Biographical Sketches of Leading Citizens
Lawrence County Pennsylvania 1897


[p. 579] pastor of St. Mary's Catholic Church, New Castle, Pa., was born Jan. 3, 1844, in the North of Ireland. In the early part of 1849, he came to America with his parents, who selected the city of Philadelphia, Pa., as the place of their future home in the New World. The subject of this sketch pursued his early education at St. Joseph's College, then a renowned institution of learning in that city. Aspiring to the priesthood, his parents, in 1861, sent him to St. John's University, Frederick City, Md., to begin his ecclesiastical studies, under the guidance of the Jesuit Fathers.

In 1864 the late Civil War assumed gigantic proportions. Frederick City and vicinity became the scene of active strife between the two armies. Three different times did the Confederate flag float over the city and three times was the city reclaimed by the Union troops. In one of these engagements at Frederick Junction, over seven hundred wounded were left on the battle-field, uncared for and without nurses, as all communication had been cut off with Baltimore and Washington. In this emergency, Mr. Gallagher and the other advanced students volunteered their services to care for the sick and wounded, until aid should come from the East or North. For weeks, day and night, these young men labored with heroic zeal, administering to the wants of the wounded, nor would they accept of any remuneration for their services. In their efforts to alleviate the sufferings of others, they overlooked their powers of endurance, impaired their health and many a one contracted a lingering illness which necessitated an interruption of their studies.

Our subject was one of the number. By the advice of his physician he returned to his home in Philadelrohia for rest and medical treatment. After a brief interval, his health having improved, the president of St. Joseph's College offered him a position as teacher of the Classics, which he accepted and filled with success to the entire satisfaction of the faculty of that institution for two years. He then resumed his theological studies at St. Michael's Seminary in Pittsburgh and was ordained priest by Rt. Rev. M. Domenec, D.D., Bishop of Pittsburg diocese, Jan. 11, 1873. His first mission was to Altoona as assistant to the Very Rev. John Tuigg, then the beloved pastor of St. John's congregation, afterwards Bishop of the Pittsburgh diocese. His next appointment was to the pastorate of the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Dudley, Huntingdon Co., Pa. Here he labored with success for over two years.

On the 6th day of February, 1879, he was appointed pastor of St. Mary's Congregation, New Castle, Pa., a position he has acceptably filled up to the present time.


As early as 1831, Catholic priests from Pittsburgh began visiting New Castle, to administer to the spiritual wants of the few scattered Catholic families residing in this vicinity. A Mr. Doran appears to have been the pioneer member of that faith in the county. He died and was buried near New Bedford in the year 1810. Nicholas Brian, who came to America with Gen. Lafayette, a Catholic, and fought under his command during the Revolutionary War, selected the neighborhood of Mt. Jackson as his home, after the cessation of hostilities, and was wont, later, to attend mass at the house of James Mooney, who lived about a mile north of Mt. Jackson, whenever a Catholic priest favored them with a visit. The construction of the Beaver Canal brought a few Catholic families to New Castle and thus formed the nucleus of the present congregation. The following are the names of the Catholic priests who administered to the spiritual wants of the Catholics of New Castle and vicinity:

Rev. Father Rafferty in 1831; Father Garland in 1836; Father Gibbs in 1840; Father McCullough, 1843; Father Reid, 1845; Father Garvey, 1854; Father O'Farrell, 1856; Father Farran, 1860; Father Walsh, 1862; Father Canevin, 1863; Father Hayes, 1871; Father Gallagher, 1879. In 1852 Rev. Father Reid erected a frame church, 20x40 feet, in what is now known as West New Castle. Here the Catholics worshipped until their increased membership called for a more spacious edifice. In 1865 Father Canevin secured the lot on the corner of Beaver and North Streets, from the Crawford estate for $4,000, and began the erection of a $15,000 brick church, 110 by 45 feet. Father Canevin was succeeded by Father Hayes, who completed the building.

About this time New Castle was enjoying a season of prosperity and Father Hayes felt justified in making extensive improvements. He erected a handsome school building, which compares favorably with any of the public schools in the city, at an expense of $8,000; purchased a pastoral residence for $5,500; secured sixty acres of land in Union township for $6,000 for a cemetery. Had the prosperous times continued, doubtless St. Mary's Congregation would have liquidated all these claims, but the panic of 1873 bore heavily on New Castle; the iron works closed down; and Father Hayes saw his parish decimated by the departure of his people seeking employment elsewhere, leaving him and the few who remained on the verge of bankruptcy. When Father Gallagher assumed charge, he found the financial condition of the congregation in a most deplorable state. The cemetery property had been disposed of by the sheriff. The household goods of the pastoral residence had been offered at public sale. The church property was mortgaged almost to its full value. Some of the improvements were paid for by loans, bearing a high rate of interest. Undismayed by these surroundings the new pastor began the task of rescuing the parish from its financial embarrassment. Aided by the generous co-operation of his people and the kind encouragement given him by his non-Catholic friends, after years of toil, he has succeeded in placing the credit of the parish on a higher basis than it had previously occupied.

St. Mary's congregation consisted of one thousand souls when Father Gallagher was appointed pastor. To-day it numbers over three thousand souls, and both pastor and people look forward with pleasing anticipations to the time when a magnificent church edifice shall ornament the beautiful church lot on Beaver and North Streets.

Father Gallagher and a party of 430 tourists visited the Holy Land in 1895, and had a trip extending over three months, and fraught with many pleasant and instructive experiences. Our subject is a genial, whole-souled gentleman, who is sure to create a favorable impression in whatever surroundings he is placed as a true Christian, who thoroughly believes in the Brotherhood of Man. He is a man of much more than ordinary ability and we feel that we are but conservative in attributing the present condition of the Catholic Society and its position among the other religious bodies of Lawrence County, chiefly to his efforts.

Biographical Sketches of Leading Citizens Lawrence County Pennsylvania
Biographical Publishing Company, Buffalo, N.Y., 1897

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