My Adventure Through Our Family Tree Branches

For over 50 years my Dad researched both his and my Mom's family tree branches - and loved every minute of it! Trying to fulfill the promise I made him the last month of his life, I have spent the past four years continuing where he left off - finding out about all the many family members who came before us, from the many branches of our family trees. The histories will still be published as my Dad always wanted. But what he wanted most was to share the stories of the people who came before us - the places they lived, the cultures of the times, the families they created, and the circumstances - good and bad - that would one day lead to us, their descendants. These are the stories of my Mom's families. . . .

Surnames in this Blog


Saturday, September 20, 2014

SATURDAY'S STRUCTURES - Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, LaGrange, Kentucky

When my great-great-grandfather Patrick O'Donnell died in June 1911 he included the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in LaGrange, Oldham County, Kentucky as a benefactor of his estate - his family's parish. I had previously assumed, incorrectly, that my O'Donnell family had been members of the Church of Saint John Chrysostom in Henry County, and have even written a post here about this church. But recently in reading the small print of Patrick's will I was proven wrong.

This brief history of the church comes from History & Families Oldham County, Kentucky: The First Century 1824-1924.
"The history of the Immaculate Conception Parish in Oldham County dates back to the mid-1800s. When the construction of the L&N Railroad between Cincinnati and Louisville began, the railroad company maintained its shops in LaGrange. Many of the railroad workers were Irish Catholics. Priest from the Cathedral of the Assumption and St. Joseph's Church in Louisville served the Catholics in Oldham County. In 1871 a resident pastor was appointed for St. Aloysius Church in Peewee Valley, and LaGrange Catholics formed its Mission Church.
Father William Hogarty, pastor of St. Aloysius and the LaGrange Mission Church (1873-1877) built the first church at LaGrange and placed it under the patronage of Mary Immaculate. A majority of its members included the men employed by the railroad and their families. The land from the church was purchased from the Joseph Sauer family for the sum of $150.00, to be paid in three payments of $50.00 each. This church seated about 300 people. It was located on North Street (which was later renamed Madison Street) between 1st and 2nd avenues. It was dedicated on Dec. 6, 1875, with a list of the pewholders: Alex McKie, Mr. A. Carrol, Pat O'Donnell, Joseph Sauer, Ned Kenney, Michael Kenney, Mrs. L.A. Conners, James McLaughlin, Thomas Curley, Dan Delaney, Maurice Whelan, John Donaghue and George Boemicke. (note: bold italics from me)
The construction and the upkeep of the church was all the result of the labors of the people of the congregation: no memorial gifts or large sums of money were donated.
The church recorded its first marriage on April 16, 1877, when Michael Kenney, son of Patrick Kenney and Honora Doyle, married Sara McLaughlin, a widow. The witnesses were John Kenney and Bridget Doyle and Fr. William Hogarty was the officiating priest.

Immaculate Conception Catholic Church
LaGrange, Kentucky (built 1900)
In 1899 the railroad moved its main operation from LaGrange to Louisville. Most of the Catholic workers moved with it and the parish began to dwindle. The church history indicates that the original church was torn down and a much smaller one was erected on the same site in 1900." [page 200]
 As a mission church, the LaGrange church held Mass once a month during the winter while in summer parishioners were expected to attend St. Aloysius in Pewee Valley.

A third church was built in LaGrange in 1950 and this church (right) was also torn down.  It is no longer a mission church, having received official status as a parish in 1956.

[NOTE: I have researched the church for hours but have not found any photograph or picture of the original church built by the parishioners, including Patrick O'Donnell. I am still waiting to hear back from the priest in charge of the Archives of the Diocese of Louisville. But I wanted to include this picture of the second church built in 1900 after the original was torn down. Patrick and his daughter Josie, who cared for him in his last years, would have attended this church.]

Patrick O'Donnell married Bridget Kennedy (1838-1893) in 1856 in Louisville and they soon moved to the town of Jericho in nearby Henry County, because of his job with the L&N Railroad. They settled here and soon had seven children - Maggie (b. 1858), Mollie (b. 1859), Alice (b. 1860), Fannie (b. 1862), Josie (b. 1864), Johnny (b. 1865), and Ella (b. 1869). Their only son, John Martin O'Donnell, is my great-grandfather.

In 1902 Patrick added a codicil to his will to include the following:
"I, Patrick O'Donnell, want to be used of my estate the sum of twenty-five dollars in celebrating Masses in the Catholic Church at Lagrange, Kentucky, for the repose of the soul of my wife Bridget Kennedy O'Donnell and my own."
John J. Sheehan was the brother-in-law of Patrick O'Donnell. John was born in Ireland in 1839 and had come to America as a young man. In the 1860 Census John was single and living in the home of Patrick & Bridget in Jericho, Kentucky, as a boarder, along with thirteen other men, all who were "laborers" for the railroad. Also living in their "boarding house" were their first three daughters, ages 3 months to 3 years; Patrick's brother John O'Donnell (1822-UNK), age 37; and Bridget's two sisters - Anne, age 21, and Johanna, age 29. Both Patrick and John O'Donnell listed their occupation as "Supervisor Railroad". Anne and Johanna Kennedy listed their occupations as "Domestic", most likely responsible for keeping the boarding house clean.

John married Anne Kennedy (1839-1913) about 1865 and together had nine children, only 3 living to adulthood. They settled in LaGrange, Oldham County, and were members of this same Catholic Church.

[It's interesting to note that Bridget's sister Johanna Kennedy (1830-1901) married Maurice Phelan (1835-1889) who at the time of the 1860 Census was also a boarder in the O'Donnell home. They, too, settled in Oldham County. Maurice is mentioned in the above church history as also being a pew holder; his last name is misspelled.]

John Sheehan is mentioned briefly in another history of the mission church, quoted here:
"Official 'collector of revenue', John Sheehan, took up the collection for fifty years. And for those fifty years used a long handle collection basket he passed in front of the people. The basket was handmade from a cheese box and covered with velvet. It had a flat board as a lid and was noted for its long handle. Every Sunday before he began taking up the collection parishioners could hear Mr. Sheehan drop the first coin, usually a five cent piece. They took it as a hint that everyone should contribute. When he died, Mr. Sheehan left thousands of dollars to his church." [from The Tremendous Champion of All that is Catholic, pg. 69-70]

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