St John the Baptist Church had its origin in October, 1911 in what was then called Rhone, PA. Its humble beginning originated with a group of some eleven families and a few individuals who immigrated here from Poland and Slovakia. Faced with an enormous task, they began with the purchase of a double block home on the corner of Front and Welles St. This home was then moved to the back and was used as a rectory while the church was being built in the front. The first service was celebrated by Fr. John Kivko, who was succeded by the first permanent pastor, Rev. A. Salanka.
Fr. John Kivko, was born and raised in Mt. Carmel where he attended local schools after which he graduated from Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA and Russian Orthodox Seminary, Tenafly, NJ. He married Lubov Tutsky and had one daughter, Dorothy. He was ordained in 1937 in New York City. He served as pastor of the Holy Ghost Russian Orthodox Church in Bridgeport, Connecticut for decades and also served as a dean and on many Orthodox related committees. In addition, he chaired the Orthodox Military Chaplains Committee and was a Trustee of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary.
In 1918, the Iconostas, the interior of the church and the icons were completed. There have been numerous improvements to the church, including remodelings, additions, and a new parish rectory, all resulting from the hard work and dedication of the parishioners and pastors through the years.
Fr. Andrew S. Slepecky (ca. 1921-1929) is also shown in this picture of St. John's and faithful.
In the photo to the right sit Peter and Julia Wanchisen surrounded by eleven of their thirteen children in approximately 1918. St. John's parish had existed at that point for seven years and this due in large part to the hard and dedicated work of people such as Peter and Julia. Emmigrating to the USA from Slovakia, then Austro-Hungary, the Wanchisen's brought with them a strong and enduring faith in Jesus Christ and a dedication and true grit that would stand them in good stead in the new world.
Peter and Julia, in addition to housing themselves and their thirteen children in the same tiny 2 bedroom home in Lower Askam, Hanover Township, were also the gracious hosts to many boarders and other family members who got their start in a new land by the generosity and hospitality of these two extraordinary individuals. They thought nothing of housing family from the old country while they got themselves established here. Peter's name is immortalized in one of the stately bronze bells which sound out across the village from the belfry atop the entrance to our temple. These bells were installed in 1912 (Click Here to see more info on our bells).
On November 19th 2009, we sang memory eternal for Theresa (Wanchisen) Klos (shown here between her parents) who was the last surviving of the Wanchisen children. She was 94 and a pillar of this community and her absence is heavy in our hearts. May their memory be eternal!
The nondescript shack in the clearing in this photograph may not look like much to the untrained, uninformed casual eye, but it holds tremendous nostalgic value for the many members of St. John's and many other residents of the Hanover Section who remember it well. Many folks even owe their marriages to the "Gulch", meeting and falling in love with each other at one of the many dances held here over the years. The "Gulch" is now only a memory, having been replaced about 50 years ago or so by a small subsection of new homes, but it lives on in the many, many stories people still love to tell.
In its heyday, 5 cents would get you an evening of music, dancing, and plenty to eat and drink. The place had no running water, no bathroom facilities, nothing but the promise of a great evening out. The phonograph was brought in and set up for dancing, the dishes were all brought in from the Church and hauled back again to be washed at the end of the evening. The grill was outside and produced an endless supply of hamburgers and hot dogs. A good place indeed to be found with your sweetheart on your arm, love in the air and Big Band tunes in the background.