Side A: The first wave of Polish immigrants arrived in Toledo beginning in 1871. Most were Roman Catholics escaping oppression in Prussian Poland, where German chancellor Otto von Bismarck had instituted “Kulturkampf,” a policy of cultural assimilation. The first formal association of the Toledo Polonia (Polish community) occurred on October 16, 1875, when twenty-five families formed St. Hedwig Parish on that saint’s feast day. By 1900 Toledo had become a center of Polish population in America, and many Poles found work here in the growing glass and automobile industries.
Side B: Since its founding in 1875, St. Hedwig Parish has been a center of the Toledo Polonia. In 1876, the parish erected its first church and school building at this site under the direction of Rev. Wincenty Lewandowski (1841-1900). Bitter differences arose after rapid growth of the parish prompted its division, culminating in tragic riots in 1885 that caused three deaths and fire damage to the church. The present St. Hedwig church building on LaGrange Street replaced it in 1892. In 1916, the Order of the Sisters of St. Francis designated the old St. Hedwig building as its motherhouse, directed by Mother M. Adelaide Sandusky, O.S.F. (1875-1964). This community, now located in Sylvania, was initially devoted to training teachers for Polish parishes throughout the Midwest.