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Town of Riverhead

Polish Town USA

Polish Town is a small neighborhood in Riverhead settled by Polish immigrants at the turn of the century. They came to this country for several reasons, the most important of which was the religious persecution which developed after Poland was divided among Russia, Prussia and Austria. They also came seeking jobs that would enable them to save enough to bring their families to the new world. Since agriculture was their main line of work in Poland - a country whose very name means "the land of fields" - it was natural for them to come to the rich farmlands of eastern Long Island and work on the local farms.

It was a time when savings were difficult to come by. In the early 1900's, the wage of a Polish farm worker was $10.00 a month plus room and board. The dreams of these Polish immigrants was a burning desire to succeed in the new world. They worked hard to advance and to become American citizens, while still maintaining the knowledge of the culture they left behind.

The early Polish immigrants to Polish Town did more than work the farms. Twenty young men joined together and pledged themselves into a Polish fraternity. The name of this organization was "Towarzystwo Polskie Rzymsko - Katolickie Bratnies Pomocy pod Opieka Sw. Izydora, Patrona Rolnikow" - "The Polish Roman Catholic Society of Fraternal Assistance under the Patronage of St. Isidore, The Patron of Farmers". They built a church of wood with twin spires with their own hard-earned pennies. St. Isidore's Church, named after the patron saint of the farmer was built in 1906 and is the oldest Polish Roman Catholic Church on Long Island. The church became the focal point and spiritual heart of the little community known as Polish Town.

The modest homes in Polish Town were made of clapboard and the shops were one story buildings where Polish was spoken. You could shop for clothes, food and anything else you needed without speaking a word of English.

The families met at St. Isidore's for their worship, weddings, christenings and funerals. Community functions were held at the Riverhead Polish Hall which was incorporated in 1907. The first building was burnt down and the present structure was built about 1925.

Polish Town consists of an area of approximately 15 blocks which includes residential, commercial and industrial properties. Pulaski Street, formerly called Cemetery Street, is the main east-west thoroughfare.

On October 9, 1929, the Riverhead Town Board, with the unanimous approval of the residents residing on Cemetery Street, passed a resolution sponsored by the Riverhead Polish Hall, to change Cemetery Street to Pulaski Street. At the time, there was local and national observance of the 150th anniversary of the death of General Casimir Pulaski, who died in the service of our country during the Revolutionary War. Polish settlers in Riverhead's Polish Town area came from Russia, Prussia and Austria. What is now called Polish Town was virtually unsettled prior to Polish immigration. By 1905, the Polish Town community became established. Many of the descendants of these early immigrants are still in the area - many still on the land purchased by their forefathers. In less than two generations, the descendants of these Polish immigrants are Riverhead's land and homeowners, public officials, business people, doctors, lawyers, teachers, merchants, tradesmen and farmers.