Church and Family

    1837 - 1920
   St. Peter Church      St. Bonaventura Church      St. Bonaventura Church      St. Bonaventura Interior

A stream called Lick Run flowed into the Mill Creek at the mouth of a beautiful valley. This valley was wide near the Mill Creek, but became more narrow back between the hills to the west. About 2 miles up the valley (now near Wyoming and Queen City Avenue) was a very small community named Petersburg.

Metz Farm:
In the winter of 1837-8 Maria Eva Rang Metz (the 2nd wife of George Martin Metz) with son Jacob (29 years old), son Joseph (26), and son-in-law Jacob Weiler (about 23, and husband of Maria Elizabeth Metz) purchased 45 acres of land about 1.2 miles west of west of the Petersburg community at the upper end of the Lick Run valley. In 1843 the 45 acre farm was divided into 3 sections of 15 acres each. In the summer of 1847 Jacob and Joseph purchased and additional 22 acres adjoining their property on the south. Jacob and Joseph Metz and their families lived on the farm. Jacob and Maria Elizabeth (Metz) Weiler built a home at 1064 Queen City Ave.

The Catholic Church:
The first church in Cincinnati was St. Peter’s Cathedral located on Sycamore Street in 1822. With the German immigrants increasing in number separate services were held for them in the Cathedral in 1827. In 1833 when they numbered 5,000 souls the new bishop, Right Rev. John B. Purcell decided on a separate parish, Church of the Holy Trinity, for them on West Fifth Street. The third parish in Cincinnati was organized in 1839 when plans were made to transfer the parish on Sycamore to the Jesuits, and build a new cathedral at 8th and Plum Streets. St. Mary’s parish in 1840, and St. John’s in 1844, were German parishes in Over-the-Rhine. Our Lady of Victory in Delhi, St. Jacob’s Church in White Oak in 1844, and St. Peter Church in Pertersburg in 1844 were the only parishes before 1845.

St. Peter’s Church:
From St. Boniventura’s 50 year anniversary book: “ However, as early as 1843, some twenty Catholic families, dairymen men and gardeners in the main, occupied small plots of land northwest of the city proper (now called Lick Run). This small group of fervent Catholics, living in Petersburg, which was at quite a distance from the nearest church, sent a delegation to Archbishop Purcell begging him to establish a church in their village. Admiring the staunch Catholicity of these people, who were willing to make every sacrifice, the Archbishop readily granted their petition. Forthwith, a stone house was kindly offered for tile purpose of a church. It was dedicated in the year 1844 as St. Peter Church. A priest from Holy Trinity Church came out at fixed intervals to say Holy Mass. Evidently it was Father William Untertheimer, O.F.M., the first Franciscan priest, who came to Cincinnati from Tyrol, October 1844.”

“During the week the church building also served as a school. The first teacher was a Mr. Joseph Kessler, student of the seminary, Price Hill, who came to Petersburg at fixed times to teach the children Christian Doctrine and Bible History. The good people were delighted with their little church and school and did all in their power to maintain them. A few years later a house on Branch and Lick Run Roads was arranged for a school. This was a step forward and the loyal band of parishioners received this gift with greatest delight, for they had the welfare and education of their children deeply at heart. Some sixty children now attended the school. In the course of time they erected a separate school building on the property adjoining their church.”

I believe that Jacob and Josepha Metz, Joseph and Josephine Metz, and Jacob and Maria Elizabeth (Metz) Weiler were among the 20 families mentioned above. Jacob and Josepha had 4 children: George (b. 1838), John (b. 1841), and Mary Elizabeth (my great grandmother, b. 1843) and Christina (b. 1848). Jacob’s brother Joseph and his wife Josehine had 7 children. Jacob and Maria Elizabeth (Metz) Weiler had 4 children. All of these children also probably attended St. Peter’s church and school.

Both Josepha Metz (Jacob’s wife who died at age 32) and Maria Elizabeth Metz (Jacob Weiler’s wife, aged 40) died during the Cholera epidemic in 1849. The funerals were probably at St. Peter’s. Jacob Weiler remarried and had 7 children between 1851 and 1869.

Berger Hill:
In February 1865 Mary Elizabeth Metz and John Berger were married (I believe in St. Peter’s Church). Late in 1865 John and Mary bought 8.22 acres of land in Green Township on Lick Run Road (now 2567 Queen City) just 2 parcels east of the Metz Farm where Mary Elizabeth was born. Children: John Leander was born in 1866, and Anna was born in 1868. Both were probably baptized in St. Peter’s.

St. Bonaventura:
In the spring of 1868 the Pastor of St. Peter’s purchased property on Queen City Avenue about a mile east of the present church, nearer the mouth of the valley for a new and larger Church to be named St. Bonaventura.

“The building committee consisted of Father Jacob, William Schorfheide, B. Schneider, J. Metz, M. Gries, B. Merkel, and George Steigerwald. In September of the same year the cornerstone for the new church was laid…A year later , in the fall of 1869, the structures were completed.The cost of the ground and buildings was $50,000”

“The dedication of St. Bonaventura Church sounded the parting knell of St. Peter’s….St. Peter Church is truly the mother of St. Bonaventura Church.”

Family Baptisms, School, Marriages, and Funerals at St. Bonaventura:
George Metz married Justina Rothan in 1864 and they had four sons between 1865 and 1875.
John Metz married Mary Ann Gries and had 11 children between 1868 and 1885.
John and Mary Metz Berger’s family continued to grow with baptisms of George (1871), Amanda (1873), Ottillia (1876), Teresa (1880), Agatha (1884), and Joseph in 1886.
Christine Metz married Jacob Bauer in 1869 and they had 4 children between 1870 and 1878.

John Leander Berger died at the age of 15. I heard he fell through the ice in Lick Run Creek on his was to school. He did not return home for dry clothes, caught Rheumatic Fever, was sick for three months, and died in 1881.
Agatha Berger died when less than a year old in 1885.
George Metz died at age 48 in 1888. George’s wife Justina died in 1916.
Jacob Metz died on Berger Hill at age 87 in 1893. John Berger died on Berger Hill at age 56 in 1894.
John Metz died when almost 58 in 1899. His wife Ann died in 1891.

Amanda Berger married John Eckerle in 1895, and shortly after built the Eckerle home on Berger Hill. They had four children:Viola (b.1986), John (b.1898), Eugene (b.1900), and Adolph (b.1902).
Ottillia (Tillie) Berger married Fred (Fritz) Trefzger in 1899, and moved to Peoria, IL. They had Franz and Herb in Peoria, then moved back to 1966 Queen City Ave in about 1906. Daughter Elsa was born in 1910.
Teresa Berger married Jack Sheblessy in 1905, and built a house at 1966 Queen City Avenue. They had children:
John B. (born on Berger Hill in 1907), Walter (b.1910), Paul (b.1914), and Lucille (b.1918).

In November 1869 the city of Cincinnati annexed Camp Washington and what is now South Fairmount on the west side of the Mill Creek. Westwood wasn’t annexed until 1893.

By the 1890s South Fairmount (the level, open area at the mouth of Lick Run) was growing quite rapidly because the street-cars from down town had reached that area. As a consequence St. Bonaventura was also growing rapidly. The Church became too small and it needed to be enlarged. A transept, large sanctuary and large retaining wall to keep the hill from slipping was added.

By 1907 the parish and school had grown beyond all expectations. The school was much too small. There were classes with 70, 80, and even 90 children. Mr. Jack Sheblessy who had married Teresa Berger was hired to design a new school. In July 1908 ground was broken.

Teresa and Jack’s son John B. Sheblessy was born on Berger Hill in 1907. When the Sheblessy’s new house at 1966 Queen City was finished Aunt Teresa, Uncle Jack and John B. moved into the first floor. Tillie Berger (my grandmother) who had married Fred Trefzger in 1899 and lived in Peoria, came back to Cincinnati and moved into the 2nd floor with their 2 boys, Franz and Herbert. Walter Sheblessy was born in Feb. 1910, and Elsa Trefzger was born in Nov.1910. They lived there for about 5 years until both families needed more space. The Trefzgers moved to Westwood, and the Sheblessys built a new home in Clifton.

“Preparatory to the Golden Jubilee, Father Leonard conferred with the Architect, J. F. Sheblessy, to draw plans for a new portico to replace the unsightly wooden steps in front of the church. Work was begun in June 1917, and completed in October of the same year….Fr. Oderic Lehmkuhle, O.F.M., was reappointed pastor, February, 1919. He at once made extensive preparations for the approaching Golden Jubilee of the church. His aim was to build a new sanctury, for the present one was in unsafe condition. Large rents and cracks ran diagonally across the walls. This was due mainly to the settling of the foundation. Repeatedly these cracks had been repaired, but to no avail. A new sanctuary from the foundation was deemed the only plan to avert the danger of a sudden collapse. Plans were drawn by the able Architect, Mr Sheblessy, and in May, 1919, the walls and the foundation of the old sanctuary were wrecked.”

The Golden Jubilee of St. Bonaventura Church was held on Sunday October 3, 1920. The Sunday evening program combined the St. Bonaventura and St. George Male Choirs. George Martin Berger (John and Mary Elizabeth (Metz) Berger’s son) was the tenor soloist.

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