- - - Most Pure Heart of Mary Catholic Church - - -

In 1976, Mr. Henry Frankl authored a booklet entitled,
The Building of a Parish - The History of Shelby's Catholic Community.
He has kindly allowed material from his book to be used in this article.
For this, and his many other contributions to our community, we wish to thank him!

In 1841, approximately seven years after James Gamble laid out the first lots in
what was to become the village of Shelby, some residents of this growing community
began attending church services in an old schoolhouse located at the corner of Marvin Ave.
and North Gamble Street. Many of these Catholic worshipers for the past five years had
been attending services at the Shelby Settlement, just a few miles south of Shelby,
where in 1836 their first log church was constructed. It had been dedicated as the
Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church and all those of the Catholic faith in the
surrounding communities were welcome.
In 1865 Fr. Best arrived at the Shelby Settlement and within a short period held
the first Mass in Shelby at the home of Wendell Klees, which was located at
113 West Main Street. In 1866 Fr. Jacob Kuhn arranged to have the first lots
of land purchased for the future Shelby Parish. These lots were previously owned
by Thomas and Rebecca Mickey and David and Angeline Cummins and were located
on Raymond Ave. The deed was signed on March 23, 1866.
The first church was begun and constructed very similar to that previously built in
Crestline in 1861. The first church congregation was said to include the following
families: William N. Bendall, George Boenau, A. Buchmeyer, Timothy Clorin,
John Dalton, Stephen Dillon, John Easly, Stephen Fitzmaurice, Wendell Klees,
Thomas Manning, A. Schill, and John and Michael Whalen.
The cost of building the first church is estimated to have been $800
to $1500. The Shelby Church membership continued to grow and in 1871,
the family of John Malone buried their eleven year old son in what was to
become the present St. Mary's Catholic Cemetery.
In 1876, the Shelby Parish became a permanent entity and the following year,
Fr. F. L. Oberly began the work of further expansion. "The church was repaired
and expanded and a pastor's residence was built. As the parish grew it became
evident that a school was needed." * By December of 1880, there were thirty
seven students beginning classes conducted by one lay teacher.
In 1886 additional land was purchased from Hanna McLaughlin and again in
1887 two additional lots were obtained from Wendell and Josephine Klees.
"The Parish now owned four consecutive lots from West Street east." *
On October 12, 1890 the cornerstone was laid for a brick church that
would cost approximately $10, 000. It was dedicated one year later.
Photo c. 1908

Sacred Heart of Mary Church exterior
Photo c. 1908

Sacred Heart of Mary Church and Parsonage
Photo c. 1908

Sacred Heart of Mary Church interior
In 1903 Fr. M. D. Leahy became the new pastor and made many improvements
to the parish. Included in those improvements was the purchase of a pipe organ.
It was a product of the Votteler-Holtkamp Organ Company in Cleveland, Ohio
which had been established since 1855. They constructed an organ having
two manuals of 61 keys each, 27 pedals and 515 pipes for the price of $1,150.
It was installed and ready for use during the first week of December of 1903. *
In 1910 the cornerstone was laid for a new school that was completed the
following year. The new St. Mary's School was an imposing building, two
stories high with a large basement. It faced Raymond Ave. and had two large
classrooms on each floor. There were two grades taught in each room. At
first there were only outside toilets that became known as "Jake" and Lena". *
Old St. Mary's School

1923 brought the thoughts of a new and larger church structure. Ground was
broken on July 22, 1924 and the existing brick church was demolished to
make room for the new building. On October 12, 1924, exactly 34 years
after the cornerstone laying of the first brick church, ceremonies were held
for the historic occasion of the cornerstone laying of the new structure. The
Daily Globe at that time reported, "It is no doubt a fact, and comes from those
in authority on arrangements of this occasion, that Sunday, October 12 will go
down in history for the Catholic people of Shelby. This most worthy Catholic
ecclesiastical celebration will give much joy in the hearts of St. Mary's
parishioners - - - the new church will not only be a manifestation of the
love of God in this community, but will also carry with it a civic pride
for the community." For a complete account of the construction of this
church building, please refer to Mr. Frankl's detailed work.
On June 15, 1928 the new building was ready for its dedication. On that
day, the Right Reverend Samuel A. Strich, Bishop of the Toledo Diocese,
began the service of dedication. First to be married in the new building
was Bill West and Rose Moore on January 16, 1928. *
Photo c. 1930

The Most Pure Heart of Mary Church - exterior
Courtesy of Henry Frankl

The Most Pure Heart of Mary Church - interior
"In 1969, a new St. Mary's School opened it's doors for the first time. A rather
unique building, incorporating a modern concept in school architecture, it
became the pride of the Parish. Each classroom is an individual unit with it's
own entrances from Raymond Ave. and exits on the courtyard. *
St. Mary's School
St. Mary's Parish School exterior

School Lobby

Old Hayes School, located at the corner of Sharon and Raymond Ave., had been
used by the Parish since 1954 when the Shelby Board of Education vacated
it for a newly constructed building. In 1971 the old school had outlived its
usefulness, was torn down, and the lot was used for church parking.
In 1976, the year of America's bicentennial, was also the centennial year for
the Most Pure Heart of Mary Parish, as it was the year 1876 that Shelby's
Catholic community received it's first resident pastor. The year started with
a new principal for the St. Mary's School and the enrollment was near 280
students. From the original thirteen families, the church had grown
to having 2880 souls within it's boundaries. This was truly a sign of
forward progress for Shelby's Catholic Most Pure Heart of Mary Parish.

Further inquiries about the Parish or Tours may be directed to the Parish
office during office hours at 419-347-2381

* The Building of a Parish - The History of Shelby's Catholic Community - Heinz B. Frankl.
(Copies are available at the parish office for $7.00)


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