"If it had not been for a Jewish merchant we could have ended up in New Jersey or some other God awful place!!!!!!"
That's the email title I got from Texas Polish Dance Band Fiddler Brian Marshall, and it's meant as a compliment. Evidently he's found that his kin folk, along with most of the second wave of immigration of Texas Polonia were encouraged to move to Texas by one James Meyer Levi, a Polish Jew and Confederate Civil War Veteran.
He continues: "New Waverly, Texas, is located thirteen miles south of Huntsville on State Highway 75 and Interstate Highway 45 in southern Walker County. The Houston and Great Northern Railroad Company founded it, after the residents of what became Old Waverly refused to grant the railroad a right of way through their community. A group of Walker County cotton planters met in a general store at Old Waverly, Texas on September 19, 1866, to discuss their problems in securing workers. Meyer Levi, a merchant who had various holdings in the state, owned the store.
There were twelve planters who gathered at the meeting for the purpose of recruiting laborers from Europe. The members established themselves as ‘The Waverly Emigration Society” and commissioned Meyer Levy to travel to Europe to recruit 150 “foreign laborers” to work on their lands. Each planter requested a certain number of workers with specific skills. The planters agreed to play for the passage of the immigrants to Texas and to play the men $90, $100, and $110 for their work in their work in their first, second, and third years in America. The women would receive $20 less for their labors each year. Meyer Levy agreed to go to his native Poland and recruit workers. Forty-five families totally 143 persons arrived in New York on April 9, 1867. After a short difficulty with travel funding, they then traveled by ocean from New York to Galveston, Texas.
In 1870 the Great Northern Railroad Company laid its’ tracks ten miles west of Old Waverly and set aside a town site know as Waverly Station. The new community attracted many residents of Old Waverly, and the new town’s name was soon changed to New Waverly. Because so many of the original group of Polish immigrants followed to New Waverly it was called the “Cradle of Polish Immigration” in this part of Texas. While most of the first Polish immigrants made their homes in New Waverly, many eventually migrated to the surrounding counties."
Visit Polish Texans website for more information about this fascinating Polish Diaspora community.