The City of St. Marys incorporated in 1994, the result of a consolidation of the former Borough of St. Marys and the Township of Benzinger. The consolidation effort has sparked considerable interest throughout Pennsylvania, as other communities have investigated this process to provide more efficient services and improve the long-term planning and implementation of government operations.
St. Marys is the largest third-class city in Pennsylvania by land mass, covering nearly 95 square miles and containing about 80 miles of local public roads. The 1990 Census listed the population of St. Marys as 14,202 residents.
The City operates under a Council-Manager form of government established by a Home Rule Charter adopted by popular vote in 1992. City Council consists of five members, elected at large to four-year terms. An appointed Manager is the chief executive and administrative officer of the City.
The City maintains a full-time police force and a modern volunteer fire department. The City also provides recreational facilities and programs, street maintenance, code enforcement, planning and grantsmanship services.
The City also operates the Wastewater Treatment Plant, which provides sewer service to 4,571 residential, commercial, and industrial customers. In addition, several City authorities operate public water facilities, redevelopment programs, the St. Marys Airport, and the Bavarian Hills Golf Course.
The History of St. Marys
Early in 1842, a group of German Bavarian Catholics, known as the German Catholic Brotherhood of Philadelphia and Baltimore, organized for the purpose of forming a colony that would be free from religious and racial persecution. The group purchased a 30,000 acre tract in the Shippen District at a price of $.75 per acre and on December 8 of that same year the new settlement was named Sanct Marien Stadt (St. Marys) in honor of the Blessed Mother.
A few years after settling in St. Marys, a deeply religious man named Decker fell from a tree in his orchard and injured his back. He vowed to build and maintain a chapel if the injury healed, and in the course of a year or two he had recuperated enough to fulfill his promise and The Little Chapel was built. It was completed in about 1856, shortly before Decker’s son Michael was ordained as a priest. Decker’s Chapel has been called the smallest church in the United States. Its visitors’ book includes names from throughout the country and the world.
St. Joseph’s Convent
St. Joseph’s Convent is the oldest Benedictine women’s community in the United States. The Sisters served critical needs in the early years of St. Marys and continue their service today, while maintaining monastic traditions. The convent was founded in 1852 and is the motherhouse for the order throughout the nation.