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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     On the front steps of St. Francis Church can be seen the words, "T. Cavan, benefactor of this church."

     The correct name of this gentleman was Timothy Cavanaugh but for business reasons he had himself called T. Cavan. He lived in Washington, D. C., and came to Clearfield County about 1883. He was engaged in railroad building, having had the contract for the building of the P. R. R. from Curwensville to Grampian. He later built a railroad in Schuylkill County and then came back to Madera.

     He was a great friend of Rev. P. J. Sheridan and frequently him make collections on the railroad jobs for the building of the church at Clearfield. He donated three windows of the church, one for himself, wife and daughter. It is likewise said that he was instrumental in obtaining all of the stone for the church and personally donated one hundred barrels of cement. He also had collections made by Father Sheridan for the Curwensville Church which was built about time and was honored by having it called St. Timothy's Church after his own name. He had with him a large number of Irish stone masons from Washington who were liberal contributors.

     He came from Ireland when he was seventeen years of age rose rapidly in the railroad construction work. He married Ellen Murphy and they had nine children, all of whom died before reaching manhood, two of the six boys having been burned to death in the destruction of their home.








St. Francis School






     From a few families in 1830 the Catholic population steadily increased and with its progress came the desire on the part of the members of the parish to have a Catholic School. Being practical in their faith, appreciating the benefits of a public school education, still they knew that their children should receive their training under Catholic direction; that they should continue striving after a knowledge of God and the things of God, that they should have a keener insight into the beauty of their religion.

     Under the guidance of Father Sheridan, therefore, plans were laid for the erection of the first Catholic School in Clearfield. The school house was built in the summer of 1892 and was opened in 1893. The Sisters of St. Joseph came to take charge of the school and they used the old rectory as a convent. This was the original rectory built in 1856.

     The school at first was taught by Sisters M. Marcella, M. Louis and M. Clare, with Sister Marcella acting as principal. Only grade subjects were handled in the beginning but after a few years commercial subjects were added. Under the zealous and able management of these good Sisters the school in a very short time attained a high standing and attracted the attention of Protestants as well as Catholics and many were the demands for instruction for their children by those outside of the Church.

     As the number of pupils increased so rapidly it was found necessary to provide a more commodious building. Hence in the fall of 1904 the new and present St. Francis School was ready for occupancy. It was constructed during the pastorate of Father Cavanaugh, being situated on South Second Street, overlooking the West Branch of the Susquehanna. Built of Clearfield Brick, a feature of which is its capacity for retaining its newness of appearance, the exterior of the school looks the same today as the day on which it was first opened. At first there were five large well ventilated class rooms, four on the first floor and one on the second while the remainder of the second floor had one-room fitted out for a kitchen, this same being used in conjunction with a large auditorium.






     The building was erected at a cost of about $20,000.00 and is one of the best equipped and most substantial buildings in the city. The low cost and excellent workmanship was entirely due to the special care and personal supervision of the whole work by Father Cavanaugh and stands out conspicuously as an example of what sound business judgment combined with rare mechanical skill can accomplish.

     Sister Marie Francis, who had been on the teaching staff for about eight years, assumed the role of principal in 1908. During her twenty-five years as superior the school went forward by leaps and bounds until today it is recognized as one of the outstanding schools of its size in the state. The number of teachers was increased at various times so that at present there are eleven teachers instructing the Catholic Youth of Clearfield.

     In 1919 the High School Department received full certification from the Department of Education and since then the rating of the High School has veen [sic] very high.

     About eight years ago the auditorium was sacrificed in order to make room for new class rooms. During the past few months, however, the basement of the school was remodeled and a new auditorium is the result.

     Medical attention is given to the pupils and special attention is given to physical culture in both grade and high schools, being as extensive as circumstances will permit. With a view of safeguarding the health of the pupils at all times, an entire new system of sanitation was installed during the past year.

     The number of pupils enrolled during the past school year, 1935-1936, was three hundred thirty of whom seventy-eight were members of the high school. It might be interesting to know that due to the sacrifices of our good Catholic people in keeping alive the Catholic Schools there is a saving to the public school system annually of perhaps twenty-five thousand dollars.

     Sister M. Boniface is in charge of the school during this jubilee year, having assumed this responsibility in the fall of 1932. She is ably assisted in her work by the following Sisters: M. Beatrice, M. Lasalette, M. Norberta, Mary Esther, M. Borgia, M. Eleanore, Mary Magdalene, M. Wilma, M. Pierre and M. Gerarda. Father Anderton has charge of religion.






     The first graduation of the school at which a program was rendered was held on Wednesday, June 8, 1898, a reproduction of which follows:

First Annual Commencement

Rev. J. M. Cauley, Presiding

Part I.
Presentation of Graduates - ... Rev. J. M. Cauley
Valedictory—"The Raven or the Dove" - - Mary Stock
Awarding of Diplomas
Conferring of Medal
Mary Stock Augustine Shade
Fred Gaulin Gaulin Kragle

Part II.
Maud Humphrey Dance ----- The Wee Ones
Piano, Caroline Dougherty
Visit to Grandpa -------- The Children
Grandpa ------ Samuel Turner

Grandma ------- Anna Morgan
Piano, K. Cunningham
Indian Huntress Drill ------ Young Ladies
Piano, Bessie Thorn








Rev. Patrick J. Blake     Rev. Carl L. Heidt


Rev. Edward P. Short     Rev James J. O'Connor






Supply Pastor - 1905

     Bishop Gannon, the son of Thomas Patrick and Julia (Dunlevy) Gannon, was born in Erie, Pa., on June 12, 1877. After attending the grades and high school and Clark's Business College in Erie he went to St. Bonaventure's College and Seminary. After finishing the collegiate and seminarian courses at St. Bonaventure he was selected by the Rt. Rev. Bishop Fitzmaurice to enter the Catholic University at Washington, D. C., where he took a post-graduate course in theology and canon law.

     It was while pursuing these studies that he was ordained to the priesthood by Cardinal Gibbons on December 21, 1901. He subsequently returned to the Catholic University to finish the course on which he was entered and graduated in 1904. Bishop Fitzmaurice was so well pleased with the marked zeal and energy displayed by the young priest and student that he determined to afford his talents still greater opportunities for development. Father Gannon was accordingly sent to Europe and enrolled in the University of Munich for one semester and from there entered the Appolinaire University from which institution he received the degrees of Doctor of Theology and Doctor of Canon Law.

     The young Father Gannon served at St. Patrick's, Erie, at both St. Joseph's and St. Stephen's in Oil City, at St. Francis, Clearfield, and at St. Francis, Kane, Pa. He was made pastor of St. Anthony's Church, Cambridge Springs, on November 1, 1905, and saw the dedication of the new church there on September 25, 1911. On February 15, 1912, he was appointed to the post of Superintendent of Schools of the Diocese of Erie and in 1915 was made pastor of St. Bridgid's Church, Meadville, where he built the parochial school. On February 6, 1918, he was raised to the dignity of the episcopacy, being consecrated titular bishop of Nilopolis and Auxiliary Bishop of Erie. As Auxiliary Bishop he was








Rev. E. P. McManaman     Rev. Eugene V. Danielson


Rev. F. J. Schlindwein     Rev. Joseph Meisinger






pastor of St. Andrew's Church, Erie, Pa., where he built the parish house. On December 16, 1920 Bishop Gannon was installed as Bishop of Erie.

      During his years as Bishop he has shown his great interest in the educational system of the diocese. He founded the Cathedral Preparatory School for Boys in 1921 and the Cathedral Junior College in 1934. He witnessed the erection of the Villa Maria College in 1925 and Mercyhurst College in 1926. His love for the poor and under privileged caused construction of the St. Joseph's Home for Children in 1924, the remodeling of the St. Mary's Home for the Aged in 1931, the remodeling Harborcreek Training School in 1929 and the founding of the Day Nursery in 1924. The old orphanage on Third Street was made into a boarding school for boys. As Bishop he acquired the new Calvary Cemetery and beautified the old Trinity Cemetery and placed it on perpetual care. Three new parishes, St. James, Wesleyville, St. George, Kearsage, and Holy Rosary, Erie, came into being since his consecration.

     Truly the members of the congregation of St. Francis point pride to the accomplishments of the man who came to them as a priest to supply for Father Cavanaugh in the beginning of the 1905.








Rev. Thomas McManus     Rev. Thomas Tracy


Rev. Kiernan O'Brannigan     Rev. Joseph M. Cauley





First Resident Pastor

     Father Coady was the son of Daniel Coady, a well-to-do merchant on the Grand Canal connecting Dublin and Carlow. His mother was Eleanor (Flood) Coady. He was born at Athy, County Kildare, Ireland, September 5, 1825. He studied at Carlow and at Maynooth. In 1849 he came to the United States and entered St. Mary's Seminary, Baltimore, Md. He finished his theological course at St. Michael's Seminary, Pittsburgh, and was ordained by Bishop O'Connor in 1852. He was first sent to Braddock and then to Sartwell in McKean County.

     In 1857 he came to Clearfield as the first resident pastor and built the first rectory. In 1863 his talents and learning and piety were recognized by Bishop Young and he was summoned to Erie where he was made vicar-general and rector of the Cathedral. In 1865 he was sent to Oil City as pastor of St. Joseph's Church. While pastor of St. Joseph's Church he administered the affairs of the diocese for two years, between the death of Bishop Young and the advent of Bishop Mullen.

     In 1871 he was transferred to Titusville where he remained for twenty years, revered and loved by all, old and young, priests and people, for his simple piety and princely hospitality. In 1892 his years began to tell sadly on his massive frame and strong mind and he was compelled to give up his labors and retire to St. Vincent's Hospital in Erie where he lingered until his death, October 11, 1893. He is buried in St. Catherine's Cemetery, Titusville, Pa.








Rt. Rev. Msgr. Peter J. Sheridan






Right Rev. Monsignor Peter J. Sheridan
Pastor When Church Was Erected

     Rt. Rev. Msgr. Peter J. Sheridan, the son of Patrick Sheridan (and Susan Clark Sheridan, was born on June 27, 1841 in Cavin County, (Ireland. Answering the Divine Call, he entered St. Bonaventure's Seminary, Allegany, N. Y., during the presidency of the former Apostolic (Delegate, His Eminence Cardinal Falconio. Having completed his studies, he was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Ryan of Buffalo, on June 12, 1869.

     As assistant at St. Titus Church, Titusville, Pa., having been placed there by Bishop Mullen, Father Sheridan began the duties of his vocation. From there he administered to several missions, including Mageetown and all of the railroad between Titusville and Spartansburg. At Mageetown he first gave evidence of the highly constructive course he was to follow when he remodeled the church and built a new rectory.

     In appreciation and recognition of his zeal and progressiveness, Bishop Mullen appointed Father Sheridan pastor of St. Francis Church, Clearfield, Pa., where, with characteristic energy, he built the present church, rectory, remodeled the sister's convent and erected the first parochial school. For a period of twenty-five years Father Sheridan served as pastor, not only to Clearfield, but also to Grampian and Curwensville where he built a church and chapel respectively.

     In December, 1894, Bishop Mullen raised him to the Vicar Generalship, which office he retained until his death, being reappointed by Bishop Fitzmaurice and Bishop Gannon. During the last illness of Bishop Mullen, in 1897, the administration of the Diocese fell upon his shoulders and his disposition of the duties thus imposed was distinguished by those qualities which Father Sheridan had already shown he possessed.






     Shortly after his reappointment as Vicar General by Bishop Fitzmaurice, he was assigned to the irremovable rectorship of St. Joseph's Church, Oil City. Here the church, school, parochial residence and many matters of much importance were in a state that necessitated the exercise of an indefatigable energy to make them more efficient and worthy of their purpose. Before long, Father Sheridan had placed the entire parochial equipment upon a basis that was second to none in the diocese as well as having built a church at Siverly with his own funds which he presented to that congregation.

     Throughout a lifetime spent in service and devotion to God and man, Father Sheridan fulfilled his duties of pastor in a manner that obtained for him the highest esteem not only of the members of his flock, but from every person in the community. The manner in which he conducted himself under adverse conditions and his unselfishness in his service to others are characteristic of the highly idealistic man and the devout and saintly priest that Father Sheridan was known to be. Steadfast of purpose, charitable and pious, his influence exerted itself long after his soul had passed into eternity.

     On Easter Monday, March 28, 1921, Father Sheridan was again called by God—this time to his just reward of eternal happiness, and with the deepest sorrow of the members of his flock, he was laid to rest in the new cemetery at Oil City where he had served so long and faithfully.






Pastor When School Was Erected

     Rev. Thomas W. Cavanaugh was born in Erie, Pa., on September 13, 1863. studied classics and philosophy at Niagara University and theology at the American College, Louvain, Belgium, and was ordained at the latter place by Most Rev. Bishop Riordan on June 29, 1888. He celebrated his first solemn Mass the next day, June 30, 1888.

     Father Cavanaugh was stationed at Frenchville fifteen months, Oil City nine months, Mercer five years and a half, Johnsonburg two years and a half and at Clearfield for ten years.

     He paid off the church debt at Frenchville, built the pastoral houses at Mercer and at Johnsonburg and finished the church at Grampian. While here in Clearfield he built the present St. Francis School.

     On December 14, 1907, Father Cavanaugh was appointed to the pastorate of St. Titus Church, Titusville, Pa. Shortly after His arrival he saw it was necessary to supply a parochial school and he set about providing ways and means to accomplish this. The school was begun in June, 1910, and was ready for occupancy in September, 1911. At the time of its erection it was one of the most modern and up-to-date school buildings.

     Many of the fathers and mothers of the parish recall the zealous and untiring priestly Father Cavanaugh. In the erection of the St. Francis School he has left a monument that will stand for many rears as a witness to his zeal and devotion in the conduct of his holy calling.

     Father Cavanaugh died on August 18th, 1922, at St. Titus Rectory. His remains rest in the St. Titus Cemetery at Titusville.








Rev. Michael A. Ryan






Pastor When Convent Was Erected

     Reverend M. A. Ryan was born in Newburgh, New York on February 15th, 1865. He studied at Niagara University, Niagara Falls, New York, Manhattan College, New York City, St. Joseph's Seminary, Try, New York, and St. Bonaventure's Seminary, Allegany, New York. He was ordained to the priesthood at St. Peter's Cathedral, Erie, Pennsylvania, by Right Reverend Tobias Mullen on July 19th, 1896.

     His first assignment was to St. Peter's Cathedral as Assistant on July 19th, 1896, and on October 1st, 1896 he assumed the duties of Chancellor and secretary to Bishop Mullen. He remained at the Cathedral until July 19th, 1897, at which time he was made Pastor of St. Eusebius Parish, East Brady, Pa. On December 15, 1907, he was made pastor of St. Francis Church at Clearfield.

     Shortly after his arrival Father Ryan discovered that it was almost impossible to find burial space for the dead, and that it was necessary to start a new cemetery. He selected an ideal location and immediately took steps to lay out one of the most beautiful cemeteries in this part of the state. A plot of about nine acres was purchased and experts set to work to improve the site. No expenses were spared to beautify the site and after an expenditure of nearly $10,000, "Calvary" stood as a truly beautiful burial ground.

     In 1911 Father Ryan redecorated the interior of the church, and again in 1929 he once more beautified the interior.

     In 1926 plans were made for the erection of the present Convent, one of the most modern and beautiful convent buildings in the state.

     While on a trip to his home in Newburgh during August, 1932, Father Ryan was suddenly stricken and died shortly afterwards. His death was a distinct shock to his Clearfield friends who had seen him go away quite as usual, cheerful, pleasant and apparently in his usual good health. They were always to remember him thus, because they never saw him again, burial taking place in Newburgh. During the twenty-five and more years that Father Ryan spent as pastor of St. Francis Church, he endeared himself to many, within and without his own fold. In his quiet, unassuming way he went about doing untold good, and many a heart and burden was made lighter by some unsung act of his. In passing to his Eternal Reward he left an abiding memory of solid, true friendship and of sterling qualities perhaps little thought of (in the way of the heedless, busy world) until death removed him from his congregation, leaving us with a distinct sense of loss.






The Mother Who beside her knee

Has taught me how to pray

Would bid me of my youth make free

In this her meadow gay.

And I have ranged the meadow o'er

Who make this book of rhyme,

And there have filled by pinafore

With meadowsweet and thyme.

And since the joy were incomplete

If these my own could stay,

Here in her lap and round her feet

I pour my thyme and meadowsweet

Who brought me here to play.
Enid Dinnis.





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