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Helbling Family Home & School, Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania, Part 1

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series Helbling Family Home & School

 

Helbling family home in Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania. From a family photo but image may also be found in St. Augustine Diamond Jubilee, page 40-2, St. Augustine Catholic Church, Lawrenceville, PA. From a family photo but image may also be found in St. Augustine Diamond Jubilee, page 40-2, St. Augustine Catholic Church, Lawrenceville, PA.
Helbling family home in Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania.
From a family photo but image may also be found in St. Augustine Diamond Jubilee, page 40-2, St. Augustine Catholic Church, Lawrenceville, PA.

In the year 1854, the Franz Xavier and Maria Barbara (Helbling) Helbling home was across from the Allegheny Cemetery and halfway between Sharpsburg and St. Philomena’s Roman Catholic Church. The Redemptionist Fathers of St. Philomena’s often stopped at the home of the devout Helbling family when traveling between the Church on Fourteenth St. and Sharpsburg. (The home was still standing in the 1930s, but 4807-4809 Butler St., Lawrenceville, PA, is now an empty lot.) German Catholics were very devoted to parochial schools- they felt their children should start their day with a Mass and that they should be schooled in a Catholic school. The Helblings had eleven children, and there were many more children of German Catholic families in the town of Lawrenceville, PA, near Pittsburgh which was rapidly becoming an important industrial city.

The Helbling children attended the English-speaking school at St. Philomena’s on 46th St., but it was quite a long way to travel. Father John Hotz, C.SS.R. visited the Helblings at their home in the fall of 1854, and asked if the Helblings would board a teacher who could instruct their children. A schoolroom was set up on the second floor of the double house, and the teacher arrived.

 

Nine of the Helbling children attended school with this teacher: Elizabeth Barbara, Francis X., William, Philomena Rosanna, Catherine Josephine, Mary Sophia, John Baptist, and Joseph Anthony Helbling; sometimes Bertha Louise, just 2 or 3, attended class. The teacher was very stern and strange, only left the house on Sundays to go to Mass, and wore a long black robe but was not actually a priest. (He may have been a Redemptorist lay brother but no information has confirmed this.) He prayed to a picture of Our Lady of Guadeloupe constantly. The story told is that when, one day, Mrs. Helbling sent little daughter Bertha Louise to get some corn cobs from the yard, the child returned with them and said, “I got them.” The teacher, not being very fluent in English, thought that the child had said a curse word, and said, “Bertha Louise is surely going to hell.”

The adults in the family soon began to question the eccentric behavior of this teacher that their children greatly disliked and feared. The family never even knew his name- he was always just addressed as “Teacher.” As a mother, Mary Theresa (Knipshield) Helbling feared for her children that the teacher was about to lose his mind, and asked Father Hotz to dismiss him from their school and home. Fr. Hotz transferred the teacher to a school in Sharpsburg, where he did in fact lose his mind and have to be removed. Nothing further is known of him.

To be continued…

 

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, page 11. Accessed 1-22-2014.

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Copyright 2014 by Heritage Ramblings Blog and pmm.

 
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Helbling Family Home & School, Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania, Part 3

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series Helbling Family Home & School
Mary Theresa (Knipshield) Helbling
Mary Theresa (Knipshield) Helbling

[See previous posts in this series for more information.]

The many Helbling children continued in the school now at Squire Nickel’s Mansion. They had a new teacher- a Mr. Mertz, who was also an interesting character:

“Teacher Mertz was of small stature and in the thirties and is said to have limped. He had crossed the ocean in the company of his sister who died on ship. He kept her jewelry and was fond of displaying it. The report we have of him is not very flattering. He was neglectful of personal appearance, his hair and beard not used to the comb or brush. He was fond of playing cards and drinking beer. Hence he was seldom fit to teach and when he fell asleep during class periods the pupils had a jolly recess. He was no disciplinarian and the pupils soon realized this for on the occasion of an altercation between the teacher and an older pupil, the latter forcefully ejected the teacher from the room. Undoubtedly, Teacher Mertz had been reprimanded for his misconduct but instead of reforming he became defiant and ultimately refused to teach the catechism or to give religious instruction in any form. Indeed, he finally succeeded in wrecking the Lawrenceville Academy for a time, as we learn from the Announcement Book of St. Philomena’s:

“Since the former German Catholic teacher of Lawrenceville intends to start a private school, saying that he leaves the religious instruction and catechism to the priests and parents while he teaches the other branches, we consider it our duty to tell you that we cannot recommend such a school and that Catholic parents of Lawrenceville and of the neighborhood must send their children of school age either to the English school of Father Gibbs or here to Bayardstown until another Catholic school can be provided.”

The Helblings, like their devout neighbors, most probably withdrew their children and enrolled them in the Lawrenceville Catholic School on the spacious second floor of Robinson Hall at 4121 Butler St.  The parish priests kept up their encouragement for a parochial eduction:

“Since the schools in Sligo [an Irish-Catholic area] and Lawrenceville are established again, the respective parents are urged to send their children to these schools, and to contribute to their support. Without a good Catholic school little good may be expected in life either from the children or from the parents.”

 Mr. John Beck was the next teacher for the Helbling children and others at the Lawrenceville school. Sadly, after just a few months teaching, he died from a fall on Feb. 6, 1859. Again, without a teacher, the church Announcement Book appealed to the parishioners:

 “Since the teacher, died last Sunday, we request all the men of Lawrenceville to meet this afternoon at four o’clock in the school. The purpose of this meeting is to take steps to prevent the discontinuing of the school.”

It is believed that some of the local Sisters (nuns) taught standard subjects at the school and prepared the children for their First Communion. The problems, however, continued:

“The St. Augustinus records the testimony of Mr. John Wirth, then one of the oldest members of the parish, that the Know-nothings and other bigots ridiculed the Sisters and spread caricatures representing the Sisters maltreating the children. The Sisters must have discontinued their work at the end of the school term of 1859.”

 

To be continued…

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/2014/03/04/helbling-famil…vania-part-2-2/ 

Please contact us if you would like a higher resolution image.

Copyright 2013-2014 by Heritage Ramblings Blog and pmm.

 
We would love to read your thoughts and comments about this post, and thank you for your time! All comments are moderated, however, due to the high intelligence and persistence of spammers/hackers who really should be putting their smarts to use for the public good instead of spamming our little blog.

Helbling Family Home & School, Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania, Part 2

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series Helbling Family Home & School
Franz Xavier Helbling and Maria Barbara (Helbling) Helbling, c1860s? Family portraits and reprinted in St. Augustine (Lawrenceville, PA) Diamond Jubilee pamphlet, page 40.
Franz Xavier Helbling and Mary Theresa (Knipshield) Helbling, c1880s? Family portraits and reprinted in St. Augustine (Lawrenceville, PA) Diamond Jubilee pamphlet, page 40.

[For the first part of this story, see “Helbling Family Home & School, Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania, Part 1.“]

After the loss of the eccentric “Teacher” at the Helbling school, efforts to continue the Catholic education of local children were reinforced. Father Hotz provided another teacher to board at the Helbling home as well, Mr. George Rutland.

From St. Augustine’s Parish History 1863-1938, page 13:

By this time news of the primitive school had spread and many parents applied for the admission of their children. The room, however, was too small to accommodate all who applied, hence, like the good soul he was, Mr. Helbling fitted out his unused storeroom for a school room. A goodly number of pupils attended especially children by the family name of Kalchthaler, Stein, Bischoff, Fleckenstein, Burckhardt and others. The first scholastic year might have started a little late in the fall of 1854 and had but a short interruption between the departure of the first teacher and the arrival of the second. On the third Sunday after Easter, April 29, 1855, the following announcement was made in St. Philomena’s church:

Some months ago a Catholic school was opened in the home of Xaver [sic] Helbling, near the cemetery [Allegheny] in Lawrenceville. Since a larger and more suitable accommodation has been now provided by the same Mr. Helbling, we admonish all the parents of Lawrenceville and the neighborhood who have children of school age, to send them to this school so that they may be trained to be good Christians. We ourselves shall take interest in this school and shall visit it from time to time.
Sometime around September, 1855 saw the beginning of the next school year. An announcement by St. Philomena’s Church stated,
 “Since the Catholic school of Lawrenceville has already commenced and a good opportunity is offered the children of school age to acquire virtue and knowledge, the parents living there are requested to send their children as soon as possible.”

With the addition of neighboring German children, the school had outgrown the facilities that could be provided by the Helbling family. Additionally, it was too far for the short legs of younger children to travel, and had no heat, so was far too cold in the long Pennsylvania winters. The school was thus moved to “Squire Nickel’s Mansion” which was more centrally located at 4016 Butler Street. This big stone mansion had a first floor that could be used for the school, and a second floor that was used as a hall for meetings, dances, etc. The school was sometimes called “Rutland Hall” after its teacher, but then became known as “The Lawrenceville Academy.”

Mr. Rutland probably resigned in 1856.

“Rumor had it that his resignation hinged upon disappointed matrimonial aspirations to the hand of one of Mr. Helbling’s daughters.”

The school continued with a female teacher who may have been Alsatian, as she was fluent in both German and French. (The Helblings hailed from Endingen, near to the German border with France, and family lore was that they were from Alsace-Lorraine, so it is ~correct.) She did not last the year and Teacher Mertz arrived to take over her duties.

To be continued…

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, Part 1: http://heritageramblings.net/2014/01/24/helbling-famil…e-pennsylvania/

Please contact us if you would like a higher resolution image.

Copyright 2013-2014 by Heritage Ramblings Blog and pmm.

 
We would love to read your thoughts and comments about this post, and thank you for your time! All comments are moderated, however, due to the high intelligence and persistence of spammers/hackers who really should be putting their smarts to use for the public good instead of spamming our little blog.