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In the Beginning - 1833-1841
A Mission Parish - 1841 - 1863
A Real Parish - And the End of the Nineteenth Century
The Tornado of 1924
Today in 1983
The Mother of Churches
The Parish School
This year of 1983 is the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the beginnings of Holy Trinity, Avon, and a year of celebration for the entire community. The fact, too, that it is the "Holy Year of Redemption," commemorating the 1,950th anniversary of the Crucifixion of Christ, gives added meaning to our celebration, as does the church's designation of the 1980's as the "Decade of the Family."
Many months of preparation have gone into the planning so that every activity will have a roll. A major "sprucing up" activity of buildings and grounds occured in late Spring. An 'Open House' on Sunday, May 15,  included a special display in the school of artifacts from the past, a concert by the school band, and a reception in the hall.
The largest and most solemn celebration will be a concelbrated Mass with Bishop Anthony Pilla as principal celebrant, to be offered in the church at four o'clock Sunday afternoon, June 5, followed by dinner and ceremonies at Tom's Country Place. Concurrently other volunteers will forego participation in the festivities in order to provide baby-sitting services and a fun-time for the younger children.
Later in the year the annual parish picnic and chicken dinner will be part of the on-going celebration. Also planned is a pilgrimage and Mass at the Carey, Ohio, Shrine of our Lady. Surely Christmas Midnight Mass this year will have a unique place as it occurs on the exact day of the 150th anniversary.
As one reads through the available material in preparation for completion of this booklet certain things stand out. The spirit of the people over all the years, through good times and bad, plus their dedication to the church seems as strong today as it was in the past. These same people have always been generous, too, with indebtedness readily paid off from those early days of almost no cash money, through depression years and other hard times, and the parish has been debt-free for many years.
Another striking fact is the generosity of volunteers, including skilled and professional services plus a great deal of hard work, which has kept operating and repair costs to a minimum as well as provided countless needed dollars. The number of descendants of those early families still living within the parish says something of the family roots that have continued to flourish.
So, then, this booklet is presented to honor those who have gone before and hopefully as an inspiration to those who are still young and those who are to come after us. As on unnamed author wrote in an article in a German almanac about 1901, it "is hoped that the church will serve its children's children in word and deed in the name of God and the world, and will bring blessings for individual family life for now and for eternity."
In the Beginning - 1833-1841
"In the year of Christ, 1833, I, John Schwartz, with my wife and five children, came to America from my homeland, Germany. During my settlement in Avon, the German Roman Catholic congregation grew so much that in the year 1844 Holy Trinity Church was built under Pope Gregory XVI and Bishop John Baptist Purcell of Cincinnati and Peter McLaughlin, Pastor, and Joseph Schwartz, Treasurer. The alter with the tabernacle I built with my own hands to the honor of the Most Holy Trinity.
Avon Township, Lorain County, State of Ohio; Year of the Lord MDCCCXXXXVI; Avon, May 24, 1846.
The journey from Medelsheim, Rhein_Bayern (Bavaria), to Avon, Ohio, USA, must have been a long and often perilous one, as three brave families left their comfortable homeland, crossed the Atlantic in a sailing vessel in the fall of the year, and then probably via the Hudson River and Erir Canal came to Cleveland, a "metropolis" of 2500 at the time.
Just how the journey was made from Cleveland to Avon, through thick forests, is unknown. Settlers west of the Cuyahoga River were almost non-existant, and the Peter Schwartz family has handed down stories of it taking two days to walk through the forest to Cleveland and back on later such journeys. Also, later, even getting from homestead to homestead among themselves, they had to notch the trees to avoid getting lost.
In Lorain County, Elyria was a village, and Lorain consisted of only a few scattered dwellings. Avon Township's first settlers had come almost twenty years before, mostly from New York and Connecticut, but the area, which included what in now Avon Lake, was sparsely settled.
It was Christmas Eve when, under the leadership of 47 year old John Schwartz, who came with his wife and five children accompanied by the Jacob Miller and Paul Faber families, the tiny group arrived at their destination. All three men were woodcutters in their homeland and their selected site was heavily wooded acreage to be purchased from the Connecticut Reserve in Section 23 of Avon Township.
Such a journey so late in the year appears to be an unusual time to start a colony; but there was apparently a "method in their madness" for there would be many trees to fell and much wood to chop, a task most successful in the winter when the sap had left the tree trunks. They selected a site where the oak trees were tallest and bulkiest, thinking the soil would be most fertile.
As it turned out, the land was poor and clayey, better adapted for brick making than raising crops. But this mis-judgment was turned to advantage when the land proved particularly well-suited for berries and certain kinds of truck-farming, plus grapes and other fruits. Later, Monsignor Pfeil was to note the significance of the Eucharistic symbols of wheat and grapes in the lives of these settlers.
Most everything one reads indicates that the three families survived alone in their isolation for the next seven years, although there were those rare long treks to Cleveland and must have been some interchange with their Protestant neighbors in the township. The descendants of the Peter Schwartz family say that it has always been told that Peter, his wife and seven children, joined his brother John and the other families just two years later.
At any rate, in or by 1840 at least four other families in addition to that of Peter Schwartz had joined their fellow Bavarians in East Avon, as the area was then known, the John Nagel and Peter Biermacher families among them. It is said that they had enough to eat but no variety; that wild pigs were plentiful (fattened on the chestnuts from the many trees) and cornmeal could be gotten.
All historical documents and the official Diocesan records give 1833 as the beginnings of Avon's Holy Trinity parish, making it the third oldest in the diocese. Yet there was no church, no clergy, only three devout immigrant families.
But surely upon arrival one of their first acts must have been to give thanks to God for a safe journey and to honor the Baby Jesus and His birth, also begun in very humble circumstances. Surely, too, the beginnings of a spiritual community were there, a community without Mass of the Sacraments, but with some formal form of worship in adherance to their deep Catholicity. The nucleus of what was to become Holy Trinity parish had to be there; they could not have survived without God's help!
Although the area was part of the Cincinnati (actually Northwest Territory) Diocese at that time, that diocese's records show that there was no service to the scattered distant Catholics of northern Ohio. Nor were there any other Catholic communities near enough for religious inter-action.
Thus, here were the beginnings of the first parish in Lorain County--a parish without a name, without a church, without clergy, but a parish community no less, consisting of devout, dedicated people who would thrive and leave a legacy for future generations. As Monsignor Pfeil was to write 100 years later, "These good people raised the wheat and cultivated the grape . . . and brought up their children in the Faith of their Fathers."
A Mission Parish - 1841-1863
Indians and French traders brought the first news of the "lost colony of German settlers" to Cleveland's only Catholic parish of St. Mary's in the Flats (established 1839) according to the Cleveland News article of 1941. "You'll find these settlers, the traders reported, in the woods south of the ridge beyond Rocky River. They've been clearing land there for some time."
Thus the curiosity of Fater Peter McLaughlin, pastor of St. Mary, was aroused and he headed west on horseback early one morning. He followed a mere trail skirting the lake shore, crossing Rocky River about noon, and made his was on the south fork of the trail leading into the dense woods, finally arriving at the rough clearing in the wilderness and the cabin (the largest) of John Schwartz.
The community population was almost 50 by this time. The next morning, on the feast of St. Benedict, March 21, 1841, they all assembled in the John Schwartz cabin, participated in the first Mass to be offered in Lorain County, recieved the Holy Eucharist, and the little ones born in the new world were baptized. Their period of religous isolation was ended!
Because Father McLaughlin spoke no German at the time, laymen read the Epistle and Gospel, a practice that continued even after Farther learned enough German to hear confessions.
By this time the depression of Andrew Jackson had ended and more German settlers began arriving as 1841 progressed, the Bavarians apparently settling in East Avon and the others, predominently Prussians and Alsatians, settling in West Avon or French Creek.
One can understand what was to come when one remembers that Germany at that time was not united country, but rather a loose confederation of 39 independant states, each with its own kind of pride and prejudice. The ancient and cultured Bavarians looked down on the relatively new Kingdom of Prussia with its mixture of many peoples, and the Alsatians still considered themselves French. According to Father Jurgens, the Alsatians in Avon delighted in ridiculing their German neighbors, calling them "pickles" although they had to do it in German because they could speak no other language!
But, in 1841 at least, all was serene and Father McLaughlin made Avon a regular part of his circuit, arriving about every six weeks. Unfortunately, there are no records of the marriages, baptisms, and burials that must have occured. After about a year and a half, Father McLaughlin reported to Bishop Purcell of Cincinnati that "The Avon German congregation is getting along delightfully. It will be a credit to you."
Change was beginning, however, and he soon wrote (per-Jurgens, pg. 553): "When Avon had but seven or eight families, it was a happy and devout place. But some twenty families have come to it of late, and they have divided into parties. What the German Catholics mean is not easy to guess." (Father McLaughlin's Irish dislike of Germans frequently comes through in his writings.)
The struggle and eventual split between East Avon and French Creek came about in a typical manner -- the selection of a site for a church, as that cabin of John Schwartz had become too small. Each group wanted the church on its own territory!
On August 14, 1843, a committee of seven men (including Matthias Ohlig, P. J. Blasser, J. Konrad, Jacob Mueller, Peter Biermacher, and John Mueller) was empowered to collect funds and select a site for a new church. A majority of four men favored the site in East Avon and on September 19, 1843, with the approval of Father McLaughlin, purchased an acre of ground on what is now Jaycox Road, (then Mason Road) from Silas and Charity Mason for $50, deeding the property to Bishop Purcell.
Sometime during this period, the French Creek faction began fitting out a wagon shop of one of their members for a chapel and thus the split became a reality.
The newly acquired acreage was originally laid out for a cemetary (and remains so today), but on January 13, 1844, a contract was awarded to Jacob Mueller to build a 30 by 40 foot church, 16 feet high, for $290 -- with much of the labor to be volunteered by the parishioners. It is said that Servetius Knechtges, a wood-carver and school teacher who came from Bavaria in 1841, suggested the name "Holy Trinity" because there is "no greater name than that," and thus the fledgling parish was named.
Because of construction difficulties, however, the first Mass in this first church in the northern section of Lorain County was not celebrated until November 21, 1844, by Father McLaughlin. The final completion and solemn dedication did not occur until Trinity Sunday, 1848, by Bishop Amadeus Rappe, who blessed the cemetary at the same time.
Meanwhile, Bishop Purcell had visited on June 2, 1846, presumably to administer the Sacrament of Confirmation; and Bishop Rappe, consecrated as first bishop of the newly created Diocese of Clevenad on October 10, 1847, in one of his first official acts visited Holy Trinity on November 26 of that same year.
Both bishops stayed with the John Schwartz family, as did the priests from St. Mary's of the Flats who served the parish in those first years. New pews, built by Servetius Knechtges and Franz Schmitz for $1.62 each with wood purchased from parishioners, were added in 1850.
Meanwhile, the conflict of the two church congregations, consisting of a combined total of 44 families, created its own set of problems. Father McLaughlin more or less "interdicted" Avon Township, although he really had no authority to do so. He said he would come no more until the two separated congregations ceased their quarreling and agreed on a single site, sending an open letter instructing the people that they were to allow no priest to offer Mass without written permission from him or from Bishop Purcell.
A delegation from the French Creek congregation was sent to Cleveland to offer Father McLaughlin $12 if he would come to offer Mass at their chapel. The East Avonites also sent a delegation, but offered no money for a promise of his service. Both were refused.
The French Creek group then sent two men with a wagon to St. Alphonsus in Peru (near Norwalk) to bring a Precious Blood father (or Sanguinist as they were known) to their congregation to offer Mass and it was apparently clearly understood that they were not to return without a priest.
Their plea resulted in Father F. S. Brunner's returning with them. He was shown Father McLaughlin's letter forbidding any priest to offer Mass, but insisted he had full faculties to offer Mass anywhere in Ohio, and he did so. He also stayed three days to conduct a parish retreat or mission. At the same time, Father Brunner refused to recognize Holy Trinity as a legitimate parish and would not offer Mass at their church.
When Father McLaughlin heard of the defiance of his prohibition, he complained to Bishop Purcell, but also began coming to Holy Trinity again and continued until he left the diocese in 1846. Father Micheal Byrne, also from St. Mary's in the Flats, followed Father McLaughlin, serving for about a year, he in turn being followed by Father Maurice Howard until March, 1848, with a Father Francis Xavier Roth coming between Ocbotber, 1847, and January, 1848.
It was Father Howard who first began keeping records at Holy Trinity, the earliest of which are dated September 27, 1847, on which date he baptized Margaret, daughter of Peter Schneider and Mary Andress; John Joseph, son of Carl Hoffmann and Ann Marie Kreitzer; Mary, daughter of Michael Pfaff and Rosina Schwind; and John, son of Jacob Schwartz (son of Peter who arrived in 1840 or before) and Gertrude Tegisen.
The next entries were made a month later and were more or less regular from then on. The first marriage registered was that of John Peter Schmitt and Anna Marie Zimmer, performed by Father John Van den Brock on July 10, 1851. The first recorded burial was that of Appolonia Schalls ("Shelsen" more likely), sister of Peter Biermacher, who was buried July 24, 1851.
There were, of course, baptisms, marriages, and burials prior to these dates (Paul Faber, of the original three families, died prior to 1848, as financial records of that time refer to his widow); but, either records were not kept, or they were recorded at St. Mary of the Flats, whose records were lost in a fire many years ago.
It was Father Howard who made a final effort to rejoin the two Avon parishes, when in a report to Bishop Purcell in 1847 he expressed his unhappiness about the situtation and felt it would continue without direct intervention of the bishop.
Father Howard obviously favored the Holy Trinity congregation, while the Sanguinists ignored their existance and continued to serve the French Creek congregation only. He felt that the Holy Trinity church was large enough for the entire Avon Catholic population, about 90 families at the time, 37 of which belonged to Holy Trinity.
The union never came about, however, even worsened for a time, and at the turn of the century erupted again over boundary disputes. In 1858 Bishop Rappe had set the boundary between the two parishes as Center Road (now Rt. 83), a division not always honored. The undercutters of the division continued to the present day, only disappearing in the early 1980s, with the beginning of joint social activities and becoming complete with the spiritual Renewal weekend in February, 1982.
Holy Trinity as a mission parish continued to thrive. In 1848, Bishop Rappe recognized the parish as a "legitimate" mission of the diocese, and thus apparently so did the Sanguinists, who began serving Holy Trinity thereafter, sending a variety of priests on a regular basis:
Mar., 1848 - Nov., 1848 - Father Maria Anton Meyer, CSSP
Nov., 1848 - Jan., 1849 - Father Campion, CSSP
Jan., 1849 - Sept., 1849 - Father Jacob Ringele, CSSP
Sept., 1849 - Nov., 1849 - Father Peter Kreusch, CSSP
Nov., 1849 - July, 1850 - Father Matthew Kreusch, CSSP
July, 1850 - Jan., 1851 - Father Nicholaus Tamhel, CSSP
Jan., 1851 - Feb., 1851 - Father Peter Weber
Feb., 1851 - Oct., 1853 - Father John Van den Brock, CSSP
Oct., 1853 - April, 1855 - Father Jacob Ringely, CSSP
April, 1855 - Jan., 1856 - Fathers Nicholaus Gales, CSSP & Anton Kramer, CSSP
Jan., 1856 - July, 1856 - Fathers Engelbert Reif, CSSP & Matthew Kreusch, CSSP
July, 1856 - Dec., 1856 - Fathers Matthew Kreusch, CSSP & Anton Kramer, CSSP
Jan., 1857 - Feb., 1858 - Father Amadeus Dambach, CSSP
Feb., 1858 - Aug., 1859 - Fathers Dambach, CSSP & Maria Anton Meyer, CSSP
Aug., 1859 - June, 1861 - Father Eusebius Henzley
June, 1861 - Sept., 1861 - Fathers Obermuller, CSSP & Victor Hausner
Sept., 1861 - Mar., 1862 - Father M. Behrens
Mar., 1862 - Nov., 1862 - Father T. M. Proetzer
Nov., 1862 - Mar., 1864 - Father John Hackspiel
Since Avon St. Mary's got their first diocesan pastor in 1850, the secular priests in the above list were from there. Also, during the 1850s, the parish was visited by the Rev. F. X. Wenniger, S. J., one of the most famous German missionaries sent from the old world to the new, and he gave missions in the district a number of times.
The spiritual needs of the people now being taken care of on a regular, if not daily, basis, the people of Holy Trinity went about building their church and spiritual community along with building their homes and farms and meeting their daily needs.
It took them almost four years under the direction of Jacob Mueller to finish their first small church--plus, in 1845, opening their first school, which will be discussed further in its own section. They were poor people in those early days, bartering being more common than exchange of money for goods.
FInancial records meticulously kept by treasurer, Joseph Schwartz, eldest son of John, are still available for the period from 1848 to 1851. The expenses for the June, 1848, church dedication ceremony totaled $48.19, $40 of which was for vestments and a banner. In 1849 there was a pledge drive in order to liquidate the $100 loan remaining on the original cash cost of the church. Pledges ranged from a high of $5.30 to a low of twelve cents from one widow, and Andrew Weber, with no money to give, provided work worth $2 as his share.
Because of the problem of financing, a formal document was drawn up to enlist the assistance of all parishioners in sharing the duty of supporting the church. The following is a translation from the original German:
"We, the undersigned church council of Holy Trinity Church, Avon, after having assumed a capital (loan) of one hundred dollars, and as the debt on God's Acre (cemetary) is not entirely paid, for the greater encouragement of the parish, publish the following irrevocable rules.
I. Every family head who pays for his burial plot and assumes his share of parish burdens is to be considered a member of the parish.
II. As soon as a family head has paid for his burial plot all his children recieve an hereditary right under this condition: as soon as a son or daughter marries, he or she is considered to be an individual member of the parish and, as far as individual families, must support the pastor and parish. If this is not done, all rights are surrendered.
III. Every family head who is well and strong is obliged to contribute free labor on the church and cemetary as far as the needs of the parish demand."
In 1858 another 1 1/4 acres of land was purchased between the original cemetary/church property and what is now Jaycox Road at a cost of $125. By 1862, the church was too small for the growing congregation and a new structure was built on the new property at a cost of $1,421.39. The original church was then moved forward and attached to the rear of the new structure, thus the completed building became commonly known as the "church with two steeples."
In July, 1863, the first permanent pastor of Holy Trinity was appointed by Bishop Rappe, thus ending the period of being a mission parish and for the first time providing for the spiritual needs of the people on a more regular basis.
A Real Parish - And the End of the Nineteenth Century
As we consider the first appointment of a pastor to Holy Trinity there is again some confusion. Apparently, officially Father Nicholas Schmitz was appointed July 1, 1863, two days after his ordination at age 30. Father Schmitz came from Prussia to Avon when he was eleven, grew up in the French Creek area and thus was as yet no rectory at Holy Trinity.
However, our own records indicate that Father Hackspeil, pastor of St. Mary's, continued to serve Holy Trinity until 1864 and St. Mary's records list Father Schmitz as an assistant to their parish during that time. He also served the still mission parish of St. Theresa, Sheffield, concurrently. One can only assume, therefore, that the pastoral title was somewhat less than the reality as he probably served under the tutelage of Father Hackspeil, a most understandable situtation.
By 1865, however, the parish was ready to build a parsonage for Father Schmitz. Since there wasn't sufficient space on the existing acerage, John and Christina Nagel donated an acre-and-a-half across the road on the east side of Jaycox in return for perpetual memorial annual Masses on the feasts of St. John the Baptist and the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin. There Father Schmitz lived in the residence built for $1,400 until his transfer in March, 1868.
Father Schmitz was replaced by the Rev. Charles Barbier. One distinction of his pastorate, which lasted until September, 1871, is the purchase of the two church bells which remain in use to this day. Purchased for $700, they were named in honor of St. Benedict and his twin sister, St. Scholastica, and were solemnly blessed on Trinity Sunday, May 23, 1869.
There followed a succession of pastors. Father N. Flanmang, who stayed only eleven months until August, 1872, was followed by Father George Peter, under whose pastorate the fire-destroyed school was replaced by a brick structure (see school section). In January, 1874, Father J. J. Heidegger was appionted pastor and it was under his leadership that extensive church remodeling was completed, including a new roof, splendid new altars, pulpit, and confessionals. The decoration of the new flat ceiling with sacred frescoes and raised boarders was especially noteworthy and Bishop Gilmour prounced Holy Trinity one of the most pleasingly decorated country churches in the diocese.
Father Heidegger had real respect for the people of his parish, too, as he wrote in his "Historical Sketch 1843-1880," in the Diocesan archives, that: "The congregation is small but the people do their best with a good will to carry their heavy burden; 47 families have to support priest, teacher, church, school, and priest's house."
Father Heidegger remained the longest of any pastor to that time, staying until June, 1881, when he was replaced by Rev. P. Kolopp, who stayed only until May, 1883. The parish was then without a pastor until August (presumably the priest from St. Mary's helped out during those months), when Rev. Joseph Eyler was appointed. He stayed only until January, 1884, however, and the parish was agin without a priest until June.
Father Nicholas Pfeil succeeded in June, 1884, and remained 13 years. He is said to have been one of the best-loved pastors of the parish and he accomplished some much-needed improvements during his tenure. He bought another acre of land along the northern line of the church property, part of which was used to expand the cemetary, thereafter known as the "new cemetary."
On the front part of the lot he built a new rectory at a cost of $2,800, a building that eventually was used as a private residence in the new century and stood until destroyed by fire in the late 1920s. It have been said that this house was the only structure Father Pfeil ever "built" and that it always had special meaning to him.
With the erection of the new rectory, the old rectory across the road was enlarged for a convent, which, along with some enlargement of the brick school, cost the parish $1,000. Father Pfeil was also responsible for having a gas well sunk along the southern boundary of the parish property, which was used for heating the various buildings and the rest sold. This well was finally closed in 1935. On May 22, 1894, Father Pfeil celebrated a Solemn High Mass in honor of the 50th anniversary of the building of the first church.
Father Pfeil left in June, 1897, was replaced by Rev. F. J. Pfyl, who did not arrive until September, and, during the interim, the parish was served by Father Nicholas Kirch from St. Peter, North Ridgeville. During the latter part of Father Pfeil's pastorate, Bishop Ignatius F. Horstmann began discussing a new "more suitable" church, and it was Father Pfyl's task to accomplish this. Because of ill health, however, he resigned in June, 1898, and it fell to the next pastor, Father Anthony B. Stuber, and the new century to bring the parish that church we know today.
The only property remaining in the ownership of Holy Trinity today on Jaycox Road is the 2.2 acre cemetary land, the rest having been sold between 1926 and 1944. The old, two-steepled church, when no longer needed for that purpose, served as a private residence on at least two occasions, was moved further back and used as a storage barn for a while, and was finally town down about 1915 by Tony Brandt, Frank Forthover, and Louis Motsch--although stories persist that it burned down.
Father Stuber began almost immediately to build a new church. A building drive netted $13,000 toward a stone church to be built on the Jaycox property and about 600 tons of sandstone was brought to the site. As excavation was to begin, however, it was discovered that an underlying layer of quicksand would add considerable expense to the church construction.
In his letter to the bishop requesting permission for a change of site, Father Stuber does not mention the quicksand as such, but does offer such arguments as the poor location on a side road, the low and wet ground making artificial drainage and a dry basement impossible, the first year's expenses would be abnormal.
He also felt they were too near other churches (moving a mile east would not seem to have made that much difference!), said they were "at the mercy of vindictive neighbors regarding saloons, etc." (no evidence of what that was about!), and he felt that there were no advantages for a church in the Jaycox setting.
According to the unknown German author of 1901, Father Stuber (who was appointed pastor shortly after his ordination, indicating how young he was at this time) proceeded to purchase the 19 acre site at the corner of North Ridge (Detroit) and Nagel from the estate of Dr. Norton S. Townshend for $1,000. Then he told the parish council, consisting of Michael Dietrich, Heinrich Geierman, Peter Klingshirn, and Heinrich Urig.
In spite of their surprise, [the parish council] quickly approved, and the following Sunday presented the plan to the parishioners. Most approved, in spite of sentimental attachments to the old, and each was asked to submit a written, signed statement of that approval. Our author also tells us that some who were not in agreement wrote a pro-move statement also because they "were ashamed" to go against the majority and because they had to bring the statement to the rectory.
The official purchase date of the property is April 4, 1900 (before or after formal approval??), and the deed was transfered to Bishop Horstmann and recorded in Lorain County records April 27, 1900 (Vol. 61, page 248).
WIth true Holy Trinity spirit, the parishioners worked daily leveling very uneven ground for excavation and moving the stone from the Jaycox site. On August 19,1900, the cornerstone was laid, with Bishop Horstmann preciding (our unknown author names a Monsignor Thorpe, not the bishop??).
The bishop preached in English and former pastor, Monsignor Pfeil, in German, and it is said that there were about 2,000 people there including representatives from organizations of St. Peter, Cleveland, St. Mary, Elyria, and St. Joseph, Lorain. For the occasion, an improvised railroad platform was constructed at the Nickel Plate Railroad track on Nagel Road and the Cleveland visitors then brought to Holy Trinity by carriage.
Construction of the new church did not go smoothly, however, and the most seriouc problem was the bankruptcy of the contractor, who was to quarry the stone and do all the masonry work and the cost went form an estimated $35,000 to $72,000. Also, Mr. Noll had quarried the first stone from the Puth farm in West Dover (Westlake); now the rest had to be purchased from Amherst quarries.
The original stone was surface stone, while the Amherst stone was deep-quarried and much stronger. The stone weathered differently, resulting in the color difference obvious today. The difference also resulted in a more serious problem. From the beginning, Father Stuber objected to the height of the tower, which rose 98 feet above ground, feeling that the difference in weight of the two types of stone would make it top-heavy.
The architect insisted that this made no difference, but he was soon proved wrong as cracks began appearing along the joints shortly after the tower was completed. The tornado of 1924 weakened the tower even more, eventually necessitating the removal of a twenty-foot section, leaving the shorter structure we now have. However, it was a festive occasion when the bells, Saints Benedict and Scholastica, were raised into position in their new "home" by horse-drawn winches.
Completion of the new church was further complicated because the architect, H. J. Harks, was replaced by G. A. Tenbusch, who had to make new drawings -- perhaps this explains the existance of a drawing picture of the church with a steeple. On July 25, 1902, however, the cross was placed on the gable and the following Sunday Father Stuber offered Mass in the sacristy. The first Mass in the church proper was December 8 of the same year.
The present church is 138 feet long and 80 feet wide. The body is 83 feet long and 63 feet wide, the apse is 46 feet wide, and it accomodates 550 people comfortably. The building took 22 thousand tons of stone. At the same time the church was being constructed, the ten-room rectory was built. This dual construction forced the parish to go into debt for $38,000 instead of the originally expected $17,500. Father Stuber himself donated more than $15,000 to the building fund and the parish made many sacrifices to meet this new responsibility.
Father Stuber remained pastor for seventeen years, leaving in September, 1915. An interesting side note of his pastorate is his purchase of the large oak rolltop desk (in 1899 for $40) which is still part of the parish office and was willed to the parish in a hand-written will on the bottom of the center drawer.
Another interesting fact is the existence of the Trinity Post Office (also referred to as Trintydale) on Jaycox Road from April 26, 1898, to September 14, 1903, with Adam Dehlinger as its only Postmaster. For a few months in 1915, Father Michael V. Halter, a former physician from Akron who had just recently been ordained in Rome, served as pastor. He was replaced at the end of the year by Father J. A. Stefanic, who remained until December, 1921, at which time Father Albert J. Aust was appointed.
The Tornado of 1924
It was during Father Aust's pastorate that the tornado of Saturday, June 28, 1924, struck Lorain County and did serious damage to Holy Trinity property. Father was working in his office when his housekeeper suddenly screamed, an incident she could never explain afterward. Father rushed to her aid and the moment after he left the office the tornado struck and severly damaged that part of the rectory. Thus an unexplainable incident probably saved him from death or serious injury.
The majority of the church roof was destroyed by the storm, but the part over the altars remained intact and there was no damage beyond the communion rail. The organ was almost ruined and the stained glass windows were destroyed.
John Burnett, the custodian was in the church at the time, was not injured, but had to be treated for shock. The only damage done to the masonry work was displacement of the cross and two or three adjacent stones of the gable ridge comb on either side of the cross.
Later, a trade paper known as "The Cement Era" gave credit to the solid masonry of Holy Trinity for saving Lakewood and Cleveland's west side from the storm, because the path of the tornado was steered directly for the west side but was forced to veer southeasterly after it his the church and thus dissapated in more open area.
Along with the damage to the church and rectory, the storm destroyed a large wooden parish hall, the two-room school house, and old-buggy shed, and the custodian's house and garage. Some of the parish papers were found as far as 35 miles away and many valuable church records were permanently lost.
In real tribute to the honesty of the neighborhood, for a period of time afterward money found in the area and believed to be part of that blown from the rectory during the storm was returned. No Holy Trinity parishioner lost his life during the storm, although there was considerable loss of property.
In true Holy Trinity spirit, rebuilding began immediately. The diocese gave some money toward reconstruction but most came from the parish itself. In an effort to raise funds, a dinner was held in August and was attended by so many from the surrounding areas that additional food had to be purchased from Lorain and Rocky River.
The present parish hall was the first building constructed and Mass was said there until the church was repaired (Mass was said in the undamaged sacristy until the hall was completed).
On October 31, 1926, twenty-five years after the first Mass in the new church, Bishop Joseph Schrembs presided at the ceremonies of the solemn dedication of Holy Trinity Church. Father Aust was celebrant of the Solemn High Mass, Rev. Charles Hoot of St. Bonaventure, Cleveland, was deacon, and Father J.S. Bialek from Nativity, Lorain, was sub-deacon. A history of the parish was presented by former pastor, Monsignor Pfeil.
Father Aust was replaced by Father Leo Warth in 1931. Father Warth remained for 27 years, the longest pastorate to this day. It was during his time that the side altars and confessionals were made less elaborate. Also, on August 23-24, 1941, a parish homecoming and dinner were part of the centennial celebration of the first Mass. During this period, too, at the end of the 1940s, the parish finally discontinued the old-fashioned practice of separating the parishioners-the children in front, men on the left/St. Joseph side, and women on the right/Blessed Virgin side.
Father John Schaefer replaced Father Warth in June, 1958, and it was during his tenure that the sisters' convent was built for approximately $80,000 and the parish hall was modernized. He also was responsible for building the enlarged sewage system so that for the first time the school children had indoor "facilities."
In June, 1963, Rev. Michael J. Ondik became pastor, remained 13 years, and is now pastor emeritus. Parishioners are looking forward to his retunr to preach at the 150th anniversary meain celebration June 5, 1983. One of Father Ondik's first tasks was the building of the badly needed six classroom addition to the school along with remodeling the original school building, and built the four-car garage all for $137,000.
The bells, St. Benedict and St. Scholastica, which had been inoperable for several years, were repaired and put on automatic timers (through the generosity of the Schrober family) so that they once again called parishioners to worship. The church proper recieved new heating and speaker systems along with other interior and exterior improvements.
Since Vatican II occured at this time, it became Father Ondik's responsibility to intiate some of the changes recommended. One great accomplishment during his pastorate was the spear-heading of the volunteer restoration of the Jaycox Road cemetery, which had not had any real attention since the 1940s and had again fallen into great despair from vandelism and lack of usage and regular maintenance since the new cemetery was begun on Detriot Road adjacent to the new church. The Jaycox cemetery is once again a fitting resting place for parish deceased to await their final resurrection.
During all its years of existence, Holy Trinity has had only two full-time assistants, both of whom stayed about a year--Father Dean Flangman, 1968-69, and Father David Vizsalyi, OSB, 1980-81. Also it wasn't until the 1960s that the number of Sunday Masses was increased to more than two and thus, except when there was an assistant, visiting priests, chiefly Benedictines, began coming on a regular basis.
Today in 1983
For health reasons, Father Ondik retired in June, 1978, and was replaced by the present pastor, Father Jerone O. Turins. In true Holy Trinity spirit, these five years have been marked by geniune growth. On the physical side, extensive and major repairs and decorating projects have been completed in all the buildings, all of which were paid for as completed by special donations of parishioners and mainly from money raised by parish organizations, plus countless hours of colunteer labor that kept costs to a minimum.
Socially, many more activities are increasingly well-attended and family-centered plans are particularly enriching to parish family life. Boy Scout and Cub Scout troops, a new Explorer Troop for adolescent boys and girls, plus a group of Cheerleaders have added to the activities for the boys and girls.
A CYO group founded for two years before becoming inactive and hopefully leadership can be found to revive this activity in the near future. The Guild, dating from Oct. 24, 1948, an outgrowth of the older Altar and Rosary Society, continues to be most productive, sponsors a variety of social and money-making activities, and contributes a great deal of money to many needs (almost $53,000 during the last five years).
The Finance and Liturgical Commissions are both active, and the Parents Club (which in a way replaced the Educational Commission that went out of existence a number of years before) is one of the most active and contributing factors to parish family life. The Holy Name Society sponsors weekly Bingo and provides equipment and fees for children's athletics among other things.
The Booster, 150, and 12-30 Clubs contribute toward special needs. The annual Strawberry Festival, summer picnic, fall chicken dinner, pot-luck supper, and popular fish fries are eagerly awaited. The inter-relationship with St. Mary's has already been mentioned and the "destruction of the invisible barrier on Rt.83" is obvious to all and a credit to the pastors of both churches.
But most important of all, one must mention the spiritual growth of the parish community (400 families) in recent years. As one reads through the historical material available for the last 150 years, the religious spirit of the people shines through, though not addressed directly in many instances.
But even so, we current parishioners have been particularly aware of the deepening spirituality of the parish. No doubt the first "We Are the Church" renewal in February, 1982, and the two subsequent renewals have been a real part of that growth. But also the actibity of the Liturgical Commission, the growth to twelve lay ministers and 16 lectors, recitation of the Rosary weekly for peace and family life, the annual Family Blessing ceremony, and other religious activities have enriched the life of the parish.
The Parish School of Religion for the public school youngsters is active, and beginning in September, 1982, an experiment of combining the high schoolers from St. Mary's with those of Holy Trinity has proved most rewarding. Perhaps most of all it is the feeling of real community and desire to grow in relationship with God and the inspiration of our pastor that permeates the parish that makes us feel particularly thankful to be part of Holy Trinity today. We pray that this atmosphere will continue to thrive and reach even more the loves of those around us!
The Mother of Churches
The title "Mother of Churches" has often been applied to Holy Trinity, and rightfully so because so many parishes have sprung from the empty territory that was originally encompassed by Holy Trinity.
In the beginning, of course, was the split off of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception in West Avon (French Creek) in 1844. St. Theresa in Sheffield, formed in 1847, was an additional split from the original group, although their formation was probably more accurately from St. Mary.
Until recent times, however, the continuing boundaries of Holy Trinity included what is now all or part of seven relatively new parishes: St. Christopher, Rocky River, April 27, 1922; St. Raphael, Bay Village, August 28, 1946; St. Joseph, Avon Lake, April 20, 1949; St. Richard, North Olmsted, May 19, 1950; Holy Spirit, Avon Lake, June 6, 1965; St. Ladislaus, Westlake, July 17, 1973; and St. Julie Billiart, North Ridgeville, June 9, 1978.
Since the last three parishes do not have parish schools, Holy Trinity continues to provide parochial school education to their children (none from Holy Spirit at the present time). Thus, although Holy Trinity remains one of the smaller parishes in the Diocese of Cleveland, it has contributed much to the spiritual growth of the diocese and can be proud of her "offspring"!
The Parish School
Holy Trinity bears the honor of having the oldest parochial school wihin the current boundaries of the Diocese of Cleveland. One of the first desires of those early settlers was a parochial school education for their children and thus they established such an institution in a one-room log cabin at the corner of Nagel and Schwartz Roads in 1845--there is no record, but possibly the children attended the public school already in existence in Avon township prior to that time.
There is a newspaper clipping available labeled the "first school," but it looks very much like the pictures of the John Schwartz cabin where the first Masses were said. Whether or not they were that same or just similar will, no doubt, remain forever unknown. Likewise, there is no evidence of who was the first teacher, although speculation is that it might have been Joseph Schwartz or Servetius Knechtges, both of whom would have been qualified. The lay teachers, according to parish records, recieved between $150 and $200 a year and boarded with various families within the parish.
Classes continued in the log structure until 1860, when a permanent building was constructed on church property on Jaycox Road. A few years later, this building was moved across the road and placed beside the rectory. It remained in use until destroyed by fire on Easter Sunday, 1873. That same year it was replaced by a brick structure for about $1,000 under the direction of Father George Peter, that building continuing in use as a school until the church was moved to its present site. Just when its use discontinued is not clear, but it must have been no later that 1903.
Both school and convent (the original rectory) have since been sold and stand today as private residences just across from the Jaycox cemetary. WHile Father Pfeil was pastor, the Franciscan Sister from Tiffin, Ohio were brought in (1884) to operate the school. They remained 13 years and were replaced by the Sister of Norte Dame in 1897.
The difficulties and increased expense of constructing the new church made it unfeasable to build a new schooe at that time and for the next twenty years the parish was without its own school. The parish children attended the various public schools within the area and had carechism classes from their pastor on Saturday (with Father Stuber, at least, giving them each a piece of candy afterward!).
After Avon consolidated its schools [1924 -- the original consolidated school, and Avon landmark, is in 2005 the "Village School."]], Father Aust purchased the old District #2 school (in 1923), a red-brick, two-room structure just south of the parish hall, for $225. It was used for Holy Trinity School one year only, as it was destroyed by the tornado the following June.
In September, 1925, the older portion of the present school was opened, with the basement (presesnt lower level) empty except for a lunch-social room where the children played on rainy days (present gym) and laundry (part of the present office). On the main or top floor were two classrooms, the chapel, the room where the sisters lived (present science lab); plus a tiny kitchen and nurses station.
The first teachers were Sister George for the lower grades, Sister Hillary for the upper grades, and Sister Mellana as housekeeper. Sometime after 1930 a third classroom was added on the top floor and the chapel moved to the "basement" (the present library). Although there was running water in the building there was insufficient sewage facilites, so the children continued using the out-houses and outside pump until the new sewage plant was built about 1958.
After Father Schaeffer constructed the present convent, the school was remodeled; by then classes were very large, one room housing 96 children. The school was again over-crowded and inadequate within a few years and much-needed one-story, six-room addition was built under Father Ondik, giving us the building we have today. It is also to be noted that the first lay teacher since those very early years was added to the staff in 1956.
The school today meets the educational needs of 217 children, is fully state certified, has all certified teachers for its eight grades plus a principal, all of whom participate in educational workshops and masters degree programs for their continuing growth.
Additional "minicourses" made available for a while were discontinued because of inadequate space, but instead we do have Spanish for 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades; speech and drama for 6th, 7th, and 8th graders; a paramedic who teaches health and CPR procedures; and, under the state auxilary services funds, we have the services of a psychologist, remedial reading teacher, a speech therapist and an auxilary services clerk.
The children regularly enter a float in the Avon Festival of Flowers parade and have consistently won prizes. Boys in grade 4 thru 8 have basketball teams under CYO auspices, the girls have a cheerleader group, and both these activities have brought trophies. A school band, consisting of children who take private lessons, provides another outlet, including occasional participation in competition. Although the gym facilites are not adequate, the students do have physical education each week.
About sixty percent of the eight graders go on to attend catholic high schools. Thus the children continue to recieve a solid basic education in preparation for their future needs.
HISTORICAL SKETCH OF AVON, OHIO, TO 1974