Marcin Szymon "Martin" Bambenek was born on October 20, 1821 in the hamlet of Kaszuba to Blazej and Marcjanna (nee Wielewska) Bembenek. Magdalena Stoltman was born on June 17, 1826 in the hamlet of Nowa Laska to Jan Szczepan and Katarzyna (nee Klonowska) Stoltman. They were married in 1848 at the Church of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross in the village of Lesno. On June 3, 1867 the Bambeneks and their eight children sailed from Bremen on the ship Barbarossa, and arrived in Quebec City on July 25. There is a tradition that they first went to Milwaukee, but relocated to Winona on the advice of a friend from the Old Country. They must not have wasted much time: their ninth and last child, Paul, was born in Winona on January 14, 1869.
In 1872, the Bambenek family opened a combination grocery store and saloon at 271-273 East Second Street (now the site of Winona's Coca-Cola bottling plant). Winona's East End was a pretty rough place in the 1870s. Fights broke out regularly in the saloons of what Winonans called "Warsaw" or "Poland," In April of 1873, Marcin was stabbed in the arm by a couple of would-be customers who wanted to be let in after closing time: even so, the Winona Daily Republican of April 7 reported that he had gotten far the better of his assailants. He died on October 18, 1878, just two days short of his fifty-seventh birthday. The family business passed to the second son, Jan Baltazel "John B." Bambenek, who closed the establishment after the Burlington Railroad ran tracks down East Second Street in 1885. John B. went on to become a Winona County Commissioner, and after that, the chief engineer of Winona's water works. Later still, during the First World War, three of his sons founded the Peerless Chain Company.
The seventh of Marcin and Magdalena's children and fourth son, Karol, was born on January 28, 1864 in the hamlet of Widno. The 1880 United States Census finds "Charles," as he was called, working in Trempealeau County on the farm of his sister and his brother-in-law, Pawel and Marianna (nee Bambenek) Wicka. On April 22, 1890 he was married at Saint Stanislaus Kostka Church in Winona to Franciszka Julianna Nygowska, born 1871 in the town of Koscierzyna to Jakub and Paulina Jozefina (nee Burandt) Negowski. As a fifteen year old orphan, Franciszka had sailed on her own to the New Country to live with her older brother Walenty Negowski (later Valentine Negler). Their marriage was tragically short. Their first child, a daughter named Stanislawa, died at infancy. They were joined on December 11, 1891 by a son, Jan Karol ("John Charles" or "John C.") and in 1894 by a daughter, Helena. Sadly, Franciszka died from complications of childbirth on July 25, 1896, aged only twenty-five. On October 5, 1896, Charles married the former Anna Malotke, with whom he went on to have eleven children. The family tradition holds that Anna loved and cared for young John Charles and Helena as if they were her own. Charles worked in various Winona factories well into his sixties, and passed away at the family home, 410 Mankato Avenue, on July 12, 1937. Anna passed away on November 13, 1943.