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The city of St. Marys is the product of a spritual movement. This movement by a predominately Bavarian Catholic commune began in 1842 and was driven by a quest for freedom from religious persecution.

Fifteen families from Baltimore and four from Philadelphia, all German Catholic immigrants, settled on a 30,000 acre wilderness. The land had been purchased from the Fox Land Co. by the German Catholic Brotherhood of Philadelphia and Baltimore for 75 cents an acre.

St. Marys historians speculate these early settlers came to Northwestern PA in an effort to escape the religious persecution that was emerging in the eastern cities. The settlers were seeking a communal experience where they were free to practice their German heritage and their Roman Catholic religion free from the influence of outside societal forces. The community was officially founded on Dec 8, 1842, the feast of the Immaculate Conception.

The new settlement was named Sanct Marien Stadt in honor of the blessed mother. Following it's founding, the community experienced a European immigration. Immigrants were primarily Bavarian, but immigrants also came from Prussia, Baden, Hesse, Nassau, France, Wurttemberg and Bohemia. By 1860, Saint Marys had a population of nearly 2000 people.

Basic industries began to emerge. The railroad would be invented shortly thereafter. With the hope of the people and the help of the new technology, the village survived and prospered.

In 1960 a collection of St. Marys history was initiated by a local resident, Charlie Schaut. The museum of memories became known as the St. Marys- Benzinger Twp Historical Society. The society started as a non profit organization at 319 Erie Ave, in the lower level of the old Borough Building( now the Fire/ Police station). Today the Historical society complete fills two large floors of its current location at 99 Erie Ave. Currently the Society is open on Tuesdays from 10-4 and Thursdays from 1-4 and 6-8.


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