Recently discovered in the Bullitt County Museum files is a handwritten summary of a "documentary" on the growth of Catholic missions in Bullitt County written by Mrs. Ivy T. McBride. It is not certain yet who wrote this summary, or whether Mrs. McBride's work is still available. While the handwriting is, for the most part, easy to read, there may be some misspelling of names in this transcription due to unfamiliarity with the people named.
For now, this transcription of the summary is presented with the hope that it will be useful. If you know who wrote this summary, or where we might locate Mrs. McBride's work, please contact the Museum.
"The Growth of Catholic Missions in Bullitt County"
(A "documentary" written by Mrs. Ivy T. McBride.)
Prior to the year 1785, there was no organized group or "parish" of Catholics in Kentucky. However, in 1785 (according to the special issue of the "150th Anniversary of Holy Cross" by the Catholic Record, dated Feb. 27, 1936,) twenty-five families from St. Charles, St. Mary's, and St. George Counties in the Catholic Colony of Maryland came down the Ohio River to Limestone (now Maysville) and thence across the state to Goodwin's Station (located between what is now New Haven and Boston) and settled at Holy Cross, near the headwaters of Pottinger's Creek in Nelson County. Within the next seven years (1792) they built the first Catholic Church (of logs) west of the Allegheny Mountains.
Other families followed this same route, choosing for their sites:
At this time, Bishop Carroll of Baltimore (the first Catholic bishop in the U.S.), recognizing the zeal and devout purpose of these "Holy Cross Groups" sent missionary priests (men of exceptional intellectual caliber and leadership) to them. As a result of their activities, Bishop Carroll created in 1808 a new diocese known (at first) as the Diocese of Bardstown and named Rev. Joseph Flaget as its first bishop. This diocese which at first included all of Kentucky and Tennessee, was later (in 1841) transferred to Louisville with headquarters at the Cathedral of the Assumption. Louisville and Colesburg (because of their favorable locations) became the outstanding "centers" from which the early missionaries were sent throughout this large area.
It must be remembered there were no "resident priests" during this Missionary Era (1785-1885, 1900) of approximately 100 years, but, long before any the little mission churches were built, masses were being held frequently, but irregularly in private homes throughout all areas of the county. Due to lack of communications and transportation facilities, the priest were housed when necessary in the homes, particularly in inclement weather. Such homes or meeting places or "havens of refuge" were frequently called "Mission Stations" and when sites were later chosen for the actual building of the first churches, they were usually on or in close proximity to these Stations.
During the first 25 years of the 19th Century, so many Catholic settlements sprang up within what are now Jefferson, Bullitt, Nelson, and Marion Counties that the area became known as the "Heart" or Cradle of Catholicism. Today, we find here such outstanding and nationally known Catholic institutions as Nazareth College, St. Rose Academy, Cathedral of Bardstown, Gethsemani Monastery of the Trappists, Holy Cross Seminary, St. Catherine Junior College, and Academy, St. Mary's College founded in 1812 by the Jesuits.
Mary new counties were being created during the latter part of the eighteenth century, and although the Indians were still "marauding," so many land grants and opportunities were being offered the settlers, that migrations in all directions from these earliest posts or stations began.
Since Bullitt County was created in 1796, from parts of Jefferson and Nelson Counties, it too lay in the path of this early Catholic migration.
Mary Bullitt Countians can trace their ancestry back to these first Catholic families.
It was in 1811 that Joseph Aud, one of these emigrants from Maryland, bought 300 acres of land in Bullitt County from Henry Crist on Rock Run Creek. He had been a pioneer of Nelson County prior to this time.
In an article, written by Sister Mary Philippa (Mary A. Henderson) (Filson Club History Quarterly, Volume 24, Oct. 1950, #4) who was a great, great granddaughter of Joseph Aud, she states that he "deeded ten acres which he called 'Asusmption Hill' adjoining his plantation to the Rt. Rev. Benedict Joseph Flaget, Bishop of Bardstown, for the purpose of providing a site for a Catholic Chapel and a cemetery." This deed, recorded in the Shepherdsville Court House, was signed on May 30, 1814 (Deed Book C, Page 141), price five shillings, but the chapel itself was built in 1812. (From 150th Anniversary of Holy Cross issue of The Record).
This site adjoins the Nelson-Bullitt County line, near Deatsville, Ky., and Sister Philippa has copied from the records in the archives of The Sisters of Loretto, the names of seventy-one persons in this cemetery. She also states that Rev. Charles Nerinckx of Belgium who founded the Sisters of Loretto, negotiated the building of St. John's Chapel and laid out the cemetery adjoining it. The chapel was discontinued long ago, for after the building of St. Gregorys at Samuels, Ky., Nelson County (in 1851) most of the early members left and went there for services. St. Johns was quite isolated and mass was being said only once or twice a year. It was completely dissembled between 1917 and 1924 by Father Joseph McAleer and Leo Smith.
The first priest in charge of St. Johns was the Rev. Guy Ignatius Chabrat, who was also the first priest ordained in Ky. and the West at St. Rose on Dec. 25, 1811 by Bishop Flaget. Succeeding Father Chabrat, the following priests served St. Johns, mainly from Louisville: Rev. Peter Schaeffer, Patrick Kenrick (known as the Prince of American Theologians and who later, in 1830, was consecrated as Archbishop of Baltimore), Robert A. Abell (the Pioneer Priest, 1818-1830), N. J. Perche (from Portland, Old Louisville), afterward made Archbishop of New Orleans.
The following served mainly from the Colesburg mission: Rev. Charles I. Coomes, John O. Barrett, David Russell, John J. Abell, James Edward Hart, John Gastaldi, and Eugene Bertello.
Most of the members at St. Johns (after 1851) attended St. Gregorys (under Father Russell) as a good road made it more easily accessible and services were held regularly.
Among the seventy-one persons recorded as having been buried at St. John's Cemetery, we find the following names: Joseph Aud, Wm. Barclay, Blandford (7), Burch (3), Cecil or Cissell, Dant, Dent (2), Glasser (2), Goldsmith (3), Goodman, Hardy, Hartman, Hamett, Laveley (5), Lutz (2), Magruder (8, one of whom was a teacher at Gethsemani Monastry), Masden (3), Monarch, Mudd (10), Orsbourn, O'Bryan, O'Bryant (3), Shepherd (2), Sheppard. Stars (2), Thompson (4).
During the interim of approximately 150 years, from the building of St. John's Chapel in 1812 to the present time [1968?], there have been nine mission churches established in different parts of Bullitt County, three of which were short-lived, but a brief outline of each is presented here, chronologically:
Priests serving this area in its early history, mainly from Fairfield (Nelson Co), were rev James Elliott, Fathers Callahan, Richard Davis, W. D. Pike, James J. Maloney, Ford, Leo Price, and Ehrlich Stuart.
After 1948, priests from the Shepherdsville area, Rev Bernard McKnoer, Schwabenton, Upaus, Nord. Rev. Henry Vessels was named on Aug 23, 1966 as the first pastor (and resident priest) of the new St. Francis Xavier Church #2.
In 1864 the Catholics in this area purchased a public school building with surrounding grounds for a cemetery which had been donated to the Pitts Point township trustees by Mrs. W. M. Dawson in 1850.
This church and cemetery became a part of the Camp Knox Reservation on June 25, 1918. It has never been occupied nor services held there since the flood of 1937 because of damage to the building. However the government opens the community and cemetery once a year to friends and relatives of those buried there. The church has been completely dissembled by the church authorities. Not a vestige now remains (1968).
Priests who served there were mainly out of Colesburg, Father Havilberg, John O. Barret, John James Abell, Fathers Hart, Fehrenback, Fitzgerald, Gastaldi, and Bertello (up to 1917); then from Louisville, Fathers McAleer, Smith, and Pitt (until 1937). Those families whose members scattered to other parts of Bullitt County, after the government purchased their farms, were the Dawson, French, Greenwell, Hardy, Wise, and Chappell families.
Lot purchased by Bishop McCloskey from Abramm and Pauline Bowman in 1879 (Deed Book W, page 174, Shepherdsville Court House). It was dedicated in 1881, and stood where the home of Mr. Cal Moser now stands. It was completely destroyed by fire in 1920, and all records were burned.
Priests served this parish mainly out of Colesburg: Rev John J. Abell, Edin J. Fitzgerald, S. A. Holloran, Rev Hart, and Gastaldi, and Bertello.
Priest from Louisville, Fathers McAleer and Smith, following Fr. Bertello's death in 1917.
No effort was made to rebuild St. Eugene's. The new St. Aloysius Church #1 (1912) at Shepherdsville drew these and other members, and from all other corners of the county to its doors. The following were among those early St. Eugene's parishioners: the Clay-Bowman family (Mrs Sue Wigginton and Mrs. Mary Catherine Pope were baptized there), Richard B. Wathen family, Mooney family, Cummings family, Abbot family.
This church stood on a large lot about 300 feet north of the old R.R. station, on the west side of the R.R. track, then known as Hubers Station. The frame church was built by a local group of Episcopalians and Presbyterians for the purpose of holding their interdenominational services, according to the deed, (Deed Book 26, page 39, Aug 12, 1884) from J. H. Huber and Henrietta to Geo Wilcox and J. Huber, Trustees for the Immanuel Church for a house of worship and a cemetery.
In less than ten years (during which several weddings were held there) differences arose, services were discontinued, and a mortgage as made, and by action #1248 of Bullitt Circuit Court, this property was ordered sold.
It was sold to Edward Barbour (Deed Book 35, page 549), and finally on Feb 21, 1903 to Rt. Rev. Geo McCloskey (Deed Book 35, page 461). A number of individual Catholics , through individual private donations, contributed to this purpose.
Father Earl Milett from Louisville conducted most of the services at this church now called Church of the Holy Redeemer." The families here consisted mainly of persons owning summer homes in Bullitt County, some of whom were as follows: Mrs. McCormick and sons, the Bohne family, the Schimplas family, the Farman family, Mrs. John Barbour, daughter of Dr. Metcalfe of Louisville and sister of Mrs. John Buckman at Salt River, Ky.
After Fr. Bertello completed his church and rectory at Chapeze in 1909, and was succeeding in accumulating funds for completing his second church in Shepherdsville (1912), he soon arranged for the sale of this Huber property. After his death in 1917, Bishop O'Donaghue completed the sale of the church and lot to Erlyn and R. P. Pettichord in 1917. Fr. Bertello had decided to propagate the name of this short-lived church by naming his own new church in Chapeze, The Church of the Holy Redeemer #2.
This property was later (in 1920) purchased and remodeled as a private residence by Mr. and Mrs. Philip Thompson, and is still standing today as a private residence (Deed Book 48, page 62), occupant unknown.
Father Eugene A. Bertello, of Italian birth, and ordained in Louisville, Ky. (Dec 19, 1908), through the influence of Fathers Raffo, Rock, and Bishop McCloskey, obtained permission to build a church and residence at Chapeze, Ky., then a thriving little village with a promising nucleus of Catholic families living there. He was granted special permission to live and to say mass in the home of Mr. Ben Chapeze during the building interim. Mr. Chapeze had donated the land and lumber for the building purpose, and was also furnished funds by his dear old Italian mother. It was a small, but very lively church within.
Shortly thereafter, however, a general exodus from this community began, due chiefly to the building of a new traffic bridge across Salt River in 1906, also to the closing down of several chief distilleries near Chapeze, and to the removal of the Federal Post Office from Salt River R.R. Station over to Shepherdsville, and the rapid build-up of the new Salt River Village. Father saw the real need for a Catholic church in the county seat of Shepherdsville and began at once to plan and provide for one, which he completed in 1912. Father never built a Rectory however in Shepherdsville, but continued to live at Chapeze, and commuted to his widely scattered little mission churches (Pitts Point, Bardstown Junction, St. John's, the court house at Shepherdsville, and some few private homes. He became a well-known and beloved public figure, riding throughout the county on his little pony "Keno."
After Father Bertello's tragic death on Dec 20, 1917 in an L&N train wreck in Shepherdsville, he was succeeded by Rev. Joseph McAleer until 1920, and thereafter by Rev. Leo Smith until 1924.
On January 28, 1920 there was a damaging fire at Chapeze, but the furnishings were saved, and the damaged building soon repaired. However since St. Aloysius in Shepherdsville was becoming the center of Bullitt County missions, Father Smith dissembled the living quarters and church contents and Chapeze, also at St. John's. Father Pitt, who succeeded Fr. Smith sold the Chapeze building to a private owner in 1942 and it still stands as a private residence.
The following names, now associated with St. Aloysius, were early parishioners at Chapeze: Mrs. John Conniff, Mrs. Elizabeth Chapeze, Eliz. Lewis, Richard Watkins family, Mrs. James Hagan, John R. and Anna Raley, Lem Laswell, and Mr. and Mrs. Ike Mudd.
For many years prior to the building of the first St. Aloysius Church in Shepherdsville (1912), mass was held in the private home of Mrs. John Buckman (at Salt River) and at a skating rink (owned in connection with a store and small restaurant run by Mr. and Mrs. Charles Hatzell) across from the L&N railroad depot in Shepherdsville. The rink burned down in 1903, and thereafter mass was held in the county court house, usually in what is now the County Judge's office, but in cold weather in the tax assessors office, because of the large fire place in this room.
In 1910, Fr. Bertello received the lot upon which his lew little church was to be built, as a donation from Mr. Henry Clay Bowman (father of Mrs. Howard Maraman "Miss Emma" an early active parishioner). A mortgage was taken out to complete the building process, which debt was later assumed by and paid by Mrs. Helen Clay Phelps. The church was dedicated on Sept. 1, 1912, by Rt. Rev. Bishop O'Donaghue.
Under Fr. Bertello's kindly, devoted direction, the parish grew steadily, but after 1918, due to the exodus of many Catholic families from the Pitts Point and Camp Knox area into the Shepherdsville town and surrounding farms, the parish grew rapidly in numbers. After Fr. Bertello's death in 1917, he was succeeded by Rev. Joseph McAleer, then by Rev Leo Smith, and then by Rev. Felix N. Pitt in 1924.
Father Pitt at this time was a young assistant priest, just newly ordained, at the Cathedral of the Assumption in Louisville, Ky.
Under Fr. Pitt, who has since become the Rt. Rev. Monsignor Pitt, masses were regularly celebrated and Sunday School classes became well-organized for the first time. They were taught for about 15 years by Mrs. Addie Troll Harmon, an outstanding leader and teacher, who also established the first Ladies Altar Society in this parish. Under Father Pitt, annual picnics became routine and a building fund was begun for the expansion of the church. Through Father Pitt's close association with the Catholic School Board of Louisville, the Ursuline Sisters took over the classes and also established the Vacation Summer School for this parish. The congregation grew rapidly under Fr. Pitt's able, gentle but firm leadership. His parishioners whom he served so faithfully for 25 years loved him dearly.
Father Pitt never lived in Shepherdsville, but commuted from the Cathedral to Shepherdsville for all his services there. However, he spent many Sundays and took many meals with his parishioners in their homes, took an active part in all civic affairs, gave several addresses before the Womans Club of Bullitt County, also donated many books to the Old Bullitt County library (established by the Womans Club and which was housed for thirty years in the room fitted up for the priest within St. Aloysius church).
Fr. Pitt, after celebrating his Silver Jubilee, and before leaving the Shepherdsville parish in 1949, had paved the way for the building of a new church and rectory for St. Aloysius, and helped in its planning, and had prevailed upon the congregation to buy the property lying adjacent to and behind the old church, from Mr. Lindsey Ridgway in 1946 (Deed Book recorded June 25, 1946 at Shepherdsville Court House).
In November, 1948, Rev. Bernard W. Knoer (who was ordained May 26, 1934) was named as the first resident priest of St. Aloysius parish and was empowered to take over the building operations of the parish. He personally took over the job of tearing down the old Lindsey Ridgway home in Nov 1948. His rectory was completed within a year, and on June 18, 1950, his beautiful new Bedford stone church was dedicated.
Father Knoer was not only a most able, humble servant of God, but was a highly ambitious priest, and a trained and skilled wood-work craftsman. He carved the wood-work cabinets in the church and sacristy himself.
He had plans for a school, but did not have housing for Sisters. On September 26, 1953, a lot adjacent to the church was donated by Mrs. Ivy Troll McBride for building a convent. On August 15, 1954 the convent was completed, furnished and opened to the public, and the Ursuline Sisters installed, and ready for the opening of the first school. Knoer, who had suffered a violent heart attack in 1953, was transferred to St. Charles on September 13, 1954, and thence to the beautiful new St. Thomas More's parish and church in Louisville.
Father Knoer lived to celebrate his 25th Silver Jubilee as a priest, and served one thousand guests at dinner - a glorious event!
On June 21, 1961, Father Knoer while driving his car, evidently suffered another severe heart attack, lost control of his car, ran into a tree, and was instantly killed.
He was succeeded at St. Aloysius by Rev. Adolph J. Schwabenton, who served six years. Under Fr. Schwabenton, the first grade school at St. Aloysius was opened under Sister Guidonia, a most able Sister in charge (8 grades, 4 teachers, 90 children), and was held in the old frame church (which had been moved back of the new stone church) from 1954-1957.
A new brick school was finished and dedicated in 1957 adjacent to the old church, and high school classes were begun under the direction of Sister Francelle (a highly qualified principal who served for six years, 1957-1963) with an enrollment of 186 pupils. By 1966, there were 322 pupils, eleven teachers (seven religious plus four lay teachers, with additional highly qualified special teachers in art, music, physical education under the direction of Sister Joyce, an exceptionally alert, progressive principal, much loved and admired.
However, despite the noteworthy efforts on the part of teachers and pupils and the parish, and the rapid growth of enrollment, St. Aloysius High School department could not reopen in the fall semester of 1966, due primarily to lack of funds with which to equip the school with necessary scientific laboratory facilities, and highly paid teaching personnel so essential in the highly competitive world today.
Rev. Clarence C. Nord succeeded Fr. Schwabenton on August 25, 1960. Under his leadership, the parish and grade school grew so rapidly, it became necessary to add additional classrooms. So the old frame church which had served as a school for three years, and then as a recreation hall, was dismantled and a new brick annex was built on this site (begun June 17, completed September 1963).
This parish now numbers around 1000 members, with 3 masses on Sundays, and the grade school now (in 1969) numbers 237 pupils, with nine teachers (all approved), one special music teacher, and special television education programs.
Father Nord was given the following assistant priests:
Father Nord, having served the parish devotedly and wisely and economically was transferred on June 16, 1968 to St. Martha's Church (Klondike Lane) Louisville, leaving the parish free of all debts, and in first-class condition. He was succeeded on this date by Rev. Jerome S. Moert, who is the present pastor.
Among the early parishioners at the first St. Aloysius were Mr. and Mrs. Philip Henderson and family (Robert and wife "Miss Catherine), Mrs. Howard Maraman and 2 daughters (Susan Wigginton and Mary Catherine Pope), Mrs. Charles Troll and family (Mrs Malcolm Hammon, Mrs. Estile Lane and Mrs. Ivy Troll McBride), Mr. and Mrs. Ike Mudd, Mr. and Mrs. Paul Berry, Mrs. Charles Hatzell and family, Mr. and Mrs. Horace Maraman and daughter Aline, Mrs. Rice Dawson and daughter, Judge Clarence Dawson, Mr. and Mrs Carl Beam, Mrs. John Buckman and family. [Handwriting very small and difficult to read; names may be incorrect.]
This parish had its beginnings as early as 1892, when Rev. Edward J. Hart established a new mission station there and held mass in a private home. In 1906 this mission station was attended by priests from Bardstown Junction, and a temporary church was established in a former one-room school building. In 1907, under Father Guerin, the Catholic congregation purchased the lot on which the school building was situated from the estate of J. L. Thompson and converted the first floor into a church.
By 1920, the congregation had increased rapidly, and by 1938 the Catholic population had grown so large that a permanent new church became imperative. The new church was dedicated July 17, 1938.
For many years, prior to the building of this present church, this parish at Lebanon Junction was a mission under the Venerable and historic St. Clares Church (on Clear Creek in Hardin County) whose highly successful, well-attended missions for approximately one hundred and fifty years (1808-1958) were conducted by priests from the Paulist, Passionist, Franciscan, and Jesuit orders. But the rapid decline of the congregation at Colesburg in the early twentieth century gave rise to the almost simultaneous growth of the Lebanon Junction parish.
Rev. W. J. Hayden was assigned as the first pastor of Lebanon Junction, was followed by Fr. Ritter (who was later to sent to Louisville in 1951). He fitted up a convent in 1945 on the parish property for the Sisters of Charity as teachers, and in 1948 built a small brick school (4 classrooms) which opened with 48 pupils, and was dedicated on November 6, 1949, and was the first parochial school in Bullitt County. Three rooms in the church basement care for any overflow of pupils, approximately 300 in number, offered a full 8 grade curriculum.
In 1951, Rev Roger A Bochmicke was given charge of Colesburg and Lebanon Junction, with residency at Lebanon Junction, so St. Clare became a mission under St. Benedict, which is the present status.
Fr. Bochmicke was transferred to Lebanon in 1968, and was succeeded by Rev. Bernard Hartlage, the present pastor. A list of outstanding families in the Lebanon Junction parish follows: D. Beeler and family, J. Beeler and family, W. A. Beeler and family, A. P. Bowman and family, Charles Brady and family, M H. Brown and family, J. H. Bryan family, J. E. Bryan family, J. L. Dawson family, Leo B. Dawson family, Miss Bertie Hall, Bill Hayden family, George Metcalfe family, Dr. P. J. Murphy family, J. D. Nalley family, Charles Newton family, T. J. Owens family, Virgie Pottinger family, J. B. Sweat family, J. L. Sweat family, J. P. Sweat family, Charles Watkins family, Roy Wise family. [Again handwriting is small and difficult to read; names may be wrong.]
According to Deed Book 100, page 592 (Bullitt County Clerk's office), dated May 17, 1961, a deed was made by Mr. John A. Walser and Richard J. Herrmann for a valuable consideration to Bishop of Louisville (Rt. Rev. John A. Floersh) a corporate sole, a tract of 10.26 acre, more or less.
After the death of Archbishop Floersh, his successor Archbishop McDonough organized a new parish in Maryville, which began worshipping together on Sunday, June 30, 1968 at the "Blue Lick Opry House" on the corner of Blue Lick road and Maryville drive, with Father kenneth Kamber as their present priest.
Until the new church (now being planned) is completed on the 10 acre tract purchased from Mr. Waher, masses will continue to be held at Maryville on Sundays at 8 and 11 a.m. in the "Old Opry House" and on weekdays in the temporary rectory. Two masses are bing held each Sunday to accommodate this very rapidly growing congregation, now estimated at approximately 300 persons.
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