|St. Nicholas Church Sesquicentennial History (1978)|
St. Nicholas Church Sesquicentennial History (1978)
Program booklet from St. Nicholas of Tolentino Church Sesquicentennial (1828-1978) Jubilee, September 9th & 10th, 1978
Transcribed for this site by Sherrie Rice Smith. We are grateful for her assistance.
This document is incomplete. Please check back for updates as transcription continues.
Many people have contributed to make this Sesquicentennial Book possible. However the long hours and work of Catherine and Paul Shannon have made it a reality. Thus we are proud and honored to dedicate this book to:
Catherine and Paul Shannon
St. Nicholas Church, Rectory, and Grounds in 1928
Apostolic Delegation United States of America
3339 Massachusetts Avenue
The credit for this book in commemoration of the 150th year of the formation of the congregation of St. Nicholas of Tolentino at Crates, Pa. is due to the efforts of Norbert J. Aaron who encouraged us to undertake the work and who patiently taught us about the community during the short time we knew him from 1972 until 1978.
|The starting point for any history about St. Nicholas and Crates is Flora Aaron's Historical Sketches of St. Nicholas Parish found in the 1928 Commemorative Booklet. It is unexcelled for accuracy, and concisely detailed information. Father Cooper and the Parish Council rightly decided it should be reproduced in part for this work, and so you will find it in the first section, together with portraits of parish priests who have served Crates.||Page 1|
|The second section is entitled "More Sketches of St. Nicholas Parish". It is meant to expand the themes developed by Flora Aaron and to up-date the history of the church and community.||Page 9|
|The third section, an especially interesting one, is an index of the parish marriage records from 1846 until 31 July 1978, and the parish death records from 1833 until 31 July 1978.||Page 67|
|The fourth section is biographical. It begins with the family histories of the donors of the stained glass windows (installed in 1893.) [sic] These biographies are followed by family histories submitted by members of the congregation. Many treasured family photographs are reproduced in this section.||Page 81|
|The fifth section is the picture history of the families who make up the congregation.||Page 127|
|The sixth section is a roster with names and addresses of the members of the congregation.||Page 136|
|The seventh section is an index listing every name found in the text of this history.||Page 138|
Flora Aaron was born Sept. 12, 1879, the daughter of T. Ledwith and Susanna (Burgoon) Aaron. She died Dec. 4, 1956. Rev. Joseph Burke officiated at her funeral and burial in St. Nicholas Cemetery. She attended the Clarion Normal and then devoted 48 years to teaching in the rural and consolidated schools of Limestone, Clarion and Redbank Townships, retiring in June 1946. The good citizenship of her many students can be partly attributed to this wise teacher's simple, heartfelt expression, "I loved my work"!
She worked with Father John Ring to publish the 1928 Commemorative Booklet from which the following pages have been reproduced.
During the first quarter of the nineteenth century when the primeval forests of northwestern Pennsylvania were slowly yielding to the pioneers ax, a few resolute Catholic families with a desire of bettering their condition, and acquiring an independence not then enjoyed by them were urged to leave their respective and comparatively civilized homes, bid adieu to relatives and friends and go where no one had been before them, to improve uncultivated nature and convert the wilderness into the peaceful, productive, agricultural region, which is now our heritage to enjoy.
No sooner had these sturdy and upright Catholics erected their log cabins, applied the ax to the forests and the shear to the virgin soil, than the indefatigable missionary appeared among them, to minister to their spiritual needs.
The first missionary priest to visit the pioneer families of Redbank was Father Galitzen (Prince Galitzen) who at that time resided at Mt. Loretto, Cambria County, Pa.
He was attracted here through the knowledge that members of his congregation had penetrated the wilderness farther westward and were enduring the hardships and perils of pioneer life among the wild beasts and savage Indians, without the consolation of Holy Mother Church, so dear to every Catholic.
From this time 1820 until 1828, they were visited only occasionally by a missionary who chanced to make their cabins his resting place, while he ministered to their spiritual wants, cheered them in their discouragements and then journeyed on in pursuit of others, who were isolated from civilization in their endeavor to conquer the wilderness.
At times, months would elapse between the visits of these missionaries and it was necessary for parents to carry their infant children as far as Erie, Butler, Indiana or Pittsburgh, that they might be washed in the cleansing waters of Baptism.
In 1828, Rev. John O'Neill, a missionary priest who resided at St. Patrick's parish near Buffalo Creek, about sixteen miles from Butler, Pa., and whose ministry extended to Erie County, recognized the efforts of this little band of pioneer Catholics and organized a congregation which has been referred to as the church at Redbank or Arondale.
From this time missionary or journeying priests visited them more regularly, though their journeys were attended with extreme hardship and much danger, as the roads were only narrow trails through the forests which were still infested with Indians and wild beasts, such as panthers, wolves and wild cats, and the only means of travel was horseback or afoot and the streams and rivers were then not spanned by even the rudest bridges.
Through Father O'Neill's intercession and in company with him, June 5, 1834, Rt. Rev. Francis Patrick Kenrick, Administrator and Bishop of Philadelphia, visited this little colony, acknowledged their devotion to the faith, celebrated Mass, confirmed twenty-five in the home of Solomon Cyphert and rewarded their endeavors with permission to the people to build a church.
In 1835, by united efforts this minature [sic] congregation selected a site on the hill near the center of what is now the cemetery and deeded for that purpose by Joseph Aaron.
Here they felled the trees, hewed with axes the logs and erected a log chapel thirty-six feet in length which was dedicated to the service of God under the invocation of St. Nicholas of Tolentino, by Rt. Rev. Patrick Kenrick, Bishop of Philadelphia, September 9, 1835.
From his Visitation Record and Diary, we find that Mass was celebrated and the Sacrament of Confirmation administered by him in the Church of St. Nicholas, September 9, 1935 [sic], September 25, 1836, August 10-17, 1836, July 16, 1840 and August 1842.
For some time this rude chapel was unornamented, poorly heated and without seats. But later the interior was beautified, seats were installed and for nearly a quarter of a century this chapel on the hill was the scene of many of their joys and sorrows.
As the congregation increased in numbers the log chapel became inadequate. The need of a larger and more modern building was recognized, together with the inconvenience of climbing the hill and in 1854 a modern frame building fifty feet long and thirty-six feet wide was erected on land deeded by George Aaron and Charles Crate, the site of the present church edifice.
The second church building was modernly furnished, dedicated in 1854 by Rt. Rev. Bishop Young (First Bishop of the Erie Diocese to visit the parish) and served as a place of worship until 1892, when it was decided to remodel and repair it, but on closer inspection and due consideration, under the prudent leadership of Rev. John Ruddy, the second church was razed and on its site was erected by the congregation, the third and present church of St. Nicholas of Tolentino, dedicated in 1893 by Rt. Rev. Tobias Mullen, Bishop of Erie.
This church is modernly furnished, artistically decorated, comfortably heated by gas, supplied from a well, financed by members of the congregation and located on the church property.
Interior of Church, 1928
The parochial buildings are electrically lighted from a plant installed in 1924 and now in 1928 the congregation views with pride and admiration a beautiful grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes erected under the judicious supervision of their esteemed pastor Rev. John Ring, whose nephew James Ring donated the statues of Our Blessed Lady and St. Bernadette.
Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes
Rev. Suibert G. Mollinger 1859-1865 -- Father John Koch Aided during 1865-1869 -- Monsignor H. Clement Wienker Pastor 1869-1871 -- Rev. J. P. McCloskey 1880-1887 -- Rev. Michael Fitzgerald 1910-1920 -- Rev. John Ring 1920-1930 -- Rev. R. L. Simendinger 1930-1936 -- Father Simendinger spent much time in beautifying the cemetery and establishing perpetual care that has made "Crates Cemetery" a lovely place for Christian burial -- Rev. Raymond A. Geiger 1936-1938 -- Father Geiger -- Rev. Paul I Wursch 1939-1944: Father Paul Wursch was deeply devoted to the youth. He established the Newman Club, teaching each Sunday in order that stalwart Christians would continue the Catholic heritage. -- Rev. Ernest F. McIntire 1945-1946 -- First Communion Class 1945 -- Fr. McIntire Eddie Carlos, Richard Aaron, Jerry Skidmore, Carol Keck, Mona Crate, Ann Kerr -- Rev. Joseph E. McTague 1946-1947 -- Rev. Charles J. Hacherl 1947-1950 1951-1954: In 1947 Father Charles Hacherl came to our parish, at once he secured an organ, bought new vestments, tiled the church floor and modernized the social center. Father Hacherl returned to St. Nicholas parish to establish a summer school of religion program, founded the Men's Club and Rosary Altar Society. -- Charles Crate, Rev. Joseph J. Grode, Charles Skidmore 1950-1951 -- Rev. Joseph T. Barry 1954-1956: Father Joseph Barry came in June, 1954. He purchased new altar items and also modernized the social center. -- Rev. Joseph W. Burke 1956-1970 -- Rev. Casimir A. Bogniak 1971-1972 -- Rev. Edward Bula 1972-1975
During the initial years of St. Nicholas congregation while their spiritual needs were ministered to by missionary priests, no books were provided for them in which to record births, marriages or death and many of their priests names cannot be recalled.
Some of the earliest records have been returned from older parishes where they were entered before a register was opened at St. Nicholas Church.
From 1828-1835, Rev. John O'Neill rector of St. Patrick's parish at Buffalo Creek ministered to the spiritual needs of the congregation in 1836 Rev. Martin Kundig is cited as having pleased all with his zeal and piety.
In 1844 a Liber Baptisatorum appears and from it are taken the names of the following priests and the dates of their having been in attendance here. 1844, Rev. P. A. Cody; 1845, Rev. Peter Brown; Rev. Robert Kleinerdam and Rev. John B. Hoy; 1847, Rev. Andrew Skopez and Rev. H. P. Gallagher; 1848, Rev. J. F. Deane; 1850, Rev. James Slattery; 1851, Rev. Thomas Ledwith, who resided in the parish and boarded with members of the congregation, no rectory having yet been erected. 1859, Rev. S. G. Mollinger; 1865, Rev. John Koch, attended from Clarion. In the meantime, Rev. C. L. Lemagia and Rev. W. Pugh's names appear, who were here only a short time.
The same register shows that Rev. D. Snively, was here for a brief period and 1867 Rev. John Daly's name appears. 1868, Rev. N. LaMarque came and resided at St. Ann's, Corsica, Pa. Until 1869 when Rev. B. M'Givney was in charge, during whose pastorate, the first rectory was erected. 1875, Rev. P. Cosgrove was stationed here and remained until 1877 when Rev. James C. M'Philemey and Rev. Michael Flood assumed charge and remained until 1880 when he succeeded by Rev. Thomas Clark and Rev. James P. M'Closkey, during whose pastorate the St. Nicholas Academy was erected; 1887 he was succeeded by Rev. John Smith who in a few weeks was removed by the angel of death and laid to rest in the cemetery among the deceased members of the parish.
From this time until 1889, Rev. Bernard M'Givney attended from New Bethlehem, Pa. Until he was removed and succeeded by Rev. John Ruddy, who resided at St. Charles Rectory, New Bethlehem, Pa.; in 1898 he was relieved of St. Nicholas mission by Rev. Patrick Dwyer, who was succeeded in 1911 by Rev. Michael Fitzgerald, who was in turn succeeded in 1921 by the present incumbent Rev. John Ring with Rev. Michael Robaczewski attending during his absence of two months, visiting relatives in the British Isles.
In June, 1975, Father Cooper was appointed pastor at New Bethlehem and its two missions, St. Nicholas at Crates, and Sts. Cosmas and Damian at Seminole in Greensburg Diocese.
A native of Erie, Fr. Cooper graduated from St. John's parish school and Cathedral Prep, then entered St. Mark's Seminary to attend classes at Gannon College for two years. His last six years of preparation for the priesthood were at St. Mary's Seminary in Baltimore, Md.
Ordained in May 23, 1963, he taught for a year at Bradford's Central Christian high school while living at St. Bernards. In 1964, he moved to St. Titus in Titusville where for seven years he taught at St. Joseph's Academy. From 1971 until 1975, he was Assistant Pastor at St. George parish in Erie.
He was appointed, by Rev. John Kuzilla, as Secretary to the Deanery in 1975. In June, 1977, he was appointed by Bishop Watson as permanent secretary to the diocesan Finance Committee.
In the short time Father Smith has been in residence at St. Charles, he has endeared himself to the parishioners by his gentle way, his witty and practical sermons, and his friendly interest in the affairs of the church.
Father Cooper was influenced by these same qualities when he apprenticed for seven years as Father Smith's assistant in Titusville, so it was Father Cooper's pleasure to invite his friend and teacher to share his pleasant rectory at New Bethlehem when Father Smith retired in 1976. Father Smith has traveled all over the world and has delighted in seeing things and meeting people.
Father Smith was born in Titusville, Nov. 8, 1904. He graduated from St. Titus High School in 1923, attended Niagara University and Seminary of our Lady of the Angels from 1923 till 1931. He received an AB in 1927 and an [sic] MA in 1931. He was ordained in St. Peter's Cathedral, Erie, Pa., May 14, 1931. He served as an assistant at Holy Rosary in Erie for eight and one half years and at St. Joseph's in Sharon for two and one half years. He was then appointed pastor of St. Philip's in Crossingville in 1942, and pastor of St. Lawrence in Albion in 1957, and pastor of St. Titus, Titusville in 1963.
Prior to 1871 all priests stationed at St. Nicholas parish were obliged to make their homes with members of the congregation, or at some neary-by [sic] church rectory.
During the pastorate of Rev. Bernard M'Givney, the necessity of a parish residence being more in evidence than before, and the congregation's financial condition having improved, they desired to remove the inconvenience and unjustness to the one stationed in their midst, giving his life for their eternal salvation, and with their able leader, sufficient funds were provided to erect, near the church and furnish a modern frame mansion house to be used as a rectory.
From time to time this building has been remodeled, enlarged and made more modern. It now contains eight rooms, two baths, two halls, a basement and a pleasant veranda.
It is equipped with a complete gravitation water system, gas heat, and illuminated by electricity.
With the advent of the automobile, a larger and commondious [sic] garage was added to the parochial buildings, which is not only a convenience but also increases the value and beauty of the church property.
In the year 1880, Rev. James P. M'Closkey being in charge, recognized the need of a Parochial School.
At that time the population centered near the parochial buildings. After an enumeration of the members of school age, of the several families within a reasonable distance, the parishioners with their judicious pastor decided to and did erect a modern frame building near the church and known as St. Nicholas Academy, containing a spacious class rooms, modernly furnished for students, comfortable apartments and a chapel for the Sisters in charge, and surrounded by an adequate recreation park, donated by George Aaron and Peter Ruffner, pioneer members of the parish.
In September of 1882, with the Sisters of Mercy from Titusville, Pa. in supervision the school was opened and for a score of years was in a flourishing condition, but being in a rural district where the population decreases rather than increases, the enrollment decreased and as these students grew to manhood and womanhood it was decided to close the school temporarily, until such time as s sufficient enrollment would again justify its reopening.
In the meantime, the congregation still retains the building, repairs it when necessary and are justly proud of it as of the other parochial buildings.
Since the idle hours are the ones referred to as the hours of danger for the salvation of the soul, and the congregation had increased to such numbers that they could provide amousement [sic] for themselves, it was thought prudent to provide a suitable building for such purposes.
Subsequently a meeting was called and after due consideration, under the direction of Rev. John Ruddy, a recreation building was erected, in which church services were held, during the time the second church building was razed and the present one erected.
Since that time at the suggestion of Rev. John Ring, the Recreation Building has been moved, remodeled and enlarged -- the annex affording seating capacity for spectators during the progress of games and other amusements.
The basement is used as a dining room, where banquets are held and luncheons served.
A kitchen and serving rooms were also provided and equipped with ranges and dishes.
This building, as the other parochial buildings is heated by gas, lighted by electricity and supplied with graviation [sic] water system and has been a source of pleasure and revenue to the congregation, since its erection.
For thirty years the St. Nicholas Congregation was without a musical instrument in their church.
Then during Rev. S. G. Mollinger's pastorate, a melodeon was purchased, which was replaced by an organ in 1877.
Soon after a large bell was purchased by popular subscription, the condition being that the donor contributing the larger amount, was to have the privilege of choosing a name for it.
This honor fell to Peter Ruffner, one of the pioneers and on an appropriate day, with special service the bell was christened Peter.
Later a beautiful electric gong was installed as a memorial to the late Bernard Aaron.
Many other offerings of value, such as precious vessels, vestments, statues and other articles too numerous to mention, have been donated and are to be found in St. Nicholas Church at Crates, Pa.
About the year 1854, Rev. Thomas Ledwith assumed the pastorate of St. Nicholas congregation and was deeply concerned regarding the salvation of the souls of a number of families, who had penetrated the wilderness a few miles farther north and formed a settlement.
His zealousness and desire to improve not only their spiritual and intellectual condition, but also to establish an institution of opportunities for future generations, prompted him to purchase land in addition to that donated by Anthony Reinsel, erect thereon, chiefly at his own expense together with money donated by friends and labor done by the parishioners, a large brick building, known as St. Ann's Academy, containing commodious class rooms for students, comfortable apartments for nuns and teachers, an adequate chapel and surrounded by an ideal recreation park on a beautiful elevation overlooking the village of Corsica, Pa.
The Sisters of St. Joseph assumed the responsibility of management provide an able corps of instructors and for a number of years the Academy flourished under the supervision of Mother Agnes Spencer.
The convenience of transportation not having reached this point as early as was anticipated the project was abandoned. The Sisters retired to their respective Mother House at Erie, Pa., the school was closed and henceforth the building was used a chapel until 1898 when it was partially destroyed by fire.
The present congregation salvaged the available material and to the proceeds added sufficient funds to erect in 1900 and furnished the present modern chapel known as St. Ann's Church near Corsica, Jefferson County, Pa., and under the pastorate of Rev. John Ring, who resides in the St. Nicholas Rectory in Crates, Pa.
During the summer months Mass is celebrated in St. Ann's Church the second and fourth Sundays and during the winter months, the second Sunday only, due to the condition, at that period of the years, of the unimproved roads existing in 1928.
St. Ann's Church, Corsica, in 1928
In the year 1817, Anthony (Weber) now known as Weaver and wife with their family consisting of five boys and three girls emigrated from Germany to America, established a home in Lycoming County, Pa.
But being dissatisfied with conditions existing there a few years later in 1820 moved farther westward, purchased land two miles south of the present location of the St. Nicholas Church.
On this farm he constructed a rude cabin of logs, which for seven years was the home of the first pioneer family of St. Nicholas Congregation.
But the spirit of contentment seemed not to abide in this humble cabin in the wilderness, and in the year 1827 was supplanted by a desire to go near some relatives who had located in what is now Washington Township, Clarion County, Pa.
Hence the Weaver family moved, established their permanent home and enrolled as members of St. Michael's congregation at Fryburg, Pa., where many of their descendents and those of their relatives now reside.
Joseph (Zanger) now known as Songer, with his wife and family emigrated from Germany to America in the early years of the nineteenth century and for some time resided in the mountainous region of Westmoreland County, Pa.
In 1823, there was a westward movement in which he was interested to the extent that he left his home and came to what is now known as Clarion County, Pa., purchased land near the present village of Shannondale and at that time cast his lot with the early pioneers of St. Nicholas parish. Here he established his home, lived a simple rustic life, died and is mingled with the dust of many of his descendents in St. Nicholas cemetery, which was at that time the quiet church yard of the little log chapel on the hill.
Many of his descendents are still to be found in the St. Nicholas congregation and at present, the oldest member of the parish is his granddaughter, Mrs. Teresa Aaron.
Soon after the Weaver family came westward from Lycoming County, Pa., the Aaron Brothers, Thomas, Joseph, Conrad, Daniel, and George purchased a tract of land in what is now known as Redbank and Limestone Townships, Clarion County, Pa., but at that time a part of the Sloan Grant.
Between 1820 and 1823, Daniel and George with their families came and established their homes here.
Two years later, the other brothers, Thomas, Joseph and Conrad with their only sister Elizabeth (Married to Jacob Brinkley) followed, cast their lot with the other pioneers and helped to form the nucleus of the St. Nicholas congregation.
All the parochial land has been either donated by or purchased from them and Charles Crate, except a portion on the east side of the church lot and on which the present church edifice was located by mistake during its erection and was donated by Ambrose Crate, who at that time owned the land which had been purchased by Charles Crate, one of the pioneers.
Theirs was the lot of ordinary pioneers, innumerable hardships and privations but through it all one motive prevailed, to leave to their posterity the faith of their forefathers, unsullied and strengthened as it came down through the years, and today their descendents form a substantial part of the St. Nicholas congregation.
The same year the Aaron Brothers came here, the (Krets) now known as Crates came from Westmoreland County, Pa.
The first of these to arrive and establish a home in the wilderness was Charles, then a youth, seventeen years of age.
Two years later, his father, Philip Crate came to share the joys and privations of the little cabin erected by his adventurous son.
Together they had purchased one hundred and thirty-seven acres of Government land as their title showed, which specifically states that one-fifth of all gold and silver mined thereon was to go to the Government.
The greater portion of this land is still owned and occupied by their descendents.
These men were upright citizens and always very active in furthering the cause of religion.
Philip Crate was the first male adult interred in St. Nicholas cemetery.
Charles' house was for many years the only home many of the priests knew while stationed here, until the Rectory was erected.
Even in his declining years, he cared for the altar and served at the holy sacrifice of the Mass, when boys were not available for acolytes. And his home was perhaps the only house in the parish to be blessed by Rt. Rev. Bishop Young.
During the last quarter of the ninteenth century a post office, which honored these pioneers by using their names, was opened but later abolished. Mail being now delivered by the local Rural Route.
The little hamlet still retains the name and the parish is often referred to as Crates.
With the migration westward from Westmoreland County, Pa., in the first quarter of the nineteenth century came the (Seifert) family now known as Cyphert.
This family was of German descent and closely allied with the Aaron and Crate families, adjoining whose tracts two of the sons Solomon and Henry purchased land, also of the Sloan Grant and thus forming a part of the St. Nicholas parish.
At the time they came to what is now Clarion County, Pa., they were young and unmarried.
For a while they fought the battles of the young pioneer with the aid of their mother, but later took to themselves wives from the pioneer family of James Kerr.
While improving their farms and establishing their home, they reared families of which many descendents are to be found in St. Nicholas congregation and some still own and reside on the land on which their pioneer fathers felled the first trees.
It was in the home of Solomon Cyphert that Rt. Rev. Francis P. Kenrick said Mass and administered the Sacrament of Confirmation for the first time in the St. Nicholas parish and gave to the people permission to build their first church.
During the religious persecution inspired by Henry VIII, John Kerr was driven from his native land to the highlands of Scotland.
After conditions improved, he returned to the County of Donegal, where he found himself impoverished by the confiscation of his estates.
With his three sons, he sailed for American, but his health being impaired from the hardships of war and the horrors of the gloomy prison, from which he had been released only a short time before, he died early in the voyage and his sons continued to America and located in Faytette County, Pa.
In 1807, James married Margaret Haney, whose brother was a soldier in the Revolutionary War, Lafayette Division.
In 1834, with his family, consisting of seven sons and four daughters, he moved to what is know known as Clarion County, Pa., and thus became a pioneer member of St. Nicholas Parish.
Being a zealous and devout Catholic, on Ash Wednesday, he walked to St. Nicholas Church, a distance of three miles to assist at the holy sacrifice of the Mass, returning, he fell on the ice, receiving injuries from which he died the following night at the remarkable age of one hundred and five years, and was consigned to rest in St. Nicholas cemetery, mingled with the dust of many of his descendents, who are at rest in that sacred consecrated spot.
With his descendants are numbered one priest and five nuns, and when we now behold his posterity serving at the altar, together with the devout prayers of holy nuns in the cloister, we realize that martyrdom and death served to strengthen rather than crush the faith of these hard pioneers.
Dennis Burgoon, a young man twenty-four years of age, came from near Derry, Westmoreland County, Pa., in the year 1836, purchased two hundred acres of what was then known as the Gregg Grant, now known as part of Limestone Township, Clarion County, Pa.
The entire tract was covered with a dense forest of oak, pine and ample trees and in order to wrest a livelihood from the soil, these beautiful trees had to be felled and burned in heaps or used as fuel.
The only trees that were of any value at the time were the maples two hundred and fifty of these were reserved, from which a bountiful supply of molasses and sugar was produced.
A few years after Dennis Burgoon came here, his brother, Leo, purchased land about one mile north of his. Both being in the same township, likewise the same parish.
It would be useless to relate the trials and hardships these brothers underwent to pay for and clear their farms, rear and educate their children, as theirs was the common lot of the first pioneers. But with all their hardships and disappointments, their aim was ever advancement and progress, for the faith which had been handed down to them by their forefathers.
In their declining years, they disposed of their farms, retired to Brookville, Pa., that they might spend the closing years of their lives, undisrubed [sic] by the cares of the world and better prepare for the life beyond.
They both lived long past the allotted three score and ten years and are buried in the Catholic cemetery at Brookville, Pa.
The Catholics who came to Redbank in Clarion Township, Armstrong County (now known as Crates, Limestone Township, Clarion County) to found a new organization, St. Nicholas of Tolentino, were children of families who had arrived in the United States in the late 1700's and early 1800's mainly from Germany. They were later joined by Irish families.
They first came to Philadelphia or Baltimore and moved westward across the state in small groups of kinfolk or friends. They lived for short periods near Catholic settlements such as St. Joseph's Church in Philadelphia and Goshenhoppen (now Bally) in Berks County, Conewago in Adams County, McGuires's Settlement (now Loretto) in Cambria County, Sportsman's Hall (now St. Vincent, Latrobe) in Westmoreland County, Sugar Creek (St. Patrick's) and Donegal in Butler County, and finally to Redbank (now St. Nicholas, Crates) in Clarion County by 1820.
As they progressed across the state, they tarried long enough to assist the missionary priest in building churches at these various locations, often enduring harassment and persecution.
The Goshenhoppen Registers are the oldest published Catholic Church records of baptism, marriages and deaths in Pennsylvania. In them are ancestors of Crate's settlers: Allgeyer, Arents, Arens, Arnold, Ashburn, Bauer, Connor, Dapper, Engel, Gret, Grett, Greenawald, Kuns, Seifert, and Schmidt.
In 1795, Prince-Father Demetrius A. Gallitzen, who called himself Father Augustine Smith, was at Conewago, an old time Jesuit Mission in Adams County, Pa. He received his first "call" to the far west -- the call which led to the founding of Loretto. It was a sick call for non-Catholic Susan Burgoon, wife of Catholic John Burgoon, and it involved a 150 mile ride over three mountain ridges of the Alleghenies to McGuire's Settlement. He arrived on the fourth day of travel and by lantern light he received her into the Church and administered the last sacraments. Mrs. Burgoon rallied and lived.
Fr. Smith (Fr. Gallitzen) said the first Mass at McGuire's Settlement and was received so enthusiastically that the seed of his desire to return there was planted. In 1799, he did return and completed the first church in time for Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. In that year, and for several years, St. Michael's as it was called, was the only Catholic Church between Hanover, Pa. and St. Louis, Mo. McGuire's Settlement later became Loretto, the site of St. Francis Seminary and College.
Prince Demetrius A. Gallitzen's memorandum book lists the Paschal Confessions and Communions, and Confirmations at Loretto, for 1810 to 1813. Included are: Adams, Baxter, Bender, Burgoon, Connor, O'Connor, Dougherty, Gallagher, Kuhns, Maguire, McGuire, McCloskey, McConnel, McLaughlin, Reinsel, Short, Welsh.
In 1787 and 1788, six families whose heads were John Propst, John Young, Patrick Archibald, and three Ruffner brothers -- Christian, George, and Simon -- left Berks and Philadelphia counties and settled in Unity Township, a little west of Greensburg, Pa. (Simon Ruffner was the paternal great grandfather of Msgr. Lambing, a priest-historian of Pittsburgh, and Mrs. Leo Burgoon, Mrs. Dennis Burgoon, and Mrs. George Aaron, pioneers of Crates.)
Father Theodore Browers came to the settlement in the autumn of 1789, boarded in the houses of Christian and Simon Ruffner, where Mass was offered for the colonists.
On April 16, 1790, Fr. Browers bought Sportsmans Hall, a 315 acre farm. Here he built a cabin, which is the site of the present St. Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe.
In 1799, Rev. Peter Helbron came to Sportsman Hall. Among the seventy-five subscribers to the log church he began there were: Jacob, Leon, and Barnabas Burgoon; John Greenawalt; Simon, George, Peter, and Christian Ruffner; Jacob, Andrew and Anna Kuhn; Henry Reintzel and Henry Reintzel, Jr.; James Grat; John, Peter and Joseph Aaron; Henry Brick; Cornelius Connor; George, John, Regina and Conrad Reintzel; Henry Coon; and Philip Seifert.
Fr. Helbron began a register known as "The Greensburg Register" which listed the baptisms, marriages and deaths of the Irish and German families who settled at Greensburg and within a radius of a hundred miles. In this register are found the records of the following people who came to Crates: Aaron, Arens, Black, Britge, Bridge, Boyle, Carr, Connor, O'Connor, Crait, Krete, Crete, Donahoe, Dapper, Topper, Dougherty, Dugan, Gallagher, Grunewald, Hagerty, Henry, McGee, McLaughlin, McGloglin, Reinsel, Ruffner, Seyvert, Seiffert, Seyffert, Cypher, Schmidt, Short.
In 1829, at Blairsville, in Indiana County, the organizers and subscribers of the church included, among others; Thomas Shannon, John Connor, Henry Reintzel, Jacob Burgoon and Michael Henry.
In 1790, a group of Catholics from the banks of Loch Erne in County Donegal, Ireland, settled in Donegal Colony, now Donegal Twonship, Butler County, establishing a crude cabin church and a cemetery. Among the heads of families were: Black, Cyphert, Dougherty, Gallagher, McCue, O'Connel.
At Sugar Creek, near Chicora, Pa., a log church, dedicated in 1806 and restored in 1925, is the parent of the congregations west of the Allegheny River. Archibald Black is listed as a member. From this place came the early missionaries who ministered at Crates: Fathers Laurence S. Phelen, McGee, O'Brien, McGuire, Patrick O'Neil, Ferry, Rafferty, and Cody. Its records before 1837 are not available, reportedly burned in church fires, but it is known that many of our ancestors were baptized and married at Sugar Creek (St. Patrick's).
This is the original St. Patrick's Church, Sugar Creek, built in 1806 and still standing, after being restored in 1925. It is the oldest church in the then Pittsburgh Diocese.
Father Costello, a former historian for the Diocese of Erie, suggest three criteria for determining "first parishes" the date of original settlement, first places to have a church blessed by a Bishop, and the coming of the first resident pastors. Here four criteria are used.
The date of original settlement. Sometime after 1797, exact date unknown, James Black, son of Archibald Black, came to Wilderness Settlement (Crown). In 1815, John Vogelbacher settled at Vogelbacher Settlement (Lucinda). In 1820, both coming directly from the vicinity of Baden, Germany, Jacob Eisenman settled at Kapp's Settlement (Fryburg) and Anthony Weber located in the neighborhood of Redbank (Crates). The latter, some years later, moved to the German speaking community at Fryburg.
St Michael's at Fryburg used 1820, the date of the arrival of the first Catholic settlers, for the celebration of its centennial.
The date of formation of congregations. In 1826, Fr. Patrick O'Neill was appointed pastor at Sugar Creek. His labors extended as far north as Erie and brought him into many parts of Clarion and Jefferson Counties. He apparently encouraged organization of congregations and church building at three settlements: Crates, Fryburg, and Crown.
Crate chose the date of organization of the congregation, 1828, for the observance of its centennial.
First churches to be blessed by a Bishop. At this time, all of Pennsylvania was under the jurisdiction of Francis Patrick Kenrick, third Bishop of Philadelphia.
Bishop Kenrick's diary records that on June 5, 1834, he had given permission to the Redbank congregation to build a church and also to the people living in Fryburg.
Crates, Fryburg and Crown had log church under construction in 1835. On Sept. 9, 1835, Bishop Kenrick, in company with Rev. F. M. Masquelet, returned to dedicate the church at Crates under the invocation of St. Nicholas of Tolentino. He remained another day to confirm and to minister to the needs of the congregation, which numbered about twenty families in 1835 and twenty-five families in 1836. He noted that "although they are of German parentage generally, they used the English language."
At this time, Bishop Kenrick made the following agreement with Joseph Aaron:
"Articles of Agreement between Joseph Aaron, Clarion Township, Armstrong County (now Limestone Township, Clarion County), in the State of Pennsylvania, and the Right Reverend Patrick Kenrick, Roman Catholic Bishop, actually invested with the government of the Diocese of Philadelphia: In consideration of nine dollars to him, to be paid on making to the said Francis Patrick Kenrick, a good and lawful title to the three acres of land in the aforesaid township, on which a Catholic church has been recently erected, the said Joseph Aaron doth hereby agree *** to make to the said Francis Patrick Kenrick, his heirs and assigns***a good and title***on condition, however, and in trust for the use of the Roman Catholic Congregation worshiping in the said church, and the Priest duly appointed by the Bishop of the Diocese, according to the discipline of the Roman Catholic Church. In testimony whereof***the 8th day of September, in the year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and thirty-five."
Francis Patrick Kenrick
From 1834 until 1843 (except 1841) Bishop Kenrick made yearly visitation to the early Catholic settlements in what is now the Erie Diocese.
In 1836, Sept. 25 and 26th, Bishop Kenrick's visitation to St. Nicholas of Tolentino reported him to be "pleased at the evidence of piety and zeal" of Rev. Martin Kundig, "especially in the care which he gave to the children."
On Sept. 27, 1836, Bishop Kenrick blessed the church at Fryburg under the invocation of St. Michael the Archangel. This congregation, the year before, had consisted of sixteen families who used the German language and four Irish families, plus a few other families.
On his Sept 27, 1836 visit, Bishop Kenrick reported that he had not time to visit the Catholics who were building a church at Crown. The fourteen or more Irish Catholic families there had erected hewn log church in 1836, but before it could be completed a severe storm blew it down. No church was then build until 1848, when a frame church was erected.
At Lucinda, church construction did not get under way until 1846. It is interesting then to note that Francis Patrick Kenrick, third Bishop of Philadelphia, blessed nine of the early Erie diocesan churches: Clearfield (1832), Crossingville (1834), Sloandale (1835), Crates (1835), Fryburg (1836), Frenchtown (1837), Frenchville (1840), Grampian (1840), and Mercer (1840).
Crates is the fourth Erie diocesan church to be blessed by a Bishop and Fryburg the fifth.
The coming of the first resident priest. Fryburg clearly is the winner in the "first" contest for having the earliest priest. In 1837, Fr. Henry Herzog was appointed resident pastor at Fryburg and remained but one year. After that, Fryburg was without the service of a priest, except an occasional visit from a missionary, until 1846, when Rev. Andreas Skopez was appointed to Fryburg, and Rev. John Hoy took up residence there. Together they were to take care of the Catholics in all Clarion County as well as visit some few Catholic settlements in nearby counties. Fr. Hoy was replaced in 1848 by Fr. J. F. Deane and Fr. James Slattery in 1851. The extent of Fr. Skopez and his associates' missions at one time (1851) embraced Clarion, Lucinda, Fryburg, Crown, Crates, Brookville and sundry stations in Venango County.
In 1851, Fr. Skopez and Fr. Slattery were joined by Fr. Thomas Ledwith, who was assigned the care of Jefferson and Clearfield Counties.
By 1851, the Rev. Thomas Ledwith was living part time in Crates, boarding with parishioners, and part time in Corsica. No other priest resided at Crates for any length of time until the arrival of Fr. Bernard McGivney in 1871, during whose pastorate, the first rectory was built.
Which church was the "first" church in Clarion County? Each of the four above criteria produces a different answer.
The western part of Pennyslvania (Bradford, Huntington, Clearfield, Potter and McKean Counties and all counties west of them in Pennsylvania) became a new diocese when, on August 15, 1843, the Most Reverend Michael O'Connor was consecrated first Bishop of Pittsburgh.
The Pittsburgh Diocese at the time of its formation, consisted of forty-seven churches: twenty in what still remains Pittsburgh Diocese, thirteen in what is now the Altoona Diocese, and fourteen within the territorial limits of the present Erie Diocese. (Connor, 1944)
As a Bishop, Bishop O'Connor made only two visitations to what is now the Erie Diocese, one in 1846, the other in 1851. Prior to that he had accompanied Bishop Kenrick on his visitation to Crates in 1841.
On June 22, 1846, Bishop O'Connor came to Crates. He reported that the small frame church dedicated by Bishop Kenrick was then in decay and that there were about fifteen families in the congregation with twenty or thirty more in the southern part of the county (New Bethlehem) all being taken care of by Fr. John Hoy of Clarion.
Visitors to the cemetery today might permit their minds to wander back to the events of that day. The ninety confirmants [sic] and their families must have come from long distances (from Beechwoods, Brookville, Sigel, Corsica, Summerville, New Bethlehem, Sligo, all being within this parish), either on foot, or by horse and wagon. They must have been fasting since the previous evening, as that was the way it was done in those days. The confirmation ceremonies, and the lengthy sermon must have whetted their appetites for the contents of the "well-filled" baskets that each family had brought. The women must have prepared for days for this great event...a picnic for the Bishop.
In that year of 1851, Joseph Aaron, on whose land the cemetery and the then church site was a part, began building his new house (still standing). A high spot in the day for some of those attending may have been an inspection tour of the new construction.
Another topic of conversation would have been the funerals of so many of their friends, neighbors and children. A review of the death register of 1850 and 1851 will show an unusually large number of deaths, many caused by dysentery epidemic that ravaged the community.
By 1854, the congregation had built a new frame church on level land in the heart of the village while the hill-top plot became the resting place of their deceased loved ones.
The Second Catholic Church at Crates, and the Rectory
A new See of Erie had been created in July 29, 1853, embracing the following counties in northwestern Pennsylvania: Erie, Mercer, Warren, Crawford, Jefferson, Venango (including the present Forest County), Clearfield, Clarion, Elk, McKean, and Potter (including Cameron formed from parts of the latter four). The new diocese received nearly half the area of the older one but only one-quarter of its population.
From Sept. 10, 1853, until Feb. 18, 1854, Bishop O'Connor served as the first Bishop of Erie. Fr. Josua M. Young was elected by the Holy See to succeed him in Pittsburgh. A few months later, Bishop O'Connor was transferred back to Pittsburgh and Fr. Young was named to the Diocese of Erie. He was consecrated in St. Peter's Cathedral, Cincinnati, on April 23, 1854.
On June 1854, Josua M. Young, Bishop of Erie, began his first visitation of the diocese, which included dedicating the new church at Crates.
(On visitation ten years later, on Nov. 21, 1864, he presided over the wedding of Daniel Henry and Elizabeth Jane Crate Jinkins.)
An interesting side light on the building of the first and second churches at Crates concerns an entry made by Fr. Skopez on the cover sheet of the Liber Matrimonorum.
"The first church was constructed here, they say, about the year 1836, and it was blessed Sept. 10, 1836, by the Very Rev, Francis Patrick Kenrick, --, Co-adjutor Bishop of Philadelphia. It was long ___ feet and wide ___ feet.
The second church here was built A.D. 1855 and completed 1856. Because of a disagreement between the congregation and the builder, Mr. English of Brookville, the church was finally given to divine worship in 1859.
Spiritual Procurator, Nov. 1846-1868"
In the above instances the dates do not coincide with the records of visitations of Bishop Kenrick or Bishop Young. Whether due to erroneous hearsay or to faulty memory on the part of Fr. Skopez, this entry may be the source of confusion that exists about the dedication dates.
The entry about the second church is interesting because of the insight it gives into the career of Father Thomas Ledwith in whose pastorate the church was built, and whose story follows.
According to local legend, the Reverend Thomas Ledwith was ordained at Fryburg, on Sept. 11, 1851, by Bishop Timmons of Buffalo, N.Y. This is unusual in that Bishop O'Connor was present at Fryburg administering Confirmation that same day but made no record of the Ordination Ceremonies. Nevertheless, Fr. Ledwith was appointed to the neighboring parish of St. Ann, Corsica.
There was no Catholic Church or congregation at Corsica when the newly ordained priest arrived. However, he made Corsica the seat of his parish and attended the missions of Brookville and Crates from there, living at the various stations with members of his congregation.
He began to organize a congregation in Brookville saying Mass in private houses (generally at the residence of John Dougherty, sometimes at the houses of Edmond English, Andrew Lock, or Jacob Hoffman). He built with considerable difficulty, a brick church on Water Street (now Madison Avenue) during the years 1853 to 1856. At one time, the church was sold for less than $300 on a mechanic's lien, but was repurchased by the congregation. He had much trouble with the mixed German, Irish, Belgian, and American people of Brookville. In the end, the church he built was, for a long time, the finest church edifice in Brookville.
Simultaneously with the activity in Brookville, Fr. Ledwith encouraged the people of Crates to relocate their church from the hilltop to the heart of the village and there to construct a second church. The few details of this endeavor have already been mentioned.
All the while, Father Ledwith was working in Corsica to organize the Catholics of Union Township (Arons, Cypherts, Rentsels, Cuddy and Clarks) and the Catholics of Clover Township (Dennis Grein and Andrew Bridge) into a congregation.
Corsica, in 1852, had a population of about 250 and was located on the first wagon road in the northwest -- the old Milesburg and Waterford state road (now Rt. 322). A line of stages passed through east and west daily, It had two churches, three stores, two shoe shops, two taverns, one tannery, two groceries, one brickyard, two coal banks, one cabinet shop, two blacksmith shops, two tailor shops, one milliner shop and twenty-four dwellings. It was not incorporated into a borough until March 2, 1860.
In this prosperous little, town, Father Ledwith dreamed of founding a center of Catholicism so far ahead of its day that it could not help but fail.
He began with a donation of land by Anthony Reinsel which became the cemetery. The first burials recorded were Johannes Cuddy, 70 years old, on March 26, 1855; Eleanor Cuddy, 72 years, April 26, 1855.
A notation in an old record book written by Fr. Ledwith states "The place in which this cemetery now stands was given by Anthony Reinsel and contains about an acre and a pottersfield. I afterwards bought four acres of land in the church yard. The cemetery was blessed by Rt. Rev. J. M. Young, Bishop of Erie, about the 10th day of July, A.D. 1856. At the same time, we began to dig the foundation for the school and the convent."
This school and convent was St. Ann's Academy, a good sized two-story brick building with basement, one room to serve as a chapel for the Catholics around Corsica, the rest as a boarding school for young ladies. This, at a time in American history when there were only a few private schools for women in the whole United States, and when women had no legal rights other than to be chastised by their husbands, and very little opportunity for employment other than housework.
Fr. Ledwith invited the Sisters of St. Brigid at Titusville, the only order of nuns in the Erie diocese, but they were too few in number and too poor to supply sisters. An invitation to the Sisters of St. Joseph of Buffalo, N.Y., was accepted when Mother Agnes Spencer, with four companions, arrived in Corsica, in 1860.
The following account written in 1939 by Aloysius Kerr -- a former parishioner -- gives additional clues to Fr. Ledwith's ambition:
"James W. Kerr and Mary Agnes Burgoon were married on May 13, 1863. They went to housekeeping in Corsica in a building intended for a monastery, but never used for that purpose. Leo Burgoon helped put the cross on the large dome in the center of the building. James and Mary Agnes lived in this building until June 22, 1864. Mr. Kerr then built a seven room house about a stone's throw below. This farm was the old Father Ledwith farm, willed to Peter Kelley, nephew of Father Ledwith. The house is still standing (in 1939)."
We find a charming picture of family life in those days by Genieve Daly Kearns, a niece of the Mary Agnes Burgoon mentioned above, who told that her first memories were of living at St. Ann's Academy a short time while their house was being built on the Father Ledwith Farm, which her father had bought. It was a large building; they lived on the second floor. She also remembers the priest staying all night at their house.
At Christmas, she report, "Such joy and excitement with all the grandparents, cousins, uncles, aunts, and the priest for breakfast and dinner!" They went to church at Crates and took apples, cookies, bread and jelly along, for church was nearly all day with Confessions, Rosary, Mass, a Sermon a mile long, and Benediction. Sometimes the children went out to play under the trees, also to eat. Nearly always they returned home by way of Grandpa's and had a very late dinner.
By 1858, Father Ledwith had an assistant -- Fr. Suibert G. Mollinger - who succeeded him as Pastor in 1859. So by the time the Sisters had arrived, Fr. Ledwith was gone. Fr. Mollinger took a "strong dislike" to both the place and sisters and he moved his place of residence to Brookville -- attending form there Corsica, Redbank, Sligo Furnace, and in general the southeastern part of Clarion, beside the whole of Jefferson County.
Mother Agnes Spencer's "careful management" for a while "bid fair to succeed" but her problems compounded. The promise of the location for growth did not materialize and the place was too remote from sufficient numbers of well-to-do Catholics to supply young ladies for students. We can only guess at the weight of her sorrow as we stand before a tombstone in St. Ann's cemetery on which is inscribed:
Sister M. Victorine LeQuier, SSJ
Died May 8, 1861
Sister Victorine was the "youngest religious, only twenty-three years old". Two young postulants lie beside her there whose names may never be remembered -- the death records from 1860 to 1865 missing.
Father Mollinger's continued opposition to the Academy at Corsica led him to a disagreement with Bishop Young and was the cause of his leaving Brookville and the Erie Diocese in 1865. He was received into the Pittsburgh Diocese where he later became famous as Father Mollinger of Troy Hill.
It must be said that Father Mollinger was extremely popular with the people, as were Father Ledwith and the reverend [sic] Father Gallitzen. Proof of this are the many children who received the names -- Suibert, Ledwith, Demetrius and Augustine -- when they were baptized.
After that time, Bishop Young permitted the Sisters to abandon the place in Corsica and to move on to Meadville, where they opened an orphanage. Bishop Young died in 1866, and they moved the orphanage to Erie, retaining only the hospital part in Meadville, now known as Spencer Hospital.
In Erie, they established their motherhouse at St. Joseph's Orphanage. St. Ann's in Corsica might have been the mother house of the Sisters of St. Joseph. As it is, St. Ann's can take credit for bringing them to the Erie Diocese and to rejoice that they have prospered so well within the diocese.
After the Sisters left to go to Meadville, the people in the area under the direction of visiting priests continued to use the academy building as their church and Holy Mass was held there when it was possible for the priests to negotiate the muddy roads. In 1888, the building was reported to be nearly past repairing because of the crumbling away of the foundation walls. In July, 1898, a fire of undetermined origin destroyed the greater part of the building.
So ended Father Ledwith's dream for Corsica.
By 1878, Brookville had erected a new brick church on top of the hill on the south side of town, where it stands today. Father Ledwith's church -- unsafe with its cracked and leaning walls -- had been torn down in August 1876.
Crates razed Father Ledwith's church in 1892 and built the present one.
Father Ledwith died in 1888.
In 1873, Corsica, Crates and New Bethlehem were combined into a parochial unit under Rev. Bernard McGivney. In 1898, Crates and St. Ann's were combined to be administered by Rev. J. J. Ruddy. The last reorganization occurred in 1962, when Corsica became a mission of Brookville, the details of which were carried out by Rev. Joseph Ciaiola; Crates became a mission of New Bethlehem with Rev. Joseph Burke as pastor.
Around the year 1892, when the church built by Fr. Ledwith was to be replaced, Father John Ruddy caused a recreation hall to be built on the same lot as the school and convent but close to the base of the hill. Church services were conducted in this building while the old church was razed and the present church was raised. The architect and builder for the third and present church was John Osborne of DuBois, a former resident and parishioner.
John Osborne, Architect and Builder
The church was dedicated by the Rt. Rev. Tobias Mullen, Bishop of Erie, in 1893, the same year he celebrated his Episcopal Silver Jubilee and the dedication of the new cathedral in Erie.
At the opening of St. Peter's Cathedral in Erie in 1893, Father Stephen E. Aaron was appointed Assistant Rector, and in 1895 became Rector. A son of Jacob and Emily Cummings Aaron, Father Stephen started his education in the St. Nicholas school.
He was born Nov. 10, 1868, on a farm in Clarion County. He attended St. Bonaventure College, 1884-1891, and on Jan. 1, 1892, was ordained by the Rt. Rev. Tobias Mullen, Bishop of Erie, in St. Patrick's Pro-Cathedral, Erie. He was immediately appointed assistant at the Cathedral where he continued until his appointment as Rector.
"Endowed with a robust physique, a strong intellect, a deep religious nature, and with all the essential qualifications of an eloquent and persuasive pulpit speaker…", he died March 7, 1896, aged 27 years, and was buried in the Priests' Plot in Trinity Cemetery. Bishop Mullen was present at the Solemn Requiem Mass, and the farewell homily was preached by Rev. Jas. P. McCloskey, his confessor and advisor at Crates.
Fr. Stephen Aaron
He was born Feb 5, 1870, the son of Frank and Margaret (Cyphert) Aaron. His father had died at Manhattan, Ill., Oct 7, 1869. Fr. Aaron was educated for the priesthood at St. Bonaventure's College, Allegany, N.Y. from 1887 to 1894. He was ordained at St. Peter's Cathedral, Erie, by the Rt. Rev. Tobias Mullen, Feb. 25, 1894. His First Mass was celebrated at St. Nicholas Church on March 4, 1894. It was a joyous and memorable occasion for his family, friends, and relatives who assembled in their beautiful new church for the ceremonies.
Fr. Aaron served as Assistant at St. Cosmos and Damien, Punxsutawney, in 1894; and as Pastor at St. Francis, McKean, 1894-1903. In 1904, he left the Erie Diocese for the Pittsburgh Diocese. There he was assistant at Holy Cross, Pittsburgh, 1904 to 1910; and Pastor at St. Peters, Brownsville. He died March 27, 1931 and is buried a Mt. Calvary Cemetery, Pittsburgh, Pa.
The following three pages contain the names of some of the men and women who answered the call to a religious vocation and who can trace their roots to the pioneers of Crates.
|Very Rev. Francis P. Aaron||Francis & Margaret (Cyphert) Aaron|
|Rev. James Leo Aaron||Paul S. & Mary V. (Connor) Aaron|
|Rev. James R. Aaron||Leo & Mary (Stafford) Aaron|
|Rev. Leo Aaron OSB||John & Ann (Newhouse) Aaron|
|Rev. Stephen Aaron||Jacob & Emily (Cummings) Aaron|
|Rev. Bernard A. Connelly CSSR||Thomas B. & Margaret J. (Aaron) Connelly|
|Rev. Gregory Leopold||John L. & Virginia (Werner) Leopold|
|Rev. James P. McCloskey||[blank]|
|Rev. Albert C. O'Loughlin OSA||Coleman & Frances (Burgoon) O'Loughlin|
|Rev. Clement O'Neill||Michael & Sarah (Aaron) O'Neill|
|Rev. Albert C. Shannon OSA||L. B. & Marie (O'Loughlin) Shannon|
|Rev. Joseph L. Shannon OSA||L. B. & Marie (O'Loughlin) Shannon|
|Rev. Douglas Smith OSFS||Ralph & Mary (Hassen) Smith|
|Rev. Francis E. Tassey||John R. & Theresa (Cyphert) Tassey|
|Rev. George Wilt||Gus & Letta B. (Aaron) Wilt|
|Rev. Bernard Zagst||Lewis A. & Adeline (Van Order) Zagst|
|Bro. Damian (Willie) Aaron Alex. Bro.||James & Mary (Osborne) Aaron|
|Bro. Philip T. Aaron S.M.||Paul S. & Mary V. (Connor) Aaron|
|Bro. Eugene Burgoon Ch. Bro.||S. J. & Anna C. (Guth) Burgoon|
|Bro. Leo Burgoon Trappist||S. J. & Anna C. (Guth) Burgoon|
|Bro. Joseph B. Fiscus OFM||Francis C. & Anna (Aaron) Fiscus|
|Bro. Gerlac O'Loughlin Trappist||Leo & Florence (Rice) O'Loughlin|
|Frater Laurence Songer||James & Grace (Woods) Songer|
|Bro. Declan Hoffman||Jacob & Mary (Reuter) Hoffman|
|Sr. M. of St. Adele Aaron (Mary Adele) Charity||Leo & Mary (Stafford) Aaron|
|Sr. Audrey Aaron OSB||John & Mary (Todd) Aaron|
|Sr. Corintha (Agnes) Aaron Holy Cross||Thomas & Mary (Lilly) Aaron|
|Sr. M. Cyril (Winifred) Aaron Charity||Ledythe & Suzie (Burgoon) Aaron|
|Sr. M. Euphemia (Eliz.) Aaron SSJ||James & Mary (O'Neill) Aaron|
|Sr. Evarista (Leona M.) Aaron SSJ||Harry C. & Veronica (Songer) Aaron|
|Sr. Mary Louis (Clara M.) Aaron SSJ||John E. & Barbara (Reinsel) Aaron|
|Sr. Margaret (Catherine) Aaron SSJ||Jacob & Emily (Cummings) Aaron|
|Sr. Mary Philip (Phyllis) Aaron Charity||Paul S. & Mary V. (Connor) Aaron|
|Sr. Sebastian Aaron Holy Cross||Thomas & Mary (Lilly) Aaron|
|Sr. M. Sebastian (Mary) Aaron Mercy||Joseph & Mary (Slattery) Aaron|
|Sr. Stanislaus (Barbara) Aaron Mercy||Daniel H. & Rebecca (Jones) Aaron|
|Sr. Vincent (Roseanne) Aaron Mercy||Daniel H. & Rebecca (Jones) Aaron|
|Sr. M. DeSales Burgoon OSB||Leo & Catherine (Kuhn) Burgoon|
|Sr. M. Dorothy Burgoon SSJ||Sam & Lizzie (Hagerty) Burgoon|
|Sr. M. Rose Burgoon OSB||Leo & Catherine (Kuhn) Burgoon|
|Sr. M. Agnes Connor OSB||Sam & Mary (Short) Connor|
|Sr. Alice Marie (Lois) Crate Charity||Charles & Lydia (Cyphert) Crate|
|Sr. Emerentia (Anastasia) Connolley SSJ||Thomas & Marg. J. (Aaron) Connelly|
|Sr. Mary Jeanette (Josephine Marie) Connor SSJ||Samuel B. & Mary Jane (Reinsel) Connor|
|Sr. Gerard (Ethel) Fauzey SSJ||Andrew B. & Frances (Reinsel) Fauzey|
|Sr. Mary Fisher OSF||Melvin & Grace (Aaron) Fisher|
|Sr. Modesta Ferguson SSJ||Ben & Matilda (Keck) Ferguson|
|Sr. Stanislaus (Rose) Keck Mercy||Dennis A. & Florence Aaron Keck|
|Sr. M. Raphael Kerr OSB||Frank & Catherine (Markley) Kerr|
|Sr. Clara (Mary Ellen) Lynam||William Lynam & Mary Dwyer|
|Sr. M. Victorine McCue SSJ||Jacob & Elizabeth (Kerr) McCue|
|Sr. Anna McMillen Bl Sac.||Mike & Agnes (Aaron) McMillen|
|Sr. M. Franceline (Mary) Marsh RSM||Harry T. & Cecelia (O'Loughlin) Marsh|
|Sr. M. Laurentia (Mary) Mester RSM||Charles & Margaret (Castner) Mester|
|Sr. Bonaventure (Annie) Mineweaser Good Shepherd||Jacob & Scholastica (Van Milders) (Angles) Mineweaser|
|Sr. Leocadia (Gertrude) Myrter SSJ||Charles R. & Mary J. (Aaron) Myrter|
|Sr. M. Bernadette (Bernadette) Joseph O'Loughlin RSM||Coleman & Frances (Burgoon) O'Loughlin|
|Sr. Francis DeSales (Eugenia) O'Loughlin RSM||Coleman & Frances (Burgoon) O'Loughlin|
|Sr. Margaret Park Mercy||Charles & Mildred (Crate) Park|
|Sr. Mary Emerita (Catherine) Reinsel SSJ||Guy N. & Agnes (Weaver) Reinsel|
|Sr. Emily Rose (Marcella) Reinsel SSJ||Edward I. & Margaret Anne (Aaron) Reinsel|
|Sr. M. Jane Frances (Margaret Rosalie) Reinsel SSJ||Edward I. & Margaret Anne (Aaron) Reinsel|
|Sr. Mary Joseph (Margaret E.) Reinsel||John H. & Jane (Aaron) Reinsel|
|Sr. M. Louis (Clara) Reinsel SSJ||John H. & Jane (Aaron) Reinsel|
|Sr. Theresa Marie Shannon RSM||L. B. & Marie (O'Loughlin) Shannon|
|Sr. M. Anita (Virginia) Songer Mercy||James & Grace (Woods) Songer|
|Sr. M. Josephine (Josephine) Songer Mercy||James & Grace (Woods) Songer|
|Sr. M. St. John (Clara) Songer SSJ||Pentallion & Maria (Bridge) Songer|
|Sr. M. Angela Speaker RSM||George & Margaret (Crate) Speaker|
|Sr. Gabriel (Dora) Weaver SSJ||James & Sara (Kapp) Weaver|
|Sr. Mary Louise Weaver SSJ||John E. & Caroline (Schill) Weaver|
|Sr. Lois Ann (Margaret Elizabeth) Yeaney SSJ||Hasper E. & Lois Veronica (Reinsel) Yeaney|
Sister M. Corintha Aaron Holy Cross -- Sister M. DeSales Burgoon OSB -- Sister M. Rose Burgoon OSB -- Sister Euphemia Aaron, SSJ Sister Margaret Aaron, SSJ -- Sister Jane Francis Reinsel SSJ -- Sister Mary Modesta Ferguson SSJ Sister M. Vincent Aaron Mercy -- Sister M. Jeanette Connor SSJ -- Sister M. Joseph Reinsel Mercy -- Sister M. Stanislaus Keck Mercy
After the Civil War, a long period of internal peace, coinciding with an era of great industrial advancement, produced a period of intense growth in the Erie Diocese during Bishop Mullin's episcopacy (1868-1899). In 1870, he began his life-long efforts to promote Catholic elementary education. In that year, he welcomed the Sisters of Mercy from Pittsburgh to Titusville, where they replaced the Brigidines, who had disbanded. By 1876, the Benedictines had begun schools at Fryburg and Lucinda.
In the year 1880, Father James P. McCloskey responded to the Bishop's desire and engaged John Osborne to build a frame school and convent, including a chapel, for the Sisters at Crates.
Sister M. Lawrence Franklin, Archivist, Sisters of Mercy, has provided a history of those early days:
"The early Sisters of Mercy at Titusville was desirous of founding branch-houses in the tradition of Mother McAuley. However, this ambition could not be fulfilled until eleven years after their foundation. This delay was due, in part, to the difficulty the pastors experienced in organizing parochial schools. Moreover, the Congregation had few Sisters to spare, for during that first decade many of its promising members fell ill and died. This was due perhaps to the hard pioneer life and the inability of procuring adequate medical attention.
However, in 1881, Fr. James P. McCloskey invited the Sisters of Mercy to establish a school in the small farming center of Shannondale, Pa. The Sisters sent on this first mission were Sr. M. Aloysia Murray, Superior, Sister M. Nolasco Hughes and Sister M. Alexius Kehoe.
On the opposite side of the road and some distance from the convent were St. Nicholas Church and Rectory. The distance to the nearest railroad station, Mayville, was seven miles. Three miles up the road was the village of Shannondale, with its post office and general store. However, in about 1884, Mr. Frank Markley opened a general store opposite the convent. In it was established a post office with the official name of Crates.
Pioneer residents of Crates recall that it was pleasant and healthful in summer, but that it often reached below-freezing temperatures in winter. As a result of inadequate heating facilities in the convent, one of the pioneer Sisters, Sr. Alexius Kehoe, contracted pneumonia and was forced to return to the Titusville Motherhouse where she died Jan. 26, 1883.
Mass was said on week days at eight o'clock in the St. Nicholas Church in order that the Sisters and school children might attend before school began."
"The pupils came from a radius of about five miles, traveling for the most part on foot, as there were no automobiles then, nor could their parents bring them by horse-and buggy on week days.
Sunday, however, was different. The entire parish assembled at St. Nicholas Church for ten o'clock Mass. After services, the parishioners lingered outside the church chatting sociably or transacting business. When, on the fourth Sunday of every month, the pastor said Mass instead at the mission in Corsica, most of the Congregation traveled the seven miles distance in order to attend the Holy Sacrifice there.
After nineteen busy years in Crates, the Sisters of Mercy reluctantly closed the school in May, 1900. Under their instruction many students received the education that was to carry them through life and many religious vocations were fostered."
Sister Ruth Morkin, Archivist, Sisters of St. Benedict, Erie, Pa., has provided the continuation of the story.
"In the year 1916 while Mother M. Walburga Greiner was Prioress of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, an opportunity for more missionary activity was offered to her involving a parish of St. Nicholas of Tolentino, in the town of Crates, Pa., formerly known as Redbank, in the southern end of the Erie Diocese.
Over a century ago this tiny village emerged from the wilderness of western Pennsylvania, called to life by visiting priests in their pursuit of isolated pioneers. Foremost among these missionaries was the illustrious Prince-Priest Father Demetrius Augustine Gallitzen, whose holy steps broke the path for Catholicity to follow. Since 1928, the church of St. Nicholas of Tolentino was the center for Catholic service in this area.
A parochial school, St. Nicholas Academy, was opened in 1882, by the pastor Reverend James P. McCloskey, with the Sisters of Mercy from Titusville in charge. This school flourished for twenty years, but decreasing enrollment closed the school temporarily, until in 1916, Reverend Michael Fitzgerald requested the Benedictine Sisters of Erie to reopen it for his eighty pupils. The three sisters who were sent for this purpose in September, 1916, were Sisters Magdalena Ehrmann, Martina Zagst, and Germaine Miller.
The Erie Sisters served St. Nicholas Academy at Crates until 1921, when the school was again discontinued. The St. Nicholas Congregation, however, has been represented among the Erie Benedictines perpetually, by the entrance in 1917 of Sister Raphael Kerr, a member of the pioneer family of Kerr in that area. (Sister Raphael was the daughter of the late Francis Kerr, of Kingsville, Pa., and Catherine (Markley) Kerr of Fryburg.) Sister Raphael was born August 20, 1878, entered the Benedictine Community of Erie, June 27, 1917, and pronounced her final vows August 12, 1922. She died at St. Benedictine Motherhouse in Erie, Dec 14, 1943.
Following are the Benedictine Sisters who served at St. Nicholas Academy:
Church illumination was not a major problem in the 1800's for services were held only in the daytime, customarily in the morning. Candles provided light on the altars. Most churches had handsome kerosene lanterns, backed by shiny metal shields, attached to the wall after 1860. A picture of the interior of the church at an early time shows such a kerosene lamp on the right side of the altar.
The present church when built had a large coal burning furnace situated in the middle of the basement; the hot air came into the body of the church through three large grilles in the center aisle and two more on each side aisle.
Then came the widespread use of natural gas with its ease and cleanliness of burning for heat and its brilliance for illumination. Churches naturally adopted this modern convenience and ours was no exception. The fire box of the old furnace was converted to gas by installation of several burners. It soon became apparent that the air vent in the center of the roof had to go because of the heat loss.
To supply the necessary gas, the St. Nicholas Oil and Gas Company was formed to drill a well on the church property.
On Sept. 14, 1915, Bishop John E. Fitzmaurice, Bishop of Erie, leased a plot of ground containing two acres, more or less, to the St. Nicholas Gas and Oil Company. This company was comprised of parishioners and villagers who were interested in supplying gas for the parish buildings.
A well was drilled in the lot across the road from the church (generally north of the present church) to the Bradford sand (approximately 2,600 feet) and sufficient gas was struck to keep and maintain the well.
Free gas was to be supplied to the church, rectory and school. Gas was sold to some villagers of Crates and at one time was piped two miles away to customers to provide money to cover expenses. The longer lines (bought and installed by the users) were eliminated when these purchasers had gas wells drilled on their own lands.
Fr. Michael Fitzgerald, Pastor, H. P. Aaron, Frank Kerr, A. A. Aaron, Wm. Lichtenberger (driller), F. X. Markley, M. W. Osborne, J. F. Aaron, Thomas S. Aaron, Ralph N. Reinsel, B. G. Aaron, S. J. Connor, D. A. Keck, B. P. Slattery, S. G. Burgoon, Geo. P. Aaron, C. A. Gallagher, Wm. Weaver, S. B. Connor, L. B. Shannon, Mrs. Mary A. Keck, D. Slattery.
The first manager was H. P. Aaron, who held this position until his death in 1952, when his son, Clyde Aaron, became the manager and has held the position until the present time.
First Secretary-Treasurer was Frank Kerr, followed by B. P. Slattery, Fred Markley, Norbert J. Aaron, and Eileen (Aaron) Love.
The first Caretaker was Ralph Reinsel followed by Norbert J. Aaron, until his death on January 10, 1978 at the well, while working to maintain pressure during a bitter cold day. Mr. Aaron was caretaker for more than 40 years and on many a cold night was called to maintain gas pressure supply to the company users. He also advanced money for maintenance and supplies when the treasury was low, and to him is due the respect and thanks of the grateful (and warm) parishioners and customers. He was 84 years old when he died.
Aside from the comfort of the customers and parishioners, the St. Nicholas Gas and Oil Company contributed a great deal to the social life and activities of the parish, villagers, and indeed to the entire area. Without the gas supply, it would not have been possible to have the many meetings, parties, dinners, basketball games and the famous dances which added to the social and religious development of the parish.
Back in 1915 when the spot for the gas well was selected, it was found that the location of the recreation hall interfered with the drilling activities, so Father Michael Fitzgerald moved the hall to the rear of the school-convent complex. The center-fold picture of the Centennial Activities clearly shows this line-up of buildings. In the left edge of the picture can be seen a row of stables for horses also.
After the Sisters of St. Benedict closed the school and departed in 1921, the convent was rented to various families of the parish, among whom where the families of Bob Reinsel, Walter Aaron, Dan Markley, and Fred Markley. Mrs. Catherine (Markley) Reinsel recalls playing "church" in the chapel when she was a small child. Eventually, around,
1936, the convent and school were torn down and the salvageable materials were used in the new home of Mr. and Mrs. Lester Aaron.
About 1922, Father John Ring moved the recreation hall again, somewhat closer to the highway to the spot where it now stands, enlarged and remodeled it. The bleachers added at this time permitted spectators to enjoy the basketball games played with visiting teams from the towns for many miles around.
Saturday night at Crates' square dances became a legend in our times. Scarcely a person of middle age or older has not danced at Crates in his/her younger days. The story is told that one good pastor kept order himself from his place on the upper bleachers. More than one unruly or obstreperous patron suffered a lump from a rap of his gold headed cane.
Around the turn of the century the big picnics would be followed by a dance in the evening. The crowds would be so large that there was hardly room to move around.
The picture below shows one of the bands that played at Crates in 1926 and 1927. Standing left to right are: Deemer White, Dick Faulk, Harold Bish, Frank Scribner, Gene Richards, and El Radcliffe. This particular band played at Crates every other Tuesday, earning $3.00 a night for playing from 9 o'clock to 1 A.M. The other Tuesday night they played at the Brookville County Club.
A generation earlier, Gene Richard's mother played the organ with a dance group at Crates; the others being her father, Herbert Siar, her brother, Malcalm Siar, and Daniel Long. Mrs. Richards was then Mabel Siar. They would hire a rig from Jim Moore's livery stable in Brookville, go to Crates and play for the dance, then return home.
From the earliest days, people of German and Irish descent made up the congregation of St. Nicholas of Tolentino at Crates. The same family names remained on the parish rolls generation after generation. Their common bond was the land, but they were also skilled artisans -- carpenters, masons, woodsmen. For cash money, many worked at iron furnaces or coke ovens, family coal mines, lumbering, hauling. Later the railroads, coal, oil, and gas provided employment to supplement farming.
In 1912, the Diocesan Orbit cites Crates as being "a congregation of about sixty families, all of whom are engaged in agricultural pursuits St. Nicholas being situated some seven or eight miles from the nearest village and railroad station, it is not an uncommon sight to see Catholic families driving to Mass on Sunday morning from a radius of five to eight miles."
From 1916, there was an addition to the ethnic make-up of the congregation as indicated by the following names of parents of children baptized during those years. Other names are found in the published marriage and death records.
These families were recruited to work in the mines at Summerville by the Pennsy Coal Company. Mines #10 and #6 were opened on top of the hill to the left and right of Route 28; #5 and #7 up the valley toward Toad Hollow. The Pennsy Coal Company, formed about 1910, was owned and controlled by a group of gentlemen from Danville and Franklin, principally by General William Miller, who was also principal stockholder and later owner of the L E F & C Railroad. During the first years of service from 1904, the road operated under the name of Pittsburgh, Summerville and Clarion Railroad. Under its first president and principle stockholder, Charles F. Heidrick, and General Miller, the railroad developed a bituminous coal transportation system based on local mines.
General Miller acquired ownership of the property in 1913 and it was under his leadership that the line became the Lake Erie, Franklin and Clarion Railroad. The Pennsy Coal Company went bankrupt and sold all of its mining interests to N. R. Coverly of Pittsburgh who took possession on January 1, 1923, for a reported million and a half dollars. The mining operations of the Pennsy Coal Company comprised the largest industrial enterprise in Summerville, employing from two hundred to as many as five hundred men, many of them recruited from the mining regions around Pittsburgh, Apollo, Freeport, and Kittanning. Some came by way of Indiana and Punxsutawney. The aftermath of World War I and the Great Depression resulted in the mines being shut down, and the miners and their families moved to other mining towns away from the area.
The Pennsy Mining Company did not provide company churches for the miners in Summerville as other mining companies did in other places.
Summerville never did have a large Catholic population. If Mass were ever celebrated there, a logical place might have been at the boarding house of B. F. Osborn, a Catholic, whose establishment was called the Osborn House and was in 1888, "large, handsome and convenient, and considerably patronized as a summer resort". No such event was ever recorded there.
The Summerville Catholics were accustomed to attending Mass at Crates, Brookville, or at Conifer, a mining town in Beaver Township, Jefferson County. After the last pastor of St. Anthony of Padua parish at Conifer, Rev. R. L. Simendinger, closed that place about 1925, and because the aging Fr. F. J. Wagner of Brookville could not properly attend the needs of the Catholics of Conifer and Summerville, these Catholics were assigned to Crates.
Father Raymond Simendinger in his efforts to provide the first regular Mass schedule at St. Ann's drove to Corsica via Shannondale and Brookville, a two hour journey over muddy roads. This was when he later became Pastor of Crates.
A "Pinchot" type road was laid past the church about 1933. Paving of Route 28 from Summerville south toward New Bethlehem, in addition to bringing good roads, brought a construction foreman, Mr. Joseph Skidmore, who liked the area and its people, married a local girl and became an active worker in many activities of the parish.
Father Raymond A. Geiger began using a four-page pamphlet which was called The Monthly Church Record, which he intended to be a "permanent record of constructive activity."
In a June 1937 issue, he commended the men who renovated the cemetery and repaired the grave markers. Their names are worthy of listing again for they are typical of how such work gets done: Jerome W. Reinsel, Nate Kerr, Blaise A. Crate, Jerome F. Aaron, Bernard Zagst, Arthur Aaron, Harold Reinsel, Bernard Slattery, Denis A. Keck, Harry P. Aaron, Harry Harrison, Charles Gallagher, Ted Kerr, John Zagst, George Keck, Charles Cyphert, Martin Aaron, Frank Crate, Charles Henry, Harry Reinsel, and Sylvester Aaron. Can't you see this group of men working together again in your mind's eye?
In the same issue he tells that spruce and juniper trees were planted recently in St. Nicholas Cemetery and were purchased from a memorial fund to which the following contributed: Thomas S. Aaron, Dominic Geiger, Florence Shannon (in memory of her parents), Mr. and Mrs. Harry P. Aaron, Mr. & Mrs. Nate Kerr, Jerome F. Aaron, Bernard P. Slattery, Mr. and Mrs. Harry Connor, Mrs. Kate Reinsel, Father Geiger, Bernard Zagst, Denis A. Keck, Joseph I. Reinsel, Mrs. R. N. Reinsel, Mary G. Aaron, and D. O. Cyphert. Today, these plantings are stately trees, except for the few which were downed by storms.
Before the renovation of the cemetery in 1937, the burial place had become a jungle of weeds and briers. Here and there, individual families looked after their own plots but the cemetery generally was neglected. At one time, a wire fence enclosed the cemetery; the entrance was up a steep grade facing the church at the opposite side of the present entrance. The funeral processions passed through an iron arch with ornate lettering: St. Nicholas Cemetery.
There was formed at this time a loosely organized cemetery association whose members have maintained the attractive appearance of this cemetery that we have come to expect. However, the membership has dwindled and today the Parish Council must look to this work. Warren George is the present secretary of the association and has held that post for many years. Hazel Kemmer has been the caretaker for many years also.
Father Geiger's writing ability was put to good use, when on his next assignment he was named editor of the newly formed Lake Shore Visitor Register, the first issue which appeared Friday, April 19, 1938.
Father Charles J. Hackerl used the same instrument, The Monthly Church Record, to comment, advise, exhort, and inform the people. People who have saved their issues of this bulletin prize them highly.
A tragic event happened on December 14, 1947. Father Hacherl, enroute from St. Marys to Crates with a load of new light fixtures for the sanctuary of St. Nicholas Church, slid on icy pavement and hit a tree. Father Hacherl was badly injured, the car wrecked, but the lights were not completely destroyed.
Father Hacherl wrote to his parishioners from his hospital bed informing them he had arranged for substitute priests, counseling and advising, and urging them to continue with the plans that had been made for the two parishes.
Father Hacherl was in the hospital for approximately six months (and many times thereafter, for the lingering effects plagued him always) during which time the following supply priests took care of the needs of St. Nicholas and St. Ann's; Fr. John Bartolomucci, TOR; and three SVD priests: Fr. Emil LeCoge, Fr. T. L. Putz, and Fr. John Kist.
The plans mentioned by Father Hacherl included:
Father Hacherl was pastor at Crates until September 1950, when Fr. Joseph Grode came and stayed until July 1951.
Father Hacherl returned and served until October 1954, during which time he was able with the assistance of his parishioners to accomplish all his objectives.
In June 1950 issue of the bulletin, Father Hacherl complained acidly about the eighteen interested listeners who shared his Party Line on the Summerville Exchange. He had been a Navy Chaplain in WW II and sometimes "at unearthly hour of 1:30 a.m. some boisterous and celebrating shipmate of former days would break the awful stillness of the night with four long rings on the party line." He told them if their ears burned from listening, it was their own fault for they were curious beyond the ordinary. He told them it was a sin of stealing because they weakened the Red Bank System to the point that they could not deliver the message which had been paid for by someone else.
Alas, his fuming was to no avail! The custom of "rubbering" among country folk was too deeply entrenched -- after all, how else could one keep abreast of the local news? It was for this purpose they had set poles, bought the telephones -- hand cranked, wall type battery phones -- and contracted with the Summerville Telephone Company (chartered 1896) for service to the outside world. It was possible to call another party on the party line and not bother "central" by merely turning the crank on the side of the phone, i.e., "four longs" for the rectory. The "telephone book" was a sheet of paper tacked up by the phone listing neighbors in this manner: N. Aaron 1L 1S, Joe Reinsel 3S, F. Markley 1L 1S 1L, etc. Sometimes the list was written to look like Morse Code. The Redbank Telephone Com. strung lines thru Crates about 1910.
The use of the bulletin, in one form or another, has continued to this day. Father Donald Cooper prepares a one page schedule of Masses, Altar Boy assignment, Offertory schedule, announcements, and scriptural passages. This information is typed on the inside of a folded sheet; the outside contains a purchased copyrighted instruction. The bulletin, at times, contains inserts related to changes in the church such as the New Rite of Penance and Communion in Hand.
The Monthly Missalette contains, in English, the Order of Mass, Prayers, Scriptural Readings and Music for the Liturgy of the day. It has largely supplanted the privately owned Our Sunday Missal, The Treasury of Prayers or the Mission Manual that our grandparents and parents dog-eared so lovingly.
In 1912, the Diocesan Orbit reported the Crates under Fr. Michael Fitzgerald that "A number of societies are attached to the church and all are reported in flourishing condition."
We are unable to document the societies referred to. One of the church windows was given by the Catholic Mutual Benefit Association, Branch 128, which would indicate that this organization existed in 1893. The following is a list of known societies:
Our famous picnics. Today the church hall is most frequently used for church dinners and annual Fourth of July Picnic. In 1951, Fr. Hacherl wrote about the picnics:
"The custom of coming together in festive mood to enjoy the produce of field and garden has long been established in St. Nicholas Church. The oldest members of the parish still cherish memories of more primitive occasions when the people gathered with well-filled baskets and spent the day together at a picnic. As the years have passed by, the nature of these gatherings are more for the entertainment of visitors than for the enjoyment of the parishioners." At another time he wrote, "Annual church dinners or picnics are the means for small country churches to raise funds which they themselves could not manage. Church dinners and picnics are a means of survival, and therefore a necessity."
In the year of the sesquicentennial, we find that the Altar Rosary Society has been the organizing genius behind the parish picnics as fund raising activities for more than thirty-one years.
The Altar and Rosary Society was re-organized by Fr. Charles Hacherl, on October 7, 1947, with twenty-four ladies being charter members. It met monthly since then, except for January, February and March.
The purpose of the Society is to assist the pastor in caring for the material needs of the church, especially the Sanctuary of God, and to pray for the living and deceased members of the parish, and to do corporal works of mercy. All of these objectives have been accomplished in a valiant manner as even a cursory inspection of their work will attest: from the daily and weekly housekeeping tasks in the church and hall -- washing and mending linens, decorating altars, and all the work that goes on behind the scenes -- to the all-congregation effort of the Annual Picnics.
Their first project was to raise money for installing the electrical system in the parish buildings. West Penn Power Company had set poles through village in 1938. The pole in front of the church at the crossroads was set in 1948, to which the church lines were attached. This electrical system supplanted an electric generator which had been installed in the basement of the church in 1924 and which supplied an erratic source of power for the church and rectory. Barney Aaron was one of which several men who did their best to keep this generator in operation.
Their most recent projects were to assist in raising money for roofing the church, new copper gutters, painting and decorating the interior and exterior of the church, installing new oil and gas furnaces, and new carpeting in preparation for the sesquicentennial.
In between these projects, funds were raised for furnishing and refurbishing the kitchens and restrooms in the hall and several major renovations of the church and rectory, including painting and carpeting, and converting the rectory to a CCD Center.
These were accomplished by numerous on-goings activities: weekly dances, parish tureen dinners, card parties, quilting and needleworking, dinners for organizations, wedding and funerals.
These projects were all achieved through the cooperation, assistance, and labor of the men, women and children of the parish.
The spiritual works have included praying the rosary at their monthly meetings, observance of special days, prayer, gifts to the mission and missionaries, cards, gifts, and visits to shut-ins, promulgating Sacred heart leaflets, collecting and packing clothes for annual clothing drives, and providing flowers and lights for the altars.
Presidents of the Altar and Rosary Society:
|Mrs. Nate Kerr||1947-48|
|Mrs. Mark Aaron||1948-49; 1959-60|
|Miss Mary Agnes Shannon||1949-1950|
|Miss Rose Zagst||1950-51|
|Mrs. Steve Aaron||1951-52|
|Mrs. Robert Reinsel||1952-53|
|Mrs. Joseph Skidmore||1953-54; 1955-56; 1964-65; 1966-66; 1967-68; 1970-71; 1971-72|
|Miss Beatrice Aaron||1954-55|
|Mrs. P.A. Fiscus||1956-57; 1963-64|
|Mrs. Warren George||1957-58; 1960-61|
|Mrs. Thomas Kossman||1958-59; 1961-62; 1962-63|
|Miss Loretta Aaron||1965-66|
|Miss Margaret Aaron||1968-69; 1969-70; 1972-73; 1973-74; 1974-75; 1975-76|
|Mrs. Darl Kennemuth||1976-77|
|Mrs. Charles Miller||1977-78|
The rectory at Crates was built and occupied by Rev. Bernard McGivney in 1872. In its over a century of existence, it has been a parish house intermittently as the seat of the parish fluctuated between Crates and New Bethlehem. The following priests have called it home during their tenure here:
|Joannes T. Smith||1887-1887|
|Patrick J. Dwyer||1898-1910|
|R. L. Simendinger||1930-1936|
|Raymond A. Geiger||1936-1938|
|Paul I. Wursch||1938-1944|
|B. F. McEntire||1945-1946|
|Joseph E. McTague||1946-1947|
|Charles J. Hacherl||1947-1950; 51-56|
|Joseph J. Grode||1950-1951|
|Joseph Burke||part-time until 1965|
Two priests were called to their eternal home while they lived here and are buried in the cemetery at St. Nicholas. Their tombstones are side by side on top of the hill near the center of the upper cemetery.
Rev. John T. Smith was born in County Cavan, Ireland, in 1798. He studied at Ballymacue and All Hallows, Ireland and at St. Bonaventure. He was ordained by Rt. Rev. Tobias Mullen, D. D., June 7, 1874. He was already old and very ill when he arrived at Crates in the year 1887 and lived only a few months dying September 21, 1887.
Rev. Paul Ignatius Wursch was born at New York City in 1898. He attended grade school in the public and parochial schools of New York City. He studied classics at St. Charles College, Baltimore, Md., and Cathedral College, N. Y.; Philosophy at Collegio Angelico, Rome; Theology at St. Bonaventure Seminary; obtained a Mastership of Arts Degree at St. Bonaventure in 1922; and ordained in St. Bonaventure Church, Allegany, N. Y. by Rt. Rev. John M. Gannon, D. D., on Sunday, July 15, 1923. He celebrated his First Mass in the church of St. Ignatius Loyola, N. Y. C., July 22, 1923.
He was appointed Assistant at Sacred Heart, Erie; Assistant at St. Titus, Titusville; Pastor at Holy Cross, Brandy Camp; Pastor at St. Walburga, Titusville. He was pastor of St. Nicholas, Crates, from 1939 until his death. He died suddenly, August 24, 1944, in the rectory at Crates. The funeral and burial were at Crates.
Rt. Rev. John Mark Gannon, Bishop of Erie, presided at the Solemn Requiem Mass with Rev. M. N. Glynn, Celebrant; Rev. Alexis A. Fisher, Deacon; Rev. F. J. Turner, Sub-Deacon; and Rev. Daniel E. Fitzpatrick, Preacher.
In 1962, New Bethlehem, Crates and Seminole became a parish unit; Corisca, Sigel, Brookville were combined as a unit.
Father Burke began a building and renovating program at St. Charles, New Bethlehem, involving a new recreation hall and a new rectory. When both were completed around 1965, he moved to the new facility and used the Crates rectory only occasionally. Since that time, all the succeeding pastors have lived at New Bethlehem.
The following excerpts are from an article in the Lake Shore Visitor Register in December 1955, written by Mary Agnes Shannon.
"A Christmastide attraction in Clarion County is the Lourdes Grotto located on the lawn of St. Nicholas Tolentino Church at Crates, which provides a natural setting for the crib of Bethlehem.
Passing motorists, as well as the entire community, stop to meditate at the crib in the grotto, which is made resplendent with evergreens and many colored lights. Miss Florence Shannon, who cares for the grotto from early spring until late fall, arranged the Christmas scene in the grotto.
Midnight mass will be sung by the Pastor, Rev. Joseph T. Barry, assisted by Rev. Peter Farrell, O. P. Christmas hymns and music are scheduled for forty-five minutes before Midnight Mass. An all-girl choir, directed by Mrs. Wendell Love, will sing the Mass, with Mrs. Norbert Aaron at the organ.
On the second Sunday of each month, Fr. Barry has the high school students of St. Nicholas and St. Ann's meet at 8 PM in the St. Nicholas Church Hall for study club."
Beside calling to mind some of the history of Fr. Barry's time, it also reminds us of other organists who have served over the years: George Crate, Anna Mae Crate Markley, Rose Markley Aaron, Adelaide Markley Aaron, Marcella Reinsel (Sr. Emily Rose, SSJ). Bernadette Carlos Reynolds, Marlene Aaron Zwibel, Bea Collett Snyder.
Bea Collette Snyder is the present organist. The present choir director is Miss Marie Pucalik, who also leads the congregational singing. Miss Pucalik is Chairperson for the Liturgy Committee for the sesquicentennial.
Identification of the picture on the preceding page: Sixtieth Wedding Anniversary. First row, left to right: Mrs. Tom Bollinger, Flora Aaron, Mr. and Mrs. T. Ledwith Aaron, Father Paul I. Wursch, Mrs. Marjorie Burrey, Dennis Aaron, Sister M. Cyril. Second row: Kenneth Wilson, Mrs. Dorothy Wilson, Mr. and Mrs. Bert Aaron, Mrs. John Q. Aaron, John Q. Aaron, John C. Burrey, and Mrs. Lillian McGarvey.
Flora Aaron wrote the article for the New Bethlehem Leader of Sept. 6, 1928, from which these excerpts are taken.
"Beginning with Tuesday, August 28th, the 100th, or Centennial Anniversary of St. Nicholas of Tolentino Parish, at Crates, Pa., was celebrated by two days of most impressive and interesting ceremonies, closing with a spectacular religious pageant on Wednesday afternoon.
Tuesday, August 28, 1928, at the appointed hour 9:00 A. M., a procession formed at the rectory, headed by an acolyte carrying the cross, followed by the children of the parish between the ages of six and sixteen years. The boys, ranked according to size, came first with clasped hands, bowed heads, and down-cast eyes, the girls next in the same formation, dressed in white, wearing veils and carrying bouquets of flowers; next in order, the visiting priests followed by the Monsignori, who preceded the Rt. Rev. John Mark Gannon, DD., DCL, LLD, Bishop of Erie, attended by six pages.
The St. Charles band played Onward Christian Soldiers as the procession marched slowly into the church, where the Bishop honored the occasion by pontificating at Solemn High Mass at the opening ceremony with scores of priest present.
Assisting the Bishop at the mass, were the Rev. John P. Kearns, LLD, of Greenville as assistant priest; The Rev. S. H. Cauley, of Erie and the Rev. F. J. Wagner, of Brookville, as Deacons of honor; The Rev. A. H. Wierbinski, Johnsonburg, as Deacon; and the Rev. A.A. Fisher, Clarion, as Sub-Deacon; The Very Rev. Msg. R. T. Guilfoyle and the Rev. John Ring as Master-of-Ceremonies; The Rev. Frank Theobald as Thuriferarius; the Rev. F. J. Graves, P. R. and the Rev. Edward J. Pawlikowski, as acolytes, and the Rev. Michael S. Robaczewski, Erie, as cross bearer.
A priest's choir, under the direction of Rev. James J. Kearns, sang the Mass and also provided the music during the Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament. In the priests'choir were the Rev. Harry A. Simpson, the Rev. Urban S. Barrett, the Rev. Louis J. Kelly, the Rev. John F. Walsh, the Rev. Frank J. Turner, the Rev. Joseph J. Downing, the Rev. Joseph O'Donnell, and the Rev. Charles A. Ward.
During the service in the church, the Rev. Daniel Fitzpatrick delivered an eloquent discourse, touching on the importance of such an event, which had brought together so many dignitaries of the church and prominent members of the laity. He dwelt on the dangers, hardships and privations of the Pioneers in the wilderness at a time the first St. Nicholas Church was erected, the strength of their faith and the need and consolation of religion, which had prompted them to erect a Church.
At the close of the service, the Rt. Rev. Bishop made a few remarks touching on the life of a man, who had been the inspiration that had raised him to the exalted position of Bishop of the Erie Diocese and thrilled all present when he said that man was the late Rev. Stephen Aaron who had been born and raised in the parish and received his early education at St. Nicholas Academy."
"At noon, a banquet was held in the school hall, where thirty-six priests and twenty-four nuns were served by the ladies of the congregation, while hundreds of plates were being served to people on the grounds.
At 3:00 P. M., the Rt. Rev. Bishop also presided at the solemn dedication of the Grotto of our Lady of Lourdes with the Rev. J. F. Kearns giving the dedicatory sermon. Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament which followed was given by Rev. Edward Pawlikowski."
"At 8:00 P. M., all assembled at the Recreation Building where they were entertained in various ways by games, music, dancing and renewing of old acquaintances and meeting new friends.
Wednesday, August 29, the exercises began at 9:00 A. M. with Solemn Requiem Mass celebrated by the Pastor, Rev. John Ring and offered for deceased priests, sisters, and members of the St. Nicholas Parish.
At 10:00 A. M., all assembled at the Recreation Park where luncheon was served to hundreds while more gathered for the Grand Spectacular Religious and Agricultural pageant showing religious and agricultural progress of the community during the past hundred years."
Replica of the first St. Nicholas Church 1928 Centennial Float
Replica of Log Cabin Home -- 1928 Centennial Float
Replica of Immigrant Family in a covered Wagon, Drawn by Oxen 1928 Centennial Float
St. Nicholas de Tolentino Catholic Church Redbank Limestone Township Clarion County PA Rev. P. Cosgrove, Pastor
Two pictures with text between. No caption on bottom picture. Top picture captioned: Replicas of Older Methods of Travel -- 1928 Centennial Parade
They linger outside the church chatting sociably or conducting business -- 1928 Centennial Celebration
A First Communion Class prepared by the Benedictine Sisters and Father Michael Fitzgerald
The pictured group standing on the proch of the St. Nicholas Convent is a Family Reunion which occurred sometime after the ordination of Father Francis P. Aaron, probably 1885 or 1886. Father Frank is third from the right in the straw hat. The names are not in order. William Aaron, F.X. Markley, Mrs. Frank Markley and baby, Daniel Henry, John T. Reinsel, Met Reinsel, Mrs. Mark Osborn, Mark Osborn and baby, John Clinger, George Clinger, Sibert Aaron, Andrew Aaron, Guy Reinsel, Mrs. James Cyphert, Frank Hasson, Virdie Osborn, Mark Osborn, Richard Reinsel, Katie McMahon, Levi Reinsel, Rose Reinsel, John Fiscus, Jane Aaron, Anna Fiscus, Jacob Fiscus, Rose Fiscus, Ellen Clinger, Maggie Aaron, Emma Aaron, Tillie Aaron, Minnie Connor, Charles Aaron, Clara Newhouse, Margaret Reinsel, Annie Newhouse, Laura Reinsel, Mrs. Andrew Aaron, Maggie Clinger, Bernard Reinsel, Arthur Cyphert, Julia Slattery, Mary Aaron, Cora Reinsel, Mary Slattery, Blanche Reinsel, Mrs. Ebbie Reinsel, Peter Reinsel, T. L. Aaron, Bernard Fiscus, John E. Aaron, Charles Henry, Frank Fiscus, Fr. Frank Aaron, Clara Osborn, Jennie Aaron, Jane Reinsel, John E. Aaron, Andrew Aaron baby, Al Connor, Andrew Fiscus.
The farm scene shows the property of Jonathan Reinsel taken about the same time as the above picture. The farm was later owned by Bernard Slattery, and now by Darl Kennemuth. The field where the rail fences and corn shocks are is now a deep pit made by coal stripping. The land will be restored to its original contour when the coal is taken out.
Confirmation Day with Rt. Rev. Mark Gannon. Father John Ring, Pastor, 1924
Views of the interior of the church illustrating some of the various styles of church adornment.
The smoky old coal furnace made frequent painting of the interior necessary. When saffording [sic] was needed the men went to the woods, cut poles the proper length to reach the ceiling, brought them into the church and upended them among the pews. Cross supports at the top held planking to make a working platform for the painters. About 1915, Paul Reinsel, son of Mr. and Mrs. Ed Reinsel, assisting with the erection of this platform, had carried a plank from one end of the church to the other. In the meantime, a plank had been moved so that the end was not on the cross support. On his return trip, he stepped on the unsupported end, plunged downward, but being young and supple he threw his arms across a horizontal support and saved himself. The plank he had stepped on continued straight down, through a seat on the right side of the church (evidence still visible on seat No. 60) and embedded itself in the floor.
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(1) The Recreation Hall. (2) Officers of the Altar and Rosary Society Barbara Fiscus, Sec. Marguerite Miller, Pres. Peggy Allison, V. Pres. Margaret Aaron, Treas.
Father Wursch attends the Sixtieth Wedding Anniversary of Mr. and Mrs. T. Ledwith and Susanna (Burgoon) Aaron, July 2, 1938.
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Choir Members Front Row: Marie Pucalik, Loretta Fiscus, Patricia Fiscus, Jack Callen Top Row: Bea Snyder, Marguerite Miller, Mary Fiscus, Barbara Fiscus, James F. Fiscus Organist: Bea Snyder
Benediction at the Grotto -- Dedication Ceremonies -- 1928.