St. Basil's, Dushore, PA
During 100 Years (1838-1938)
by Reverend Francis E. Tourscher *, O. S. A.
* Editor's Note: Father Tourscher was a descendant of an
Alsatian family that emigrated to the United States in the 19th century: Tony Kaney has
researched this family and reports:
While researching the ancestry of Francis A. Touschner (1832-1901) of Cherry Township, I have found ample evidence on the Sullivan County GENWEB site and on Ancestry.com that all of the Touschners and Tourschers of Sullivan County PA have a common ancestry. On May 24, 1836, Jean THOURSCHER of Strasbourg, Alsace, France, arrived in New York with his wife Julienne and children--Jean, Joseph, Francois and Martin-- along with another adult, Francois, who was likely the brother of Jean. This family is listed in Sullivan county in the 1850 census as TOURSCHER, but in the 1860 census as TOUSCHNER. It appears to me that the members of this immigrant family are the ancestors of all of the subsequent Tourschers and Touschners, originally of Sullivan County, but later migrating to other locations. Most of the descendants retained the Tourscher spelling, but others, including Francis A. mentioned above, kept the Touschner spelling, even while all of them were still residing in close proximity in Sullivan County. It further appears likely that all of the Touschners and Tourschers currently alive in the USA are descended from this Sullivan county family. Since Alsace was part of France in 1836, the original immigrants were certainly French speaking, but, like most Alsatians, they probably also spoke German and the distinct Alsatian dialect. Upon arrival in America, they would probably have pronounced their surname "Tour-SHARE", so it is not at all clear how the alternate spelling of Touschner ("Toosh-NAIR") first arose. I'm hoping that living members of both "lines" of the family will weigh in on this matter with their insights.
Here is an obituary from an unidentified source for Francis E. Tourscher (May 10, 1870-January 30, 1939), son of John T. and Louise (Windhauser) Tourscher:
Reverend Francis E. Tourshcer
Augustinian Community Cemetery
Photo Contributed by Jennifer L. Tilden
First cousin, four times removed, to Father Tourscher !
Transcribed by Lynn Blazek
St. Basil the Great Church
A Post Card Photo
Taken About 1945-6
Source: Nelson Adelbert Caulkins
Contributed by Deb Wilson
According to Deb: Caulkins was well known for his photographs which were turned into postcards. Most of his work
was done in the Central Pennsylvania area, especially the counties of Tioga, Bradford, Sullivan, Lycoming and Union. His photographs
spanned the years from around 1905 to at least the late 1940's. His Sullivan County postcards were mostly
taken in the mid 1940's.
The following monograph was first published in 1938 by the American Catholic Historical Society of Philadelphia, PA, which no longer is in existence. The Records of the ACHS appear to have been transferred to American Catholic Studies since 1998. All or portions of this history have previously been published in the Sullivan Review, Dushore, PA. The entire document is reproduced here solely for the Sullivan County Genealogical Web Page.
Also, in October 2006, Scott Tilden provided our site with a PDF version of the same history, which you can access here if you prefer reading from that format: St. Basil's Parish. Scott's wife is related to the Tourscher family and an original copy of this history was located in the process of his research.
The planting of the Faith and the beginnings of Catholic life within the present limits of the diocese of Scranton take us back to the years of the first quarter of the nineteenth century. The first two Catholic settlements in this section of Pennsylvania are, one in the vicinity of Silver Lake and Saint Josephís in Susquehanna County, the other on Loyalsock Creek in Sullivan County, now Saint Basilís in Dushore. Both these settlements are earlier than the anthracite mining and the logging, lumbering and tanning industries, and transportation which gave origin and development to the greater number of parishes in the later history of the diocese.
The Catholics who first came to the frontiers in this section of the State came evidently prepared to live from the products of the soil. There was no other visible means to sustain human life. The land, they held, must be made to yield a living for themselves and their families. From the few facts that can be gathered now about the aims and the plans of these early settlers--they must have had plans to live--it is evident, I think, that there was a generous trust in Godís Providence, of course; but there was also an element of courage, of perseverance and thrift that succeeded in the face of difficulties, and that won from the soil, not a wage, but a living for themselves and their descendants.
The sources of information for this brief sketch of Saint Basilís are: first -- The Diary of Bishop Francis Patrick Kenrick--1830-1851. Second -- The Parish Records of Baptisms and Marriages -- Third, a sketch of the reminiscences of Father Kaier,1 prepared for the Catholic Light of Scranton, and published in 1916. Fourth, Some facts of tradition gathered in conversations with Father Kaier in the later years of his life and with descendants of early settlers in the parish and its missions.
The first reference to the Catholic settlement on "Loyalsock Creek" made in the Diary of Bishop Kenrick is under the date of the thirteenth day of September, 1836. After noting the fact that on that day he had confirmed about fifteen persons in the Church of St. Joseph, near Milton, the Bishopís record continues: --"In the afternoon, with no priest to accompany me, I started on the way by private wagon to visit some Catholics living in Lycoming County,2 near a place called Loyalsock Creek. It was necessary to pass over a distance of nearly seventy miles, going in opposite direction, as it were, from Milton to Bloomsburg, then to the mountain trail, which is called the Berwick Turnpike.3 Near the northern boundary line of Lycoming County [now Sullivan County] live some Irish families along this same public trail, and yet more German families, away from the road about two miles in the woods, in a place which they call Germany. Some of these people have lived hidden away here for fifteen years. During that time they never saw a minister of religion. I remained there about four days, and each day I celebrated Mass in the home of Darby Deegan. About thirty came to receive Holy Communion. They have agreed now to build a church of wood [probably a log chapel], hoping that a priest may visit them four times a year. I have decided to place them under the care of the Rev. Henry Fitzimmons."4
This account, the same in substance, of this first visit of the Bishop to the people of the Loyalsock Valley was told to the present writer by Father Kaier, as he had received it from some of the original settlers. Father Kaier laid particular stress on the fact that it was Mr. James Dunn who brought the Bishop to Cherry Township.
After frequent inquiries as to where a priest could be found, according to Father Kaierís account of the facts, Mr. Dunn was advised by a Mr. Fairchild, a non-Catholic, that he thought there was a Catholic Bishop resident in Philadelphia. Accordingly, Mr. Dunn addressed a letter to "The Roman Catholic Bishop of Philadelphia." The street and number and the name of the Bishop were not known. The letter told the spiritual needs of the people of the settlement. It stated, in the words of Father Kaier, that "the parents of children thus far born in the community were praying God to send them a priest to administer the sacrament of Baptism and bring them the consolations of religion."
It was in answer to this appeal that the Bishop made the visit described in the Diary in September, 1836. The Bishop had written in answer to Mr. Dunnís letter that on a certain day he would be in Wilkes-Barre; that, if arrangements were made to have a conveyance meet him there, he would be pleased to come to the people to attend to their spiritual needs.
The Bishop says, in the Diary, that he left Milton in the afternoon of September 13, 1836. The way by wagon road from Milton to Wilkes-Barre would probably take the better part of two days. Then the trip over the mountain trail, about seventy miles, in James Dunnís "buckboard" could hardly be made in less than two days. It was probably the fifteenth of September, 1836, that the Bishop reached the Loyalsock.
No record remains to show whether or not the people in Cherry Township were attended by Father Fitzimmons from Carbondale during the following two years. Our next record is in the Bishopís Diary. This time the Bishop comes by the northern route. The way followed was from Easton into Wayne County, Mount Pleasant, then to Carbondale, from Carbondale to Montrose and Silver Lake. The Bishop then went on to Binghamton, the home of Edward White, returning by way of Friendsville and Silver Lake to Towanda. At Towanda the Bishop says "Father Fitzimmons baptized about thirty infants and heard the Confessions of the men who are engaged in digging the canal."
"July the fourth, 1838," the Bishop writes, "I dedicated the church of St. Basil the Great5 in a place called Cherry Township, in Lycoming County [now Sullivan]. Twenty-eight families are living in this vicinity of whom sixteen are German, twelve of Irish origin. Twenty-four persons were signed with the sacred Chrism on the fifth of July. Fifty, at least, of the people received Holy Communion."
According to the tradition, repeated to the present writer by Father Kaier, the Bishop also blessed the Cemetery on this visitation. Some of the people had been living on the "Loyalsock" since about 1820.6 Probably there had been some deaths. A letter of the mother of the translator of the Diary, written in 1911, states that when she was a little girl [she was born in Alsace, in 1829] she heard it said that an old lady, Mrs. Lefevre, had walked all the way from Dushore to Pottsville to have a Mass said for her deceased husband. This walk was a subject of tradition in the family descendants of Mrs. Lefevre among the children of the fourth generation.
The Bishop arranged during this visitation that St. Basilís mission was to be under the charge of Father John Vincent OíReilly at St. Josephís and Silver Lake in Susquehanna County. The distance is about fifty miles. Father Nicholas Steinbacher, S.J., of Nippenose Valley, was to have charge of the Germans. Each priest was to visit the community four times a year, so that the people had Mass probably at intervals of about six weeks.
In the visitation of 1840, the Bishop says that he reached the church of St. Basil by stage coach from Berwick. The stage route described is from Mauch Chunk to Tioga Point, at the confluence of the Chemung and the North Branch of the Susquehanna. There were twenty for Confirmation on this occasion, and fifty received Holy Communion. The date was October 14 and 15, 1840.
In the visitation of 1842, the Bishop evidently was unable to reach St. Basilís. The diocese still extended over the entire State of Pennsylvania, including Delaware and West Jersey. The missions and stations of Pittsburg and Erie, Harrisburg and Altoona are named in this visitation. The Bishop was on the road from the eighteenth of June to the twelfth of September. The northern Counties, including the present diocese of Scranton, evidently could not be reached.
In 1845, the Bishop describes his route to "St. Basilís on the Loyalsock" by way of Milton, Danville, Bloomsburg. On this visit he says: "I confirmed ninety on the fourth day of September .
When the Bishop visited St. Basilís in 1847, he describes his route through Pottsville, Tamaqua, Summit, Hazleton, Wilkes-Barre, then on to the missions in Susquehanna County, Wayne County and the present County of Lackawanna.7 The Bishop refers to the excellent work of Father John Vincent OíReilly then in charge of the scattered missions in the Counties of Susquehanna, Luzerne, Bradford and Sullivan.
"For the three days following September twenty-first, 1847," the Bishop says: "I exercised sacred functions in the Church of St. Basil, where I confirmed seventy persons. Lately," the Bishop continues, "another church has been erected in Albany Township, in Bradford County. I was unable to visit this church [mission station]." This "new Church" was the McGovern Chapel erected on the McGovern farm, near Overton. It will be more fully described below when we speak of missions attended from St. Basilís.
On occasion of the visit in 1849, the Bishop came to St. Basilís by way of Towanda. "July the second day", the Bishop writes, "while making our way toward St. Basilís church in Cherry Township, Sullivan County, the axle of the carriage was broken. A man named Byrne, a Catholic, brought us nine miles in a heavy wagon. Then a non-Catholic named Seth Payne, whose home is in the town of Troy [Bradford County}, himself an Episcopalian, invited me to ride with him in his carriage. With great consideration and kindness, he brought me a distance of eleven miles.8
From St. Basilís the Bishop went "to St. Patrickís Church, Albany Township [now Overton}." "Here", the Bishop continues, "lives Edward McGovern, a man to be esteemed for his strong faith and generosity toward the Church." After leaving the McGovern Chapel the Bishop went on to Friendsville and Silver Lake in Susquehanna County.
Again in 1851, the Bishop came to St. Basilís by way of Towanda. The date of this visitation is September the ninth. This is the first time in the Bishopís Diary that the place is given the name Dushore, in Sullivan County. In the earlier entries, the place is designated as "Loyalsock Creek" or "Cherry Township".
Dushore -- The name, according to tradition, is derived from Du Thouars -- Aristide Aubert Dupetit Thouars, formerly an officer in the navy of France under Louis XVI, was one of the refugees who established the Asylum on the west bank of the Susquehanna, near Standing Stone. The "Admiral", as he was called, settled on land where the village, Dushore, now stands. The spot where he is said to have erected a hut and tilled the soil is close to what formerly was a clear cold spring of water, at the foot of the hill near the present site of the parish school. Later the "Admiral" returned to France, recalled by Napoleon. He died in an engagement on the Mediterranean, fighting the British, probably in 1798. This tradition was current more than fifty years ago. A probable explanation of the spelling of the name is that later comers to the ground cleared by Thouars caught the sound of the name from the remnant of the French remaining at the Asylum, and gave it its present form and spelling. The place was incorporated as the Borough of Dushore in 1859.
Just one month after the entry of Bishop Kenrickís last visit to St. Basilís, he left Philadelphia for Baltimore to take over the administration of the Metropolitan See. "October the ninth day," he writes in the Diary, "having received the Papal Bulls by which I was raised to the Metropolitan See of Baltimore, I left [Philadelphia} after night fall by stage . . . and arrived in Baltimore early in the morning [October tenth, 1851].
The Note-Book of Bishop Neumann9 is now our main source of information from the autumn of the year of 1851 to the coming of Father Kaier in April, 1863. Bishop Neumannís Note-Book is a rough draft only, but designed apparently to be filled in, and to continue the Diary and Visitation Records of Bishop Kenrick. The notes under the heading Dushore, Sullivan County, St. Basilís are brief. They are given here in full:
"Dushore, St. Basilís Sullivan County -- First church at Dushore (Loyalsock Creek or Cherry Township built by direction of Bishop Kenrick who visited Catholics settled there--some families more than eighteen years), in September, 1836.
This first church, built of logs, was blessed by Bishop Kenrick, July 4, 1838. The second church, a frame structure was built in 1859.
16 (20) miles from Towanda -- 7 miles from St. Patrickís Overton -- 12 miles from Sugar Ridge -- 9 miles from Laporte.
1836 -- Rev. Henry Fitzsimmons (in charge)
1837 -- Built by Mr. McGinnis of Milton [Perhaps this is the log chapel].
1841 -- J.[ohn] V.[incent] OíReilly
1847) Rev. [Basil] Shorb ) 1847-1848, Aug 26
1848) ) Rev. ____ Etthofer
1849-1852 (Nov. 18) -- Rev. Jeremiah Ahern
1852 -- Father _____ McNaughton
1852 -- Nov. 6 -- Confirmed 18) Franciscans [in charge] from June 27,
1854 -- Jul. 30 -- Confirmed 78) 1858. December 11, 1858, I
1856 -- Sept. 28 -- Confirmed 45) granted permission for the building
1858 -- June 27 -- Confirmed 74) of a new church.
In the Catholic Directories from 1839, the year following the blessing of the first chapel, to 1848, St. Basilís in Cherry Township is noted thus:--"Attended occasionally by the Rev. John Vincent OíReilly from Friendsville. The Directories for 1849 and 1850 place St. Basilís under the care of the Rev. Basil Shorb, who is resident rector at Towanda. In the Directory of 1852, Father Jeremiah Ahearn, resident at Towanda, is named as the one in charge of the mission -- "St. Basilís in Dushore" -- This is the first appearance in the Directories of the place named Dushore. Earlier Directories carry the name of the place "Cherry Township" and, still earlier, "Loyalsock Creek".
The Directories from 1853 to 1857 give the name of Father James McNaughton, the first resident pastor of St. Basilís. The Directories for 1856 and 1857 name also two missions attended by Father McNaughton from St. Basilís -- Forks Settlement and Laporte.
Under the Care of the Friars Minor
During the years 1858 to 1861, St. Basilís was attended by the Franciscans, Friars Minor, from the foundation at Allegheny, New York. The Friars had charge also, during those years, of the church of SS. Peter and Paul in Towanda and several mission stations in the Counties Bradford, Wyoming and Sullivan. It was under the Friars that the earliest Register of baptisms and marriages at St. Basilís now available was begun. The earlier Sacramental Records, from 1838 to 1858, have not been found, though careful search was made for them by Father Kaier.
The title written neatly on the first page of the present oldest Record is: -- Registrum Baptizatorum in Ecclesia Sancti Basilii in Oppido Dushore, Diocesi Philadelphiensi. The first entry is in 1848 -- The Baptism of Mary Stafford, daughter of Nicholas Stafford and Ellen Cullen, born June 11, 1858. Signed Fr. Samuel, O.S.F.
There are thirty-nine baptisms entered by Fr. Samuel during the months July to December, inclusive, 1858. From July 31, 1859 to July 22, 1860, the priest who baptizes signs himself Fr. Felix, O.S.F. Then, from August 19, 1860 to November 18, 1860, it is Fr. Michael, O.S.F., who signs the Record. If we follow the record in Bishop Neumannís Note-Book, it appears that the new frame church authorized by the Bishop, December 11, 1858, to replace the original log chapel, was built during the time of the administration of the Friars Minor, that is during the year 1859.
Father William Carroll, Rector -- 1861-1863
The first Baptism recorded by Father Carroll is January 15, 1861. Father Carroll died in the rectory at St. Basilís January 24, 1863. The Catholic Herald and Visitor, Philadelphia, February 7, 1863, carries the notice of his death from which the following points are taken -- Father Carroll had been out on a sick call the day before his death. His sister, who was keeping house for him at the time, had the body brought to Philadelphia for burial. The body was brought by way of Towanda, where Mass was celebrated, by Fr. Leo, O.S.F.; thence, from Towanda, to the nearest Railway (probably Williamsport). Father Carroll was born at Clonmel, County Tipperary, Ireland, and had been ordained about thirteen years at the time of his death. The priests present at the burial in the Old Cathedral Cemetery were Fr. Leo of Towanda, Father Nicholas Cantwell of St. Philipís, Philadelphia, Father Hugh Lane of St. Teresaís, Father Richard Kinahan, and Father Michael McEvoy.
Father Xavier Aloysius Kaier, Rector--1863-1921
Here is a photo of Father Kaier in his prime. Further below, we show a picture of the priest as a young man.
Father Xavier Aloysius Kaier
Rector of St. Basil's: 1863-1921
Born 1837 and Died 1921
Original Photo Touched up by Mike Krause
Father Kaier, according to his own account, was born in Germany in 1837 *. His parents with their children came from Germany, and settled first at Norristown, then later removed to St. Clair, Pennsylvania. His studies for the priesthood were made in the old Seminary formerly at Eighteenth and Race Streets, Philadelphia. He was ordained priest in the Cathedral Chapel, Philadelphia, May 5, 1862 by Bishop Wood. His first assignment was to the church of the Immaculate Conception in Allentown. He remained in Allentown, assistant to Father Charles McEnroe until Holy Week, of the following year, 1863. Father Kaier has frequently described the particulars of his appointment to St. Basilís and the incidents of his first coming to Dushore. He inquired, he says, from the postmaster where the place was and how to reach St. Basilís. He was informed that Dushore was in Sullivan County, that a train to Muncy in Lycoming County would bring him to a stage route that passed through Laporte, the County-Seat of Sullivan.
Father Kaier probably had been instructed by the Bishop to be at St. Basilís for Easter Sunday. The people had had no opportunity to hear Mass since the death of Father Carroll in January. At any rate, he set off at once; reached Muncy by train; then, by way of Hughesville, he reached Laporte late on the evening of Good Friday by stage coach. Patrick Bowles, Father Kaier used to tell, was the first Catholic whom he met in Sullivan County, a member of St. Basilís then employed at the Tannery in Laporte.
There was a mail route from Laporte to Dushore, ten miles distant, but the mail was carried in a "buckboard", not strong enough to carry an extra passenger and his luggage. Arrangements were made with the proprietor of the hotel, who drove Father Kaier to Dushore the following morning, Holy Saturday, April 4, 1863.
Father Kaier has recounted this story of his first arrival to the present writer frequently and with much minuteness of detail. On the way to Dushore, they met two staunch heads of Catholic families, Martin and Patrick Jordan, and later on James Deegan, son of Darby Deegan, in whose home Bishop Kenrick had said Mass in 1836. These men were delighted to see a priest. They were instructed to send the word to neighbors over the country side that there would be Mass in St. Basilís tomorrow, Easter Sunday Morning. The little old chapel, the structure authorized by Bishop Neumann in 1858, and built in 1859, Father Kaier said, "could not hold one half the people who came to hear Mass on that first Easter morning," the first day of the fifty-eight years that were to follow in his continuous charge at St. Basilís. **
Speaking of those early years, Father Kaier says that while many of the families lived four, six or eight miles from the church in log cabins generally, and labored hard to get a living from their small clearings, yet no Sunday passed, no Holyday on which there were not one hundred and fifty to two hundred teams of oxen and horses in the village, bringing the people to Mass. The ox teams predominated, he says, in ratio of about four to one.
The missions attended during those early years and named by Father Kaier are Overton.10, Sugar Ridge, Paine Road, now Wilmot, Laporte, Muncy Valley, Hills Grove, Browntown, Bernice11, and Little Mehoopany. In some of these places, there were small frame chapels for the services of religion as on the McGovern farm,12 and later at Sugar Ridge and Paine Road, but generally, in the early years, Mass was celebrated and the Sacraments administered in the humble homes of the people.
Some of these missions were attended regularly once a month in the early years, some at irregular intervals, twice or four times during the year. In the seventies and the eighties, after Father Kaier had an assistant, Overton, Sugar Ridge, Paine Road, and Little Mehoopany usually had Mass alternately every second Sunday. On the off Sunday, the people from these Missions quite regularly drove or walked to St. Basilís for Mass. A walk of eight or nine miles for Sunday Mass was not uncommon for some of the older men and women known to the present writer. The return after mass, of course, doubles the distance of the jaunt for the day.
* Editor's Note: On July 3, 2007, we received the following message from John Curtin Lieberman:
[Editor's Note: Streby often wrote in convuluted sentences. What was intended by this comment was that the Hunsingers settled on land that eventually became the Kaier farm; they did so before the Kaiers arrived in 1854; they actually did not arrive in the area until 1863 when Father Kaier was appointed to his position at St. Basil's.]
I was in Dushore about six years ago intending to get some Kaier info from the Sullivan County courthouse, saw the church on the hill, went there and met Gerard Kaier through the clerk in the rectory. Never got to the court house. Came back to Dushore a year later with my wife and my brother, spent a day with Gerard and his wife, and daughter Suzie. They were the nicest people in the world but didn't have too much interest in family history.
Did not get to Alice Mucha Kaier's funeral earlier this year [Obituary]; I live too far away. I saw the outside of the Gerard Kaier house, sort of next to the rectory, but did not see the inside where I may have seen some old family pictures. If you know anything about the Kaiers or can lead me to a source, I certainly would appreciate the opportunity. I have been to your Sullivan County Genealogical Web Site, typed in "Kaier" on the search engines, and read everything that was available. I am very confused about the relationship between my gr gr grandparents. In the 1870 census, they all lived with their son the priest under the surname of "King" (language problem with census taker). In the 1880 census, Mrs. Kaier lived with her son, the priest, bit I can't find Mr. Kaier. When Mr. Kaier died in 1894 in Dushore, his wife was already dead (1877) and buried in Elmira NY, where a married daughter lived. In the late 1800's, married people didn't separate like they do today, so my ancestors created a mystery. Any help would certainly be appreciated.
John C. Lieberman
John Lieberman also provided a copy of Father Kaier's 1921 obituary, shown below, and an article on the 1892 Wedding of his niece, Josephine Kaier, daughter of Charles and Margaret (Curry) Kaier, to Michael Haughney in Mahanoy City, PA. Apparently, Father Kaier did not attend for whatever reason, but other folks from Dushore did. The Kaier family owned the Kaier Brewery in that area, and were in business from 1862 until 1968. John C. Lieberman's grandfather, John B. Lieberman, also in the beer business, married Josephine Kaier's sister Ella Kaier and, when Ella died, he married another sister, Margaret Kaier.
Father Xavier Aloysius Kaier
As a Young Man
Original Photo Found in the Kaier Mansion in Ventnor, NJ
Contributed by John C. Lieberman
** Editor's Note: On May 29, 1902, the Sullivan Review, Dushore's newspaper of record for Sullivan County, published the two following items. One was an article about the community's efforts to acknowledge their gratitude to the priest after forty years in the priesthood; the other was a letter by Father Kaier himself reflecting on his tenure at St. Basil's. We reprint them here exactly as they were published.
Rev. Father Kaier has been made the victim of several surprises lately. We mentioned one a couple of weeks ago, when he was presented with the chair. On Sunday last the ladies of the parish presented him with a golden chalice of elegant workmanship. It is of Gothic style and set with rubies and amethysts. This was their remembrance of his fortieth anniversary as a priest. On Monday evening the Dushore band serenaded him and he thanked them in a feeling manner. Feeling that a formal acknowledgement of the many kind remembrances was due his people, and not daring to trust his emotions in a personal address he has taken the method of thanking the people through the columns of the Review. Elsewhere will be found an article from his pen appropriately acknowledging the gifts and thanking the donors. This is the first time, to our knowledge, that the reverend gentleman has allowed an article to appear in the public prints over his signature and we are sure that it will be read interest by all.
A Letter From Father Kaier.
I would be wanting or lacking in gratitude or in true appreciation of friendship were I to keep silent and not address a few words of thanks to those good people, who, on a recent occasion, remembered me so kindly, and I have all the more reason for doing so, because the expressions of their good will were spontaneous and entirely unlooked for on my part.
On the 5th day of this month it was 40 years since my ordination to the priesthood. This surely and truely was a rare and memorable event, because but few priests have the happiness of living and laboring for so long a time in the sacred ministry.
Of those forty years that are now passed, I have spent all but about 10 months in the parish. I was appointed Rector of St. Basil's church in the latter part of March, 1863, by the late Most Rev. Jas. Frederick Wood, D. D., first Archbishop of Philadelphia, to whose spiritual jurisdiction the Catholics in this section of the state then belonged, but I did not reach the field of my future labors until the 4th of April. On the following day, which happened to be the Easter sunday, I officiated for the first time in the old little frame church which must have been dear to all of you, on account of the tender associations and memories connected with it, and because it had been erected some 30 years or more before my arrival, by your pious ancestors, those sturdy pioneers who planted the first seeds of the Catholic faith in what is now called Sullivan County.
These early settlers, most of whom are now dead and gone and rest and sleep in the sweet peace of God, brought with them from their own dear country, that firm and solid, that strong and unwavering faith, which shrank from no sacrifice, when there was a question of advancing the interest of their holy Mother Church, which was all in all to them, for which they lived and labored and died in the joyful hope and expectation of a happy and glorious immortality hereafter.
This strong and living faith and it alone, made it possible to make the great improvements in this parish, that have been accomplished during the past 40 years and are now enjoyed by their worthy children and children's children.
You are well aware that flattery or giving praise where it is not deserved is no weakness of mine, in fact I could not do it if I tried, because it is altogether contrary to my nature. But I can say in all truthfulness, in all sincerity and honesty, that it would be hard to find a more warmhearted, a nobler, a more willing or generous class of Catholic people,than we have in this parish, no matter where you might go, and it was a great pleasure to me to give expression to this fact on several former occasions during the 40 years that I have been among you.
Had I ever doubted the good will and kindly feelings of the people of this parish, these doubts must have vanished and disappeared on the recent occasion to which I have already referred.
A week or two before my fortieth anniversary in the priesthood, I casually mentioned the fact to one or two parishioners, but gave the matter no further thought. You may therefore imagine my surprise, when shortly after, a delegation of the Ancient Order of Hibernians called on me and ensnared or enticed me to appear in their hall on the following day under the pretext that my presence was necessary to act in my offical capacity of chaplain, as business of great importance was under consideration.
Without the least suspicion that they were playing a trick on me, I complied with their request, because I did not wish to disappoint them. On my arrival I found not only a large number of the Dushore branch of the order present, but almost equally as many from the Bernice branch. After a pleasant and friendly conversation, Mr. Patrick Martin, as their spokesman arose, and in a very polished and complimentary address, felecitated and congratulated me on my fortieth anniversary in the priesthood, and my esteemed friend and neighbor, Rev. Father Enright, was pleased to follow in a similar strain.
I myself was simply overcome with emotion, which increased when later on in the proceedings Mr. Martin presented me in the name of the gentlemen present, with a most comfortable and expensive arm chair, that would be considered a luxury in a bishop's parlor, which they had managed somehow or other to conceal from my view until the proper moment had arrived, and asked me to accept this costly present as a token of their esteem and friendship.
As the whole arrangement was a complete surprise to me, I could not find words to give vent to my feelings. The same thing was repeated last Sunday after late mass, when the ladies of this parish through their representative, Miss Mary J. Finan,in a few well chosen words presented me with a rare and most beautiful chalice which would be good enough for a cathedral church. The surprise was as complete as the one I experienced when I stood in the hall of the members of the Ancient Order of Hibernians and hence could not find words to give expression to the thoughts that agitated and filled my heart.
Had I been consulted in the matter, or had I the slightest inkling of what these dear friends intended to do, I would have asked them as a special favor to go to no such trouble or expense, inasmuch as their good will would have been a sufficient recompense. As it was, I could not help but accept these costly gifts in the spirit in which they were tendered and I appreciate them all the higher, because they were unsolicited and altogether unlooked for on my part.
I thank in a special manner those gentlement who had come all the way from Bernice and spent the greater part of the day in this place to honor me on the occasion mentioned. In conclusion I will say that, as soon as the new chalice is consecrated, it will be used for the first time in saying a requiem mass for all the deceased members of this parish who have gone to their eternal home since I came among you, and the second mass will be said for the living donors and contributors towards the costly gifts presented.
Once more I thank you one and all.
X. A. KAIER,
Rector of St. Basil's Church
Dushore, May 26, 1902
We reproduce here a copy of the obituary of Father Kaier, courtesy of John C. Lieberman:
St. Basil the Great Church
Copy of Photo Printed with the Obituary of Reverend Xavier A. Kaier
Sullivan Review, March 30, 1921
Contributed by John C. Lieberman
The New Stone Church -- 1868-1872
The dimensions of the frame chapel of 1859 are not known, but evidently it was too small for the growing congregation even from the first coming of Father Kaier who says that the chapel could not hold one half the people on that first Easter morning in 1863. Plans were made for a new building in 1866. First a frame structure was designed, then a building of brick made of native clay. Both plans were rejected as unsatisfactory or impracticable. Finally, plans were matured and approved for the present stone building.
The story of the building is one of loyal and laborious cooperation on the part of the people. "The people," says Father Kaier, "played no unimportant part in the construction. We were two winters hauling the materials." The stone, a light gray granite, was quarried on what is still known as "Ringer Hill" on the old Michael Shevlin clearing about four miles away. The sand was brought from the flats near the confluence of Birch Creek and the South Branch of the Loyalsock. This is on the Laporte Road, now U.S. Interstate Route 220, about six miles from St. Basilís. The lime was brought from the kilns near Montoursville, probably forty miles away. The farmers (practically all the community at this time lived from products of the soil) took turns by assignment for the hauling of materials. Those who owned horses were chosen for the long haul from Montoursville. The shorter distances were covered in many instances by ox teams.
The corner stone of the new church was laid by Bishop William OíHara of Scranton, October 28, 1868.13 The church was nearly three years in building. At the main entrance of the church in a niche just over the Holy Water Font on either side are two marble slabs set in the masonry. One is inscribed--"The corner stone of this church was laid by the Rt. Rev. Bishop OíHara, D.D., October 28, 1868, and the first Mass was celebrated by its pastor, Xav. Al. Kaier, March 12, A.D. 1871." On the other side, the right as you enter, the inscription reads: "May you who in after years come to worship here remember those who were instrumental in building this church. The painting and frescoing were finished in April 1875, and the pews were put in in the fall of 1876."14
Another tablet set in the wall to the right of the main altar describes main points in the history of the place down to May 18, 1872.15
The Parish School
The first parish school for St. Basilís was built in 1877, a frame building which combined the Sistersí Convent with school rooms on two floors in the south wing. From the beginning the plan was to have day school for the grades, and a select boarding school or academy. These select "Boarding Academies" were much in vogue in the seventies and eighties, and were opened generally in the convents of the Sisters who taught in the schools of the parishes. The Sisters of Christian Charity--The Mallinckrodt Foundation--were in charge of the school during the first three years. The Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, of Scranton have been in charge of the school since 1883. The school includes the eight grades primary with a four yearsí High School course approved and accredited by the State. During the year, 1923, plans were made and approved for a new parish school to be built of stone similar to the stone used in the construction of the church. The corner stone of the new school was laid by Bishop Hoban of Scranton, May 21, 1924, and the rooms were occupied for school purpose at the beginning of the term in 1925.
Assistant Priests at St. Basilís
The assistant priest appointed to aid in the spiritual care of St. Basilís and the missions was first, Father John T. Costello, who came in 1872 and remained about three years16, when he was appointed rector at Athens. In the Catholic Directory for 1876, Father John Mullen is named as assistant at St. Basilís; in the Directory of 1878, Father Thomas Kiernan is the assistant; in 1879, Father Patrick Hurst.17 Father Michael OíReilly, one of four brothers, priests, sons of Terence OíReilly of St. Josephís in Susquehanna County, and nephews of Father John V. OíReillly, was assistant in 1880 and 1881.18 The Directories, 1882-1888, carry the name of Father Richard Walsh, assistant at St. Basilís.19
The name of Father John Enright appears in the Directories of 1889 and 1890 as assistant at St. Basilís. Father Francis Mack, 1891 to 1896. In 1896, the missions at Overton, St. Francis, and Sugar Ridge, Saints Philip and James, were formed into a new parish with a resident priest in charge. A little later Wilmot, Paine Road, Little Mehoopany or Stowell, also Bernice (now Mildred), Laporte and Lopez were organized as distinct parish centers. With the cutting off of the out missions, the need for an assistant at St. Basilís passed. Father Kaier was in charge alone according to the Catholic Directories from 1897 to 1906. Then we find again assistants named in the following order: 1907, Father B. E. OíByrne, then William J. Flynn, 1908 to 1913 -- Joseph Gaigon, 1914 to 1916 -- 1917, John J. King -- 1918, James Boland -- Father Thomas Needham, 1919 to 1921.
Father Thomas Needham was in charge during the last months of Father Kaierís long career as rector, builder and spiritual guide at St. Basilís. Father Kaier died on the twenty-fourth day of March, 1921. The fourth day of April of the same year would have rounded out his fifty-eighth year of continuous residence and work among the people of St. Basilís and the missions, extending over a radius of more than forty miles. The early days, it must be remembered, more than two thirds of the fifty-eight years, were the times of dirt roads, horses and oxen. There was no means of conveyance over these roads to the mission stations or to the farmers on sick calls but the saddle horse, the wagon, or walking. A lasting memorial of Father Kaierís work and his influence may be seen in the solid structure of the stone church. It seems to symbolize the spiritual building of Faith and religion in the hears and the homes of the people--the work of Father Kaier during more than five generations--1863-1921.
Father Kaier passed to his reward in the Rectory at St. Basilís, March 24, 1921, at the age of eighty-four. His grave is marked near the front entrance of the church. His work, the result of fifty-eight years of devotion and service, remains a reality of religion and life, sacred and revered in the memories and traditions of the place and the people.
Father Michael F. Sweeny, Rector -- 1921-1933
Father Michael F. Sweeny was appointed Rector of St. Basilís in August, 1921. It was under the administration of Father Sweeny that the new stone parish school building was planned and completed. Father Sweeny remained until October 1933, when the present rector, Father John J. King was appointed to be the spiritual guide of the people.
A List of the Names of those who have been called to the priesthood and to religious life, whose parents lived within the limits of the parish of St. Basil and its missions:
Thomas McGovern -- Bishop of Harrisburg -- 1888-1898
Ordained priest in 1861
Brothers: Edward Martin and John P. Martin, ordained 1865
John Bergen 1873
Timothy J. Donahue 1873
Daniel Cusick 1882
Henry C. Jordan 1892
Francis E. Tourscher 1898
Peter P. OíNeill 1903
John E. OíConnor 1910
James McGee 1915
Eugene Carroll 1917
John Brennan, a Jesuit of the St. Louis Province
Joseph Miner ordained 1920
John Walsh 1922
John F. Boll 1933
Brothers Bede and Innocent, of the family of Thomas J. Rouse, have been many years teaching members in the Congregation of Brothers of St. Francis Xavier.
The first vocation to the Sisterhoods from the parish is Miss Mary Thall. She is the first postulant received by the Sisters of the Holy Child in America.20 In religion, her name was Sister Mary Joseph. She made her vows in 1864--Died in 1893. Sister Mary Josephís sister, Anna Thall, became a Franciscan, Sister Mary Anacleta. She entered the Convent at St. Maryís Hospital, Philadelphia, in 1877--was professed August 12, 1879. She died in Tacoma, Washington, February 3, 1928.
The parish has given eight religious to the Congregation of the Good Shepherd--Miss Nora Harrington, now Sister Mary Paula; and four daughters of Mr. Francis Coyle--Margaret, Sister Mary Francis Xavier--Elizabeth, Sister Mary Lucy--Julia, Sister Mary of St. Rose Virginie (died in Denver, Colorado in 1909)--Ellen, Sister Mary Rose; Teresa Kinsley, Sister Mary Teresita; Helen Grace, Sister Mary of Blessed Imelda; and Mary Sando, Sister Mary St. Edward.
The Sisters of Charity, Emmitsburg, claim three religious from St. Basilís--Sister Catharine McAneany--Sister Winifred Kinsley--Sister Josephine Waples.
Two daughters of Edward McAneany, Mary and Catherine, belong to the Congregation of The Little Sisters of the Poor. In religion they are: Sister Monica of St. Colette and Sister Colette of St. Teresa.
Ellen Brennan, sister of Father John Brennan, S.J., was Sister M. Stephen with the Sisters of St. Joseph in Rochester. She died some years ago. Mary McDonald, daughter of John McDonald is Sister Cele Joseph with the Sisters of St. Joseph, Troy, N.Y. Anna Scanlin and Sarah Scanlin, daughters of Daniel Scanlin, also belong to the Sisters of St. Joseph; in religion they are Sister M. Thomas and Sister M. Joseph. Katharine Jordan, Sister of Father Henry Jordan was Sister M. Simplician with the Sisters of St. Joseph, Mt. St. Josephís, Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania. She died some years ago.
Three religious of the Sisters of Mercy, Wilkes-Barre are children of parents whose homes are or formerly were within the limits of St. Basilís and its missions. They are Elizabeth Coyle, daughter of James Coyle and Elizabeth Somers, now Sister M. Martina; Loretta OíMara, now Sister M. Benigna; and Sister M. Crescentia, daughter of James F. OíConnor of Mildred, and sister of Father John E. OíConnor of the diocese of Altoona.
Sister Mary Francis Joseph of the Sisters of the Holy Child, Philomena Martin, is the daughter of James Martin and Mary Ladden, resident formerly in the parish. James Martin is the brother of Fathers Edward and John Martin named above.
Miss Esther Dunn, whose grandfather brought Bishop Kenrick to "Loyalsock" in 1836, is a Sister, Servants of the Immaculate Heart, Mother House at Immaculata College, Sister Mary Paul.
Anna and Helen North, twins, of the family of Dennis North and Blanch OíNeill, entered the Congregation of Sisters of St. Joseph in Buffalo. They are in religion Sister Rose Anita and Sister Rose Alice.
Sister Mary Gerard, a nun in the Carmelite Monastery in Roxbury, Massachusetts, is the daughter of Andrew Tourscher and Magdalene Sollinger, formerly residents of Bernice Mission.
Father Edward F. Rouse, C.M., was ordained to the priesthood, May 26, 1938.
The following are the names, with parentsí names, of Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, who have entered religion at the mother house in the Diocese of Scranton, MARYWOOD COLLEGE.
Religious Name, Lay Name, Birthplace, Parents, Death Date
Sister M. Ambrose, Ann Cusick,Overton,--Patrick Cusick--, Catherine Flynn,Oct. 7, 1920
Sister M. de Chantal, Bridget Kane, Dushore,Philip Kane, Margaret Smith, May 10, 1896
Sister M. Joachim, Bridget Dorsey, Sugar Ridge, Patrick Dorsey, Margaret Kane, Jan. 2, 1896
Sister M. Barbara, Ann Farrell, Dushore, John H. Farrell, Elizabeth Harrington, October 25, 1901
Sister M. Leon, Mary Wall, Dushore, Michael Wall, Mary A. Donahue, October 25, 1936
Sister M. Luigi, Leonora Saxe, Wilmot, Martin Saxe, Elizabeth Dunkleberg
Sister M. Kostka, Jennie Sick, Overton, Wendell Sick, Sarah McDonald
Sister M. Lucinda, Alice Harrington, Dushore, Cornelius Harrington, Elizabeth Gahan
Sister M. Pieta, Susanna Rouse, Dushore, Joseph Rouse, Mary A. Kane
Sister M. Innocenta, Mary Rouse, Dushore, Thomas Rouse, Mary Carroll
Sister M. Joachim, Margaret Lane, Lopez, John Lane, Margaret Dorsey
Sister M. Anna, Geraldine Murphy, Laddsburg, Stephen Murphy, Mary McMahon
Sister M. Roselle, Mary Sullivan, Overton, Michael Sullivan, Louise Thall
Sister M. Rosalia, mary Magdalena Smith, Saratoga Springs (NY), Peter J. Smith, Elizabeth Burns
Sister M. Emily, Lydia Litzelman, Dushore, Matthias Litzelman, Josephine Marshall
Sister M. Elizaretta, Marguerite McGee, Murray Town, William McGee, Elizabeth OíNeill
Sister Maria Vincent, Mary Hilbert, Dushore, Leonard Hilbert, Eugenie Tourscher
Three sisters (out of a family of ten) of the writer of this sketch were sisters in religion. Sister M. Huberta, a Franciscan, died in Oklahoma in 1927. Sister Maria Vincent, of the Congregation of St. Joseph, died in Indiana in 1925. Sister M. Francis Borgia, also of the Congregation of St. Joseph, died in Arizona, 1929.
A List of family names in the sacramental registers at Saint Basilís--1858-1877-- arranged in alphabetic order (Note: Some of these names will stand for groups of families, bearing the same name, but not kindred and not known to be related by ties of blood)
1The accuracy of Father Kaierís memory was well known and frequently the subject of remark among the priests of the diocese.
2Sullivan County was formed from Lycoming in 1847. The Townships were Cherry, Colley, Elkland, Forks, Fox, Hillsgrove, Laporte, Shrewsbury.
3This road, running from Berwick to Tioga Point, was chartered, under the title of The Susquehanna & Tioga Turnpike, in 1818. The road was opened for travel in 1820.
4Father Henry Fitzimons was ordained priest in St. Johnís Church, Philadelphia, August 15, 1836, and was placed in charge of St. Roseís Church, Carbondale, by the Bishop during this visitation. 5This evidently is the building which the Bishop had told the people to build on his former visit in 1836. The site of this first chapel was, as described by Father Kaier, northward from the present Sistersí Convent, on a plot of ground later occupied by the family of Robert McMahon. 6The tradition, as it was told to Father Kaier, was that the first Catholic settlers were employed in building the turnpike or making the trail over the mountain. The names of the first in this tradition were Denis Thall, Joseph Litzelschwob, Hugh Kavanagh, and Cornelius Harrington. 7Lackawanna County was formed in 1878. 8Nine miles plus eleven -- Towanda is twenty miles north of St. Basilís. 9The Venerable John Nepumucene Neumann, C.SS.R., was consecrated Bishop of Philadelphia, March 28, 1852. He died January 5, 1860. 10This station is distinct from the present church of St. Francis in the village Overton. This chapel, St. Patrickís, was built on the Edward McGovern farm, about one mile from the village. 11On the margin of the Register of Baptisms, Father Kaier has written the following note on the first Mass at Bernice--"December 10, 1871. The first Mass at the Bernice Coal Mines was said this Sunday morning at ten oíclock., A.M., in the presence of about fifty Catholics. The day was extremely cold and the Mass was celebrated in one of the Companyís houses.--Xav. Al. Kaier." 12In the Cemetery plot where the Chapel stood on the McGovern farm, is a granite block monument. On this block is the following inscription: Edward McGovern born in County Cavan, Ireland, 1799. Emigrated to the United States in 1833. Was among the first Catholic pioneers of this region in 1842.--Died in the Lord April 7, 1876. A loving husband, a fond father, a kind neighbor, a devout Catholic. Requiescat in Pace. On this same block are also the names of Mary Conmey Wife of Edward McGovern, died April 5, 1868, and Patrick McGovern, son of Edward, died May 8, 1893. 13Scranton was made a distinct diocese March 3, 1868. Previously St. Basilís had been under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Philadelphia. 14The body of the pews is native white ash--the moulding is walnut. 15Written on the margin of the Register in 1873 is this note in Father Kaierís hand: "1873--On the 7th day of September our new Church was solemnly dedicated by the Rt. Rev. Wm. OíHara, Bishop of the Diocese [Scranton]." 16Father Costello was Rector of the church of the Annunciation in Williamsport from the year 1899 to the time of his death. He died March 19, 1931. 17Father Hurst died at Mercy Hospital, Wilkes-Barre, where he had been chaplain for some years, December 2, 1929.
18Father Michael OíReilly died Rector of St. Josephís in Danville, Pennsylvania, March 10, 1909.
19Father Richard H. Walsh died at Pittston (retired), April 15, 1925. 20The first house of the Sisters of the Holy Child in America was opened in Towanda in 1862.
St. Basil the Great Altar
Photo Posted on eBay in February 2003
Contributed by Carol Brotzman
St. Basil the Great Altar
Sometime in the 1980's
Photo Contributed by Mike Krause
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