North Canton St. Paul Catholic School alumni share centennial plaque


NORTHERN TOWNSHIP – History isn’t all facts and figures, according to Doug Wechter. It is a story and a source of pride for a community.

Wechter, vice president of the North Canton Heritage Society and a 1980 graduate of St. Paul’s Catholic School, recently organized a class donation of a centennial plaque to their alma mater.

“It’s kind of marrying my love for history with my love for school,” Wechter said. “I developed lasting friendships from my experience there; two of my best friends were classmates. I have many fond memories. The Class of 1980 is only a fraction of a century plus the students at St. Paul’s Catholic School whose lives have been positively impacted by their time within these walls. My classmates and I are honored to give back to our beloved school.

In 2019, Wechter led the Century Building Plaque program, followed by the first phase of the North Canton Heritage Trail in 2021.

Doug Wechter, Vice President of the North Canton Heritage Society, is shown with a North Canton Heritage Trail Phase I sign on Main Street in central North Canton.

“I believe that history is synonymous with charm,” he said. “The Century Building Plaque program and the North Canton Heritage Trail are just the first two elements of my overall vision to showcase the history of the North Canton. In the future, I envision streetlight banners, a mural , a historic arch and Phases II (2023) and III (2024) of the Heritage Trail to help highlight specific neighborhoods and the overall history of the city of North Canton to enhance its charm.”

St. Paul’s School in North Canton opened in 1919

St. Paul’s Catholic Church at 241 S. Main St. was founded in 1845. The school, at 303 S. Main St., opened on September 8, 1919, under the direction of Reverend Joseph Schmit.

The new school enrolled 100 children under the instruction of the Sisters of Humility of Mary, with the first class graduating in 1921. The nuns served as teachers until 1975.

In the 2000-2001 school year, the school was awarded the National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence.

Current enrollment is approximately 400 from pre-kindergarten to grade 8.

Ann Schwerzler Taylor came from Granite Falls, North Caronlina, for the plaque presentation and to reconnect with her classmates.

“I am forever grateful to my parents for sending me to St Paul’s Catholic School,” Taylor said. “St. Paul’s has helped shape me as an individual and allowed me to grow under the guidance of the Catholic faith. This experience has impacted my life for the past 50 years, since I enrolled at St Paul’s Catholic School in 1971.”

North Canton, originally founded as New Berlin, was officially established on February 19, 1831. The village changed its name in 1918 in response to anti-German sentiment sparked by World War I. Following the formation of a charter, the village of North Canton became a city on January 1, 1962.


“I think historic buildings are aesthetically pleasing,” Wechter said. “They have a lot more character than what has been built in the last 50 years. I also think the stories that come with the story are interesting stories and events. I like it when people say the trail of the Heritage provides them with facts about their city that they never knew.”

Two examples, Wechter said, are Richard Nixon’s visit to the city in 1964 and the story of Jacob Gaskin.

“We remember Jacob Gaskins, a former slave who risked his freedom to be a conductor on the Underground Railroad. We remember a young lawyer named William McKinley giving his first political speech next to the Michael Bitzer’s hotel in what is now Bitzer Park. We look at Zion Lutheran and Reformed Church, which from humble beginnings in 1814 has grown into several congregations that continue to shape local life. And, of course, we recognize William H. “Boss” Hoover, who not only revolutionized the way homes were cleaned, but also influenced the economic, social, intellectual and spiritual growth of the North Township,” he said.

Strong Bonds Between St. Paul Students

Wechter said North Canton is blessed with visible reminders of its past, including the YMCA, public library, Christian community church, Price Park, Heritage Trail and the Hoover neighborhood.

“If you shine a light on the history of your local community, people connect with it more emotionally,” he said. “People are more proud and more likely to support their (community).”

Taylor said she benefited from the small class sizes which helped students form strong bonds.

Taylor said some of her fond memories include phonetics lessons, sports, going to Sherrio’s Bakery for day-old donuts, the playground in the cemetery, hot meal days and a trip to the zoo in Pittsburgh.

“All of those experiences shaped me into the person I am today, and those experiences also influenced my children’s upbringing,” Taylor said. “I will be forever grateful to my parents and to the school and St. Paul’s Church for the solid foundation they provided for my life beyond their walls.”

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