Helbling Family Home & School, Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania, Part 4



St. Augustine Roman Catholic Church, Lawrenceville, PA. Dedicated in 1901.
St. Augustine Roman Catholic Church, Lawrenceville, PA. Dedicated in 1901.

The remaining portions of chapter 1 as well as 2 in the St. Augustine’s Parish History are interesting to read. I have extracted a few of the more interesting sections, including those pertaining to this Helbling family and the founding of the school and church.

By 1860 there were at least 70  houses built in the district and Butler St. had been paved. It was obvious with the growth rate of the community and the problems at the school that an organized effort by the German Catholics to build a school and church was warranted, and competent leadership was required to raise funds and procure land.

The German Gemeinde (congregation) of Lawrenceville was formed about 1859-60 but had no priest or official standing. They raised money in three ways: loans; a purchase of land with the loaned funds that was divided for the church, school, and pastor’s residence, with the remaining in lots to be sold (eventually mortgaged); and they held a fund-raising picnic on July 4, 1860.

Xavier Helbling was among those pledging money for the church and school, and loaned the group $500 on 25 Jul 1862.

The following is a partial portion of the minutes of 3 meetings held to prepare for the fund-raising picnic:

The  committee  for the  German Roman Catholic picnic has decided that:

4. The dinner and supper tickets be each twenty-five cents.
5. Everybody pay ten cents at the entrance.
6. Dancing be permitted July 4-.
7. For three dances, everybody, be they German or English, pay ten cents.
8. The president engage from four to six musicians.
9. The secretary advertize this picnic in all German papers and send out invitations to all German Catholic societies.
10. Two constables be engaged.
11. The following men be appointed to keep order: A. Hoeveler, Louis  Unverzagt, Aug. Sterer, Anthon Barth, Alex Wirth, and Matthew Bader.

14. The following men attend the bar: John Wirth, John Fleckenstein, Xaver Helbling, Heinrich Engel, Xaver Burkhart, Jos. Brentner, Joseph Bischof, Jacob
Helbling, Alex Ouoczalla, Michael Helbling, Xaver Loeffler and Frank Hawk.

16. Messrs. Engel. T. Wirth. and Engelking arrange with the women for the fortune-wheels (Glückschafen)…”

I find the  “… everybody, be they German or English, pay ten cents” to be an interesting insight into the exclusiveness of the German Catholic community and long-held attitudes between those of other countries. It is obvious that “the old country” was not far in memory.

“The third meeting was  held on July 1, 1860 and passed the following resolutions:

Decreed that:
1. Mr. Aug. Hoeveler have the right to appoint the men who are to keep order on the dancing floor.
2. Xaver Burkhart serve as butler and retail the beverages to the bartenders for cash payment.
3. Xaver Burkhart distribute the Deidesheimer wine to the bartenders for twenty-five cents and the Markgrãfler wine for twenty cents.
4. The teacher shall examine every article delivered and give a receipt for same.
5. Xaver Burkhart and J. Helbling collect all things for the picnic and haul them with their own teams  to the grounds. Frank Helbling, Johann Kalchthaler, Fred Kalb cut meat for the tables.
6. Anton Bischof provide lemonade.”

Many of the Helbling family members were butchers.

Keeping a school going was still a struggle for the community, especially without official support of the church. They withdrew the pupils from Robinson Hall, and moved to the “Alley School.” It was actually in a busy alley, though the building was situated lower than the alley and a significant precipice caused by a previous washout ran along all the lots of the alley. (Parents probably feared for the safety of their children at recess and going to school, or during rainy seasons when another washout might occur.) The school was greatly in need of repair, and small.  There was a bit of consistency as their teacher from Robinson Hall continued for a short while, but then another teacher was hired. This successor was fired- reason unknown today- and the school had to close until a new teacher could be found. After reopening with Mr. John Kraus as teacher, the school continued in session at the “Alley School.”

Father Kircher had taken over as head of the Gemeinde and wanted to build a new school, which the community made happen.

“The children probably moved into their new school in January, 1862. Eighty pupils were enrolled in four grades taught by Mr. John Kraus. The school hours lasted from 8:30 to 11:00, and from 1:00 to 4:00. The curriculum consisted of catechism, Bible history, reading, writing, arithmetic, spelling, singing, grammar and letter-writing. These branches were taught in German, but English reading and writing were also taught. Each child was taxed fifty cents monthly for the support of the school. With the new building and with Father Kircher’s supervison the school entered upon a new era. Not only did the number of pupils increase steadily, but the academic standard kept pace with its growth.”

Mass was celebrated at the new school which doubled as a place of worship. A letter from Mrs. Lisetta Besselman in 1921 related the following:

“I moved to Lawrenceville in 1862, or the month following the explosion (Sept. 17) at the arsenal. I went to St. Augustine’s school which was church and school combined. Folding doors separated the altar from the room during school hours. It was very small and located on a hill. Our teacher was Mr. Kraus whom we all liked.”

St. Augustine’s officially became a parish in 1863, and was consolidated with three other parishes in 1993 to become Our Lady of the Angels Church.

Would you like to hear the bells that may have called our ancestors to worship at St. Augustine’s? See/hear at  “Our Lady of the Angels’ St. Augustine Church Bells- Lawrenceville, PA.”

Notes, Sources, and References:

1) St. Augustine’s Parish History 1863-1938. Personal copy from a cousin, but the entire history may be found online at http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~njm1/StAugJub-TC.html. Accessed 1-22-2014. Please see this history for detailed references to specific items in the narrative.

2) Helbling Family Home & School, Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania, Part 1:  http://heritageramblings.net/2014/01/24/helbling-famil…e-pennsylvania/

3) Helbling Family Home & School, Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania, Part 2: http://heritageramblings.net/2014/04/03/helbling-famil…vania-part-2-2/ 

4) Helbling Family Home & School, Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania, Part 3: http://heritageramblings.net/2014/03/06/helbling-famil…ylvania-part-3/ ‎

5) Letter of Mrs. Lisetta Besselman in St. Aug., Feb., 1922, p. 6.

6) Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh: http://www.diopitt.org/parishes/saint-augustine-lawrenceville

7) You Tube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lfS_cK9w_9s. Accessed 3/2/14.

8) Our Lady of the Angels Paris: http://www.oloa.org/ Accessed 3/2/14.

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