Meet Jeff, life-long Lansing area resident and amateur genealogist. Follow him as he enters his 19th year of researching his family’s path from the harsh copper mines of the Keeweenaw Peninsula to the conveniences of modern Lansing life. You’ll see the drive behind the long research hours, meet his family members and learn something about family life in the Upper Peninsula.
“He referred to his home surroundings, stating that he lost his mother by death when he was only 4 years old and added with a touch of irony ‘I never knew my mother.’” – Calumet News (?)
Ignatius Pytlewski, son of Stanislaus and Antonia, was the Pytlewski skeleton in the closet. Your family may have one. The closer these skeletons lie in relation to living relatives, the trickier it becomes to pass on the information without hurting your family members. You may want to hold on to your little family secret until a time where the information may not hurt particular family members. Enough time has passed where I can dish the Pytlewski dirt that has been hiding in plain sight for over a century.
Ignatius had a fascinating life to say the least! Ignatius’ mother, Antonia, died in childbirth when he was 4 years of age. Ignatius grew up in a time where his father was just starting up Petlewski’s Bar. He slept in the basement of the saloon his father purchased in 1892. In 1905, five out of seven brothers and sisters were likely sharing the 2nd story and basement of the saloon. His Uncle Joseph also lived with them, making it a total of 9 people in a two-story dwelling, where one of the floors served as the saloon. Ignatius likely did not have a lot of space in Petlewski’s Bar. He attempted to make an honest living working for five months as a drill boy for the Calumet and Hecla Mining Co. He was discharged for destroying property and lying. A C&H employment record also leads me to suspect he gained employment in 1907 with C&H under the name Emory Nicholas. “Emory” quit after five months.
Children in Calumet grew up with cold and snow filled winters without many luxuries. Ignatius had to share his household with 8 other family members. Pictured is Paul Petlewski standing in front of Vienna Bakery in Calumet, MI. Circa 1920. Photo courtesy of Kathy Petlewski.
In 1905 Ignatius’ troubles began when he was charged with burglary. A local newspaper reports,
“He confessed to making a skeleton key with nothing but a file, and with a picture of a pattern and with this key, he had not the least trouble in entering the Wieder harness store, where he stole several coins. This was his last escapade and ended in his undoing. He had taken every precaution that it was in the nature of a human being to take and which would have done credit too many older criminal, but he had forgotten that ‘footprints in the snow’ tell tales.”
Ignatius struck again in 1908. The testimony of Sylvan Malfroid recalls how Petlewski got caught.
He said I found this boy [Ignatius] in the office. I asked him if anything was taken away and he said I don’t know, I don’t think so. I said the boy was probably on his way home and wandered in there and wanted to sleep off his jag. It was just a notion that I thought he might be drunk by the way he looked and by his actions he was leaning against the desk. I asked him where did he board, and he said I board at Swedtown. I asked him what his name and he said was John Rowe. He said he was a Polander and I thought that was a funny name for that nationality, then a boy came to the door and said Let that boy go thats my brother he never done anything, then we let the boy go and we thought we could know him again, I thought afterwards if I had not mentioned that he might be drunk that Christ would not have let him go.
After being arrested for his burglary of several local Calumet business, The Daily Mining Gazette Reports.
Petlewski told Marshall Trudell that it took him about one and one-half hours to saw the two bars which permitted him to escape. He stated that just as he had completed the work the janitor of the building, Mike Schulte, opened the jail door and asked him if he was calling for a drink. Realizing that if he said yes the fact that he sawed his way out would have been evident, he replied in the negative, and Mr. Shulte left.
It was not more than three minutes after the janitor was gone that Petlewski managed to get through the small hole, first having taken off his outer clothing to make it easier to pass through. During the time that he was sawing the bars his saw broke, and this fact made it much harder to complete. the job. He carried the saw with him just for the purpose it was used.
Another newspaper reports how Ignatius
“was amused on reading the stories of his escape from the Red Jacket jail recently by sawing his way out, and laughingly reminded those present how he had passed the local officer who arrested him at the time on several occasions afterward.”
During Ignatius’ 1905 trial, William Richards, a theft victim, says of Ignatius, “If he is crazy I am crazy. That is a steady business of his, the same as yours and mine he does it as a business and pretty good at it too.” Supporting this statement, the Calumet News reports that
“The prisoner was searched and a bunch of keys, containing no less than 115 were found in his person, many of them made by himself, and believed to fit any lock that was ever invented.”
The article goes on to say that
“It will be remembered that when the Pytlewski house was searched [for his previous crimes], it was found that the boy had wired the home from basement to [illegible] and had installed a miniature telephone system for his own private use.”
This was in 1908 when telephones were a newer technology. The Daily Mining Gazette also reports,
“It is said that at one time he had the garret in his home completely wired for electricity with all kinds of bells and alarms. He had a number of guns and revolvers there, and once when the police had occasion to search the place they found ammunition enough to stock a good sizes shop.”
Ignatius plead guilty to the crimes he committed in 1908. The court, however, was lenient with his sentence. The Daily Mining Gazette reports,
“‘The circumstances of your case appeal to the court somewhat,’ said Justice Streeter to the boy, ‘your youth. the fact that you have done steady work and the fact that while you have been living at home you have been thrown practically on your own resources. You have done wrong because you have found it easy to do so.’”
According to the Court, Ignatius was sent to Ionia Reformatory of Michigan for a period of one and a half to five years. He remained there in 1910 according to the census. By 1917, his World War I draft registration card tells us he landed himself in the Illinois State Penitentiary in Rock Island, Illinois. I still haven’t solved that mystery!
By 1940, Ignatius’ life settled. He lived with his sister Theresa in Chicago while working as an elevator greeter. Like Ignatius, the 1st generation of American-born Pytlewski family members changed their name to Petlewski and moved away from Calumet. Walter and his brother John moved to Detroit. Stanislaus’ children moved on to Illinois and Wisconsin. Walter’s brothers, Alex and Vincent, and his sister Mary were the only Pytlewskis that remained in Calumet. Today, both residences of the Pytlewskis no longer exist. The only evidence of that the family existed in Calumet are the gravestones on the ground and the records in libraries and archives.
For those who have been following Beyond the Stacks: Finding Family, the following are the records we’ve touched on in locating family: touched on quite a few records that you can use to find your family.
- Family Photos
- Oral History
- Census Records
- Employment Records
- Estate Files (including wills)
- Newspaper Articles
- Court Records
- City & Business Directories
- Vital Records
- Court Records
- Military Records
- Cemetary Gravestones and Records
I hope you enjoyed reading my family’s story and maybe picked up a few ideas on how you can discover more about your family!
Daily Mining Gazette. Houghton, Michigan.
Calumet News. Calumet, Michigan.
The People of the State of Michigan v. Ignatius Pytlewski File 2955. Houghton County, MI Circuit Court. Accessed at Michigan Tech Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections.
The People of the State of Michigan v. Ignatius Pytlewski. File 2956. Houghton County, MI Circuit Court. Accessed at Michigan Tech Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections.
The People of the State of Michigan v. Ignitz Petlewsky. File 2393 Houghton County, MI Circuit Court. Accessed at Michigan Tech Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections.
Year: 1910; Census Place: Easton, Ionia, Michigan; Roll: T624_650; Page: 6A; Enumeration District: 0014; ; FHL microfilm: 1374663. Accessed 13 Dec 2012. AncestryLibrary Database. Capital Area District Libraries
“United States Census, 1940,” index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/KW1L-C88 : accessed 13 Dec 2012), Nickouls Petlewski in household of Stanley Zwierzchowski, Ward 35, Chicago, Chicago City, Cook, Illinois, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 103-2172, sheet 15A, family 300, NARA digital publication T627, roll 991.
National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington, D.C.; ; State Headquarters: Illinois; ; ; ; ; Microfilm Series: M2097; Microfilm Roll: 226. Ancestry.com. U.S., World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.United States, Selective Service System. Selective Service Registration Cards, World War II: Fourth Registration.
Registration State: Illinois; Registration County: Rock Island; Roll: 1614549; Draft Board: 1. Ancestry.com. U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2005.