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The Certified Township of Kingston
Pennsylvania 1769 to 1929

by William Brewster

The following is from William Brewster's 1930 The Certified Township of Kingston Pennsylvania 1769 to 1929,1

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Roman Catholic Churches

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The first Catholic people residing on the west side of the river were affiliated with St Mary's Church at Wilkes-Barre. The construction of the Lackawanna and Bloomsburg Railroad in 1856 and the subsequent opening of the East Boston mines (Payne's), attracted a considerable number of Irish Catholic families, who mostly built homes, for themselves, on the hill back of Kingston Borough and now known as Pringle. But prior to the advent of these, there were, however, a few Catholic people living in and about Kingston Village.

Probably the first Catholic layman to settle within what is now St Ignatius' parish was Michael Clinton, Sr, who was born in Dublin, Ireland March 17, 1817. He came to this country in 1837, first living in Wilkes-Barre, and a few years later purchasing a farm on the Kingston Mountain, where he resided a goodly portion of his life. Later he owned a home on Page Street, a little above its intersection with Main Street, where he resided during the sixties. He then returned to his farm, which he occupied until shortly before his death in 1905. Mr Clinton's first wife was Catherine Gillen and their children were Margaret who married Michael Kenney, and Mary who died unmarried. His second wife was Bridget Dooley and their children were Michael F; Elizabeth, who married Martin Walsh; Rose who died unmarried; and James. Before the Civil War, Catholic services may have been held occasionally in Mr Clinton's home.

Other Irish Catholics residing in this vicinity in the early fifties were: Timothy Russell, father of the late Michael C Russell; Thomas Keating, William Keating, Michael Murphy, James Moore, John Rock, Edward Sheerin and John Dorris. They came before mining was developed to any extent and were first engaged in farming.

St Ignatius' parish may be said to have had its beginning in 1883, when the first services were held in the old school house, which stood in Edwardsville, at the intersection of Main and Church Streets, where the play ground is now located. In 1885, St Ignatius' parish was created, to include the territory consisting of Kingston, Edwardsville, Larksville, Luzerne, and that part of Kingston township below the Wyoming Borough line.

The first pastor was Rev John J Bergan, who was born at Dushore, PA, in 1850. He was educated at St Vincent's College, St Bonaventure's College and St Charles Seminary; and he was ordained by Bishop O'Hara in 1873. He died in Kingston January 6, 1891.

The property at the corner of Maple and Pringle Streets, Kingston Borough, was purchased and the first services were held in a wooden building about fifty feet by thirty feet in size, which stood on Pringle street back of the present edifice. The basement of the present church was built before Father Bergan died, and the rectory now Bergan Hall was practically completed during his lifetime.

Father Bergan's successor was Rev John P O'Malley. During his pastorate the present fine church was erected, and the ground on Pringle Hill purchased and laid out for a parish cemetery. While the church was being constructed, a serious catastrophe occurred. The side and back walls had been erected, the front being left open for the large doors, and the roof boards on, when a terrible wind storm blew the structure to the ground and the falling walls demolished the wooden church in the rear. This loss was a terrible blow to the congregation, but with great perseverance they succeeded in rebuilding the church without much delay. For some time before the completion of the interior of the church services were held in the basement.

Rev John P O'Malley was born in Quena, near Louisburg, County Mayo, Ireland, June 24, 1833, and was educated at the Jesuit College of St Francis Xavier, New York, and the Theological Seminary at Philadelphia. He was ordained November 7, 1865, and for a time was assistant at St James' church in Philadelphia. Father O'Malley was pastor at Athens, PA, in 1868; and at Hawley, PA, from 1870 to 1891, when he became pastor of St Ignatius church, where he remained until 1901, when he was transferred to St John's church at Pittston, where he died. Father O'Malley's assistants were: Rev J J O'Malley, Rev J F Holmes, Rev P F McHale, and Rev C M Manley.

Rev M E Lynott was appointed pastor as successor of Father O'Malley, taking charge November 15, 1901. During his pastorate many improvements have been made. The old rectory was moved to a lot adjoining and converted into a parish house, known as Bergan Hall, and provided with a bowling alley, gymnasium, billiard, card, reading, and dining rooms, and a large hall where entertainments are held. This work cost about $15,000. A fine new rectory was built in 1916. This building is of stucco three stories high and of Spanish mission design. It was erected at a cost of about $20,000. A central heating plant was also erected, and the total cost of these three improvements was about $42,000. Later a lot of land 222 feet by 180 feet in size and located on Maple Street, opposite the church, was purchased as a site for the erection of a school.

Father Lynott's assistants have been: Rev C J Manley, Rev S H O'Boyle, Rev M P Boland, Rev J E McHale, Rev William F Lavin, Rev Hugh J Ruddy, Rev James B Mulholland, Rev Thomas S Ahearn, Rev Thomas Leonard, Rev Francis Siddons, Rev Charles A Eck, Rev B J Leonard, Rev Leo Gilroy, Rev Maurice A Hughes, Rev Michael F Vetter, Rev Thomas O Borr, Rev Edmund J Langan, Rev James W Loftus, Rev Martin J Maher.

Rev Michael E Lynott was born in Scranton, PA, and was educated at St Bonaventure's College, Allegheny, NY, St Bonaventure's Seminary, St Vincent's Seminary, and graduated from the Grand Seminary of Montreal. He was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop O'Hara, September 29, 1875. Father Lynott was first an assistant at St John's church, Pittston, and then at St Peter's Cathedral, Scranton. In 1882 he became pastor of St Peter's Church, Wellesboro, PA, and in 1889 of St Mary's Church, Jermyn, and during his pastorate there he built both the church and the rectory. From there he was transfered to St Ignatius' Church, Kingston. Father Lynott has during his pastorate at Kingston been instrumental in building new churches at Swoyersville, Harvey's Lake, and Shavertown. Recently he was created a Monsignor by the Pope.

Holy Name Church

A large number of the English speaking Catholics belonging to St Ignatius' parish resided in the Borough of Swoyersville, and Father O'Malley held services in the Shoemaker Street school house. During his time a lot was purchased. In 1903 Rev M E Lynott began the erection of the first church, Bishop Hoban laying the cornerstone on Thanksgiving Day of that year, and Rev John P O'Malley preaching the sermon. It was built as a mission by the people of St Ignatius' parish and Father Lynott celebrated the first mass in the new church in April 1905. A separate parish taken from St Ignatius was created and Rev P C Hurst was the first pastor. He resided at St Ignatius rectory from May 1905 to February 1906. During this time the church was destroyed by fire but was rebuilt and rededicated September 26, 1909. A fine rectory has also been built. Rev P J McHale succeeded Father Hurst as pastor.

Sacred Heart Parish, Luzerne

Quite a large number of German Catholics settled in and about Luzerne Borough many years ago. These people were compelled to go to St Nicholas' church, Wilkes-Barre, and as the means of conveyance were not so convenient then as now, it was determined to build a church at Luzerne. A church and rectory were erected on Charles street, and there is now a numerous congregation. The first pastor was Rev J F Steinkirchner and the present pastor is Rev George T Forve.

St Hedwig's Congregation

St Hedwig's Polish Roman Catholic Church of Kingston was organized October 17, 1901. Rev A Lipinski was the first pastor and almost a square block of land was purchased for the erection of a church and other buildings. The first services were held in the Slovak Church on Grove Street, but upon the completion of the basement of the present church, services were held there for a time. The rectory was built and a cemetery was purchased at Larksville. The next priest was Rev S Smelsz, but he remained only two years, being succeeded by Rev J E Gryczka, who is the present pastor. During his incumbency the church has made great progress. The church has been remodeled, the parsonage rebuilt, and a fine parochial school with twelve school rooms erected. St Hedwigs has a total membership of eight hundred families, with six hundred children attending the school. There are sixteen sisters teaching in the school. There are thirty different societies connected with this congregation; one of these, St Adalberts, is the largest group of the Polish National Alliance in the United States; and another, St Anthony's, is the largest society belonging to the Polish Union of America. The parish celebrated its silver jubilee four years ago and Father Gryczka has been in charge for fourteen years.

St Mary's Lithuanian

This congregation was organized in September 1902 and acquired a valuable site for a church on Slocum Street in Kingston. Rev J V Kudirka was the first pastor and remained until 1917. The present pastor is Rev George V Inczura. The membership of the church consists of about 400 families, and the property is worth over $100,000. The cemetery is located on Pringle Hill, and there are a number of societies connected with the congregation which have a large membership.

St Cyril and Methodius Slovak of Kingston

This congregation was organized shortly before 1900, and its first church was erected on Grove Street. This structure was burned in 1905; and the old Myers homestead on Slocum Street was purchased, the house becoming the rectory; and later a large brick church was erected, the value of the property now being about $150,000. The cemetery is located on Pringle Hill. There are about 175 families in this congregation. The first pastor was Rev Father Pribula. He was succeeded by Rev J F Jedlicka, who was away for a time, and during this time Rev Father Porupsky was pastor. After the church burned, Father Jedlicka returned and served until his death. Rev Edward Bellas succeeded him, and when he was transferred to another church, Rev Stephen Gurcik, the present incumbent, was appointed pastor.

St John's Slovak of Luzerne

This congregation, which was organized in 1905, has a very valuable property on Chapel Street. The corner stone of the church was laid in 1907, and besides the church, there are a fine rectory, parochial school and convent, now valued at about $300,000. There are seven teachers teaching in the school. The pastors have been: Rev J F Jedlicka, Rev Frank Schejy, Rev Leo J Kroner, and Rev G A Bendick, the present incumbent, during whose pastorate of twelve years most of the improvements have been made. The cemetery is located at Courtdale.

Holy Trinity Slovak of Swoyersville

This church was organized as a mission in 1895 by a priest from Pittston, Rev Andrew Pacvo; and the mission was later attended by Rev Mathew Jankola. The first pastor was Rev Emory Gottschall and he was succeeded by Rev Father Herman. The next priest was Rev Joseph Matticka. Rev John A Karnish has been the pastor since 1918. The church was built in 1895, burned down in 1905, and the present fine brick structure was erected in 1916. The rectory and parochial school were built in 1927. There are about 500 families in the congregation and the value of the church property is close to $300,000. The church is located on Hughes Street, and the cemetery is on the same street on the hillside above.

St Mary's Polish of Swoyersville

This congregation was organized in 1909, and a church erected in 1910. This was enlarged and completed in 1925. There are about 300 families in the congregation and the value of the property is about $85,000. The cemetery is located at Dickville. The pastors have been: Rev Valentine Biczysko, Rev John Kowalczyk, Rev Charles Duzunski, Rev Clement Drapsiewski, and Rev Joseph W Buda, the present incumbent.

St Mary's Greek Catholic of Kingston

St Mary's Greek Catholic Church of Kingston was organized in 1887 and is the oldest congregation of that denomination in the United States. The same year a lot was purchased on Chestnut Street and a frame church erected. The new brick church north of the old structure was erected in 1911, at a cost of $35,000; and the old church was later torn down and a large brick school building erected on the same site at a cost of $40,000. The interior of the church has been handsomely decorated within the last few years. This church now has no debt and the congregation consists of about two hundred and fifty families. A night school is maintained for religious instruction. The priests in charge of this parish have been: Rev Nicholas Zubricky, Rev John Zapotocky, Rev Vladimir Molcany, Rev A Karminsky, Rev Nicholas Molcany, Rev Szabo, Rev John Perscouta, and Rev Emil Semetkovsky, the present pastor, who has been in charge for the past nine years, and during whose pastorate the church and property has been greatly improved, and the membership increased.

St Nicholas Greek Catholic Church, located on Tripp Street, Swoyersville, was started about twenty years ago and has a small congregation.

There is a Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church on Slocum Street, Edwardsville, which was organized about twenty years ago and has a membership of about eighty families.

The Orthodox Russian Greek Catholic Church is located on Slocum Street, Edwardsville.

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    Notes

  1. Brewster, William, The Certified Township of Kingston Pennsylvania 1769 to 1929, Wilkes-Barre: School District of the Borough of Kingston, 1930
Modified Saturday, 26-Jun-2004 20:38:26 MDT