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Hon. John Briske (1845-?)
Born in Pomerania, Prussia-Poland, own grocery business in Bay City.

1892 biography. (Added Oct., 2009)

History of Saginaw and Bay Counties, Michigan 1892


Honorable engaged in an extensive business in general merchandise in Bay City, the location of his business being at the corner of Thirty-third and Polk Streets, Mr. Briske is more widely known in a public capacity as being the first Polish-born citizen who ever served in the State Legislature of Michigan. Also during the Saginaw Valley strike, he commended himself to all normal-minded men by his wholesome influence and advice to his fellow-countrymen who were being misled by radical agitators. He, with his friend, Mr. Prybeski, by public addresses and by using his influence in every way, succeeded in counteracting the other pernicious influence, so that the Polanders came out of the strike most honorably, regaining their positions as well as the esteem of their employers and co-laborers.

Our subject is also engaged as an agent for foreign collections and for all the principal steamship lines, the firm with which he is being known as Briske & Forcia. For the convenience of his patrons he has qualified as Notary Public. Mr. Briske has been located in the county since 1874, and is thoroughly conversant with its needs and requirements. He was born in Pomerania, ancient Poland, now Prussia Province, June 14, 1845, and is a son of Mathias and Catherine (Kropidlowski) Briske; the former was a merchant in Poland and died there about 1850. Our subject's mother still resides at her old home; she is now eighty-four years of age. She has been the mother of seven children, four boys and three girls, our subject being the fourth child in order of birth. Mathias Briske was a man of wealth and influence and the son was given the best educational advantages. On the father's death, however, the mother disposed of his business and retired to a farm, so that the lad was early instructed in bucolic pursuits. In 1869 he determined to come to America in order to escape military oppression, and May 18, 1869, left Bremen and escaped on a sailing vessel. After a pleasant voyage which lasted six weeks the boy landed in New York about July 1, and about the first news that he learned of foreign ports was that great battle had just been fought in Prussia and France near Sarbruechen.

Proceeding to the coal and iron regions of Pennsylvania, our subject worked at various branches in mining and iron work and spent some three years in Cleveland, Ohio. In 1873 he proceeded West, visiting Indiana, Illinois and Michigan, and throughout his travels tried to keep his judgment clear as to the best place in which to locate for himself and brothers. May 26, 1874, he came to Bay City, having at the time but $5 in money in his pocket. He engaged as clerk for Capt. H. Richards, a grocer and crockeryware man, and continued in the same place, although under different employ for three years.

During the time spent in this country our subject had been studying the English language and had made great progress in the fluency with which he could use it. Once established, his rise in business was rapid. Before the expiration of the first year he was head clerk and remained in that position until 1877, when he became partner with the firm which was run under the firm name of Tooker & Briske. This partnership, however, proved to be unsatisfactory and ten months later he became a partner of John Richert, under the firm name of Briske & Richert. They carried on the grocery business in the Fifth Ward for one year, and in 1880 Mr. Briske located on his present site, taking in as partner Peter Forcia. This partnership continued for one year when the junior member was replaced by his brother, Silas Forcia. They are the pioneer grocerymen of the Sixth Ward, and carry on the largest business of this locality. Beginning with but $900, they have enlarged their stock and business until they now deal in thousands of dollars worth of goods annually. They deal in dry-goods, wall paper and window shades besides groceries and crockeryware. Their fine block is 60 x 55 feet in dimensions and three stories in height. This is all occupied by the firm of Briske & Focia.

Our subject was married in Bay City, June 12, 1877, to Miss Rosa M. Forcia, who was born in Windsor, Canada, and came here when a child with her parents. This union has been blessed by the birth of five children, namely: Stanley, Louis, Mamie, Exilda and Edgar.

The election of our subject to the State Legislature was confirmed in 1888 by a majority of eight hundred and nineteen over Edward J. Carey his Republican opponent, and served during the session of 1889. He was on the committee of Private Corporation and State Prisons, and although his party were in the minority, he did some effective work. Our subject belongs to the Polish National Alliance of North American and has filled the office of Treasurer, and is a charter member of Branch No. 12, of Bay City. He has held all the different offices and is at the present time Corresponding Secretary. While serving in the Legislature, Mr. Briske introduced ten bills, six of which passed, all of which were in the interest of the city and county. Politically Mr. Briske affiliates with the Democratic party. He served three years as Supervisor of the Sixth Ward.

1924 Poltical bio. (Added Oct., 2009)

Michigan Biographies - Michigan Historical Commission, 1924, Page 109.


Representative from the First District of Bay County, 1889-90. Was born in Prussia, of Polish parents, June 14, 1845. By occupation he was a general merchant. He held the office of Supervisor. Mr. Briske was elected to the House of 1889-90 on the Democratic ticket.

Additional Notes.

    1881-82 Bay City Directory:

  • Briske, Louis, saltmaker, S. McLean & Son, res n. e. cor. 27th and Taylor. (son of John)

    1896 Bay City Directory:

  • Briske, John, grocer, res 305 32d.
  • Briske, Mrs.Rosa M. (Briske & Forcia), res 305 32d.
  • Briske & Forcia (Mrs. Rosa M. Briske, Silas Forcia), Grocers, Saloon and Steamship Agents, 301 32d.
  • Focia, Silas (Briske & Forcia), res 1205 Wilson.
  • Gliniecki, Athony, clerk Briske & Forcia,, res 515 Polk.
  • Leppeck, John, clerk, Briske & Forcia, bds 305 32d.

    1950 Death Certificate.

  • 6 Sep. 1950, Exilda Rose Randall, Metairie, Jefferson, Louisiana; parents John A. and Rose E. Briske, husband John Frank Randall.
Related Notes & Pages

Related Pages:
None at this time.
People Referenced
Briske, Edgar (son)
Briske, Exilda (dau.)
Briske, John (subject)
Briske, Louis (son)
Briske, Mamie (dau.)
Briske, Mathias (father)
Briske, Stanley (son)
Carey, Edward J.
Forcia, Peter
Forcia, Rosa M. (wife)
Forcia, Silas
Gliniecki, Anthony
Kropidlowski, Catherine (mother)
Leppeck, John
Prybeski, Mr.
Randall, John F.
Richards, H. Capt.
Richert, John
Subjects Referenced
Bay City, MI
Bay Co., MI
Bremen, Germany
Briske & Forcia
Briske & Richert
Crocker bus.
Grocery bus.
New York
Pomeriania, Prussia
Tooker & Briske
WRITINGS: History As It Was Written Then.