The Little Cities Archive

Shawnee, Ohio

St. Francis Assisi – Chapel Hill

Posted by JRW on August 29, 2011

From the Catholic Record Society

Diosese of Columbus Bulletin

Vol. 3, No.2, February 1977



Monroe township, in which Chapel Hill is located, constitutes the southeast corner of County. The township was organized about 1823 and named after President James Monroe. First settlements were made as early as 1814 by John McDonald and James Dew who had come out from Maryland. Names of other settlers listed (2) as living in the township at the time of its organization, or shortly afterwards, were Enos Devore, David Devore, Elisha Tinker, John Small, Samuel Morrow, Nicholas Owings, Elijah Wooley, Jacob Wooley, Stephen Rodman, John Rodman, C. Wood, David Hearing, William Ward, James M. Ward, George Juniper, William Staniford, John Acord and John Garver.

Few of the foregoing names appear in the early church records (3) of the little parish which soon came into being on what was called “Irish Ridge” in the northeast section of the township. John Dew is known to have been a Catholic, There are several tombstones in the parish cemetery bearing the name Dew. Of them, Michael Dew was buried in 1858. The family of Elisha Tinker may have been Catholic since a tombstone in the cemetery bears the name of Catherine Tinker who died in 1871 at the age of 47. Another name given among the early settlers which appears in the cemetery is that of Ward. A Joseph Ward, son of Joseph Ward, was buried in 1842 (being only a few months old at the time of his death).

Catholic families settling in the township in the 1820’s and recorded in the 1830 federal census include William Ward, his wife, one son and one daughter. Other families likely members of St. Francis parish listed in the 1830 census were and Mrs. Elizha Tinker with five boys and four girls, and James Dew and wife with four sons and two daughters.

During the 1830’s a number of other known Catholic families came to Monroe township (4). 1840 census shows the Elisha Tinker and the James Dew families still there. Others were and Peter Curren with three sons and one daughter; Daniel O’Neal (no wife) with three sons and one daughter; Michael Mitchell (no Wife) with one son and one daughter; and Mrs. Patrick Feghan, with two sons and two daughters; Mr. and Mrs. Michael Curran, with three daughters; Mr. and Mrs. Bernard Masterson, with one son and two daughters; Mr. and Mrs. Patrick Masterson, with one son and three daughters; Mrs. McDonough (no husband) with two sons and two daughters; and Mrs. James Ryan, with one son and one daughter; John Lynch and bride; and Mrs. John McCarty, with four sons and two daughters; Mr. and Mrs. George Thompson, with three sons, and and Mrs. Michael Welch, with three sons and one daughter.

George Thompson, who had arrived in the area during the 1830′ s, was apparently the outstanding leader of the Catholic community. For this reason the first name given to the “Irish Ridge” settlement was “Thompsonville”. Later the name was to Chapel Hill.

Bishop Hartley states in his of the Diocese of Columbus (5) that Chapel Hill was among the earliest Catholic settlements of Ohio, and that these catholic pioneers were refugees from the Rebellion in Ireland in the latter part of the eighteenth “They chose the hill country,” Bishop Hartley wrote, order to avoid the ‘bogs’, as they seemed to think the lowlands of this newly adopted country unfit for agriculture.” Bishop Hartley further wrote that these early Catholic settlers in Monroe township first attended the church at Deavertown in nearby Morgan county.. (Deavertown was about eight miles directly north of the Chapel Hill location.)

The Dominican Fathers, with headquarters at St. Joseph’s, near Somerset, took care of the spiritual wants of the catholics  at Deavertown. The annual Catholic Almanac of 1833 (6) lists a St. Barnabas church at Deavertown. It was likely a mission of the Dominican Fathers for some years before that date. Indeed, there is a tombstone in the old St. Barnabas cemetery which gives the date of death of an infant daughter of J. & E. Richard as occurring July 12, 1818.   A small chapel was built at Deavertown.

Although St. Francis church, Chapel Hill, does not appear listed in the annual Catholic Directory until 1840, Bishop Hartley states that a little log chapel was built there about 1825. Testimony for his statement, writes the Bishop (7), was one Thomas Duffy, first child bom at Chapel Hill, who died in his 97th year in 1906. However, no land deeds are found to show purchase of property for a church until some years later.

“In 1840 the Know Nothings of this locality are said to have burnt the church to the ground. Father Olivetti, the first pastor of St. Francis parish, every member of the congregation capable of work to erect a stone church which would defy the incendiarism of prejudice” (8). The new church was built in a little less than two months.

The earliest records of baptisms and marriages of the Catholics at Chapel Hill were doubtlessly included among those kept by the Dominican Fathers at St. Joseph’s, Somerset, and later among those of St. Barnabas church, Deavertown. The first volume of sacramental records for Chapel Hill begins with 1840, the year during which the little parish received its first pastor in the person of Father Aegidius Olivetti.

Clement Marzolf in his of County (9) states that the Chapel Hill catholic parish was not organized until about 1850. Records disprove this. However, the first record of land bought for the parish is dated September 9, 1847 (10). The deed reads: it known that James Lavin and Jane Lavin formerly Jane McDonough, his wife, in consideration of two hundred dollars to them paid by the Literary Society of St. Mary’s, Somerset, Ohio, do hereby bargain, sell and convey to the said Literary Society of St. Mary’s and their successors and assigns forever the following real estate, viz: The South East quarter of the North West quarter of Section Twelve (12) township twelve (12) and Range fourteen (14) in the Zanesville land district the same tract of land  conveyed by A. Buckingham and wife to Jane McDonough one of the present  rantors. Together with all the privileges and appurtances to the same belonging.

The Chapel Hill parish first appears in the Catholic of 1841 as Sunday Creek church, and was attended from Marietta. In 1842 Father E. Olivetti is listed as in charge of St. Bamabas, Deavertown, and of Sunday Creek and Creek

The vigor of the Chapel Hill parish at the time of Father Olivetti’s arrival is indicated by the number of baptisms and marriages recorded in 1841: 89 were baptized and 23 couples were married. Late that year the parish was visited by Bishop Purcell of (11). He was apparently accompanied by Very Rev. John Henni (12), pastor of Holy Trinity (German) church, The Chapel Hill register of baptisms shows that Hennin baptized one Elizabeth Clegar on October 14, 1841. On the same day is recorded the baptism by Bishop Purcell James Bergoun, a convet, aged years. The Bishop was in the area for some days since he administered baptism on October 22.

Father Olivetti remained in charge of Chapel Hill until 1845 when Father Timothy O’Farrell became pastor. Four later Father Albert Bokel, Sr., O.P., took care of the parish for a few weeks. In 1849, Father C. (Cornelius?) Daly came to stay more than two years. For the next few years, in September, 1851, several priests looked after the spiritual needs of the people of Chapel Hill. them were Rev. J. V. Daly, O.P., Rev. S. A. Clarkson, Rev. V. Edelen, O.P., and Rev. James Magee, O.P.

Late in 1885 Father Thomas Monahan became pastor and remained for four years. Father William Phew, who took over in August, remained less than two years. The longest pastorate, years, was that of Father J.N. Brogard who took over the parish in June, 1861, and remained until his retirement in 1876. He was succeeded by Father John Rooney, beloved by the people until his death in 1884. He lies buried in the parish cemetery

After Father Rooney’s death Chapel Hill was under the care of the pastor at st. Bernard’s, Rev. B. M. O’Boylan.   By this time most of the people had moved away so that it was no longer to maintain the parish. The last baptism recorded for Chapel Hill by Father O’Boylan was August 11, 1889. The church on “Irish Ridge” was closed and the people attended the church in Corning. The glory that was had ended.

(1) The name of the church was incorrectly given as st. Francis Xavier in the January issue of the The History of County by E. S. Colborn, Columbus, 1883, p. 220.

3) Register of Baptisms, St. Francis Church, Chapel Hill, Vol. I.

4) No doubt members of the Chapel Hill parish included people in other townships of Perr,y County, and some from nearby County. The nearest other parish at the time was St. Louis Bertrand, Rehoboth, Clayton township, of St. Deavertown, Morgan County. Diocese of Columbus, of Fifty Years, 1868-1918. Columbus, 1918, p. 474.

(6) Although Catholic almanacs were published in 1817 and again in 1822, they were quite small. The year 1833 marks the beginning of continuous publication of this important work now known as The Official Catholic

7 Diocese of Columbus, The History of Fifty Years, 1868-1918, p. 474.

8 Ibid., p. 474.

(9) The of County Clement Marzolf, 1902, p. 107.

(10) County Deed Books, Vol. R, p. 321.

(11) This was not the first visit of Bishop Purcell to the area. He had visited St. Barnabas, Deavertown in May, 1834. Catholic Cincinnati, Vol. III, No. 26, p. 105.

(12) Rev. John Henni was consecrated first Bishop of Milwaukee, March 19, 1844. He died September 7, 1881.


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