WAYLAND — The Wayland Area Historical Society welcomed German Historian Roland Geiger to the area.
On June 3 the society hosted Geiger to talk about St. Wendel, Sandy Hill, Sacred Heart Church, and Perkinsville.
Geiger is from St. Wendel, Germany and has been fascinated by the German Heritage in this area. The Geigers live in a home built in 1656. Geiger said everything in Germany is a bit older.
Trier is the oldest part of Germany and it was founded in 16 B.C. There is a building called the Black Gate that still stands after 2,000 years.
“I am fascinated that people would leave someplace familiar to them and go settle somewhere new,” he said. “I have been fascinated by New York State.”
Geiger said that people from Germany made the trip across the choppy seas to this lush and wild land in the early 1800s. It all starts with St. Wendelin who made such an impact in this community with the Catholic faith.
Saint Wendelin of Trier is entombed in the St. Wendel Basilica, which was built in 1463. The saints grave is behind the 15th Century High Altar in the beautiful church. Every October for a week the coffin is opened to be viewed.
“We don’t need any proof of the legend when it comes to St. Wedelin. We all have our faith, and that is all we need,” Geiger said. “They took out one of his ribs, and cut it up into small pieces. These relics were sent all over the world. One of them ended up here in Sacred Heart Church.”
Geiger came down to Dansville in 1997 for the first time to visit with friends. Once he found out about Perkinsville, Sacred Heart, and the Stone Cross his interest grew in our small part of the world.
“I came down to Perkinsville for the first time in 2001, and I was very interested in seeing what was there so long ago,” he said. “We saw the Sacred Heart Church and the large cross at the altar, but it was the St. Wendel relic behind the glass that was the most interesting.”
“I felt so much at home here, and so far away from it at the same time,” Geiger continued. “My story really begins here. I noticed there was a Men’s Society Club called St. Wendelinus long ago in Perkinsville.”
There was a big welcome party and parade in Dansville in 1915 to honor the German Immigration, Catholic faith, and St. Wendel. The entire sermon was done in German.
Benjamin Perkins settled the land in Perkinsville and built a saw mill in the middle of the lush land. It would eventually be called Perkinsville after him.
Of course many Germans settled on Sandy Hill, and the beautiful log church was built there to honor the German Catholic community. John Brail was among the first to settle on that hill.
The log church on Sandy Hill was built on May 22, 1843. It was called the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary. People began to settle in the area from Germany in 1832.
Geiger talked about the horrible Cholera epidemic that swept through the new settlement, and destroyed whole families that now rest on Greenlawn Cemetery.
“The parishioners would walk a great distance or go by horseback to worship on the hill,” he said. “Most of the reports from that time are in German or Latin.”
The church would burn down, and with it would go the hopes and dreams of many of the settlers. The Sacred Heart Church would be the shining beacon of hope to the Catholic Community. A wooden cross marked the site of the first log church on the hill, but in 1949 it was replaced by a stone cross that still stands on Acomb Road.
Rev. Vincent Scheffels was instrumental in making Sacred Heart Church come to life in Perkinsville. He really turned it into a German community. Rev. Alois Huber would be instrumental in bring a piece of St. Wedelin to Perkinsville in 1902.