Parish History

Get to know a little about the parish history!

The following is the history of Saint Teresa's Church from 1845 to 1995.

St Teresa of Avila Parish - Established 1845

The English Settlers

In the early 1800's, the portion of the Western Reserve soon to be called "Sheffield" was heavily wooded and generously populated with wild game of many species. Early explorers to this wilderness area returned to the east with stories of the beautiful forests, rich soil and an abundance of water provided by Lake Erie and nearby rivers and streams. The number of newly arriving immigrants to the eastern shores of America was steadily increasing each year. Many immigrants had fled religious persecution and political tyranny in their homelands. All were anxious to break the bonds of servitude they were forced to endure in Europe. These new arrivals were hungry for an opportunity to settle in a place being described as a "bountiful land in the wilderness". Many of these arrivals had heard stories of land for sale in the Western Reserve area of Ohio and were anxious to buy their share.

Decisions concerning the sale of Ohio Lands were taken prior to the adoption of the Constitution of the United States in 1787. The Congress of Confederation, which ruled until that time, needed money but had few ways to raise it other than the sale of land. Conflicting claims to the western territories were based on grants to the original colonists of the original thirteen states. These grants had to be settled before legal titles to the land could be issued. This was accomplished by the concession of all claims with the exception of a tract of three million acres along the South Shore of Lake Erie reserved by the State of Connecticut. This area was six percent larger than the whole state of Connecticut and became known as the Western Reserve.

The Connecticut Land Company

In order to generate cash to offset its increasing debts, the State of Connecticut sold all of their rights to the Western Reserve to the Connecticut Land Company. The Connecticut Land Company was eager to capitalize on the influx of immigrants with money to spend on land and the promise of a new future. The Connecticut Land Company held a draft in 1814 to select shareholders in the Western Reserve of Ohio. This particular strategy ensured that they would turn a handsome profit on the sale of the lands. One who entered the draft was General William Hart of Connecticut. General Hart drew the portion of land identified as Township 7, Range 17, and in 1815, General Hart sold the entire Township to two Englishmen from Sheffield, Massachusetts, Captains Jabez Burrell and John Day. They then formed a partnership with Captain Joshua Smith and some other New Englanders for the purpose of further sub-dividing the land. Many of those who came west to the Western Reserve to inspect their purchases also selected plots of land for themselves and their friends.

Sheffield Is Carved From The Wilderness

In the fall of 1815, Captain Joshua Smith and his son set out for their new life in Sheffield with a wagon load of essential tools for clearing the forest land and building a cabin. For the next nine years many other English families followed them, and the thud of axes hitting green timber could be heard at every waking hour.

Log cabins were built to protect the settlers from the elements and large plots of land were cleared to plant crops to feed the ever increasing population. By no means was this an easy life, for flies and mosquitoes constantly harassed and stung the settlers. Many became ill from the affects of the insect bites, and many died as a result of the accompanying fever. Bears were always a danger as they prowled through the forests in their constant search for food. However, the hearty settlers pressed on and continued to build their community.

Commercial Businesses Are Established

The first Sawmill was erected by Captains Day and Burrell in 1817, and a log cabin school was built that same year. This was followed by the first distillery which was built in 1822 by Chester Wright. As more settlers moved into the area the demand for more food products increased. As a result, the first gristmill was built in 1824 by Charles Chaney. As to be expected, this beautiful area quickly filled up with settlers as more forest land was cleared for farmland. Because of this rapid growth, Lorain County was established in 1824 and Sheffield became the first Township admitted to it. By 1833 there were 7,000 Catholics, 16 churches, and only 16 priests in the whole State of Ohio.

The Germans Arrive

In 1840, a German immigrant named John Forster purchased 50 acres of land from Captain Aaron Root and thus became the first of many German immigrants to settle in the Sheffield area. By 1842 there were 20 Catholic settlers in the area who petitioned the Diocese of Cincinnati for the services of a Priest. By 1843, over 55 churches had been established in Ohio with 15 others in process. The number of priests had increased to 42, with 12 priests doing other than mission work.

The Mission From Holy Trinity Church

In response to the German settlers request, a mission was established and services were initially provided by Father McLaughlin from Holy Trinity Church in East Avon. This created another problem in that he did not speak the German language. It was reported that in those early days services were held in the home of Johan Muller.

The Precious Blood Fathers

In 1844, Father Francis de Sales Brunner brought a group of young men from Germany, Switzerland, Prussia, and Luxembourg for the purpose of establishing the Order of Precious Blood Fathers in this country. The place he chose to establish a seminary for the Society of Precious Blood was in Peru, Ohio. Because of his ability to speak the German language, his services were immediately requested by several German communities including Sheffield and French Creek (Avon). Because of the distances and demand for a German speaking priest, Father Brunner could only make the rounds once every six to eight weeks to hold services.

The Founding Of Saint Teresa Of Avila Church

It has also been written in some history books that in 1845, a Father Peter Greist urged the Catholic community in Sheffield to form St. Teresa of Avila's Catholic Church. However, no priest by that name has ever been located in a search of diocesan records from either Cincinnati or Cleveland. A more plausible explanation stems from these facts. We know that Father Brunner was providing mission services to the Sheffield/Avon catholic community during this time period. We also know that Father Brunner always brought several of his theology students with him. He was the only one qualified to instruct them, and would continue to teach them while they were traveling.

The records reflect that two of the young men studying theology with Father Brunner were brothers named Peter and Mathias Kreusch. Because of his youth and enthusiasm, it was probably Peter Kreusch who convinced the community to establish a church, along with a little assistance from Father Brunner of course. By looking at the history written about Father Brunner prior to his coming to this country, we find that he often prayed to St. Teresa of Avila to get him through some of his most difficult times. One could then conclude that it was Peter Kreusch who convinced the community to found a church, and Father Brunner who suggested the church be named after of one of his favorite saints, Saint Teresa of Avila. We also know that in those early days the population was often afflicted with fevers which caused many to die. The parish prayed to Saint Teresa of Avila to spare them and promised to always remember and honor her on October 15 of each year. Regardless of who gets the credit, we are grateful that the catholic community respond by pooling their resources and energy together to build a church.

By 1845 the number of church members had grown. The oldest document in the Parish Records is the "Rechnung Buch 1845-1875" which indicates the original twenty families numerically as follows: 1. Peter Laux; 2. Heinrich Schwarz; 3. Peter Schneider; 4. Mathias Schuller; 5. Johan Schuller; 6. Nichlaus Linnert; 7. Wilhelm Eiten; 8. Johan Laubenthal Jr; 9. Anton Kalz; 10. Johan Diedrich; 11. Johan Muller; 12. Joseph Tomas; 13. Jodokus Otto Jr; 14. Nichlaus Tannen; 15. Nichlaus Rothgeri; 16. Peter Rothgeri; 17. Peter Uhrig; 18. Widow Kelling; 19. Christian Merz; 20. Nichlaus Burkert. This list does differ somewhat from those contained in history books written around 1879. The reader must be made aware that church documents will always take precedence over commercially written material. In no way does this diminish the contributions made by the fine German families who joined the parish in the next few years following its establishment.

The Log Church

It was around 1845 that an acre of land was purchased from Aaron Root on the northwest corner of Conrad and Bennett Roads, the site of the present brick church. During this period in history the road we now call Highway 611 or Colorado Road was then known as "Conrad Road", and what we now call Abbe Road was then known as "Bennett Road". It was upon this site that the first church was built consisting of a log building measuring 24 X 30 feet. It is recorded in parish records that the first mass to be held in this church was performed in conjunction with its dedication on June 2, 1846 by Father McLaughlin. The first Trustees of St. Teresa's Church were Johan Muller, Christian Merz, Peter Laux and Peter Schneider.

At this point in time, the Precious Blood Father that traveled to service the parish was Father Jacob Ringele. In 1847, Father Brunner joined his order with the newly established Diocese of Cleveland. Bishop Amadeus Rappe was appointed as the first bishop of Cleveland. Even though Father Ringele was transferred to the Diocese of Cleveland, he continued diligently to service St. Teresa's Church. Father Ringele was then succeeded in 1850 by Father Mathias Kreusch.

The Frame Church

By 1851, the parish had outgrown the original log church and made plans to build another one. A new frame church was built on the site of the original log cabin church, and was dedicated with the first mass being celebrated on Christmas Day, December 25, 1852. The church measured 40 X 60 feet and was built at a cost $1,500. Eventually, an additional acre of land was purchased adjacent to the original site and part of the land was used as a cemetery. The parish was attended by the Precious Blood Fathers as a mission from Immaculate Conception Parish of French Creek (now Avon).

The Mission Priests

Father Kreusch was succeeded in 1851 by Father Peter Weber. His successor was Father John Van den Broeck in 1853. In 1854, Father Ringele returned to provide services to St. Teresa's Church once again, but was replaced by Father Englebert Raff in 1855. The year 1856 saw the return of Father Mathias Kreusch who remained as the pastor until 1858. It has been written that Father Kreusch became very fond of exceptionally long sermons, and would often wake up his congregation by tinkling a small bell. This is the point in history that must be marked as the end of the mission services provided by the Precious Blood Fathers.

The Diocesan Priests

For the next several decades there was a steady procession of priests from the Diocese of Cleveland moving into and out of the parish. Several of these diocesan priests served at St. Teresa's Church on more than one occasion. The first to serve in this capacity was Father Anton Kramer who came to the parish in 1858 to replace Father Kreusch. Father Amadeus Dambach, who was born in Baden, Germany, succeeded Father Kramer later that same year until he was replaced in 1860 by Father Eusebius Henzler.

Next came Father J.M. Roetzer in 1861, who was quickly succeeded in 1862 by Father Nicholas Schmitz. Father Schmitz remained the pastor from 1862 until 1870. His successor in 1870 was Father Charles Barbier who only remained at St. Teresa's for a few months. Later that same year Father Barbier was replaced by Father Nicholas Hammang who remained pastor from 1870 until 1874. The new pastor from 1874 to 1876 was Father Jacob Heidegger. During this same time-frame, Father Dambach was serving as the pastor at St. Mary's in Avon. To fill the void left by Father Heidegger's departure, Father Dambach also provided services to St. Teresa's as a mission. By 1881 there were approximately 55 families in the parish and the church property was valued at $4,000.

The First Permanent Pastor

In 1881, Father Dambach left St. Mary's Church and returned as the first permanently appointed pastor of St. Teresa's Church. He was succeeded in August 1883 by Father Dominic Zinsmayer, who was also born in Baden, Germany, and remained in charge until 1895. During the pastorate of Father Zinsmayer, two fine bells were purchased in 1886 at a cost of $282, and the Church and Priest House were renovated.

The First Bells Of St. Teresa's Church

It has been recorded that Father Zinsmayer purchased two bells in 1885 from the Hy Stuckstede Bell and Foundry Company, St,Louis, Missouri. The smaller bell weighed approximately 184 pounds and the larger bell weighed approximately 800 pounds. A larger bell weighing approximately 1350 pounds was later purchased and blessed on February 1, 1886.

The First Statues Of St. Teresa's Church

The first known statues to be displayed at St. Teresa's Church were statues of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St.vJoseph. These beautiful statues were made in Raffl, France, and were donated to the parish by Father Zinsmayer in 1885. To give the new statues a suitable place to be displayed, two Side Altars with plain Gothic niches were purchased from the Faulhaber Company of Cleveland and erected by Mr. Horstmann.