THE

BENEDICTINE FATHERS

IN CAMBRIA COUNTY
PENNSYLVANIA

Gold Cross

1925

By The Rev., Modestus Wirtner, O. S. B.

THE REV. PETER HENRY
LEMKE, O. S. B.

Pioneer Priest of the Aleghenies; Assistant
To The Rev. Prince Gallitzin

THE FOUNDER OF CARROLLTOWN,
PENNSYLVANIA

44 DIAMOND JUBILEE  

James Farrell 1.00   Joseph Huber 2.00
Thomas Elder 1.50 John Fresh 1.00
Jacob Klein 3.00 James Fagan 1.00
Michael Ballweber 1.00 Jacob Keebler 1.50
John Thomas 1.50 Henry Bender 2.00
Jas. Driskel 1.00 Michael Cunningham 1.00
Jacob Keefer 1.00 Jacob Nagel 2.00
Andrew Strittmatter 2.00 John Platt 2.00
Augustine Farabaugh 1.00 Francis Swam 2.00
Peter Zeiger 1.00 Michael Weakland of John 2.00
George Fresh 1.00 Sarah Byrne 2.00
George Moyers 1.00 William Baker 1.00
John Campbell 2.00 Conrad Hartman 1.00
Anthony Rudler 1.00 Landlin Gutwalt 1.50
Jacob Kuntz 1.00 John McConnell 1.00
Lewis Craver 1.00 Michael Murray 1.00
Michael Weakland 1.00 Michael Noon 0.50
Francis Gillesphy, Jr. 1.00 George Dumm 1.00
John Gillesphy 1.00 James Kennedy 1.00
Jacob Huber 1.00 Ulrich Strassler 1.50
Thomas Kirkpatrick 1.00 Michael Wasner 1.00
James Platt 1.00 Peter Woodley 1.00
Joseph Birrer 1.00 Frederick Baker 1.00
Nicklaus Swam 1.00 Frederick Fruesch 1.50

In the month of September, 1835, Bishop Kenrick wrote to Father Lemke directing him to meet him at Bellefonte to accompany him on a visitation tour throughout the western part of the state. Father Lemke promptly responded and met the Bishop at the appointed place. They traveled all over the country, generally in stage coaches, but frequently in farmers wagons. The Bishop examined into the condition of the various stations, dedicated churches, and administered the Sacrament of Confirmation. At many places Father Lemke was called upon to preach in German after the Bishop had preached in English.

After the Bishop had finished his visitation Father Lemke returned to his post of duty at Ebensburg. His spiritual activities extended over the whole county, except Loretto, and even there he attended the sick calls. Moreover he had also the care of Centre and Clearfield Counties, of which he was relieved in the summer of 1836. On one Sunday of the month he visited Loretto on account of the German Catholics; One Sunday St. Joseph's church, and on the third Sunday St. John's church, Johnstown, where there were twelve Catholic families with a large number of men working on the canal and the Portage Railroad. He and Father Gallitzin were the only priests in the county, but he did not complain, "but everywhere I went", he says in Leben and Werken, "I found it light work, for Gallitzin had been before me and commenced it, laying the solid foundation."

Hart's Sleeping Place, sometimes called the Weakland settlement, which formed the congregation of St. Joseph's church, had long seemed to Father Gallitzin well fitted to serve as the nucleus of another Catholic town, upon the plan which he had himself carried through, after years of toil and bitter opposition, and with keen penetration he saw in Father Lemke's immense energy and persistent nature, one well able to put the wish into practice, once he could be inspired with

  ST. BENEDICT'S CHURCH 45

The Old Chapel at Carrolltown, Pa.
"The Old Chapel" at Carrolltown, Pa.

  ST. BENEDICT'S CHURCH 46

the desire of undertaking it. "He was continually urging me," says Father Lemke, "to do there as he had done in Loretto, promising to give me every aid and assistance (23).

Lemke Buys a Farm at St. Joseph's Church

In the spring of 1837 Father Lemke was able to purchase 181 acres and 155 perches of land from one of the son's of John Weakland, adjoining the land on which St. Joseph's church was erected. It is now the Thomas Kirkpatrick estate. The deed was not recorded, as part of the farm was not yet patented.

Very Reverend D. A. Gallitzin to Rev. Thomas Heyden.

Loretto, Jan. 24, 1838.

Rev. and dear Friend.

Last spring Rev. Father Lemke, with the view of forming a permanent church establishment, hath purchased some improved land, for which he paid the first instalment. On the first of April he is obliged to pay two hundred dollars, as the former owner is going to remove to Illinois, and cannot possibly do without his money, unfortunately I am unable to assist my friend Lemke." (24).

Father Lemke moved onto his farm sometime in 1837 according to Rev. Oswald Moosmueller in St. Vincenz in Pennsylvania, page 26. He took into his house a pious widow, Mrs. Mary Koch, with her children, who brought her furniture and thus relieved him from the necessity of furnishing his home. From Hart's Sleeping Place he went in every direction where Catholic settlers were to be found. He was seldom at home, only one Sunday in the month, yet everything was well taken care of. He was a wonderful expert and fearless horseman. It was his delight, during his career as a missionary, to give to the admiring settlers exhibitions of his skill in riding and subduing wild and untrained colts.

An exhibition of this in the little town of Munster is described by Hon. Jas. J. Thomas in the Souvenir of Loretto Centenary page 272: "Father Lemke was on his way to Jefferson (Now Wilmore), and stopped for dinner at the tavern kept by Peter Collins. When the time came for him to resume his journey, the horse, a spirited young sorrel, was brought out in front of the tavern in readiness for the priest to mount. From the action and appearance of the animal the bystanders judged that this would be no easy matter; yet Father Lemke, taking the reins from the hostler and refusing all profferred assistance, jumped like a flash into the saddle. Then commenced the display of horsemanship. The animal had apparently made up his mind that he would throw Father Lemke, and that he would not go to Jefferson that day; yet during the whole scene of rearing, plunging and kicking the priest maintained his seat as if he were glued to it, all the time refusing to permit any of the spectators, who feared for his safety, to interfere. Despite the determination of the horse to have his own way he was compelled to yield to the stronger will and superior skill of his master; and eventually both he and his rider disappeared in a cloud of dust on the road to Jefferson."

The day book of Mr. Joseph (father of Lewis) Bearer, shows that Father Lemke hired men to clear the land in 1837, who off and on

  ST. BENEDICT'S CHURCH 47

Father Lemke's Dwelling at Carrolltown
Father Lemke's Dwelling at Carrolltown

  ST. BENEDICT'S CHURCH 48

continued the work until the land was sold and then also worked on the new purchase "The Curtis Clay Tract." When in 1839 Father Gallitzin heard that he intended to call the settlement at St. Joseph's in honor of his patron and friend, Gallitzin, the good old venerable missionary vigorously objected and suggested the name of Carrolltown in honor of Bishop Carroll, the first Bishop of the United States. Although it must have been a great trial for Father Lemke to yield the point so close to his heart, he did so and the town was to be called Carrolltown.

Bishop Kenrick's Diary: "July 17, 1839. We proceeded on horseback to the home of Prince Demetrius Gallitzin. I went the next day to Hart's Sleeping Place in Susquehanna Township, twelve miles distant from the home of Prince Gallitzin; there I confirmed seventy-three persons, in the church of St. Joseph, on the nineteenth day of July. Here lives the Rev. Father Lemke on land which he bought with his own personal money. There are about one hundred and twenty families in the congregation; they are generally poor people, but they are strong in practical piety and sincere worth. The pastor is much esteemed for his devotion to duty and zeal for religion. He requests, however, to be relieved of the burden of visiting the sick in Loretto, and also of the care of the faithful of the congregation in the town of Johnstown, because they are too far away.

"July 22, which was the seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost. I confirmed 128 persons in the church of St. Michael, Loretto. Seventy were confirmed the day before. The Rev. Peter Lemke celebrated the Mass.

"July 24, I went to Johnstown by railroad. I confirmed seventeen persons in this church. The Rev. Peter Lemke, who visits this mission the third Sunday of each month, assisted me."

Father Lemke records no baptisms in his Records from September 1839 to 1840, for Johnstown. The bishop's remark, that the people of St. Joseph's are generally poor, reminds me of one of Father Lemke's old stories: one day when he was in the clearing, burning logs, a bare footed young man with his bare foted girl came up to him and asked where they could find Father Lemke, for they wished to get married. He accompanied them to the parsonage, and then directed them to knock at the front door whilst he in the mean while entered the house by the rear door, washed himself, put on his clerical garb, then entered the office to receive the visitors. Knowing that the couple lived in the outskirts of the parish he directed them to the church, where he heard their confessions and then united them in the bonds of holy matrimony.

About this time Father Lemke, under the patronage and advise of Father Gallitzin, established two other missions, the one in the north-east at the Loup, later called St. Augustine, the other in the north at Glen Connell, later called St. Lawrence. A great many Catholic settlers had located there, and as the land around about was quite fertile they were fairly prosperous.

During lent, 1840, Father Gallitzin was not well. On Easter Sunday, after celebrating low Mass at a late hour, he was scarcely able to reach his room. Father Lemke was informed of the illness, but he himself was ill from a cut in the foot which he had given himself while chopping wood, and did not go to Loretto. A few days later Father

  ST. BENEDICT'S CHURCH 49

Gallitzin sent his sled, Father Lemke got out of his own bed of illness and late at night arrived at that of his friend. Dr. Armand Aristide Rodrigue, who was attending Father Gallitzin, gave it as his opinion that the illness would prove serious, so Father Lemke remained. Father Gallitzin died on the 6th of May. During his death agony Father Lemke and Father Heyden, who had meanwhile arrived, said the prayers for the dying, in the presence of Father Gallitzin's parishoners. Father Lemke took charge of the funeral, as Father Gallitzin had given him instructions. Rev. Father Heyden sang the Requiem Mass, assisted by the Rev. Fathers Bradley, McGirr, Lemke and Rattigan. Father Heyden preached the English sermon and Father Lemke the German. (25).

Upon Father Gallitzin's death, Father Lemke promptly announced the fact to the bishop and in reply to his message received orders to take charge of the Loretto congregation, and to make his residence at Loretto. Father Lemke was very loth to do this, as his own congregation, St. Joseph, and his property there would fall into decay. The bishop however insisted; so he took up the work at Loretto, at the same time continuing his missionary labors at other stations. He was now the only resident priest in the county. This fact necessitated an amount of labor on his part, hard at present to appreciate, or as the bishop expressed himself on October 29, 1830, in Father Gallitzin's case: "the work would require the strenuous labor of three priests at least."

Whilst engaged in his missionary labors, in the performance of which he constantly travelled from one end of the county to the other, either on foot or on horse-back, he gradually was impressed with the fact that Hart's Sleeping Place was not the most desirable place. It was not, he thought, the center of the Catholic population. He consequently decided to make a new settlement farther south, at a place which he believed to be the center of the Catholic population. A belief in which he was supported by many of the most prominent Catholics, and especially by Squire Bender, who was looked upon by all settlers as a paragon of wisdom. Squire Bender's views were strengthened by the fact that he had bought Hanna Shoefield's tract of 413 acres and 18 perches at a tax sale for 92 cents on the 30, June, 1834. (26) This land adjoined the "Curtis Clay Tract" which was now for sale. There were, however, some difficulties and opposition to be overcome. In the first place he had purchased a farm at Hart's Sleeping Place; and in the second, the settlers around Hart's Sleeping Place objected to the establishment of a new church within a few miles of their own.

The New Location of Carrolltown

In 1840 Father Lemke sold his farm at Hart's Sleeping Place to John Ivory, his former host at Ebensburg, on the installment plan and on the 5th of February 1844 (27) handed him the deed. He then immediately bought on the 22nd of June, 1840 (28), from William S. Vaux, executor, The Curtis Clay Tract of land consisting of 395 acres, then owned by the heirs of George Vaux, and now the site on which Carrolltown is situated. With all the energy and enthusiasm of his nature Father Lemke applied himself to the founding of his projected settlement. Old settlers for miles around, who had learned to regard

  ST. BENEDICT'S CHURCH 50

him with tender affection, flocked to his assistance, and gave him in labor in clearing the forest what they could not give in money. He encouraged settlers to buy land, clearing forests, making roads, being to them all for the time, lawyer, doctor, and priest in one. His unfailing cheerfulness, hope and aid did much to encourage and sustain the many homeless emigrants who began to flock there. Looking for a proper location for his house he discovered a vein of coal which (29) was promptly opened. His day book shows that the first person in 1841 to be charged for coal was: "Dr. Pfaff got 27 bu. coal at 10 cts, per bu.; Peter Urban got 10 bu. coal at 10 cts. per bu.; sold 45 bu. coal to a stranger for 45 cts."

Father Lemke says in his Autobiography: "John Campbell had been living on the land and cleared some acres on the choicest spot around his cottage, so that I had an opening to erect a substantial log house with cellar and spring house and a frame house with chapel, and got about twenty acres of wood land cleared, all in the first year." On the southern (30) slope of a hill, with the assistance of thirty volunteers, he built over a spring, the source of the West Branch of the Susquehanna River, a two story house, the lower story being a spring house and cellar, the upper story a living room and a kitchen; a covered porch encircled three sides of the building and a bell was placed in the south gable. Peter Gauntner (31) did the mason work and Peter Urban looked after the carpenter work. Twenty paces north east of the house he built a log chapel. Later he added a frame addition to it, thus it became a small church in which Sunday early Mass was celebrated for the people living in the vicinity of Carrolltown and late Mass at St. Joseph until Christmas 1850. The dwelling house is in a fair condition at the present time.

Bishop Kenrick's Diary: "Aug. 21, 1840, I confirmed 30 in the church of St. John Gaulbert, Johnstown.

"Aug. 22, 1840. I blessed a church under the invocation of St. Bartholomew, near Jefferson. I confirmed also 40 persons.

"Aug. 23, 1840. I confirmed 120 in the church of St. Michael, at Loretto. The Rev. Peter Lemke has the administration of this congregation since the month of May of this present year, when, on the sixth day, the Rev. Demetrius A. Gallitzin departed out of this life."

The Rev. Matthew W. Gibson was ordained by Bishop Kenrick, in August, 1841, and was sent to assist Father Lemke at Loretto. He said his first Mass there on September the eighth. He assisted at Loretto in 1841, but soon judged himself capable of taking sole charge of a congregation. Accordingly in 1842 Father Lemke imitated Father Gallitzin's example by installing Father Gibson in the center of his missionary work, namely at St. Bartholomew, Jefferson, where the people desired a resident priest. The Baptismal Records, preserved at Loretto, show us the extent of his missions.

"Register of Baptisms, Marriages, etc., of the mission which comprises Ebensburg, Summit, Jefferson (Wilmore), Johnstown, Recevoir (South Fork Dam) from the first of October, 1841, when I Matthew William Gibson received Jurisdiction from the Rt. Rev. Francis Patrick Kenrick, Bishop of Philadelphia." Other places mentioned in the Records are Viaduct and Halfway House.

  ST. BENEDICT'S CHURCH 51

Father Lemke attended Loretto, Hart's Sleeping Place and these stations: at Ashville he celebrated Mass in the residence of (32) Joseph Conrad in a room later called the 'Mass Room'; at the Loup, (St. Augustine) in the residence of Thomas Adams, of Henry Kreis and when the attendance became larger, in the school house down towards the Beaver Dam, according to some, perhaps also in the house of Francis Hoover, close to the present church; at Glen Connel (33) (St. Lawrence) in the house of Martin Ballweber, then of Jacob Gill and finally in that of John Thomas, an 1824 settler, who had the largest house and near the present church.

The Rev. Lemke to M. A. Frenaye, of Philadelphia.

Loretto, Pa., July 6, 1843.

". . . . . My respects to the Bishop and tell him that the Rev. M. Gibson lives now since about, 6 or 7 weeks, with me at Loretto, and also that I have investigated the affairs of the church in Jefferson and saw no great danger and difficulties as have been expected." (34).

These difficulties were overcome by Father Lemke giving Father Gibson work in the parish of Loretto, but he himself now spent most of his time at Carrolltown, looking eagerly forward to the day when Carrolltown would be a reality.

In 1843 the diocese of Pittsburgh was erected with the Rt. Rev. Michael O'Connor, D. D., as the first Bishop. There were in the diocese 14 priests, 33 churches, a Catholic population of nearly 45,000, 12,000 being of German origin. The status of Cambria county was: Loretto, St. Michael's, frame, 1800; Jefferson (now Wilmore), St. Bartholomew's, stone, 550; Johnstown, St. John Gaulbert's, brick, 400; Ebensburg, St. Patrick's, frame, 250; Hart's Sleeping Place, St. Joseph's log, 300; Summit, St. Aloysius' church in course of construction, frame, 500. The Rev. H. Lemke and the Rev. M. Gibson.

In the last week of February 1844 Father Gibson left for Worchester, Mass. The Bishop then sent the Rev. Andrew P. Gibbs and Thomas B. O'Flaherty as assistants. Father Lemke gave the pastoral residence at Loretto over to the assistants for the time being, and he resided principally at Carrolltown.

This arrangement gave him more time to oversee the clearing of the neglected site for his town. In the fall the bishop sent a third priest to Loretto. Father Kittel in "The Souvenir of Loretto Centenary" page 67 states: "Rev. Hugh Patrick Gallagher became pastor (of Loretto) September 27, 1844, and remained until 1852." He made his first baptismal entry October 1844. Father Lemke made his last baptismal entry in Loretto on October 12, 1844. Now he was able to devote his whole spare time to his settlement. When he had conceived the idea of founding a town, he fondly looked forward to a time, when he could build a fine church there, but sufficient funds were lacking. Now before he began his final work he desired to spend a vacation in Europe. He distinctly states in his Autobiography that he did not ask the favor of being allowed to collect money in Europe. He wrote to the bishop for leave of absence to spend a vacation in Germany. "The Bishop granted me, not only leave of absence, but authorized me in writing to engage in his name German priests for the new diocese." (35).

  ST. BENEDICT'S CHURCH 52

Lemke Takes a Vacation

On October 14, 1844 Father Lemke handed Mr. Christopher Ruh a deed for 60 acres of land which he sold him for $160.00. He arranged his affairs for a temporary absence. On December 1st the first Sunday in Advent he celebrated Mass in St. Joseph's church and bade farewell to his parishoners, and said Mass again on Christmas day in the cathedral of Strasburg.

He was cordially received by his old friends in Germany and was given an attentative ear to all that he had to relate of the new world. The first person among his friends whom he met was Dr. Raes, whose poignant joke in Schlosser's castle gave to America one of her most zealous and successful missionaries. His dear patron and friend, Bishop Sailer, was dead, and also his successor, Bishop Wittman. At Saltzberg he was present at the consecration of his dear friend Diepenbrock as Prince-Bishop of Breslau. Bishop Diepenbrock offered him a position in his diocese, but Father Lemke thought that the Germans of Carrolltown were in greater need of his assistance than those of Breslau. His old patron Schlosser gave him five hundred florins for his church in America and King Louis of Munich gave him 3,000 florin for the same purpose. Bishop Diepenbrock, later Cardinal, in 1850, offered him any and as many books of his library as he wished to take along.

Father Lemke was of the opinion that in America there was a large field of activities for a conservative Order such as that of St. Benedict. In a letter of January 29th, 1835, he wrote: "What think you, my dearest friend; would it not be a great thing if a number of congenial religious and lay brothers would settle among these plain, honest people, and would, according to the old Benedictine custom, clear up forests, and engage in teaching the arts and sciences, pray and educate the people? The necessary freedom for such work exists here and land can be bought, many thousands acres, at from one to two dollars an acre, but where is the money to come from for such a purpose? If the ground were purchased, the rest would follow. The messengers of the gospel did not thrive in our German forests in carriages; nor did they in the beginning live in palatial monasteries. This is really the only way in which Catholicity will ever get a proper foothold here, and will be enabled to influence the lives of the people of this country. Every thing else is lamentable patchwork, and, depend upon it, I have already learned the full meaning of this proposition." (Mainzer Monatschrift.)

In Munich he met several Benedictines of the Monastery of Metten, who had charge of the Royal Institute of Munich. The Benedictines showed a disposition to learn all they could about America, and he availed himself of the opportuinty to plant in their minds his ideals about the field of labor for them there. After dinner Father Boniface Wimmer, O.S.B., informed him that he had read the Catholic papers and the Annals of the Foreign Missions, and, learning of the death of German priests in America, made up his mind long ago to go there and found a Monastery; in fact he had now the approbation of the Papal Nuntius in Munich Monsignor Morichini, of the Coadjutor Bishop Prince Reisach and of the Directors of the St. Louis Mission Society. Father Lemke urged him to establish his community in the

  ST. BENEDICT'S CHURCH 53

diocese of Pittsburgh, at the same time offering his land as a site for the Monastery and himself as a candidate for admission into the new community.

After ten months of vacation Lemke, rich in tokens of friendship, money, books, vestments, etc., returned to his American missions. He went directly, with boxes and baggage, to Loretto to make his monthly visit to the German Catholics of the congregation. From there he went to Carrolltown and engaged Augustine Farabaugh to transfer his boxes from Germany to the residence of John Wirtner, Sr., who should store them in his storeroom in the tannery, about a half mile south of Bradley Junction. The last baptismal record entered into the Records of St. Joseph's church by the priest from Loretto was dated Oct. 21, 1845. Father Lemke made the next entry on Oct. 26, the last Sunday of the month.

The Rev. Boniface Wimmer, O. S. B.

Father Boniface Wimmer, with the consent of his Abbot, wrote to Bishop Michael O'Connor for permission to establish a monastery in his diocese. The bishop cheerfully gave his consent. He also wrote to Father Lemke that, the bishop having given his consent to the establishing of the monastery, he and his companions would leave next summer for Carrolltown. In the meanwhile he announced in the papers that he was ready to receive vocations and assistance for the new monastery to be established in America. In the following year Father Lemke bought 79 acres of land on the 5th of June, 1846. Some weeks later he received another letter stating that Father Wimmer and his companions would leave for America during the last week of July. Father Lemke then bought 226 acres more on the 14th of September. Rt. Rev. William Quarter, Bishop of Chicago, had heard of the intended monastery in America, also wrote to father Wimmer, inviting him to come to his diocese. Father Boniface Wimmer and companions left Metten on July 25, 1846. (36). At Rotterdam they boarded the ship Iowa, and after a peasant voyage landed at New York on the 16th of September. On board the ship Father Wimmer wrote his second letter to Bishop O'Connor, which he mailed in New York.

Boniface Wimmer's reception in America was not encouraging. Father Lemke was not there to meet him. Prominent ecclesiastics, to whom he had letters of introduction, shrugged their shoulders in pity when they heard of his project. He was informed that others had already tried to do what he now intended and failed. Nay, there had been a Trappist Monastery began at Carrolltown and was abandoned. Lemke is only seeking a buyer for his poor land. But Father Wimmer was a man of remarkable courage and will-power and hence these representations did not cause him to falter. "I have come so far and with the help of God I will try." Three days later (37) when he was about to leave the New York depot for Philadelphia he met Father Lemke. Father Lemke was introduced to each member, but what a disappointment. In place of a twenty fully fledged Benedictines there was only one, Father Boniface Wimmer, four students of theology, who expected to become Benedictine priests, and fifteen were to become lay brothers. Under the present circumstances he could not make up his mind to become a Benedictine.

  ST. BENEDICT'S CHURCH 54

Rt. Rev. Boniface Wimmer, O.S.B.
RT. REV. BONIFACE WIMMER, O. S. B.
Founder of St. Vincent Archabbey

  ST. BENEDICT'S CHURCH 55

He escorted Father Wimmer and his companions by railroad on September 19, to Philadelphia, where they remained only one day, then to Columbia where they went by canal to Hollidaysburg. Here a number of teams were secured to take their baggage to Ebensburg. The candidates walked to Carrolltown, where they arrived on Wednesday September 30th, the day on which Bishop O'Connor held the first diocesan synod.

Father Wimmer began to take his bearings. His first impression of his new home was rather disappointing; not much land was under cultivation, and that was studded with stumps; the roads were rough, stony and hilly. In a valley, almost surrounded by hills, there was a farmhouse and a barn, a short distance away there was another house in course of construction, St. Joseph's church was about three miles father northward. Here then the little colony was to erect a monastery.

Bishop O'Connor promptly answered Father Wimmer's letter, which is preserved in the St. Vincent Archabbey archive. He says that "I can not explain how it happened that you did not meet Father Lemke who had gone to New York for that very purpose. In a few words I give you a cordial welcome and I look forward with exceedingly great pleasure to see a monastery of St. Benedict erected in this diocese. Be not solicitous about the conditions, which I placed in my former letter to you, for they will be made agreeable to you and for the good of religion. I am pleased that you say you have the intention to call upon me in Pittsburgh. The best time would be next week when we are holding the diocesan synod and on the first Sunday of October the church of the Redemptorist Fathers is to be blessed with great solemnity. I will receive you with great pleasure and I thank God that you have given this new sign of good will toward our diocese. I am sure that before you receive this letter you will have seen Father Lemke who will give you all the information of which you speak."

I commend myself to your prayers and remain your most humble servant in Christ.

M. O'CONNOR,          
Ep. Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh, 25 Sept. 1846

Father Lemke offered to sell Father Wimmer his land at Carrolltown, and this offer Father Wimmer thankfully took into favorable consideration. But now he must pay his respects to Bishop O'Connor and seek his advice. He met with a cordial reception and welcome into the diocese. The principal subject was, of course, Father Wimmer's project. The Bishop was favorably impressed and offered to assist the young Benedictine colony in every possible way. He, being better informed, did not consider Carrolltown a favorable location for the future monastery and seminary. In lieu thereof, he offered St. Vincent's in Westmoreland County, which had many advantages over the mountain town. On the following day the bishop, in company with Father Wimmer, visited the place. Here he saw a brick church, a brick parochial residence and other buildings, situated in center of a large area of fertile and gently sloping land, many acres of which had been brought under clean cultivation. The location commanded a magnificent view of the surrounding country, and in particular of the

  ST. BENEDICT'S CHURCH 56

Rt. Rev. Aurelius Stehle, O. S. B.
RT. REV. AURELIUS STEHLE, O. S. B.
Abbott St. Vincent's Archabbey

  ST. BENEDICT'S CHURCH 57

beautiful wooded Chestnut Ridge on the eastern horizon. The country was settled by many German Catholics, the climate was milder and the projected Pittsburgh-Philadelphia railroad would pass near by, which would be of the greatest advantage to the seminary.

Without committing himself any way Father Wimmer returned to Carrolltown. Here he found everybody busy. He made known the bishop's offer to his companions, and its many advantages over Carrolltown. Before they came to a decision, a petition, signed by almost all the members of St. Vincent congregation, was handed to Wimmer inviting and entreating him to locate in their midst. Father Wimmer now informed Father Lemke, to his great disappointment that he would not buy his farm. To such a degree was this disappointment shared by the good people around Carrolltown, that there was some difficulty in getting them to help Father Wimmer away with his luggage (38). They had been most desirous to have a religious community in their midst, and now that their wishes in this matter were about to be gratified, they were most loth to give up the opportunity. Father Wimmer made up his mind on the 15th of October, 1846, to leave the following day.

After the Benedictines had gone Father Lemke rearranged his plans. For nearly two years he fostered the idea of assisting in founding the monastery, and becoming a member of the community. He made great preparations for their coming, went to New York to meet them and was disappointed in seeing only one, so that he could not make up his mind to join them. He would at least offer them his land for the monastery and thus become instrumental in founding it, but now all his hopes were blasted. The land which he bought he now sold to an advantage. The first tract of 79 acres he sold on Nov. 7th to John Flick; the other tract of 226 acres he sold on Nov. 3, to Bernard Lambour, his hired man, who was anxious to have his family come here from Germany. Father Lemke told Lambour that the farm was advantageously situated and that some day a town would be built there and that he reserves 15 acres for the church. This agreement was not made in writing but was an agreement made between gentlemen. (Thus Sr. Martha Lambour, granddaughter of B. Lambour) St. Nicholas Church was built in 1866 and the village was called St. Nicholas but later changed on account of the postoffice to Nicktown. Father Lemke then rented his farm to Blase Noel and sold at public sale all his farm goods. He now decided to devote himself more exclusively to his priestly duties. He attended to St. Joseph's Church at Hart's Sleeping Place and to the missions and proceeded with his plans of laying out the town of building a church at Carrolltown.

Lemke Sells Lots In Carrolltown

No date for the sale of the lots in the town has been found, but the dates of the actual transfer of titles, as seen in the Recorders Office, are as follows: on April 27, 1847, sold two lots to J. Peter Urban; on December 24, 1847, sold two lots to Martin Schroth and eight lots to Mary Catherine Koch. On January 11, 1848, one lot to

  ST. BENEDICT'S CHURCH 58

John Flick; on January 27, donated ten acres of land to the Rt. Rev. Michael O'Connor, D. D., in trust for the Catholic Congregation of Hart's Sleeping Place, also in the same year on January 22, a lot to John Itel and another to John Sharbaugh; on September 21, sold two lots to Mary Catherine Koch, two lots to Francis Strittmatter, one lot to Peter Strittmatter and one lot to Peter McDade; on October 9, sold to the Benedictine Order 298 acres. On September 22, 1849, sold to Jacob Huber one lot and another to Paul Strittmatter; on September 28, sold a lot to Peter Strittmatter and one to John Sharbaugh. On March 28, 1850, one lot to Francis H. Strittmatter.

Father Lemke now seriously thought of leaving the mountains and returning to the jurisdiction of his former Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Francis Patrick Kenrick. He, however, was tied down by his interests at Carrolltown. One day to his great relief, Father Boniface Wimmer, O.S.B., appears and offers to buy his land. The story runs thus:

Bishop O'Connor, in a letter dated June 26, 1847, to the Very Rev. Boniface Wimmer, advised him not to build a college annexed to a monastery having a seminary . . . Since Wimmer had in mind to build such institutions, he advised him to build each in a different locality, and made him here a splendid offer of a very suitable place ... (Moosemiller in Erzabt Bonifaz Wimmer, p. 39.)

Father Wimmer took the advise under consideration. In October he, accompanied by the Very Rev. Peter Lechner, O.S.B., went to Carrolltown to visit his old friend Lemke and to see what progress the town had made. On this occasion Father Wimmer offered to buy Father Lemke's farm, of 29S acres, and buildings which he had erected for his own use. Father Lemke was very well pleased and accepted the offer. The transfer of title was made on October 9, 1848, for a consideration of $3,000, payable in yearly installments of $300. Moosemiller, in his chapter on Carrolltown, has made several mistakes. He says, that Bishop O'Connor assisted Wimmer with $2,000 in the transaction, this, I think is another mistake. There is no document in the St. Vincent Archive to prove it. Being now free Father Lemke secured his exeat from the diocese, and went back to Bishop Kenrick in Philadelphia.

Bishop Kenrick sent him to Reading, to St. Peter's church where he became associated with Father Henry Balfe. His first baptismal entry at St. Peter's is dated October 22, 1848. He worked one year on this mission. The spirit of trusteeism, which had driven him away from Holy Trinity in Philadelphia shortly after his arrival in America, still prevailed among the Germans in Reading, and he found in the lawlessness which it engendered a very annoying disdain of his own ideas of authority.

Whilst at Reading he translated into German and published Father Gallitzin's pamphlet, entitled, "A Defense of Catholic Principles." This literary work, together with his parochial duties, gave him ample occupation, but he was apparently discontented. His last baptismal registry at St. Peter's church is on August 19, 1849.

  ST. BENEDICT'S CHURCH 59

Lemke Returns To Carrolltown; Becomes
A Benedictine Monk

On September 22, he wrote, at Carrolltown, two titles of transfer of towns lots, and three more titles on the 28th. Later in the fall he paid a visit to St. Vincent's. In his Autobiography he says: "I was quite astonished and felt great remorse about by puislanimity, when I saw what Father Wimmer had brought about with that material with which he had come to me in 1846. New buildings were in progress of construction, the young theologians who had come with him and made profess and were ordained. Three Benedictines from three different monasteries, one of them, a very learned man and author of several works, Father Peter Lechner, had joined the house. There were, therefore, already eight priests, seven aspirants for priesthood in minor orders, twenty-six lay brothers and nineteen novices and aspirants." This list agrees with that of Father Moosmiller with the exception of the number of novices for that year.

If the mind of Mrs. George Waltz, daughter of John Stolz, failed her not, then Father Lemke remained in Carrolltown until he entered the Benedictine Order in 1851. Father Lemke found the widow Stolz in destitute circumstances. A certain man had cheated her or withheld from her money due her deceased husband. In her name he took up the case against that man. The case was put off from one term of court to another, but Lemke remained until she obtained her money.

Father Boniface Wimmer wrote to the Mission Society of Munich on the 7th of November, 1851: "The two priests here (at Carrolltown) with whom the aged missionary Father Lemke now lives, have the care of 260 souls in the parish. They also attend missions in Clearfield and Indiana Counties and in many other places, where the Germans have no priest of their own."

Father Lemke finally made up his mind to become a Benedictine. He entered a baptismal registry at Carrolltown on the 30th of November, 1851. He then went to St. Vincent's Monastery. Father Lemke and the Rev. Joseph Billon, a priest who had labored on the missions in Canada for eleven years, received the holy habit of St. Benedict on the second day of February, 1852, and began their novitiate.

According to Rev. Oswald Moosemiller in St. Vincenz, page 116 and in Erzabt B. Wimmer, page 145: "With great difficulty a room was alloted to each priest," not to speak of a spare room for a visitor. In order to ease the situation, Father Henry, as he is now called, was sent to Carrolltown in the latter part of February, 1852, to continue his novitiate under the direction of Father Celestine Englebrecht, O.S.B., the Prior at Carrolltown. Here he also assisted in the church.

During the year of his probation, he, at one time, hesitated to make his profession, but recalling to mind the words of the Lord: "No man putting his hand to the plow and looking back is fit for the kingdom of heaven," he persevered and as he says: "I made my profession on the second of February, 1853, in the church of Carrolltown" into the hands of the Very Rev. Superior, Boniface Wimmer, O.S.B. The Rev. Boniface Wimmer entered a baptismal record on January 30, 1853 at Carrolltown.

  ST. BENEDICT'S CHURCH 60

Father Henry remained at Carrolltown as the assistant priest. Before entering the Order he had bought, in 1851, 260 acres of land in the Hopper Valley and in 1854, the Fisher estate being for sale, he also bought it. Now he looked forward to the day, as also Father Boniface did, when a Monastery and college would be built in this fertile valley (39).

Lemke Leaves for Kansas

During the year 1855, whilst Father Boniface was in Rome with a petition into an Abbey, a misunderstanding arose between Father Henry and some of his younger confreres. Father Henry, to whom Father Boniface had given permission to live either here or in some other house of the Order, now formed the resolution of becoming a Trappist Monk in Kentucky (40). On the journey there, Father Henry met a member of this branch of the Benedictine Order in Pittsburgh, and it became evident to him that he did not have a vocation for such a heroic life. On the contrary, the attractive letters of Dr. Aristide Rodrigue, received while at Carrolltown, enkindled in him the Kansas fever, "Go West, young man", and he went to St. Louis to become a missionary again. At Westport, Missouri, he met Dr. Rodrigue, and with him, during Christmas week, went to Lecompton, Kansas. It was here that he had the fever and was so seriously ill.

In the meanwhile Father Boniface Wimmer returned from Rome to the United States as the first Benedictine Abbot. He sent a letter to Father Henry, who was now in the Kansas Territory. He answered the letter as follows: (41)

Kansas Territory, February 8, 1856.

The Rt. Rev. Abbot:

"Your letter of the 3rd of January I received yesterday, very fortunately, for all communication between here and the States has been cut out for several months . . . . Next week, if possible, a caravan will go, passing through Fort Leavenworth, into the State of Missouri for food. I will go along in order to see Bishop Miege, who is at present in Leavenworth. He knows of my presence here through Dr. Rodrigue and others, and wrote to me at Westport, a beautiful letter, inviting me to work in his small diocese (from the Rocky Mountains to the border of Missouri.) . . . . Let me lay before you my ideas and plans. Permit me and authorize me, as a Benedictine to live in this Territory under your authority and dependant upon you. Send me therefore some brothers. Every man, be a citizen or one who has declared his intention of becoming one, has the right to preempt a quarter of a section of land (160 acres). If I had three brothers with me, we would preempt a whole section (one square mile). I am acquainted with the Surveyor-General and he as well as his assistants, among whom there are several Catholics, will assist me in every way. I have already chosen the locality. It is on the Miami River, where a reminant of the half civilized Indians live. The Jesuits had here formerly a mission, which they gave up years ago. If a Catholic priest does not soon take up the work, the Methodist or some other sect will.

  ST. BENEDICT'S CHURCH 61

A new view of St. Vincent Archabbey, College, and Seminary
A NEW VIEW OF ST. VINCENT ARCHABBEY, COLLEGE, AND SEMINARY

  ST. BENEDICT'S CHURCH 62

The wrong method of christianizing the aborigines was in vogue. All scolding and faultfinding is in vain. They must be accustomed to cultivate the soil and live a domestic life, and here a community, which gives then the good example and with charity seeks their welfare, can accomplish much. They are distrustful but that is no wonder, when a person considers how they were treated. When a person has gained their confidence, they are obedient and as confiding as children. If I, as said, had here with me some good industrious brothers, I would at once build a chapel and some log houses, and fence in a portion of the prairie, so that by midsummer, we would have to a great extent our own eatables, for the productiveness of the prairie, especially for corn, potatoes and vegetables is immense. Cattle and hogs can thrive almost the whole year without being fed and become fat. Thus a Benedictine Monastery in the far west could be founded in the right manner, in poverty and humility as everything great has begun.

The Abbot gave his consent to the plans of Father Henry as may be seen from the following letter. He wrote:

Leavenworth, July 4, 1856.

The Rt. Rev. Bishop is highly gratified and authorizes me to write that he will have the deed made in the name of the Benedictine Society. Namely, some Catholic families have located on a beautiful section of land towards Nebraska and a man of influence has asked for a priest and has promised some property. The Bishop promises $500.00 towards the erection of a church. . .

"P. S. July 5th. I would request that you send me a chest full of goods. . . . In it I expect to find a small breviary, a Benedictine Ordo, a sick call outfit, a chalice and vestments.

"Tomorrow morning I will depart into the wilderness. I recommend myself to the prayers of my confreres."

Doniphan, August 28, 1856.

"There seems to be a fatality hanging over your letters. Two of them, as you know, were lost. In the last letter of the 27th of July, (my birthday 1796) I received today . . . . In my last letter from Leavenworth I wrote that I was ready to go to my new place of work. This I have done. I arrived here during the beginning of July. They have laid out a city . . (here a lengthy description of the place, the harbor, the sale of lots, etc.)

"Now I have, in the nicest part of the city, about one hundred feet higher than the river, a whole square of 12 lots, 308 feet long by 264 wide. I have also began building so as to have my residence under roof before winter. Until then I will fare bad enough.

"An Irishman has erected upon his lot a hut, 14x16. He has a land claim and shanty thereon, about two miles from the city, where he with his family cultivate the land during the summer. He rented me his city residence, which has neither a floor nor a plastered wall. Near by there is a family, which does the washing, baking and furnishes me with milk and water. Morning and evening I make my own coffee, tea and soup, but for dinner I go to the hotel in order to get a good meal each day. I sleep upon a straw tick which lies on slats.

  ST. BENEDICT'S CHURCH 63

As regards my parochial activities, the parish, on the civilized side reaches half ways to Leavenworth, on the other side to the border of the state of Nebraska, and on the other indefinitely to the Rocky Mountains. My church is a wooden shanty, which was erected for a carpenter shop, and my parishioners are in petto. Certainly there are individual Catholic families scattered everywhere. Most of them are lukewarm and it will cost me much labor to bring them back as fervent Catholics. Some are half Indians, where the Irish and American Catholics have intermarried with the Indians . . ."

At the request of Bishop Miege, the Abbot sent Father Augustine Wirth and Father Casimir Seitz, who had just completed his theological studies but was not yet ordained, to Kansas on April 1st, 1857. They arrived on Holy Thursday evening at Leavenworth. Father Henry met his confreres on the following Sunday evening. The Bishop sent Father Henry to Lecompton and Father Augustine to Doniphan. Father Casimir was ordained on the second Sunday after Easter and went also to Doniphan. Among the missions attended from Doniphan was Atchison. Father Augustine soon came to the conclusion that this was the place for a monastery. Accordingly he removed to Atchison.

Meanwhile changes had taken place among Father Henry's family affairs in Europe that called for another trip to the land of his birth. Toward the end of the Year 1857 he returned to St. Vincent's Abbey and on the road escaped a ship wreck, as he wrote to the Abbot, on November, 6, 1857. He tells him not to worry if he has read of accidents on the Missouri River, for within the last two weeks there was an explosion in one steamboat, another sank in the river and about 6 to 8 are ice bound or stranded on sand banks, among the latter, was he. At present he is in a farm house situated on the opposite shore, about 7 or 8 miles from Independence. The next year The Rev. Francis Cannon and Edmund Langenfelder were sent to Atchison. Now the large and stately Monastery and College of St. Benedict flourishes in the city.

Father Henry called at Carrolltown, as may be seen from the Baptismal Register on April 18 and August 15, 1858, and attended to his affairs in Clearfield Township. According to Dr. Flick, he took his departure for Germany in the early part of 1859. The exact date is not known. He wrote to his friend, Mr. Johnston, from Asbach, Germany, on September 16, 1859, and from Vienna, Austria, on December 21, 1859. In his Vienna letter he stated that he had collected about six thousand dollars for the monastery, and that he expected to remain at Vienna a long time. He spent the greater part of the year among his friends in Germany and during that time wrote and put into the press the life of Gallitzin, "Leben und Werken des Prinzen Demetrius Augustin Gallitzin." Unfortunately, the documents from which this life was written never came to light since.

Lemke In New Jersey

Upon his return to America in 1861, the Abbot gave him charge of St. Michael's church, Elizabeth, N. J. Father Henry performed his first baptism in St. Michael's, July 21, 1861, and his last May 1st, 1870.

  ST. BENEDICT'S CHURCH 64

In a letter to his friend in 1862, he said that he had a nice little parish of nice people who were attached to him, that he had many friends who came to see him, and that he had a rubber of whist in the evenings for a past time.

The church being too small for the ever increasing congregation, he wished to build a new large St. Michael's church but in a different locality than the one favored by the parishioners, so he left there and came across the New York Central Railroad tracks, thinking that the people would follow, however in this he was mistaken, as is shown by the few that followed him. The objection was that the new church, so far away from the old site, would eventually become English.

In the meantime the Benedictine Sisters built an Academy, there, the ground floor of which was used as a church and called St. Henry's, the second and third floors being used as Academy. Certificate of Incorporation of St. Henry's Church was recorded April 18, 1871. Later when the present large church was built it was called the Sacred Heart Church, of Elizabeth. Father Henry performed the ceremonies of his first baptism at St. Henry's on April 17, 1870, and on the next day his first marriage ceremony, and his last baptism on December 25, 1876.

On July 25, 1876, he celebrated the Golden Jubilee of his elevation to the priesthood. It was an occasion of congratulation and joy not only to the good Father Henry himself but also for his numerous friends of the clergy and laity. Bishop Corigan of Newark and Bishop McQuaid of Rochester were among those present. The members of the congregation presented him with a golden chalice of exquisite workmanship. The nuns gave him a set of rich gold cloth vestments. The clergy of the diocese contributed a purse of $700. With the best wishes of his friends he withdrew from Elizabeth into the retirement of his old home at Carrolltown, January 25, 1877, at the age of 81. Here as a humble monk, in the simplicity of the Benedictine life he dwelt in the Priory until his death.

Father Lemke's Death

During his quiet life here, his admirers induced him to write his reminiscences for the edification of future generations. These reminiscences began to be published serially in the columns of The Northern Cambria News, a paper published at Carrolltown, beginning on June 7, 1879, No. 9, and ending abruptly about the middle of the Father Lemke's Autobiography, November 22, 1879, No. 33. It is a most valuable document from a historical point of view, but many facts and dates must first be verified.

Thus he writes of his first visit to St. Joseph's church on January 6. 1835, "I baptized a round dozen." The fact is that Father Gallitzin baptized a round dozen of children on October 10, 1830, the day when he dedicated the church of St. Joseph. The sketch on the location of Carrolltown appeared three times in the News, yet not once were the facts given verified. He calls the land "the Drinker Land". It is the Curtis Clay Tract of Land, at this time called "the estate of the late George Vaux" which Lemke bought from William S. Vaux, Trustee. "If I

  ST. BENEDICT'S CHURCH 65

could only get rid of my farm (at St. Joseph) I would buy it and such an opportunity offered itself very soon. John Ivory bought it . . and I bought the Drinker Land." (The actual transfer of the property to Mr. Ivory took place on February 5, 1844.) "I had an opening to erect a substantial log house with cellar and spring house and a frame house with a chapel. and got about 20 acres of woodland cleared, all in the first year. (This would be 1840. I was always informed that the log house was built in 1843 and that later the frame addition was added to the chapel. Several old timers tell me that they cannot swallow the idea that 20 acres of land were cleared from July to the time when snow would stop the work.) During the second year I laid out a town (he made the first deed for town lots on April 27, 1847, and the next on the 24th of December, 1847) which I intended to name after my friend Gallitzin. But when my friend Gallitzin found this out, he protested against it." (Lemke bought the Vaux estate on June 22, 1840, but Gallitzin was then already dead, having died on May 6th, 1840.)

After an illness of several weeks Father Henry died a few minutes before nine o'clock on November 29, 1882 at the age of 86 years, four months and two days. The funeral was held no Saturday, December the fourth. The Solemn Requiem began at 10 o'clock. After the Mass and Solemn Absolution, a touching and eloquent tribute was paid to his memory by the Rev. E. A. Bush of Loretto. His remains were lovingly laid to rest in the lot set apart for the Fathers of the Benedictine Order.

A neat and pretty monument marks his last resting place at the foot of the Mission Cross and almost within the shadow of the church, the founding of which was the dream of early manhood.

REV. P. HENRY LEMKE, O.S.B.
FOUNDER OF
CARROLLTOWN.
BORN JULY 27, 1796
CONVERT APRIL 21, 1824
PRIEST APRIL 11, 1826
SOLEMN PROFESSED FEBRUARY 21, 1853
DIED NOV. 29, 1882.
R. I. P.

Dr. L. Flick, in the American Catholic Historical Society Records, Vol. IX, page 191: "Father Lemke's work in Cambria County, pa., was supplementary to that of Father Gallitzin, and in its results can only be judged in conjunction with it. He worked for a while under the direction of Gallitzin, and after the latter's death, along the same lines. The fruit of these two men's labors, as far as it can be measured, is a truly Catholic country in the greater part of the district which their labor covered. In the little towns of Loretto, Carrolltown, St. Augustine, St. Lawrence, and St. Boniface, and the country around

  ST. BENEDICT'S CHURCH 66

about them, Catholic customs and practices are as well fixed and Catholic faith is as deeply planted as in any Catholic country in Europe. There one can see at any time during the summer the practical illustration of Millets' Angelus, and find the most scrupulous observation and celebration of Catholic holidays.

The seeds of faith that have been carried by emigrants from this little Catholic colony into the far West, and indeed into all parts of the United States, and that were scattered upon fruitful soil to grow into powerful influences for good in other communities, constitute an element in the good work of these men, which is difficult to estimate properly. The many vocations for the priesthood and for religious life in the cloister which have emanated from those parishes; the strong and well-grounded faith; the truly Catholic lives of many of the young men and women who have gone forth from there to live in other places, are more tangible fruits of their labors. But it was the indirect spreading of the Gospel by the good example of those well grounded in Catholicity that constituted the chief inspiring motive of both Gallitzin and Lemke in their work in that remote obscure district on top of the Allegheny Mountains; and it is by the secondary results and their labors should be judged. Prince Gallitzin as been criticised for using so much energy in founding a little town in the heart of the Alleghany Mountains, when he might have devoted it to more brilliant results in some large city. The result of his labors, however, demonstrate the wisdom of his foresight and the correctness of the principles upon which his work was based. Father Lemke had similar ideas to those of Gallitzin before he joined him, and found in Gallitzin's work a corroboration of his views, and therefore be me a worthy and capable disciple of Gallitzin. Their work is unique, and will ever stand out prominently in the history of the Church in the United States; and their names will ever be linked as the Apostles of the faith in the Alleghany Mountains."


Part 0 - Contents
Part 1 - St. Joseph's Church
Part 2a - Life of Rev. Henry Lemke
Part 2b - Life of Rev. Henry Lemke (cont'd.)
Part 3 - St. Benedict, Patriarch of the Monks of the West
Part 4 - Cistercian Monks
Part 5a - St. Benedict's Church
Part 5b - St. Benedict's Church (cont'd.)
Part 5c - St. Benedict's Church (cont'd.)
Part 6 - Carrolltown - Know your town

Contributed to the PAGenWeb Archives by Romayne Shay McMahon, 2005.
OCRed and proofread by Judy Banja jbanja@comcast.net


 
Cambria County File Managers - Lynne Canterbury and Diann Olsen
 
Cambria County USGenWeb Archives
 

PA USGenWeb Archives


USGenWeb Archives


USGenWeb
 
Copyright 1997-2011, USGenWeb Archives