Carpatho-Rusyns are one of the major ethnic groups of Pennsylvania. From the time they settled the state’s small towns and cities in the late 1870s until the present time, Carpatho-Rusyns have left an indelible mark on the state, and their story should be told. This blog is about a project that will do just that. Read more

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Welcome & Introduction

Carpatho-Rusyns are one of the major ethnic groups of Pennsylvania. From the time they settled the state’s small towns and cities in the late 19th century until the present time, Carpatho-Rusyns have left an indelible mark on the state with their “onion-domed” churches, rich cultural traditions, and devotion to their roots.
Rusyn church, Jermyn, Lackawanna County, Pa.
Carpatho-Rusyns began to settle in the anthracite coal mining districts of northeastern Pennsylvania in the late 1870s. Small towns and burgeoning cities like Shenandoah, Freeland, Shamokin, Mount Carmel, Mahanoy City, McAdoo, Centralia, Nesquehoning, Lansford, Hazleton, Wilkes-Barre, Scranton, and Olyphant were among the first places these immigrants first found work and made their homes. There they built churches, established fraternal insurance societies and social clubs, founded small businesses, met their spouses, raised children, and buried their deceased.


In the decades that followed, Carpatho-Rusyn immigrant communities sprang up in central Pennsylvania (primarily in Centre and Clearfield Counties) and in the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh areas. By 1900, there were Rusyn immigrant settlements in at least 25 counties and these communities numbered in the hundreds. In the decade 1910-1920, 54% of Carpatho-Rusyns in the United States lived in Pennsylvania. A far larger number of the total had lived in Pennsylvania at one point but later moved to other states.

“Rusyn miner returning from work,” ca. 1896
While they found work in the early years as anthracite coal miners or on railroad lines, in the Pittsburgh area and throughout southwestern Pennsylvania the steel industry, supported by bituminous coal mines and coke ovens, provided a livelihood for tens of thousands of Rusyn immigrants. Johnstown’s steel mills and extensive bituminous coal mining operations gave rise to dozens of Carpatho-Rusyn communities across west central Pennsylvania, and the industrial plants of Erie led thousands more Rusyn immigrants to northwestern Pennsylvania, where others worked in the oil or timber industries or established farms much as they had known back in their European homeland villages. In every place there were businessmen and businesswomen among their ranks: undertakers, hoteliers, shopkeepers, saloon owners, beer distributors, midwives, boarding house owners, even bankers and travel agents.

Whether they called themselves, or were called by others, Rusyns, Rusnaks, Ruthenians, Carpatho-Russians, Lemkos, Russians, Ukrainians, Slovaks, or any of a number of other names, Americans of Carpatho-Rusyn descent have contributed much to the rich ethnic mosaic of Pennsylvania, and their story should be told.

This blog will describe a project over two decades in the making that will do just that. The ultimate goal of the project is to publish a comprehensive illustrated history of all the Carpatho-Rusyn immigrant communities and their churches, fraternal lodges, social clubs, and businesses in the state.

This blog is intended to grow over time to better describe the project. Watch for followup posts to learn about the background of the project and various aspects of the research.

I welcome your feedback, inquiries, and suggestions in the comments of various posts. Hostile or off-topic comments will not be approved.

Original material is © by the author, Richard D. Custer; all rights reserved.

16 comments:

  1. Best wishes with this, Richard. Your work has helped to bring my Family together, even though our annual Memorial Day Reunion in Hawk Run is discontinued. Our Family from Kapisova and Ladomirova thanks you. Djakuyu from the Hawk Run Lads!

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  2. One of the oldest Greek Catholic churches in PA is St. STEPHEN founded in 1892 in Liesenring, Pennsylvania

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    1. Absolutely, John. Leisenring was the spiritual & cultural center for many years for Rusyns in Fayette, Westmoreland, Washington, and Greene Counties until they founded their own churches and fraternal lodges in their own towns/villages. I have a lot of fascinating material and wonderful photographs from Leisenring/St. Stephen's. I would love to scan a few pages (one in particular) from an original copy of the 25th anniversary book. Do you know who might have one? I believe the Karaffa family has/had an original copy.

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    2. I would love to see any pictures or documentation. My father was baptized at the church. He died young, therefore, I never had the opportunity to learn of his history.

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  3. Good work, Rich. I looked at the 1893 map and noticed that Cambria and Somerset Counties were blank. I thought: There must have been some organized communites not long after this near the border between the two counties; there were both coal mines and steel mills. Then I came to the 1900 map and there they were.

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    1. Thanks, izhnannyk. Actually it was right around 1894 that organization started to happen in Johnstown, and then a few years later in Windber, just before 1900.

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  4. how far back are you going? Mont Clare church was founded 1897 - says so on their cornerstone.

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    1. As far back as possible... I want each entry (history of a community) to indicate the earliest date of any record I've found of when a Carpatho-Rusyn immigrant was living in that place. Occasionally I will refer to a parish history, a memoir, or a family's documented research for this evidence (or claim). But most of this will be based on parish metrical records (Greek Catholic or Orthodox). There may well be Carpatho-Rusyns recorded in Roman Catholic parish metrical records in many places that predate Greek Catholic records for that area, but Roman Catholic records of that era (1870s-1880s) are very centralized now at the diocesan level and are very difficult, if not impossible, to be granted permission to review for this purpose (only if you are looking for a specific person).

      So generally the "pioneers" of a place will be identified from records in parishes like Shenandoah (from 1884), Freeland (from 1885), Kingston (1887), Wilkes-Barre (1888), Olyphant (1888), Duquesne (1890), Pittsburgh (1891), Leisenring (1892), and so on, where they covered a lot of territory.

      And of course there are later settlements whose pioneers will be easier to identify since they appear in Greek Catholic or Orthodox records of churches that were well established in a region by the time a newer colony in that area started to appear.

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    2. Also, there were Rusyn immigrants living in Phoenixville (Mont Clare) appearing in the records of St. Michael's in Shenandoah already in 1886.

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  5. КАК постоянно получать новости от русинов США???? адрес dpv49@mail.ru

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    1. www.c-rs.org
      www.facebook.com/pages/Carpatho-Rusyn-Cultural-Center/112161198806366
      www.facebook.com/pages/Carpatho-Rusyn-Society/108011289218067
      www.facebook.com/pages/Rusin-Association-of-Minnesota/329056407112419
      www.mnrusinassociation.homestead.com/
      www.lemkoassociation.org
      i t.d.

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  6. Hi Rich,

    Very excited about this blog! Good luck, and let me know if you need anyone to make maps. :)

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  7. St. Mary's Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church was established in McAdoo, Schuylkill County in 1891, serving people that identified as both Ukrainian and Rusyn. St. Michael's Byzantine Catholic Church was established in 1908 after a split within St. Mary's over church finances (sidenote: Fr. Andruhovych was the priest at the time; a similar incident occurred during his tenure at St. Michael's in Shenandoah). McAdoo also has Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Church. Not sure of the exact year it was established, but it was established by Russian immigrants, as well as Ukrainians and Rusyns who were either always Orthodox or who had converted back to Orthodoxy.

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  8. Hello, I just happened upon this site while looking for information on Luka Myshuha, a past editor of Svoboda, the Ukrainian newspaper published in New York, I believe. He was the uncle of my husband, my mother-in-law's brother. Both were niece/nephew of an opera singer, Oleksandr Myshuha about whom I was also trying to get info on. Your subject stopped me in my tracks as I know that many Ukrainians found their way to your part of the world. I find that Americans love their melting pot and so Ukrainians are not very distinguishable. I live in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in Canada. We are very obvious in these parts. Religion in the US is also somewhat different as jurisdictions are a bit difficult to pin point. So, I am trying to learn some things about our Ukrainian US neighbours. Your name, Richard Custer, does not sound Slavic. Many Americans seem to Anglicise their names so I am very curious why you have chosen to do research on this subject. Are you Orthodox or Greek Catholic? If you choose to tell me, I will surely be interested. Thanks

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    1. Hi Chris, thanks for your interest. The details about my own background are in the post "About the Author". I am half Carpatho-Rusyn and thoroughly Pennsylvanian! :-)

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  9. My husband's white russian ancestors arrived in Windber around 1906. Fedor Gerula and his wife Helen Gerula were Russian orthodox farmers. Fedor was also a miner. I recently came across an interview with their son, Peter Gerula from the IUP archives. You might find it interesting as wellhttp://libs0500.library.iup.edu/depts/speccol/All%20Finding%20Aids/Finding%20aids/MG%20or%20Col/MG127Beik1984Gerula.pdf
    Good luck with your research,
    Parice

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I welcome your feedback, inquiries, and suggestions. Hostile or off-topic comments will not be approved.