Historical Markers
Rev. John J. Curran Historical Marker
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Rev. John J. Curran

Poconos / Endless Mountains


Marker Location:
Holy Savior Church, 43 Penn Street, Wilkes-Barre

Dedication Date:
April 22, 1995

Behind the Marker

Three men. One standing and two seated.
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John L. Lewis, Thomas Kennerly, and Monsignor John J. Curran (left to right),...
Reverend John J. Curran played a unique role in the great Anthracite Strike of 1902. He was on intimate terms with John Mitchell, the charismatic leader of the United Mine Workers, and Theodore Roosevelt, the increasingly impatient president. The Wilkes-Barre priest provided spiritual support and friendship to Mitchell during the pressure filled months of the markerstrike, and conducted many meetings at Wilkes-Barre's Holy Saviour Church Hall.
Oil on canvas of a bearded man, seated and wearing a suit.
George Frederick Baer, by John Colin Forbes, 1911.

Impressively, Curran also earned the trust of President Theodore Roosevelt during this tense period. "I grew to know and trust and believe in him," recalled Roosevelt, and named Curran, "the man who helped me most." He wrote that the priest "was not only my stanch [sic] friend, but one of the men by whose advice and counsel I profited most in matters affecting the welfare of the miners and their families." President Roosevelt called upon Curran thereafter for advice in labor disputes.

One of the ways that Father Curran "championed the workers' cause" during the Strike of 1902, was by publicizing a shocking letter from George F. Baer, the head of the Philadelphia and Reading Coal and Iron Co. and an opponent of any negotiations with organized labor. Baer had received a note from a Wilkes-Barre resident lecturing him about his religious obligation to end the strike.

Annoyed, Baer responded by claiming that "the laboring man" would not be protected by "labor agitators" but rather "by Christian men to whom G-d in his infinite wisdom has given the control of the property interests ..." Curran received a copy of the letter and read it from the pulpit, denouncing the arrogance of the industrial baron. His audience and colliery workers throughout the region agreed.

Known locally and nationally as the Labor Priest, Father Curran was a social activist for the mine workers and the poor in general. He died at the age of 77 in 1936.
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