History of St. Michael's Church

The Beginnings

The Building of the Community of St. Michael's, Fryburg, PA

Nearly one hundred ninety years ago, in Europe, personal freedoms were diminishing. In Germany, army conscription was on the horizon, and adventurous individuals were looking to the New World for a better way of life.

Jacob Eisenman and his wife with six children (and a baby born mid-ocean) left their home in August 1820 in OberRothwell, near Freiburg Im Bresgau, Baden, Germany, and arrived in Philadelphia. After resting from the five-week ocean voyage, they traveled west to the Kapp Settlement.. Here they built a log home. Writing to friends in Germany, Eisenman encouraged them to come to America where good land could be bought at a fair price. Within seven years the families of John Ditz, Balthasar Fasenmyer, and Christian Denslinger emigrated, and the nucleus of the parish was established. Joining the small band was Anthony Weaver and his family, who had emigrated earlier to the settlement of Crates. A few miles to the east, another settlement of German and Irish people known as the Vogelbacher Settlement was thriving. On the Sebastian Weaver farm, ground was chosen between the two settlements to build a church. Stones for a foundation were collected, trees were felled, and a cemetery was started. However, due to contentious disputes, this effort was abandoned. An acre of ground on the north edge of the Eisenman farm was then deeded to St. Michael's for the purpose of constructing a church.

Philadelphia-based Bishop Kenrick came yearly to visit the settlements. In a diary entry dated September 27, 1836, Bishop Kenrick states, "Today I blessed a church built of logs on land given by Jacob Eisenman in Venango County, Pinegrove Township, under the invocation of St. Michael the Archangel." At least forty people received Holy Communion. Also, many babies were baptized with the surnames Marrosy, Denslinger, McCormack, Miller, Bauer, and Schneider. Witnesses were H. Becker, M. Groner, M. Schillinger, M. J. Vogelbacher, and M. I. Tschudi.

Farther north was a settlement first called the Wilderness, then Lapinto, and today St. Mary's Crown. Itinerant priests came on horseback to these settlements to minister to the sick, to perform marriages, and to baptize babies.

In 1846, Rev Father Andreas Skopez was assigned to Fryburg. The next year a school was started in the Ferdinand Ditz home, later to be moved to rooms in the expanded log church. With a resident priest here, many new families came to the area - some from the Bavaria area of Germany, and many from St. Mary's, Elk County, PA, where the teachers for the school were acquired. The area now became familiar with many new surnames: Merkle, Hargenrader, Weist, Ginkel, Guth, Obenrader, Faller, Buechner, Hufnagel, Carroll, Niederriter, Lauer, Hartle, Schill, Zacherl, Dechant, Stiglitz, Loll, Smrekar, Olcus, and Sporer.

Many descendants of these families remain today as member of St. Michael Parish in Fryburg.

Chronology of St. Michael Parish

Event #
Event Date
1 Nov. 14 1820 - The Jacob Eisenman family arives from Rothwell, Baden, and purchases 184 acres of land in the area of Present-day Fryburg, PA.
2 Oct. 25 1825 - The John Ditz family arrives from Reuths, Baden.
3 1826 - Rev. Terrence McGirr passes through the area and baptizes 12 children.
- The first burial takes place in the church lot - the daughter of John and Magdalena Ditz.
4 1828 - The Balthasar Fasenmyer and Christian Denslinger families arrivve in the area.
5 1829 - Fr. ONeil celebrates the first mass in the Eisenman home.
6 Apr 9 1834 - The first marriage in the area is solemnized as Ferdinand Ditz and Frances Eisenman exchange vows in the brides home
7 Jun 4 1834 - Bishop Kenrick visits the area with Father Masquelet. Twenty-four parishioners are confirmed and 20 others receive Holy Communion.
8 Jul 4 1836 - A log church is complete at the north corner of the Jacob Eisenman farm.
9 Sep 27 1836 - Bishop Kenrick blesses (a church built of logs, under the invocation of St. Michael the Archangel
10 1837 - Father Henry Herzog becomes the first resident priest assigned to St. Michael Parish
11 1842 - Bishop Kenrick makes his final visit to St. Michael as he confirms 24 parishioners.
12 1843 - St. Michael becomes part of the Pittsburg Diocese, under the leadership of Bishop OConnor.
13 1846 - Rev. Andrew Skopez adds two transepts to the original church, thus re-forming the church into the shape of a crime.
- A school is opened in the house of Ferdinand Ditz with Miss Magdalena Buchbeid as the first teacher.
14 1853 - St. Michael, Fryburg, PA, becomes part of the newly formed Diocese of Erie
15 Jun 13 1856 - On land owned by John Ditz, a rustic log school is erected, the first parochial school in the Erie Diocese.
16 May 1870 - Rev. John B. Kuehn becomes pastor of St Michael.
- The St. Michael Society is formed
17 1871 - The brick rectory is constructed.
18 1875 - The Rosary Society is organized
19 1876 - A large brick building is constructed to house the school, convent, and a multi-purpose hall.
- Benedictine Sisters from St. Marys, PA, begin to administer the school.
20 1878 - Father George Meyer becomes pastor.
21 Aug 1880 - Plans are designed for the construction of a new church.
- Fr. Skopez returns to St. Michael to celebrate his Golden Jubiles of Ordination
22 1882 - The construction of the present-day stone church is placed.
23 Aug 1886 - Construction of the church is completed.
24 Sep 9 1886 - A Pontifical Mass is celebrated in the new church to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the completion of the original log church.
25 Feb 8 1887 - Ann Cecelia Schettler and John Swartz become the first couple to be married in the new church.
26 Aug 28 1887 - The new church is consecrated by Bishop Tobias Mullen
27 Oct 24 1887 - The body of Father Skopez is returned to Fryburg for burial. On the same day the walls of the old church are torn nown, a strange coincidence, as Father Meyer observed.
28 Feb 1894 - Rev. John C. McEntee is appointed pastor of St. Michael Parish.
29 Jul 1895 - Father McEntee dies in Erie. His body is returned to St. Michael for burial.
30 Aug 1895 - Rev. M. J. Desmond serves as interim pastor for a few months.
31 1896 - Rev Joseph Sieverding becomes pastor.
32 Jun 20 1897 - Father Anthony P. Fletcher, the first native son to be ordained to the priesthood, celebrates his first solemn mass.
33 1898 - Father Bernard Fletcher, Anthonys brother, is ordained to the priesthood.
34 Jul 23 1898 - Father August Hoeing becomes pastor. Early in his pastorate, he begins the now-famous Labor Day Picnic.
35 1905 - The Young Ladies Sodality is organized.
36 1913 - The parish chapter of the Knights of St. George is organized.
37 Sep 1920 - The Benedictine Sisters of Erie replace the Benedictine Sisters of St. Marys in administering the school.
38 Sep 8 1920 - Bishop John Mark Gannon celebrates his first Pontifical Mass following his elevation to the Bishopric of Erie as St. Michael Parish observes its centennial.
- The Centennial Monument of the Sacred Heart (still in the garden in front of the Church) is unveiled.
39 1922 - The Stations of the Cross are replaced.
40 May 1924 - Reverend Francis V. Theobald begins his pastorate.
41 1927 - Old pews are replaced, new lights are installed, and a new organ is purchased from Teller Organ Company of Erie for $7,000.00.
42 1931 - Construction of the Parish Hall is begun.
43 1938 - The old pulpit is removed from the church.
44 Jun 11, 1939 - Rev. Paul F. Obenrador, a native son, celebrates his first solemn mass.
45 Jun 1941 - Father Theobald celebrates his Silver Jubilee of Ordination
46 Aug 11 1948 - The cornerstone for the new school is placed.
47 May 9 1949 - The new school is dedicated.
48 Early 1954 - Renovation of the church takes place.
49 Nov 24, 1954 - Father Theobald is elevated to the dignity of Papal Chamberlain with the title Very Reverend Monsignor.
50 1956 - An addition is added to the hall on the east end to house a new modern kitchen.
51 1963 - Additional classrooms and a large multi-purpose room are added to the school
52 Apr 1963 - Monsignor Theobald is again honored, this time receiving the title of Right Reverend Monsignor.
53 May 1964 - Monsignor Theobald celebrates forty years as pastor of St. Michael Parish.
54 1965 - With the introduction of liturgical changes, a new alter facing the people is placed in the Church, as the laity begins taking a more active role in the liturgy.
55 May 1966 - A three day celebration marks Monsignor Theobalds Golden Jubilee of Ordination to the Priesthood.
56 Jun 4 1966 - Father John Rosenhammer is assigned to residence at St. Michael Parish while teaching at Venango Christian High School.
57 Sep 23 1966 - Father Frederick Moffett, S. C. J., a native son of St. Michael Parish, celebrates his first mass at St. Stephen Church, Oil City, PA.
58 Jun 3 1971 - Father Richard G. Mayer is appointed as Vicar Assistant for St. Michael Parish.
59 Feb 10 1972 The parish Council is formed.
60 1974 - The side entrance to the schurch is altered, eliminating the steps.
61 May 5 1974 - Monsignor Theobald celebrates fifty years as pastor of St. Michael Parish. The occasion is marked with a Solemn Mass of Thanksgiving, a parish reception, and the publication of an orginal parish history and genealogy book.
62 Oct 1974 - The first annual Octoverfest is held.
63 May 1975 - Restrooms are installed in the church, and a stairway is constructed leading to a new meeting room (The Heritage Room) in the basement area of the church.
- Parking lots and a roadway to the recreation hall are paved.
64 Jun 5, 1976 - Fr. Joseph Reszkowski is appointed pastor of St. Michael Parish, replacing Fr. Mayer, who is reassigned to St. Hyppolyte in Frenchtown, PA.
65 Jun 12, 1976 - Monsignor Theobald celebrates sixty years in the priesthood.
66 1977 - The church organ is refurbished, the interior of the rectory is remodeled, and the size of the cemetary is increased.
67 Feb 27 1978 - Following a lengthy illness, Monsignor Theobald dies. At his request his body lies in state in front of the Blessed Mothers Alter.
68 Mar 2 1978 - Monsignor Richard Stack, accomanied by more than fifty other priests, celebrates the funeral mass for Monsignor Theobald. Afterwards, his body is laid to rest at the statue of the Pieta in St. Michael Cemetery.
69 Summer 1978 - Fr. Thomas Brooks is appointed to teach at Venango Christian High School and assist at St. Michael Parish where he resides until being reassigned on July 19, 1984.
70 July 5 1979 - Fr. John Swoger is appointed pastor of St. Michael Parish.
71 1982 - A new roof is installed at the school, and ceiling fans are installed in the church.
- The cemetery road is widened and blacktopped.
72 Spring 1983 - The interior of the church is painted, and carpeting is installed.
- A driveway entrance is added to the hall on the north side, and a pitched roof is added over the kitchen area.
73 Fall 1983 - Kindergarten is added to the school curriculum.
74 1986 - Extensive repairs are made to grave markers in the older section of the cemetery.
- New windows and siding are installed at the hall.
75 1987 - The interior of the hall and the dining room are remodeled.
- An updated Parish history and genealogy book is published.
76 Jun 28 1987 - Bishop Michael J. Murphy celebrates a Solemn Mass of Thanksgiving, commemorating the centennial of the consecration of St. Michael Church.
77 Sep 29 1987 - Following mass on the feast of St. Michael, a time capsule is buried beneath the church foundation under the third window, to be opened in 2087 at the celebration of the bicentennial of the churchs consecration. Some items included in the capsule were obtained durin parishioners visit to Freiburg, Germany.
78 1988 - Mr. John Petcak begins duties as Director of Christian Education at St. Michael and continues in this capacity for several years.
- Repairs are made to the church roof, replacing loose slates and spouting.
- A new sign announcing St. Michaels mass schedule is placed in front of the church by the driveway to the rear parking lot.
79 May 28 1990 - Following Memorial Day Mass, a recently installed statue of the Risen Christ is blessed in the new section of the cemeter. Situated on a 13000 pound monolith, the statue, imported from Italy, stands six feet tall.
80 Sep 29 1990 - Father Thomas Aleksa assumes duties as pastor of St. Michael Parish.
81 1993 - The first photo directory of the parish is published.
82 Jul 10 1993 - Fev John Walsh becomes pastor as Fr. Aleksa is reassigned to St. Bernard Parish in Bradford, PA.
83 Jul 1 1994 - The parish chapter of Knights of Columbus is established.
84 Jul 1994 - The parking lot behind the church is enlarged, and a garage is constructed beside the recotry.
85 Aug 1994 - Major landscaping is completed in front of the rectory to match the terraces in front of the church.
86 Sep 1995 - Necessary repair work is done on the church steeple. Stones are re-pointed, new gutters are installed, and the cross is painted. In addi, repairs are made to the steeples brick liner.
87 1997 - The parish school observes 150 years of educating local children.
88 1998 - Fr. William Driscoll becomes pastor.
89 Summer 2001 - The church interior is painted.
- A statue of St. Michael (which had at one time been located inside the church) is now refurbished and placed at the side of St. Josephs Altar.
- Twelve sconces are installed on the walls of the church with candles only to be lighted each year on the anniversary of the churchs consecration.
90 2002 - New clock faces, white with redwood hands, are installed on the steeple.
- St. Michael and St Joseph, Lucinda, enter into an educational partnership due to declining enrollment at both schools.
91 Sep 2002 - An inscribed marker is placed between the rectory and the cemetery, denoting the location of the High Altar of the original log church.
92 Jun 2003 - Fr. Bill Rice, a native of Clarion County, retires to Fryburg but continues his ministry, assisting Fr. Poulson when necessary.
93 Aug 2003 - New roofs are installed on the rectory and the garage by the school.
94 Jun 27 2004 - Fr. Poulson celberates his Silver Jubilee of Ordination.
95 2004 - A second photo directory is published.
96 Mar 10 2005 - A letter is sent to the parents of St. Michael students, announcing that the school will not re-open in the fall.
97 2007 - Steps leading up to the church are replacced, and memorial bricks are placed on the landing in front of the Hertiage Room.
98 Jan 2, 2008 - Fr. Driscoll dies following an extended illness.
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