a “sexual revolution” in the early twentieth century. St. John’s in Benwood, the neighbor parish of St. Ladislaus, directly addressed this pressing issue with the creation of the St. Aloysius Abstinence Society in 1905. This society, along with that parish’s Blessed Virgin Mary Sodality, sponsored many activities for teenagers such as bowling, roller-skating, and dances without the threat of “serious scandal.”48 In all, these types of parish societies and sodalities sought to strengthen familial and kinship relations, to promote living a moral life, and to emphasize the religious aspects of ethnic nationalism.

Threats to Polish Catholicism in a Working-Class Parish

During the first decade of the twentieth century, Wheeling’s Poles established a thriving ethnic community on the margins of the “Friendly City.” However, a major component of their life revolved around living in close proximity to other immigrant working-class communities. Polish Catholics intermingled with Germans, Austrians, and Bohemians, while Hungarians, Croatians, and Serbs congregated to the south in Benwood. Although ethnic animosities traveled with immigrants from Europe, the relationships were more complex in America. Poles, like other southern and eastern European immigrants, sought to position themselves within the city’s ethnic diversity.49 Arriving later than the Irish and Germans, South Wheeling’s Poles found themselves near the bottom of the ladder when obtaining work as unskilled laborers in the steel mills. Along with other new immigrants, they had advantages only over the small number of blacks, who lived outside of South Wheeling’s ethnic enclaves.

In this working-class immigrant neighborhood, Musial saw his responsibility as building up a strong Polish community. As early as 1904, he sought to eliminate Hungarians, Croatians, and especially Italians from his parish. By 1913, he was able to get rid of the Ukrainians and Ruthenians when they established their own parish.50 Meanwhile, Musial also facilitated marriages between people of Polish descent. According to the 1920 census, there were only a dozen or so couples of differing ethnicities out of 188 marriages.51 At least in the first generation, evidence shows that Musial wanted to keep his flock ethnically intact. This was a conservative ploy of Catholic priests, but it also reflects Musial’s desire to keep his community unified as they tried to gain the necessary economic footholds to advance as a group.

Gaining that economic foothold, however, was becoming increasingly difficult. Wheeling was transformed by the restructuring of the steel industry during the 1890s. With the move to tin-plate production, the Wheeling steel mills increasingly utilized unskilled immigrants like the Poles, Croatians, Hungarians, and Serbs in their local steel mills, coal mines, and blast furnaces. Following the Panic of 1907, a widespread economic depression devastated the country as unemployment grew exponentially. Conditions in Wheeling were particularly bad. One observer noted how awful it was “to see children of the city running about with no shoes or stockings on their feet. Their fathers . . . being unable to provide for their wants.”52

Immigrant communities provided mutual assistance during periods of economic want, but by 1908 Wheeling’s immigrants pushed for more substantial changes. Eastern European immigrants were increasingly politicized “from the bottom up” by their experience on the job, by local labor unions, within ethnically mixed communities, and through their national parishes.53 Although low levels of naturalization and voter restrictions limited the immigrants’ political voice in many national and state elections, some cities allowed immigrants to vote in municipal elections.54 Wheeling’s 1907 city charter, its first since 1836, granted the vote to all males living in the city limits for at least one year, without any reference to state citizenship, and to all non-resident males owning at least two hundred dollars of city property.55 These voting restrictions disenfranchised many recent immigrants, but they did not negate all Polish voting. In a 1910 sample of South Wheeling’s Polish households, about 25 percent owned their own homes; by 1920 nearly 29 percent owned their homes.56

Local political machines canvassed immigrant communities, like Wheeling’s Eighth Ward. Of particular emphasis for the Poles were the efforts by the Democrats and the Socialists of the Ohio Valley Trades and Labor Assembly. Often, Poles supported the Democratic Party in the early 1900s because the party had close ties to the Catholic Church, and it opposed prohibition and immigrant restriction.57 Similarly, Wheeling socialists were vital to the growth of an immigrant political consciousness on the Southside. The predominately German socialists criticized the failures of craft unionism and the corrupt nature of Wheeling municipal government, and began pushing the assembly to unite local workingmen behind pro-labor candidates. As early as 1902, leftist delegates in the Trades Assembly resolved: “That we the delegates of the Ohio Valley Trades and Labor Assembly believe it would be to the interests of the City that the Assembly take a more active part in Municipal Affairs.”58

The “Banker’s Panic” of 1907 boosted the socialists’ political influence. Capitalizing on workers “seriously questioning the value of capitalism,” the Trades Assembly and local glassworkers, stogie makers, and miners’ unions advocated for an independent United Labor Party.59 The assembly appealed to immigrant workers’ disillusionment with the Republican Party’s support for protective tariffs and corporate mergers. The Wheeling socialists also presented their class-based appeals in “religious rhetoric.” Through their weekly newspaper, the Wheeling Majority, the socialists spoke of how Jesus Christ was a worker: “The working man of today who tries to preach an uplift doctrine to fellow workers is . . . set upon by the hired thugs of Privilege, enjoined by Judge Dayton and eventually surrounded by troops and arrested. So was Christ—all except the injunction, and the Federal Judge is of a newer birth.”60 Thus, the local socialists hoped to tap the sentiments of Catholic social teaching and Rerum Novarum that were so important in working-class immigrant communities.

The Wheeling Socialist Party grew amid the escalating labor conflict of the early twentieth century. One of the key leaders in organizing ­immigrant workers was Valentine Reuther, father of future UAW leader Walter Reuther. After arriving in Wheeling in 1899, Reuther immersed himself in the German working-class culture of South Wheeling. He organized brewery workers, helped halt the construction of a Carnegie Library in downtown Wheeling, and became president of the Ohio Valley Trades and Labor Assembly. He was an early advocate for industrial unionism in Wheeling’s steel mills.61 Speaking during the U.S. Steel Strike of 1909-1910, Reuther saw that, with the material constrictions of the trusts, the blacklist, court injunctions, and boycotts, “that labor must organize politically and elect such men who will carry out the wishes of the people. . . . Whenever the workers become class conscious and unitedly cast their ballot in support of the workers’ party then the ruling of the trust owned courts and the enaction of corporation laws will vanish from the so-called land of the free and home of the brave.”62

The U.S. Steel Strike of 1909-1910 was a catalyst in broadening the socialist influence among Wheeling’s immigrant working class. Beginning in July, the Wheeling District was the center of much of the resistance to the “open shop” drive. U.S. Steel shifted production to other sites, imported strikebreakers, and hired company agents to entice skilled workers to break the picket line, touching off considerable violence in Wheeling. More violence occurred as a large crowd surrounded and then beat up U.S. Steel agent William Eagan as he left the LaBelle mill. This led to an injunction from Judge Alston Dayton against any interference with the persons or property of the American Sheet and Tin Plate Company or the placement of pickets near South Wheeling’s LaBelle mill. Later, the threat of an armed mob of over seven hundred across the river in Martin’s Ferry, Ohio, raised the danger that strikers “were looking for another Homestead.” As for scabs, the Majority jokingly remarked how in “Wheeling some scabs . . . fell down and hurt themselves in different parts about town.”63

The defeat of unions in Wheeling owed much to the influence of the city’s business community, which feared that future labor radicalism would force U.S. Steel to move capital investment from Wheeling. American Sheet and Tin Plate officials warned leading businessmen that the company was withholding two hundred thousand dollars for improvements to Wheeling’s plants. Realizing that the “difference between capital and labor has probably kept Wheeling back twenty years,” Wheeling businessmen promoted more cooperation between the community, business, and the city government.64 The Wheeling Board of Trade, which helped form the Municipal Improvement League to promote “progressive” notions of civic betterment to keep Wheeling beautiful, became business-friendly. Adopting the slogan “Wheeling Means Business,” the League and the Board of Trade publically promoted the new Market Auditorium, public playgrounds, parks, and anything else “to make Wheeling brighter and more attractive,” and to show the “substantial growth of that civic pride and local patriotism which after all is at the bottom of all civic advance.”65 Board of Trade Secretary R. B. Naylor highlighted how “Upward of 500 letters were sent to prospective industries . . . inviting them to consider Wheeling’s advantages and resources.” According to Naylor, “there have been some unfavorable features in our industrial situation . . . [but] Wheeling is in the procession of progress.”66

While the Board of Trade downplayed the level of labor unrest in 1909-1910, the lingering economic conditions still plagued the city’s working class. Particularly troubling was the high cost of foodstuffs and other consumer goods. Also, inefficient municipal organizations failed to provide necessary services during the spring of 1910. Especially pressing was the rehabilitation of the municipal lighting system. While the public had been “paying for the fun at the rate of more than $20 per day,” local socialists quipped that the Board of Control’s recommendations were sidetracked by the undue influence of the Electric Light Goods Trust and political cronies working for the “political boss of this bailiwick, the defender of the Steel Trust and Senator [Nathan B.] Scott.”67

As a result of the economic crisis from 1907-1910, the socialists made a more concerted effort to enter into politics by targeting key municipal issues. Early in 1910, the socialists informed the public about excessive taxes on electricity, as well as supporting a bond issue for the completion of a new filtration system to break up the business influence on the Board of Control.68 They also set up a viable trade-union ticket for the 1910 midterm election, running Majority editor Walter Hilton for state senate and Valentine Reuther for the state house of delegates. They pushed a strong platform, advocating for home rule, the initiative, referendum, recall, short-term franchises for public utilities, direct labor employment, the eight-hour day, free textbooks for public schools, opposition to the use of private detectives, and other issues.69

Voting returns from South Wheeling’s Ritchie District show the relative growth of the socialist influence among the immigrant working class. Even though the party’s trade-union candidates lost, the socialist vote swayed many races in the 1910 election to the Democrats. This election demonstrates the degree to which Democrats and socialists mobilized the working-class vote. Although the Poles were not the major ethnic group in the ward in 1910, their close proximity to local party leaders and the organizing of both parties forged networks that only grew as more Poles arrived.70 The Ohio County Democrats won the race for Congress, the state senate, and elected four Democrats to the house of delegates.

The threat of a rival Polish socialist subculture became viable during the early 1910s. Socialist organizing intensified throughout Ohio County with the creation of twenty local branches by 1911, including various party branches in South Wheeling. Ritchie District Socialists formed a branch of about fifty members with L. C. and C. W. Driehorst as the financial secretary and primary party organizer.72 L. C. Driehorst was a local saloon keeper whose establishment on Forty-fifth Street was a key social and political organizing center for the German and Polish socialists.73 In February, a meeting with Polish socialists from Pittsburgh garnered much attention. During a May meeting at Driehorst’s Hall, H. Machalski and P. Morawski welcomed several new Poles within the local, as the promoters saw “that the prospects are bright for good progress in the movement among the Polish people of Wheeling.”74 By that summer, Wheeling had a viable, dues-paying Polish socialist local. As they organized for the upcoming 1912 election, the state Socialist Party praised its many diverse ward and ethnic locals in Wheeling, where the future of a socialist subculture seemed promising.75

The Democrats also made a concerted effort to attract immigrant voters by routinely canvassing in South Wheeling. By the 1890s, the two mainstream political parties had already begun to speak and conduct a politics of “class warfare” in their daily newspapers and in their organizing tactics.76 Democrats consistently espoused a growing egalitarian, producerist critique of industrialization and monopolization, while more successfully taking away supporters for radical third parties.77 Wheeling’s Democrats followed a similar policy. Congressional candidate John W. Davis came to Mozart Hall on Thirty-eighth Street to argue that Republican tariffs had not prevented another depression like that of 1893-1897, and that the Democrats would not close the steel mills in the Wheeling District.78 The Democratic Wheeling Register effectively attracted working-class votes from the socialists by appealing to the most pressing local situation—soaring unemployment. The Democrats posed a simple answer to the question “What’s the matter with business in Wheeling?” With 11,300 men unemployed in all of the district’s local industries, they argued that the Republicans and their protective tariffs were to blame. For unskilled immigrants, the key to material advancement remained the ability of men to work consistently to have enough money for necessary items, but also to save for the purchase of their own homes. The Register blended these immigrant needs while showing that anti-working-class policies and the corrupt power wielded by Republicans, led by Wheeling industrialist and U.S. Senator Nathan B. Scott, were to blame.79

Table 1

Midterm Election Totals for Ritchie District, 1910

Pre. 7-9

Total Ritchie

State Senate-
Pre. 7-9

Total Ritchie

House of Delegates-
Pre. 7-9

House of Delegates-Total Ritchie






























Total (N=)







Source: Wheeling Register, Nov. 9, 1910. Precincts 7 through 9 reflected the concentration of Polish immigrants.71

These political trends continued for the Wheeling municipal elections during the 1910s as is evident from the voting returns for Wheeling city council from 1909 to 1915 (see Table 2). In 1909, Republicans benefited from news that Thomas Beattle of the National Tube Company’s Riverside Mill, which was the largest employer of Poles, would restart production after being idle since November 1907. This gave hope to the over 8,000 inhabitants of South Wheeling, of which 80 percent of their 2,500 industrial workers had been periodically unemployed.81 However, as the 1910 midterm election indicates, when Republican promises failed to quell rising unemployment, this immigrant community voted for the Democrats and Socialists. The relatively high turnout for the Socialist Party continued for the 1911 municipal and 1912 general elections. The Intelligencer chided in 1912 that city and county Republicans had “no idea that the growth of the party [socialist] was so large in the county.”82

Table 2

Municipal Voting for City Council in Wheeling’s Eighth Ward, 1909-1915

First Branch Council-
Precinct #5

First Branch Council-

First Branch Council-

Second Branch Council-
Precinct #5

Second Branch Council-

Second Branch Council-

























































































Source: Wheeling Register, May 28, 1909; Wheeling Intelligencer, May 26, 1911; Wheeling Register, May 23, 1913; Wheeling Register, May 28, 1915.80

Catholic Progressivism and the Democratic Party

The growth of a strongly secularist labor movement in South Wheeling must have disturbed Father Musial. To counter, he redoubled his efforts to maintain a traditional community, mirroring many other ethnic parish priests of the early twentieth century. To effectively mobilize against socialism, Musial needed to offer his working-class parishioners something more than church services. Fortunately for him, these years witnessed the growth of a Catholic progressive movement. Catholic leaders spoke against unrestrained capitalism as well as the dangers of socialism. They promoted a corporatist alliance between capital, labor, and the government. Pope Leo XIII stressed the importance of the wage contract and private property in the papal encyclical Rerum Novarum (1891), but also reminded employers that the Catholic worker who “places at the disposal of others his skill, his strength, and his industry,” expects “not only the right to his salary, but also a strict and rigorous right to use it as he sees fit.”83 In addition, Catholic leaders sought a wider political voice by linking the church even more closely to the Democratic Party. Irish leaders crafted social, fraternal, and religious societies that worked to “Americanize” and unify all Catholics.84

The unification of Catholics also posed some danger for an ethnic working-class priest like Musial. Since the late nineteenth century, the Irish Carroll Club and German Arion and Columbia Clubs dominated Wheeling’s Catholic social and cultural scene. These older immigrant clubs integrated members from various classes, including many of the most prominent Irish and German businessmen.85 Most of the city’s preeminent Catholic organizations ran directly through St. Joseph’s Cathedral. As the Irish-dominated seat of the diocese, this gave Donahue a venue to urge meetings, bazaars, and entertainments to reinforce the tenets of an Irish-American, Catholic modernity. During the 1910s, the cathedral hosted the annual Holy Name Society rallies, distributed diocesan literature against socialism, and organized charity efforts by the Knights of Columbus and the Catholic Women’s League for Protective Work. The latter served to protect “young [immigrant] girls coming into Wheeling.”86 Even the cathedral emphasized the “supremacy” of the Irish-American brand of Catholicism. On November 16, 1913, cathedral members were told that “the Chapel in the basement of the church is for the use of the Italians and for no one else; hence you are requested not to intrude.”87

Despite this inter-ethnic squabbling, Musial increasingly felt the need for South Wheeling’s Poles to work together with different ethnic Catholics to offset the challenge of the socialists. The primary vehicles for this were the Holy Name Societies of Wheeling’s Catholic churches and their annual Holy Name parades. The Holy Name Society included all men in a parish, and they worked to regularly attend confession and communion services, as well as showing unified reverence to the “name” of the Lord.88 Over time, these conservative Catholic societies began to express a more overtly political message, protesting the social wrongs committed overseas and particularly the plight of working-class people. While one of the Holy Name Societies’ primary purposes was to counter socialism, these groups actively pushed for social justice in the community, so that workers would not opt to follow radical anti-Catholic doctrines. The annual parades were a chance for Catholic communities to unite in processionals against the evils plaguing society. On October 13, 1912, a massive Holy Name Parade coursed through the streets of Wheeling to stop at the cathedral. Marching, without caring about “class divisions,” the men sang hymns and listened as Bishop Donahue spoke about the evils and terrors he saw while visiting the southern coalfields of West Virginia, where “there is bitterness and strife between man and man, and between class and class.”89 St. Ladislaus parish gained a prestigious position in this procession, as the second parish marching behind the bishop. In these acts of Catholic unity, working-class Poles could reaffirm the tenets of their faith.

At the same time, Musial attached his parish to the bishop’s political agenda. Donahue utilized many of the Irish lay societies and the Church Calendar to espouse the church’s disdain for socialism. He steadily increased his political influence during this time, and his public rhetoric forced other ethnic priests to support his position. Early in 1909, he spoke around Wheeling of the “two great perils looming of the future,” socialism and divorce. Following the church’s social teachings, Donahue also argued how the right to private property was sacred. Even though there was a growing concentration of wealth, “private property is necessary so that wages may secure their true value.”90 Donahue saw that “Christianity . . . is made opposed to Socialism as light to darkness. . . . They are totally irreconcilable!” Moreover, he emphasized how the socialists were incorrect in saying that the church was always “arrayed against the weak and the indigent” in unwavering support of capital and power.91 Donahue served on a state commission investigating the Paint Creek and Cabin Creek strikes, and drafted the main report on the miners’ conditions throughout the state. In his report, he condemned both the treatment of mine guards but also the radical UMW leadership. Donahue noted how labor “has no right to coerce by threats or violence anyone to become affiliated with it.” He also highlighted “the abundant evidence before us that a reign of terror was attempted to be organized in the strike district,” suggesting that socialists were responsible.92

The Local Catholic Response to Socialism, and Early Class Divisions in Polonia

By 1915, the diocese, the city, and Father Musial were acting in full force to halt what they saw as a growing “socialist menace.” Musial’s efforts shed some light into how Polish Catholic individuals and community groups addressed the class problem. The key turning point was the 1915 Wheeling Can Strike. During the height of the strike, the Wheeling socialists subtlety called out Musial and the church’s duty to the female can workers, whose “Sunday work roused no church to opposition,” and to the Eighth Ward’s population whose “distress is known to all.”93 For six weeks the socialist press spoke fiercely of the can workers’ gendered discrimination on the shop floor, the unsafe working conditions, and the “locked” exit doors that eerily reminded readers of the disastrous Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in 1911. Finally, utilizing the emerging rhetoric of “industrial democracy,” the socialists asked readers to “pause long enough in our demand for peace in Europe to demand industrial peace in the Eighth Ward.”94

The socialist influence in the strike pushed many influential citizens, including Musial and other clergymen, to counter this threat. After achieving a wage increase, shorter working hours, and ­recognition of their union by early September, the can workers became part of the Trades Assembly. The organization of the can workers was part of a wider organizing drive in 1915 among skilled and unskilled workers in the various new smaller manufactories created after the 1909 U.S. Steel Strike. Occurring while the Trades Assembly was seeking affiliation with the American Federation of Labor, the continued presence of key socialists like Walter Hilton among the organizers led many to question the assembly’s efforts.95

This continued socialist activity in Wheeling’s Polonia aroused Musial and his middle-class laity. As St. Ladislaus grew in numbers and influence during the 1910s, many other social, educational, and civic organizations formed to unify the community along religious and ethnic lines to limit the appeal of the local socialists. Musial was in the middle of these actions, which often involved the community’s efforts to pay off the debts incurred in building St. Ladislaus. Church building caused financial difficulties for many Poles, as they mortgaged their homes and held many fundraisers to put St. Ladislaus on solid financial footing. Following his financial policy, Musial made sure that during each year he allocated money to help pay off the church’s construction. By 1915, all the early debts were paid in full. This did not mean that Father Musial halted his efforts. Instead, he became more aggressive in solidifying the community by purchasing the Polish National Assembly (later the Polish American Club) in 1916 at a cost of $19,130.96 Table 3 tracks the financial highs and lows of the parish during the 1910s.

Table 3

Financial Records of St. Ladislaus Church, 1911-1919


Pew Rents
















































Source: St. Ladi-slaus Annual Reports, 1911-1919, Archives of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, Wheeling, WV.

Many outside donors from the community and city loaned money at the start, but most of the money after 1910 came from the parishioners in the form of pew rents and other collections, which spiked in the years after 1912. There are no exact records of how much money certain families paid in pew rents in the 1910s; however, later anniversary books show this was a time of social mobility within the community. Some families probably paid more, but the inward-looking nature of the church community tried to downplay any class-based animosities.97 Finally, Musial felt that purchasing the Polish National Assembly would more adequately serve the interests of the men of the community if it came under church control.98 This purchase assisted in the continued growth of the fraternal lodges of the Polish National Alliance (PNA) and the Polish Roman Catholic Union of America (PRCU).

The PNA sponsored a Boy Scout troop during the 1910s known as the “Harcerze,” which differed from its American counterparts by conducting all events and activities in Polish. Musial praised the organization’s efforts “to show him [the Polish-American youth] what a truly great country he is permitted to call his own.”99 In addition, the PNA held many Polish folk dances and supported a baseball team.100 The PRCU also sponsored sports teams, including semi-professional Polish baseball and basketball teams. Many of their functions took place in the new “Polish Hall.” Both the PRCU and Musial utilized this social space to show silent films, organize wedding receptions, communion breakfasts, and even political rallies.101 With the positive additions of these social spaces in the 1910s, Fr. Musial provided his parish with religious and social venues to keep intact his flock’s ethnic heritage and to hold off the challenge of socialists and labor unions.

Musial also made Polish Catholic education a priority for his parishioners. Before 1910, he conducted some classes in the basement of the church. However, the steady increase in students, seen in Table 4, encouraged Musial to seek better school facilities, and encourage families to send their children. To meet demand, Musial sought the assistance of the Felician Sisters of Detroit. In 1911, four nuns arrived and aided in providing the necessary staff to educate children of all ages. As in other cities, the parochial school played a critical role in the Polish Catholic experience, as immigrants hoped that their cultural traditions would remain sacred for their children. To hold onto these “ethnic truths,” Catholic orders trained teachers to instruct their pupils in the Polish language, religion, culture, and history.102 Delores Skrzypek recalled that the Felician Sisters, who took care of the interior of the church, visited the sick, and provided an exemplary parochial education: “We studied Polish and English up to the eighth grade. You had your Polish religion and English religion, Polish history, English history.”103 By 1920, the rising numbers of students forced the parish to purchase a three-story building with eight classrooms.104 With this parochial institution, the Polish Catholics possessed a fully self-sustaining community.

Clearly, Musial relied on a small but growing Polish business community to help him thwart the appeal of secular working-class organizations. By the 1910s, the ethnic community also exhibited early signs of class divisions. Rising Polish businessmen like Stanley Duplaga, John Raszkiewicz, and others arrived in the late 1900s and early 1910s and carved out niches for themselves within Polonia. During World War I, the increasing number of Poles entering the small business class showed the successful opportunities Polonia could offer. Marcel Olszta and his sons opened a successful funeral parlor and monument business that operated near the parish at 4510 Jacob Street.105 Leo Merge was a successful druggist, operating out of his residence at 4315 Jacob Street during the war years. Down the street was Stanley Owoc, who ran a barber shop near the Polish-American Hall. In later years, Owoc acted as editor of the Polish West Virginian.106

One indication of influence of this ethnic business class involved the collection of pew rents. From 1915 through 1919, pew rents averaged between $2,500 and almost $3,000 annually.107 These increasing sums were critical to Musial’s response to neutralize the socialist threat and to offer Catholic social spaces that could rival their secular counterparts. Mutual benefit associations, small businesses, and even the Polish-American Club all became vital institutions within Polonia during this period. The Polish-American Club was itself purchased in 1916, probably with the financial assistance of many of the rising businessmen, who later became its principal leaders.108

Table 4

Souls at St. Ladislaus and Children in Parochial School, 1911-1920

































Source: St. Ladislaus Annual Reports, 1911-1920, DWC.

Finally, St. Ladislaus subtly endorsed this emerging business-class leadership. The parish promoted local small businesses in their pamphlets, church circulars, and also in their anniversary books. This advertising reflected a direct link between the parish and those community leaders who gave higher amounts of money to the parish and assisted in purchasing buildings like the Polish-American Club. Musial fostered these connections even more after 1915. The 1926 anniversary book highlights the relative social status of particular businessmen. Successful Poles like Stanley Duplaga, the Lukaszewicz Brothers (they owned a bakery and a service station), and Frank Lewandowski all bought full-page ads. Duplaga’s advertisement came on the second page of the anniversary book. In contrast, the Olszta family undertakers, Louis Merge, and John Raszkiewicz purchased only quarter-page ads.109 All of these men by 1926 had been in their respective businesses for some time; however, some could purchase larger ads than others. Small businessmen like Stanley Owoc and Louis Loges, who both changed occupations or took on second jobs, both received one-eighth page advertisements. All other parishioners received a small block among twenty others on a page.110 These advertisements reveal much about the importance of class in the successful formation of a strong community.

It is proper to end with World War I, an era fraught with assimilationist propaganda and economic and social trials. With the nation caught up in wartime patriotism, Wheeling was no different as anti-German propaganda and animosity toward foreigners plagued the city. Public schools ceased teaching German as a second language, and banks and institutions took the word “German” out of their titles.111 Many organizations, including the Catholic Church, placed their full support behind the war effort. This time marked a transition for St. Ladislaus’s first generation, which forged a unified religious community in response to a class-based interpretation of modernity. South Wheeling’s Poles, under the leadership of Father Emil Musial, shored up a community through strong religious and cultural traditions. By 1917, the Poles possessed the institutions to adequately address the pertinent social and labor trials that developed in the years to follow.


This article was previously published in West Virginia History, Vol. 4, No. 2, 2010.

1 Polonias were distinctively Polish-American regions of certain cities or neighborhoods. They were usually ethnically homogenous and sought to recreate the appearance (with parishes, diversity of business, and fraternal organizations) of Polish villages or small towns in Europe.

2 Wheeling Majority, July 29, 1915.

3 Ibid. For further coverage of the strike, see Wheeling Majority, Aug. 12, 19, 26, Sept. 2, 16, 1915.

4 Ibid., Aug. 26, 1915; for quote, see ibid., July 29, 1915.

5 Ibid., July 29, 1915. For the importance of immigrant working-class social and recreational spaces, see Roy Rosenzweig, Eight Hours for What We Will: Workers and Leisure in an Industrial City, 1870-1920 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983); and Dominic Pacyga, Polish Immigrants and Industrial Chicago: Workers on the Southside, 1880-1922, 2nd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003), chap.4.

6 James P. McCartin and Joseph A. McCartin, “Working-Class Catholicism: A Call for New Investigations, Dialogue, and Reappraisal,” Labor: Studies in the Working-Class History of the Americas 4, no. 1 (Spring 2007): 99-110; Laura Murphy, “An ‘Indestructible Right’: John Ryan and the Catholic Origins of the U.S. Living Wage Movement, 1906-1938,” Labor: Studies in the Working-Class History of the Americas 6, no. 1 (Spring 2009): 57-86; for those who offer a more complex view of the role of Catholicism in influencing working-class political activism, see Gary Gerstle, Working-Class Americanism: The Politics of Labor in a Textile City (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989); Lizabeth Cohen, Making a New Deal: Industrial Workers in Chicago, 1919-1939 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990); David M. Emmons, The Butte Irish: Class and Ethnicity in an American Mining Town, 1875-1925 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1989); and Evelyn Savidge Sterne, Ballots and Bibles: Ethnic Politics and the Catholic Church in Providence (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2003); for the role of Catholic anti-individualist philosophy on Catholic working-class political activism, see John McGreevy, Catholicism and Freedom: A History (New York: W.W. Norton, 2003).

7 The “subculture of opposition” is important to the debates about the processes of class formation within the work of social and working-class historians. See Richard Jules Oestreicher, Solidarity and Fragmentation: Working People and Class Consciousness in Detroit, 1875-1900, 2nd ed. (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1989), 60-67; James R. Barrett, “Unity and Fragmentation: Class, Race, and Ethnicity on Chicago’s South Side, 1900-1922,” Journal of Social History 18, no. 1 (Autumn 1984): 37-55; and James R. Barrett, Work and Community in the Jungle: Chicago’s Packinghouse Workers, 1894-1922 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1987).

8 John T. McGreevy, Parish Boundaries: The Catholic Encounter with Race in the Twentieth-Century Urban North (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996), 8-15.

9 Maillard, The Clarinet Polka (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2003), 2. Many of the place names used throughout the book are fictional.

10 U.S. Bureau of the Census, Twelfth Census (1900): Population, pt.1 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1901), 800-803; 876-77; U.S. Bureau of the Census, Fourteenth Census (1920): Population, vol. 2 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1922), 1036-37. Since a sovereign Poland did not exist until 1918, these numbers are limited because census takers often lumped Poles together with Germans, Austrians, and Russians.

11 Evelyn Savidge Sterne, “Bringing Religion into Working-Class History: Parish, Public, and Politics in Providence, 1890-1930,” Social Science History 24, no. 1 (Spring 2000): 155.

12 Ibid., 159. For further evidence on this type of collective solidarity, see Leslie Tentler, “Present at the Creation: Working-Class Catholics in the United States,” in American Exceptionalism? U.S. Working-Class Formation in an International Context, edited by R. Halpern and J. Morris (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1997).

13 Unknown St. Ladislaus parish history, in Parish History File, Wheeling, WV-St. Ladislaus (1902-1995)–incorporated into St. Alphonsus, Archives of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston (hereafter cited as DWC). The author and publication date for this history are unknown.

14 Tricia T. Pyne, Faith in the Mountains: A History of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, 1850-2000 (Editions du Signe, 2001), 29.

15 John T. McGraw to Governor W. A. MacCorkle, May 8, 1896, box 1, folder, Jan.-June 1896, Bishop Donahue Correspondence, DWC; Gov. W. A. MacCorkle to John T. McGraw, May 11, 1896, box 1, folder, Jan.-June 1896, ibid.

16 Stephen B. Elkins to Bishop Donahue, Oct. 25, 1898, 1898 box, folder 5, E, 1898, ibid.; Stephen Elkins to Bishop Donahue, July 29, 1900, box 5, folder 9, E, 1898, ibid. The first letter is erroneously dated 1894, based on the box’s contents.

17 Pyne, Faith in the Mountains, 29. The questionable newspapers were the socialist Wheeling Majority and the Wheeling Intelligencer.

18 Executive Committee of Polish Catholic Congress, Chicago, Illinois, to the Archbishops of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States gathered in Washington, D.C., Nov. 21, 1901, Bishop Donahue Correspondence, 1901-1906, DWC.

19 Executive Committee of the Polish Catholic Congress, Nov. 21, 1901, DWC.

20 Leslie Woodcock Tentler, “On the Margins: The State of American Catholic History,” American Quarterly 45, no. 1 (March 1993): 106-7. These ­disagreements may be between the bishop and the parishioners or the common conflicts between various church factions.

21 Diamond Jubilee–Very Rev. Emil Musial-Pastor St. Ladislaus Church, 1901-1951, in Parish History File- Wheeling, WV-St. Ladislaus (1902-1995), DWC.

22 Maillard, The Clarinet Polka, 25-26.

23 Diamond Jubilee–Very Rev. Emil Musial, DWC; Father Joseph Dabrowski to Right Reverend Bishop Donahue from Detroit, Michigan, May 3, 1901, box 8, folder 6, Mount De-My, 1901, Bishop Donahue Correspondence, 1901-1906, DWC.

24 Emil Musial to Right Reverend Bishop from Detroit, Michigan, Apr. 27, 1901, ibid.

25 Emil Musial to Reverend Father Chancellor Weber from St. Cyril’s and Methodius’s Seminary, Detroit, June 16, 1901, ibid.

26 Emil Musial to Right Reverend Father Weber from Polish Seminary, Detroit, Sept. 5, 1901, ibid.

27 Legal Statement of Emil Musial signed at Chancellor’s Office, Wheeling, W.Va., Nov. 6, 1901, ibid. For the laying of the church cornerstone ceremony, see The Church Calendar, Sept. 1, 1902.

28 William J. Galush, “Polish Americans and Religion,” cited in John J. Bukowczyk, Polish Americans and Their History: Community, Culture, and Politics (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1996), 87-88.

29 Jacob Gryczka to Bishop Donahue, Jan 27, 1903, Donahue folder 4, GL-GR, 1903, Bishop Donahue Correspondence, 1901-1906, DWC; Father Joseph Dabrowski to Bishop Donahue, Jan. 28, 1903, Donahue folder 9, DI-DY, 1903, ibid.

30 Bishop Donahue to Father Joseph Dabrowski, Jan. 30, 1903, Donahue folder 9, DI-DY, 1903, ibid.

31 Reverend Vitoldus Bukaczkowski to Bishop Donahue, May 26, 1904, Donahue folder 4, Boy-BU, 1904, ibid.

32 Church Calendar, Apr., May 1921.

33 Wheeling Intelligencer, Nov. 22, 1951.

34 Pamietnik Uroczystosci Zlotego Jubileusza Swiecenn Kaplanshich Przewielebnego Ksiedza Emila Musiala, Proboszcza Parafii Sw. Wladyslawa Krola, Wheeling, W.Va., in Parish History File-Wheeling, WV-St. Ladislaus (1902-1995), DWC. These historiographical debates in the parish figure greatly in Sterne, Ballots and Bibles, 111-31; Leslie Woodcock Tentler, Seasons of Grace: A History of the Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1992), 137-65.

35 The Church Calendar, Mar. 1, 1903; and Wheeling Intelligencer, Feb. 23, 1903.

36 “List of Debts and Liabilities of St. Ladislaus Church, Wheeling, W.Va., Rev. Emil Musial, Pastor, Dec. 31, 1902, Bishop Donahue Correspondence, 1901-1906, DWC. Catholic histories focus on how ethnic parishes solicited financial help from outside persons and their own parishioners in order to pay for necessary construction.

37 A Polish-American of St. Ladislaus Church, interview by Michael Kline, Oct. 31, 1994, in “Pierogi Making at St. Lad’s,” transcript, Wheeling Spoken History Project, Ohio County Library, Wheeling, WV (hereafter cited as OCPL),

38 Contract Fahey Brothers to Bishop Donahue, May 22, 1902, Bishop Donahue Correspondence, 1901-1906, DWC.

39 Chancellor Weber to Emil Musial, Sept. 10, 1902, ibid.

40 Chancellor Weber to Emil Musial, Apr. 27, 1904, ibid.

41 Emil Musial to Chancellor’s Office, Mar. 8, 1905, ibid.

42 Bishop Donahue to Rev. Emil Musial, Feb. 9, 1906, ibid.

43 For an Italian Catholic example of these seasonal processions, see Robert Orsi, The Madonna of 115th Street: Faith and Community in Italian Harlem, 1880-1950 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985), 6-8.

44 Delores Skrzypek, interview by Michael Kline, Oct. 31, 1994, Wheeling Spoken History Project, OCPL.

45 “Czescl Pozdrowienie Wielebnemu Ksiedzu Jubilatowi,” in Parish History File–St. Ladislaus, Wheeling, WV (1902-1995), DWC.

46 Polk’s Wheeling (WV) City Directory, 1928 (Pittsburgh: R. L. Polk & Company, 1927), West Virginia and Regional History Collection, West Virginia University, Morgantown (hereafter cited as WVRHC).

47 Jane Murray, interview by Michael Kline, Oct. 31, 1994, Wheeling Spoken History Project, OCPL.

48 Tentler, Seasons of Grace, 211-13; Unnamed Parish History of St. John’s in Benwood, 22-23, in St. John’s Parish History File-Benwood, WV, DWC.

49 Pacyga, Polish Immigrants in Industrial Chicago, 154-55; Thomas A. Guglielmo, White on Arrival: Italians, Race, Color, and Power in Chicago, 1890-1945 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), 10.

50 Emil Musial to Chancellor Weber, Dec. 20, 1904, in Bishop Donahue ­Correspondence, 1901-1906, DWC.

51 Manuscript Census Schedules, 1920, Ohio County, West Virginia, WVRHC.

52 Wheeling Intelligencer, Feb. 3, 1908, also cited in Fred A. Barkey, “Socialist Influence in the West Virginia State Federation of Labor: The John Nugent Case,” West Virginia History 38, no. 4 (July 1977): 283-84.

53 James R. Barrett, “Americanization from the Bottom Up: Immigration and the Remaking of the Working Class in the United States, 1880-1930,” Journal of American History 79, no. 3 (Dec. 1992): 997-98, 1000. For an interesting interpretation of Polish political attachments at home and abroad, see Stanislaus A. Blejwas, “Polonia and Politics,” cited in Polish Americans and Their History: Community, Culture, and Politics, edited by John J. Bukowczyk (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1996), 121-51.

54 Alexander Keyssar, The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in the United States (New York: Basic Books, 2000), 136-46; Sterne, Ballots and Bibles, 60-80.

55 Charles A. Wingerter, History of Greater Wheeling and Vicinity: A Chronicle of Progress and a Narrative Account of the Industries, Institutions, and People of the City and Tributary Territory-Volume 1 (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, 1912), 257-58; Tom Dunham, Wheeling in the 20th Century (Bloomington, IN: 1st Books Library, 2003), 23.

56 Manuscript Census Schedules, 1910 and 1920, Ohio County, West Virginia, WVRHC. The sample size for 1910 included 115 Polish households (29 owned, 77 rented, and 9 were unknown) and the sample for 1920 included 239 Polish households (69 owned and 170 rented).

57 Edward R. Kantowicz, Polish American Politics in Chicago, 1888-1940 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1975), 38-42, 49-52; Blejwas, “Polonia and Politics,” 132-34.

58 Ohio Valley Trades and Labor Assembly (OVTLA), Minute Book, no. 4, Mar. 23, 1902, Ohio Valley Trades and Labor Assembly Records, A&M No. 1055, WVRHC; Frederick Allan Barkey, “The Socialist Party in West Virginia from 1898 to 1920: A Study in Working-Class Radicalism,” (PhD diss., University of Pittsburgh, 1971), 13-20, 242.

59 OVTLA, Minute Book, no. 6, Oct. 25, 1908, WVRHC, and cited in Barkey, “The Socialist Party in West Virginia,” 65-66, ibid.; David Javersak, “The OVTLA: The Formative Years, 1882-1915, (PhD diss., West Virginia University, 1977), 110-12.

60 Wheeling Majority, Dec. 30, 1909.

61 Victor G. Reuther, The Brothers Reuther: And the Story of the UAW, A Memoir (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1976), 12-31; Barkey, “The John Nugent Case,” 284.

62 Wheeling Majority, Jan. 20, 1910.

63 David Brody, Steelworkers in America: The Nonunion Era, 1st Harper Torch Book ed. (New York: Harper &Row, 1969), 71-72; Louis C. Martin, “Causes and Consequences of the 1909-1910 Steel Strike in the Wheeling District” (master’s thesis, West Virginia University, 1999), chap. 3, 47-49, 58-59; also, Wheeling Intelligencer, Aug. 30, 1909, for Eagan incident; for quote, see Wheeling Majority, Dec. 16, 1909.

64 Brody, Steelworkers in America, 113-14; Martin, “Causes and Consequences of the 1909-1910 Steel Strike,” 55-58.

65 Wheeling Board of Trade Yearbook for 1911 (Wheeling, WV: Secretary’s Office-Board of Trade Building, 1911), 18-21, WVRHC.

66 Ibid., 7, 17.

67 Wheeling Majority, Mar. 3, Feb. 24, 1910.

68 Ibid., Feb. 24, Mar. 3, 1910.

69 Ibid., July 28, Sept. 8, 1910.

70 A sample of household heads for Ritchie District’s 7th and 8th precincts highlight the ethnic diversity in 1910. In the 7th precinct ethnic household breakdown (N=236) was as follows: Native U.S. (23.3%), German (36.4%), Polish (25.0%), English (4.2%), Irish (3.8%), Ruthenian (3.4%), and other ethnicities (3.8%). The 8th precinct ethnic household breakdown (N=280) was as follows: German (36.1%), Native U.S. (28.6%), Polish (21.4%), Irish (5.7%), French (2.5%), English (1.8%), and other ethnicities (3.9%). Manuscript Census Schedules, 1910, Ohio County, West Virginia, WVRHC.

71 These returns represent the total percentage of votes cast for the members of the given political party.

72 Wheeling Majority, Dec. 8, 1910.

73 Callin’s Wheeling City Directory, 1907-1909 (Wheeling: R. L. Polk & Co., 1907), 526, 740; Callin’s Wheeling City Directory, 1911-1912 (Wheeling: R. L. Polk & Co., 1911), 202, 806, 520, 818. The importance of immigrant saloons for working-class leisure and as “opposition centers” for trade unionists, socialists, and anarchists, has a wide literature. See especially Rosenzweig, Eight Hours for What We Will, chap. 2; Dorothee Schneider, Trade Unions and Community: The German Working Class in New York City, 1870-1900 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994); and Tom Goyens, Beer and Revolution: The German Anarchist Movement in New York City, 1880-1914 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2007).

74 Wheeling Majority, Jan. 5, Feb. 9, May 11, 1911.

75 Ibid., July 13, 1911; Jan. 11, Feb. 15, 1912.

76 Ken Fones-Wolf, Glass Towns: Industry, Labor, and Political Economy in ­Appalachia, 1890-1930s (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2007), 119-20, 217; Mark Wahlgren Summers, Party Games: Getting, Keeping, and Using Power in Gilded Age Politics (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004), chap. 11.

77 Shelton Stromquist, Reinventing “The People”: The Progressive Movement, the Class Problem, and the Origins of Modern Liberalism (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2006), 57-58.

78 Wheeling Register, Nov. 2, Nov. 3, 1910.

79 Ibid., Nov. 5, 1910.

80 The vote totals for the Second Branch Council reflect the relative totals for all the candidates on each party’s municipal ballot, which in this case usually included four prospective councilmen for each party.

81 Wheeling Register, May 11, 12, 23, 1909.

82 Wheeling Intelligencer, Nov. 8, 1912. The poor record-keeping of the 1912 elections limits any calculation of relative percentages for each party for Ritchie District.

83 Gunther Peck, Reinventing Free Labor: Padrones and the Immigrant Workers in the North American West, 1880-1930 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 7-9; quote in undated speech by Bishop Donahue from 1909, 8-9, unnumbered box, B. D. Sermons, etc., 1916-1920, folder 26, Bishop Donahue Correspondence, DWC.

84 Jay P. Dolan, In Search of an American Catholicism: A History of Religion and Culture in Tension (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), 90-94, 130-46.

85 The Wheeling Blue-Book: An Elite Directory and Family Register, 1901-1902 (Pittsburgh: Elite Publishing Company, 1901), 3-9, 17-186.

86 Oct. 1910-May 25, 1913, St. Joseph’s Cathedral Announcement Ledgers, 1898-1918 in Parish History File, Cathedral of St. Joseph, Wheeling, WV (1828-Present), DWC.

87 Nov. 16, 1913, St. Joseph’s Cathedral Announcement Ledgers, 1898-1918, in Parish History File, Cathedral of St. Joseph, Wheeling, WV (1828-Present), DWC.

88 Tentler, Seasons of Grace, 208-9.

89 Church Calendar, Nov. 1, 1912.

90 Undated speech by Bishop Donahue from 1909, 4, 6-10, unnumbered box, B. D. Sermons, etc., 1916-1920, folder 26, Bishop Donahue Correspondence, DWC.

91 Undated speech by Bishop Donahue from 1909, 18, 36, ibid.

92 State Commission Report of P. J. Donahue et al. to Governor William E. Glasscock, Nov. 27, 1912, 14-15, unnumbered box, Bishop Donahue, Finances-Invoices, 1898-1918, folder 44, Mining Investigation Kanawha County, 1912, ibid.

93 James J. Connolly, The Triumph of Ethnic Progressivism: Urban Political Culture in Boston, 1900-1925 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998), 105-60; Wheeling Majority, July 29, 1915.

94 Wheeling Majority, Aug. 12, 19, 1915.

95 President Charles Huggins Report to the OVTLA, Jan. 23, 1916, 2-4, box 2, miscellaneous folder, OVTLA records, WVRHC; OVTLA, Minute Book no. 16, box 3, Feb. 16, 1916, OVTLA records, WVRHC.

96 In 1921, there was the Polish-American Prodical Club at 4410 Jacob Street, and the Polish Club at 4414 Wood Street; Callin’s Wheeling City Directory, 1921-1922 (Wheeling: R. L. Polk & Co., 1921), 35.

97 Pamietnik Uroczystosci Zlotego Jubileusza Swiecenn Kaplanshich Przewielebnego Ksiedza Emila Musiala, Proboszcza Parafii Sw. Wladyslawa Krola (Wheeling, W.Va,1926), in Parish History File-Wheeling, WV-St. Ladislaus (1902-1995), DWC.

98 St. Ladislaus Annual Reports, 1915-1916, DWC.

99 The Church Calendar, Mar. 1920.

100 Unnamed Parish History, Parish History File-St. Ladislaus, DWC.

101 Ibid.; Polish-American, interview by Michael Kline, Oct. 31, 1994, Wheeling Spoken History Project, OCPL.

102 Pacyga, Polish Immigrants and Industrial Chicago, 144-46.

103 Delores Skrzypek, interview by Michael Kline, Oct. 31, 1994, Wheeling Spoken History Project, OCPL.

104 Unnamed Parish History, Parish History File-St. Ladislaus, DWC.

105 Callin’s Wheeling City Directory, 1917-1918 (Wheeling, WV: R. L. Polk & Co., 1918), 513; ibid., 1919-1920 (1920), 681; ibid., 1921-1922 (1921), 938, OCPL.

106 Ibid., 1917-1918 (1918), 441, 517; ibid., 1919-1920 (1920), 614, 686; ibid., 1921-1922 (1921), 848, 944; Polk’s Wheeling City Directory, 1928 (Wheeling, WV: R. L. Polk & Co., 1927), OCPL.

107 St. Ladislaus Annual Reports, 1911-1919, DWC.

108 Ibid., 1916; Mary Martinkosky confirmed the prominence of many of the small business owners in the leadership of the Polish-American Club. See oral interview with Mary Martinkosky, transcript in author’s possession, Aug. 10, 2008.

109 Pamietnik Uroczystosci Zlotego Jubileusza, 2, 10, 18, 30, 42, 58, St. Ladislaus Parish History File, DWC; Callin’s Wheeling City Directory, 1919-1920, 1020; Callin’s Wheeling City Directory, 1921-1922, 771, OCPL.

110 Pamietnik Uroczystosci Zlotego Jubileusza, 62, 66, St. Ladislaus Parish History File, DWC.

111 Wheeling Intelligencer, Apr. 12, Apr. 9, 1918.