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In presenting these lines to the public it is deemed just to state from the very beginning that the facts and data available from written records are very meager and that the principal sources of information were the traditions and oral statements obtained from those in whose memories the facts are still alive.
The history of St John's Parish is not unlike that of many other pioneer settlements along the Ohio river. Well founded traditions relates that at the beginning of the 19th century missionaries from Pittsburgh paid occasional visits to the towns and hamlets of the Ohio Valley.
Later, the proximity of the growing of Wheeling and Steubenville gave these hardy pioneers opportunity to attend to their religious duties. In 1846, the Rt. Rev. Richard Whelan was transferred from the see of Richmond, Virginia, and made the first Bishop of the new diocese of Wheeling. From that time on, priests from Wheeling ministered to the small flock in Wellsburg, until in 1854 when Rev. John F. Bazill was appointed the first pastor of the St John's parish. His name is signed to the first Baptismal record preserved in the archives of the parish, the first baptism being that of Mary Frances, daughter of Isaac White and Grace, his wife, who maiden name was Doherty., on June 18th 1854.
The first marriage on record is that of Michael Fanahan and Anna Gaughan, on June 13th 1854 witnesses to which were Michael Divine and Margaret McCormick.
Father Brazill's stay was a very short one, for he was succeeded by Rev. Stephen Huber in 1855.
The memory of Father Hubner's increasing labors among his flock and his individual characteristic ways and habits are still the object of conversation among the older citizens of the town. Father Huber's missionary field extended from Colliers to the German Catholic settlement in Marshall County, a distance of sixty miles. Regularly he made the circuit, riding the faithful dobbin, and having attached to the saddle the whole missionary outfit for the celebration of mass, alongside with his ubiquitous green cotton umbrella.
Father Huber, after first offering up mass in private homes, set to work to erect a church for his flock, and due to the generosity of his people, rejoiced in seeing the first Catholic Church in Wellsburg dedicated by the Rt. Rev. Bishop Whelan, in 1858.
His next effort was the establishment of a church school. The records show that the school flourished from 1861-87. John Blattau, remembered by many of the older members of the congregation was a teacher at the same time serving in the capacity of organist for the church.
The early Catholics had mostly been of Irish stock, but in the early fifties and sixties there was an influx of Germans, mostly suabians, who became an important element in the population.
Father Huber was devoted to all alike during the many years of his pastorate.
After thirty years of faithful service in the Lord's Vineyard, Father Huber was compelled to resign his office and was succeeded by Rev. John A. Reynolds. Father Reynolds was a convincing orator and enjoyed the high esteem of all classes of the community . He set about to make various improvements, purchased a frame building on the south of the church for a rectory, which served until 1924.
Father Terrence J. Duffy became pastor of St. John's in 1886. His kind disposition and words of wisdom are kept in memory by many of his flock and many non-Catholics.
Under his administration the old church was improved by an extension,; making room for a new sanctuary and sacristy.
Although hindered by a lingering disease, Father Duffy tried to teach Sunday School and otherwise give regular services to his people.
Finally, he found that he could no longer carry on the work, and in March 1912, was placed on the retired list. He retired to the Wheeling Hospital, where he met with a sad accident that caused his death.
In 1912 Father Hermanns, who had previously attended to the mission of Follansbee, assumed the pastorate. The congregation having increased in numbers, it became imperative to pay more attention to the religious instruction of the young.