Charles Wellsley Coulter.

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Lithuanians of Cleveland



Department of Sociology
Western Reserve University



Clrvrhui.!. Ohio


At a hotel banquet held recently in Cleveland by a group of
representative Lithuanians in honor of delegates from the new
republic, one of the Lithuanian visitors, after looking the group
over, turned to me and said in surprise, "These are almost all
Americans, aren't they'" As a matter of fact, nearly everyone of
the hundred or more present was born in Lithuania and had come
to America at a comparatively recent date. This comment from a
fellow countryman was significant. How often is the distinction be-
between "foreigners" and "Americans" overemphasized and ex-
aggerated, and how often the fact that fundamentally all are pretty
normal human beings lost sight of.

Few native Americans have better appreciation of the worth of
American institutions, representative government, liberty of thought
and speech than do these new citizens, whose mother country is
struggling for Democracy. Nothing could have been more inspiring ,
more likely to renew one's faith in the old ideals of America than to
hear the constant references, in this meeting for Lithuanian inde-
pendence, to America's institutions as models to be followed in the
new republic struggling into existence. May we always be worthy
of such faith !

Lithuanians are forming a valuable element in our country, in-
tellectual, eager for the education that has been denied them in the
past, self-respecting, industrious and ambitious, they are helping to
form that ideal American who is enriched by the treasures each
nationality has brought to our shores.

The following pages will tell what Lithuanians are contribut-
ing to the community life of Cleveland.


I lead Resident
Goodrich Social Settlement.

Lithuanian (/iris in National Costume

THE LIT II T .1 .V / .1 .V S OF f L K V K L A \ I)

The Lithuanians of Cleveland

The territory included under the term Lithuania depends upon the time
of which one speaks. In the fifteenth century the kingdom extended from
the Baltic Sea at Polangen and the mouth of the Xiemen river to the Black
Sea, and from the Bug river on the west to the Oka on the east. Gradually
the political unit was reduced in size until today without recognized political
entity we can speak only of the territory in which live those who use the
Lithuanian language. In this sense it now includes the entire province of
Kovno, Vilna. the part of Grodno north of the Xiemen, Suvalki, Courland
and the north-eastern part of eastern Prussia. Closely akin and usually
classified with them are the Letts, a people living in Courland, Livonia,
Vitebsk, and a remnant of the old Prussians living east of the mouth of the

The Lithuanians are a branch of the Indo-European race quite distinct
from the Scandinavians, Slavs or Germans by whom they are surrounded.
Their language shows a marked similarity to the Sanskrit. From a careful
comparison of the pre-historic skulls unearthed in this region with the
Lithuanians of today, it would seem that they had been in Western Europe
many centuries before the Slavs or Germans migrated from their Asiatic
homes. Six hundred years ago the southern Lithuanians came under Prus-
sian domination. In 1509 by the Convention of Lublin the fortunes of the
kingdom were inextricably merged with those of Poland. The dual monarchy
ostensibly at least, became entirely Polish and Lithuania seemed to have
disappeared. It was a bloodless political conquest, but it did not essentially
change the genius or aspirations of this freedom-loving people. At the close
of the eighteenth century, with the third partition of Poland by its avaricious
neighbors, Lithuania passed into the hands of Russia, and to Europeans and
Americans became nothing more than a memory. Her government down to
the pettiest officers was Russian. Her statutes were abolished; the size of
the leasehold of her people was limited to one hundred and sixty acres;
lectures and meetings were prohibited; even the language itself was barred
and the Russian characters substituted for the Latin. Lithuanian commerce
was discouraged and great tracts of country were sold to Russian colonists.
The hardest blow of all was the suppression of the press in !Sti4, so that the
people had to rely on what literature could be smuggled in from Germany
and America. But such literature did come in, as evidenced by the fact
that the Lithuanian provinces have shown a smaller percentage of illiteracy
than any other section of the late Russian Empire. It was none the less
a tragedy for Lithuania that her youths with literary ambition, the potential
leaders of her people, should have to go beyond her boundaries for their
education, and afterward, in too many cases, to write in a tongue which their
own people could not read.

Every smaller town as well as the larger centres of population, in addi-
tion to its Russian garrison, had its Russian Greek Orthodox Church, al-





^ L


ySownr* Sil/TZJt 1


Map of Lithuania

THE L I T H U A N I A X S F (' L K V E L A X D

though the Lithuanians were Roman Catholic. For more than a century
(1795 1915) this Russification was systematically carried on, yet in 1919
these people think in terms of the ancient Lithuanian legal codes and retain
their language in its purity. Secretly they have preserved a large and various
literature and remain consistently Roman Catholic. Panslavism, as far as
Lithuania is concerned, has failed.

But two social classes have existed in Lithuania, the large land holders
and the peasants. The former have ever betrayed the latter, first to Poland,
then to Russia, somewhat in later years to Germany. The anxiety of the
nobles to protect their vested interests made them careful to mold their
attitude to accord with the prevailing winds of political fortune. The
peasants who bore the weight of the support of the local and the Russian
government, whose children could not be sent to outside schools for educa-
tion, felt most the burden of Russian oppression and strangely enough re-
mained most characteristically Lithuanian. The national consciousness
for four centuries was but smouldering in the breast of her peasant people.

In the light of these facts it is not strange that the stream of Lithuanian
emigration has grown steadily in volume. We find them in Poland, the
Ukraine, in Great Britain, South Africa, and New Zealand. The Canadian
Northwest has many colonies of them. But the Mecca of this oppressed
people has been the American Republic. It symbolized all they did not have.
Strangely enough, the earliest recorded immigrants from Lithuania came with
Kosciuszko in 1777 to fight for America's independence, purchasing for
America what they could not have at home.

From 1868, however, they began to come in numbers, settling in the
anthracite coal regions of Pennsylvania. Large colonies are still found in
the vicinity of Pottsville, Shenandoah, Hazelton, Wilkes-Barre and Scranton.
From these centres they have found their way in increasing numbers to all
the larger eastern and middle western cities. Only a few have penetrated
to the far west or to the south.

In Chicago alone there are 80, QUO in ten large parishes; in greater New
York half that number, and many in Pittsburg, Philadelphia, Boston, Balti-
more and Detroit, where they are workers in factories of all sorts, tailors and
merchants, with a few professional men.

The Bureau of Immigration has classified Lithuanians separately only
since 1899. Before this time they were designated as Russians or Poles,
so that it is hard to determine their numbers. In the four years following
the separate classification we know that 252,594 Lithuanians had landed in
America and only 19,171 had departed; so that the estimate of three quarters
of a million which was made before the Lithuanian Convention in New York
in 1918, is probably conservative.

Distribution in Cleveland.

The earliest Lithuanian settler in Cleveland came in 1871 direct troni
Lithuania. Mr. F. Freimonas was by necessity an industrial worker, but a
decade later bought his farm and left the city to work upon it. By 1900
there were perhaps one thousand of his countrymen in the city, the majority
of whom were recruited from the mining sections of New York and Penn-
sylvania. Rapidly they distributed themselves through Cleveland's varied
industries, and although sixty-seven per cent were male, and only thirty-

/ .i /: /. / y // r .1 .v / .1 .v N o i c L /: r /; /. .1 .v 7)

three per cent female, the bankers and loan agents estimate that the names
of from eighteen to twenty percent are on the city's tax duplicate as property
< 'wners

Between I'.ioi and 1!<1."> man\' young men came to escape military service
m the Russian army. Passports were ditTicult to obtain, and the emigrant
was forced to the expedient of stealing away.

In l'.i|."> a careful parochial survey discovered the presence in Cleveland
of more than 10.000 Lithuanians. Since' then, owing to the immigration
from Pittstou. DuBois. and the suburbs of Pittsburg, Peiina., their numbers
have increased to over 12.000.

Until l'.H2 there 1 was but one colon}', centering about East 21st street
and Oregon Ave. During the past seven years, however with inerea 'ing
prosperity they have scattered thinly over the entire territory between East
17th and 71st streets from Lakeside Ave. to Payne Ave. Small groups of
families are found also on Jefferson and Starkweather Aves. and a few in
Lmdale and C'ollinwood.


The large majority of the people are factory workers, employed tor the
most part by the Otis Steel Co.. Parish and Bingham Co., Hydraulic Pressed
Steel. Cleveland Twist Drill, the Cuvahoga Branch of the American Steel
and Wire Mills, the White Motor, and in the repair shops of the Lake Shore
Railroad. The Lithuanian workmen on the whole arc' skilled mechanics,
with a large proportion in the molders, machinist, and carpentering trades.
Like the Finns, main- of the men arc' tailoring craftsmen, both for the customs
trade in such shops as Tidd. the tailor's, and as operatives in the Printx-
Biedennan. II. Black. Korach's. the Clothcraft shops and other garment
fact' iries.

Not a few have developed creditable businesses. Mr T. Xeura. a
Lithuanian carpenter who started in a small way as a grocer in Cleveland
twelve years ago. now has a wholesale- meat and grocery at Hamilton Ave.
and 20th street, and a chain of five retail g-rocery stores in various sections
of the city. The R. I). Zitkus dry goods store. 2012 St. Clair Ave., which
does a s _'.">. no business, was established six years ago; that ot Mr. K. Yara-
koiis on Professor Ave. at about the same time-. Mr. Decker has been con-
ducting a furniture- and hardware business ot creditable proportions at St.
('lair Ave and 24th street, and in the past two years A Simkunas has built
up a large dry goods business at loot East Tilth street. Mr. M. Povilauskas
four years ago bought and has since operated the Cedar Theatre on Cedar
Ave 1 . and East 71st street, besides which there are MX conte-ctionerie-s and
l her mailer laces ot business, conducted bv Lithuanians

In banking interests Mr A. B. Bartosxewicx is the 1 ivcogmxe'd le-ader
In |s'i.~> Mr Bartoszewicz opened a barbe-r shop i:: the 1 colony Eight years
came a ^aloon keeper and in I'.Hil began a loreign exchange, broker-
:'eamshi] ag< i Tl e latter was 'he 1 be-ginning of the- St Clair

c Saving and Loan Company af 2001; St. Clair Ave. which incorporate^!
1 For thi ,'; ' two years the constituency ot hi> busnu'ss lias been
Singly PI ' ' and Hungarian. Keen to the eastward movement of the 1
in, Mr Bartosxi wicz >: .i- year }n ned a branch bank on
tree! HI was also t he ] in me mover in the ( 'le-ve-land

T H E L I T H L' A \ I A X S O 1< (' L E V E L .1 .V I)

A Float in the Lithuanian Patriotic Celebration, 1914

Lithuanian Building and Loan Association a joint stock company incor-
porated for 8100,000, which under the management of Mr. S. Zaborskis
had been doing a 8300,000 banking business at St. Clair Ave and 20th Street.
One year ago this Association also moved its office to the new centre of
Lithuanian population at GSth street and Superior Ave. It loans at the
minimum percentage mainly to Lithuanians who are desirous of buying real
estate or building homes.

There are three co-operative business enterprises recently entered upon
by the Lithuanians of Cleveland. The first is known as local branch X<>. 1-
of the Lithuanian Development Corporation, a national organization with
headquarters in Xew York City which was incorporated in lit Hi for si.000.000
for the purpose of building up industries in America and Lithuania and es-
tablishing better trade relations between the two e< uintries. Lach nieml >er < if
the local organization is a stockholder in the- company, and each local is
an agency tor foreign exchange, and the sale of steamship tickets, as well as
the importation and export of goods.

The second lias been called the Biruta Bakers Cooperative Company.
It was incorporated in 1!)17 for si. "),()()() through the efforts of Mr. A. Kran-
auskas among Lithuanians only, for the purpose of making all kinds ot breads
and fancy pastry. A lot was purchased at Last 17th street and Superior
Ave. where a building is in process of construction.


The third is the Lithuanian Society Hall Company, capitalized at SOo.OOO,
a corporation in which each ot the many Lithuanian organizations has stock.
This company has bought a site for the hall at East (>0th street and Superior
Ave. on which they purpose erecting a building commodious enough to house
all th.e Lithuanian societies as well as provide facilities for entertainments,
dances and mass meetings. This project has been pending since 1911 and
hail to be deterred on account ot th.e war, but ground is being broken for its
immediate construction.

Beyond the two cigar makers who function only in connection with the
two loeal stores "operated by them, there are no Lithuanians in the manu-
facturing business tor themselves.

Despite the short time this people has lived in the city, a creditable
number of those engaged in professional and semi-professional activities have

The art of photography has Lithuanian representatives in A. D. Zitkus,
at L'lt).") St. Clair Ave , J. D. Zitkus. at 703:5 Superior Ave., and A. Bartkus,
on (>">th Street and Broadway; the apothecary art in C Pakeltis, who started
in the drug business at East '2()th Street and St. Clair Ave.. and established
branch stores in Xewburgh and Collinwood. and Mr. J. Zwalskis, a versatile
linguist who managed the International pharmacy at St Clair Ave. and East
4")th Street.

Dr. J. Semolunas, the optometrist at si 15 St. Clair Ave. is the sole and
much specialized Lithuanian representative of the medical profession in the
city. Dr. Semolunas came to Cleveland from Valparaiso, Ind. two years
ago. was chairman of the National Lithuanian Relief Society, and is
a recognized leader among the Lithuanian people of this city.

Of dental surgeons and attorneys there are none. Two are in training
for the legal profession in the Cleveland Law School.


It is only since the Russian revolution of KM).") that the Lithuanians have-
been permitted openly to obtain an education. Russia resolutely undertook
to replace the Lithuanian characters in the schools by Russian. These
proud and intelligent people had to teach their language in secret. A
Lithuanian with an irrespressible instinct lor expression had to emigrate
to 1'oland or some other part of Europe and write in a foreign language, so
that many of the' poets, the literary leaders, the radical thinkers, though
born in Lithuania are classified as Polish. The Polish patriot Kosciuszko,
and the poet Adam Mickiewicz were born in Lithuania, and Immanuel
Kant's i ia rents were Lithuanian. alth< nigh the phiL >so] >her himself was born in
: ; (>ern The fact that her sons had to expatriate themselves to obtain

: education was a sad blow to Lithuanian literary pride and a tragedy
fi ' her i ducatii Mial system.

Naturally the early years of the immigrants in this country were given
ovt r mic struggle, and the children as they reached working age

were expected to help out the family exchequer. The' earliest Lithuanian
Indents were found in the Commercial High Schools. St. John's
Cathedral School. Dyke's and the Ohio Business College. It was a short,
cut to necessary lucrative employment. But the character of Lithuanain
intelligence is seen in the competitive parochial examinations held in !!)!!>


7 // /; LITHUANIA A" N V I ( L /: 1" /; L A A' 1)

tor the entire city, in which every Lithuanian student received the grade of
"A "ii a scale ot grades troni "A" to "F". This may have been partly due
to th.e tact that the parochial school teaches its quota of the seven hundred
Lithuanian children of the parish almost exclusively in Lnghsh, but was due
ii no -mall measure to their native aptitude and the increasing value placed
on education by their parents. Moreover, the value of developing leaders
is evidenced in the voluntary pledge of each Lithuanian society to help one
promising and ambitious boy to secure a higher education in this way assur-

tlumselves an adequate tuture leadership.

\Yhilc there arc no grade or high school teachers, serious literary efforts
are ni t wanting. A local Lithuanian Literary Society has been compiling
a racial history, has worked out a Lithuanian encyclopedia for the help of
the more recent immigrants. One member of this society when only six-
teen years ot age translated the play Last Lynne in order that her group might
presei t it to a Lithuanian audience in their own language a translation
which was afterwards published and distributed throughout the L'nited States
b\ one o) the national organizations. Two business men, Mr. Y. A. Cireicius
and Mr W. Sadauskas. have given up evening after evening for the past two
years, that they might teach Lnghsh to their countrymen, in the AYaring
ail ilii scln :ol.


The majority oi the Lithuanians are devout Roman Catholic's, and the
inder nominally so. The church bulks largely in the life of men and
women of the parish, as the majority of their social organizations are con-
nected with it. In Cleveland there 1 is but one church. Services have been
held in the present building situated at Last '-'1st street and Oregon Ave.
since 1!M).~>. More than seventy per cent of the- Cleveland Lithuanians are
;ded in its parish and no others than Lithuanians come. Rev. Y. d.
\Vilkutaitis conducts the in Latin. He lias had associated with him
Prof. Y. (ireicius. organist and translator, who has directed the choral music
and taught the young in an art which they readily acquire. Connected
wit! the church is a parochial school in which -~>0 students receive academic
and religious training under four teachers. Here also it is worthy oi notice
that thi 1 teaching is almost exclusively in Lnglish The remainder ot the
Lithuanian children arc attendants at the public schools.

Twenty-four Lithuanian societies arc found either within or connected
church, < K\ ing to inadequate facilit ies many ot these < irgamzat i< >ns
'.ad to meet elsewhere. Th.e church, however, i- now in process ot
a com mod ii us structure at a cost ot s 1 1 s.ltlid. wit h school and spa-
hall oi a two-acre lot. at the corner of Last CiTth

oiect has 1 >een | >endmg alm< >st
: - lay claim u; >' >n Ins t ime. t h

nrc! : : < m< i<t significant l ic }< 'iniii:


T H K L I T // T .1 .V / .1 -V ,S

(' L E I' /; L A .V I)

St. George's Church and Rectory, East 21st Street and Oregon Avenue

organization for almost every purpose, and always a remarkable manifesta-
tion of facility for team work between societies as well as between individuals.
The Lithuanian Bureau of Information maintained at Washington,
D. C. lists the following nineteen national societies with 1405 branches in
various parts of the country, and a combined membership of 47:}, (130:

The Lithuanian Roman Catholic Federation of America.

The Xational Fund.

The Lithuanian Roman Catholic Alliance of America.

The Lithuanian Federation of Labor.

The Knights of Lithuania.

The Lithuanian Total Abstinence Union.

The Lithuanian Roman Catholic Women's Alliance of America.

The Lithuanian Roman Catholic Students Association.

The Lithuanian Roman Catholic' Press Association.


The Lithuanian Roman Catholic Priests Association.

Lithuanian Charities.

Order of Romuvo.

The Lithuanian Alliance of America.

Lithuanian Patriots Association.

The Lithuanian Xational League of America.

The Lithuanian Relief Fund.

The Socialist Federation.

Lithuanian Women's Progressive Alliance.


Many belong to several of these societies. On the other hand some of
the national organizations are quite young and hence only in process of de-
velopment. Every year the number grows. Furthermore, it must be remem-
bered that the above list does not include a vast number of local organizations
in the 125 Lithuanian parishes in the United States. None of the seventy-
three listed local Democratic and Republican clubs which operate independ-
ently of parishes are mentioned, nor the local co-operative societies and
literary organizations. Seventy-five per cent of the organizations in this
city, and they are by no means the least significant, are local and have no
national connection. So that the organizational proclivities of these people
are remarkable. A few of the more typical of these will evidence their char-

The Cleveland Lithuanian Theatrical Choral Society was organized in
1909 and has uninterruptedly held meetings throughout the decade, first in
the church school house, later once a week in a hall at East 25th street and
St. Clair Ave. It is distinctly an entertainment society with 140 members
who spend their spare time in the preparation of musical concert numbers,
recitations and dramas. The latter are repeated again and again in the same
or successive winters. East Lynne, Genovaite or St. Genevieve, Rutvile,
the story of the Lithuanian Joan d'Arc, are among the more popular of them.

Similar in organization and in function is the Knights of Lithuania
(Lietuvos Vyciai) originating in 1914 as a local branch of the national society
with headquarters at Chicago, where a newspaper "Vytis" (The Knight) is
printed and sent to every member of the society. The local has 350 members
and meets Wednesday evenings for dramatic work, and Friday evenings for
singing. The dramatic section prepared, adapted and acted the historic
tragedy Zivile, a difficult nationalistic play which was given on the stage of the
Prospect Theatre in 1917.

Mr. V. A. Greicius has been its singing director and in many cases trans-
lator into Lithuanian. The Knights maintain the largest distinctly Lithuan-
ian library in the city. The society is trying to unite the Lithuanians in
America into one great body with homogeneity of opinion and unity of
political aimwith reference to the independence of Lithuania. To this end
the characteristic Lithuanian prose and poetry has been revived and popular-
ized. Although there are no benefit features, it favors and partially supports
promising students in obtaining an education, keeps its membership informed
with reference to ideas, interests, plans and achievements of the various widely
separated groups in America, as well as with what is taking place politically
in Europe. It maintains athletic classes for both men and women. Cleve-
land was the meeting place of its last annual convention. A largo gold sword
is being molded for presentation by this society to the gallant Lithuanian
general Silvester Zukauskas, who so stalwartly supported Premier Yalde-
maras in his presentation of the claims of Lithuania for autonomy at the Peace
Conference in Paris. The sword is to be reduced to Lithuanian currency after
the ceremony of presentation.

The three following organizations also function as agents for enter-
tainment: "Varpas," or The Bell, a group of twenty men loosely connected
with the National League meets at Goodrich Mouse periodically under Direct-


Online LibraryCharles Wellsley CoulterThe Lithuanians of Cleveland → online text (page 1 of 2)