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St. Stephen Church and School History in Niles Ohio

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Photo taken of St. Stephen's Catholic church in Niles, Ohio. Dated Aug. 1975

Photo taken of St. Stephen's Catholic church in Niles, Ohio. Dated Aug. 1975 PO1.342

St. Stephen's Catholic Church on the corner of West Park and Arlington Streets in downtown Niles, Ohio.

St. Stephen's Catholic Church on the corner of West Park and Arlington Streets in downtown Niles, Ohio. PO1.341

About the middle 1800s the Industrial Revolution showed its influence in Niles as industries began to develop. Iron works arose and expanded rapidly and as a result attracted many laborers to this area. Among the newcomers was a small number of Catholics.

As early as 1853, the spiritual welfare of the Niles Catholics was entrusted to the resident priest of Dungannon, Columbiana County. Reverend Francis Stoker was the first priest to administer the sacraments to the few Catholic families residing in Niles.

Owing to the small number of Catholic families and their poverty, for the first ten years Mass was celebrated in private homes. Then in the Spring of 1864, steps toward the erection of a church were taken. Father O’Callighan purchased two lots at the corner of Park Avenue and Mechanic Street (Arlington) and during the same year built a small frame church placing it under the patronage of St. Stephen. The church was very plain and of simple structure, but it provided a permanent place of worship. Later, from time to time, as means became available, improvements were made to the building.

In July, 1865, the Reverend A.R. Siddley was appointed by the Right Reverend Bishop Rappe as the first resident pastor of St. Stephens. Shortly afterwards he built a pastoral residence which was still occupied by priests in 1934. In February of the following year, he purchased five acres of land for a cemetery near to the RMI factory on the back way to Warren, Ohio. Father Siddley was replaced by Reverend E.J. Conway, his pastorate was short-lived lasting only three months.

In 1868, Father Rebelled, a priest with great energy, organized a parochial school to provide the children with the benefits of a thorough religious training. This move was met with opposition from the parishioners who believed that they could not afford to support the school. Soon, however, this feeling passed and the school was continuously in charge of lay teachers without further difficulty. Father Kelley left in May, 1871.

Between 1885 and 1888, St. Stephens parish enjoyed a steady growth. As a result, the church became too small and provisions were made for a larger place of worship. Father O’Brien, in the summer of 1888, began raising funds for the new church which Father Desmond continued with success.

The plans were drawn up for a brick church of Romanesque style which was approved by the Diocese, foundation work began in the fall of 1888 and completed the summer of the following year by Father Scullin. The blessing of the cornerstone took place Sunday, May 11, 1891. During the same year the church was enclosed and the interior completed in time for Christmas Mass to be celebrated in the new church. On Sunday May 8, 1892, with solemn ceremonies, attended by a multitude of people of various denominations, Bishop Horstmann dedicated the beautiful edifice.

When the work on the foundations for the new church commenced, the first church had to be removed. In 1893, the old building was transformed into a school, containing two large rooms. It served its purpose until the new brick school was completed in 1900, during the pastorate of Father Scullin.

Up to the year 1880, the parish school was taught by lay teachers, but in that year the Sisters of the Humility of Mary were put in charge and since that time have conducted it in a very able manner with nine Sisters and one lay teacher.
At the present time (1934) the attendance in the parish school numbers 176. As there is no parochial school connected with the other Niles Catholic parish, which is exclusively Italian, St. Stephens’ school also takes care of some of the children of the sister congregation.


St. Stephen's Roman Catholic Church, Academy and School as it appeared in 1905.S

St. Stephen's Roman Catholic Church, Academy and School as it appeared in 1905. Sisters of the Humility of Mary, "Blue Nuns" have staffed the school since 1869 with few exceptions. The building at the forefront was the Music Academy which had as many as 150 students at one time. This building became the sisters convent and then was torn down in the 1990's. The school and church were remodeled in the 1920's and the school was torn down in the summer of 1971. PO1.1197.1

In 1898, a music academy was added by the sisters of the parochial school. This music department, as the years rolled by, became an important branch of the educational system of St. Stephens’. From a few students in the early years, the number of pupils has grown to over 150. This large number requires the constant time of two sisters.

During Father McDonough’s six years as Pastor, he enlarged the sister’s residence by adding twelve rooms and a beautiful little chapel. Fire having destroyed the sanctuary of the church, he was forced to rebuild it. In doing so, the church was lengthened, increasing the capacity by one-third. The steeple, many times struck by lightning, was made much smaller and more substantial.

St. Stephens may justly be ranked among the most active and energetic parishes. A number of organizations are affiliated with the church. The Niles Catholic Women’s Club with membership of over 150. The young people of the parish have the Cheliel Club to take care of their social activities, while the Toffe Club unites the high school students of the congregation for their social affairs. These various organizations meet in the McKinley Theatre (formerely located on North Main Street where Sparkle Market is today(2020), the parish auditorium, purchased in 1928.


The interior of St. Stephen's Catholic Church after the remodeling in 1953, the 100th year of the founding of the parish

The interior of St. Stephen's Catholic Church after the remodeling in 1953, the 100th year of the founding of the parish. PO1.344

Between 1885 and 1888, St. Stephens parish enjoyed a steady growth. As a result, the church became too small and provisions were made for a larger place of worship. Father O’Brien, in the summer of 1888, began raising funds for the new church which Father Desmond continued with success.

The plans were drawn up for a brick church of Romanesque style which was approved by the Diocese, foundation work began in the fall of 1888 and completed the following summer of the following year by Father Scullin.

The blessing of the cornerstone took place Sunday, May 11, 1891. During the same year the church was enclosed and the interior completed in time for Christmas Mass to be celebrated in the new church.


Looking south on Arlington Street in 1919.

Looking south on Arlington Street in 1919.

Looking west from the Public or Commons Park(now a part of the McKinley Memorial site).

Looking west from the Public or Commons Park(now a part of the McKinley Memorial site). The First Methodist Church is on the right and St. Stephen Church is on the left.

Photo of St. Stephen's Catholic Church as it looks today.

Photo of St. Stephen's Catholic Church as it looks today. The original steeple rose high above the church, and was struck by lightning many times. The steeple was finally shortened by the mid 1920's. Prior to 1934, the sanct-uary, which had been destroyed by fire, was replaced and the church lengthened. In many other ways it remains much as it was built.S11.92


The original Parish House of St. Stephen's Church.

The original Parish House of St. Stephen's Church. You can see a corner of the church itself in the left hand side of the picture. This building no longer exits. The current Parish House is located further west on West Park Avenue. The house is decorated in mourning for a deceased priest. PO1.345

St. Stephen's priest and pupils about the turn of the last century.

St. Stephen's priest and pupils about the turn of the last century. PO1.1664

 

 

St. Stephen's priest, Father Scullin,and pupils from Room 4 in 1903.

St. Stephen's priest, Father Scullin,and pupils from Room 4 in 1903. PO1

View of a grade school classroom and children attending St. Stephen's parochial school.PO1.1665

View of a grade school classroom and children attending St. Stephen's parochial school. PO1.1666


View of St. Stephen's Music Academy.

View of St. Stephen's Music Academy. Built in 1900, it became the convent of the nuns that taught at St. Stephen's School. These pictures were taken in 1990 and the building was razed shortly thereafter. SO11.95

View of St. Stephen's School built in 1900, the blue nuns that taught at St. Stephen's School were housed in the convent

View of St. Stephen's School built in 1900, the blue nuns that taught at St. Stephen's School were housed in the convent. These pictures were taken in 1990 and the building was razed shortly thereafter. SO11.91

Demolition of the St. Stephen's School building in 1990.

Demolition of the St. Stephen's School building in 1990. This area became part of the playground area. The church is visible in the background. SO11.93


Aerial view of the downtown area with a red oval indicating the location od St. Stephen's block.

Aerial view of the downtown area with a red oval indicating the location od St. Stephen's block. SO3.225

Construction of St. Stephen School.

Construction of St. Stephen School.

St. Stephen School at the present time.

St. Stephen School at the present time. First classes were held in the school pictured above beginning September 8, 1954. Enrollment in 1976 was about 325, Kindergarten through 8th grade. PO1.1199

The school building was sold in 2019.


Niles Daily Times photograph

Niles Daily Times photograph

Niles Daily Times photograph

Niles Daily Times photograph

Niles Daily Times photograph

Niles Daily Times photograph


St. Stephen's Church on West Park Avenue and Arlington Street is a red brick building of Romanesque style.

St. Stephen's Church on West Park Avenue and Arlington Street is a red brick building of Romanesque style. Its cornerstone was laid in 1891 and it replaced an earlier frame church which had served area Catholics. PO1.339

Original steeple of St. Stephen's Church was struck by lightning several times, this photo shows the damage when the steeple was struck in 1906.

Original steeple of St. Stephen's Church was struck by lightning several times, this photo shows the damage when the steeple was struck in 1906.

Notice the difference between the height of the original steeple(L) and the current steeple(R).

Photo taken of St. Stephen's Church from the lawn of the McKinley Memorial.

Photo taken of St. Stephen's Church from the lawn of the McKinley Memorial. In the foreground is the old Civil War cannon. Dated March 1975. PO1.343


School marker that was over the main entrance to St. Stephen's School that was built at the turn of the last century.

St. Stephen School Marker Mystery

As I said in our phone conversation, my girlfriend's mother moved into a house on Bowman Street not long ago. Taking advantage of the nice weather, they were raking out and weeding near the back of the house when all of a sudden the rake struck something under the dirt. Clearing away the debris they found this cement marker that measures about seven feet long, twenty two and one half inches wide and three inches thick. The house was previously owned by Robert and Alberta Ellwood. (Mr. Elwood was Irish and would dress up as a leprechaun on St. Patrick's Day). Story and photograph by David Gill.

The following was reported by Marci Ellwood: It came from the old St.Stephen School when it was torn down. ..my mothe- in-law wanted it . Ernie Labruno, the school janitor told the family there was no way in hell they could possibly haul it away. Being "Ellwood's " they were challenged. My husband, his brothers and uncle picked it up and put it in back of their station wagon then took it to my mother-in-law's home.
Click to see the location of the marker on the old school.


The Growth of Niles Churches — Grace Allison


The first pioneer families who came to Niles found themselves in a rough, raw settlement that was struggling to survive on the brink of a harsh frontier. Few of the amenities of the eastern seaboard were to be found here, and the early community waited long before it was able to provide regular !schools and organized churches

These first settlers were Protestants, representing many different denominations, none of which was large enough to organize a church congregation and establish a permanent house of worships. Small groups of worshippers met in private homes for years, but there was not a single organized church in Weathersfield Township until l839. This was many years after the first church has been established in the county, so that Niles worshippers were constrained to go to Youngstown, Warren, or Howland to attend services they preferred.

Methodists had been assembling for services as early as l8l4 in the home of Ebenezer Roller (Rowley?), Methodist ministers were noted for their field work and their willingness to evangelize in distant places. It was one such preacher, the Reverend Samuel Lane, a circuit rider, who occasionally preached at the Roller home. The Methodist Episcopal Church was established in 1839 with six persons in the first class.
Local Presbyterians formed their first congregation the same year. Some 15 to 20 persons assembled to organize a church of their persuasion under the leadership of the Reverend William 0. Stratton. New members continued to be attracted to the church enabling the congregation to undertake the construction of a new edifice costing $12, 000 in l892 The new building occupied the southwest corner of North Main and West Church Streets

Other Protestant denominations began the organization of established congregations soon afterward. The Disciples of Christ were organized in 1840 and built their first church in 1843 on a lot donated by James Heaton who did much to encourage the establishment of religious bodies in his village. The church, a frame structure, had a number of interesting features including two entrances on either side of the pulpit--one for men the other for women.

The first Episcopal service was held in Niles, in November, l870. Shortly afterward a parish was organized under the name of. "The Church of the Advent", it later was renamed "St. Luke's Mission" and then became St. Luke's Episcopal Church,

As early as 1868 a small congregation of Baptists were holding their own services. It was not until 1890 however, that the Niles Baptist Church was organized by the Reverend U. M. Eley, who became pastor .

Two ethnic groups, the Welsh and the Hungarian both well represented in the community, formed their own Presbyterian congregations. The Welsh who were the more numerous, formed the Welsh Presbyterian on the South Side. In l876 the congregation dedicated a church building on West Second St. The congregation disbanded in 1924 and its members joined the First Presbyterian Church.

The Hungarian Presbyterian Church, a smaller congregation than the Welsh were unable to provide their own church building until l924 when they bought the Welsh church building. Before that time they held services at the First Presbyterian Church.

The Rev. Stephen Csepke was its first resident pastor, conducting services in the Hungarian language. The ethnic flavor of the church disappeared with the rise of new generations, the congregation was reorganized as the South Side United Presbyterian Church.

A religious society known as the Primitive Methodist Church was organized in l8?3 in "Russia Field". The society, the only church of its kind in the county. represented an attempt by a local group of iron workers to return to the principles and practices of the founder of Methodism, John Wesley, They built a church in l873 but the congregation disbanded some years later.

     

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