Tag Archives: Maryland to Kentucky Pioneers

St. Charles Church To Celebrate 225 Years

This article is a year old, St. Charles celebrated its 226th year last month.  But I thought it interesting since it included the history of the church.  This was my home parish for many years.  I was organist for most of the years I was there – beginning at the age of 15.  In 1986 when St. Charles was 200 years old I was invited back to play for the special Mass held for the occasion.  Since so many were expected, the Mass was held outdoors, beside the church.  There was a large raised stage for the altar with folding chairs fanning out in all directions – even into the adjoining cemetery.  The choir had practiced special music, including “The Bells of St. Mary’s” in honor of the name of the community – St. Mary, Kentucky – and the seminary of the same name that was just a mile or two up the road.  A large dinner was prepared and waiting for all there.

Many of the parishioners of St. Charles parish are descendants of Catholic pioneers from Maryland – primarily St. Mary’s County and Charles County.  I can trace my roots, several of my lines, back to Maryland!  Most of the Marylanders settled in Marion, Washington and Nelson Counties.  At the very beginning there was no church building.  Mass was said in people’s homes – which happened every few months or so.  The first church was built of logs, the building of which was overseen by Father Charles Nerinx, who was the first resident pastor of St. Charles Church from 1805 to 1824.  The first brick church was built in 1829, and the present-day church in 1906.

(The photos are mine, taken March 26, 2009.)

John Cissell, born December 18, 1794, died July 3, 1865

from The Record, Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky

October 13, 2011

Historic parish in St. Mary, Ky., will hold celebration Oct. 16

by Marnie McAllister

St. Charles Church sits on a hill surrounded by a rambling parish cemetery in the Marion County countryside near Loretto, Kentucky, just a field away from the original site of the first Sisters of Loretto community.

It’s the second-oldest parish West of the Allegheny Mountains and will celebrate it’s 225th anniversary on Sunday, Oct. 16.  St. Charles was established in St. Mary a year after Holy Cross Church was formed in 1785 at Holy Cross, Kentucky.

Parishioners will mark the anniversary with the help of Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, who will preside at the celebration.  It will begin with a musical prelude and a presentation of church history at 10:15 a.m.  The liturgy will begin at 10:45 a.m. to be followed by a luncheon on the parish grounds.

St. Charles is old to be sure; but it’s not an aging parish.  It has an active parish council, well-kept buildings and grounds and an active congregation – 254-families strong – that’s deeply connected to the parish’s roots.

John Lancaster, born in Charles County, Maryland, 1767, died 1835. His wife, Catherine Lancaster

Because the parish’s roots are so deep and because so many of the nearby Catholic churches were carved out of St. Charles parish, the church is expecting a large crowd for the anniversary – up to 1,200 people.

St. Charles Church figures prominently in Kentucky’s Catholic history.  When the Sisters of Loretto formed in 1812, they lived in a small cabin a field away from St. Charles.  They trudged across the field to attend Mass at the parish.

The parish also lies just up the road from the now-closed but once auspicious St. Mary’s College and  Seminary.  A host of priests for the Archdiocese of Louisville – and for dioceses around the nation – were educated there.  So were several Kentucky governors and some U.S. congressmen and senators, said Father Clyde Crews, historian for the Archdiocese of Louisville.

The college was a testament to the high value St. Charles parishioners – and other area Catholics – placed on education, he noted.  The parish, he said, is a “treasured place in Kentucky’s history.”

“This is going to be perhaps the most documented celebration the parish has had,” said Michael Cecil, a member of the parish council and of the anniversary committee.  “We’re going to have a DVD and a pictoral history  And we may plan a historic memorial garden to memorialize the people buried there.

“We have to remember our ancestors,” he noted.  “You tend to forget about them.  And we’ve got to preserve (the history of the parish) for the future generations.”

Searching through baptismal records, written in Latin, for the name of my ancestor, Ellen Lyons Smith. She is buried in St. Charles Cemetery, died 1859, but the stone was broken and removed.

Maryland to Kentucky Genealogy Convention

Marion County, Kentucky 1996

The Maryland-Kentucky Catholic Reunion, was held June 28-30, 1996, at St. Charles parish hall in St. Mary, Kentucky.  My birthday weekend.  Our very first genealogy convention of any kind.  What a blast!  I met so many people – most of whom had been researching far longer than I.  I still have my name badge with my eight families displayed – Montgomery, Dillehay, O’Bryan, Smith, Carrico, Gates, Spalding and Yates.  The ancestors from all these families made the trek from Maryland to Kentucky in the last few years of the 18th century.  These pioneers came to the counties of Marion, Nelson and Washington in Kentucky.  Most of my ancestors came from Charles County and St. Mary’s County in Maryland.

Since it was our first convention, and Ritchey didn’t know as much about the family lines, I worried he may get bored.  How wrong that proved to be!  Registration started at 9:00 a.m. on Friday and we were one of the first in line.  He may not have known the family lines at that time, but he can talk to anyone!  They put him to work and he manned the pre-registration table on Friday and Saturday – talking to everyone he came in contact with!  That he does very well!

Friday evening a “Welcome Home to Marion County” reception was held at St. Augustine Parish Gym.  It was hosted by the Lebanon/Marion County Chamber of Commerce.  We were treated to a premiere of a 41-minute video, “Maryland Pioneers at Home in Kentucky”, produced especially for the event.  The tape included beautiful photography of landscape and landmarks, and were available for purchase.

Saturday was another day of research and talking with others about the different families.  The tables were divided into family names and everyone who was researching Carrico’s sat together and shared information.  Of course, people were milling around, staying at one table a few minutes, then going on to their next family.  Thomas Montgomery had boxes and boxes of information on the Montgomery family and I copied everything I could!  He was a goldmine of information for me.  I was able to help several people with their O’Bryan and Linton lines.

Sister Mary Louise Donnelley was there.  I purchased one of her books – William Elder.  There were about 25 vendors that attended.

The event banquet was held Saturday night.  I still remember the food!  I can honestly say (and not with prejudice just because I am originally from Marion County) the food was the best of any convention I’ve attended!  Marion County is the country ham center of Kentucky – their festival being Country Ham Days held the last weekend in September.  So naturally we had country ham, fried chicken, corn pudding, salads, luscious desserts – so much to eat!  Dr. Thomas Clark, the then 93-year-old Kentucky’s Eminent Historian Laureate, was the keynote speaker at the banquet.  He told an appreciative audience that the area known as the Catholic Holy Land, parts of Marion, Washington and Nelson counties, “has never been sufficiently exploited.  There is a certain English charm about it,” he said.

Sunday morning a special Mass was held at St. Charles Church with a luncheon following.  One final time for chats and exchange of information – along with addresses.

I would encourage anyone interested in genealogy to attend a convention – whether it is a local, state or national convention.  Meet people, talk about your families and share information.  You make good friends that will last a lifetime, and generally add a few more branches to your family tree!