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Pastors of St. John

FATHER JOHN F. BRAZILL (1854-1855)

Father John F. Brazill was appointed first pastor of St. John's parish in 1854. According to the records preserved in the archives of the parish the first baptism was celebrated on July 18, 1854, being that of Mary Frances, daughter of Issac White and Grace, his wife, whose maiden name was Doherty. Sponsors were Bernard Brady and Anna Brady. The first marriage on record is that of Michael Fanahan and Anna Gaughan on June 13, 1854, witnesses to which were Michael Divine and Margaret McCormick. Fr. Brasill's stay was a very short one, for he was succeeded by the Rev. Stephen Huber in 1855.

FATHER STEPHEN HUBER (1855-1886)

Many priests had to travel to distant stations every Sunday; trips made on horse or mule back, to celebrate Mass for a few faithful. The field of Father Huber's activities extended from Colliers and King's Creek to the German settlement of St. Joseph in Marshall County, a distance of about sixty miles. Regularly he made the circuit visiting Bethany, West Liberty and Sprinkleville, riding his faithful Dobbin. Attached to his saddle was a complete Mass kit containing vestments, chalice, missal, etc.,together with his ubiquitous blue umbrella, so that his friends called him "Peter Umbrella". Sometimes he would go down the river by boat to Proctor, and then proceed over the hills of Wetzel County to his destination. The only other Catholic churches in this vicinity at that time were St. Peter's in Steubenville and St. Mary's in Washington, PA. Follansbee and Weirton did not even exist in those days. The few Catholic families living in Brilliant, Ohio, attended St. John's Church, and the baptisms of their children are recorded in the old books.

Father Huber first offered Mass in private homes, but he set to work to build a church for his flock in the corner of 4th and Commerce Streets, and through the generosity of the people, here rejoiced in seeing the church dedicated by the Rt. Rev. Bishop Whelen in 1858. This church was used for worship and sacraments until 1924.

In 1850s and 1860s the congregation was again augmented by a large number of German families who left their fatherland on account of political and economic upheavals. Those who came to Wellsburg settled near the church on Commerce, Yankee and Main Streets and that part of town became known as Dutchtown. By industry and hard work they became influential in the business and professional life of the community. It is to them we owe the Christmas Tree, the Easter Bunny and many other Catholic customs. Many of the German families changed their family names in order to make it easier to pronounce them in English. These for instance: Emich became Emig, Haelsle became Helsley, Shue became Shuey, Elsaesser became Elcesser Ostertag became Easterday, Trabbert became Traubert, Hayprank became Hebrank and Storch became Storck.

Father Huber's next effort was the erection of a Catholic School. The school was located in the brick building still standing at No. 415 Commerce Street, and flourished from 1861 until 1876. John Blattau was school teacher and organist.

We can hardly imagine the financial situation in those days. Wages were low but living costs were also small. Thus, for instance, the pastor's salary was $600.00 a year. The Cathedraticum, i.e., the Bishop's percentage from the ordinary expense, was $12.00 in 1870.

In 1953 it was $ 575.00. In 1870, according to the books, the congregation paid $10.00 for the Bishop's cassock. It is said that the altar boys received a newly minted penny as a Christmas gift.

There is an interesting chapter in the book, "Collections and Recollections in our Life and Time", by Cardinal Gibbons. On page 633 under "Stephen Huber" we read: "For thirty years he was pastor of Wellsburg, Brooke Country. He was especially noted for his heroic work during the cholera epidemic, and stood at his post all through the frightful scenes, comforting the sick and burying the dead. During the Rebellion he was the only priest in the district who consented to take the oath of allegiance".

In the beginning Fr. Huber had no rectory but in his humility was satisfied to occupy two rooms in the church under the organ loft. He also provided for the purity of the altar wine by having a vineyard on the hillside near the church. After thirty years of faithful service in the vineyard of the Lord, he was compelled to resign his office as pastor and finally died at the ripe age of 84 years.

 FATHER JOHN REYNOLDS (1886-1892)

 Fr. Huber was succeeded in 1886 by Fr. John Reynolds. He was an accomplished orator. He improved the church and rectory by acquiring new furniture, part of which is in use in the present day. He built a small church at Wheeling junction for the paddies on the railroad.

FATHER TERRENCE DUFFY (1892-1912)

 Fr. Terrence Duffy became pastor of St. John's in 1892. His kind disposition and words of wisdom are kept in memory by many members of the congregation. He added a new Sanctuary to the church and built a mission church at Colliers. Unfortunately, he was hindered by a lingering illness for a number of years. He retired to the Wheeling Hospital in March, 1912, where he met with an accident which caused his death at the age of 67.
 

FATHER LEOPOLD M. HERMANNS (1912-1954)

 Fr. Herman was the pastor of St. John for 42 years. During his time in Wellsburg several important events improvements took place.

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