But the increasing number of Irish Catholic immigrants in this region necessitated the organization of a Catholic church to minister to the people of northern Butler County and a southern segment of Warren County. Land was secured in a prime location on the crest of what was commonly referred to as the "Clark Street Rise," overlooking the section of town inhabited by the Irish community.
An offspring of St. Stephen's in Hamilton, Holy Trinity Church itself was to become a "mother parish" and from it five other Catholic parishes were organized over the next 100 years. The other churches were Holy Name in Trenton, St. Mary's in Franklin, Seven Dolors in Monroe, and St. John's and St. Mary's of Middletown. The people who laid the cornerstone of the first Holy Trinity Church 125 years ago actually were laying the cornerstone for first Catholicism in the region.
Father Jeremiah O'Conner was the first resident pastor for the congregation. During his pastorate a Catholic cemetery was started on Clark Street approximately three small farms north of the church. In 1865 land located across the dirt road now known as Columbia Avenue was purchased at auction by Mathew Hepting for $1,900.
In 1866 Father O'Conner's successor, Father Thomas Boulger, hired Miss Emily Callahan to teach the school-age children of the parish. Classes were held in the gallery of the church. A new order of nuns from Baltimore was beginning to serve the Cincinnati area. In 1867, these nuns, the Sisters of Charity, assumed charge of the school. This event left it's scholastic imprint on the Middletown area for years to come.
The parish needed more space to accommodate an expanding congregation. Catholics organized their own church in the community of Franklin, St. Mary's. A frame structure in Monroe was purchased in 1868 and moved to the church grounds, where Father Boulger was having another building constructed. Together these two buildings provided larger and more practical facilities for Holy Trinity School. The conditions were rather crude compared to modern standards, but they served as a foundation for the first Middletown parochial school, which was to become an educational landmark.
As the years went by, the number of Catholics in the area increased in number and the ethnic population became more diversified: Germans, Italians, and Slovaks settled in this section of the Miami Valley. Thus St. John's Church became organized in 1872, followed by Seven Dolors in Monroe in 1887.
In April of 1890, the Rev. Daniel A. Buckley was assigned to Holy Trinity Parish. Both the school buildings and the church became inadequate. A rectory had been constructed next to the church and school buildings during Father Michael Hayes pastorate in 1886. Father Buckley's attention was first directed to the school. With the help of the men of the parish and $17,000, an imposing brick structure began to dominate the Clark Street neighborhood. The two-story school building consisted of several basement rooms where the local Ancient Order of Hibernians first started meeting, four spacious classrooms on the first floor, and a commodious auditorium on the second floor along with two other classrooms.
The property which was acquired for the church, on the north side of First Street, now Columbia Avenue, was to serve almost thirty years later as the site of Holy Trinity convent.
With the school and convent built, there was only one more project to be completed: replacing the original church. Mass was being held in the school auditorium to accommodate the parishioners more comfortably. It was Father Buckley's father, a noted Cincinnati architect, who came to Middletown and designed a Gothic structure that would replace the smaller obsolete church.
The original church was razed, and on that same site the new church was erected. In October of 1898, the cornerstone of this more imposing house of worship was laid.
The present structure was finished in the spring of the following year, and was officially dedicated in September of 1899. The men of the parish dug the basement themselves with picks and shovels. Mr. Buckley stayed in Middletown for approximately one year to supervise the construction. The only alteration made was that of shortening the church by twenty feet due to the economic recession plaguing the country at that time. Impressive stained glass windows were donated by families in the parish, except for the one on the south side of the sanctuary, which was donated by the school children in honor of the patron saint of Catholic schools, St. Thomas Aquinas. These colorful windows significantly added to the beauty of the church, since they could be viewed with clarity on the inside with the sun's rays filtering through them and on the outside, particularly at night, with the interior lights highlighting them in the darkness.
The original source of light in the present church was gas. Tall candelabras spaced throughout the church supported by stout metallic stands rising from the floor, were converted to electricity several years after they were installed. Holy Trinity, St. John's and Central School were the first school buildings in the city to be illuminated by Thomas Edison's marvelous invention that was beginning to sweep the country -- the electric light bulb.
A spired and decorative main altar graced the domed inset sanctuary and was complemented by two similar, yet smaller, altars which encompassed the statues of the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph.
The present organ was installed in the church at the turn of the century. In the early years power was furnished by a water wheel located in the basement of the church. Miss Marguerite O'Malley was organist for several years succeeded by Miss Pearl Walburg. Miss Walburg was to remain organist and choir director for over forty years . . . After Miss Walburg retired, our present organist Mrs. Sue Fuller assumed this responsibility. Recently she is being assisted by Miss Mary Sulfsted.
The church bells were cast by the Buckeye Bell and Foundry in 1903. The small bell was dedicated to the church committee, Charles Kramer, Charles LaFayette, John Moher, Jr., William Meehan, John Mosler, in charge of the bells at that time. The middle bell was dedicated to all the pastors from Father O'Conner to Father Buckley. The large bell was dedicated to Archbishop Elder, Coadjutor Moeller, and Pastor Buckley.
It was at the turn of the century that Father Buckley sent Sister Rosetta Higgins to a commercial college to acquire secretarial skills and return to Middletown to establish the Holy Trinity Commercial School on the second floor of the school building. Popularity of the commercial classes increased to the point that the parish had to acquire the Mullin's house on the south side of the church building to accommodate the demand for classrooms. Sister Mary Gertrude McAtee was probably the best known of all Holy Trinity teachers and one of the most respected commercial teachers in the city's history.
Armco's expansion in the early 1900's increased the population of the city. The Catholic community was also increasing in size. The growing pains were relieved in 1910 when Father Edward Hickey, who replaced Father Buckley in 1904 as pastor, added to the school building by expanding the auditorium, renovating the rooms in the basement, building several other classrooms into the structure and including two high school grades in the curriculum. The convent was also expanded to house the extra nuns.
The spring of 1913 saw the most devastating natural disaster to ever hit Middletown -- the 1913 flood. The school and other church property had the geographical advantage of being located on the Clark Street rise. After the flood, Father Hickey had a $40,000 structure built behind the school which housed a swimming pool, gymnasium, and an elevated track. Outdoor handball courts had been constructed three years earlier.
In 1917 a central heating system was installed which supplied heat for the gymnasium and school buildings as well as for the convent, church and rectory.
In 1921 Father Hickey died and Father James Francis McNary, his successor, remained as pastor until 1958, when death ended his residency.
"Don't say anything about me, write about the congregation." These words were spoken by Monsignor McNary upon the celebration of his fifty years in the priesthood. These words typify the character of the man, his personal concern and care for the community. A little man with a fiery tongue, Irish wit, and a keen mind, Monsignor McNary won a place in the hearts of thousands of Middletonians of every faith.
Father Leo T. Herlihy assumed the pastorate after Monsignor McNary's death in 1958. During his nine years as pastor, he was active in the drive for building Catholic Fenwick High School in 1962. He also arranged for the redecoration of the interior of the church, replacing the old altars and pews with more modern ones. It is significant to note that modernizing the interior of the church coincided with Vatican II changes in the liturgy. Father Herlihy served the parish well during this transitional phase. Because of ill health he retired in 1967. He was succeeded by Father Paul Cornwell who also five years later retired because of his health.
The present pastor, Father Albert E. Schetter has shown his dedication to the church through his careful and thorough maintenance and renovation of the exterior and interior of the church, as well as through his interest in the organization of inter-parish social and service groups. Under his guidance, directed by Pope John XXIII, laymen have become more involved in parish life. There are both male and female lay communion distributors, as well as lectors assisting with the readings in the masses. The changes in the Liturgy provide for a complete participation of all those attending Mass.
In 1968 it also was directed that a lay parish council should be formed. The purpose of the Council was to alleviate some of the responsibilities shouldered by the parish priest, and include the laity in helping to make decisions in parish community affairs. The first parish council was appointed by Father Paul Cornwell and included Carl Burgemeir, Sister Renetta Couch (Principal), Miss Mary Dillon, Miss Irene Dineen, Joseph Flanagan, Charles Fuller, Robert Holzman, Raymond Kelly, Lawrence Long, Joseph Mulligan, Edward Quinn, Father Paul Cornwell, and Father John T. Burns (Assistant Pastor). They are now elected by the congregation from a slate of candidates.
Perhaps the most notable evidence of the new changes in our parish would be the ordination to the deaconate on September 26, 1976, of Reverend Mr. Thomas Coyle. This office serves a very important purpose and is an invaluable aid in assisting Father Schetter with the many duties he must perform.
Throughout the sixties, Holy Trinity was caught in the fast-changing atmosphere which was sweeping every Catholic community. The number of priests and nuns assigned to the parish declined as did the school enrollment. Because of this, Holy Trinity School consolidated with the other Catholic schools in Middletown and its building was torn down in 1972. The Sisters of Charity no longer serve the parish, but the church still stands nobly overlooking a changing neighborhood. The Gothic structure, now decorated in a green interior accented with white and gold, highlighted by the same ornate stained glass windows that have graced the church for the last seventy-eight years, is proof that Holy Trinity is still alive but, like everything else, is changing.
The history of Holy Trinity is not unique, but the parishioners are, and were always the heart of it. The have given unstintingly of their time, labor, and material means. It was their love of God and their community which built this church, our house of worship for 125 years.
Father Jeremiah O'Connor, first resident pastor, 1852-1860
Father Thomas Smith, 1860
Father Thomas Boulger, founded school in 1867, served 1860-1873
Father John Bowe, 1873-1874
Father Francis Mallon, 1874-1876
Father William O'Rourke, 1876-1884
Father Michael Hayes, 1884-1890
Father Daniel Buckley, built present church and school, 1890-1904
Father Edward Hickey, built gymnasium in 1910, served 1904-1921
Monsignor James F. McNary, 1921-1958
Father Leo T. Herlihy, 1958-1967
Father Paul Cornwell, 1967-1973
Father Albert Schetter, 1973-
Father Urban J. Vehr, 1917-1921
Father J. P. Trench, 1921-1927
Father Carl J. Lamott, 1927-1930
Father John Ahern, 1930-1937
Father Paul Golembiewski, 1937-1942
Father Henry Pulsowski, 1942-1944
Father Albert DeFrancesco, 1944-1946
Father Walter Sterwerf, 1946-1957
Father Joseph Keller, 1958-
Father Francis Monnig
Father John T. Burns
Father John Wilman
Father Robert Holzman
Father Bernard Bruening
Father J. J. O'Connor
Father Hugo Mentink, 1973-1975
Father Francis A. Weiner, 1977-
After a series of meetings at Theodore Ritter's Saddle Shop, permission was given by the Most Rev. John B. Purcell for the purchase of property, and the building of a church for the German speaking Catholic population. The property was purchased on the present site, and in short order the cornerstone of the new edifice was laid August 25, 1872, by the Most Rev. John B. Purcell. The first church committee included Matthew Hepting, Theodore Ritter, and John Kaser. Father John Mackey preached the sermon on this occasion, and this humble beginning of a mission church took place under the pastorship of Father Leitner, O.F.M.
A newspaper clipping commenting on the occasion of the dedication of the completed church, which took place July, 1874, said, "approximately 3,000 people were present on this occasion, coming from Dayton, Miamisburg, Hamilton, and Cincinnati, Ohio." The Most Rev. John B. Purcell blessed the new church and preached the sermon. The paper further commented that "the church was completed at the cost of $12,000, including the property, $7,000 of which was already paid."
Father Carl Schoeppner, O.F.M., erected the parsonage and school, which later on became the Sisters' House. This took place in 1879. In that year the Most Rev. Bishop Fitzgerald of Little Rock had the confirmation. Father Gabriel Lipps, O.F.M., was appointed pastor in 1882. He enlarged the school and the sacristy, and remained as pastor for ten years.
In 1892 Father F. H. Bene took over the pastorate of St. John's and became its first resident priest. His appointment inaugurated the diocesan clergy in charge of St. John. During Father Bene's stay property was purchased for the necessary expansion of the parish, and the old Jones property, adjoining the church property, on which the present new church, house, and school stand, was purchased. Monsignor Gerdes commenting on this said, "the wisdom displayed in his (Father Bene's) choice of a site adds its continual glory to his memory."
In September 1896 Monsignor Gerdes was appointed pastor. He came to Middletown October 7, 1896. The following year the parish celebrated its Silver Jubilee. The new pastor immediately made preparations to build a new school. March 16, 1908 ground was broken and the school was started and completed in that year. Monsignor Gerdes was aided in supervision by Mr. Engelbert Dietrich. The fine, serviceable structure stands today in grand condition, competes well with modern school buildings, and serves its purpose most suitably.
In December of 1880 at the request of Father Leitner, O.F.M., the Sisters of St. Francis of Oldenburg came to open a school for the children of St. John's. Two Sisters came. The number of pupils grew steadily so that by 1890 the building was enlarged and two more Sisters were added to the staff. When the new school was built in 1908 a Commercial Course was offered besides the grade school subjects. From that time the number of high school subjects have been increased so that now three years of high school are offered and the entire teaching staff has increased to eight Sisters. The Sisters of St. Francis introduced a music class in 1899 and have had a band from the members of the class. All instruments are taught, also vocal. The Sisters are also directing the choir for the parish. The following Sisters have been in charge of the school since its founding: Sister Boniface, Sister Longina, Sister Adriana, Sister Stanislaus, Sister Lamberta, Sister Eva, Sister Ethelberga, Sister Bertilda, and Sister Micheline.
In 1909 William H. Hurr was appointed janitor by Monsignor Gerdes. He has served diligently and loyally to this day. May God spare him for many more years.
In 1910 the American Rolling Mill decided on an expansion program, during which time East Side Works were enlarged and expanded. During this time many people came to Middletown. Immigrants were from Slovakia, Hungary, and Croatia. Many of these workers had a stopping place in the Eastern States before arriving here, and were well experienced workers in the steel mill line. The Italian and Polish people were already established in the city. The progress of the city with its new enterprises, such as the paper and rolling mills, added new strength and vitality to the well established parish through these new members. From 1914 to 1918, due to World War I, many laborers came to Middletown because of war work. All these events welded together and united a group of people who so zealously were prepared to take on a new responsibility more serious than they had to shoulder in years gone by. The parish needed a larger church. Permission was finally granted by the Most Rev. Henry Moeller, then Archbishop of Cincinnati, to erect a new church and house. Mr. W. L. Jaeckle of Dayton was appointed architect. In 1924 the new house was built by the Martin L. Bauer Company. In 1925 the J. R. Stevens Company built the Church. Father Gerdes was also aided in supervision by Mr. Charles Bendel. Some serious problems arose during the time of the building, but all in all the church was finally completed in 1926. The church committee for the building of the new church included Frank Fabing, Frank Litsch, Ed Brede, Sr., Gus Mayer, Sr., Lawrence Herb, William Kramer, Charles Hurr, A. J. Schneider, Carl Stern, Carl Wedekind, Aegidius Zeier, John Yauch, and Charles Nunlist.
In the interval of 1925 and 1926, Monsignor Gerdes became seriously ill and had to undergo an operation. The doctors at that time gave little hope for his recovery. A few days after his operation, Monsignor Gerdes said, "I am good for twenty more years," and this he was. He arose again from his sick bed to build the church and complete it. The Most Rev. John T. McNicholas dedicated the church in 1927. Father Antonine, O.F.M., preached the sermon. The present pastor, Father John L. Oberlander, served as the first resident assistant from 1922 to 1930, and had ample opportunity to observe Monsignor Gerdes' good works and deeds.
With the approach of the 30's, a cloud of sorrow fell upon the entire congregation due to the debt and approach of the horrible depression. Serious troubles hung heavily upon the shoulders of the aging pastor, but he was strong of heart and his people continued their support to the best of their ability, and with fortitude and prayer they conquered.
In 1930 Father Jerome Weinert was made the next assistant, but remained only for a short time, to be moved to Denver, Colorado, because of ill health, where he thrives and is well to this day.
Father Henry Westerhaus followed Father Weinert as an assistant, and due to his zealous effort and the vigor of jobless parishioners, the basement of the church was fixed for use.
In 1933 Father Edward H. Macke came to St. John's, a blessed little priest, kind, mild, and gentle, afflicted with a deathly sickness which finally took him to his eternal reward. He served until 1934, and a year or two after died, leaving behind a beautiful memory with all the parish of St. John's for his effort with the young. May God give him Eternal Peace and Rest.
In 1936 Father Francis J. Heider was made assistant. In 1937, Father John B. Berning came to St. John's as second assistant, due to the failing health of Monsignor Gerdes. In 1936 Monsignor Gerdes celebrated his Ruby Jubilee as pastor of St. John and his Golden Jubilee as Priest. After these years, he failed considerably in health, so that the cares and responsibility of the parish were given to Father Frank Heider. During his office in this capacity Father Heider had the old church removed, cleaned up the property, built the grotto, and had the yard properly leveled and blacktopped. His earnest activities aided in the liquidation of the debt.
Monsignor Gerdes died November 12, 1942, leaving behind him the record of a glorious and holy priest. No one will ever know the extent of his charities. No one will ever know the kindnesses he had shown to individuals and families in distress. No one will ever know of the personal funds that he expended for the cause of St. John's. These things are all written in the hearts of the people who had the privilege of enjoying these benefits and knowing him intimately. The rest is written in the Book of Life. Suffice it to say that God was good to Monsignor Gerdes in his last days. The Most Rev. Archbishop John T. McNicholas generously permitted him to end his last days in the place which he loved so well. He died in it and was buried from it, leaving the record of a new church, house, and school, 488 marriages, 688 funerals, and 2,080 baptisms. May God give him Eternal Peace and Rest.
During the interval of Monsignor Gerdes' death and the appointment of a new pastor, Father Frank Heider was made administrator. The present pastor, Father John L. Oberlander, was appointed December 2, 1942, and came to the parish on that day. Father Berning remained as an assistant until September of 1946 at which time Father James F. Frommeyer was made assistant who during his present stay has established the Legion of Mary and the Youth Club. His activities in the interest of converts are well known.
Father Oberlander was experienced grand and generous support from his parishioners during his pastorate at St. John's. The $58,000.00 debt was paid off in fifteen months. In the meantime, many generous donations were given by the parishioners to the diocesan needs. Over and above that a goodly sum was placed in the treasury to await further works before us, mainly a new Central High School, and at least remodeling of the present Sisters' House, if a new building is not available. Therefore, we thank God for this great day of Jubilee. The pastor thanks his people for their great efforts, and we join united for God and Country.
These are the statistics up to date at St. John's: Marriages 792, Baptisms 2,899, Deaths 925.
The mother of Mr. Pater was Mary Stricker, born at Damme, Oldenburg, Germany, December 22, 1821. After landing on American soil, she made Cincinnati her home for several years and there married Gerhard Pater. Later they moved to Hamilton where she died February 20, 1886, at the age of sixty-five years. She was endowed with a wonderful memory. She was of a kind and charitable disposition and a faithful worker in all charities.
Joseph J. Pater was the eldest of five children. Two sisters, Joephine and Elizabeth, died when very young. His other sisters are Philomena, Mrs. Joseph Schumaker, who was born February 26, 1860, and Catherine, Mrs. George Deinzer, born January 23, 1862, died April 10, 1902. Mr. Pater attended St. Joseph's school until thirteen years old and was then sent to St. Mary's Institute, Dayton, Ohio, where he graduated with high honors. For some time he read medicine with Dr. Dan Millikin, but later abandoned his studies and took a position as teacher in St. Joseph's school, where he taught five years with success. April 20, 1882, he was married to Miss Annie Endress and their union was blessed with five children, Carl, Alphonse, Eugene, Mary and Louise.
In all city affairs Mr. Pater has taken an active interest. In politics he is a staunch Democrat and was elected twice as a member of the board of water works trustees. He was the first state president of the Catholic Knights of Ohio, which insurance organization was organized in this city. He was an untiring worker for the good of the order and its fine success at present is due to his ability as an organizer and the unselfish services rendered to the society. After being organized six years the society numbered one hundred branches and four thousand five hundred members. Today the Catholic Knights of Ohio is one of the best fraternal insurance socities in the state.
But the monument which he has erected to his memory and which will be as enduring as time itself is Mercy Hospital. For many years he strove to establish a hospital in Hamilton, but as the various religious orders who have hospitals in Cincinnati had no Sisters to spare, he was continuously put off with promises for the future. In 1892 he called on Archbishop Elder and explained to his Grace the necessity of a hospital in Hamilton. The following day the Archbishop telegraphed Mr. Pater that the Sisters of Mercy would accept and conduct a hospital at once. These good sisters arrived a few days later and opened a hospital on Dayton Street, where the present new hospital is being built. It is open to all creeds and nationalities and will forever be kept out of the turmoil of politics. The hospital was opened October 5, 1892, and to November 22, 1904, when the new hospital was dedicated, there were received and treated two thousand four hundred and twenty-three patients of whom one thousand seven hundred and thirty-four entirely recovered, four hundred and fifty-two materially improved and two hundred and thrity-seven died, which includes those who met with fatal accidents and were brought to the hospital in a dying condition. This record speaks for itself, but also shows the necessity of a hospital in our community. The Sisters are experienced nurses from Mercy Hospital of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania.
Mr. Pater was a director from the inception of the hospital and chairman of the building committee, which erected the present magnificent building, one of the finest and most complete hospitals in the state. He was the active chairman of the soliciting committees, for both the old and new hospitals, which collected over twenty thousand dollars, donated by the citizens of Hamilton. His love for charity, the firmness of his character, and the fidelity with which he clings to what he believes is right, and for the good of the community has justly won for him the respect of his fellow citizens.
This site was created by David J. Endres. Those with questions, comments, or additional information are encouraged to contact the compiler.
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This site was created on 29 January 1999.
This site was updated 11 June 2000.