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Parish History

This history is a work in progress. It currently only goes up to 1903 and includes no pictures. A complete history will be available in the coming month. Keep checking back!  

 

     Perched on the lofty heights, overlooking a beautiful valley through which the Huron River winds its way to Lake Erie, is situated the historic village of Milan on the site of an old Indian settlement. The Red man and his wigwam have long since disappeared and have well-nigh been forgotten; the broad streets and shaded walks, the quaint houses and quiet homes of today tell the story of another race of men, many of whom have passed away, leaving behind, however, landmarks of Milan's former greatness. A half century ago when Milan was in its glory, the river basin was covered with a forest of masts and the ships that rode on its canal carried the products of the soil to the far distant cities and brought in return merchandise from the eastern states. Eleven large warehouses and an extensive shipyard supplied abundant labor, while the fertile country for many miles around yielded a rich harvest, drawing to the village a thrifty and ever increasing population, Among those who settled here and found employment, in the shipyard, in the warehouses and upon the farms, were also a few Catholic families. Three other religious denominations had already built churches, which were at that time in a flourishing condition. The Catholics, however, owing to their limited numbers and means, were for many years without a church and priest. Occasionally a priest from some neighboring church visited them and ministered to their spiritual wants or the faithful themselves at the cost of untold sufferings and sacrifices daring the extreme heat and cold of summer and winter, attended divine services on Sundays and holy days at Norwalk, Peru, Sandusky and other parishes. As the number of Catholics gradually increased, a little brick church owned by the colored people of the neighborhood was rented early in the sixties and for about two years served the double purpose of school and church, services being held once a month on week days. An attempt was also made to purchase the property but met with little favor owing to its unfavorable location. The building has since disappeared but the site is still pointed out.

     The actual beginning of St. Anthony's congregation took place exactly 40 years ago, when in 1862, the energetic Rev. F. X Obermueller of old St. Peter's Church, Norwalk, recognizing the growing needs of the Catholics of Milan, purchased. For $185.35 the present north lot on Main Street together with a small house which was used for a school and where services were held once a month. Three years later the adjoining lot on the south, which had served for a public cemetery, was added at a cost of $100. During the year, one of the large frame warehouses standing near the canal was bought for $400, carefully taken apart and set up again on this lot. A solid stone foundation was placed under the building, a tower erected and the whole edifice renovated to suit its future purpose at a total cost of almost $4000.

     The young congregation had manifested so much zeal and generosity, that Bishop Amadeus Rappe of Cleveland, listened to their entreaties, sent them their first resident pastor the person of Rev. George Peter, who took charge in January 1866. Under his direction the church was finished, the main altar built, an organ bought for $400, the Stations of the Cross erected and blessed by Rt. Rev. T. P. Thorpe. To provide a home for the priest, a small frame house and two lots on Center Street were purchased for $850 during the same year. In October a very successful fair was held the net proceeds of which amounted to $954 and greatly reduced the indebtedness of the new parish.

     One of the happiest days in the history of St. Anthony's was November 16, 1866, when Bishop Rappe visited Milan for the first time to dedicate the beautiful little church and administer the Sacrament of Confirmation to a class of 30. A census taken at the end of December 1866, shows the parish to be in a flourishing condition, numbering 154 adults and 318 children, or a total of 472 persons. During that year the church records show 25 baptisms, 4 funerals, (all children), 1 marriage and 33 children receiving First Holy Communion.

     In building the material house of God, however, the spiritual edifice was not neglected. During April 1867, a very successful mission was conducted by the Redemptorist Fathers Schneider and Beck; a renewal of the mission took place in the following year from March 10-18, conducted by the same religious order. On Bishop Rappe's second visit, September 15, 1868, he confirmed 26 persons. After the departure of Father Peter in October 1868 St. Anthony's was attended for about one year by Rev. A. B. Rinckes and by Rev. Chas. Evrard of Peru until Rev. Chas. Seltzer was appointed in October 1869 and continued pastor until September 1871. Rev. Chas. Barbier, who succeeded him on September 21, 1871, finding the old school unfit for further use, built the present school house on the site of the old one in 1872 at a cost of $1200. In September 1872 he was followed by Rev. George Rudolf who remained till January 1875.

     During the pastorate of Rev. John P. Puetz from January 10, 1875 to June 15, 1885, many necessary improvement and repairs were made. The present parsonage, which was built under his direction in 1875, cost $2171 and was paid for by two subscriptions taken up in 1875 and 1881; the interior and exterior of the church was entirely renovated; two new side altars and three statues were procured at an expense of $600 . In November 1876 Rev. Father Augustine O. S. F. conducted a mission that was productive of great good in the parish. Rt. Rev. Richard Gilmour D. D. visited Milan for the first time on June 15, 1877 and confirmed 92 persons, of whom 18 were from Prout's Station; on August 1, 1884 he again administered the Sacrament here to 109 persons, of whom 22 were from the latter place. On September 14, 1884, Rt. Rev. F. M. Boff, V. G . blessed the cemetery consisting of 4 acres, one acre of which had been purchased and used since 1866. A large cross with the body of the Saviour carved by the sculptor J. B. Verment from a single stone and resting on a massive pedestal costing together over $300, was blessed at the same time. In 1885, two large church bells were purchased to replace the smaller bell which had done service for many years.

     Rev. Jos. J. Gocke, who came to Milan June 17,1885, continued the work begun by his predecessor. The beautiful Sacred Heart statue costing $66 was purchased by him in 1887. In 1888, stained glass windows were put in the church, the interior of the church frescoed and a furnace set up, costing together, about $900. Father Gock e displayed unusual zeal in his work and was greatly beloved by all who knew him. For almost five years he had faithfully watched over his little flock, when suddenly the hand of death struck down the shepherd and brought sorrow to all who knew and loved him. After an illness of only a few days, he died on January 31,1890, fortified by the last Sacraments of the Church. The funeral on Tuesday, February 4, attended by Rt. Rev. F. M. Boff, V. G. and by over fifty priests, was the largest and most impressive burial service ever seen in Milan. The remains were laid to rest February 6 at Howesville, W. Va., among the scenes and friends of his youth.

     On February 20,1890, Rev. G.O. Schoenemann took charge of St. Anthony's. In November a stone walk was laid on Main street and several other, needed improvements and repairs made. Through the many self sacrificing labors of the pastors and members of St. Anthony's Church, everything seemed now to be in excellent order when suddenly another gloom fell on the parish. On New Year's Day, 1891, shortly after high mass, a fire broke out in the church, destroying the interior and causing about $1,500 damages, which, however, was covered by insurance. While the church was being repaired, services were held in the school house. After a few months, the congregation was delighted to find their little church even more beautiful than before the fire. The interior had been tastefully frescoed, a large pipe organ installed, a beautiful set of Stations of the Cross procured together with a complete set of vestments. When everything was finished, a successful mission was opened in February 1892 by Rev. G. Schlachter, C.P.P.S. On July 3,1893 Rt. Rev. Ign. F. Horsttnann D. D. paid his first visit to Milan and was received with great joy. He confirmed 91 persons, 17 being from Prout's Station.

     Rev. Aug. J. Schwertner, the present pastor, came to Milan September 16, 1897. Shortly after Bishop Horstmann made his Episcopal Visitation of St. Anthony's and confirmed a large class on November 12,1897. During the autumn of 1897 and 1898, a fair and bazaar were held in the Opera House, the receipts amounting to over $1650, which freed the parish from all debt and provided means for further improvements and repairs. Since the beginning of Father Schwertner's pastorate the entire interior and exterior of the school and parochial residence have been renovated; the church furnace has been rebuilt and enlarged; the altars have been tastefully decorated in white and gold and a complete system of electric lighting installed in the church, school and residence. A neat white fence has been built around the cemetery and means devised whereby that sacred place is kept in a condition befitting the last resting place of those whom we knew and loved on earth. Several hundred feet of stone walk have been laid and the entire grounds around the parochial buildings are kept in excellent order comparing favorably with any public or parish property. The congregation is free from debt and its financial resources are in a prosperous condition.

     The spiritual affairs of St Anthony's have been equally prosperous. During the Jubilee year, from September 15-22, 1901, a most successful mission was conducted by the eloquent Passionate preacher Father Gregory of Baltimore Md. The attendance at all the services was exceptionally large and the fruits of the mission are most gratifying. On June 5, 1902, Bishop Horstmann visited Milan for the third time. At 10 a. m. a solemn high mass was celebrated, followed by an interesting and instructive discourse of the Bishop. The Sacrament of Confirmation was administered to a large class in the presence of many of the clergy and a large concourse of people.

     The great success attending St. Anthony's Church during the 40 years of its existence, has been due not only to the devoted and zealous priests who have labored here but also to the generous and warmhearted laity. Many of the older pioneers, who came to Milan in the days of its glory have long since passed away and are sleeping around the large stone cross of the Savior in the beautiful little city of the dead; but their work so nobly begun continuing to bear fruit a hundred fold. A new generation is filling the vacant places in church and school. Let them remain true to the faith of their fathers and the future history of St. Anthony's will be even more glorious than its past.

 

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Saint Anthony's church is located in the Toledo Diocese