Excerpts from Golden Jubilee Book-
“They Came Here In A Covered Wagon”
“The long white mustache of Jonas Bertulaitis of Klaipeda quivered like a leaf as he shouted his horse to stop in a mud hole on the shores of Lake Michigan and the foot of the river where Chicago was beginning its career way back in 1834. Men, women and children gathered curiously around the covered wagon in which were Bertulaitis’ wife and three children, all dressed in colorful Lithuanian homespun. Strange to them was the tongue of this blue-eyed, tall, sturdy Lith [sic] from the Baltic.
But Bertulaitis liked Chicago, as he jumped off the wagon, assisting his wife and children. Historians state they lived here for seven months, later proceeding north to a section near Milwaukee, where they started farming and making Lithuanian cheese.
Chicago Liths 108 Years Old
And in the Cavalcade of Chicago in the last one hundred years stands out the Lithuanian vanguard.
The Lithuanian settler, hard working and adventurous, helped make Chicago the fourth city in the world, his deeds adding to the drama, stirring events and colorful personalities that is Chicago today.
Largest Lith City
Arriving from the home of Vytautas, Maironis, Basanavicius, Adam Mickiewicz, General Thaddeus Kosciuszko, from the temple of Dainos and the land of amber, the immigrants of Lithuania brought here their gifts and laid them upon the altar of Chicago.
There are no records of Lithuanians in Chicago after Bertulaitis up to about the great Chicago fire of l871.
Lived Near Mrs. O’Leary
Following the Chicago fire more Lithuanians came, some directly from New York, others from the coal mines of Pennsylvania, seeking jobs in a big city. The earlier arrivals assisted Chicago in rebuilding itself after the havoc allegedly wrought be Mrs. O’Leary’s cow. It can be definitely and historically stated that the cow did not belong to a Lithuanian!
Men of Great Faith
While working in the stockyards, in the tunnels, on the lake boats, in tailor shops, Chicago’s Lithuanians did not forget their God and their Church.
Even Prior to the 90’s, Chicago Liths were planning to build a church. Their dreams came true, when St. George Church was started fifty years ago in Bridgeport. This church was destined to become the ‘mother church’ of Chicago’s Lithuanians.
Now Thirteen Parishes
With the progress of the church increased the cultural, economical and social life of the Lithuanians. Catholic weeklies became dailies; grade schools turned into academies; small societies turned into great national organizations.
Charity also was honored among them. The pioneers built a hospital and are now engaged in erecting an old people’s home. And St. Casimir Cemetery, 11th St. and Crawford Ave, is one of the most beautiful in the Middle West.
Great American Patriots
After the war, new colonies increased, and more homes were purchased by the Lithuanians. It is hard to find a Lithuanian immigrant who doesn’t own his own home! His sons and daughters are also now learning the economies of their elders.
Lithuanians of Chicago did not forget also their homeland, Lithuania, for after World War I, it was shown that they assisted in Lithuania’s resurrection in the aftermath of the war by funds and other means.
Ready Before Pearl Harbor
Even before Pearl Harbor Lithuanians were sending their boys to the armed forces. Thousands of them are in the air corps, the marines, navy and army. Many of them are officers. Many of them are heroes of Bataan, The Coral Sea battle and the Solomons. Many of them are in Ireland and in Iceland.
Five Million in War Bonds!
Yes, sturdy is the Lithuanian vanguard in the Cavalcade of Chicago.
In it are the church leaders, the business men, the professional men,
the political leaders, the skilled workers, the housewives, the men
of the fighting forces, and children – all Americans! ”
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