History of St. Joseph Catholic Church
In the 1840’s, the United States was still a young country attracting immigrants from every corner of the earth. In Lancaster County, the German, Swiss, Italian and Irish flocked to the area to escape famine or religious persecution in their homelands.
German and Irish Catholics attended nearby St. Mary’s Church. The non-English speaking Germans, who had begun to out-number the Irish at St. Mary’s, wanted to worship in their native tongue. So, in 1849, they petitioned Bishop Francis Kenrick, of Philadelphia, to organize a German parish in Lancaster. Land on a hill southwest of St. Mary’s was purchased for $260 and construction of a church was started. The street on which the property faced was named Saint Joseph Street at that time.
The first church built for the parish was small, seating about 400. By 1871, a steady stream of German Catholic immigrants had settled in Lancaster and, in 1885, a new, larger church was under construction to accommodate the large congregation.
It is believed the Germans were drawn to the area around the church because it reminded them of the small Bavarian and Hessian villages of their homeland. These immigrants were an important source of labor for nearby mills and factories. Eventually, the area became known as Cabbage Hill because of all the backyard gardens that grew the staple of the German diet.
Today, the liturgy is no longer celebrated in German, and Cabbage Hill is home to a diverse group of nationalities. Many parishioners can still trace their roots to the early days of the parish.