Erie County (PA) Genealogy

Conneaut Township - Saint Lawrence Parish, Albion

Contributed by Andy Pochatko


The information below has been transcribed by Andy Pochatko from a booklet written in 1956 by Reverend Ennis A. Connelly, Pastor. The booklet is titled "History of the St. Lawrence Parish, Albion, Pennsylvania". Any questions or comments concerning the information presented may be directed to Andy Pochatko.


HISTORY OF THE ST. LAWRENCE PARISH

Albion, Pennsylvania

By Reverend Ennis A. Connelly

2 – The First Catholics

The First Catholics who settled in and about what is now St. Lawrence’s Parish must have regarded their arrival as of little importance to future generations, for they have left is no records of themselves.  And this is not to be wondered at since, in their day, inhabitants in this region were taken together, a settlement.  They were still face to face with the frontier; and that meant that life was difficult, requiring all their energies, and allowing them little or no time to set down their religious history.

Further, life moved with relative slowness at the time. And, in the beginning, the possibility of a Catholic church of their own must have seemed to them a matter for future generations to decided.  It is easy to see why this should have been their attitude; they were but a handful at the most; they naturally affiliated themselves as members of the nearest Catholic church which was then miles distant; and the parish of which they had become a part, though it was very extensive, did itself number only a couple hundred souls.  Their beginnings were indeed small; but they were destined to grow and to grow vigorously; and to result eventually in the splendid group of Catholics who are today members of St. Lawrence’s Parish.

In this writing of the parish history, it is difficult just where to begin.  No records of Albion’s earliest Catholic settlers exist; and records of later dare, if not contradictory, are frequently obscure and confusing.  In these circumstances, we shall do best if we begin at some distance from Albion, dwelling upon those factors which, without a doubt, influenced the eventual formation of St. Lawrence’s Parish; and, gradually, limiting our field, we shall be able at the right place to focus more clearly upon St. Lawrence’s Parish proper.

It seems most fitting then to begin with Crossingville, once known as Cussewago, which definitely forms a part of the early history of our parish.  A group of Catholic families which had emigrated from County Donegal, Ireland, in 1792, and which had settled themselves originally in Pennsylvania’s Nothumberland County, came to Cussewago in 1800 and founded homes there.  The record indicates that Holy Mass was first said among them in 1807 at the home of Miles Tinney; and very seldom after that until 1821 when Father Patrick O’Neil was given charge of Cussewago as one of his missions.

In 1833, the settlers built a church, a log building measuring twenty-four by thirty-six feet and costing $500.  This was the first Catholic church built in Northwestern Pennsylvania.  The first services in it were conducted by Bishop Francis P. Kenrick of Philadelphia , to which the diocese the mission then belonged. 

In 1838, Crossingville was brought under the supervision of Father Bernard McCabe, who took up his residence in Erie as pastor of the northwestern counties of Pennslyvania.  In 1847, a new church which had been built to supercede the old one was dedicated as St. Philip’s Church.  Father Thomas A. Smith came to Crossingville in 1850 as its first resident pastor.  His parish included Crawford, Warren, and Venango Counties; from Erie County, Conneaut Township, and therefore Albion, was included in the parish.

In 1852, Venango, Warren, and Eastern Crawford Counties were taken away from the Crossingville pastorate, which at the same time was extended to Greenville.  These changes, of course, still left the remaining Erie County townships under its care.  Crossingville, originally in the Philadelphia and later in the Pittsburgh Diocese was incorporated into the new Erie Diocese in 1853.  Father Kiernan O’Brannigan succeeded Father Smith in Crossingville and remained in Crossingville until 1865.  Then came Father William Byrne, Father John Quincy Adams who built the rectory, Father M. E. Tracy, Father Hugh Mullen, Father James McCabe, Father Martin Meagher and in July of 1898, Father James F. Dugan.  On June 27, 1900, during Father Dugan’s pastorate, the rededication ceremonies of St. Philip’s Church took place.  At this point, we can leave St. Philip’s and turn our attention to another church which was part of St. Philip’s parish, also influenced the growth of Catholicism in Albion.

St. Peter’s Church in Conneautville was also closely associated with Albion ’s little group of Catholics during the days of their early history.  At one time, as has been indicated, both Conneautville and Albion formed a portion of St. Philip’s Crossingville.  St. Peter’s I Conneautville was established as one of Crossingville’s regular missions as early as 1853.  It was formed into an independent parish in 1861.  It’s first church was built in 1866, and its first resident pastor, Father J. Kearney, established himself there the same year.  From 1866 until 1897, Albion Catholics were served in the following order by the pastors residing in Conneautville:  Father J. Kearney, J. Snively , M. Tracey (who later transferred to Crossingville), J. Donnelly, M. Meagher, P. McGovern, J. J. Ruffy, B. Lynch, P. Cauley, and J. Graham.

In 1897, Father Graham was appointed in charge of St. John’s in Girard.  But he retained Albion as part of his charge; and from that time until it was established as a parish in 1914, the Albion mission was ministered to from Girard.  The next priest to come from Girard was Father Lawrence McBride who visited Albion until 1902.  For a short time after Father McBride’s  departure , Albion was served more or less alternately by Fathers Thomas A. Cantlin and James H. Conlin who were stationed at St. Peter’s Cathedral in Erie.  In 1902, Father Conlin was appointed pastor at Girard and continued to serve Albion Catholics until 1916.


This page was last updated on  Monday, January 26, 2004 .

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