52 Ancestors: St. Edward’s Church (1866 – 1995)

Posted by: Eileen A. Souza

For the theme “Non-Population,” I’m focusing on the church that my 2nd great-grandfather, Theobald Meisberger, and his family attended. Theobald was one of the original members and he is mentioned in the St. Edward’s 1897 souvenir booklet.

The digital copy that I have of this booklet was provided to me from the collection of John Haile of Shamokin, PA. John also compiled and published the cemetery books for St. Edward and St. Stanislaus Catholic cemeteries. In addition, he made all the burial information for these cemeteries available on Find A Grave.

The booklet is about 64 pages and includes 24 pages of ads, 13 pages of history, and 27 full page photos of the church, schools, rectory, priest, sisters, convent, altar boys, and classes of boys and girls from kindergarten through 4th grade.

Illustration from “Souvenir St. Edward's Church, Shamokin, Pa.” 1897 booklet. Courtesy John Haile.

Illustration from “Souvenir St. Edward’s Church, Shamokin, Pa.” 1897 booklet. Courtesy John Haile.


The information I have extracted from this record includes the following:

“Catholic families were among the pioneer settlers of the vicinity and they organized the first church in the town. As early as 1838 pastors from Pottsville and Minersville held services here; a lot of ground was purchased near the covered bridge at Cameron’s Colliery, and, in the spring of 1836, a small unplastered church 24 x 35 feet was erected…”

“In September, 1866, Rev. J. J. Koch was transferred from the Milton Parish to Shamokin; thus it will be seen that Father Koch was the first resident Pastor of St. Edward’s Parish…”

Upon his arrival, Father Koch spearheaded a large building project to meet the current needs of his parish. He was the force behind building the church, convent, rectory, and school. Surprisingly, he accomplished this Herculean effort without leaving the parish in debt upon completion. The church was dedicated on June 6, 1880.

Theobald Meisberger and Mary Catherine Strausser were married in the old St. Edward’s in 1860. My great grandparents, Thomas Noble and Margaret McGinn were married in the new St. Edward’s by Fr. Koch in 1876.

In 1888, Fr. Koch was the Very Rev. John Joseph Koch, pastor of the Shamokin Parish and Vicar-General of the Harrisburg diocese. He was born in the Province of Lorraine, France, on February 5, 1840, and he arrived in America in 1862.

In addition to St. Edward’s, Father Koch was also responsible for building St. Joseph’s Church in Locust Gap, which was dedicated August 27, 1872. My 2nd great grandfather, Christopher McGinn and much of his family are buried in St. Joseph’s cemetery.

Those that supported and insured the financial solvency of the St. Edward’s building project are mentioned in the following extract from the booklet.

“Only a few are left of the old pioneers who welcomed Father Koch when he came to Shamokin in September 1866, and who did so nobly and contributed so liberally to all the improvements of St. Edward. Those living at the present time and who are still found in the books of the church as yearly contributors are Phillip Barnett, Patrick Burke, Thomas Brown, Matthew Buckley, William Coulston, Bartholomew Dane, Edward Duggan, William Burns, John Burns, Michael Flaherty, John H. Gable, Thomas Gillespie, Anthony G. Gillespie, Mrs. M. Ludes, Martin Hayley, Mrs. Henes, Patrick Kearins, Patrick Kennedy, William Kelly, Robert Lowrey, Mrs. Isaac May, Sr., Theobald Meisberger, Daniel Musseleck, Richard Nagle, Patrick Quinn, Edmund Roche, Peter Reagan, John Ringenary, John Scholtes, Jacob Shields, Nicolas Slater, John W. Taylor, Lewis Welter. Hundreds of others are now resting in peace in St. Edward’s Cemetery, whilst their children, at least the great majority of them, are walking in their footsteps and taking good care of the inheritage left to them by their fathers …”

Theobald C. Meisberger died 13 June 1900, three years after the publication of this booklet; and he is buried in St. Edward’s Cemetery in Shamokin.

St. Edward’s Catholic Church was the first church in the United States to have electric lighting. Founded in 1866, St. Edward’s Church was closed in 1995.


The 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge, initiated by Amy Johnson Crow, is a series of weekly prompts to get you to think about an ancestor and share something about them. The prompt takes care of the guesswork of “who I should write about.” This week’s theme is Non-Population.

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