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Eckley, Pennsylvania
They came for Freedom and a better Life

By Fr. John Melnick

.... This is a work in progress

During the 19th century hundreds of coal mining towns or "patches" were built in Pennsylvania's anthracite region. In 1854, the mining firm of Sharpe, Leisenring and Co. leased land from the Trench Coxe estate of Philadelphia, and began work on Council Ridge Colliery (coal mine) and the village to support it, Eckley. The Company  provided the housing, schools, stores and churches for the miners and their families, and by owning the village, the company had greater control over the lives of its workers.  In 1875, the Coxe family operated the mine themselves. To Eckley came a succession of immigrant groups seeking economic opportunities and religious or political freedom. English and German miners were supplanted by the Irish immigrants and then by Italians, Slovaks, Poles and Lithuanians. Many of our families came here around this time, creating a broad ethnic mosaic that has become “America”.   From The One Catholic Church in Eckley came the four Parishes which eventually formed our Roman Catholic Community of Freeland.

Trench Coxe, of Philadelphia, to whose estate, The Land of Eckley belonged.

Eckley Coxe, descendant of Trench.  He was the "Land Barron" who owned and operated the Eckley Mines.

Our ancestors: the immigrant miners.




Father John Melnick
Celebrates "Heritage Day" Mass at
the Historic "Immaculate Conception Church
in Eckley Village, PA

On August 24th, 2003, a Solemn Traditional Mass was offered in the Historic Immaculate Conception
Church in Eckley Village.  This Church was constructed during the time when St. John Neumann
was Bishop of Philadelphia.  In fact, Bishop Neumann ordered the building of the Church.  He died before the Church was completed by consecrated the Altar Stone for the Altar of the Church.
The four Roman Catholic parishes of Freeland, PA (just three miles away from Eckley),
all came from this mother Church.  Eckley, once a thriving miniing
town, is now a "ghost town" and a National Historic Park.

IMMACULATE CONCEPTION CHURCH : This simple wooden church was built to serve Eckley's first Roman Catholics, primarily Irish. The altar was consecrated on October 25, 1861 by Bishop Wood of Philadelphia . At first the church was a mission of St. Joseph 's Church, Laurytown, and was part of the Diocese of Philadelphia. Immaculate Conception became a parish church when Father Patrick Noonan was appointed as the first past0r in 1861; he was assisted by Father Mullen. In 1867 it was placed in the newly created Diocese of Scranton.

    By 1930 the population of Eckley had moved steadilly toward the town of Freeland (some 3 miles away) and the resident congregation of Immaculate Conception had declined. Its mission church, St. Anne's, at Woodside near Freeland was better attended. As a result, priests moved from Eckley to Freeland, making the Eckley church a "mission Church" of St. Anne's which became the parish church. Although "suppressed" as a Parish Church, Services continued to be held regularly in Eckley until 1960.  The Church was then closed and sold to the State of Pennsylvania.  From The One Catholic Church in Eckley came the four Parishes which eventually formed our Roman Catholic Community of Freeland.

August 24th, 2003
First Public Mass in Immaculate Conception Church
since 1960

Other important Eckley Links

The 81st PA Volunteers Civil War Re-enactors
Civil War Chaplains