From "Illustrated History of St. Vincent Arch Abbey"

                                                   Now St Vincent's Basilica


Before the church and house were built, the priest would stay with one of the most well-off families of the congregation.  This is a letter from the Rev Lawrence S Phelan in 1795, at what was to be called Sportsman's Hall then St Vincent Church and Basilica at Latrobe, PA, to Bishop Carroll in Baltimore, MD, the first Catholic Bishop in the United States. Rev. Phelan was a circuit priest whose horse had died. The congregation could not afford to give him a replacement so he spent the winter there waiting for the Bishop to send him one.

Your reverence can have no conception of the distress here, even for the necessaries of life,
for really I have not anything like a sufficiency of food, and such as I get is poor and filthy.
Most of the Irish, who, though poor, were by far the most generous, have now quit this
settlement; five or six German families remain, whose chaplain I may call myself, since I
cannot pretend to travel for want of a horse. These people, indeed, abstraction made of
religion, are the last of all mankind for sentiments of humanity. The poorman I live with has not been paid what was promised for my board, and whether he intends it or not, he treats me acordingly. Perhaps he can't help it. Bread is the sole support of his family. Morning, noon, and night, flour and water, or bread and water, with a little burnt grease thrown over is the support of his starved and almost naked large family. Since my arrival the only meat they had was a little pig about twenty or thirty pounds, and a calf ten days old, of which we have eaten this whole week, till it became green and musty for want of salt. When I arrived first, they had about a dozen hens, of which I must have eaten eight, as they still have four . Thus have I spent five months of a most rigorous Lent, that threw me into diarrhea, that, in such wretchedness and cold, made me pass a most penitential winter.

One or two of those French - German Families includes my great-great and great grandfathers who were less well-off than the Kuhn family where the priest lodged.

Dominic E Noel