Pennsylvania to Ohio

Early Years in America – McKeesport

It is fairly certain that Tekla and husband Louis arrived in the United States via Ellis Island in 1906.[1] There is a bit of ambiguity here, however. The Census record for 1910 indicates that Louis arrived in the U.S. in 1905 and Tekla in 1907. The 1920 Census gives 1906 as the arrival year for Louis, Tekla and the two sons, Walter and Michael. The 1930 Census says that both Tekla and Louis arrived in 1905. Son, Michael’s, marriage license, indicates he was born overseas in January of 1906. Thus, the 1906 year seems correct.

Their first-born son, Walter, was just 2-3 years old when they arrived, and Michael an infant. Their route through Europe from Poland to New York and McKeesport, Pennsylvania, where they first seem to establish a residence, is unknown.

Anna’s delayed certificate of birth indicates she was born in McKeesport, Pennsylvania on October 6, 1907 and baptized in St. John the Baptist Little Russian Church in McKeesport on 13 October.[2]

In the 1910 Census, Louis is recorded as “Lukoch Bilick” living at 204 Strawberry Street in McKeesport. With wife Tillie, sons Wasil, Milka and John, and daughter Anna.[3]

1026 Blackburn Road House

This is as appropriate a place an any to describe the family’s home at 1026 Blackburn Road, in Toledo.

1026 Blackburn Road; Google Maps photo

☛ I can recall this house from as early as the mid 1950’s, when my parents’ house was built on the adjacent lot (to the right in this photo). Originally, there was an outhouse in the back and a manual pump to draw water. The very back of the lot was a large enclosure for chickens, a hen house where we collected eggs and a few rabbit cages as well. Between the two homes, there were 2-3 apple trees and 2-3 pear trees. To the left, an area that must be about half an acre, Louis and Tekla maintained a very large vegetable garden that grampa tilled with a simple hand-pushed plow.

Inside at the back was a entry-way that I expect was originally a storage area for vegetables. Immediately inside that was a large kitchen. The home was heated by a coal furnace in the basement. At the front was a living room with an adjacent sitting room that grampa used for an office. Between this front area and the kitchen was the dining room with stairs at the back leading to the upper bedrooms.

During this period, large hydrangeas grew in front of the porch and there were flower beds along the left side of the building.

Blackburn Road was a not-very-well-maintained gravel street between between Sibley and Sawyer Road. It paralleled an old railroad bed that was several feet above the street level with ditches on either side. The western half of this area had been cleared and somewhat leveled. The eastern portion was covered with trees, wild shrubs, vines and poison ivy.

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[1] The 1930 U.S. Census gives their arrival year as 1905. The 1920 Census says they arrived in 1906.
[2] St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church has been in operation in McKeesport since 1902.
[3] The 1910 Census for Cleveland, Ohio, also records a Louis Billick living as a border there with no reference to a wife or family. I suspect this is not “our” ancestor.
{last update: 23-Feb-2020}