Global True Lithuania Encyclopedia of Lithuanian heritage worldwide

Wisconsin

Wisconsin to the north of Chicago has some 10 000 Lithuanians most of whom are descendants of those who arrived before World War 2 and the rest - shortly after World War 2. Therefore Lithuanian buildings of Wisconsin are old and in many cases closed, with only some inscriptions remaining. All of them are located in the old cities and towns on Lake Michigan shores. In this article, they are listed north-to-south.

Sheboygan Lithuanian church, cemetery, and Vaitkus grave

Sheboygan is the Wisconsin's oldest Lithuanian community, dating to the 19th century. It has an Immaculate Conception Lithuanian church (2705 S. 14th St.) and cemetery (land acquired in 1929). While the church with such name still exists, it is a new building that was constructed together with a school in 1960 when the parish was already on the verge of becoming non-Lithuanian; the old church has been destroyed and nothing Lithuanian exists in the new church. Likewise, while the Lithuanian burials still predominate in the cemetery (which is thus the sole Lithuanian cemetery in the entire state of Winsconsin), there is nothing more Lithuanian there. Older Lithuanian burials (the ones with more Lithuanian inscriptions) are located in Southside cemetery.

Sheboygan Immaculate Conception church

Sheboygan Immaculate Conception church

Sheboygan Lithuanian cemetery

Sheboygan Lithuanian cemetery

In its suburb of Kohler the Lithuanian Transatlantic flight pioneer Feliksas (Felix) Vaitkus (Waitkus) is buried. He flew successfully from New York to Ireland in 1935, that way doing the first successful Lithuanian landing after the Transatlantic flight, something the pilots Darius and Girėnas had failed to do. However, Darius and Girėnas have actually passed over Ireland as well - it is just that they chose to continue their flight to Lithuania (ultimately leading to their demise in what is now Poland) while Vaitkus chose to abandon further attempts to reach Lithuania due to bad weather. For this reason, while Vaitkus received hero's welcome at Lithuania at the time, he is far less known than Darius and Girėnas. Still, he was the only person to cross the Atlantic this way in 1935, notorious for bad weathers, and the sixth person in the world to do it alone in a single-engine plane (this is even marked on his grave). Vaitkus is buried in the family zone of a rich local family he married into. Unlike that of many Lithuanian immigrants', Vaitkus's (who was born in the USA to Lithuanian parents) life has been far more affluent: he served in the air force and he completed university studies, and he had a wife from a major local family. Later in life, he worked for Boeing.

Brotz family section of the Kohler cemetery where Feliksas Vaitkus is buried at

Brotz family section of the Kohler cemetery where Feliksas Vaitkus is buried at

Feliksas Vaitkus's and his wife's graves

Feliksas Vaitkus's and his wife's graves

Port Washington Lithuanian heritage

While the cute town of Port Washington seemingly has nothing Lithuanian today, it once boasted a small St. Ambrose Lithuanian church (~100 seats) which had a congregation of 30 families and 50 singles. The church was closed in 1964 and demolished in 1965, replaced by apartments.

Milwaukee Lithuanian church and museum

In Wisconsin's largest city of Milwaukee, the Public Museum includes a "European village" exhibit full of houses that represent the European countryside cultures of 1875-1925 (at the time when European villagers would immigrate to Milwaukee en-masse). Among the 32 cultures represented the Lithuanian ethnicity is exhibited as well. The village is dedicated to "All past, present and future immigrants in appreciation of their contributions to American culture". A small Lithuanian hut has been recreated there, with an interior stuffed with Lithuanian things and its exterior decorated in Lithuanian wooden carvings. Compared to the homes of the larger communities it is smaller, as Lithuanians were not among the city's major communities. Other Lithuanian details in the "Village" are the word "Lietuviai " near the entrance and a Lithuanian doll in the gallery of ethnic costumes. In general, the museum is a universal one that covers nearly everything, from animals to Native Americans to history to the planets.

Lithuanian house of Milwaukee public museum (exterior)

Lithuanian house of Milwaukee public museum (exterior)

Lithuanian house of Milwaukee public museum (interior fragment)

Lithuanian house of Milwaukee public museum (interior fragment)

A building of St. Gabriel Lithuanian church still stands in Milwaukee as well (construction began at 1913). It is now used, however, by the Congregation of the Great Spirit, effectively a Native American Catholic parish. No Lithuanian details remain outside.

Milwaukee St. Gabriel Lithuanian church

Milwaukee St. Gabriel Lithuanian church

Racine Lithuanian church

Racine once had a St. Casimir church. It has been closed down in 1998 (merging it with Irish, Slovak, German and Polish parishes). The building (815 Park Ave) currently serves as a Baptist chapel.

Racine Lithuanian church

Racine Lithuanian church

Kenosha Lithuanian church

Kenosha has a St. Peter Lithuanian church (2224 30th Ave) - the current building dating to 1966. Like in Sheboygan, it has been constructed together with a school, replacing the older Lithuanian church, with a plans to add new church later. The plans never became a reality, however, leaving Kenosha with a church that looks more like a school hall from the outside.

Kenosha St. Peter Lithuanian church, as it looks now

Kenosha St. Peter Lithuanian church, as it looks now

Unlike in Sheboygan, however, in Kenosha the Lithuanian heritage has been preserved far better: there are Lithuanian details such as Lithuanian anthem in the church, while the underground church hall has a large mural dedicated to the parish's Lithuanian roots that has been unveiled in 2001, long since the parish is no longer Lithuanian. It includes ethnic symbols of Lithuania such as the flag, Vytis, as well as Lithuania's religious buildings: the Hill of Crosses, the Three Crosses in Vilnius, a traditional roadside cross and Lithuanian ethnic patterns. Once, the church hall also served as a school cafeteria, however, the school has been closed in the early 2010s and the premises rented out.

A fragment of a mural with Lithuanian syymbols in the cellar of the church (that serves for the community meetings and, as long as the school was open, served as school's cafeteria)

A fragment of a mural with Lithuanian syymbols in the cellar of the church (that serves for the community meetings and, as long as the school was open, served as school's cafeteria)

Lithuanian anthem, pictures of Lithuanian priests are also available near the church entrance, while outside one may see the Divine Mercy symbol that has originated in Vilnius, Lithuania.

Since 1926 the church is being cared for by Maryan fathers; however, as of 2018, they are Polish rather than Lithuanian.

Click to learn more about Lithuania: USA, Wisconsin Leave a comment
Comments (8) Trackbacks (0)
  1. SINCE THE 2010 CENSUS THERE ARE 39 FOLKS OF LITHUANIAN DESCENT LIVING IN HAYWARD WI, I CAME UP HERE FROM CHICAGO, MY PARENTS CAME TO THE USA IN 1950.

  2. I was an alter boy in 1938. My parents and grandparents were parisheners.

  3. I am an academic researcher and journalist looking for Wisconsinites with Lithuanian ancestry, particularly those who know of people who fled Lithuania as part of WWII. (particularly Kaunau and/or Vilnius) Please contact me if you have information or contacts. larsoja@uwec.edu

    • The Bartkus family from Kaunas, I think, settled in Kenosha, Milwaukee.
      There is still a Father Michael who travels to Lithuania to work with young people.
      My father, Stanley Bartkus settled in Scranton as a coal miner, later a farmer!

    • I sent you an e-mail to the above address.

  4. My grandparents JoHann And Katerina
    Bilda from Vilnus left country to
    Belshill Scotland and in 1923 To
    Brasil. One brother of my Grandfather
    come to USA. I was born in Brasil from
    Adelia Bilda and moved to Miami Fl
    in 1962. I am 83 old.


Leave a comment

No trackbacks yet.