The rather unassuming rural community of Panna Maria is of major significance as the first permanent settlement founded by Polish immigrants in the United States. Founded in 1854 at the confluence of the San Antonio River and Cibolo Creek, the site was purchased by Father Leopold Moczygemba from San Antonio merchant John Twohig. While the initial settlers from Upper Silesia were followed by additional Polish immigrants in 1855 and 1856, Panna Maria never developed into a commercial center. Instead, with the construction of the Church of the Immaculate Conception ( SF32), it served as the spiritual center.
By the time of the Civil War, Karnes County had an economy based on livestock ranching. In 1866, cattle drives from Panna Maria to nearby DeWitt County and later north along the Chisholm Trail linked their cattle industry to the railroads north in Kansas until the arrival of railroads at San Antonio in the early 1880s.
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