(photo donated by Michael McKenzie)
The building of the new Baltimore and
Ohio and the Western Maryland Railroads led many Catholics into south Somerset
County. The opening and operating of the coal mines and fields were
a contributing cause. And not to be outdone, the farmers recognized
the value of the fertile fields as a livelihood. As in every group
of migrating peoples, there was a good percentage of Catholics who needed
the services of the Catholic Clergy to maintain their Spiritual Life.
Thus, the area was ripe for a Spiritual Harvest. First, the area was
administered by the Priests from the now Arch-Diocese of Baltimore which
was established in 1790. In 1843, the area came under the newly established
Diocese of Pittsburgh. In 1901, the Diocese of the now Altoon-Johnstown
was formed and included among its eight counties is Somerset County.
Prior to the building of the Church, Mass was celebrated quite regularly in the home of the late Michael Knecht. The home of the late Michael Murray was occasionally the host house for the priest. And, on occasions, the public school building was the scene for the celebration of Mass and the administration of the Sacraments.
In 1887 a Church Committee was formed and the primary purpose was to secure adequate grounds for the erection of a Catholic Church. On the committee were: Michael Knecht, Michael Riley, John Weimer and Michael Smith. These gentlemen experienced terrific difficulty in securing land. Several sites were selected but they were refused by the owners because at that time, Catholics were considered undesirable residents of a community. This, unfortunately, is a sad note but nevertheless, true. Finally, a former Station Agent of West Salisbury, and later President of the Salisbury and Baltimore Railroad and Coal Company, Philadelphia, John Anspach deeded the present site of the Church and Rectory to the Church Committee.
St. Michael's Catholic Church was completed and dedicated in 1887. The present altar and bell came from the old Saint Philip and James Church, Meyersdale. The first pews in St. Michael's Church were from the same source. Around 1902, a special social was sponsored by the late James Connelly and Joseph Knecht for raising funds for new pews. These pews are still in use to date.
Information taken from St. Michael's centennial.
A SAINT HAS WALKED AMONG US.....
Priests of St. Michael's Catholic Church
CHURCHES OF SALISBURY
AND SURROUNDING AREA