The Ward Hungarian Church

Hungarian Church Ward West VirginiaThis post hits home for me.  My family includes a number of Hungarian early residents of Ward.  My paternal grandmother, Helen Louise Boka Rider, b. 1920, was the daughter of Joseph Boka and Julia Balint Boka and  my maternal grandmother, Katharine Julia Szasz Kozak, b. 1919, was the daughter of Janos (John) Szasz and Helen Schneider Szasz.  Both grandmothers were born to Hungarian parents at Ward and spent their childhoods in the community. Both families are featured in numerous photos over the years in the Ward Community Reunion books.

The Hungarian Baptist Church congregation was established in 1907 as an effort organized by Charles Steinmetz began meeting in the private homes of the citizens at Ward.  Steinmetz came to the United States in June of that year and 2 months later was invited, along with 92 other Hungarian immigrants, to Ward for work at Kellys Creek Colliery.

The General Manager at Ward, John W. Dawson, quickly arranged for five houses to be built with the stipulation that each home keep up to 16 boarders.

Around 1909 the Ward Hungarian Baptist Church  was hosting Reverend Stephen Orosz about every 3 months to see to needs of the congregation (baptisms, communion, etc.).  He visited the congregation for many years at these intervals from Cleveland, Ohio.

The Steinmetz family returned to Hungary in 1912 for what was intended to be a brief trip for a reunion.  They were unable to return to Ward until 1922 after getting delayed by WWI in Europe. Steinmetz left for good in 1924 and passed away at the ripe old age of 86 November 30th, 1963 in Thousand Palms, California.

The church offered a number of community benefits.  They established a fine Brass Band directed by Steve Matayas and also boasted a wonderful choir.  Steve Boka taught local immigrants the English language as an outreach of the church.  The years after Steinmetz remain largely undocumented.  I hope to find some researchers out there  who own copies of other editions of the Ward Reunion books that may revisit this topic.

Today’s additions to the free file download folder (see the blog role in the right margin) include a couple of photos of the Hungarian Baptist Church of Ward.  One or two photos of sunday school classes for the Ward Community Church, and a few individual photos of Kozaks who resided at Ward (relatives of mine through my grandfather Steve Kozak).

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  1. Paul Ulici

    Would you have an idea about the approximate date of this photo? My grandfather was born there in 1914 and he was part of that church until sometime around 1921-22

  2. Nancy

    My husband’s aunt, Helen Balint, is now 83. She said she lived in Ward from 1936 until 1946 and attended the Hungarian Baptist Church. Her dad was Louis Balint and her brothers were Joe, George, Frank, and Louie. Her sisters were Ruth, Irene, and a half sister named Margaret. Her mom’s maiden name was Mary Lakotos. We stumbled upon your website while she was reminiscing about her years in Ward. She says she lived on a hill where there were many Hungarians. As a result, they called it, “Hungy Hill”.


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