IN CAMBRIA COUNTY
By The Rev., Modestus Wirtner, O. S. B.
THE REV. PETER HENRY
Pioneer Priest of the Aleghenies; Assistant
THE FOUNDER OF CARROLLTOWN,
The Rev. Peter Henry Lemke, O. S. B.
Among the many noble men, who in the 19th century following in the footsteps of Christ in the American Wilderness, followed the scattered flock of the Good Shepherd over the ocean, is one who had been assistant to Prince Gallitzin, and was the founder of Carrolltown and always wrote his name in the Church Register as Peter Henry Lemke, and later added, O.S.B., to his name. In his life we see fulfilled the words of Holy Scriptures: "Wonderful are the ways of the Lord."
He came from an arch-protestant family in an arch-protestant country. Father Lemke was born in Germany, at Rhena in Mecklenburg-Schwerin, on the 27th of July, 1795. His parents were respectable people; his father a magistrate, his mother the daughter of a vil-....[missing line of text] with them. From his aged grandfather young Lemke learned some prayers and imbibed some religious thoughts; but the doctor, a free-thinker undid this good work.
He was a talented lad, and fairly studious; with the aid of his grandfather and the doctor he acquired a good preliminary education. Many of the books given to him by the doctor were story books. The reading of Robinson Crusoe gave him the idea of becoming a second Robinson Crusoe. With a hatchet and handsaw and a basket of eatables he fled into the pine forest and built himself a hut. His pet dog betrayed him, the forester arrested him and restored him to his parents. When he was 14 years old his grandfather, his only friend, died. He then left for Schwerin, the principal town of Mecklenburg, where
there was a good high school. He passed a good examination and was admitted to the school. He then wrote to his father, who answered him stating that he would hardly be able to support him, yet gave him some support. Depending upon the charity of the people and by giving private lessons in music he supported himself. Here at Schwerin he became acquainted with a Catholic family. They invited him to church. It was a revelation to him, the service, the symbolic ceremonies, the devotion of the people compelled him to fall upon his knees. The sermon was a revelation to him. It pointed out to him the narrow way to heaven. After this he frequently went there when unobserved by his fellow students.
In 1813, being 18 years old, he was enthusiastic for German liberty and served during the war of 1813-1815 against Napoleon. Then he entered the Luthern seminary at Rostock in order to study for the ministry. Of his life and studies here he writes: "To confess the truth I did not study much, and I thank God that I did not; for the teaching of theology was of that sort that all sentiments of Christianity must have been extinguished in my soul then and there. We had professors, who would not blush to ridicule before an audience of beardless youngsters the most sacred misteries of revelation. The life of the students was nothing but a continuous rioting, drinking to excess, gambling and duelling etc." At first Lemke was drawn into this whirlpool of dissipation, again the grace of God came to his assistance. He met a fellow-student named Adler, older and farther advanced in his studies, a fallen away Catholic and a free-mason, yet he never lost his faith. Lemke became quite intimate with him and, with some other young men of a similar bent of mind made a private study of his Fory under Adler. The study of one of the books, "The Religion of Jesus Christ", by Stolberg, made a lasting impression on his mind, and brought Adler back to his Catholic religion. It soon became known that Adler was a Catholic, and was accused of being a Jesuit in disguise. One day he told Lemke that he was going to the Catholic church, the only one in the dukedom, and reconcile himself with the Church. Then he drew his certificate of membership in the Masonic lodge from his pocket and threw it into the fire. He also warned him never to join an association the ultimate aim of which is nothing else than to pave the road for antichrist.
His eyes were opened to see clearly the errors of Protestantism, yet not sufficiently to overcome the prejudice against Catholicism in which he had been reared. Adler, soon after, accepted the position of tutor and traveling companion of the son of a pious Catholic lady and left for Catholic Bavaria. Lemke was now called upon to take his examination. Being suspected of leaning towards Catholicism by some of his professors, he was pressed pretty hard, but passed quite satisfactory. He was duly licensed as a prebendary, in 1819.
Lemke a Luthern Preacher
When in a Catholic community a young man has been raised to the priesthood, he will, if possible celebrate his first Mass in his native place, and that is then a feast for the whole Parish. Now it is strange how the good people in those Protestant countries have kept up by tradition Catholic usages of that sort. He went to his
native village to preach his first sermon. Easter Sunday was fixed for his formal entry into the ministry. When the time arrived, he was in the pulpit, saw before him the congregation of familiar faces, of elders and playmates, all eager to hear what he had to say, but his memory at first failed him. The joy was too great, but he soon got command of himself and delivered an eloquent sermon. The day was one of joy and congratulations. He was now a minister of God.
His first position was that of tutor of two boys in a rich, noble family. He devoted himself conscientiously and energetically to his work. The puny, delicate, pothouse plants, he improved spiritually, intellectually and physically. They rose early in the morning, said their morning prayers, which he introduced, devoted themselves to stated hours of study, took regularly out door physical exercises regardless of the weather. In a short time they had rosy cheeks, became robust and manly and after three years training he presented them at the high school for examination which they passed with the highest honors.
In the meantime he renewed his acquaintance with his old pastor who lived only an half hours walk from the castle. The pastor was becoming old and feeble and required assistance which he tendered and was gratefully accepted. Some people surmised that Elizabeth, the pastor's daughter was the magnet that drew him there so frequently. If so it never unfolded itself into an open acknowledgement. At that time he knew nothing of the Blessed Virgin or of his Guarding Angel, but the image of Elizabeth often kept him from sinking into the mire in his student and especially in his military career.
Lemke preached for his old pastor and relieved him of many of his labors, and in return was treated as a member of the family. Also here he was the recipient of the grace of God, who claims his own. Once at table the conversation turned to old time Catholic customs and the pastor remarked that even this house gave evidence of the old Catholic practice of making liberal donations and bequests to the church. For example, a man, many years ago, made a donation to this parish of the original edition of Luther's works, which is in the garret. Up to the garret we went. To my great astonishment I saw a beautiful statue of the Blessed Virgin with the child. "Hallo! says I," "What is this?" The pastor answered, "I guess it has been standing, in olden Catholic times, on the altar." In another corner was the great Luther, covered with dust and cobwebs. "With your leave I will take these volumns home as a loan," says I, "Yes", says he, "You are welcome."
He spent all the time he could spare reading Luther, of whom he knew nothing except what he had gathered from Protestant historical works and heard from his Protestant professor and preachers. The more he read in the arch-reformer's work the more he became disgusted with him and lost his former high esteem, and when he came to his Table Talk and other passages of that sort, he saw in the arch-reformer only a low buffoom.
He was now in a great dilemma. His faith was lost. He was earning his living as a Lutheran preacher, in whose religion he now lost his faith. Where seek comfort? He wished to preach Jesus Christ, but according to what standard? There lived in the neighborhood a Moravian preacher, whom he visited. Him and his circle he found to be shallow and hypocritical. On one of his visits he looked
for a pipe, there were always an assortment in the corner, but all were gone. An old maid remarked: "My dear brother in Christ has discarded that sinful habit." "Yes," said he, "I have diligently been searching the Scriptures whether our sweet Lord and his apostles did smoke tobacco. when I was convinced they did not, I threw my whole smoking apparatus out of the window." "Why," said I, "did you not throw your wife after it, for to the best of my knowledge, they had no wives either?" Unfortunately the wife was present and Lemke found his presence undesirable.
In the neighboring parish a new pastor was to be elected. His friends and acquaintances were devising plans how to get him elected, but he refused the position. His honor and self respect forbad it. For three years he observed the work of Protestantism and it fell short of what he thought the Christian religion should be. He had been scandalized by trafic in sacred things, and by hypocracy in high places, and had lost his faith. He now resigned, his friends protested, but all in vain, he was determined to leave.
Lemke had now no religion. He resolved to travel, like Tom Moor's "Irish Gentleman in search of a religion". In the first part of the month of September, 1823, he arrived at Magdeburg, where King Frederick, William III, inaugurated a revival in religion. He stopped at a hotel where he met a reverend gentleman, and in the course of a conversation inquired, how the new Evangelican church of the king of Prussia was prospering among them. His reverence took a good pull at his mug, wiped his mouth and broke into a broad laugh. "We here do not want the king's union, we have been united long ago, but on our own principles. I am here the reformed or Calvinistic pastor and my colleague is called the Lutheran pastor, but I have done with the Heidelberg catechism and my colleague with the Augsburg confession, we do not quarrel nor bother our heads about obsolete forms of a biggotted time, but preach the morals of an enlightened Christianity." He next visited Halle, the stronghold of orthodox Lutheranism where he met even greater disappointment. He then visited Herrenhut, the headquarters of the Moravians, and found that they followed into the footsteps of the other sects. Despairing of getting his faith back again he bethought himself of his former friend Adler, now in Bavaria.
He immediately left for Ratisbon, where he arrived in November, 1823. He received a hearty welcome, and in the same evening Adler introduced him to Mr. Diepenbrock, who became his life long friend. Diepenbrock and he were of the same age, had served in the army and then almost lost his faith when the venerable Sailer appeared and saved him. Now he and several other young men were studying theology in preparation for their ordination by Sailer, who had in the meanwhile been raised to the episcopal dignity. With these men Lemke became acquainted, and a friendship, which death alone, solved, was the result. He also had the pleasure of being present at the ordination and at the first Mass of Diepenbrock, who later died as Cardinal and Bishop of Breslau in 1853. Not long afterwards he witnessed the celebration of the first Mass of another priest. The ceremonies of the Mass as well as the celebration and festivity made a deep impression upon his mind. When compared to his own void and empty initiation into the ministry, it was something grand.
Lemke a Catholic Priest
After he had lived here for eight months in the bright and warm atmosphere of Catholicity, he applied to Bishop Sailer for reception into the Catholic Church. The Bishop sent him to his seminary, under the direction of blessed Father Wittman for instructions. In the 21st of April, 1824, he made his profession of faith, was conditionally baptized and received into the Church by the Bishop, who celebrated Mass and administered the sacrament of Confirmation. Father Diepenbrock was his godfather. In the seminary at Regensburg he had made up his mind to be a priest. The Bishop approved his intention and sent him to Father Buchner, a country pastor living near Regensburg. There he made his theological course and was on the 11th of April, 1826, at the age of thirty years, ordained to the priesthood. On the 25th of April, St. Mark's day, he celebrated his first holy Mass in Buchner's church. His intimate friend Diepenbrock preached the sermon, using the text: "Behold I send you as lambs among wolves."
He was now appointed assistant to his dear friend Buchner with whom he remained three years and gained a practical knowledge of the duties of the priesthood. In 1829 he was called, through the influence of Father Diepenbrock, now secretary of the consistory, to Regensburg, where he was made a Vicar of the Chapter of the Cathedral with the extra duty of preaching to the garrison and of giving religious instructions to the students of the high school.
Frederick Schlosser, one of the rich patricians of Frankfort, a son of the sister of the celebrated Goethe, was converted to the Catholic Church together with his wife, the daughter of a rich banker of Frankford. He purchased a beautiful estate in Baden, near Heidelberg, which formerly belonged to the Jesuits and after the suppression of the Order passed through many hands. Schlosser made a most beautiful, a princely residence of it. The sanctuary of the old gothic church, which was almost in ruins, he had restored and newly blessed and received the privilege of having a house chaplain. In 1831 contrary to the advise of friend Diepenbrock, Lemke accepted the appointment as chaplain. However advantageous the chaplaincy may have been from a worldly point of view, he soon acknowledged that it gave him no occasion to exercise his priestly functions, except to say Mass and occasionally to hear a few confessions. It pricked his conscience that he did not follow Father Diepenbrock's advice. In order not to be idle he, with Schlosser's approbation, acted as overseer of the estate. Schlosser, a book worm, was too much absorbed in his library and museum to give any attention to the farm. Father Lemke placed reliable men and servants in the various departments, and brought the hitherto unprofitable estate into a high state of culture.
Lemke Goes to America
During the time of the vintage, 1833, Diepenbrock, Clemens Brentano, and Dr. Raes visited him at Neuberg, as the estate was now called. During their conversation they drifted onto the subject of the Foreign Missions, and Dr. Raes pulled out a letter from Francis Patrick Kenrick, Coadjutor Bishop of Philadelphia, which he read. The Bishop
deplores the lack of German priests and of the consequent loss of the Catholic faith among the German people. This would be something for you," said Brentan as a joke, "a young man endowed body and soul with all that is required for a laborer in the vineyard of the Lord, and here you are, like an article of luxury, growing fat and lusty, whilst our poor German Catholics in America are starving for want of spiritual food." All laughed, but the thrust went home. Lemke at this moment made the resolution of going to America.
During the following winter he matured his plans. With a letter of introduction from Dr. Raes to Bishop Kenrick, his exeat from the Bishop of Regensburg and his government passport he left on foot in early spring for Paris, from there he left on a steam boat, the first he had ever seen, for Hacre. Here there was a packet ready to sail for New York, unfortunately his baggage had not yet arrived, and he was obliged to wait five weeks for the next vessel. He now went to the pastor of the nearest church and received permission to say Mass there. Here were also a large number of Germans waiting for a ship to go to America. When they saw him in the church, they requested him to hear their confession. He received the necessary faculties and had the consolation of administering to their spiritual needs.
A few weeks later it came again to his knowledge that Divine Providence watches over man, that in all things we must be resigned to the will of God, that what often seems to us a curse or misfortune is really a blessing of God. He had a most prosperous and agreeable passage over the ocean in the ship Florida, and the first news that he heard, when the New York pilot came on board, was that the ship on which he was prevented going, had been lost with every soul on board. A few days later he took passage by steamer for Philadelphia. Here he arrived the same evening and went to Father Guth, with whom, after supper, he visited Bishop Kenrick. The Bishop gave him a cordial reception and appointed him assistant to Father Guth in Holy Trinity church in August, 1834.
The same night he began his missionary work in America. Shortly after midnight he was called to a cholera patient up in the Northern Liberties, near where St. Peter's church now stands, and being unacquainted with the streets, did not find the church before daybreak. As the pastor was ill and unable to do his work, Father Lemke was obliged to enter the confessional for a long session and sing High Mass. Only at noon was his work finished. A very propitious beginning.
Father Lemke observed that, although in a German parish, many of the parishioners could express themselves better in English when making their confessions than in German. In order to be fully equipped he must learn English. Bishop Kenrick as well as his talented brother, Peter, who afterwards became Bishop of St. Louis, felt it incumbent upon them for the proper performance of their duties to learn the German language and an opportunity was given him to learn English by becoming both teacher and pupil to two of the ablest devines in the country. At the invitation of the Bishop he daily went to the Bishop's house to get a lesson in English and in return to give one in German. Then something unexpected happened.
The trustee system of governing the churches was in vogue at Holy Trinity and from the very beginning was most repugnant to
Father Lemke In "Leben und Werken" he devotes pages 150-157 to this evil. It was soon the cause of his leaving Holy Trinity and seeking another place for his missionary activities. He himself related the Incident. A special celebration was being held by the Lutherans commemorative of Luther, and as Father Lemke had been a Lutheran and was particularly well posted about Luther, he preached a sermon on the following Sunday upon the life of Luther. After his return to the pastoral residence he was waited upon by a committee of the trustees that he was ushered into his room where he was eating his dinner. The Spokesman began by saying: "Your Rerevence, that was a very fine Sermon you preached today, but as we wish to live in harmony with out Protestant neighbors, we have come to tell you that you must not preach any more sermons like that in our church." Jumping to his feet and seizing the poker from the coal scuttle he thundered: "You tailors, you coblers! How dare you come in to tell me what to preach! Get out of here!" and without further ceremony he drove them out. Since that time he had a holy anger against trustees and pew rent. The next morning he related the tragic-comic story to the Bishop and requested a change. The Bishop then gave him permission to engage in missionary work in other parts of the diocese. This is just what he desired. It gave him the opportunity to visit Prince Gallitzin, with whose history he was familiar.
At this period there were only four German priests in the diocese, which was comprised of the states of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. During the time of this trip he was to minister to Catholics wherever he found them without a clergyman and that was almost everywhere. He would send word ahead to English priests who had stations, informing them of the fact, so that the German Catholics might be informed to prepare for the reception of the sacraments.
He left Philadelphia in the latter part of October, 1834, having assisted at Holy Trinity about two months. He does not give in his Autobiography a compete detail of his iterant mission. A letter to a friend published in Mainzer Monatschrift, 1835, is interesting. "In no country can one travel so expeditiously as here, that is between principal points where lines of communication have been established. Thus, for example, I started on my journey at 8 o'clock in the evening, from the place outside of the city along which the railroad passes, and to which I had been brought in an omnibus. There stood a whole row of cars, attached to one another, behind a number of freight cars, used for baggage, and in front of all an engine on iron rolling-gear. After a large company had seated themselves comfortably, either bag and baggage the singular caravan rolled out into the dark black night. When the sun arose, and I had quite leisurely finished my sleep, I was in Columbia, eighty English miles from Philadelphia." He stopped at many places, remained there a day or more, heard confessions, said Mass and preached. Whenever he heard of a family living off the main road of travel he visited them. He thus became acquainted with the hardships of the pioneers in the primitive forests of the country. In the letter just mentioned he describes one of his visits in an interesting manner.
"At a place along the Susquehanna a man, who spoke German, came to me and asked me to come to a place about fifteen miles farther out in the woods, where a number of German families lived, who had not seen a priest for a long time. . . I consented to go, and on the fol-
lowing day he was there, with two saddle-horses, as the use of a team was out of the question. We mounted and trotted briskly into the woods. Here I became acquainted for the first time with the American primeval forest. With European horses one would break his neck on such a journey, but these wind their way through thickets and jump fallen trees with wonderful nimbleness and security. After several hours' ride we again emerged into daylight, and I began to notice tilled fields, and the ascending smoke of dwellings. We halted in front of a large log house, and an old gentleman, with snow white locks, and an honest open face, helped me dismount with my traps, and led me into the house, to the hearth where whole logs were blazing. He is a Swiss, who as a young man came to this country, and upwards of thirty years ago came to this neighborhood. Five of his eight sons are already building their own homes and live around him, and in more recent times a number of other German families have settled there. I was now really in all respects in a new world. The old gentleman, a veritable patriarch, had just finished, when I arrived, cleaning a young pig, which was then stuck on a wooden spit, and roasted in front of the hearth. Every one understands some trade or handicraft, and everything that is used in the house is made in it. After our tasty evening banquet, while we were all sitting comfortably around the fire, the youngest son, a lad of about sixteen, who had slipped out of doors, tore open the door and whistled, at once three or four dogs sprang from under the table and bench and bounded out, the young people likewise jumped up and ran out, whereupon there was a most terrible noise outside. I asked the old gentleman what was the matter. "Ah", said he, "I suppose there is either a bear or wolf outside." "What! are there still such visitors here?" "Oh yes! plenty of them, although not quite so many as there were thirty years ago. In the evenings one frequently comes to the edge of the woods and looks about to see if some head of cattle has not been left out." I went out myself, and, followed the noise. A bear had taken refuge up a sugar-maple tree close by, up the sides of which the barking dogs were springing. "It is a pity", said I, "that it is too dark to shoot." "Oh! we will bring him down without shooting," said one of the boys, and away he ran to return in a moment with two axes. He and his brother took position, - like hailstones flew the chips, and in a moment the tree came crashing down. The poor bear made some desperate leaps, but before he could reach another tree the dogs were upon his neck, and he had all he could do to protect himself. Instantly one of the boys ran forward and ended the fight with his ax. The bear was now dragged into the house in triumph, and dressed. The smoked hams are here deemed a great luxury; but of the paws one knows nothing except that during the bear's lifetime they are not to be toyed with, and that after death they belong to the dogs. On this occasion, too, they were to be thrown to them, but I protested against such profanity, and begged that they be set before me for dinner on the following day as a ragout. I must admit however that the vivid recollection of the beloved panegyrist of bear's paws . . . and the old times were the best part of the feast. On the following morning the neighbors came together from all sides, and in the earliest dawn I was already sitting behind the fireplace on an old fir log hearing confessions. Later on in the same room, which served as kitchen, living, and work room, an altar was set up, that is a table, covered with a white fabric, and having on it two candles and a crucifix, was in place; the chalice and vestments which I had brought with me were
placed upon it; the aged patriarch waited upon me and served the Mass; all received Holy Communion and listened with the greatest devotion to my sermon. At the end of the divine service a young woman came galloping up, - for here all go on horseback, - with her four-weeks-old babe in front of her on the saddle. She had heard that a priest was here and brought her child to be baptized. The old gentleman stood for it with the most touching devotion, a duty which was unanimously assigned to him, as he had been father, grandfather, or godfather, to every one who had been born in these parts during the last thirty years; and had on Sundays read appropriate passages from Goffine to the neighbors assembled in his house; had prayed with them and had instructed the young people in their catechism. I am bound to say that I was filled with wonder at the healthy and correct religious views of these people, who had grown up in the woods; as also at the simplicity and purity of their lives. Here one sees the power of the Catholic faith; here, one for the first time fully realizes what is meant by tradition. Non-Catholics, who are thus left to themselves, and who are cut off from intercourse with the world, usually sink into obtuseness and impurity."
Father Lemke did not give the details of his itinerary, but the next place of which he wrote was Munster.
"I arrived at last in safety at Munster, a little village laid out by Irish people on a tableland of the Allegheny mountains, only three miles from Gallitzin's residence. The stage stopped at the house of a certain Peter Collins, a genuine Irishman, who kept the post office and the hotel. I entered and asked for my supper and a night's lodging. As I was called from the office, where a great many English-speaking people were gathered togeather, into a side room, the hostess as she noticed me making the sign of the Cross, and saying grace before eating, asked me - N. B. in English for the people were Irish - "Are you then a Catholic?" "Yes", "And possibly even a priest." "Yes!". "Now I really thought so when I saw you, and you inquired for Father Gallitzin." "Are you Catholics here about?" I asked. "Why certainly; in the entire neighborhood and for many miles around here there is not an un-Catholic bone to be found." And hereupon she ran into the other room. Her husband with cap in hand, which before he had not touched, hunted up a pair of slippers and insisted on taking care of my wet feet which he looked after with a certain ceremony that reminded me of the washing of feet during the early Christian times.
"Meanwhile also others came in, among them some Germans and I was like one at home among friends and acquaintances. When on the following morning after breakfast I spoke of paying, I almost gave offence. Instead of accepting the proffered pay thay had a saddled horse in front of the door for me in the custody of a boy who was to show me the way to Loretto through the woods, seven miles distant. We had not gone more than a mile or two into the woods when my guide called, "Here comes the priest," and before me I saw an old Reverend gentleman with snow-white hair, wide-brimmed, badly-worn hat, and a coat of homespun twill, but noble in bearing and mien - it was Gallitzin. I rode up and asked: "Are you really the pastor of Loretto?" "Yes, I am he." "Prince Gallitzin?" "At your service, I am that very exalted personage," saying this he laughed heartily. "You may perhaps wonder," he said, when I had presented to him a letter from the Bishop of Philadelphia, "at my singular retinue. But how can it be helped? We have not as yet, as you see, roads fit for wagons;
we should be either fast or upset every moment. I cannot any longer ride horseback, having injured myself by a fall, and it is also coming hard for me to walk; besides I have all the requirements for Mass to take with me. I am now on my way to a place where I have had for some years a station. You can now go on quietly to Loretto, and make yourself comfortable there. I shall be home this evening; or, if you like better, you can come with me, perhaps it may be of interest to you." I chose to accompany him, and after riding some miles through the woods we reached a genuine Pennsylvania farm house.
Father Lemke had a sketch made of this meeting, and an engraving from it for his biography of Gallitzin written some years after Gallitzin's death. He aimed to have the different persons and objects in the picture made as much like the originals as possible, and as there is no portrait of Prince Gallitzin extant, it is likely that this picture gives the best representation of him that we have. In a letter written, to his friend Judge Johnston, from Asbach, on September 16, 1859. he says of it: "Here is a nice picture for you. It will adorn a biography of Gallitzin which I am going to get printed and represents my first meeting with him between Munster and Loretto in 1834. Do you recognize the old gentleman in his well known locomotion! The boy with the shillalah pointing with his finger and saying, 'there is the priest coming, is Tom Collins, but him you will hardly recognize for his is only in half profile, nor (not Augustine Hott, his usual driver, but John McConnell) the driver, who shows no profile at all, neither one way nor the other, having occasion to adjust something at the gears. The very dogs are not forgotten. Ask Tom whether he remembers them. I do, and remember how the plebian cur of Munster was worried by the clerical mastiff'."
Father Lemke continues: "Here lived Joshua Parrish, one of the first settlers of that country, and the ancestor of a numerous posterity. The Catholics of the neighborhood, men, women and children, were already assembled in great numbers around the house, in which an altar was set up, its principal materials having been taken from the sled; Gallitzin then sat down in one corner of the house to hear confessions, and I in another corner, attended to a few Germans. The whole affair appeared very strange to me, but it was extremely touching to see the simple peasant home, with all its house furniture, and the great fireplace, in which there was roasting and boiling going on at the same time, changed into a church; while the people with their prayer books and their reverential manners, stood or knelt under the low projecting roof or under the trees, going in or out, just as their turn came for confession. After Mass, at which Father Gallitzin preached, and when a few children had been baptized, the altar was taken away, and the dinner table set in its place In a word it was so pleasant and friendly that involuntarily the love-feasts of the first christians came to my mind. In the afternoon we went slowly on our way, Gallitzin in his sled and I on horseback, arriving at nightfall at Loretto."
"The next day was Sunday. The people came very early in the morning, from all directions, to go to confession. At ten o'clock I celebrated High Mass, after the gospel Father Gallitzin came to the altar and preached an English sermon, at the close of which he introduced me formally to the Germans and told them that I would preach to them. There had been nothing of the kind intimated to me previously. When I spoke to him about it later, he laughed and said he wished to know whether I was fit for a missionary, for he would have
a treasure in one who could at a moment bring out the old and the new."
Father Lemke's stay here was brief. He probably visited also Blairsville, Sportsman Hall and Pittsburgh and then returned to Philadelphia, in the early part of December. In the meanwhile Father Gallitzin as well as Father Masquelet of Pittsburgh had written to the Bishop for an assistant. Apparently Father Gallitzin asked for Father Lemke. During his absence a Swiss priest had arrived in the city. When he reported his arrival to the Bishop he was given the choice of either remaining in Philadelphia or of going west. According to Dr. Flick, Father Lemke decided to take up his work either in Pittsburgh or with Father Gallitzin. He first went to Pittsburgh to assist Father Masquelet, but was not long in discovering that he preferred the mountains. His stay in the city was short, he made no entry there in the records. He then went to Loretto and presented himself for duty as assistant.
Lemke Pastor of Ebensburg, Pa.
Almost immediately Father Gallitzin conducted him to Ebensburg, and on December 23, 1834, installed him there as pastor. The venerable Prince went about all the morning, from one place to another, and I could not imagine what he had on hand. After dinner the matter was explained. He handed me a paper saying: Here is a list of the Catholics of the place. Each one has bound himself by this paper to contribute a certain sum annually for your support. There is a little church here, but for some time there has been no priest; the congregation is small and hardly able to support one. But you will stay in this house of Mr. John Ivory, there are some pretty rooms upstairs, Mrs. Ivory is a good cook, and will treat you in the best manner possible. I will pay (21) the board for you in advance, and in return you will come to me once a month to preach to the Germans, assist in the confessional; you will also have to attend to the stations and sick calls which I can no longer reach. "But I thought I was to live with you", said Father Lemke, "Well, you see", he said, "winter is near, and what is more, on these mountains winters are so severe and going about is so difficult that it will be much better for you to be here than with me."
One of Father Lemke's first acts after his arrival at Ebensburg was to apply for citizenship. He filed his first papers January 2, 1835, and on October 7, 1840, he took out his naturalization papers, Michael Dan Mageehan and John Murray swearing to his residence.
There was a German settlement at Hart's Sleeping Place, twelve miles north of Ebensburg, in Susquehanna Township, near the Headwaters of the western branch of the Susquehanna River. Here the settlers, directed by Father Gallitzin, built a pinelog church in 1829 and 1830. This church was blessed and dedicated in honor of St. Joseph on Sunday, October 10, 1830, by Rev. Demetrius Augustine, Prince Gallitzin. It was then attended from Ebensburg by Father James Bradley, November, 1830, to October, 1832, then again by Father Gallitzin, and on May 23, 1834, Rev. Terence McGirr was appointed by the Bishop, who immediately informed Father Gallitzin of the appointment.
So far these German Catholics never had the opportunity of receiving the sacraments in their church from a German priest. Father Gallitzin directed Father Lemke to pay them a visit. He stopped with John G. Miller, one of the earliest settlers of Northern Cambria, to whom he had sent word that he would celebrate Mass there on the feast of Epiphany. In his autobiography he gives quite an amusing description of the first service that he held at this church.
"On the evening of that holiday", he says, "Miller sent one of his boys with a sled. I wondered at the stir observed on my arrival in and about Miller's house. People had already gathered in, to go to confession. This could not be thought of to be done in the church; for it was dreadful cold and there was no ceiling, and the north winds whistled through the shingle roof and the cracks of the logs; so I sat down before Mrs. Miller's kitchen fire; a stove was yet an unknown luxury in the sitting room. Sunday morning at an early hour, I was again at my post before the kitchen fire, and was only now and then interrupted to baptize children, of whom there were a round dozen. We had at that time the privilege to celebrate Mass an hour after mid-day, otherwise I could not have got through.
When it was high time to adjourn to the church, Mr. Miller stepped up to me and said, "I expect your Reverence will sing a High Mass; we have no organ, but we can sing the Mass and I have engaged several of my country people. You know that in Alsace the people sing the Mass and Vespers in Latin, and my wife is a good singer." "Well," said I "sing on." My singers had arranged themselves on John Campbell's work bench, the only article of furniture in the church, which had been left since the construction of the altar and commenced singing, in a way which would have made me laugh, if I had not been highly edified with the zeal and religion of the good people. The good singer might have been a good singer half a century ago, but since she has become the mother of about a dozen of children and the grandmother of several dozen, and faced the storms of the Alleghanies for many a long year, her voice must have suffered considerably, for it sounded exactly like that of a young rooster making his first attempt at crowing. When there was a pause in the singing I imagined to hear some other singing outside or below. At the gospel I found out what it was. The faithful dogs had followed their masters and were sitting in front of the door, and as they had never heard the like they accompanied the singers. There I stood, with book in hand, ready to address the congregation, and there stood the congregation, waiting to hear what was to come, and outside the dogs would break out every now and then in a new burst of yelping and howling. At last I said: "Is there nobody present who has sense enough to drive those curs away?" Certainly, and the whole congregation ran out of the church, picking up clubs and snowballs, and I was compelled quietly to abide their return from the chase, before I could acquit myself of my sermon. This interruption had hardly ceased and been forgotten when another ludicrous incident occurred. I had brought along everything required for the celebration of the Mass, except the little tinkling bell. Squire Bender was the only man who understood serving Mass. He acted as sexton. Whilst arranging things behind the altar he discovered that there was no bell and therefore quietly procured a cow bell, with which he lustily rattled away at Sanctus." - (Northern Cambria News.)
Register of Baptisms
In The Parish Of Hart's Sleeping Place, Carrolltown And Ebensburg.
REGISTER OF MARRIAGES IN 1835
The Experiences of a Missionary
In his letter of January 29, 1835, published in the Mainzer Montschrift, he gives us his first experiences of his new field of labor. It is a vivid description of the life of a typical missionary. "I am now since the 23d of December here in Ebensburg, which is the principal town of Cambria County. But lest you get a wrong impression of what is meant by principal town, I must at once tell you that there is nothing to be seen here resembling a town except one large walled-up building with a tower, the court-house of the county or circuit, and very few houses which resemble the dwellings of Europeans: but mostly log and clap-board houses. As to paved streets and such like it is not to be thought of here; but instead one is compelled evenings to feel his way with a stick in order not to break his neck by falling over stumps. Prior to twenty years ago all this country roundabout was woods, and if one will now go one thousand steps away he will find himself again in the primitive forest. For these reasons the place looks more like a bivouc than a town, as for example such things as kitchens, cellars and other rooms and conveniences, which according to our ideas about human comforts are necessary, are not much to be thought of here and I am willing to bet that in this principal town there are not five doors to be found which can be locked. My host is one of the first magistrates, that is the collector and accountant of public revenues of the entire district, covering a territory of about four hundred miles, and besides, he carries on the carpenter trade and farming business without an apprentice; for apprentices and maid-servants are unknown here. The squire, also called the district judge, met me yesterday with a load of wood, which he himself had cut down and loaded. When I return from my horseback trip through the woods I lead my horse into the stable, unsaddle him and give him the attention which he needs; then I hang up my boots and coat, which are covered with several pounds of clay, to the fire, and seat myself before it; while the children climb up on my knee and the house-wife busies herself getting me something to eat. On the following morning the dried coat is rubbed out; the boots and the harness are cleaned, and so on. That I do these things does not strike any one as strange; but on the contrary I would be looked upon as singular if I did not do them. In the place itself there are only a few Catholic families and not one German soul. I can therefore not get a drink of water without asking for it in English and I am thus compelled to learn what the different things are used for. It is this very necessity which is of the very greatest importance to me. In Philadelphia or any other place, among German surroundings, I might have remained for
years and days without learning English; but here it comes without effort; methinks, indeed, the very winds blow here in English. I could wish that every missionary would find himself so situated as I am here. With a dictionary, grammar and English Classics, one may torment himself most dreadfully; and yet when he gets among these people, he understands about as much English as if he had never seen a letter of it. But when one is thrown among these people and with a dictionary at hand reads English diligently, he will get along rapidly. I have made a firm resolution not again to take up a German book until I have become as fluent in English as I am in my mother tongue; But English I will read in whatever may fall into my hands, and thus I have brought it so far in the short time, that I can entertain myself evenings, while sitting around the fire with the people of the house on all possible topics.
"I already hear confessions and administer the other sacraments in English and on last Sunday I even read the gospel and gave a short exhortation in English before the German sermon. I have here a wooden church just like a large Bavarian barn. In a circuit around about there live a great many Germans, most of whom are Catholics, and, as is generally the case, the Germans, according to long established custom prefer to settle in the woods; whilst the Irish, French and other emmigrants locate with the Americans in the cities, on the highways, and along the canals, and carry on trade and hotel business.
"These Germans come diligently and gladly to church although they often have to leave home at night in order to get here. On one Sunday of the month I go to Loretto, ten miles from here, and on a second Sunday, I go to the new settlement, twelve miles from here, where there are fifty four German Catholic families, mostly Alsatians and Rhenish Bavarians, who have thrown their resources together, and have built a church.
"During Easter time I will have to make a trip to Erie. I am already anticipating the pleasure of it; for I expect to make a detour in order to see the Falls of Niagra. Now you will want to know what resources I have here. I have non except what the people give me, and as the people have very little I likewise have very little; and I can really say that I have never in my life been so poor and at the same time so rich; for here I feel satisfied and happy, and have everything in abundance that is necessary for the maintenance and support of life; and for what purpose should I want money? My health becomes better with every hardship. In Philadelphia I was sick a good deal, and thought several times I was going to fall a victim to cholera. In regard to food and drink, it certainly fares badly with me, and since I have been in America I cannot think so hard of the children of Israel for having during their journey to the promised land frequently become dejected and discouraged when thinking of the fleshpots of Egypt."
Bishop Kenrick's diary: "July 9, 1835. I confirmed nine in the church of St. Patrick, Ebensburg. The Rev. (Peter Henry) Lemke has the charge of this congregation: but, though he is a very good man and conscientious in the care of souls, he hardly gets from the people the means of living. I decided to give him the charge also of the congregation of St. Joseph's in a place called Hart's Sleeping Place in this same County (of Cambria), and the congregation in the place
known as Johnstown. I requested him also to visit, at some stated times during the year, the faithful living in Centre and Clearfield Counties, until some other provision could be made for them.
"Towards evening I arrived at Loretto the house of the Rev. Demetrius A. Gallitzin. July the tenth, I gave confirmation to ninety-nine in the church of St. Michael at Loretto.
"July the twelfth day. I blessed solemnly the church of St. John Gaulbert in the town of Johnstown; and I announced that the Rev. Peter H. Lemke would be in charge, and that he is to visit the congregation once each month; I also confirmed twenty-nine persons in the same church.
"July the fourteenth day. I confirmed twenty-nine persons in the church of SS. Simon and Jude in the town of Blairsville. The Rev. James Stillinger has the care of this congregation.
"July the nineteenth day. I blessed solemnly, according to the form prescribed in the Roman Ritual, the church of St. Vincent de Paul, recently built on an estate near Youngstown. There were present, besides the pastor Rev. James Stillinger, the Rev. Peter Lemke, Rev. Patrick Rafferty, Rev. Francis Maurice Masquelet, and Rev. Hugh Mohan. The Rev. Peter Lemke preached in German."
Lemke Pastor of St. Joseph's Church
The settlers in the neighborhood of St. Joseph had been accustomed from the beginning to annually subscribe towards the support of the priest. When Father Lemke returned home he found himself again the recipient of esteem on the part of Father Gallitzin, who handed him a subscription list from the people of St. Joseph. The original subscription lists preserved in the archives of the American Catholic Historical Society in Philadelphia. A fac-simile copy may be seen in Caldwells Atlas of Cambria County, page 127.
"We, the undernamed subscribres of the Parish of St. Joseph's Church of Susquehanna promise to pay the Rev. Peter Lemkey in quarterly payments such sums of money set to our names for one yearly services at the church of St. Joseph. Commencing from the nineteenth of July A. D. 1835. N. B. August 23rd (22).
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