Saint Joseph’s History


We may trace our history back more than 100 years. The deed for the church property indicates Bishop Tuigg (of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, which this area was part of) purchased it from the direct heirs of John Bell on February 23, 1884, for one hundred dollars. Construction of the original Church was begun, but came to a halt soon after, due to lack of funds and fewness of Catholics in the area. In 1890, Father Edward Bush, a Rector of St. John’s Church (Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament) resumed the task of constructing the church in Bellwood, one of his mission charges. The cornerstone of the original church was laid on August 17, 1890. Priests from St. John’s, Holy Rosary, and St. Matthew’s attended to the needs of St. Joseph’s parishioners until the first resident pastor, Father Joseph Howard, took over.

On Easter Sunday, April 20, 1919, Mass was offered by Father Charles Haley. The evening of that same Easter Sunday, the  church  was  completely gutted by fire except for  the Statue  of  the Sacred Heart, which remained intact and is now encased in a beautiful shrine on the Andrew Moser farm in Riggles Gap.

Father Haley immediately led the parishioners in the task of building a new house of worship. Between the devastating fire and the erection  of  the  new church, the congregation met for worship at St. Anastasia Hall on Main Street, Bellwood, known by some as “The Italian Hall”, now the Grange Hall.

The new St. Joseph’s Church was dedicated on Sunday, November 28, 1920. It was during Father McConnell’s service that Father Raymond Crosser, the first Priestly Vocation from the parish was ordained.

In March of 1952 the Angelus Bell was blessed and dedicated. No bell had rung at St. Joseph’s since the fire on Easter Sunday, 1919.

In 1956, Father Anthony O’Toole’s first Pastoral act was to schedule two masses on Sunday, 7:30 am and 11:30 am. In September 1957, a small bus was purchased to transport children to Holy Rosary Parochial School in Juniata. In November of 1958, Father O’Toole launched a renovation campaign to raise money to make the necessary repairs on the church and hall. The campaign was a huge success. In 1960, St. Joseph’s active membership was 130 families with 146 grade school children under religious instruction and 32 in high school level.