Hartshorne Church Decorates Community For 100 Years
HARTSHORNE, Oklahoma - A lot of people know about Tulsa's beautiful churches like First United Methodist and Holy Family Cathedral downtown.
Some lesser-known church buildings in Oklahoma also have their own unique beauty.
There's one in Hartshorne in Pittsburg County, where a small congregation is big on history.
At 85, and long-since retired, Bill O'Nesky still has an important job.
He cares for a beautiful, old church.
His only salary is paid in the sense of satisfaction he gets in seeing the church standing tall for nearly a century.
"A lot of people are surprised to see a church like this out here in the wilderness. Laughs," O'Nesky said.
There's a lot to love about Saints Cyril and Methodius Russian Orthodox Church. It's three domes that represent the holy trinity, distinct crosses with three bars, and stained glass.
O'Nesky also loves the history.
"It's part of us you know, part of our heritage."
Coal created Hartshorne. Many immigrants from Russia and Eastern European nations, like O'Nesky's grandfather, came to the area for a better life.
The church was built in 1917 by a congregation of those immigrants, who outgrew a smaller building.
"That's what built this church is quarters and nickels and dimes and stuff like that," O'Nesky said.
That change built something special.
At one time, 500 people worshipped here.
"People stood all over the place. If somebody fell they wouldn't hit the ground," O'Nesky said with a laugh.
But when the railroads started running on diesel, instead of coal fired steam, Hartshorne lost steam.
"People went away to Pennsylvania and other places, to work," O'Nesky said.
Services are now only held once a month by a visiting priest.
O'Nesky is now the oldest member of a congregation of seven at the church he's attended nearly all his life.
"I was a baby," he said. "Baptized in this church."
Although jobs have taken him across the country, O'Nesky's heart as always been in Hartshorne. And that love lured him back more than 40 years ago.
O'Nesky hopes to see youthful energy at his church once again.
He even longs to hear a baby cry during services.
"Young people," O'Nesky said. "Not old dying people like me."
And he hopes many more will enjoy the beauty and history of the church he loves, as it gets closer each day to 100 years.