mits from the government, that he retain his citizenship and also the
right to the government pension in case he should return to Bavaria.(2)
Rev. George Kircher came to America in the early part of 1860,
and was appointed pastor of Holy Trinity Church at Riceville. The
Baptismal Register bears his first entry dated March 25, 1860, and also
his last made on March 1, 1863. Just how he first came in touch with
the German Catholics of Lawrenceville is not known, but the
Announcement Book of St. Philomena's has the following notice on April
17, 1861: "The Rev. Pastor of Riceville asks us to announce that the
Catholics of Lawrenceville will meet this evening at five o'clock."
This marks the beginning of a series of fifteen meetings held sometimes
twice a month till June 15, 1862. Father Kircher presided at all the
meetings save one, which shows that by now the Redemptorists had ceased
active interest in the prospective parish of Lawrenceville.
The work of Father Kircher began in the meeting which he called
for April 7, 1861. On this occasion Mr. August Hoeveler gave a complete
financial report of the Gemeinde
and Messrs. Henry Engel, George Fleckenstein and Landelin Vogel were
appointed to audit the account and to report in the next meeting. Since
all were anxious to have Mass said in Lawrenceville, they discussed
ways and means to secure this objective. Some thought that the dwelling
on the parish property, originally proposed for a school but now
rented, might be vacated and turned into a temporary church. Father
Kircher, however wisely discountenanced any unnecessary temporizing or
useless spending and recommended the building of a church. Accordingly,
Messrs. August Hoeveler, Gabriel Weisser and Xaver Burkhardt were
appointed a building committee with Mr. Jacob Dietz as treasurer.
In the meantime some of the Lawrenceville people began to attend
Father Kircher's church at Riceville and on June 30, 1861, a group of
Lawrenceville children were in his first communion class. Mr. John
Haas, a pioneer member of St. Augustine's and a member of this first
communion class, relates that on the morning of the first communion,
Maximilian Werder, teacher in the "Alley School", who was to take the
Lawrenceville class to Holy Trinity Church in Riceville, overslept so
that they arrived too late and had to receive after the Mass.(3)
One of the first recommendations of Father Kircher after
assuming charge of the Lawrenceville Germans was to instruct the
executive committee of three, Messrs. Hoeveler, Wirth and Unverzagt, to
report to the Bishop of the diocese and transfer to him the deed of the
parish property. The first to approach the Bishop and sign the transfer
was August Hoeveler. His example was soon followed by Louis Unverzagt.
The last to comply was Alexander Wirth and only after two reminders
from Father Kircher. Mr. Wirth explained that he hesitated because a
certain clause in the deed did not seem sufficiently clear. He referred
to the significant provision: "that he, the Right Rev. Michael
Domenec.. . . shall hold the said lot or piece of ground for the use
and benefit of a Roman Catholic Congregation and shall keep on said lot
or piece of ground a R. C. Church, schoolhouse and pastoral residence
whenever the means for erecting and keeping the same shall be supplied
him or them by the said congregation and also on the following
condition to wit: that so long as and at any time the German Catholics
of said congregation can supply their own pastor they may have instruction in the German
." (4) Mr. Wirth apparently desired a stronger guarantee
that a German priest would always be appointed to the parish.
However, practically everyone else was satisfied with the
Bishop's agreement. In the early part of July, 1861, a petition signed
by more than a hundred persons had been addressed to the Bishop asking
permission to build a church for the German
Catholics, and when the
Bishop proffered no prompt reply, a committee composed of August
Hoeveler, Alexander Wirth, Louis Unverzagt, Gabriel Weisser and
Landelin Vogel, ap-
(2) Letter dated Aug. 27, 1921, from archivist of the diocese of
Augsburg. Parish archives. Cf. St.
., Dec., 1921, pp.
(3) St. Aug
., Dec., 1921, p.
(4) Deed Book
, vol. 152, p.
140, Sept. 18, 1861 St. Aug.
quotation Italics mine.
peared before the Bishop to plead the same cause, stressing especially
the request for a German
priest. With the assistance of Father Stibiel, the Bishop's Consultor,
the desired permission was obtained, and Mr. John Mitchel, the Bishop's
legal representative, inserted into the deed a clause to this effect.
The latter had also explained in German the meaning of the important
clause, namely, that as long as the people could support a priest, the
Bishop would give them a German-speaking priest.
What more need be demanded? Seeing that all others deemed the
guarantee sufficiently firm, Mr. Wirth finally signed the deed and the
complete transfer to the Bishop was accomplished on September 4, 1861.
In keeping with the State Law that a church elect one or more trustees
to represent the interests of the parish, Father Kircher, following the
Catholic custom that invests trusteeship in the Bishop of the diocese,
suggested that the parish legally approve of Bishop Michael Domenec as
trustee of the parish. Accordingly, a petition was prepared and signed
by Father Kircher and the representatives of the parish and sent to the
After these preliminaries Father Kircher turned his attention to
the school problem. He was not satisfied with the "Alley School". Not
only was its location unfavorable, but it was also too small and
greatly in need of repairs. In the meeting of September 29, 1861,
August Hoeveler had proposed to build a frame school measuring
approximately 20 to 24 feet in width, and by 40 to 50 feet in length,
and 15 feet high. Since the present school was not worth repairing,
this proposal was accepted unanimously, and Mr. Charles Bartberger,
architect, was commissioned to sketch the plans so that work could
start promptly. Mr. John Lamke-meyer, the lowest bidder, was awarded
the contract and he and his crew worked so efficiently that by December
15, 1861, the school was ready for occupancy. The cost was $620.00.
This new school stood just in the rear of the present hall and faced
The children probably moved into their new school in
January, 1862. Eighty pupils were enrolled in four grades taught by Mr.
John Kraus. The school hours lasted from 8:30 to 11:00, and from 1:00
to 4:00. The curriculum consisted of catechism, Bible history, reading,
writing, arithmetic, spelling, singing, grammar and letter-writing.
These branches were taught in German, but English reading and writing
were also taught. Each child was taxed fifty cents monthly for the
support of the school. With the new building and with Father Kircher's
supervison the school entered upon a new era. Not only did the number
of pupils increase steadily, but the academic standard kept pace with
In erecting the school both Father Kircher and the people had in
mind the prospect of using it for Mass on Sundays sparing the
parishioners that long journey either to St. Philomena's or to Holy
Trinity. However, as the funds were low and no provision had been made
for altar, pews and organ, a supper was given in Mozart's Hall on
January 2 and netted $320.00. In the meantime an altar had been
procured for $30.00, an organ for $90.00 and a gallery built for
$30.00. Mr. John Lamkemeyer constructed the gallery and the pews. In
the meeting of January 12, 1862, Father Kircher announced to the joy of
all that the Bishop had granted him permission to conduct services in
the school on Sundays and holy days. On January 26, 1862, the following
announcement was made in St. Philomena's Church: "The Rev. Pastor of
Riceville asks us to announce that next Sunday at ten o'clock services
will be held in the school at Lawrenceville."(6)
Accordingly, Father Kircher offered the first Mass in the large
schoolroom on February 2, 1862. Since a choir had been trained, a high
Mass was sung. In the afternoon Vespers were chanted. A letter dated
November 18, 1921, and written by a member of the parish, refers to
those pioneer days as follows:
I moved to Lawrenceville in
1862, or the month following the explosion (Sept. 17) at the arsenal. I
went to St. Augustine's school which was church
(5) St. Aug
., Feb., 1922, p.
(6) Announcement Book
and school combined.
Folding doors separated the altar from the room during school hours. It
was very small and located on a hill. Our teacher was Mr. Kraus whom we
From now on Mass was celebrated in the school every Sunday. This
necessitated the appointment of another priest to assist Father Kircher
who as pastor of Holy Trinity in Riceville could ill afford to be
absent from his parish every Sunday. On the motion of Mr- Gabriel
Weisser, Messrs. Xaver Burkhardt and Jacob Dietz approached the Bishop
with the request to appoint an assistant to Father Kircher. The Bishop,
however, declined to appoint an assistant but instead appointed Father
John Stibiel,(8) pastor of St. Mary's, Allegheny, to be responsible
either in person or through his local assistants,(9) for the Sunday
services at St. Augustine's. From now on this good priest or one of his
assistants came regularly to say Mass m the school, while Father
Kircher attended to all other affairs of the young parish. In the
meeting of February 21, 1862, Father Kircher declared that under
present circumstances he could no longer supervise the affairs of the
parish without some compensation, hence he requested an annual salary
of $50.00. The committee gladly assented, Air. August Hoeveler offering
to pay $25.00 from his own pocket.(10).
The school now built and provision made for regular services,
Father Kircher and the committee concentrated on the erection of the
church. Even while contemplating the building of the school, Father
Kircher had given thought to the church and as early as September 29,
1861, had authorized the architect, Charles Bartberger, to sketch the
plans. After making corrections Father Kircher obtained the approval of
the committee in the meeting of October 3, of the same year. On the
same occasion, at the suggestion of Mr. Landelin Vogel, St. Augustine
was chosen as patron of the parish. This was done, according to
information furnished by pioneer members, out of deference to Mr.
Augustine Hoeveler who from the beginning was the prime mover in the
formation of the parish. Later, when the Capuchin Fathers took over the
parish, the name of the church naturally suggested itself as a title
for the Capuchin Province of Pennsylvania. In this way Mr. Augustine
Hoeveler has been doubly honored.(11)
In the meeting of January 12, 1862, a building association had
been founded the members of which pledged themselves to pay no less
than ten cents monthly. The
(7) Letter of Mrs. Lisetta Besselman in St. Aug., Feb., 1922, p. 6.
(8) Born at Cryon, near Trieste, Austria about 1820.
Ordained about 1849. Came to the United States about 1850
and took charge of St. Mary's Church, Allegheny, a position he held
until his death on Jan..19, 1869. Previous to 1859 he acted as
the bishop's secretary for the Germans of the diocese and then as their
Vicar General. Cf. Lambing, Catholic
Historical Researches, Jan., 1886, p. 94. Catholic Church in Pittsburgh and
Allegheny, pp. 166-168; Foundation
Diocese, p. 243. Die St.
Marien-Gemeinde in der Stadt,
Allegheny, Pa., 1898, pp. 27-29. Lambert Daller, O.S.B., Souvenir of the Diamond Jubilee of St.
Mary's Church, N. S., Pittsburgh, 1848-1923, pp.'26-32.
George Schoener, M.A., Fiftieth
Anniversary and Dedication of the New St. Cecilia's Church, Rochester,
Pa., 1906, pp. 16-18.
(9) The following curates probably said Mass at St. Augustine's before
the appointment of the first pastor: Rev. Ignatius Carl Reiser. Born
Feb. 2, 1828, at Steinberg, Wuerttemberg, Germany. Came to the United
States on Oct. 25, 1855. Ordained on Jan. 9, 1856, at Erie, Pa. Curate
to Fr. Stibicl from Nov., 1857-July, 1868, when appointed pastor of St.
Joseph's, Allegheny. Remained here till Jan. 15, 1873. Died at Durand,
Wis., on March 29, 1899. Cf. Enzlberger, Schematismus, Milwaukee, 1892, p.
138; Msgr. Joseph Suehr. A Short
History of SS. Peter and Paul's Church, E. E., Pittsburgh, 1909,
p. 15; Lambing, Church in Pittsburgh
and Allegheny, p. 176; Balthasar Gerold, Golden Jubilee of St. Joseph's Church,
18, 43, 44.
Rev. Michael Eigner. Ordained in Wheeling, 1859 but soon became curate
to Fr. Stibiel. Died in Mercy Hospital on April 7, 1862. Cf. Catholic Directory, Milwaukee,
1900. in unpaged Necrology.
Rev. Philip Francis Schmidt, curate to Fr. Stibiel from Nov., 1860 till
appointed pastor of St. Augustine's. More on him in the text. Rev.
Joseph M. Brandstaetter and Rev. John Schell were curates to Fr.
Stibiel about the years 1862 and 1863 and may have said Mass at St.
(10) St. Aug., Jan., 1922, p.
(11) Ibid., p. 7.
decision to begin work on the church was finally reached in April,
1862, when Mr. August Hoeveler as president of the building committee
was authorized to let the contract for grading and for the foundation
Once under way, the building made rapid progress. On May 23, an
agreement had been signed with the contractors Messrs. John and William
Lamkemeyer, to build a church costing $9,875.00. Due to later changes,
however, the cost of the building exclusive of furnishings, rose to
On June 22, 1862, the corner stone was laid. Bishop Domenec
being in Rome, his Vicar General, the Very Rev. E. McMahon, officiated
at the ceremony. The Pittsburgh
(12) of June 28, carried the following account:
On last Sunday afternoon at four
o'clock the corner stone of a new church for the use of the
Lawrenceville German Catholics was laid at Lawrenceville by the Very
Rev. E. McMahon, Vicar General, assisted by Rev. Messrs. Stibiel,
Gibbs, Kircher, and Reiser. Rev. John Stibiel addressed the
congregation in German, and was followed by the Very Rev. Vicar General
in an English discourse. The ceremony was witnessed by an immense
concourse of people. The religious societies of the cathedral and Holy
Trinity, Pittsburgh; and of St. Michael's, Birmingham, met at the
cathedral and went thence in procession to St. Philomena's, where they
met the societies of the church of St. Mary's, and of St. Peter's,
Allegheny. From St. Philomena's Church they proceeded to Lawrenceville,
where they met the society of St. Mary's, Sharpsburg.
The lot secured for the new church is one of the most eligible
in the borough, fronting on Butler Street, not far from where this
thoroughfare meets the Greensburg turnpike, and running back to the
turnpike. Before long, no doubt, there will be erected a fine church,
thus adding another place of Catholic worship in the suburbs of our
With the laying of the corner stone Father Kircher had every
reason to rejoice. His first undertaking, the school, was now
flourishing, and his next objective, the church, gave promise of an
achievement' no less encouraging. But interested as he was in
completing the church he had shortly begun, he was not to realize his
ambition, for in December, 1862, when the church was barely under roof,
the Bishop appointed a resident pastor in the person of Rev. Philip
Franz Schmidt, hitherto curate to Father Stibiel of St. Mary's,
Allegheny. Apparently, things had not gone so well since Father Stibiel
and his curates had assumed charge of the Sunday services at St.
Augustine's. Father Kircher had asked for a curate to assist him in his
work both at Riceville and in Lawrenceville, but instead the Bishop had
placed the spiritual care of the new parish in the hands of Father
Stibiel while permitting Father Kircher to act as pastor and to
administer the temporal affairs. This arrangement could not but cause
division both between priests and people as seems evident from the fact
that Father Kircher ceased to preside at the committee meetings after
the laying of the corner stone. Nor does his name appear any more in
connection with any transaction. For nearly two years he had directed
the affairs of the parish and in the truest sense must be styled the
organizer of St. Augustine's.
Father Philip Franz Schmidt, distinguished as the first resident
pastor of St. Augustine's,
was born in Freiburg on May 10, 1817. He was ordained priest in St.
Peter's Seminary near Freiburg on August 7, 1843. Previous to 18S2, he
was active either as curate or as pastor in Oberkirch, Riedern am Wald,
Kenzingen, Rotenfels, Radolfzell, Hilsbach and Rauenberg. From 1852
till January 25, 1856, when he received permission to go to America, he
had no appointment. A letter from the episcopal chancery of Freiburg
dated January 16, 1922, says that while in the archdiocese of Freiburg
"he did not prove a good financier and, moreover, he had some other
shortcomings. For a while he stayed with the Trappist Fathers in
Oelenberg in Alsace, but he found this kind of life too strenuous and
asked the Archbishop for leave to go to America."(13)
In 1856 he came to the United States. Here, too, he moved
frequently from place to place. In 1857 he was at Thompson (now Frank),
Seneca Co., Ohio; in 1858 and 1859 he was pastor of St. Joseph's Church
at Vogelbacher (now Lucinda), Pa., Clarion
(12) A Catholic weekly founded March 16, 1844 still continuing.
Cf. Catholic Encyclopedia
(13) St. Aug
., March, 1922,
p. 4. Letter from episcopal chancery in Freiburg, dated Jan. 16, 1922,
in parish archives.
Co., diocese of Erie; in 1860, he was at St. Mary's Hospital,
Rochester, Monroe Co., New York, probably as chaplain. In February,
1860, Father Schmidt called personally on Father Stibiel at St. Mary's,
Allegheny, probably to arrange for admission into the Pittsburgh
Diocese. In November, 1860, he was appointed assistant at St. Mary's
and seems to have rendered service at the churches attended from that
center. More than likely he substituted for Fr. Stibiel at St.
Augustine's before his official appointment as pastor in 1862.
During the ten months of his pastorate Father Schmidt centered
his efforts on completing the church begun by Father Kircher. He
purchased the pews and the windows. He was also interested in the
school and left us a complete list of the parents of the children
attending the school. He was not very faithful in keeping records and
his successor, Father John Nepomucene Tamchina, wrote the following
remark on the margin of the Register of baptisms, marriages and deaths:
"A prima die Novembris (?) anni
1863, tempore undecim menses retro, quo Rev. Phil. Schmidt munus
pastorale ad ecclesiam St. Augustini obierat, ut primae 5 paginae
produnt prout baptismata, ita matrimonia et sepulturas consignari
Father Schmidt was in ill health most of the time, which might
account at least partially for his instability. He is said to have been
of an emaciated appearance and seldom if ever was a smile seen on his
face. In October, 1863, shortly before the church was ready for
dedication, he was transferred to St. Mary's Help of Christians, in
McKees Rocks, where he remained for about a year and a half, then
returned as assistant to St. Mary's, Allegheny. His last signature
appears in the baptismal register of that church under date of October
15, 1865. Broken in health, he
later entered the Mercy Hospital and died on June 21, 1866.
Negligent in keeping the records, he is now himself the victim of
several inaccuracies regarding the principal dates of his life. Father
Lambing in Historical Researches in
, says Father Schmidt was forty-eight
instead of forty-nine years old; and Das
of St. Mary's, Allegheny, has
August 12 instead of August 10 for the day of his birth, and July 2,
1867, instead of June 21, 1866, for the date of his death.(15)
The second resident pastor was Rev. John Nepomucene Tamchina. He
was born at Pardubitz, district of Chrudim, now Czechoslovakia, on
April 14, 1803. Surprising as it may seem, he was a Capuchin, having
entered the Order on September 30, 1828. As a Capuchin his name was
Restitute and he took his vows in the friary at Wiener-Neustadt. Having
completed his philosophical and theological studies in the friaries at
Boesing, Hungary, at Scheibbs, then, Lower Austria, and Pressburg, he
took solemn vows on July 31, 1830, and was ordained priest by
Archbishop Milde in Vienna on September 4, 1834. His first appointment
was as curate in Linz, becoming guardian and administrator of the
Capuchin church there in 1849. In 1850 he taught theology at
Wiener-Neustadt. In 1851 he departed for America and is listed in the
chronicle of his Province as Apostolic Missionary in America.(16)
Father Tamchina's first appointment in America was probably as
pastor of St. Joseph's Church, Lancaster in the archdiocese of
Philadelphia. He remained there from April-November, 1851, making
missionary visits to St. Peter's, Butler, Pa., where his services were
welcome owing to the shortage of German priests in those parts. From
Lancaster Father Tamchina went to Butler where he remained till the end
of 1852 or early part of 1853. While at Butler he also had charge of
the parish at Herman, Pa., for at least a half year. His name appears
in the Herman registers from
(14) "During the eleven months previous to Nov.1, 1863, when Rev.
Philip Schmidt was pastor of St. Augustine's, he neglected entirely
to record the baptisms, marriages and burials, as is
evident from the first five pages."
(15) Information from diocesan curia of Freiburg, dated March 6, 1922.
Document in parish archives. Cf. St.
., April., 1922, pp. 11, 12.
(16) Letter from archivist of Capuchin monastery in Vienna. Parish
archives. St. Aug
1922, p. 3.
November 1, 1851-April 7, 1852. From about the middle of 1855-November
11, 1855, he did pastoral work in St. Joseph's, Donegal, (now North
Oakland), whence he went to St. Mary's, Sharpsburg, and remained there
from early 1856 to at least May of the same year.
From St. Mary's, Sharpsburg, he went to West End in Somerset
Co., attending from 1857-59 St. John's Church at Herman's Bottom, and
St. Matthew's at Fairfield or Nyer's Hill, now New Baltimore, Pa. In
1859, he was curate at St. Mary's, Allegheny, remaining till September,
when he became pastor of St. Mary's, McKees Rocks. In 1863 he exchanged
places with Father Schmidt, the first resident pastor of St.
Coming to St. Augustine's Father Tamchina found the church
practically finished, hence he began the preparations for the
dedication. In several meetings with the church committee,the Messrs.
A. Hoeveler, L. Unverzagt, A. Wirth, X. Loeffler, X. Helbling and B.
Schmidt, the most important questions were decided. Thanksgiving Day,
November 26, 1863, was set for the day of dedication, and it was
decided that admission should be by tickets costing fifty or
twenty-five cents. Notice of the coming celebration was to be announced
in The Pittsburgh Catholic
and three times in both the weekly and daily edition of the Republi-caner
societies were to be invited by letter.
On December 5, 1863, The
carried the following account of the
The Church of St. Augustine,
Lawrenceville, was solemnly blessed and set apart for divine services
on Thursday of last week. The Bishop of the diocese (Most Rev. Michael
Domenec) performed the ceremony of blessing. High Mass was celebrated
by Rev. J. Tamchina, the pastor of the church, assisted by Rev. J. M.
Bierl as deacon, and Rev. A. Gibbs as subdeacon. After Mass the Bishop
made a few remarks in English and Rev. Bierl preached in German. The
principal beneficial societies of the two cities (Pittsburgh and
Allegheny), ten in number, went processionally to the church and
assisted at the ceremonies.(19)
The collection on the day of dedication amounted to $287.70 and
the tickets for the seats netted $568.55. The church was built of red
brick in the Romanesque style and measured 100 feet in length, 50 feet
in width and 30 feet in height. The tower, which was also the
vestibule, faced Butler Street and rose to a height of 150 feet. The
church had a seating capacity of 650. The pews, eighty in number and
costing $580.00 were made by Mr. John Lamkemeyer.
Since the church was not adequately furnished upon completion,
Father Tamchina devoted his efforts to supply whatever was needed. Thus
a new high altar costing $687.00 was installed and blessed on August
28, 1864, the patronal feast of the church. Later a pulpit made by Mr.
Anton Iske was purchased for $500.00. To meet this expense Mr. August
Hoeveler donated a lot to be raffled and the parish held a social. Both
together cleared $512.00. On July 10, 1864, the organ was installed. It
was built by A. Pomplitz of Baltimore and cost $2,500.00. The organ had
twenty stops and was considered the best church organ in the district.
On the occasion of its installation a sacred concert was given under
the direction of Mr. A. M. Schwab. The proceeds amounted to $203.00.
The Stations of the Cross were erected in 1864, the oil paintings
costing $230.00 and the wooden frames $250.00. Throughout the year the
church was gradually enriched with new articles until it was adequately
equipped for worship and for the convenience of the people. Liberal
donors were never lacking and subscriptions for sacred vessels,
vestments and statues were always successful. The
(17) St. Aug
., May, 1922, pp.
(18) A secular daily and weekly in the German language. Suspended
publication about 1880. Its equipment was purchased to start the Pittsburgher Beobachter
(19) Rev. John Michael Bierl, preacher on the occasion of the
dedication, had an interesting career. Born July 2, 1838.
Appointed pastor of Sts. Peter and Paul's Church, East
Liberty, from 1865-1872. From this post he organized the
St. James' Parish of Wilkinsburg. Labored also in Butler, Pa., and
other places. Joined the Conventual Franciscan Fathers at Syracuse, N.
Y., and made profession on Sept. 8, 1875. Occupied the post of
confessor at Loretto. Italy, and at St. Peter's,
Rome. Died on Feb. 9, 1912, at Utica, N. Y. Cf. Schematismus FF. Minorum Conventualium S. Francisci, Necrologium
in Pittsburgh and Allegheny
pp. 176, 189, 442.
total cost of the church was about $26,000. Although the contract price
was for $12,327.84, nevertheless changes in the original plans and the
furnishings increased that sum.
Besides equipping the church, Father Tamchina completed the
payment due the Teese heirs for the original church property. The
parish had still owed $4,350.00 plus $243.50 in interest on this
property. This debt was cleared in 1864. To discharge this burden the
pastor resorted to picnics, subscriptions and appeals, and also to the
sale of the eleven lots comprised in the Malcolm Leech property
purchased merely as an investment in 1862. The latter sale brought
$2,860.00. Moreover, the pastor's finances were greatly helped by the
loans which he made from both parishioners and non-parishioners at the
low rate of three percent while the banks demanded six.
In December, 1864, Father Tamchina sent his financial report to
the Bishop. This was the first financial statement the parish had ever
submitted to the Bishop. It comprised all income and expenses from
April 1, 1862-December, 1864. It follows: Income: Pew Rent, $1,450.00;
Offertory, $681.00; Special collections, $2,850.00; Voluntary
offerings, $675.00; Subscriptions, $682.00; Societies, $334.00; Sale of
lots and picnics, $4,802.00; Total $11,474.00. Expenses: Including cost
of church property, $30,374.00, leaving a debt of $18,900.00, on
January 1, 1865.(20)
Realizing the spiritual advantages of a mission, the pastor
arranged for a mission shortly after the church was dedicated. The
famous Jesuit preacher, Father Francis X. Weninger,(21) conducted a
mission for the parish from March 1-10, and, judging from the baptismal
record, a mission for non-Catholics from March 15-21, for during that
week many adults and their children were baptised by the missionary.
Since this was the first mission, it was made memorable by the presence
of Bishop Domenec who came twice to the services and probably
pontificated. The bill of $8.00 from Joseph Meyer and Son for the
carriage "to bring the bishop" is still preserved in the parish
archives. The mission cross erected on this occasion hung formerly in
the corridor of St. Augustine's monastery. It bears the dates, 1864 and
1872, the dates of both the first and the second mission.
Father Tamchina also fostered the traditional interest in the
school. In 1864, 207 children were enrolled in the school and in
addition to Mr. Kraus, two other teachers had to be employed. Evidently
more room was needed and it seems that temporary accommodations were
made in some neighboring house. In 1868 the number of pupils had
increased to 265 and it was found necessary to enlarge the school.
After levelling the site, the building was moved so as to front on
Thirty-seventh Street and a basement built beneath it. To accomplish
this an expenditure of $586.00 had to be made. About the same time a
wall with an iron fence was erected in front' of the church on Butler
Street "to stop loafing on the church grounds", as the record says.(22)
This wall is still doing service.
In October, 1866, the parish received its first curate in the
person of Father Lawrence Spitzlberger who remained only till
December. In February, 1867, Father August Nieman came as curate but
remained only till August. On February 2, 1867, Father John Duffner
celebrated his first solemn Mass at St. Augustine's and remained as
curate for eight months when he was appointed pastor of Germantown.
Apparently, the diocese had but few German-speaking priests, hence
there was little chance for any save the larger parishes to have a
(20) Finanzbuch I, p.
279. St. Aug., June, 1922, p. 10.
(21) A prominent German missionary Cf. Catholic Encyclopedia, XV, p. 587.
(22) St. Aug., July, 1922, p.
(23) Ibid., June, 1922, p.
13. On Rev. Lawrence Spitzlberger, see Enzlberger, op. cit. 1892, p.
135; Cath. Directory,
Milwaukee, 1905, p. 934. On Rev.August Nieman see Sigmund Cratz,
O.M.Cap., History of St. Marys
Church, Herman, Pa., Pittsburgh, 1917, pp. 39-41; Enzlberger.
p. 37. Gregory Lindemann, O.M.Cap., The Rise and Progress of the Province of
St. Joseph of the Capuchin Order in the United States, New York,
1917, p. 324; Celestine Bittle, O.M.Cap., A Romance of Lady Poverty, New
York, 1933, p. 326. On Rev. John B. Duffner, see
Enzelberger. op. cit., p. 239; Ed. Fussenegger. Sixtieth Anniversary of the Dedication of
the Most Holy Name Church, N. S., Pittsburgh, 128, pp. 24, 25,
In July, 1868, a collection for two side altars dedicated to the
Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph netted $636.00. By this time Father
Tamchina was sixty-eight years old and not in the best of health. To
add to his troubles, a misunderstanding arose between himself and some
parishioners who complained to the Bishop that he had misused the
parish funds. Misunderstanding the terms of the contract, they cited
that $30,000 had been paid for the church whereas the contract called
for only $9,000. Father Tamchina drew up an itemized statement of all
expenses including those before his time. Neither this nor the defense
of the Bishop was sufficient to quiet all the gossip. Commenting on the
unhappy affair the old pastor wrote: "Patience as enduring as steel and
the conviction of innocence give powerful consolation in every test and
they triumph at last."(24)
On October 7, 1868, Father Tamchina tendered his resignation as
pastor and became chaplain of St. Joseph's Orphanage, Troy Hill, then
in the city of Allegheny.(25) During the five years of his incumbency
he baptized 240 persons, blessed 41 marriages and conducted 87
funerals. When Father Tamchina retired, the parish numbered about 300
families and the church debt was $20,545.00.(26)
To the surprise of all, the successor of Father Tamchina was
none other than Father George Kircher, the organizer of the parish. He
returned in October, 1868, and remained till September, 1871. Shortly
after the interruption of his work at St. Augustine's in 1862, he had
been transferred from Holy Trinity in Riceville to the Church of the
Immaculate Conception in Altoona, then a part of the Pittsburgh
Diocese. From Altoona he visited regularly the Germans of
Hollidaysburg, organizing St. Michael's Parish, building both church
and school, and finally becoming the first resident pastor there in
1866. From Hollidaysburg he returned to St. Augustine's in Oct.,
Summarizing his work for the three years, 1868-71, his immediate
successor says: "Besides meeting the salaries and other current
expenses, he built the rear (brick) addition to the school; he had the
church grounds paved and the hill in the rear of the church partly
levelled; he made several repairs in the church, had Thirty-seventh
Street regulated, and installed gas in the church and school."(28)
Father Tamchina had already enlarged the school by adding the basement
to the frame building, but Father Kircher now built a two-story brick
annex in the rear. The entire upper floor was arranged as a hall for
entertainments and meetings.
In addition to his work at St. Augustine's, Father Kircher
acceded to the request of the Bishop and took charge of the German
Catholics of Bloomfield in 1870. This extra service necessitated the
assistance of another priest. None of the curates appointed during
these years remained long. We have record of the following: March-May,
1870, Father Francis Xavier Pauletigi; September-November, 1870, Father
Joseph Boehm; March-April, 1871, Father Francis Deuermeyer; May-July,
1871, Father John Duffner, then the Benedictine, Father Karl
Geyerstanger, till September, 1871, when Father Kircher completed his
second term at St. Augustine's.(29)
From a letter which Father Kircher wrote to the Bishop of
Augsburg toward the end of 1866 when still at Hollidaysburg, we gather
that his Bishop must have expected him to return to Bavaria shortly:
(24) St. Aug
., July, 1922, p.
(25) Founded in 1850 for children of German-speaking parents.
Closed its doors on Jan. 1, 1938. Lambing, Church in Pittsburgh and Allegheny
(26) St. Aug
., July, 1922,
pp. 1, 2. Census, 1867.
., Dec., 1921, pp.
., Sept, 1922, p. 1.
., pp. 1-3. On Rev.
Xavier Pauletigi, see Enzlberger, op. cit., p. 38; Gedenkbuch des Goldenen Jubilaeums der St.
Pittsburgh, 1898, p. 114. On Rev. Joseph Boehm:
Enzlberger, op. cit., p. 159; Hoffman's
, Milwaukee, 1894, p.159; Schoener, Fiftieth Anniversary of
St. Cecilia's Church
, p. 19. On Rev. Francis
Deuermeyer: Enzlberger, op. cit., 138; Hoffmann's Oath. Directory
p. 41; Gerold, Golden Jubilee of St.
, N. S., pp. 18, 44. On Rev. Karl Geyerstanger:
Cratz, op. cit., pp. 34, 35; Album
, St. Vincent, Pa, 1880, p. 234; Lambing, Foundation Stones
, pp. 180, 184.
With your kind permission I consider it a most
sacred obligation to ask Your Lordship to prolong indefinitely my leave
of absence. The reasons which I give are the same that induced me to
leave my diocese and my native land, Bavaria, to minister to the poor
Germans in want of priests. Who would deprive me now of my position,
indeed, no enviable one, which I attained by hard work supported by the
blood-stained money of poor workingmen, in spite of the opposition of
the English or rather the Irish priests. Far be it from me to glory in
myself, but the well-known custom in this country is that "he who
begins a work must also finish it," and since I had great difficulty in
obtaining the Bishop's permission to build a church and school here, he
being no friend of the Germans, I feel bound to remain in my parish and
to make it a success.(30)
The writer in the St.
(31) says that permission was accorded Father Kircher
to remain in America for another year beginning with February 12, 1867.
In the meantime Father Kircher repeatedly petitioned the Bishop of
Pittsburgh to relieve him of his charge so that he might return to
Bavaria. The Bishop, however, persuaded him to remain at his post.
Undoubtedly, the Bishop needed German-speaking priests at the time.
It is unfortunate that the last year of Father Kircher's
pastorate was marred by various difficulties with certain parishioners.
It is said that he was no bookkeeper and that mistakes were detected in
his accounts. But someone who knew him well said: "If Father Kircher
spent this money, he did not spend it on himself."(32) Other
difficulties arose from his work in Bloomfield. Not having a curate, he
frequently conducted the Sunday services in Bloomfield and employed at
St. Augustine's Father Gallus Hoch, O.S.B., from St. Vincent's
Archabbey. This arrangement aroused opposition on the part of certain
parishioners at St. Augustine's.
Finally, there was serious trouble owing to the dismissal of
Teacher Schmidt. For sometime both priest and teacher had been living
in the old Teese residence. The building had eleven rooms, four of
which were on the first floor and four on the second floor. Then there
were three one-story annexes, two brick and one frame. Quite naturally,
the major portion of the house was reserved for the rectory, providing
suitable accommodations for the pastor, curate, and housekeeper, while
two of the annexes and one room on the first floor were reserved for
the teacher. The teacher had a family and since he needed another
bedroom, Father Kircher gave up his parlor for this purpose. The
teacher, however, turned the additional room into a parlor for himself
to the disapproval of both pastor and church committee. As a result of
the disagreement, the teacher was obliged to vacate the rectory
altogether and to rent the frame house at the entrance of Church Alley
on Thirty-seventh Street. Thereupon the teacher commenced to agitate
against the pastor and was finally dismissed. This did not end the
trouble but only led to a greater dissension in the parish.
In the midst of all these unpleasant happenings Father Kircher
decided to harken to the appeals of his brother who wrote from Bavaria
urging him to return to his native-land. Father Kircher left St.
Augustine's on September 14, 1871. As a warning to the parishioners and
as a proof of his own good will, he concluded his last sermon with the
words: 'To err is human, but to hate is devilish."(33)
On October 14, 1871, he petitioned the Bishop of Augsburg for
reinstatement in the diocese, presenting at the same time the
testimonial letter from the Bishop of Pittsburg. It read:
Herewith we testify that Rev.
George Kircher, priest of the diocese of Augsburg, who with the
necessary leave and permission of his Ordinary, exercised priestly
duties in the Pittsburgh diocese, performed his duties with
praiseworthy zeal and great benefit to the faithful. We also testify
that of his own accord he desired to return to his country, and has
lawfully requested our permission. We, therefore, grant him this favor,
and recommend him to the kindness of the Bishop of Augsburg. We also
state that, to the best of our knowledge, the said George Kircher has
not incurred any censure.
Sept. 11, 1871.
Signed: Michael, Bishop of Pittsburgh.(34)
(30) Document from episcopal curia, Augsburg. Cf. Note 2.
(31) Dec., 1921, pp. 3, 4. The writer is Rev. Cyprian Gehrling,
., p. 4.
., p. 5.
(34) Cf. Note 2.
On October 18, 1871, Father Kircher was reinstated in the
diocese of Augsburg and was appointed successively curate in Illerberg,
Hawangen, Mindelheim and Haselbach. On December 31, 1874, he became
pastor at Amendingen where he died on June 18, 1884. The St. Augustinus
(35) quotes the
following from the Pittsburger
We are reliably informed from a
priest from the South Side that the Rev. George Kircher who is well
known in this diocese, particularly in Hollidaysburg and Lawrenceville,
died June 18. of this year at Amendingen, Bavaria. The deceased had
worked in this diocese for twelve years, especially in the
above-mentioned parishes, and had won many friends. Invited by his
brother who also is a priest, to return to Germany, he took over the
latter's parish in Amendingen, near Memmingen, where he was to work for
another ten years with great zeal. In this place he closed his earthly
career after an illness of fifteen weeks and which he had contracted
from a cold. The deceased was born in Weissenhorn, Bavaria, on August
19, 1830, ordained priest May 19, 1858. and died in his 54th year.
Father Kircher was a kindly gentleman, a successful organizer
and a zealous priest. His loss was felt by St. Augustine's and also by
the diocese, for owing to the scarcity of German priests, the Bishop
was forced to recall Father Tamchina to the pastorate the latter had
relinquished but three years before.
As already stated, Father Tamchina retired to St. Joseph's
Orphanage in 1868. However, he did not remain there long for the Catholic Directory
of 1869 places
him at Alpsville, Pa., and at St. Joseph's Chapel, Troy Hill. In 1871,
he is not listed but evidently he held the same post. On returning to
St. Augustine's Father Tamchina was in his sixty-ninth year and as the
parish with the mission of Bloomfield taxed his strength he was given
two curates, Father John Staub and Father Peter Kaufmann. In the course
of the year, however, both curates were promoted to pastorates in
German parishes and the Pastor of St. Augustine's was compelled to rely
on the Benedictine, Father Gallus Hoch at least for Sunday
In February, 1872, Father Weninger, S.J., conducted his second
mission at St. Augustine's. The mission was well attended and the
missionary himself baptized no less than twenty-two persons, most of
whom were adult converts. Moreover, many children of mixed marriages
attending the public schools were reclaimed for the Catholic school and
four youths were admitted to first communion.
Though advanced in years, Father Tamchina continued his interest
in the material and spiritual upbuilding of the parish. After providing
for the spiritual renewal in the mission, he undertook the remodelling
of the parish house, hitherto an unsatisfactory dwelling for the
priest. Owing to the heavy expenses for building the school and church,
the parish built no parochial residence. From the beginning the old
Teese house was used for this purpose, but as it stood on a hill thirty
feet high, it was too inconvenient for Father Tamchina in his first
pastorate so he rented a house from Mr. X. Loeffler. This house stood
next to the church on Butler Street. Later, when Father Kircher
succeeded Father Tamchina, he returned to the old Teese house after
making repairs and building a kitchen. In 1872, at the beginning of his
second pastorate, Father Tamchina remodelled the rectory extensively.
He levelled the hill on which it stood, put a basement under the house,
and repaired it thoroughly for $8,000.00. The contract was given to B.
Hoehn and Raab, and the house was practically rebuilt. The money was
obtained partly by selling a lot which the parish had purchased from a
certain Dr-Bundschuh. The lot was auctioned and brought $4,575.00. A
collection, a concert, a picnic and sundry other sources enabled the
pastor to remodel the rectory without drawing on the treasury or adding
to the church debt.
The crowning work of Father Tamchina, effected at the end of his
(35) Dec., 1921, pp. 5-6.
(36) St. Aug
., Oct., 1922,
p.1. On Rev. John Staub: Lambing, "Necrology
in Cath. Hist. Researches, vol.
II, Jan., 1886, p. 102; Church in
Pittsburgh and Allegheny
, pp. 182, 199. On Rev. Peter Kaufmann:
Enzlberger, op. cit., p, 241; Gerold, op. cit., pp. 18-30, 45, 46. On
Rev. Gallus Hoch, O.S.B., see Cratz, op. cit., p. 41; Enzlberger, op.
cit., p. 246
was the establishment of the Sisters of St. Francis as teachers in the
school. The employment of lay teachers, hitherto unavoidable, was
nevertheless far from satisfactory. Good teachers were rare and even
when secured were ever ready to relinquish their post for more
lucrative positions. In the first seven years of the school, from
1854-1861, there were no less than seven teachers, averaging a new
teacher each year. From 1862-1871, the following teachers are
mentioned: John Kraus, 1862-64 (assisted by Mr. Werder in 1863); Joseph
Zimmermann, 1864-65, assisted by a man named Karl Spiro in 1864;
Leopold Nigel, 1865-67; Stephen Schmidt, 1866-68; John Nep. Bögle,
1867-68; Miss Elizabeth Fillinger assisted in 1866, 1867 and 1868.(37)
The writer in the St. Angustinus
Miss Blanche Weisshaar, Mr. Heilig and
Mr. Stephen Schmidt in 1870; Mr. Duwell(39) and Mr. Joseph Stuetzer in
Little wonder that the pastor, seeking a permanent solution of
the teacher problem, decided to employ the services of Sisters
especially adapted for this purpose. His resolution made, he had not
far to seek. Within the confines of his parish was St. Francis
Hospital(40) established by the Third Order Sisters of St. Francis
whose motherhouse was in Buffalo. They had started their hospital in
Pittsburgh in 1866 and soon after began to accept teaching positions in
the German parochial schools of the diocese. On November 8, 1871, the
Sisters began their work in St. Augustine's School. The first two
teachers were Sister Mary Angela Endres of Koblenz, Prussia, and Sister
Bernarda Kim of Pittsburgh. The Sisters dwelt at the hospital as there
was no convent in the parish till after some years. For the highest
class of boys the services of Mr. John Trimberger, of the Teachers
Institute of St. Francis in Wisconsin, were retained till the fall of
1874 when the Sisters took over the four classes.(41)
The coming of the Sisters proved a great blessing for the
parish. The pastor had no more worries as to who the next teacher would
be, nor did the school ever have to close its doors for weeks and
months until another teacher could be found. The pupils, too, began to
cherish more interest in their school and to love their teachers whose
very garb and life were suggestive of religion and culture.
Father Tamchina continued in the pastorate till April, 1874,
when we meet another great turning-point in the history of the parish.
It is to this subject we must now turn-
(37) Seraphischer Kinderfreund
(38) Sept, 1922, p. 3.
(39) Teacher Duwell was an accomplished classical scholar. Later he
taught Latin in the Butler High School. He had also been organist at
various churches. He gave two sons to the Church: Rev.
Charles Duwell of St. Joseph's Church, Verona, Pa., and Rev. Edward
Duwell of Holy Trinity Church, McKeesport. Information furnished by
Rev. John Lenhart, O.M.Cap.
(40) The first St. Francis Hospital was most probably located on the
present Bandera Street between Thirty-seventh Street and Cobalt Alley.
It was a long frame tenement belonging to a man named Engel. On May 22,
1866, the Sisters purchased a plot of ground with a frame
building on Forty-fourth Street for the sum of $25,000. The dwelling
had a capacity of 30 beds. A chapel was added and dedicated on
Thanksgving Day, Nov., 29. 1866. On July 21, 1871, the corner stone was
laid for a more spacious building which was dedicated by Bishop Domenec
on Sept. 26, of the same year. Information furnished by Sister M.
Clarissa. archivist of St. Francis Convent, Mt. Alvernia, Millvale, Pa.
, IX, p. 23.
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