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Bielaski Family - Lincoln, Baseball & FBI

Born in Minsk, Lithuanian Poland in 1811, Aleksander Bielaski was trained to be a topographical engineer. When the uprising of 1831 against the Russians began, young Bielaski took part with the Polish forces in the defense of Warsaw. After the rebellion, he was exiled to France. From there, he made his way to the U.S. with thousands of other dispossessed Poles.
Once here, Bielaski was employed by railroads as a civil engineer and surveyor. He opened a land office in Springfield, Illinois in 1837 and became a friend of young Abraham Lincoln. He married, spent some time working in Mexico, got a job with the U.S. General Land Office and eventually moved to Washington, D.C. where he was employed as a draftsman.
When the Civil War broke out, Bielaski's old friend and now President Abe Lincoln personally recruited him at his home to accept an officer's commission as aide-de-camp to General John McClernand. Tragically, Captain Bielaski died in the Battle of Belmont, Mo. on November 7, 1861. He left behind his wife and seven children. One of them, Oscar Bielaski, had managed to join the Union army as a drummer boy where he supposedly learned to play the game of base ball from other soldiers.

By 1872, twenty-five year old Oscar was good enough to be hired as a professional player by a major league team, the Washington Nationals of the National Association of Base Ball Players. Thus, Oscar Bielaski became the first Polish American major leaguer. He played the outfield, mostly right, throughout his brief career.
In 1873 he was with the Washington Blue Legs, the following year he joined the Baltimore Canaries, and in 1875 the Chicago White Stockings. The White Stockings moved to the National League in 1876 and won the first ever National League championship. Bielaski shared the spotlight with some of the best players in the country, including future Hall of Famers Albert Spalding and Cap Anson. Bielaski
Bielaski's career lasted five short years during which he posted a lifetime batting average of .240. But he is our Polish American major league baseball pioneer. He died in 1911 at age sixty-four.
Oscar's younger brother Alexander became a respected Episcopal minister and served mainly Washington area congregations during a lengthy career. One of the reverend's sons, Alexander Bruce Bielaski (see photo on the left), was a lawyer who joined the Department of Justice. He served in the Oklahoma court system before it became a state. When the Bureau of Investigation was formed in 1908, the precursor to today's FBI, Bielaski came under its jurisdiction and quickly rose to the rank of assistant to the director. In 1912, at just 28 years old, he was appointed the second Director of the Bureau.
The Bureau's main concern in those years was the investigation and enforcement of interstate commerce and anti-prostitution laws. However, when the U.S. entered the difficult years of World War I, the agency became responsible for looking into violations of military draft law and the controversial Espionage Act.
Under Bielaski's leadership, the Bureau formed an alliance with a private vigilante group, the American Protective League (APL). This group was given the right to conduct wholesale armed roundups and detention of male citizens to make sure they had registered for the draft.
Of course, this proved to be extremely controversial and was criticized as a violation of citizens' rights. As head of the Bureau, Bielaski took a lot of heat for the APL actions as well as the heavy-handed enforcement of the Espionage Act. Once the war ended, he resigned and entered into private law practice, and for a time was an undercover prohibition agent.
From 1929 to 1959, he headed the National Board of Fire Underwriters' team of arson investigators. In 1938, he was President of the Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI. He died in 1964 at age eighty.
Polish Americans can take pride in three generations of the Bielaski family, who made significant contributions to American society.

The most famous book about Polish history is written by Norman Davies and it is entitled God's Playground, Volume 1 & God's Playground, Volume 2

Check a funny and interesting but also truthful book about Poles The Xenophobe's Guide to the Poles, by Ewa Lipniacka (Author)

The Xenophobe's Guide To Poland

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