Thank you for visiting the St. Peter Church history page. Please feel free to read the abbreviated history (below) which was prepared by an unknown author, or view the PDF version of “Upon this Rock“, a book written about St. Peter Church. Unfortunately this book is no longer in print.
This book is dedicated to the parishioners of St. Peter’s Church, past, present and future: to the past and present for their heritage of zeal, love and sacrifice for their parish; to the future for the heritage they will receive.
St. Peter’s history started in 1830 when, under the stewardship of Bishop John B. Purcell, Fr. John McGrady purchased the land it now sits on in Steubenville, OH, from James Ross of Pittsburgh and Bezaleel Wells. The purchase price was not recorded, however the cost of the first vestments, pulpit and one set of candles came to a total of $16.37. These two gentlemen owned most of the land that is now called Steubenville. The plot of ground was small, located on Fourth and Logan streets; however it was large enough to serve as site for a little church and a parish burial ground. St. Peter’s was originally named St. Pius and was the first Catholic Church to be built in the city. This was a time in history when parishioners would do whatever it took, whatever sacrafice, to make their church the center of their community life. This is certainly shown in the beautiful house of God, the first parish built.
The first parishioners of St. Pius/St. Peter’s, mostly of German and Irish decent, set up the altar, laid the floor, plastered walls, glazed windows, made pews, contributing in every aspect of the construction of the building.
On July 26th, 1835 Bishop Purcell solemnly blessed the new Catholic church of St. Pius at Steubenville. The building was a small brick structure, with dimensions of only thirty feet by forty five feet, it did not have an organ, statues or a shrine, only a pulpit and candle sticks, this was the church founded by Reverend Mr. McGrady in 1832. In 1845, Father James Kearny became the first permanent resident and pastor of St. Pius Church. In 1841, Father Neumann, later to become Bishop Neumann, and who recently became St. Neumann, stopped at the Steubenville Church on December 5, 1841; Father Neumann baptized three children in St. Pius Church.
The first women’s association was “The Society of Ladies,” under the patronage of the Blessed Virgin, was formed on May 4th, 1845. The Steubenville population was rapidly increasing in the 1850’s and Father Emmanuel Thienpont, the pastor at the time, decided to enlarge St. Pius. The current structure and land it sat on was not practical to use for the new church, so it was cleared in order to build a new church on a different site on the corner of Fourth and Logan. With contributions from parishioners and railroaders, the new church was built. Father Thienpont then changed the name of St. Pius to St. Peter’s, and it was consecrated by Archbishop Purcell in 1854.
The new church was of impressive size for this era, but only about one half the size of the current church structure. The first floor of the church served as the school and included a small student chapel. The church proper was on the second floor and was accessed by stairs just inside the front door of the church.
During this time in Steubenville a very strong anti-Catholic sentiment arose motivated by religious prejudice. The cornerstone setting was nearly cancelled when an angry mob approached the church to stop it. Fortunately for St. Peter’s, a soldier intervened with the mob and convinced them to disband.
In 1864 Fr. William Thomas Bigelow became pastor of St. Peter’s. Upon arriving, he found it too small for the burgeoning congregation and added an extension to the building, doubling the length of the church. It was Fr. Bigelow who converted the lower floor of the church into classrooms and appointed ladies of the church to teach the children. In 1868 Father Bigelow asked five “Sisters of Charity” to come to Steubenville, from their motherhouse in Cincinnati, to teach the children to increase their education and faith in the God he so loved. Fr. Bigelow moved into a boarding house, giving his newly erected rectory to the sisters for their convent, moving himself into a boarding house.
The Major List of the Pastors and Accomplishments
1832-35: Fr. McGrady, a Dominican priest, – purchased the land and built the first Catholic church of Steubenville, St. Pius, completed in 1832.
1835: Bishop Purcell blesses St. Pius Church on July 26th.
1835-45: Fr. James Conlan- The first records of the church have been recorded April 7, 1835, recordings showing the first Baptism plus eight more during the year. 7/26/35 the second bishop of Cincinnati came to Steubenville to concelebrate with Fr. Conlan, solemnly blessed St. Pius church, and administered the sacrament of confirmation to nine persons. Catholics were few in number at this time. Fr. Conlan oversaw the renovated the church adding plaster walls, pews, an altar, and a new floor.
1845-50: Fr. James Kearney- was the first permanent resident pastor of St. Pius church. Very little is recorded during Fr. Kearney’s tenure.
In 1841 Fr. Newman stopped by the church and baptized three children. 1845 Catholic Society of Ladies was founded by Fr. Kearney.
1848-50: Fr. T.O. Farrell filled in for Fr. Kearney who was forced to take an extended leave because of an illness. Fr. Kearney returned to the parish in September of 1850 but was forced to retire one month later. Fr. Farrell was in charge of the parish for a few months, after which Fr. Emmanuel Thienpont took over.
1850-1865: Fr. Emmanuel Thienpont arrived December 1850. He ministered to the Catholics who were building the railroad. Tore down the church 1853, built a new church and changed the name to St. Peter’s. St. Peter’s was consecrated by Archbishop Purcell in 1854. The new church was built on the same site. The first floor of the church was converted into a school. St. Peters School was built in 1854, the first parochial school in Steubenville. A high school was established in 1879, all in only one room, with one teacher. Four hundred children attended the school at the end of the 19th century. In 1904 a new, three story, school was constructed and still stands today. By 1957 five hundred and four students were attending St. Peters School. Sadly the school closed it doors in 2008 to the dismay of the pastor, Msgr. George Yontz.
1865-1871: Fr. William Bigelow added an extension to the church doubling its size. He remodeled the rectory, purchased a new cemetery site and brought in the five Sisters of Charity to teach in St. Peter’s school, arriving in 1868. In 1871 a small pox epidemic swept through the city causing Fr. Biglow’s death in January 1872.
1872-73: Fr. Thomas Tuomy, temporary pastor dies of consumption and Fr. Theinpont dies in Logan, OH.
1873-1876: Fr. Jeremiah Murray pastor of St. Peter’s Parish, transferred to St. Joseph’s Cathedral, Columbus, in 1876.
1876-1877: Fr. H. B. Dues appointed pastor of St. Peter’s, transferred to Canal Dover in 1877.
1877-1879: Fr. Bernard Wisman appointed pastor; transferred in February, 1879.
1879-1904: Fr. Martin Michael Hartnedy – Shortly after arriving at St. Peter’s Fr. Hartnedy began to liquidate the $5,000 debt of the church, taking only two years to accomplish it. He enlarged the school, establishing St. Peter’s high school, which operated until 1928. 1880 the Sisters of Charity left and were replaced by the Dominicans. 1883 Fr. Hartnedy established a mission church named Holy Name of Our Divine Lord, the second Catholic church in Steubenville, building an actual church in 1885. 1883, he purchased 130 acres of land for Mt.CalvaryCemetery, which is still in use to this day. 1887 built a priest’s residence. 1892 the church was remodeled.
Fr. Hartnedy attempted to build a church in the diocese at St. Peter’s which would have been one quarter scale of St. Peter’s in Rome. The Diocese of Columbus rejected his plans as it would have been costly. He was successful in building the school, however. 1904, he resigned, possibly because of the rejection of his new church project. 1912: Dean Hartnedy dies in CA in September; body returned to St. Peter’s for burial
1904-1939: Fr. Thomas Powers, the 12th pastor of St. Peter’s, organized a youth group called the Temperance Cadets. He began a campaign called pew renting. In December of 1908 St. Peter’s new church was completed and consecrated. The total cost was 112,000. September 1912 a new school was built. On Christmas Eve 1910 the total debt of the parish was paid off. 1930 Fr. Powers takes over the management of DellHospital. Fr. Powers turned the management of the hospital over to the Franciscan Sisters. Fr. Powers died in office, on 12/13/39 after 35 years of service. He was 81 years old at the time of his death.
1926: The school was enlarged to provide classrooms for junior high.
1939: Fr. Thomas Powers dies December 13 of coronary thrombosis.
1939 –1962: Fr. Henry J. Grigsby appointed administrator of St. Peter’s Church, January 13, 1940
1944: St. Peter’s Renovation Drive with Herb Hennings as chairman totals $72, 890.
1945: Fr. Grigsby installed as pastor of St. Peter’s Parish by Bishop Mussio November 19, 1945.
1947: Catholic Central Drive begins; George Gilmore chairman; result 737 parishioners pledge $147, 802. Property between school and rectory purchased in June 1947.
1949: Pope Pius honors Fr. Grigsby with title of Papal Chamberlain February 16, 1949; Monsignor Grigsby invested as Monsignor April 26, 1949.
1951: The convent was renovated and extra rooms were added, the high school was also rewired.
1952: Monsignor Grigsby invested as Domestic prelate April 24, 1952. Property south of school was purchased for a playground, April, 1952. First Mass said at St. Paul’s Mission, September 1952.
1954: Bishop Mussio pontificates at St. Peter’s during Holy week. September: Building between rectory and convent razed.
1956: November 18: A four-hour renovation drive results in pledges of $181, 572. November 19: Renovation of exterior of St. Peter’s Church begins.
1957: January 1: total amount pledged for renovation, $205,117. January 29: Cleaning of exterior walls of church completed. September 16: Auditorium of church converted into chapel and Masses offered in auditorium.
1962 -1984: Msgr. Molloy. In 1979 Msgr. Molloy totally remolded the St. Peter’s church’s interior, which was a two year project. The old rectory and convent were torn down in 1967 and in 1968 the current rectory was completed.
1984-1993: Msgr. Lawrence Luciana becomes pastor. Msgr. Luciana did a major renovation of the exterior of the church, including replacing the roof with the current red clay tile, cleaning the stone walls, overhauled the organ, adding additional pipes, finished the basement and replaced the front steps. And one achievement that he did, which we are all deeply grateful for today, is the addition of air conditioning.
1994-1995: Msgr. Terrence Travis.
October 5, 1995 – 2012 : Msgr. George Yontz. In 2007, started the monthly tradition of saying the Latin Mass. During Msgr. Yontz’s tenure he repaired the twin towers in the front of the church and the bells.
January 1, 2013 – Present: Fr. Timothy Huffman was installed as pastor of St. Peter Church on January 1, 2013, by Bishop Jeffrey Monforton. Fr. Huffman is a graduate of Ohio University and St. Vincent Seminary, and he was ordained to the priesthood on June 5, 1993.
The Bishops of the Diocese
Anthony John King Mussio (1945–1977) retired. Bishop Mussio was named the first bishop of Steubenville August 15th, 1935 and was consecrated as bishop on May 1, 1945. He died on April 15th 1978.
Albert Henry Ottenweller (1977–1992) retired
Gilbert Ignatius Sheldon (1992–2002) retired
Robert Daniel Conlon (2002-2011); transferred to be Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Joliet, Illinois
Bishop Jeffrey Marc Monforton (installed September of 2012)
St. Peter’s Present Church Building
The present church is the result of three major remodeling projects, but still retains the 1907 stained glass windows, made in Munich, Germany, as well as the marble altars, statues, and Communion rail imported from Italy. The 15 major stained glass windows are very rare, depicting the mysteries of the Rosary. The dome rises 95 feet from the marble mosaic floor, and the center aisle is 75 feet long. The overall design of St. Peters is of the French Renaissance style of architecture, cruciform in shape. It was designed by Emil Ulrich of Cleveland, Ohio, and features two towers rising 145 feet. The exterior was built of Amherst and stone, and the structural parts of the roof, towers, and dome are of steel which was made in the area. In 1993 a one million-dollar renovation took place under the direction of Msgr. Lucianna, to restore the roof, dome, towers, and exterior stone.
The following relics are contained in the reliquaries on the high altar: St. Maria Goretti, St. Agnes, St. Catherine Labore, St. Vincent de Paul, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Charles Borromeo, St. Stephan, St. Francis Xavier, Sts. Cosmas and Damien, St. Januarius, St. Dominic, St. Lucy, St. John Vianney, St. Aloysius, St. Gregory VII, St. Pius X, St. Francis Xavier Cabrini, St. Gemma, St. Rose of Lima, St. Cecelia, St. Bernard, and St. Theresa (uncertain).