Some residents of St. Marys may think that the present St. Marys is a cumulative result of three distinct economic eras. The first era was not really an economic era, rather it began as a spiritual movement driven by a quest for freedom that witnessed the formation, in 1842, of a predominantly Bavarian Catholic farming commune.
In that year, a band of German Catholic immigrants composed of 15 families from Baltimore, and four families from Philadelphia settled on a 30,000 acre tract of wilderness that had been purchased from the Fox Land Company by the German Catholic Brotherhood of Philadelphia and Baltimore for $.75 an acre. St. Marys historians Charles Schaut and A.C. Brehm speculate that these early settlers came to northwestern Pennsylvania in an effort to escape the religious persecution that was emerging in the eastern cities; that they were seeking a communal experience where they were free to practice their German heritage and their Roman Catholic religion free from the influence of the Eastern Yankee society. After the official founding on December 8, 1842, what followed was a European migration, primarily Bavarian, but also including immigrants from Prussia, Baden, Hesse, Nassau, France, Wurttemberg, and Bohemia. By 1860, Saint Marys had a population of nearly 2,000 people. Basic industries were beginning to emerge and the railroad was about to become a reality which would mean that the village would almost certainly survive.