The early history of our country is woven around men, who, for the most part, were seeking refuge from persecutions, financial difficulties, or merely hunting for the precious gift of freedom. We can, perhaps ascribe any or even all of these reasons in accounting for the presence of the first settlers in Pine Creek. They came from Ireland and Germany at the close of the eighteenth century. For the most part they settled on what was known as Depreciation Land. This land had been set aside by the government to acquire money in order "to redeem depreciated currency in circulation during the Revolution and to fulfill its pledges. All land north of the Ohio River and south of a line drawn due West of Kittanning was divided by Act of 1783 into Depreciation Land". This, then, took in territory now known as Pine Creek. St. Mary's Church, Pine Creek, is situated in this area on the Middle Road, four miles north of Etna.
Among the first Catholic settlers we find such names as: FEY, LOUGHREY, ASH, MCNEAL, MEYER, BABYLON, BICHLER, THOMAS, ELSENSOHN, SWORD, and SCHNEIDER. From such names we can rightly draw the conclusion that Pine Creek was an Irish-German settlement. That it received its start at the beginning of the 1800's is evident from various deeds recording the transfer of property. One of the earliest deeds on hand shows, that DANIEL LOUGHREY acquired from WILLIAM DUNNING, in 1799, a tract of land (106 acres, 20 perches and allowance) situated in the CUNNINGHAM DISTRICT of the Pennsylvania Depreciation Land. Another document of interest is a Patent dated January 1, 1831, in which THOMAS ASH acquired from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, a tract of land from that territory designated as Depreciation Land. The land now occupied by St. Mary's Church was acquired by HUGH LOUGHREY and MARY, his wife, from JOHN LOUGHREY and MARGARET, his wife, in a deed, dated May 11, 1829. This deed conveyed a tract of land in INDIANA TOWNSHIP, ALLEGHENY COUNTY, consisting of fifty acres, "strict measure". The consideration named in the deed is fifty dollars. By a deed, dated August 15, 1840, HUGH LOUGHREY transferred one acre of this land, on which had been erected a log church, to the RIGHT REVEREND FRANCIS PATRICK KENRICK, Co-Adjutor Bishop of the Diocese of Philadelphia. Part of this latter acre, was set aside as a burial ground, with the first burial being recorded in 1834. At the time of this transfer, the property was in INDIANA TOWNSHIP. Since 1862, when HAMPTON TOWNSHIP was formed, the church and rectory have been in HAMPTON and the property on which the present school stands in INDIANA TOWNSHIP. It may be well to note here, that at the time of which we speak, Pittsburgh was under the jurisdiction of the diocese of Philadelphia. The See of Pittsburgh was established in 1843.
In studying the beginning of St. Mary's, then, we will do well to remember that its development began at a time when our country was still in its early process of development. The lands as found by the LOUGHREYs, the FEYs, the ASHs the MCNEALs, were still wilderness, having just a few years previously been occupied by Indians. The machines of today were as yet unheard of, and the population scattered. We can imagine, then, the many difficulties and hardships these first settlers encountered. Pittsburgh, it is true, was, at the time, more advanced in its development. The settlers at Pine Creek, however, in those days of horse and buggy, were a good distance from Pittsburgh, and, therefore, very much on their own. Transportation, most certainly, was slow. Even as late as 1910 the priests and people had to travel on foot or by horse and buggy. Farms, even though better suited for other products, had to produce grain, cattle and such things as would not spoil before reaching the market. Looking back over the scene today, we wonder just how the people managed to get along under so many disadvantages. Communication was wholly by word of mouth. Neighbors were few and far between. Going to Mass on Sunday was a day's journey--the nearest church being St. Patrick's, at a distance of ten miles, over poorly constructed mud roads. Everything seemed, or rather, seems to us of today, to have ben very difficult. The inconveniences, however, under which the people found themselves were met by a sort of a big-family treatment; each helped the other, not only in the emergencies, but, and especially so, in the every-day problems that arose. There came a time, however, when these difficulties began to disappear. The first, and the one in which our interest lies, was removed in the early 1800's.
By the year 1830 the number of Catholic families living in the neighborhood of Pine Creek had increased to a point where the people felt they could afford the up-keep of their own church. Accordingly, witht he encouragement of the priests at St. Patrick's, they met and decided to erect a log building on land owned by HUGH LOUGHREY. This log church was built by the people themselves, taking time off from their usual tasks in order to complete the work. It was finished in 1835 and served until replaced by the present building in 1867. The names of the men organizing and constructing the church ahve been preserved in the first records of the parish, and are, as follows: PETER FEY, JOHN MEYER, JOHN BICHLER, FRANZ BICHLER, JOHN THOMAS, JACOB BABYLON, THOMAS SWORD, JOHN SCHNEIDER, HENRY BICHLER, NICHOLAS SCHNEIDER, THOMAS ASH, JACOB ELSENSOHN, JOHN McNEAL, HUGH LOUGHREY.
From the very beginning, the parish progressed rapidly, owing, no doubt, to the large territory it covered. Originally, the parish of St. Mary's included all the territory through which the stream Pine Creek and its tributaries flows. This stream has its origin in Pine Township and flows through McCandless, Hampton, and Sharler townships, emptying into the Allegheny River at the lower end of Etna. The territory taken in by the parish, then, included the present North Park, Allison Park, Glenshaw, Sharpsburg, Etna and the districts adjoining these towns. The site of the Church was chosen because it was then the center of the Catholic population. Though Sharpsburg and Etna are today populous communities, in 1835 they had only a few log cabins and fewer Catholics. These attended Mass at St. Mary's, Pine Creek. Shortly after the organization of the Parish, the people found themselves greatly in need of a school and resident pastor. In 1847, therefore, a two-story building, 36 feet long and 24 ft. wide, was constructed of stone taken from the premises, with logs as cross beams. The lower floor of the school served as a classroom, while the upper floor was used as a residence for the priests attending the parish. The lay teachers boarded at neighboring homes. Classes, in the beginning, were conducted by lay-teachers, some of whom were: JOHN RUHLAND, JOHN BENDER, C. DEWELL, P. KAST, GOTTSCHALK, JOSEPH SCHRAFEL and CHRISTINA MEURER.
A resident pastor was obtained when the RIGHT REV. BISHOP O'CONNOR appointed REV. ANDREW GIBBS to St. Mary's, Pine Creek, in November, 1847. Father GIBBS was succeeded by FATHER SCHMID in 1851, who in turn was succeeded by the Redemptorist Fathers. The latter remained in charge of the parish until 1865, when it again was given over to the secular clergy, who have been in charge ever since.
With the growth of the parish, improvements were made as the need arose. In 1867 the old log church was torn down and replaced by the present brick building which is 40 feet wide and 100 feet long. The bricks were made in Pine Creek. The work was carried out under the direction of REV. JOSEPH BRANDSTETTER, then pastor. In 1871 the residence of the priests was moved from the school to a newly erected parish house. The new home was an eight-room, two-story frame building. It is still used as the parish house, but was remodeled in 1931 by REV. T. C. KLIMKE.
In 1899 the lay-teachers were replaced by SISTERS OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE. They occupied the second story of the school.
In 1908 a recreational center was established in the field below the cemetery. A large hall was constructed and used for Plays, Basketball games, and Social fundtions of all kinds. The grounds surrounding thehall served as an excellent picnic grove. From 1914 to 1917 the boys from St. Joseph's Protectory used this grove as a campground. FATHER SCHOLZ was the camp-master in 1914 and 1915, and in 1916 FATHER KLIMKE assisted in that capacity before his ordination to the priesthood.
In 1924 under the direction of REV. P. M. RIGLER, the present school building was erected, and the entire old school was converted into the present convent. The new school basement from this time on served as the recreation center, and the old Hall was torn down.
In 1938 the lane leading from the Middle Road to the Church received attention. This lane had been firmly interwoven into the history of the parish and the lives of the parishioners. Originally it was a narrow driveway lined on the northern side by locust trees and on the south by a fence. The road bed was often in bad repair and was used by vehicles and pedestrians alike. At the time of FATHER KLIMKE's death the width of the lane was increased to 30 feet. In 1939 the few remaining locust trees, now over one hundred years old, began to fall and had to be removed. A four foot brick walk was laid. In the same year a driveway of 18 feet in width was paved with slag and asphalt, allowing a safety zone of 6 feet between it and the brick side walk.
Gradually, we notice, and in keeping with the progress of the times, Pine Creek moved along the course of its developments. One by one the many inconveniences of the early settlers disappeared. When, in 1904, gas was piped into the community, the people found their cooking and heating problems cut in half. New advantages came with the advent of telephone communication in 1914, and the erection of the high tension wires with the resulting blessing of electricity in 1917. The difficulty of obtaining a constant water suppy has always been a serious problem. Early in the history of the settlement the people depended on springs, wells, and cisterns for their household water supply. Later on, deeper and better wells were made possible by the advances in machinery. With the introduction of electricity, it was possible to operate the pumps by motors. This, in turn, made possible running water in the homes and, also, the installation of sanitary toilets. At present there is a six inch water line on the Middle Road in Shaler Township. A three inch line has been laid from the Shaler line to a point approximatley one mile from St. Mary's Church.
The transportation, at present, is left to the individual families. As yet the nearest public transportation is on Route 8. The nearest railroad transportation is the B&O, at the Elfinwild station. The nearest street-car service is at Etna, a distance of four miles.
The postal service in the community is all rural delivery. In various parts of the parish the service is from Glenshaw, Allison Park, Sharpsburg, and Cheswick. At St. Mary's church the service is from the Glenshaw post-office, with one delivery a day, usually coming in the afternoon.
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