History of Luzerne County, Pennsylvania
by Henry C Bradsby
The following concerning the Catholic church was obligingly given mostly by Rev
M J Hoban,
in charge of the Ashley church.
The first priest that officially visited the Wyoming valley, so far as is now
known, was Rev James Pellentz,
who traveled up the river as far as Standing Stone, Bradford county, in 1787
or 1788. He incidentally visited the few Catholics that were here at that time
and probably reported to his superiors the conditions and the wants of the
people along the river up as far as Elmira, making his longest stop, it is
supposed, at Standing Stone, where he purchased property for £35. Father Dilhet
passed over much the same route in 1805, from Sunbury to the Catholics at
Frenchtown and further up, and administering, it is supposed, the church rites
to the Catholics here in private residences.
Individual Catholics were here from the very first. A paragraph in Miner's
history mentions "Thomas Neill, an Irishman of middle age, the most learned man
in the valley --
a Catholic, a high Mason [sic]
, fond of dress, remarkable for his fine flow of spirits and pleasing manners,
a bachelor and a schoolmaster, he was a favorite." With characteristic bravery
his Irish spirit broke out as the danger became pressing. "'The Yankees are the
weakest party -- the odds are against them; though I have no special interest
in the fight, so help me heaven! I'll take a turn with them,' Marching out with
Capt McKarrigan's company, July 3, 1778, he fell." This is Mr Miner's account
of the chivalric Irishman. As to the facts of his death on the battle-field
there is a mistake somewhere, as the inscription on the monument records Thomas
Neill as one who survived the battle.
Abraham Pike is a part and parcel of the history of the bloody days here -- an
Irishman. Then there is Michael Kelly, so familiar in the early history. He and
daughter were taken prisoners in 1779, as related by Miner. In the earliest
deeds are the names that are pure Irish -- Ryan, Murphy, McGuire, Mullen,
McMullen, Carey, Kelly, Sullivan, McCarthy, Devine, Neill, McKarrigan and
others. How many or whether all of these were Catholics is not positively known.
Stewart Pearce says that about 1828 Rev John Flynn came to Luzerne county and
traveled and traveled among its scattered people of his faith and extended to
them church privileges in their own houses and at temporary meetings. He
remained here three years, and was succeeded by Rev William Clancy, who made
his home in Carbondale, and built there a little church in 1832. After Clancy
came Rev Henry FitzSimmons in 1836, who attended the surrounding towns until
In what is now Luzerne county, after striking off the counties that once were
within its borders, the date for the establishment of the Catholic church here
in the full sense, may be fixed as in 1848, as before that time the scattered
congregation had been attended from Carbondale and other points. These pastoral
visits were mostly by Revs FitzSimmons and Prendergast.
Father Ethoffer was the first stationed in Wilkes-Barre, and this was in 1848.
He was followed by Father O'Shaughnessy for a short time, then came Rev Basil
Shorb, succeeded by Rev Casper Borgess and then again Rev Henry FitzSimmons in
In 1842 the wooden church building on Canal street was built by Father
FitzSimmons, and in 1845 a brick church was built on Canal street, where the
school is now. The congregation was mostly Germans and Irish, and in 1856 the
members had so increased that it was deemed advisable to divide the
congregation. The Germans took the wooden building and the Irish congregation
the brick church, where is now St Mary's parochial school. The rectors of the
German church were Fathers Schneider and Summer. Father Nagel, the present
rector of St Nicholas church, came here in 1858 and conducted the first service
in the then new church, now St Conrad's hall, corner of South and Washington
The corner-stone of the new St Nicholas church was laid in 1883; dedicated June
16, 1887. In an architectural point of view this ranks well with the finest
buildings in the city -- Gothic; and the architect was Mr Shickle, of New York.
Assistant pastors: Revs John Steinkirchner and Joseph Bilstein.
St Mary's Church, Washington street, is the outgrowth of the little wooden
church of 1840, under the ministrations of Rev Henry FitzSimmons. The present
large and handsome building was erected in 1872, valued at $250,000. The old
building is now St Mary's parochial school. The pastors in the order of coming
were Revs Henry FitzSimmons, 1840-7; Prendergast, 1847; Ethoffer, 1848; John
Loughman (sic), Shorb, 1849; Casper Burgess, Henry FitzSimmons, 1856; Dennis
O'Haran, 1869-89; Richard McAndrews, 1889, present in charge.
During the pastorate of Rev O'Haran the parochial residence and St Mary's
academy on Washington street built and parishes organized at Plymouth,
Nanticoke, Sugar Notch, Plainsville, Kingston, Parsons, and Ashley.
During the administration of Father McAndrew, a cyclone having wrecked the
steeple and damaged the front of the church, repairs were made and decorations
inside were made by Scataglia and the painting by Costagini. A marble altar was
built costing about $5,000.
The church was consecrated Sunday, May 3, 1891. Cardinal Gibbons was present;
evening services conducted by Archbishop Ryan of Philadelphia. Present of this
occasion: Bishops Phelan and McGovern, the latter saying mass. The consecration
by Bishop O'Hara. Assistant pastors: Revs James Jordan, William Nealon and John
St Mary's Catholic Church
(Polish) is a temporary church on Park avenue, built in 1887. The first pastor
was Adelbert Pelcgar. Present pastor is Francis Tomas Zewski; they have a brick
parsonage. The plans and arrangements for the erection of a church building at
a cost of $50,000 are now completed.
Upper Wilkes-Barre Greek Catholic Church
was attended by Rev Alexander Dzuboy.
The above constitute the Catholic churches of Wilkes-Barre. From St Mary's is
the Laurel Run church. In 1890 the old Mountain house was purchased and
converted into a convent, and in 1891 a frame church adjoining was erected.
Pittston Catholic Churches
Among the early settlers in Pittston was John Daley and family. Then came
Thomas Keatings in Cork Lane; James Moore, William Cuddy and Michael Sheridan;
in North Pittston were Thomas McCue, John Gallagher and Patrick Gerrity. These
families came, the first in 1841, and others soon thereafter. In 1841 Rev Henry
FitzSimmons, of Carbondale, made regular visits to Pittston, stopping with the
Daley family and Thomas McCue. In 1843 came Michael Reap, who became one of the
prominent merchants and business men of the place. In 1847 Rev Prendergast
visited the place until 1849; also Revs Basil Shorb and Etoffer. (sic) Through
the aid of Michael Reap and Rev John Loughran a piece of ground for a building
was secured on Church Hill, and St Mary's church erected -- a plain, modest,
Rev O'Shaughnessy in October, 1853, succeeded Loughran. He secured a lot on
William street, and in 1856 erected a new church building. He remained in
charge until 1857. September 20, 1858, Very Rev John Finnen, present pastor of
St John's church, was appointed to the place by Bishop Newman, as assistant to
Father O'Shaughnessy. October 17, 1858, the new St John's Evangelist church was
In 1882 the old St Mary's church was torn down, as it had not been used for
some time, an the new was built on Church Hill. The corner-stone was laid that
year, and the building blessed by Bishop O'Hara in 1883.
St John's Evangelist
-- The old St John's was torn down, and in its place was erected the present
magnificent stone building at a cost of over $100,000. It is expected that it
will be consecrated during the present winter. Assistant pastors at this
church, Revs Greve and Kelly.
St Mary's Church
, Pittston (German), was built by Father Nagel, and attended from Wilkes-Barre
until 1882, when it was cut off from Wilkes-Barre. First pastor, Rev Peter
Christ; then Rev Nichols Forbe; present pastor, Rev William Brehe, who also has
charge of the congregation at Duryea. The Poles are preparing to erect a church
building at the later place.
(Lithuanian) -- Pastor, Rev Joseph Zlotorzynski.
St Stanislaus Church
, Nanticoke, was built by Rev Benvenuto ewicz, who also built the schoolhouse;
he also built the Catholic church at Morgantown, whose present pastor is Andrew
St Vincent's Church
, Plymouth, was organized in 1872, from St Mary's, Wilkes-Barre, and a brick
building erected that year. This has been replaced by their present elegant
building, in the tower of which is the most musical bell in the county. The old
church is used for a parochial school. A comfortable parsonage has been built.
Pastors: Revs Richard Hennessy, 1872-6; Patrick Toner, 1877; T J Donahue,
1877-92. Assistant Pastor, Rev Peter Winters.
Nativity Blessed Virgin
, of Plymouth -- The congregation divided, the Poles retaining their church and
the Lithuanians built. Their pastor is Rev Baurba.
St Stephen's Church
(Hungarian), Plymouth, was built by Rev Jaskovitz, their present pastor.
Holy Angels Church
, Avondale, is attended from St Vincent's.
St Gabriel's Church
, Hazleton -- A brick church was erected on property donated by Ario Pardee in
1868; also a parsonage; church property valued at $50,000. Pastors: Rev Maloney
began the work as a mission. He was followed by Rev Michael L Scanlon, at whose
death Rev Filan took charge; in 1863 Rev Thomas C O'Hara succeeded and remained
until 1876; Rev R E Hennessy succeeded; in 1887, Rev J J Commisky; assistant,
Rev Edwin Fitzmaurice.
St Joseph's Church
, Hazleton (Hungarian), was organized by Rev Joseph Kasalko.
St Peter and Paul's Church
, Hazleton (Polish), Rev Peter Ambromoytys, pastor.
Holy Trinity Church
(German); under Father Nicholas Forbe, sent from Pittston.
(Italian), Hazleton, was organized by Rev Francis Chinso. He was succeeded by
Rev Joseph Girimondi, and he in turn by the present pastor, Rev Rizario Naski.
St Raphael's Church
, Black Creek, is attended from St Gabriel's.
St Mary's Church
, Frenchtown, also attended from St Gabriel's.
St Mary's Church
, Pleasant Valley;
organized 1875, by Father Finan, and church built; was formerly a part of
Pittston parish, and was cut off, and Father Crane, present pastor, was sent. A
parsonage was built and steeple put up, under Rev M F Crane.
St Patrick's Church
, White Haven; organized and building erected in 1866-7; a parsonage built the
next year, and in 1879 a commodious parochial school building, which was
visited by Revs FitzSimmons, Sharp, O'Shaughnessy, Sullivan, Noonan, Mullen,
Tracy, Fallihee, Bergan, Bergrath. The last named is the present pastor.
Sacred Heart Church
, Plains -- Here is a very nice frame church, a female convent under the charge
of the Sisters of Mercy, and a parsonage erected in 1884 under the auspices of
Rev J W Dunn, DD. He administered the affairs of the parish for two years, when
he died. He was succeeded in 1866 by Rev J C MacDermott, who died in June,
1888. The present pastor is Rev Mr Phillips, who succeeded Father MacDermott.
The church property, school and parsonage have increased in value since 1884
from $15,000 to $50,000. In 1891 there was an extensive cave-in which damaged
the church, school and parochial residence, these having been repaired and the
building remodeled and improved. Father O'Harren had purchased the hotel and
adjoining property, and Father Dunn made a school building of the hotel and
built the parsonage just north of the church. In 1891 Father Philips purchased
the brick house next to McKnight's store and changed it into a convent
building. Assistant pastor, Rev Anthony Roderick.
St Leo's Church
, Ashley, was organized November 13, 1887, being cut off from St Mary's of
Wilkes-Barre. Rev M J Hoban is in charge. Their building, an elegant brick, was
erected in 1890, at a cost of $25,000; not yet entirely completed. The total
cost when finished will aggregate $40,000. A very nice parsonage on the hill
was built in 1892. The first small church building is now St Leo's hall. The
first mass in the new church was said January 1, 1891, in the basement.
St Catherine's Church
, Fairview, is attended from Ashley. This church was built under the auspices
of Father Rea of Sugar Notch, from which place it was formerly attended.
St Charles Boromeo Church
, Sugar Notch, was organized 1875, by Rev Dennis O'Haran, and the church
building erected that year, which has a seating capacity of 700. It was made a
separate parish in 1879, with Rev Thomas Rea in charge. He has built a pastor's
house and added many improvements to the church building.
St Dominic's Church
, Parsons, was organized in 1883 and a church and parsonage built by Rev
Patrick Roche. He was succeeded by Rev Thomas Keenan.
St Francis Church
was organized in 1876 by Rev Dennis O'Haran and their building erected in
1879, when Rev A C Mattingly was in charge. He was followed in 1882 by Rev John
C McDermott. Present pastor is Rev Felix McGuckin. The latter built the new
church at Morgantown in 1889. At the same time he built the Polish church at
St Ignatius Church
, Kingston -- The building was erected in 1886, under charge of Rev John
Bergan. The parsonage was built in 1891. Present pastor is Rev john O'Malley.
Greek Catholic Church
, also at Kingston.
, Mill Creek -- First pastor was Rev Valentine Swynorski; a fine church
building and parsonage.
, Eckley -- Pastor, Rev Thomas Brehony. He attends from there several out
, Parsons -- Church building and parsonage built by Rev Patrick Roche; the
church in 1884, parsonage in 1886. Present pastor is Rev Thomas Keirnan.
St Ann's Church
, Drifton -- Pastor, Rev Michael J Fallihee; assistant McNally.
St Casimir's Church
, Freeland -- Their first stationed pastor was Rev Jodyzus; second, Rev Joseph
, Freeland -- Pastor, Rev Cyril Gulovics.
St Francis' Church
was cut off from Wilkes-Barre. First pastor, Rev Charles Mattingly, who died
in Philadelphia and was succeeded by Rev John McDermott, and he was succeeded
by Rev Felix McGuckin. The brick church was built by Rev O'Haran; residence by
Rev Mattingly, and the new convent by Rev McGuffin. (sic)
St Mary's Church
-- Pastor, Rev Michael F Crane; assistant pastor, Joseph McCabe; church
membership, 1,800; organist, Mary Whalen.