Theodore Roosevelt at the Oneonta
Note: Articles viewed in Adobe PDF format (better for printing and saving) require the Adobe Acrobat Reader. You can get a free copy of the reader by clicking here:
President Theodore Roosevelt (center) celebrates Father John J. Curran's Silver Jubilee in Wilkes-Barre, August 21, 1912. Father Curran is 3rd from left. Roosevelt attended a banquet at the Oneonta Hotel at Harvey's Lake the following day.
at the Oneonta
Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), the twenty-sixth
President of the United States, visited the Wyoming Valley three times between
1905 and 1912. Roosevelt, as Vice-President, succeeded to the White House upon
the assassination of President William McKinley in September 1901 and served as
President until March 1909 (later presidential offices expired in January).
In 1902 the Great Anthracite Strike of coal miners
occurred in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Led by mine union leader John Mitchell from his Wilkes-Barre office, the miners also had the vocal support of Father John J. Curran (1859-1936) then
of Holy Savior Church in the East End of Wilkes-Barre. (In 1919 Father Curran
was transferred to St. Mary’s Church of the Immaculate Conception in central
Wilkes-Barre.) Impressed by the vigor of Curran’s plea for the miners’ cause,
Roosevelt intervened and created a commission which resulted in settlement of
the Great Strike and certain concessions to the miners.
In August 1905, at Curran’s invitation, Roosevelt
travelled by train to the Wilkes-Barre to address a national convention of the
Catholic Total Abstinence Union.
In 1909 Roosevelt left office, succeeded by fellow
Republican William H. Taft. He returned to the Valley on a private tour in
August 1910 as a guest of Father Curran and dined at the Albert Lewis estate at
In August 1912 Roosevelt, who broke with the politics
of Taft, was running as the Bull Moose Party candidate to regain
the White House.
Father J.J. Curran, Jan. 1919.
Collection of F.C. Petrillo
On August 21, 1912, Roosevelt arrived by train to a
crowd of 10,000. The occasion also celebrated Father Curran’s twenty-fifth
anniversary as a priest. Roosevelt was fully-booked including a major speech
at the Armory on South Main Street, Wilkes-Barre, in addition to Curran’s
jubilee events at Holy Savior.
On Thursday, August 22, 1912, at the close of the
jubilee events, the Roosevelt party motored to the Oneonta Hotel at Harvey’s
Lake for a banquet. An edited report of the Oneonta banquet, which appeared in
the Wilkes-Barre Record, the following day, follows:
At the close of the jubilee mass in the church and the
reception which followed at the parochial residence
morning, Father Curran, accompanied by Col. Roosevelt,
Hoban visiting priests and a large number of guests
Harvey’s Lake. The autos obtainable were not
sufficient to carry
all of the guests and two special cars were engaged
traction company and conveyed the remaining number to
At the lake a banquet was served to about 225 people, including the altar boys and the church choir.
Hundreds of cottagers at the summer resort crowded the porches of
theOneonta endeavoring to obtain a glimpse of the
distinguishedassemblage. The dinner was served in the main dining
room.Seated at the table of honor were Theodore Roosevelt, Right Rev. Bishop M.J. Hoban, Monsignor Coffey, Rev.
J.J.Curran, Hon. Peter A. O’Boyle, P.H. Morrissey and Hon.
S.J.Strauss. Roger O’Donnell of this city presided as
toastmaster, and in his witty, humorous introductions, drew the
plaudits of everyone and continual glimpses of the colonel’s
He reviewed the jubilarian’s rise from the mines to
position of unsurpassed prominence in the diocese. He
statedthat there was no one in the valley with more friends,
and thatno one had done more to break down religious barriers
betweenneighbors. He characterized Father Curran’s school of
education as one in which merit is the only key to success and
intellectthe only aristocracy. He introduced as the first
speaker Bishop Hoban.
The bishop spoke of the brotherhood which has characterized Father Curran’s ministry, the affection for
all people ofall creeds, the closeness of the relationship between
him and the members of his flock, and the fellowship which he
entertained for his fellow priests. He recalled the
similar relationship especially prevailing in Ireland, where the priest
forms the medium between the rich and the poor, between trouble
and thehome, between affliction and the family. He closed
with the poem, “Soggarth Aroon,” illustrative of that feeling
of love and respect with which the Irish parishioner regards his
MONSIGNOR EXTENDS GREETINGS
Monsignor Coffee, under whom Father Curran began hispriesthood twenty-five years ago at St. Rose Church in
Carbondale,then spoke expressing his appreciation of his
subordinate’s work as a priest. He stated that he had been watching over
him for a quarter of a century and the impression formed from
the results ofthis observation was that Father Curran had made good.
He ex-tended the greetings of his parish.
Father Fagin of Hazleton, representing the priests of
the Scranton diocese, was then presented, and with
reference to Father Curran’s activity in the cause of total abstinence
stated that “whether he is Prohibitionist, Keystoner or Bull Moose – we
love him still.”The remark invoked a hearty laugh from Col. Roosevelt. Father Louis Haas of St. Vincent’s College the
jubilarian’s alma mater, recalled a friendship which has extended
over thirty years, from the time that he first knew him as a pupil
until the present occasion, when he was celebrating the twenty-fifth
anniversary of his ordination. He stated that even as a
boy Father Curran had shown signs of a leadership and mastery of
men. He brought the felicitations from the president and
faculty of the college, expressing their pride in what had been
achieved by the host in religion and humanity.
Father Trainor, vicar general of Philadelphia,
followed and brought tears of laughter to every eye when he
stated that in representing Philadelphia he might be considered as
being slow, but (turning to Col. Roosevelt) he remarked:
“I leave it to you whether Philadelphia is not more
‘progressive’ than New York.” And the colonel nodded assent. He
extended the greetings of the priests of the archbishopric of
JUDGE STRAUSS SPEAKS
The tribute of S.J. Strauss was to the man who had brought a part of the city from a state of
inefficiency to a place where its people now make themselves felt on the
right side of every public question. He characterized this
citizenship as representative of the influence wrought by Father
Curran. The reputation of this priest he said, was not local,
for no matter how confined his sphere may have been, the fact that
he had done his duty fearlessly, making other people’s
distresses his own, had won for him recognition in places far away. When
he stated that the judges of Luzerne County behaved in fear lest
Father Curran advocate the recall of judges, Col. Roosevelt
whose position upon this matter is a political issue, smiled
inscrutably and applauded with his hands. He closed by saying that
Wilkes-Barre might well be proud of the man whose influence had
achieved so much for temperance, with his only weapon a plea
for temperance on the basis of manhood and self government.
RIGHT KIND OF AMERICANISM
Colonel Theodore Roosevelt, the guest of honor, was
then introduced amid a thunderous applause that continued
for severa lminutes. He arose smiling his acknowledgement. Turning to Bishop Hoban, he spoke of the bishop’s
reference to the relationship existing between the Irish priests
and their parishioners. The verses of Sogarth Aroon, he termed old
favorites, and expressed a belief that they fully described the
feeling that mus texist between Father Curran and his flock.
He was interested also in a reference made to the many nationalities represented not only in Luzerne County,
but in the entire United States, and pointed out that it was well
that all these people could come together, as they did
yesterday, each respecting each other’s habits and ways of thought – and
yet all be straight Americans.
Then to Father Curran he said, that not only was the gathering one, the significance of which was a great
testimony to his worth, but it was significant in the fact that
it was typically American in character. “Of course,” he added,
“we are aware that Americans have shortcomings. I am
occasionally compelled to speak of them. Still there is no other
country so well worthwhile to live in; none where this kind of
gathering would be accepted as a matter of course; where
Catholics, Protestants and Jews gather together to honor a
Catholic priest. We can well be satisfied with Uncle Samuel’s land.” A
gathering of this character he believes solves the problem
of combining friendliest good feeling and tolerance with
fervor; not a tolerance of indifference, but a toleration that is
accompanied with love for those of different faith. This, he
said, was the lesson taught in the gathering. Then turning to Mr.
Morrissey and to Judge Strauss, he remarked, “When you, as a
layman representing the lowly people, and you as a Jew, and
myself as a Protestant, are asked to join in a celebration like
this, it is an object lesson in the right kind of Americanism.
Following the dinner some guests took the Lake trolley
back to Wilkes-Barre. But the trolley jumped the tracks near Luzerne and
nearly tumbled into Toby’s Creek.
Roosevelt returned to his home in New York. At the
time he was embroiled in a congressional inquiry whether Big Oil had provided
him campaign funds in his 1904 election – a charge Roosevelt denied.
Roosevelt lost the 1912 election, but also spoiled the
re-election of W.H. Taft. Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat, was elected President.
In 1918 Roosevelt’s youngest son, Quentin Roosevelt, an American pilot, was
shot down during World War I. Roosevelt’s health was broken due to the loss
and he died on January 6, 1919.
Father Curran served as pastorate of St. Mary’s Church
from 1919 to 1936. He built St. Mary’s impressive Rectory and established
three new parishes: St. Patrick’s in 1920; St. John’s in 1927; and St.
Therese’s in 1929. Pope Pius XI named Father Curran a Monsignor. He died on
November 7, 1936. The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission approved a
State historical marker to Father Curran at the Holy Savior site in 1995.
President Roosevelt’s son, General Theodore Roosevelt,
Jr., received the Congressional Medal of Honor for heroism during the 1944 Utah
Beach D-Day landing of the Battle of Normandy but died of a heart attack during
the War. President Roosevelt had been nominated for the Medal of Honor for his
own bravery in Cuba (the charge up San Juan Hill) during the Spanish-American
War, but he was denied its award – largely for political reasons. On January
16, 2001, President Bill Clinton posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor to
President Theodore Roosevelt.
Copyright 2006-2008 F. Charles Petrillo