The Little Cities Archive

Shawnee, Ohio

Chapel Hill, Perry County, as a Mission Center 1840-1850

Posted by JRW on October 20, 2010


From the Bulletin of the Catholic Record Society of Columbus

Vol. XVIII, No. 10 Oct. 4: St. Francis of Assisi at Chapel Hill

October, AD. 2003

St. Francis of Assisi at Chapel Hill or Sunday Creek in southeastern Perry County usually is thought of as a simple country parish, founded in1841. However, in the decade of the 1840s it was a mission center. Its three pastors during those years made arduous journeys into Morgan County, southwestern Perry County, and across Athens County to northern Meigs County to bring the life of the Sacraments to the poor farmers of English, Irish; “German, and French descent, along with Irish families on the canal.  The churches attended in addition to St. Francis were: St. Michael at Deavertown, Morgan County (founded 1820); Seven Dolors atChauncey in Athens County (1843); St. Peter on Monday Creek in southwestern Perry County (1844); and St. John the Baptist near Anthony in Athens County (1845). None of these churches now exist.

The pastors on this mission were unremarkable in that they were immigrants like most of their congregations, but were remarkable for their youth and their education. In 1840 Father James McCaffrey, pastor at Marietta, reported a general lack of religious zeal among the Catholics of Deavertown, caused by lack of a resident clergyman. This situation soon was remedied by the arrival of Father Michael Aegidius Olivetti. Born in Italy in 1813, having been selected by Bishop Purcell in Rome, he came to the Diocese of Cincinnati in 1839 from Turin. He was assigned as an assistant priest in Cincinnati. Purcell noted that Father Olivetti knew French but was having difficulty learning English. Nevertheless, Purcell sent him to Chapel Hill in 1840. The educated but inexperienced priest was sent to this difficult mission at the tender age of 27, his knowledge of English probably still inadequate. Father McCaffrey in January of 1844 remarked that Father Olivetti was not “doing much” at Deavertown, Sunday Creek, or Wolf Creek, but it seems that he was active in the local temperance movement. In 1844 he reported 250 communicants: 95 families at Sunday Creek, 25 at Deavertown, 47 at Monday Creek, 20 at Chauncey, and 10 in Meigs County. After four years on this mission he left for the Diocese of Albany, where he served in Whitehall and later in Port Henry, New York. He died on September 10, 1863 at Lake Champlain, N. Y.

Timothy O’Farrell was born in County Longford, ancient home of the O’Farrells, on November 14, 1816 and was brought to America in 1818. He came to Cincinnati and was a professor of Greek for a time. He was ordained by Bishop Purcell on December 22, 1844 and was sent at once to Chapel Hill. His appointment was to be during the “temporary absence” of Father Olivetti, but he remained for three years. Little is known of his time there, except that he, like the other priests, had a laborious task. Bishop Purcell in 1848 remarked that Seven Dolors in Chauncey needed more pastoral attention than could be given it. After leaving Chapel Hill about the Fall of 1848 Farrell served at Steubenville St. Pius for a short time, then was assigned to Christ Church in Fulton (Cincinnati). He then went New York where he served as the pastor of  St. Paul’s Church in Brooklyn.  In 1853 he named founding father of the Church of Visitation. He died in Brooklyn on February 16, 1876. (During his Ohio years, even in his signature in the Chapel Hill records and in the Catholic Telegraph, his name was written Timothy O. Farrell or Timothy Farrell. However, in Brooklyn he consistently used the name Timothy O’Farrell.)

Cornelius Daly, a native of County Corke, was ordained by Bishop Purcell on March 3, 1844. He was assigned to Doylestown in northeastern Ohio and then was assigned as first resident pastor ofAkron and its missions, where he stayed until being moved to Covington, Ky. about 1848. Early in 1849 he was sent to Chapel Hill to replace Father Farrell. He remarked on the relative poverty of his mission. In his first 13 months there, the people contributed less than $150 to his upkeep. In the Winter of 1849/1850 he visited Cincinnati and went “begging” and raised $350 which he used to finish St. Peter church and improve St. Francis and Seven Dolors. His work “heavily taxed strength, body and soul. But the work was well and cheerfully done, in the hope of an eternal recompense.” He was financially embarrassed when two of his sisters arrived in the country from Ireland and looked to him for support. To answer this need, Archbishop Purcell moved him to St. Patrick at Fayetteville, Browne County, where he remained until his death, January 24, 1876.

After Father Daly’s departure, Chapel Hill itself became a mission, cared for by the Dominican Fathers from St. Joseph

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