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

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Settlements, Organized Communities, Patches, Neighborhoods

From all four corners to the center of the state, to the major cities and all points in between, there are few regions of Pennsylvania where Carpatho-Rusyn immigrants did not find a home.

As mentioned previously, the book’s contents will include an appendix, “List of Settlements” (town, county) with cross-reference to the main entry. While it’s still a work in progress, the list of settlements numbers well over 600. See some examples here of how it looks.

This raises the question about terms that I’ve been using in this blog that I’d like to clarify. What do I consider a “settlement” and what is an “organized community?”

For purposes of this blog and the eventual book:

A settlement is a place (incorporated or otherwise) where Carpatho-Rusyn immigrants resided, regardless of their numbers. It is extremely unlikely, though possible, that only a single Rusyn immigrant or family lived in such a place, and it’s also somewhat unlikely that I would be able to learn of such a place where only one individual or one family was living. For the most part, the settlements are revealed in church records, where the place of a child’s birth or the place of residence of individuals being married or buried is noted. Generally, these locations are noted in some detail, down to the “patch” or village that may or may not be near the town where the church is. Some of these places—especially “patches”—no longer exist as inhabited places, and require reference to an old coal mine map or an excellent site like the Virtual Museum of Coal Mining in Western Pennsylvania.

An organized community is a place where a group of Carpatho-Rusyn immigrants established a church or a fraternal organization lodge. I tried to map the geographic extent of these through several years of the 1890s to 1900, two examples of which are in my introductory post. Usually where a church was established, that indicated that the number of Rusyn immigrants in that vicinity was sufficient to sustain several fraternal organization lodges and probably some businesses or even a social club or two. But in many places there was a significant number of immigrants who had several fraternal lodges but no church. If the history of that community is substantial, I will give it its own entry; otherwise I will describe it in the entry for the community where the church is that served that area.

For example, Ormrod, Lehigh County, had several fraternal lodges, but the community was associated with the churches in Northampton and Catasauqua. Therefore Ormrod will be discussed in the entry for Catasauqua and Northampton (which itself is a combined entry, as those communities are geographically adjacent and both had churches whose membership came from the same settlements of the surrounding area).
Society of the Archangel Michael, Lodge #27 of the Providence Association, in Ormrod, Lehigh County, founded 1914 with both Rusyn and Ukrainian members. (1938 photo)
It's always a pleasure to find a published history that describes the geographical extent of a community and names the locations where its members lived, such as this history of St. Mary's Greek Catholic Church in New Salem, Fayette County:
Saint Mary's Assumption Byzantine Catholic congregation was founded sixty-nine years ago to care for the spiritual needs of Rusin immigrants coming to the village of New Salem and its thirty-seven environs viz: Bessmer, Brier Hill, Buffington, Cardale, Dearth, Edenborn, Fairbanks, Filbert, Footedale, Gates, Gray's Landing, Grindstone, Helen, Herbert, Hoover, Keister, Lambert, Leckrone, Livingood, Masontown, Messmore, Miller Farm, Nemacolin, New Boro, Orient, Prospect, Province Mine, Puritan, Ralph, Republic, Rocks, Royal, Searight, Shamrock, Tower Hill 1 & 2, and Thompson No. 2.
Ss. Cyril & Methodius Brotherhood, Lodge #6 of the United Societies of the Greek Catholic Religion, in West Newton, Westmoreland County, founded 1905. West Newton, with a substantial number of Rusyn immigrants, had several fraternal lodges but not a Rusyn church. This community was associated with the churches in McKeesport, therefore its history will be described in the entry for McKeesport.
In many cases, several organized communities will be combined into one entry, as appropriate. For example, at the center of the border of Schuylkill and Carbon Counties begins the Panther Valley, which had a very large Carpatho-Rusyn immigrant population, centered in Lansford and Coaldale, but including Tamaqua, Owl Creek, Seek, Summit Hill, and Hauto. Both Lansford and Coaldale have several Rusyn churches in their history, some Greek Catholic, some Orthodox, but they are so intertwined it only makes sense to discuss this entire group of settlements as one unit. (Nesquehoning, while part of the same Panther Valley region and which was linked to the Lansford Greek Catholic Church in its early years, and some Rusyns from which later joined the Coaldale Russian Orthodox Church, has two Rusyn churches and a distinct history mostly its own, and warrants a separate entry.) Nevertheless, these criteria for dividing the entries cannot ideally take into account every situation: in this example, even after the original parish was established in Nesquehoning, some Rusyns there continued their membership in the Russian Orthodox parish in Coaldale, nearly 7 miles to the west. So a bit of cross-entry discussion will still be required to completely describe each community’s history.
St. John the Baptist Brotherhood, Lodge #110 of the Greek Catholic Union, founded ca. 1897 in Nesquehoning, Carbon County, pictured on the steps of St. Mary’s Greek Catholic Church. The photo is from 1915, which is after they left the Lansford Greek Catholic church to establish their first local church, and also after some members of the Nesquehoning community had already joined the Russian Orthodox church in Coaldale.
The state’s largest cities, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, each have particular neighborhoods where a Carpatho-Rusyn community developed that have a history both related to and distinct from other Rusyn-inhabited neighborhoods/communities in the same city. For example, in Philadelphia the main Rusyn-inhabited areas were South Philadelphia (especially Point Breeze), Northern Liberties, and North Philadelphia. A few Rusyns also settled in Manayunk. And in Pittsburgh, the Rusyn immigrants were well-established on the South Side, North Side (old Allegheny City) and Woods Run, Oakland, and Frankstown/Greenfield (“Rus’ka Dolyna”), each of which had at least one church that indicated a strong Rusyn presence, but a small number of Rusyn immigrants also lived in the borough of Etna, from which they participated in the life of the Rusyn communities of greater North Side Pittsburgh. A group living in the Glenwood neighborhood associated with the communities of the South Side across the Monongahela River, as did a group living in Castle Shannon.

Finally, to the extent possible, I will describe the primary streets or sections of the various towns and cities where Rusyn immigrants were concentrated. Naturalization and census records are very helpful in this respect, but even in some church records the street addresses of the individuals involved were recorded by the conscientious pastor.

There are still some unresolved questions in my mind as to how to apply these principles across the board.
  1. Since Pittsburgh has so many distinct communities each with a colorful and detailed history of its own, do they warrant a separate entry for each, or should all of Pittsburgh be covered in a single, long entry? (I am inclined to keep all of Philadelphia in one entry, which may still be of manageable length.)
  2. How geographically distant at most should the settlements be that I’m inclined to group together in a single entry? For example, there were small Rusyn immigrant settlements in Cornwall and Lebanon (Lebanon County) and Middletown (Dauphin County) that have no real relationship to each other, and none of which had any kind of Rusyn church, and the Rusyn history of each is quite limited. I’m inclined to combine them into a single entry, “Cornwall – Lebanon – Middletown.” In addition, I plan to write about the post-World War II migration of American-born Rusyns to the greater Harrisburg area, where they founded two churches. But this has no relationship to the handful of Rusyn immigrants who once settled in nearby Middletown. Should I include them all as one “Harrisburg/Lebanon Area” entry, perhaps?
As always, I appreciate your feedback or suggestions.

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

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