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Shenandoah and southern Coal Region, Pennsylvania

The Southern Coal region of Pennsylvania is known as "Little Lithuania". It's not only that many Lithuanian Americans inhabit its towns. This region had also been especially important for the Lithuanian cultural history, being the place where the first Lithuanian novel was published. Almost every town here has (or had) a Lithuanian church, cemetery, and club(s).

Memorial plaque for Little Lithuania in Shenandoah

Memorial plaque for Little Lithuania in Shenandoah

The Lithuanian churches impress with their lavishness (especially when you know that everything was created by the donations of poor coal miners). In the Lithuanian cemeteries, there are many old gravestones and monuments with Old Lithuanian inscriptions on them telling the stories of these immigrants. The region even has locations that are important to the history of Lithuania, not just Lithuanian-Americans, as well as numerous buildings with Lithuanian symbols in the facades.

Mount Carmel Lithuanian school facade with Vytis

Mount Carmel Lithuanian school facade with Vytis

The surrounding countryside has numerous closed derelict closed coal (anthracite) mines which lured all those Lithuanians in during the 1860s-1910s era. The towns are notable for their straight streets and high density of buildings. They were built that way to use up less of the valuable mining land. Nowadays, however, the population density is much lower and many buildings are derelict. The towns are surounded by abandoned mines and the artificial hills of mining remains.

Hazleton Lithuanian church

Hazleton Lithuanian church

Currently, the local Schuylkill county is the most Lithuanian one in the entire USA, with Lithuanians making 5% of local population. The locations with most Lithuanian heritage are Shenandoah itself, Shenandoah Heights, Frackville, Mahanoy City, Mount Carmel, and Tamaqua.

Coal breaker under demolition near Shenandoah

Coal breaker under demolition near Shenandoah. It was among the last surviving such massive buildings that once employed many Lithuaians

Shenandoah - American Vilnius

The heart of the region is Shenandoah (pop. 5500) that used to be nicknamed "Vilnius of America". Even today it is ~12% Lithuanian. The heart of Lituanity here used to be a twin-towered St. George church, that had the longest Lithuanian history in the entire continent (built in 1891), full of Lithuanian art paid for by meager coal miner salaries. It was even recognized as heritage, yet after a controversial process and many protests and the fact that it was the only church in the town built on solid ground, the diocese decided to tear it down. Lithuanians who collected money to list the church as heritage decided to spend it on a commemorative plaque for the Shenandoah's "Little Lithuania" (Main and Centre streets corner).

Shenandoah St. George Lithuanian church site and its image

Shenandoah St. George Lithuanian church site and the church's image

The nickname is not an overstatement as the town had Lithuanian mayors for 42 years. More than that: the first Lithuanian-language novel in the world "Algimantas" has been published in Shenandoah in 1904 (its publishing house „Dirva“ stood at 15 W Oak St, whether the same building still stands is unclear). The reason for this (as well as Lithuanian migration to Coal Region in general) was that Lithuanians back home were discriminated under the Russian Imperial rule with their language banned between years 1865 and 1904.

Location where the first Lithuanian novel was published

The location where the first Lithuanian novel was published

Back then Shenandoah was a much larger town than it is today, with a population of 20 000 (some say 40 000), a quarter of them Lithuanians. "Ripley's Believe it or Not" claimed Shenandoah to be the world's most densely populated locality.

Such decline has been common in all the regional towns: they lost at least half of population since 1930 while some even lost three-quarters. Perhaps this helped to save the Lithuanian culture - there have been comparatively few new migrants until 2000s (Blacks, Latin Americans), therefore the old communities continue to dominate culturally. When there are so many Lithuanians the probability of having a Lithuanian husband or wife is also not that small so there are 100% Lithuanians up to 3rd, 4th and further generations of immigrants.

Still what exists today is far under what existed in 1898 when Shenandoah Lithuanians owned 59 Taverns, 17 shops, 5 meat markets, 8 stonemasons, 3 barber shops, 4 tailors, 1 blacksmith, 5 mortuaries, 5 stables and 2 publishers! Likely, Shenandoah had more Lithuanian businesses than any city within Lithuania itself, where businesses were generally dominated by the ethnic minorities (Jews, Germans, Russians, and Poles) at the time.

Shenandoah Heights Lithuanian cemeteries

The glory of the era may be glimpsed in six Lithuanian cemeteries of the town, located in the nearby Shenandoah Heights. This is the largest number of Lithuanian cemeteries at a single location anywhere in America. St. George Lithuanian cemetery is the oldest one with burials 1892-1934. The entrance has a Lithuanian inscription, while one of the graves not far from the entrance belongs to the first Lithuanian priest in America Rev. Andrius Strupinskas (marked by a small new plaque to be easily discovered).

In this cemetery, like in most of the Coal Region Lithuanian cemeteries, it is often better not to search for particular graves but rather wander looking at the old gravestones, reading their inscriptions, many of them in pre-modern Lithuanian and see the multitude of surnames: authentic Lithuanian, anglicized Lithuanian, polonized Lithuanian... After all, many of the immigrants were illiterate and their surnames would be written down by the migration officers as they heard them. Thus "Antanas Jonauskas" became "Anthony Yanousky", "Adomas Sinkevičius" - "Adam Sincavage", etc.

 St. George Lithuanian cemetery entrance in Shenandoah

St. George Lithuanian cemetery entrance in Shenandoah

Our Lady of Calvary Lithuanian cemetery born in 1911 out of the conflict between the priest and parishioners in the interwar St. George parish. The parishioners established their own cemetery and, having taken control of the church, even rang the bells for the funeral processions going there (the priest refused to participate in such funerals).

An old grave in Our Lady of Calvary Lithuanian cemetery

An old grave in Our Lady of Calvary Lithuanian cemetery

Conflicts like that were especially common in the early Lithuanian-American churches (~1880s-1930s), as Lithuanians who donated money for their construction did not trust that priests (some of whom weren‘t very priestlike) would take a good care of it (they feared, for example, that the Lithuanian mass would be cancelled in favor of Polish or English), so they requested that the property would remain theirs. The Roman Catholic Church, however, required the buildings be transferred to the church.

Among the key reasons for such battles was the fact that in the 19th century, Lithuanians (and thus Lithuanian-Americans) were divided between the very religious ones and those who regarded the Lithuanian identity to be more important than Catholic identity. In the Coal Region, however, both groups went to churches, as the Lithuanian churches were both religious and secular institutions where Lithuanians would meet (also engaging in folk dances after the mass, etc.). For that second group, the secular activities mattered far more than the religious ones; these „secular Catholics“ of Shenandoah even criticised priests for too long religious ceremonies. The priests regarded these people as lost souls, and this second group was prominent among the activists for the secular-rule of the churches.

Eventually, the Roman Catholic Church got hold of the St George‘s church after numerous court battles, and the Our Lady of Calvary also became officially Catholic. Today, however, it seems that the secular activists of ~1900 have been right, as the church has been demolished and its stones may still be found at the western end of the Our Lady of Calvary Cemetery. Initially, the church promised that it would build a symbolic belfry for Lithuanians out of these stones, but has reneged on its promises since.

Church materials at a Shenandoah Lithuanian cemetery

Church materials at a Shenandoah Lithuanian cemetery

There are three more Lithuanian Catholic cemeteries in Shenandoah. In Our Lady of Lourdes Lithuanian cemetery, the most impressive memorial is that for Aleksandras and Viktorija Semenis, in the form of Lourdes, with Lithuanian inscriptions. The interwar Our Lady of Fatima Lithuanian cemetery boasts a Lourdes-inspired grave of priest Rev. Mssgr. Joseph Anthony Karalius, who served as Shenandoah‘s Lithuanian pastor for 41 years and is credited for achieving the final victory against the secular activists in a battle for the church property.

Semenis family Lourdes in Shenandoah

Semenis family Lourdes in Shenandoah

 Priest Karalius Lourdes in Shenandoah

Priest Karalius Lourdes in Shenandoah

Shenandoah Our Lady of Dawn Lithuanian cemetery is usually misnamed in English: the correct translation would be „Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn“, referring to the miraculous painting of Virgin Mary in the Gate of Dawn in Vilnius, Lithuania. There, the entrance gate with Lithuanian inscriptions and bas-reliefs is the most impressive.

Entrance to the Our Lady of Dawn cemetery

Entrance to the Our Lady of Dawn cemetery

Our Lady of Dawn Lithuanian cemetery in Shenandoah

Our Lady of Dawn Lithuanian cemetery in Shenandoah

Lithuanian bas-relief in the Shenandoah Our Lady of Dawn cemetery

Lithuanian bas-relief in the Shenandoah Our Lady of Dawn cemetery

Moreover, Shenandoah Heights has a small and old Liberty Cemetery of the Supreme Lodge of Lithuanians in America (est. 1900) served the similarly named local organization; it has ~50 of its members buried. The organization was related to Jonas Šliūpas, who was a leftist so critical of the church that his followers typically established alternative institutions to the Catholic institutions altogether. As such organizations died off (with post-WW2 Lithuanians turning against leftism due to the Soviet Genocide in Lithuania), the cemetery became abandoned.

The southern side of Shenandoah Heights offers a great view of the Shenandoah town. Once, this view was dominated by the twin towers of the massive St. George Lithuanian church. The church is well-remembered as a key landmark of Shenandoah and even some advertising billboards ask the passers-by to remember it.

Lithuanian towns that surround Shenandoah

Merely a few miles separate Shenandoah from some other "Lithuanian" neighboring villages and towns. However, Lithuanians moved in here at the time when the world could have only dreamt about automobiles and that distance was still too big to travel on foot. Therefore every town had its own Lithuanian church commissioned. All of them small, with a single tower or towerless.

When there were so many Lithuanians, the ethnic traditions were easier to safeguard and even ~1970s the attendances of Lithuanian churches were increasing (those of other ethnic parishes were already declining). Even at ~1985 some Lithuanian parishes constructed new church buildings (thus although all the parishes are ~100 years old some churches are new).

A street in Mahanoy city, a typical town of Shenandoah coal region

A street in Mahanoy city, a typical town of Shenandoah coal region

However, ~2008 the dioceses decided to abolish most of the ethnic parishes and close their churches down. After all, Lithuanian masses had been abolished quite long ago in all of them: 3 or more generations have passed since the coal miner immigrants, thus the bishop thought there is no reason to keep multiple open churches in small-and-diminishing towns/villages. However, the churches with their old Lithuanian inscriptions, paintings, decor are also important culturally and historically. Therefore their communities defend them at all costs. Even though the language had been largely forgotten, other Lithuanian traditions (crafts, dances, food) are cherished.

In many of the area's towns you may see the images and names of the local war veterans posted on poles. By looking at these names you may easily see the percentage of Lithuaians in the area, as nearly everybody whose surname ends in "-as" or "-is" is a Lithuanian. Those who have surnames ending in "-auski" are also Lithuanians, while those with "-owski", "-awicz", "-avich", "-avage" and similar-sounding surnames may be both Poles and Lithuanians.

Frackville Lithuanian district, museum and cemetery

One of the cities that cherishes the Lithuanian heritage the most is Frackville (pop. 4000 today, 8000 in 1930). It has an entire district of Lithuanian institutions around the Annunciation BVM Lithuanian church in Frackville. A Lithuanian inscription „Apreiškimo parapija“ still greets at the door and „Apreiškimo Panales Švenč Banyčia 1934“ adorns the cornerstone, although the church is now irregularly used. The interior includes stained-glass Windows with Lithuanian inscriptions, Our Lady of Vilnius painting, while the tower is crowned by a Lithuanian sun-cross. As the church is no longer officially a Lithuanian parish, some more Lithuanian details were removed (a recurring story in the Southern Coal region).

Frackville Lithuanian church

Frackville Lithuanian church

The nearby Lithuanian Museum and Cultural Center welcomes visitors (with prior arrangement). Established in 1982, it offers artifacts of the 19th-century Lithuanian immigrants, the once-cherished Lithuanian memorabilia which the Lithuanian-Americans were able to somehow acquire from the far-away and later Soviet-occupied Lithuania. This includes various manifestations of Lithuanian folk arts and crafts: kanklės traditional musical instrument, traditionally painted easter-eggs (margučiai), straw ornaments, traditional crosses. Some of them have actually been created by local Coal Region Lithuanians, many of whom have actually never even visited Lithuania but still cherish the traditions passed on by their forefathers who may have immigranted ~1900. The museum also hosts exhibits explaining the Lithuanian-American life of the Coal Region (e.g. the symbols of once-numerous fraternity organizations). If you visit with somebody who knows the exhibits well, they could tell you many more stories, e.g. the exhibited funeral photos used to be sent through the Iron Curtain in order to inform on who is dead and who is alive at the time in the family without triggering censorship.

Frackville Lithuanian museum sign

Frackville Lithuanian museum sign

Inside the Frackville Lithuanian museum

Inside the Frackville Lithuanian museum

 Fraternity symbol in Frackville museum

Fraternity symbol in Frackville museum

A Lithuanian rally in the 1920s

A Lithuanian rally in the 1920s as it appears in a Frackville Lithuanian museum image

Frackville Lithuanian district‘s Annunciation BVM parish hall (1957) hosts the Lithuanian Days since 1914 - this is the oldest ethnic festival in the USA. It is also mentioned in the new commemorative plaque. Before the Lakewood Park closed, the festival used to take place there (1922-1984). It used to be extremely popular, with 13 trains bringing people there (Lithuanian-Days-related memorabilia is also part of the museum exhibits).

Away from its Lithuanian district, west of the town, Frackville hosts a large Frackville Lithuanian cemetery where not only Frackville Lithuanians but also Lithuanians from some other Lituanian parishes used to be buried. Nominally, it consists of several cemeteries.

Entrance to the Frackville Lithuanian cemetery

Entrance to the Frackville Lithuanian cemetery

Mahanoy City: Lithuanian church, bank, and publishing house

In the same way, as Shenandoah is important to Lithuanian literature, Mahanoy City (pop. 4 000 today, 16 000 in 1910) should be known to every fan of Lithuanian music. The coal miners of years-gone-by have established the world's first Lithuanian wind instrument orchestra ("Mainerių orkestra").

The town has a St. Joseph Lithuanian church, the area‘s oldest Lithuanian church (erected 1888-1893). Unlike in the other towns, all the Mahanoy City parishes have been consolidated into the Lithuanian church in 2008 so it is the Lithuanian church that continues to be open, albeit renamed after Mother Theresa of Calcutta who visited it in 1995. Such parish consolidations, however, often mean that the one remaining church is renovated, thus losing some of its original ethnic details. For example, all the saints of the closed Mahanoy City churches have been painted over the altar, and new frescos have been created all over the church. One Lithuanian thing remaining in the church is its stained-glass Windows. However, these are not the authentic 19th-century stained-glass Windows. Most of these were replaced by new ones in the mid-20th century – while the surnames of the donors are still Lithuanian, the inscriptions themselves are not as, by this time, the Coal Region Lithuanian community increasingly spoke English as its first language. Only near the chorus, the original windows with Lithuanian inscriptions survive.

Mahanoy City Lithuanian church

Mahanoy City Lithuanian church

The interior of the Mahanoy City Lithuanian church

The interior of the Mahanoy City Lithuanian church

Mahanoy City has been famous once as the location where the world‘s-highest-circulation Lithuanian newspaper „Saulė“ was published. Its massive three-floored wooden publishing house (1916) still stands, albeit is derelict (the newspaper had its final issue in 1959 as the Lithuanian language use declined in the area; it had been established in 1888). Nevertheless, the building is impressive even from the outside.

"Saulės" lietuvių laikraščio leidykla

Saulė ithuanian newspaper publishing house

The facade of Saulė publishing house

The facade of Saulė publishing house

Lithuanians also had a Lithuanian bank in Mahanoy City, which stays rather untouched as well (even the safe is still there). Interestingly, the bank has been established by a priest as, at the time, minority banking was considered to be a social service more than a business, as the American banks often refused to lend to the immigrants. While there are no Lithuanian details on the bank building, the exhibits inside include the Lithuanian ones. The inscription on the building top says „1903-1923“.

 Mahanoy Lithuanian bank (the one with arched window)

Mahanoy Lithuanian bank (the one with arched window)

 The interior of Mahanoy Lithuanian bank

The interior of Mahanoy Lithuanian bank

Mahanoy City had even more Lithuanian buildings: the Lithuanian school has been demolished in 2010 (closed down in 1972), however, while the Lithuanian convent still stands, however, there are no Lithuanian details there.

Outside of the town limits to the south, amidst the other cemeteries, stands the St. Joseph Lithuanian cemetery, the most important grave there is that of the Bočkauskas family, the publishers of „Saulė“. Interestingly, on some of the family epitaphs the surnames are written in Polonized (Bockowski) and some in prie-modern Lithuanian orthography (Boczkauskas), likely showing the rift that existed between those Lithuanian-Americans who emphasized their Lithuanian identity and those who preferred Polish as the „elite language“.

The grave of Publisher Bočkauskas family in Mahanoy City

The grave of Publisher Bočkauskas family in Mahanoy City

Saulė publisher grave in Mahanoy City

Saulė publisher grave in Mahanoy City

Maizeville and Girardville: Lithuanian churches and a street

Maizeville village had the USA's sole Our Lady of Šiluva church (14 North Nice Street), named after the oldest church-recognized Marian vision in Europe that took place near the village of Šiluva in Lithuania. It has been constructed in 1967 after the old one burned down. The old church has been named St. Louis - however, the parish, even though already dominated by American-born Lithuanians, decided to adopt a more Lithuanian name for the new building. On the inside, they have commissioned many Lithuanian details which are condemned as the church has been closed and is for sale now.

Maizeville Our Lady of Šiluva Lithuanian church

Maizeville Our Lady of Šiluva Lithuanian church

Maizeville and the nearby Gilberton lost extremely many people even by Coal Region standards: in 1910 they had a population of 5500 yet only 750 live there today. Maizeville still has an Our Lady of Siluva Boulevard (actually a small side-road that once served as a highway on-ramp; after the highway closed, the name of the nearby church was given to it). Unfortunately, the street sign no longer remains.

Maizeville Our Lady of Šiluva boulevard

Maizeville Our Lady of Šiluva boulevard

Girardville's (pop. 1500 today, 5000 in 1930) St. Vincent de Paul church is one of the final 3 remaining regularly open (ex-)Lithuanian churches in the southern Coal Region of Pennsylvania. The city‘s first Lithuanian mass has been celebrated in an opera theater at 27 E. Main St. (as the town turned into a village it became a cinema, roller skating hall and finally has been demolished). The current brick English gothic revival church has been built in 1926, its lavish interior simplified in 1978 with Lithuanian stained-glass windows. Although no Lithuanian mass has been held for long the parish celebrated its Lithuanian minority heritage until its closure. The beautiful stained-glass windows remain, including one with a Lithuanian flag and the Cross of Vytis symbol. There are many Lithuanain surnames written under various works of art as those of their donors. The official website declares that "our roots will always be in Lithuania", there are some Lithuanian phrases even if most of them seem to be Google-translated. While the parishes were consolidated, the church is allowed to work.

 Girardville Lithuanian church

Girardville Lithuanian church

 A stained-glass window at the Girardville Lithuanian church

A stained-glass window at the Girardville Lithuanian church

Further south: Lithuanian heritage at 209 road

209 road ~15 miles south of Shenandoah has much of Lithuanian heritage in the towns along it.

Tamaqua town has the third still-open Lithuanian church (St. Peter and Paul, 307 Pine St.), which also an impressive example of Lithuanian modern art as it has been crafted in its entirety by a famous Lithuanian-American sculptor-architect V.K. Jonynas (1976) in his unique style. The tower is crowned by a Lithuanian sun-cross. The Lithuanian flag, however, has been moved from the altar to the organ while the wooden external cross was removed and replaced by a simple non-Lithuanian-styled one: Allentown diocese has been especially tough on the ethnicity of the churches so, while such things as Lithuanian crosses remained in the ex-Lithuanian churches elsewhere, they were almost invariably removed in the Southern Coal Region (except for the details too expensive to replace, such as the stained glass Windows).

 Tamaqua Lithuanian church

Tamaqua Lithuanian church

The interior of Tamaqua Lithuanian church

The interior of Tamaqua Lithuanian church

Tamaqua is one of the larger towns in the area with 7000 inhabitants (13 000 back in the "golden days"). It had 106 Lithuanian families in 1906 and 235 Lithuanian families in 1917; given the size of the families back then this may have made up 5-10% of population. Those families now lay at Owl Creek Road, where there is St. Peter and Paul Lithuanian cemetery (1929). The most impressive there is a derelict freestanding gate without any fence remaining. Two Lithuanian tricolor motifs are still visible on the gate, as are the words „Lithuanian cemetery“.

 Tamaqua Lithuanian cemetery gate

Tamaqua Lithuanian cemetery gate

The same cemetery was also jointly used by a parish ~5 miles east in Coaldale based in a white St. John the Baptist church. This church has been closed while the town itself lost nearly three-quarters of its population decreasing from 7000 to 2000 people. A Lithuanian inscription „Šv. Jono Lietuvių R. K. bažnyčia“ still remains there. It bears the date of 1914 05 10.

 Coaldale St. John Lithuanian church

Coaldale St. John Lithuanian church

Shenandoah is the most Lithuanian US town among those above 5000 inhabitants but if you count all villages with population above 1000 the New Philadelphia has that title. ~25% people there are Lithuanians (more than of any other ancestry). In 1910, when the village was double in size there was a confrontation between two ethnicities: Lithuanians and Irish. Both established a church and both remained open nearly until today. Unfortunately, in 2008 the Lithuanian Sacred Heart church was closed (its building constructed in 1984). Now it serves as a church-owned cafe open weekly; the cafe still offers a Lithuanian „kugelis“, although all the Lithuanian symbols (such as Rūpintojėlis) have been removed by the diocese.

The former New Philadelphia Lithuanian chruch

The former New Philadelphia Lithuanian chruch

 Rūpintojėlis that was thrown away by the Allentown diocese

Rūpintojėlis that was thrown away by the Allentown diocese

To better understand just how massive Lithuanian community of New Philadelphia was, you may see its Lithuanian school (abandoned, no Lithuanian details, built in 1926) and equally massive (for such a village) Sacred Heart Lithuanian cemetery.

 New Philadelphia Lithuanian school

New Philadelphia Lithuanian school

 New Philadelphia Lithuanian cemetery

New Philadelphia Lithuanian cemetery

The village of Middleport still had so many patriotically-minded Lithuanians in 1948 (some 50 years after the Lithuanian mass-migration into the region) that they built an entirely new church there (not simply replacing an older one). However, a new Lithuanian parish was not erected there, so priests from New Philadelphia used to come to lead the mass. The church is now closed and it has no Lithuanian details.

 Middleport Lithuanian church

Middleport Lithuanian church

Minersville (pop. 4000 today, 9000 in 1930) Lithuanian parish of St. Francis of Assisi (1950) has been also condemned but its people achieved an impressive victory in Vatican. After their complaint, Vatican recognized that bishop illegally closed down their church. Unfortunately, the bishop refuses to concede and decided to reopen the church merely symbolically (for a single holy mass celebration annually).

Minersville Lithuanian church

Minersville Lithuanian church

On the hill above the church, there is the former Lithuanian school (open as non-Lithuanian; no surviving Lithuanian details).

 Minersville Lithuanian school

Minersville Lithuanian school

Minersville also has a Lithuanian cemetery with a World War 2 memorial

 Minersville Lithuanian cemetery and World War 2 memorial

Minersville Lithuanian cemetery and World War 2 memorial

St. Clair town (pop. 3000 today, 7000 in 1930) also saw its St. Casimir Lithuanian church (441 South Nicholas St., constructed in 1917) closed down several years ago. The building is abandoned, with even the mass plaque with its final priest‘s name (Jankaitis) still adorning the wall.

Saint Clair Lithuanian church

Saint Clair Lithuanian church

St. Clair church information with a priest's surname

St. Clair church information with a priest's surname

St. Casimir Lithuanian cemetery (est. 1929) remains near St. Clair, and the St. Casimir statue is its prime sight.

St. Casimir in the St. Clair Lithuanian cemetery

St. Casimir in the St. Clair Lithuanian cemetery

Lithuanian heritage west of Shenandoah

Mt. Carmel township (pop. 6 000 today, 18 000 back in 1930) was the hub of Lithuanian activities in the western Southern Coal Region. It still has a Lithuanian Social Club (309 S. Oak St.) with a door painted in Lithuanian tricolor.

Mount Carmel Lithuanian club

Mount Carmel Lithuanian club

There is also a massive Holy Cross Lithuanian cemetery (south of town, Cemetery road). It was named after a Lithuanian church, closed in 1992 and used as a warehouse, partly derelict, with many of its windows broken. The church is among the oldest in the eare, its construction having begun in 1892 according to the Lithuanian cornerstone („St. Krizaus liet. bazniczia 1892“).

Mount Carmel Lithuanian church

Mount Carmel Lithuanian church

 Mount Carmel Lithuanian cemetery

Mount Carmel Lithuanian cemetery

The most important building in the town is, arguably, the Lithuanian school, sometimes claimed to be the America‘s oldest. Now abandoned, it still has its facade adorned by Vytis and a Lithuanian name. The cornerstone says „Įsteigta 1923 metais“ („Esablished in year 1923“).

Marija Kaupas, a Lithuanian nun worked in Mt. Carmel (she is on the route of canonization and a street has been named in her honor in Chicago). A center of voluntarism used by the Bucknell college has been named Mother Maria Kaupas Center for Volunteerism (est. 2015). Students live there temporarily, performing good deeds.

Maria Kaupas centre for volunteerism site

Maria Kaupas centre for volunteerism site

Shamokin town has been famous for America's first Lithuanian publishing house (which published Lithuanian-English dictionary by Markas Tvarauskas). It also had a Lithuanian St. Michael Archangel church (Cherry St.) that was closed in 1995 and demolished in 2015. Shamokin‘s Lithuanian club in nearby Coal Township still functions as a members-only pub as does the Lithuanian cemetery.

An interesting location on the way from Shenandoah to Mount Carmel and Shamokin is Centralia, a town that was demolished due to mine fires under it that sometimes led to smoke above ground, as well as the Ashland mine, open to tourists. Both are not directly related to Lithuanians but speak volumes about the conditions they came to work in (the mine), still better than those back home in Lithuania, as well as the environmental damage from the mining.

Abandoned village of Centralia

Abandoned village of Centralia

Lithuanian heritage east of Shenandoah

The area's largest town east of Shenandoah is Hazleton (pop. 17 000 today, 38 000 back in 1940). Its brownish Sts. Peter and Paul's Lithuanian church (constuction began on 1911) used to be an extensive multiple-building complex. Unfortunately, it all has been sold in 2010 by the diocese and now serves as a Spanish Pentecostal church. Lithuanian-language cornerstone remains, however. Hazleton Lithuanian cemetery (est. 1886) is at the Cemetery road / E Broad corner, offering numerous old inscriptions.

Cornerstone of the Hazleton Lithuanian church

Cornerstone of the Hazleton Lithuanian church

 Hazleton Lithuanian cemetery

Hazleton Lithuanian cemetery

McAdoo (pop. 2000 today, 5000 back in 1930) had a wooden St. Casimir Lithuanian church near the Cleveland and Adams street corner (it has been transformed into a residential house). It is interesting that this church has been born out of anti-Catholic sentiment as its builders planned to stay independent of Vatican. However after the works had begun in 1928 they disagreed among themselves and were short on money, therefore went back to Catholicism. The completed church then served as Catholic as Catholic although the congregation was never big enough to support a separate parish.

McAdoo Lithuanian church, now a detached home

McAdoo Lithuanian church, now a detached home

The hard labor conditions in the mines led Lithuanians to protest but back then the worker's rights weren't that much protected. This had some tragic outcomes: a few Lithuanians have been killed by police in 1897 when they stroke and illegally marched in Lattimer town. 19 workers died that day and they are commemorated by a plaque in Harwood which declares that the victims were "Poles, Lithuanians, and Slovaks". A bigger memorial stands at the place of the massacre; a victim list there has a single obviously Lithuanian surname (Tomashontas) but more people may have been Lithuanians as in that era Lithuanian language was not standardized yet and surnames changed after migration. Lattimer massacre became well known in the USA and it caused the trade union ranks to swell. In spite of this many Lithuanians who disliked the local conditions left the Pennsylvanian coal region for surrounding states, e.g. Upstate New York.

 Memorial at the location of Lattimer Massacre

Memorial at the location of Lattimer Massacre

Lattimer Massacre site memorial list of victims

Lattimer Massacre site memorial list of victims

A nice place to see a town much like the early Lithuanian migrants found them in the 19th century is the Eckley‘s Miners Village which has remained much like over a century ago, with rows of wooden homes. It may be visited as a museum and the introductory film describes Lithuanians among its historic ethnicities. The entire town is being slowly converted into a museum as the vacated homes are not filled with new tenants.

 Eckley‘s Miners Village street

Eckley‘s Miners Village street

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  1. I am fairly certain that St. Bartholomew’s Church in Brockton was a German ethnic parish. I was baptized there in 1949 by a Father Felix Fink, hardly a Lithuanian name.

  2. Nothing of importance. I am 82+ and couldn’t think of the name of the Lithuanian Church that was directly across from one of the homes lived in, Maizeville, PA. My Daughter Kathy said “Dad, do a search on the computer.” WOW! Modern technology at its best. Took about 5 minutes and “St. Louis” was there on the screen. Sad, how our heritage is disappearing. My Dad died from Black Lung, only 40 yrs. young. When my Great Grandfather came to America, Ellis Island, a Polish gentleman (ski) was in the line before him and when he spelled his last name (Navitskowstkas), the clerk dropped the “owstkas” and said, “Welcome to America Mr. Navitsky.” All the Navitsky men before me worked in the coal mines and died from Silicosis. In July, 1951, I joined the USAF and was fortunate enough to get in 20 years, retiring in Sept. , 1971. Still married to my Sweetheart, have a Son, 3 Daughters, a Grandson, 3 Granddaughters, and a Great Grandson. God’s been good to me. God Bless Our Troops and may God Bless America.
    P.S. Really enjoyed all the above history.

  3. I discovered this site through the Lithuanian Global Genealogy facebook page. It is a real treasure! I only started a scholarly search of my ancestry in the last two years. I was born in Coaldale Hospital while my parents lived in Tamaqua, and attneded St. Peter and Paul Church there. My paternal grandparents had a farm in Still Creek, between McAdoo and Tamaqua, off 309. I have many pleasant memories of the area and of my grandparents, aunts and uncles. My grandparents arrived between 1900 and 1910. Although I have information on my paternal grandmother’s family, I still do not know much about the family of my grandfather, Alexander Išganaitis. I always wondered if he left his family back in Lithuania and came to the coal mines on his own. His death certificate says that his father was Juozas Išganaitis and his mother was Marija Žemaitis, but I hav enot located them in the US so far. Thank you for writing this article as it gives me additional information to continue my search.

  4. Laba diena,
    Rašau Jums savo mamytės prašymu. Mano mamytė yra kilusi iš Krikštonių kaimo, kuris yra netoliese Seirijų miestelio ir šiandien priklauso Lazdijų savivaldybei (Lietuva). Tvarkydami jos pasimirusio 2013 m. dėdės Vlado Brazicko, gimusio 1921 m. (pavardė pakitusi, manome, kad anksčiau ji buvo Brazinskas) asmeninius daiktus, radome gan įdomias labai senas fotografijas. Kažkada dėdė Vladas yra minėjęs apie artimus giminaičius, kurie, manome, dar prieš Pirmąjį pasaulinį karą emigravo į Jungtines Amerikos Valstijas. Tikėtina, kad dirbo kasyklose. Jo tėvas tai yra mano mamos senelis taip pat buvo trumpam emigravęs į JAV ir užsidirbęs pakankamai pinigų grįžo atgal į Lietuvą. Tikslesnių duomenų apie tai neturime, manome, kad tai galėtų būti mano prosenelio Broniaus brolis ar pusbrolis. Ant šeimos nuotraukos, kuri buvo atsiųsta šių giminaičių, radome užrašą fotoatelje, kurioje ši nuotrauka ir buvo pagaminta: Drizas, Cor. White&CentreSTS, SHENANDOAH. PA. Radau internete, kad ši fotroatelje tikrai egzistavo Shenandoah Pensilvanijos valstijoje 1910 metais.
    Labai prašytume pagelbėti ieškant nuotraukoje esančių artimųjų pėdsakų. Galėčiau atsiųsti elektroniniu paštu nuotraukų skenuotas kopijas. Gal kas iš senosios kartos dar ką nors prisimins ar gal pas ką nors dar yra išlikusios šios šeimos nuotraukos. Labai norėtume surasti savo šeimos nutrūkusias gijas. Tiesiog įdomu sužinoti šių artimų žmonių likimus ir jų istorijas.

    Su pagarba, Diana Lukminė

  5. Gerb. Diana, yra tokia Lithuanian Global Geneological Society, tai ten žmonės ieško savo artimųjų Lietuvoje arba bent jau gauna informaciją. Pabandykite


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