The Turbulent Life of Anthony Sadowski

by: Wojciech A. Wierzewski -- translation: P. Obst, Oct. 21, 2006
Source: "Extra" supplement to "Gazeta Polska" October 7-8, 2006; p. 40-41

[Sadowski here] [Space] While traveling in the eastern and central states: Virginia, Pennsylvania, and also Ohio, Kentucky or Tennessee, it is difficult not to run into the often repeated name "Sandusky." In these states this name is given to counties, rivers and settlements. It is a name that comes from a Polish pioneer who explored America in the eighteenth century - Anthony Sadowski.

One must, however, have some information to make the connection to the Polish surname Sadowski, whose spread-out family colonized those lands in the eighteenth century before the founding of the United States of North America. It was in times when the aforementioned lands of the New World were still under the control of Indian tribes and were considered dangerous territory, not to be traveled, lying beyond the western boundary where the European civilization of colonizers had not yet penetrated.

Among the colonists on the East Coast there were many Dutch, Germans, and even Swedes, though English pioneers predominated. Then who was this Pole, who hailed from Ostrowiec near Kielce, who in addition used the noble crest of Nalecz?

What do we know about Sadowski?

In the locality of Douglassville, Pennsylvania, stands a historical marker, that leaves no doubt that Anthony Sadowski was there and became part of the state's history. It states:

Polish Pioneer, Indian trader, settled along Schuylkill River in this area. 1712. He served the provincial government as a messenger-interpreter during negotiations with Indian tribes in 1728. He was buried 1736 in graveyard of St. Gabriel's Church.

This is both too much and too little information for an important indicator about the fact that Poles had been present on this continent for hundreds of years and from the beginning played an active role in civilizing it! The routine deformation of Polish names by the British resulted in much confusion. It was difficult to figure out which individual was mentioned in various records when his name was spelled variously as: Sadousky, Sowdusky, Saduscus, Sandosque and even Sadowskij but also as Zadosky and Zadorowski.

In the state library in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, there are preserved some authentic letters, while in Philadelphia there is a last will and testament signed in a manner that leaves not a shadow of doubt as to the identity of the Pole here mentioned, Anthony Sadowski.

The great-great-great-great-granddaughter, Dorothy, whose last name, acquired in marriage, was Taylor, returned to Poland with her husband after World War I to assist wartime refugees. Thanks to the involvement of Ignacy J. Paderewski, then Prime Minister of the reborn Republic of Poland and also Foreign Minister in the new government, she reached key sources that explained the descent of her forbearer, Anthony Sadowski, who is also of interest to us.

Dorothy Taylor, with some trepidation in her voice, asked Madame Paderewska at an official supper, that she would like to check if her forbearer was or was not a Jew, as she had heard it said in America. "I can assure you," said Madame Paderewska, "that the Sadowskis never were Jewish."

Then she had her personal coach take the Taylors to the castle in Naleczow, near Kielce, for them to see with their own eyes the noble crest of their family, to which their American ancestor had a claim. What's more, they learned the entire family history going back to 1452, when Cardinal Zbigniew Olesnicki gave the government of Miechow, near Krakow, into the hands of one Tomasz Sadowski, giving him a noble title and raising the status of the entire family.

Another ancestor, Daniel Sadowski, in time became the Archbishop of Gniezno, a very great honor at the time. It also turned out that one of the first Poles on American soil, Stanislaw Sadowski, a member of Capt. John Smith's expedition to Jamestown in 1608, was also of that family. Because he had converted to Calvinism, and much offended the Jesuits with his writings, it was expedient for him to emigrate to England where he joined Smith's company, a group of pioneers looking for a fortune in the New World.

In regard to the ancestral roots of Anthony Sadowski, it was established that his father was Marcin, who was assigned the role of chamberlain at the castle in Gostyn, and who became a Sejm deputy in 1643, with the king making him an inspector of his properties in Ukraine.

Anthony was most likely born in 1669; while in 1674 Jan III Sobieski was chosen king of Poland. He was fated to live in interesting times. His education was excellent, and he was taught several languages, which were to be useful for a career in the king's court. Fate, however, steered him in a different direction.

During the Polish-Swedish war, Sadowski was at Riga and in 1701 together with his brother was taken into captivity. There he suffered not only imprisonment but also torture as the Swedes wanted to learn the disposition of the Polish artillery. At last he managed to escape, jumping into the sea from a Swedish ship while being taken to another location, and so started his wanderings around the world. The family received scraps of information that he was first in Scotland before going to London where, during the reign of Queen Anne, he boarded a ship bound for America. He reached New York in 1704.

First Steps in America

Researchers into Anthony Sadowski's life were able to determine that after landing in the New World he tried to establish contact with a colony of Polish protestants who settled in New Jersey. Its founder was probably the legendary Olbracht Zaborowski, known there as Zabriskie.

One way or another, one of the first steps that Sadowski took was to marry the daughter of local colonists (most likely the Dutch) one Mary Bordt (or Bird as she is listed in English documents). This would testify to his strong desire to have a stable life after all those adventures, and settling on a property which he purchased. But from the perspective of known facts about the Pole's further adventures it can be seen that his later life was a denial of all those things that appearances suggest.

Sadowski, to his credit, devoted himself to family life, as confirmed by the arrival of nine children, first daughters, then sons who later became famous: Jakub, James and Andrew. These are mentioned because the sons followed in the footsteps of this restless pioneer who blazed new trails on lands inhabited by Indians, beyond the magical barrier of the Appalachian peaks, then considered the western boundary of civilization.

At first the Sadowskis lived in Monmouth county, New Jersey, but were on the lookout for something new, something that would meet their increased expectations. At this time the neighboring state of Pennsylvania was governed by the famous William Penn, a true Quaker who tried to open wide his gates to new arrivals, selling land at a very low price. This explains how Anthony Sadowski in 1712, suddenly became the owner of a 400 acre property near Manatawny Creek, along the Schuylkill, where there were both forests untouched by the axe and arable fields. He was 45 at the time and already had some exciting adventures. It seems that this baggage from the past caused him to go out in further search of excitement rather than to settle down in a stable life style as an American farmer with a large land holding.

Tracker and friend to Indians

It is known from documents that Sadowski immediately put a lot of energy into the initiatives of his small community. In 1718, together with local neighbors (among whom was George Boone, father of the well-known Daniel) he applied for the establishment of a town in their locality, to be called Amity, that would have the rights of an independent settlement. Then, unexpectedly, he went to work for governor Patrick Gordon of Pennsylvania, helping to resolve some difficult matters and conflicts with the local Indians who caused ceaseless troubles for the colonists.

There's no question that Sadowski had a friendly attitude toward the native inhabitants and tried to establish good relations.

Testimony to this is the fact that he knew the Delaware and Iroquois languages, served as an interpreter, then as a representative of the governor, and negotiator sent on delicate missions to the Indian chiefs of the Shoshone, Opekasetta, and Manawykyhickon tribes, as is written in preserved documents. The Pole played a major role in building links between the natives and the colonists. Several times he defused conflicts and tensions that threatened to erupt into open warfare. Most likely he also prepared the peace treaty for the Pennsylvania governor, a vary important task.

But what started Anthony Sadowski's unexpected adventure as a diplomat and local justice of the peace and the turbulent period toward the end of his life which exceeded all that had gone before in an already colorful biography?

[pix here] [Space] Edward Pinkowski who investigated many of the mysteries in the lives of Poles in America, including the adventures of Anthony Sadowski (and his sons who will be mentioned later) is convinced that Sadowski already had met Indians in New Jersey, where he observed the trading post at Matawan, and saw the lucrative possibilities of trade between Indians and colonists.

The main item of trade were animal pelts and skins on the one side and shirts, cloth and canvass on the other. Sadowski's property, situated along the Schuylkill River was located on a trail used by the Indians to move between their settlements at fork in the Susquehanna River and Philadelphia. As early as 1715 Sadowski bought goods for large sums, as recorded in his accounts, and this is unequivocal proof that he started to trade with the Indians early.

He conducted this profitable business over the next few decades, but he also had some experiences that were not fortunate, and resulted in significant losses. There is a note from 1728 when he was alone at the trading post in Maddox and a group of drunken Indian teenagers practically robbed him of a huge quantity of goods, purchasing them on credit. Afterward, he had to sell a portion of his holdings to cover the significant loss. However, despite such incidents he remained a steadfast advocate for maintaining understanding and a peaceful coexistence with the native Indians. Evidence of this is, at least in part, of his role in the conflict between the Indians and colonists in May 1728.

At that time a group of Indians raided a white settlement and terrorized several pioneer families living in Tulpehocken, near Sadowski's farm. The colonists were forced to leave their homes. Sadowski, without hesitation, mounted his horse and rode to the Indian village at Shamokin to persuade the chief to intervene in a situation that could have become a bloody confrontation. Meanwhile, the settlers organized their own relief and shot several Indians.

On returning, Sadowski, to his surprise, found that Pennsylvania governor Patrick Gordon had already head about the incident, and was on the scene with his men. The governor ordered the bodies buried and began an investigation, naming Sadowski's neighbors as guardians of the law, charging them to maintain peace and order. Sadowski was given a diplomatic mission that lasted for the next few weeks.

Our countryman now travelled carrying gifts from the governor to the Indian Chiefs along with peace proposals.

The resulting peace guaranteed that each side could live in its own way, without seeking confrontations. The Indians began to move toward the west, and this encouraged Sadowski and other white colonists to make bolder explorations in order to learn what was beyond the Appalachians.

Not all things are known

There is very little information about what happened later. There are only hints and indications in old documents and in French and British sources from the eighteenth century. There are place names on old colonial maps, from which one may deduce that Anthony Sadowski and his sons did not remain in one place but kept opening new trails. These are mainly speculations and guesses.

But they do point in one direction: the name Sandusky (in its many variants, as had been mentioned) occurs many times and is connected to so many places that there is no doubt that Sadowski, and later his sons James and Jacob, had gone farther out exploring the present Midwest and beyond for their descendants.

Whether it was the work of Anthony or his brave sons, their surname connects them to the fact that in mid-eighteenth century the first European expedition reached the shores of Lake Erie and established a colonial mission.

After that the name of Sandusky started to appear in many places on the face of present day Ohio, where it was used to name a river, an entire region, and several old forts. Places connected to Sadowski are also in Indiana, Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin. A legend states that James and Jacob were part of a group of trappers that followed Daniel Boone, tempering the appetites of local Indians and coming to the rescue of local settlers.

Supposedly, they even reached the shores of the Mississippi (as state some of their biographers) and dared to float down the mighty river. But we do not know what place they reached. On the other hand ,there is no doubt that Sadowski family members had a true talent for finding adventure and attained a well deserved reputation as fearless blazers of new trails.

In that century their activities changed popular views about the New World, and also pushed out the borders for European colonization preparing America for another phase of history, the time when the Wild West was won.

The father of this famous family, Anthony Sadowski, could then peacefully rest in peace on April 22, 1736 at his home in Amity Township, leaving a detailed last will and testament describing the value of and indicating the parts of his property that were to be given to members of his extensive family.

The heritage left by Anthony Sadowski was, in fact, much more extensive. This Pole with a noble crest turned out to be much more important than as merely a colonist, looking for a better life in the New World. He knew that the future of the European settlers depended on dialogue with the native inhabitants and avoidance of potential conflict and confrontations.

He believed that both sides could live in peace on these broad lands. His descendants carry Polish blood in their veins, and the Sadowski (that is Sandusky) family tree in America is rather imposing. They have become personalities of the first order among pioneers who opened the American frontier and prepared the colonies to be an independent nation freed from European rules and obligations, revolutionary in thinking and in forming a civilization. In a word, for becoming the United States of America.

There is no exaggeration in saying that the name of Sadowski is written in golden letters on the pages of a great tradition and among the legends of this land.