St. John the Evangelist Our History
It was a time of growth and great change, not only for the area of Fayette county but for Uniontown as well. There were many changes to this area, because of all the new workers and Immigrants coming over from Europe.
The first Mass on the soil of what would become Fayette County was celebrated July 1, 1754 where Redstone Creek flows into the Monongahela River at present-day Brownsville, for the French Troops who had come up the river en route to attack George Washington at Fort Necessity. The celebrant was either Fr. Denis Baron, the Chaplain of Fort Duquesne, or one of two other priests known to have been in the area at that time.
At this time in 1843 there were only two Catholic Diocese, in the State of Pennsylvania. The Diocese of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. During the first half of the 19th century, the pastor of St. Peter also had the Catholics of Uniontown and the following areas. All the Catholics of the following counties Fayette, Greene and Washington Counties came to Brownsville for Mass. In 1849, Rev. Thomas McGowan was celebrating Mass in the home of Christian Keffler in Uniontown. Nine families made up the congregation- Keffler, Hagan (John and James), Griffith, Dorsey, Monahan, Lonergan, Keenan and Lynch.
In 1852 the first bishop of Pittsburgh, Rt. Rev. Michael O’Connor, decided that Uniontown would have a parish of its own, under the title and patronage of St. John the Evangelist, though still sharing its pastor with the mother church of St. Peter in Brownsville, Pa.
In October of that year, property was purchased on Morgantown hill near Berkeley Street. This is where the first church building was erected there under the direction of Fr. John Larkin. The small brick building was consecrated December 7, 1853 by Father Krutil, C.S.S.R., representing the Bishop. The Cemetery behind the church was established and blessed also. The cemetery still stands there today.
The congregation grew slowly but steadily. In 1856, Father Malachi Garvey reported 16 families and 42 communicants at Easter services. St. John got its first resident pastor in 1877, Father Edward Brennan, appointed by Bishop John Tuigg. In 1881 southern Fayette County was divided into Uniontown and Brownsville Districts, with the former responsible not only for St. John itself but also for stations in the area surrounding Uniontown including Lemont Furnace, and the mountain area, Farmington, Ohiopyle and Chalk Hill (Mt. Augusta).
Father Edward Kittell was appointed in May 1886, coincident with the great increase of membership caused by immigration at the start of the coal and coke boom. Thousands of Catholics were coming into the Uniontown area and Fayette County. Polish, Slovak, Irish, Italian, German and Russian.
It soon became apparent that a new church bigger and larger was needed. Father Kittell had already started looking to the future and its new destination. He went to what was Center Street (now Jefferson Street) in the downtown Uniontown area. Fr. Bernard Patrick Kenna was appointed to succeed him on December 10, 1893. Father Kittell became chancellor of the Pittsburgh Diocese.
The new church cornerstone was laid on June 10, 1894. It took a year to complete the church. The many Irish men that worked on their new church was very clear that they were devoted to their cause. The church was dedicated on May 19, 1895. The two-story Rectory next door was also dedicated on that day as well.
The Bell, largest in Fayette County at the time, was given by Mr. and Mrs Patrick Lynch and blessed under the name of Patrick by Father Francis McCourt of Connellsville on December 19, 1895. The original Pipe Organ was donated by the Cray Family.
The Church acquired the property across the street from the church for the first St. John High School. St. John High School was founded in 1917 at the same time as the grade school. The first class graduated on a three year schedule. The next class expanded to a four year schedule. In 1938 the Cooper home on Pennsylvania Ave was acquired as a Nun Convent.
Over the years St. John the Evangelist has stayed strong as a beacon of Love and Hope for the People of Uniontown. As the Historic Landmark of the oldest Catholic Church in Uniontown we have served the many families of Uniontown through the years. As our Mission still stays the same we are proud of our Irish Ancestry. We give thanks to God and his many Blessings.