In the spring of 1888 Mr. George Nickel, contractor, began the
excavation. In order to finance the building, Father Maurice suggested
that each self-supporting person take at least one share amounting to
fifteen dollars and to pay this sum within five years. The Capuchin
Fathers with the permission of the Father Provincial took one hundred
shares for $1500. This was done in compensation to the parish for tlie
piece of ground which was to be added to their convent garden when the
frame school should be dismantled. The parishioners, too, became
enthusiastic about the new school and were generous in purchasing
shares. However, of the four hundred and fifty who subscribed, three
hundred and sixty-eight paid either in full or in part. The sum of
$14,101 was collected from this source.
The corner stone was laid on Sunday, July 1, 1888. At the high
Mass the Rev. Gallus Hoch, O.S.B., preached an eloquent sermon on
education through the family, the Church and the School. In the
afternoon after solemn Vespers, the Very Rev. Francis Wolff, O.M.Cap.,
Provincial,(3) assisted by the local Capuchins, officiated at the
solemn ceremony. The St. Augustinus Society of young men furnished
instrumental music while the church choir and the school children
rendered the singing. In the corner stone were placed a documentary
report of the corner stone laying, several newspapers, a copy of the
Statutes of the Pennsylvania Capuchins, some relics of the saints,
medals and an Agnus Dei.
The building made steady progress and was dedicated on March 3,
1889. In the morning the Most Reverend John J. Kain, Bishop of
Wheeling, celebrated the Pontifical Mass and preached the sermon. In
the afternoon the same prelate pontificated at Vespers after which the
Most Reverend Richard Phelan, Bishop of Pittsburgh, blessed the school.
Father Francis Wolff, Provincial, delivered the German sermon,
contrasting Christian with godless education. Bishop Kain preached in
English, outlining the position of the Church toward education and
toward the State, and deploring in those early days as we still do
today, the double taxation imposed on Catholics. Among the many
clerical guests were: The Reverend Leander Schnerr, O.S.B., Prior of
St. Mary's, Allegheny,(4) Rev. Joseph Strub, C.Sp.S., Provincial of the
Holy Ghost Fathers, the Rev. Fathers Joseph Suehr, Herman Joseph
Goebel, and Gregory Zeilnhofer, O.S.B.(5)
The clergy and other guests were served dinner and supper in the
hall through the generosity of the Frauenheim family. In the evening a
tea party was held for the benefit of the school and on March 5, the
school children staged a play which so impressed the audience that a
repetition was demanded. The income for the school during the days
(3) Francis Wolff was born Dec. 18, 183S, at Ruedesheim, Germany.
Entered the Capuchin Order on Sept. 4, 1858; ordained Aug. 14, 1860;
came to the United States June 11, 1875; returned to Germany in 1897
and died at Ehrenbreitstein on Dec. 22, 1915. Enzlberger, op. cit., p.
227; Jacobs, A., O.M.Cap., op. cit.
(4) Leander Schnerr was born on Jan. 17, 1836, at Gommersdorf, Baden,
Germany. Came to the United States on Aug. 17, 1850. Professed as a
Benedictine on Jan. 6, 1857. Ordained Sept. 20, 1859. Pastor of St.
Mary's Church, Allegheny, from Aug. 30. 1877-Aug. 31, 1892. Elected
Archabbot of St. Vincent's on July 15, 1892. Died Sept. 3, 1920. Cf.
Album Benedictinum, St. Vincent's. Pa., 1880, p. 336; Gedenkbuch des
Gold. ]ub. der St. Marien-Kirche, Pittsburgh, 1898, ?. 67-91, 117.
Daller, Lambert. O.S.B., Diamond Jubilee Celebration of St. Mary's
Church, N. S.. Pittsburgh, 1923, pp. 38-41, 44-47; Enzlberger, op.
cit., p. 240.
(5) Rt. Rev. Joseph Suehr was born March 12, 1847 at Dinsheim, Alsace.
Came to the United States on Dec. 25, 1853, and was ordained in
Pittsburgh, July 31, 1870. In 1878 became pastor of SS. Peter and
Paul's Church, East End, and kept this office till his death on March
9, 1922. For many years he was Vicar General for the Germans of the
diocese. Made Monsignor and later Prothonotary Apostolic. Enzlberger,
op. cit., 238; Rt. Rev. Herman Jos. Goebel was born March 19. 1853, at
Niederhelden in Westphalia. Germany. Came to the United States on May
17. 1872; ordained in Pittsburgh on April 21, 1876. Pastor of St.
Martin's Church, West End in Sept.. 1877. Died as Monsignor and pastor
of St. Joseph's Church, Mt. Oliver, on June 3. 1925. Enzlberger, op.
Rev. Gregory Zeilnhofer was born on April 1, 1861, at Obersiebach. Came
to the United States on March 29. 1879. Ordained July 8, 1886. Curate
at St. Mary's, N. S., from Aug., 1886-Feb. 1892. Thereafter he labored
in Carrolltown, Pa., and in Canon City, Col. He died Sept. 13, 1911 at
Johnstown, Pa. Enzlberger, op. cit., 242; Gedenkbuch der St.
Marien-Kirche, N. S., p. 119. Daller, op. cit., pp. 46, 70.
of dedication bordered on the magnificent sum of two thousand dollars.
This was most welcome to Father Maurice, the pastor, who amidst all the
joy of the occasion could not forget that the building of the school
had added thousands of dollars to the church debt. The mere shell cost
$32,900, but the heating, lighting, and general equipment brought the
total to $45,000.(6) On February 16, 1894, the Clipper
(7) carried the following
reference to St. Augustine's new school:
In 1888 the new school house, on
Thirty-seventh Street was erected at a cost of $45,000. It is one of
the most complete buildings of its kind in the city if not in the
western part of the state. It contains 12 spacious school rooms, four
additional rooms in the basement. The main entrance is on
Thirty-seventh Street. The doors open into a spacious vestibule or
hall, and wide stairways lead up on either side, to the second floor.
The building is handsomely finished throughout; it is heated by steam
and has every required equipment for school work. The following
gentlemen served on the building committee: A. Schillo. P. Kirner, L.
Krekeler, A. Frauenheim, Wm. A. Heyl. Moeser was the architect and
George Nickel the contractor.
The people of St. Augustine's must ever be grateful for their
school, for from the very beginning no effort was spared to equip it
according to the best standards of the time. In the beginning and
before the days of standardization there were twelve grades in which
the regular curriculum was taught in the usual thorough fashion for
which the Germans are noted. In 1892 Father Joseph Anthony introduced
the academy for the girls and in 1894 for the boys. It comprised the
three highest grades and was a kind of high school which aimed at
equipping the pupils for positions in the business world. Besides a
more intensive training in the usual branches, the pupils received a
course in bookkeeping, stenography and typewriting. Only talented
pupils were admitted to the academy.
One great advantage in attending St. Augustine's School was the
opportunity afforded the pupils to learn both English and German. Even
in the early years children of other parishes enrolled at St.
Augustine's chiefly to learn German. In 1890 the number of pupils
reached about 600 and from then on the number varies between 600 and
700. Of course, the success of the school in disseminating true
knowledge and in developing genuine character that is a credit to both
Church and State, is due in no small measure to the staff of teachers
that have honored the profession there for the last sixty-seven years.
Writing in 1906 on the school Father Hyacinth says:
The achievements of the Sisters
are worthy of all praise and are not behind those of the State Schools,
despite the fact that the Sisters teach in two languages and the
additional branch of religion.(8)
The number of Sisters that taught at the school from 1871 to
date is approximately 643. Sister Ambrosia was one of the most
outstanding teachers in the history of the school and taught there for
twenty years— 1884-1904. She died on September 11, 1907, as bursar of
St. Francis Hospital. To date there have been nineteen Sisters who
served in the capacity of Superior.(9) From 1912-1925 the textbooks
compiled by Sister M. Clarissa were used.
Anxious to lessen the burdens entailed in education, Father
Agatho Rolf, O.M.Cap., abolished in 1906 the monthly tuition fee of
fifty cents for all the grades save the academy. He also improved the
curriculum and laid more stress on English composition. The writer well
remembers how Father Agatho went through the school the very first
month of its opening, announcing a contest in English composition and
offering a prize for the best essay in each grade.
Other pastors, too, took special interest in the school and its
(6) Hyacinth Epp., Seraphischer
, IX, p. 25.
(7) A local paper. Shortlived.
(8) Hyacinth Epp, MS.
Abschnitt. p. 70.
(9) Sisters: M. Agnes, 1876-1879; M. Dolores,
1878-1882; M. Paschala, 1882-1884; M. Juliane, 1884-1886;
M. Cleopha, 1886-1892; M. Juliane, 1892-1895; M. Ligouri, 1895-1901; M.
Ambrosia, 1901-1904; M. Anthony, 1904-1907; M. Gertrude,
1907-1910; M. Teresita, 1910-1912; M. Celestine, 1912-1913;
Mother M. Agnes, 1913-1915; M. Ligouri, 1915-1916; M. Aurelia,
1916-1918; M. Callista, 1918-1924; M. Gertrude, 1924-1930; M.
Antoinette, 1930-1935; M. Victorine,1935-. Chronicle, St.
Francis Convent, Millvale. Information by Sister M.
Philip Knupfer, O.M.Cap., improved the
curriculum and the equipment especially in the higher grades. In order
to stimulate diligence on the part of the academy pupils and
incidentally to help the poor he started the scholarship fund. Time and
again he appealed through the pages of the St. Augustinus
for donations of
twenty dollars for scholarships and in answer, complete or partial
scholarships were established. In 1923, Father Philip installed the
electric light and had the interior of the school painted. Anxious to
improve the curriculum again and thus fit the graduates for better
clerical positions he purchased in 1924 for the commercial department
two comptometers—machines which add, subtract, multiply and divide. For
a period two instructors came daily to the school to instruct both
teacher and pupil in the operation. The expenditure for these machines
was $600. It might be added that St. Augustine's School was a pioneer
in this forward step. The fruits of these efforts were soon seen in the
interest which the pupils took in their studies. Self-reliance and
wholesome rivalry developed as is seen from the various occasions when
pupils of St. Augustine's School won prizes in essay contests. Some of
these contests embraced all public and parochial schools in the State
The latest substantial development in the educational facilities
of St. Augustine's School is the four-year high school for girls opened
by Father Ferdinand Hartung, O.M.Cap., in September, 1931. The boys of
the parish had found a similar opportunity at the Catholic Central High
School erected with the funds of the diocesan educational campaign in
1924. The Most Reverend Bishop Boyle had granted permission for St.
Augustine's High School for girls and it became immediately popular in
The year 1938 marks not only the diamond
jubilee of the church but
also the golden
the school. Erected in 1888, the venerable building has weathered
successfully the storms of a half century. During all these years the
school required no major repairs, a proof of its substantial character.
Father Florence Kirchgessner, O.M.Cap., the present pastor, has
renovated the front of the building in preparation for the diamond
jubilee of the church. In
the course of time he hopes to modernize the school still more and
bring it up to the present standards of school buildings.