The historically famed City of Wheeling, W. Va., situated on the banks of the beautiful Ohio River, is the birthplace of St. Ladislaus Church.
About the year 1880, when this Valley was a center of steel activity, a small group of Polish immigrants settled here to better their lot. As these immigrants were mainly from West Prussia, they had a knowledge of the German language, therefore their spiritual needs were readily satisfied by becoming; members of and attending St. Alphonsus Church, which was a German Parish, and they did not dream of organizing their own Polish Church at that time.
Sometime later, between the years 1890 and 1900, more Poles began to migrate to Wheeling, lured by the earnings of a better livelihood in the steel mills and coal mines. These latter Poles were chiefly from the partitioned Poland then known as Austrian Poland or Galicia and Russian Poland. They knew no German, or very little if any, and began to feel the need of a priest who could understand their language.
As most of them, had settled in South Wheeling, they were attending the Immaculate Conception Church. They appealed to the then pastor, Rev. Joseph Mullen, later Monsignor Mullen, for some aid. Father Mullen, in a small way, tried to appease them by having Rev. Ladislaus Miskiewicz, then pastor of St. Adalbert's Church in Pittsburgh, Pa., come down for a day or two during the Easter Season so that they could make their Easter duty. This did not satisfy the spiritual emptiness in their lives so they voiced their grievances to Father Miskiewicz, who advised them to begin by organizing themselves into church societies. From this sprang a men's society known as St. Ladislaus, consisting of about thirty members. A short time later a Rev. Father Lipinski of Cincinnati, Ohio, organized a womens' society known as St. Hedwig's.
With these two organizations a new hope opened up for the Poles and they began to collect funds to purchase land for a church. A committee interviewed Bishop Donahue and he graciously promised to do all in his power to aid their plight. Consequently in November, 1901, a young student from the Polish Seminary in Detroit was ordained for the Wheeling diocese. This was no other than our present Pastor, Very Rev. Emil Musial.
Being of a zealous and patriotic nature, Father Musial immediately began his work plowing in the field of his strong faith and nationality.
In the Spring of 1902 the ground was broken for the new Polish Church. In June of the same year the cornerstone was laid and dedicated. On a beautiful sunny, though snow-covered and frosty day, Feburary 22, 1903, St. Ladislaus Church was dedicated by His Excellency the late Most Rev. P. J. Donahue, Bishop of Wheeling. This, at that time, being the first and only Polish Catholic Church in the diocese of Wheeling.
Henceforth the Polish Parish began to grow and before long the need of a school was being felt. This school was finally opened in one large room in the basement of the Church. For a time this school was taught by various lay teachers, sometimes supplanted by Father Musial himself. As this proved unsatisfactory Father Musial requested that Felician Sisters of Detroit take over. At first four Sisters were employed and the classrooms remained in the church basement. As the number of pupils grew from year to year, it became necessary to purchase homes adjoining the church property, which were remodeled into classrooms. In 1920 the present three story building was purchased and remodeled into eight classrooms and an auditorium. At that time the school comprised about 430 pupils with eight teaching Sisters.
As time went on many different groups were organized for the good of the church members, such as Women's Rosary Society, Men's Rosary Society, Blessed Virgin Mary Sodality, Holy Name Society, and a number of others.
With a very few exceptions, practically all the pioneers have passed on to their reward but have left a monument to themselves consisting of a beautiful church, school, rectory and sister's convent -- all debt free.
A look into the records of the Church will show a total of 4,858 Baptisms, 1,412 Marriages and 576 deaths. The very first Baptism to occur in St. Ladislaus Church was that of Ladislaus Januszewski. The first marriage to be performed was between that of Stanislaus Klos and Alexandra Wyzykowska on February 23, 1903.
During World I and World War II, St. Ladislaus contributed its generous quota to all branches of the service, and also many members to the Polish Army in World War I.
In March, 1947, St. Ladislaus received its first Assistant Priest who served until November, 1951. On March 8th, 1952, the present Assistant, Rev. Thaddeus Grondalski, was appointed. He is a very zealous and able Assistant to the Pastor, and in this short time has endeared himself to all.
November 25, 1951 will always remain a memorable date in the history of St. Ladislaus, as on that day we celebrated the Golden Anniversary of our beloved Pastor, Very Rev. Emil Musial's ordination. May he be with us for many more years.
from Golden Jubilee, 1903-1953, St. Ladislaus Church, Wheeling, W. Va.