Pennsylvania USGenWeb Archives


The History


St. Francis of Assisi Parish


Compiled for the

Centenary of the Founding

of the Parish


and the

Golden Anniversary

of the

Laying of the Cornerstone

of the Present Church


1832     1936     1886


July 23, 1936


transcribed for the Clearfield County PA USGenWeb by

Ellis Michaels



This page was last updated on 23 Apr 2011

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Introduction - page V
Clearfield - page VII
Saint Francis of Assisi - page XI
Founding of St. Francis - page XV
Bishop Kenrick's Diary - page XIX
Deed to St. Francis Property - page XXIII
Early Catholics - page XXV
Old Records - page XXIX
Clearfield and Father Gallitzin - page XXVI
St. Francis Centenary Hymn - page XXXIII
Golden Anniversary of St. Francis Church - page XXXV
St. Francis Benefactor - page XLI
Catholic Education - page XLII
Most Rev. John Mark Gannon - page XLVII
Very Rev. John D. Coady - page LI
Right Rev. Monsignor Peter J. Sheridan - page LII
Reverend Thomas W. Cavanaugh - page LV
Rev. Michael A. Ryan - page LVI
Priests Who Served St. Francis - page LIX
Clearfield's Contribution To Priesthood - page LXVII
Our Sisters - page LXX
The New Convent - page LXXVI
St. Francis Cemeteries - page LXXVIII
Catholic Daughters of America - page LXXXI
Blessed Virgin Sodality - page LXXXII
Rosary and Altar Society - page LXXXIII
Saint Francis Choir - page LXXXIV
Girl Scouts - page LXXXV
Knights of Columbus - page LXXXVI
Committee for Jubilee Celebration - page LXXXVII
Our Patrons - page LXXXIX

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History of St. Francis Parish



Most Reverend John Mark Gannon, D.D., D.C.L., LL.D.

Bishop of Erie







     This brief history of the parish of St. Francis of Assisi in Clearfield, Pennsylvania, is compiled in order that we might keep green in our memory the sterling faith of those pioneers, both clerical and lay, who founded this congregation; that we might appreciate the sacrifices and burdens they underwent to establish the Catholic religion in the Borough of Clearfield. Likewise do we gather these facts in order that we might have a record of the zeal of those who, in later years, profited by the heritage bestowed and, like the man in the gospel, received the talents and went out and had them bring forth fruit an hundredfold. We moreover record these deeds and brief biographies so that they may be a continued inspiration for us who have benefited by their trials and hardships and who have been entrusted with the care and the adminis­tration of this old parish.

     As we have said above, this history has been compiled. No attempt has been made by us to write a history of this parish; those who have been called to Eternal Rest have written it for us. Therefore we feel that an attempt on our part to write anything into it would be to place an ugly blot on a most beautiful picture. Our efforts consist in supplying a word of introduction or of explanation where we deemed necessary.

     When one endeavors to compile a complete record of a parish like St. Francis, he at once regrets that more was not committed to writing by those who accomplished so much in their own quiet and humble way. He has, therefore, to be content with the material at hand. Aside from this, in almost every work of this kind, after its publication it is found that something has been omitted which has had a great bear­ing on the life of the congregation. If this so happens, (and we fear the possibility of such an event) we trust that you will be indulgent with us.

     In presenting this brief history of St. Francis Parish we wish to acknowledge the aid given to us by the following and to extend our appreciation to them for their kindness: Mr. Walter Welch, Raftsman's Journal, Mr. Lewis Cass Aldrich, Very Rev. R. T. Guilfoyle, Miss Mary Malloy, Miss Barbara Usher, and to those now deceased, Clifford Beahan and John Short.







Rev. Martin N. Glynn






     On the banks of the West Branch of the Susquehanna River; nestling among the foothills of the Alleghanies is one of the prettiest and most prosperous towns of Western Pennsylvania,—that is Clearfield. The town was named from the "cleared fields" found in this locality by the early settlers. Clearfield is the county seat of Clearfield County. The population is about ten thousand, but there are many sur­rounding districts which depend upon Clearfield for existence that would bring the total to almost twenty thousand.

     The town of Clearfield developed out of the old Indian village of Chincleclamousche, which dates back several hundred years. The Indians did not erect permanent shelters, but lived in wigwams or tents. They were made by putting up three or four poles fastened together at the top and covering these with the skins of animals. Gradually, as the white settlers arrived the Indians were driven out and the settlers erected log cabin homes.

     In the year 1813, under an order of the Court of Quarter Sessions of Centre County, the township of Lawrence was carved out of the old Chincleclamousche, and by this order Clearfield town became a part of the new township so formed, and so continued until 1840, when it was erected into a borough separate and distinct from the sur­rounding country, and entitled to administer its own affairs and elect its own officers.

     In the year 1807, Matthew Ogden, William Tate, and Robert Collins purchased town lots. The lands of Daniel Ogden lay to the south of the town, and were included within the borough limits by the extension of said limits many years afterward. 

     Robert Collins built a log house on what is now the corner of Second and Market Streets. It was built, as near as can be ascertained, about the year 1807, soon after Collins came to the place. Ebenezer McGee soon after built near Collins.

     After the first commissioners were appointed the erection of the first courthouse was commenced. Robert Collins was awarded the contract. It was built during the years 1814-1815, but the exact date cannot now be fixed. It cost about $3,000.00. The jail was built about





the same time, but not on the Locust Street lot. It stood on the site for years occupied by Dr. Burchfield's residence on Second Street. This jail was built of logs one story in height, and served the required purpose until the stone jail was built in the rear of the courthouse on Market Street, about 1841-

     In 1810 the town had a population of about twenty inhabitants and received no considerable increase up to 1822. In the year 1836 the town had only about three hundred population.

     In 1822 there were three taverns within the town limits of Clearfield. From the best information obtainable Robert Collins commenced keeping a public house about the year 1817, soon after the completion of the courthouse. Collins made an addition to his house, part frame and part brick, and there entertained the traveler at what was for many years known as Collins' Hotel.

     When the town had acquired a population sufficiently great to warrant the establishment of a post-office, Thomas Hemphill, pro­prietor of a hotel on Market Street, was appointed postmaster.

     The first election of borough officers was held at the prothonotary's office on Monday, January 1, 1841, at which the following officers were elected: Burgess, Dr. Henry Loraine; town council, William Big-ler, James Alexander, William Merrill, George R. Barrett, and Robert Wallace; town constable, Joseph Schnell; overseers of the poor, Thomas Hemphill and Alexander Irvin.

     The outstanding contribution of Clearfield to the political life of the state was William Bigler who was elected governor in 1851.

     The chief occupations of the people of Clearfield until about fifty years ago were lumbering and farming. There were a few mines being operated, but only on a small scale. The greatest of these industries was lumbering. The lumber was cut in the winter time, hauled over the snow to the river banks and floated down to the mills on the spring flood. Farming occupied the men's time during the summer, as food had to be supplied for the families and for the stock. The mills for manufacturing flour and for sawing the logs were operated by water power.

     Today Clearfield offers a wide and varied field of manufac­tures to anyone wishing employment. The largest silk mill and one of the largest Refrigerator Works in the state are located here. A million dollar sewer pipe plant is in constant operation. There are four large brick plants here. These plants demand large quantities of coal and clay and are supplied with them from the mines in the surrounding hills.






Kurtz Bros, manufactures school supplies on a large scale. Aside from these industries there are many others contributing to Clearfield's pros­perity. They are, chiefly, the Machine Shops, Knitting Machine Factory, Overall Factory, Underwear Factory, Planing Mills, Tanneries, and the railroads.

     These industries could not possibly find a better location, as Clearfield has great possibilities as a mining, business, manufacturing, and railroad center. To begin with, Clearfield is in the very heart of the bituminous coal fields and there are millions of tons of coal and clay that are as yet untouched. Next, Clearfield is the meeting point of three great railroad systems, the Pennsylvania, the New York Central, and the B. & O. The Lakes-to-the-Sea Highway also passes through Clearfield and offers good roads for motor transportation. Through Bus Lines operate over this highway. Clearfield has direct communication with other towns and cities through the Bell Telephone and the Western Union Telegraph Companies.

     The men of Clearfield are alert and progressive as shown by the number of social and business clubs which they support. The Commercial Club is a business man's club and is interested in the welfare of the town. The motto of the Rotary Club is "Service above Self." The Kiwanis Club supports the same principles. They are organizations of broad-minded business and professional men, devoted to the rendering of service to the community. The American Legion has gained much publicity for Clearfield by its wonderful Legion Post, and especially by its Band which has been highly acclaimed throughout the State.

     The students of Clearfield receive their education through a well organized system of public and parochial schools. The public high school offers many courses to their pupils. The chief courses are Academic, Commercial, General, and a course in Manual Training for the boys. The St. Francis High School, though small in size, is well equipped and up to date in every way. It is noted for the completeness of its courses and for the high positions which its graduates are always able to obtain. The students of St. Francis are instructed not only in their studies. but in that great factor so necessary to education—that is religion.

     Clearfield is a beauiful [sic] town and many comfortable homes are to be seen here. There are a larger number of brick homes in Clearfield, in proportion to its size, than many cities can boast of; these homes are surrounded by attractive lawns and have gardens with flowers of many hues. The majority of the homes are lighted by electricity, and heated with steam at very reasonable rates. They are all supplied with pure water from two large reservoirs in the neighboring hills.









St. Francis of Assisi







     St. Francis was born into a world that was just giving strong signs of a somewhat turbulent awakening. The place of his birth was Assisi, that little town which looks down from its height on the slope of Monte Subasio and seems so indifferent to the weary traveller who is in search of it. It was towards the end of the twelfth century, in 1182, that a certain Pica, wife of the merchant Pietro Bernardone, gave birth to Francis.

     The reform of the Church undertaken by Pope Gregory VII had not cleared the field of all abuses; unmistakable moral evil still existed. But Christian consciousness was restive; reform was in the air. Individual reformers appeared, and not infrequently ran their course to exaggeration and heresy. Some struck out in open opposition to the Church. Her wealth and the use of it made by individual members, evoked angry protests.

     The great struggle of the Church and the Empire was still going on- And within the broader struggle there were minor ripples on the surface of society. Towns were growing. The bonds of feudalism were loosening, for with the growth of the towns a new and important class, the merchants, was making its influence felt. These important men, the merchants, were chafing under the power of feudal lords. In Assisi open conflict flared out between them. Perugia had been looking on and then suddenly sided with the feudal lords. There was a battle. Assisi was defeated. Among the prisoners taken was the merchant's son, Francis. That was the first association of our Saint with the history of Assisi.

     He was then almost twenty years of age. He was a natural leader. In the merry crowd of young Italians who roused the little town with strains of music and of song Francis stood out preeminent. He had a marked affection for display in dress, and in his partiality for song and music the romantic temperatment of his mother, Pica, was showing itself.

     On his first return after imprisonment he had fallen ill, and illness revealed much to him. After it, everything seemed changed; his amusements became distasteful, and frequently he found himself considering what God required of him. At Spoleto he asked St. Paul's








Rev. J. Leo Anderton






question of God, and God revealed to him that it was at Assisi that he would discover his vocation.

     His vocation took precise form after two years of a hermit life of penance. It took place in this way: Francis was at Mass one morning when he heard the gospel of St. Matthew read where it is said "Do not possess gold, nor silver, nor money in your purses: nor scrip for your journey, nor two coats, nor shoes, nor a staff." When the priest had explained its meaning, Francis, with that quick decision which was characteristic of him, saw that here at last was the ideal life that was drawing him. He threw aside his hermit's garments, he cast away the staff he had with him, took off his shoes, and set out to preach the Gospel.

     He contented himself with one poor coat, which he girt about him with a cord. This was the habit which he gave to his friars the year following. It was the dress of the poor shepherds and peasants in those parts. The saint added a short cloak over the shoulders, and a capuche to cover the head.

     In his cult of poverty we see his personality finding its own proper self-expression. After that memorable day when he renounced earthly father before the Bishop of Assisi he found that he had perfect freedom of soul. Once he was convinced of the spiritual significance of poverty, his poetic instinct realised it in the form of the Poverty of whom he became enamoured.

     He also enjoyed the Pauline vision of things as symbols of realities, and understood the grand fraternity of creation. But it was vestiges of Christ particularly which he sought. Little lambs he ; loved with special affection because they symbolized for him the Lamb 'God; he would tread gently on the very stones because in Scripture Christ was called a Rock; the fluttering taper he could scarcely ex­tinguish because Christ had been called tire Light of the World; and on his way he would gently lift the worm by the path, mindful of the text: "I am a worm and no man."

     On Alverna, his imitation of Christ was rewarded: he became himself a living crucifixion. And yet, in the midst of all, Francis was the saint of joy. This great saint passed to the glory of his God on October 4, 1226. The Order of Franciscans which he founded was constituted as such by Pope Innocent III and since then has spread rapidly throughout Christendom.






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