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History of Freeland, Pa.
Polish Independent Church

This information comes from Charles Stumpf's notes, from newspaper articles, from the Coxe papers at the Pennsylvania Historical Society and from an article by Joseph W. Wieczerzak, cited at the end of the page. It's a rather complicated story, so I'm just giving some highlights here. I should add that there were disagreements and sometimes splits in a number of our churches, so this is not an isolated case, and it didn't just happen in Freeland. These events are part of the complex history of a nation built largely by immigrants who had to adapt not only to life in a new and strange place but also to living with people from other countries and figuring out how much of their old ways to keep and how much to let go of in order to adapt to a new life in America. I hope to add more about this in the section on Ethnic groups.

In 1894 there was a split within St. Casimir's Church among its parishioners. According to accounts, some number (there were conflicting reports) of Poles left the parish with an intention of forming a new church, but one not under the rule of the Pope. It was to be a "Polish Independent Church," to be called Divine Providence Parish, and would be based on principles embraced by a nationalistic group in Cleveland that had gone through a similar upheaval. The Freeland group bought the recently unoccupied Trinity Methodist Church building on Birkbeck Street in late 1894, they dedicated it the same year, and 35 members were confirmed into the new congregation.

The new parish only lasted a few years, however. Wieczerzak quotes a brief notice in the January 21, 1897 Freeland Tribune: "The church of the Polish Independent Catholics at South Heberton has been levied on by the sheriff and will be sold on February 6 for a debt due A. Rudewick."

According to Wieczerzak, the building was sold, re-purchased and renovated as a duplex home. The site was at 1036-1038 Birkbeck Street. (Wieczerzak, Joseph W. "On two trails: the Polish Independent parish of Freeland, Pennsylvania: Father Paul Kaminski." PNCC Studies 11: 22-60, 1990)

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