Holy Cross Church, Williamsville, Elk County, PA

Holy Cross Church, Williamsville, Elk County, PA

The original Holy Cross Church built in 1855. The church was located across the road from where the present Holy Cross church is located. Adam Wank was one of the men who helped build the church.

History of the church:

The parcel of land was purchased of William A. Irvine by John March Meyers by deed dated December 18, 1854 as recorded in Elk County Deed Book No. "E" at page 360. It will be noted that the deed transaction occurred nearly three months after the church had been built and dedicated. The land however was deeded at a later date but was in accord with a prior verbal agreement.

On Dec 12, 1858, John March Meyers and Mary Weidert Meyers executed a deed for the church property to Joseph M. Young, Bishop of the Erie Diocese, in trust for the parishioners of Holy Cross Church at Williamsville, Elk County dated Dec 8, 1858, as recorded deed No "H" at page 180. The apparent delay in completing this transaction can be attributed to the fact that Bishop Young had not as yet organized all the various matters incident to the establishment of his new diocese.

All the men of the different families helped in building the church. Among the workers were Henry Gutterman, Casper Roper, George Markert, Adam Wank, George Pistner, Francis Bonnert, Valentine Miller, John Kleisath, Henry Kranking, George Brechtel, Michael Dill, Christopher Dill, and others.

The initial church structure was about sixteen feet by twenty feet in size and made of hewed logs with the cracks filled with clay mixed with cut straw. There were two pews inside, one on each side of the room. Most of the people attending the services knelt on the wooden floor. A little later the exterior of the building was covered with clapboard.

The church was dedicated by Father Roman Ottilo, of the order of St. Benedict, who was the supervisor of the building construction, on Sept 14, 1855, the Feast of the Holy Cross, in honor of which the church was so named. Sunday masses were then celebrated regularly by the Benedictine priests stationed in St. Marys and the choir under the leadership of Francis Bonnert, sang German hymns, without musical accompaniment. Mrs. Elizabeth Pistner would continue leading when Mr. Bonnert would be seized with his occasional spell of coughing. George Markert was much in demand as a singer at various functions because he could carry tunes very well. Other good singers were Michael , John, and William Weidert and their sisters.

The first recorded Baptism was in 1855, Mary Rosina Wank, daughter of Ferdinand and Margaret (Groll of St. Marys) Wank, born Feb 7, 1855, later in adulthood she became Mrs. Michael Stoltz of Erie.

The first recorded wedding was on Oct 13, 1856, being a double wedding of the brothers, John and Peter Weidert; John married Helena Kleisath, daughter of Francis and Theresia Klesiath; Peter married Margaret , the daughter of George Pistner. The grooms were sons of Bernard and Mary Budevin Weidert.

The first corpse interred in Holy Cross Cemetery was that of Andreas Verbeck in 1856. He had been fifteen years on age and was drowned in the Wilcox sawmill pond. The body was first buried in the Verbeck field, opposite the F. J. Brechtel farm, and later removed to the new Holy Cross Cemetery. His parents were former residents of the abandoned Belgium settlement of New Flanders, near present Glen Hazel.

The first recorded funeral was that of Christopher Wilhelm Wank, six months old, son of Ferdinand and Margaret Groll Wank who died Dec 6, 1856.

About 1860, there was built to the east end of the church an addition which afforded a sanctuary, sacristy and a confessional. The exact site of this addition was designated and marked with the aid of a common grub hoe by Father Gregoriuos, O.S.B. Up to this time, the priests while changing into their sacerdotal vestments, repaired to the privacy of a small building located near the rear of the church; also in the rear of the church was a barn where the Reverend Fathers could stable their horses. At this same time the interior of the church was beautified by the placing of finished ceiling boards all around including the walls.

In 1870 an addition was erected to the west end of the church that provided a gallery for the choir and gave more room for pews downstairs. A respectable steeple was also built on the front or west end and the entire exterior was covered with siding and painted.

It is not know definitely by whom the first alter was built, but there seems to be a strong supposition at this late date that Father Wendelin Myer, O.S.B. had John Pistner build the altar and tabernacle.

Information from a scrapbook at the Elk County Historical Society in Ridgway, PA.

Submitted by Paula Pompeii, great great great granddaughter of Adam Wank, Photo courtesy of Linda Bauman

Family Connection

I believe I am a decendent of the Michael Dill listed above as one of the men who helped build the Holy Cross Church. My records show that he married Barbara Wiedert around 1850. Michael is my great great great grandfather. I would be interested to learn more if any additional information is available. Thanks!

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