Back in 1853, the folk who lived atop German Hill had desired to build their own church rather than climb down the cliffs, cross the river, and climb the hill on the other side to attend St. Bernard's. Too many Irish there, anyway. So they built a church atop German Hill: white-washed brick with a steeple in front. The church was dedicated by the fourth bishop of Philadelphia, Rev. John Neumann, who was one of two saints associated with the parish. (The other was Dorothy Day, who established a Catholic Workers farm on Morgan's Hill.)
But by 1885, the old white-washed brick church was too small for the German congregation. During the funeral of Fr. John B. Frisch, the seventh pastor, people had knelt in the grass outside all day, in the pouring rain. Though perhaps this was as much a tribute to the greatness of the man as to the smallness of the building. A new church was built on the same site.
This was the life's work of Fr. James Regnery, 13th pastor of St. Joseph. He found the church nearly in ruins, the school inadequate and the sisters’ residence in poor condition. Also, he was confronted by a debt of $11,000 – and this was in 1885 gold dollars! “Being fitted by nature and grace as a genius of finance,” Fr. Regnery was equal to the task and liquidated the debt, refurbished the convent to provide bright and cheery quarters for the sisters, and then turned his attention to the church building.
|The Second Church|
The new church was in the same general style as the first, and indeed of most churches in the U.S: a simple box with a steeple in the front center. It was a red brick structure and measured 60 feet front by 142 feet deep. The steeple was 140 feet high and was surmounted by a 12-foot copper cross. The west end of the building was used as a school by the Sisters of St. Francis. In the basement of the church was a spacious chapel and “amusement hall.” In the steeple were mounted three large bells.
APRIL 15, 1894, Archbishop Patrick John Ryan blessed the new church, which the Easton Daily Express called “one of one of the finest, if not the finest, churches of God in the ” and in the History of Northampton County, we read, “It was the admiration of Lehigh Valley , and young and old speak enthusiastically of its interior beauty and impressiveness.” The interior, in the somewhat overwrought style of the times looked like this: Easton
|Interior of the Second Church|
All of which leads up to This Day In History.
THE GREAT FIRE.
Fr. Regnery, broken in spirit, was reassigned to Philadelphia, where he died a few years later. The parishioners and the new pastor, Fr. Albert Korves, set to work immediately and the cornerstone was laid for a third church building. This was a double-turreted building of Stockton granite, with German-made stained glass windows portraying the life of St. Joseph.
|The Third Church|
The body of Fr. Regnery was brought back to where his heart had always remained and he was buried in the cemetery beside the church.
The new church was dedicated in 1918, lacking only her stained glass windows, which had languished in Munich due to the war. They would be installed in 1920. Finally, in 1927, two more bells were added to the bell tower, making a peal of three: St. Agatha, Our Lady of Angels, and the big bell: St. Joseph, Protector, which sound C, G, and E.