In our interviews with the elder residents of Pardeesville, a few things pop up frequently when we ask them about their memories of community life. The cohesiveness of this community is often tied to the social life surrounding the church.
Historical maps of the Italian community at Pardeesville show the first St. Nazarius church, built in about 1884, in the very center of a tight arrangement of houses. Town resident Dominic Matante remembers the church being disassembled in the 1950s, revealing that dynamite boxes made up some of the building materials.
This generation, however, better remembers the new church that was built on the top of the hill overlooking Butler Valley in the 1950s. At the edge of the church property an outdoor shrine was hand-built by residents of the town. From our interviews, residents were proud of this landscape marker, visible from miles away on Route 309 running through Butler Valley. This article, printed on the 4 July 1965 in the Reading Eagle describes the cross as an “imposing sight by day or night.” The article, written before the memorial to the Lattimer Massacre was constructed in nearby Lattimer, suggests that the shrine “would be an appropriate place to honor the miners who lost their lives”. In 1972, a monument to the Massacre was built near the site by representatives of local and national labor.
When the parish was closed by the diocese in 2009, the stations of the cross were donated to the St. Nazarius church in San Nazario, Italy. The remnants of the shrine remain in place where they were built.