Saint Martin of Tours Catholic Church

      440 St. Martins Road, Flaherty, KY 40175


         Rev. J. J. Fitzgerald ca 1894  

St. Martin of Tours ca 1900

History of St. Martin of Tours of Flaherty

As it appeared in the Catholic Advocate, for the week ending Thursday, November 22, 1894.

Never before in the history of Meade County, Kentucky was there witnessed such a magnificent ceremony as took place at Flaherty on the 14th instant. On that day the Right Rev. W. G. McCloskey D. D., Bishop of Louisville, dedicated the new church of St. Martinís to the service of Almighty God. Long before the appointed hour thousands had gathered from far and near to assist at the beautiful ceremony. Precisely at 10:00 the Bishop began the ceremony of dedication. He was assisted by the Very Reverend Hugh Daly, Dean of Elizabethtown, Rev. Wm. J. Dunn, of Louisville, Rev. John Abell of Bethlehem, Rev. Thomas York, of Louisville, Rev. A. OíSullivan of Daviess County, Rev. George Niehaus, of Cloverport, Rev. Edward J. Hart, of Colesburg, Rev. John OíConnor, of Louisville, and Rev. J. J. Fitzgerald of St. Martinís Church. There were fully 1500 people within the walls of the sacred edifice. Many clergymen sent letters of regret that they could not attend.

The solemn high Mass was celebrated by Rev. Father York, assisted as deacon and subdeacon by Rev. Fathers Daly and OíSullivan. Immediately after the first gospel Father Fitzgerald, in words of praise, congratulated the congregation of St. Martinís on the excellent work performed in such a short time, saying that the record of church building in this diocese was broken by St. Martinís. In the short space of two years, they have built a magnificent church, costing upwards of twenty-one thousand dollars, and have paid for the work.

After the announcements by Father Fitzgerald, Rev. Wm. J. Dunn, D. D., was introduced as the orator for the occasion. Father Dunn is too well known as an orator to need any words of praise, suffice it to say that never did he make such a masterly effort as on this day. The sermon was pronounced to be a masterpiece of sacred oratory.

The Bishop was assisted during the Mass as deacons of honor by the Revs. J. J. Abell, and George Niehaus, while Fathers OíConnor and Hart were masters of ceremonies.

On Thursday morning the Stations of the Cross, donated by Mrs. W. H. Edelin, were blessed with solemn ceremony. Father OíSullivan was celebrant of the Mass, assisted by Fathers York and Fitzgerald as deacon and subdeacon, whilst Father Dunn acted as master of ceremonies. The Stations were blessed and placed in position by Father Fitzgerald. Rev. Thomas A. York preached a powerful sermon on "The Love of God Manifested in the Passion of Christ."

Altogether the ceremonies of the two days were such as to stir up devotion in the hearts of the careless and encouragement in the hearts of all. St. Martinís stands today a monument to the zeal and earnestness of the people of Flaherty.

Confirmation was also administered to fifty-four, among whom were six adults, converts to our holy faith. The Rt. Rev. Bishop expressed his pleasure at being there to dedicate such a beautiful church, which he said was a credit to the people, as it is an honor to Meade County.

Meade County was taken from Hardin County in 1823. Previous to that date there were but few Catholics in the territory now known as Meade County. It would seem that for some years before the formation of the county, that Mass was occasionally said by Fathers Badin, Nerinckx, and Abell somewhere in the vicinity of Flint Island. Later the mission of St. Teresaís was established there, which is today under the care of Father Raoux, in a very flourishing condition. Beside St. Teresaís, there are two other churches in the county, St. Mary Magdalene at Payneville, and St. Georgeís at Brandenburg. The latter, a neat frame structure, erected by Rev. John OíConnor. Both these churches are at present attended by Rev. Louis Herberth.

St. Martinís congregation at Flaherty has kept up with the wonderful progress of Catholicity in the country. The present church of St. Martinís is one of the finest country churches in the diocese. It reflects credit on the architects, Curtin and Hutchings of Louisville, who designed it, and on the people of the congregation who so earnestly and zealously began the work of its erection a little over two years ago. At that time Rev. J. J. Fitzgerald was appointed by the Rt. Rev. Bishop to succeed Rev. James OíConnor, who is now pastor of Holy Cross in Marion County.

From the first, the efforts of Father Fitzgerald were generously seconded and his appeals promptly responded to by the congregation. At the first public meeting held to consider the advisability of beginning the work at once, a church building committee was organized by a vote of the congregation. The result was that the Messrs. Wash Medley, R. C. Craycroft, Joshua Lancaster, and W. H. Edelin were chosen to take the responsibility of that important committee. We are now able to see that the congregation was not mistaken in their choice, as no better men could have been appointed. Faithful in all things, sacrificing their time and labor, contributing very generously of their means, at all times manifesting an earnest desire to please the donors, and indeed having sincerely at heart the welfare of the congregation. With such men to assist him, no pastor needs to have much anxiety about the ultimate success of any undertaking in the congregation.

The cornerstone of the new edifice was blessed and placed in position by the Rt. Rev. W. G. McCloskey, D. D., Bishop of Louisville on June 22, 1893. The celebrant of the solemn high Mass was Rev. T. A. York, of Louisville, assisted by the Reverends J. H. Riley of Rome, KY as deacon, and A. OíSullivan of St. Joseph, KY as subdeacon. Revs. J. J. Abell and Martin OíConnor assisted as deacons of honor to the Rt. Rev. Bishop. The pastor, Father Fitzgerald, acted as master of ceremonies. A most interesting and eloquent sermon was preached on the occasion by Father York.

St. Martinís congregation, although supposed to be one of the most important country parishes in the diocese, was completely overlooked by Mr. Webb in his admirable work on Catholicity in Kentucky1. True, he says in closing the chapter devoted to Hardin and Meade County missions: "Two other churches in Meade County, St. Patrickís and St. Martinís have been attended for a number of years by Rev. Martin OíConnor of Stithton, KY." This would be very well if St. Patrickís happened to be in Meade County, and if St. Martinís had ever been attended from Stithton either by Father Martin OíConnor or any other priest since the early days of Father Coomesís missionary work. The Rev. C. I. Coomes, whose name is held in benediction, attended this mission from Hardin County, both from St. Clareís, Colesburg, and from St. Patrickís, Stithton.

An old baptismal register, now preserved at St. Martinís has this inscription: "A record of Baptism administered in the chapel of St. Patrickís and the station near Big Spring." From this register I find the first Baptism administered by Father Coomes at St. Patrickís was on June 5, 1831. From this date certainly, Father Coomes attended the

Station near the Big Spring." In the time previous to the erection of the first church of St. Martinís, Mass was said every month or two, first at the house of Thomas Bowman, , later at Ben Elderís, and finally the priest having lost his house by fire, made his home with Mr. C. A. Craycroft, who had come from Washington County, KY, where he settled after his arrival from Maryland. Mass was said at the house of Mr. Craycroft until the erection of the church. This was accomplished after many noble and self-sacrificing efforts, principally of C. A. Craycroft and Edmund Lancaster. It is not surprising that the children of such fathers would be found working together in the same manner towards erecting a commodious church for the growing congregation of today. The church, as I find in an old baptismal register, "was dedicated on August 27, 1848, by the Rev. David Deparcq, assisted by Rev. Fathers Augustine Degauquier and C. I. Coomes, followed by a retreat of four days, the happy result of which was a general communion of one hundred and fifty persons." The foregoing is taken from the Baptismal record of St. Martinís.

At this time "the station near the Big Spring" ceased. It must have been a great joy to the few families who resided here, especially to those who worked hard to have the little church prepared for dedication, to assist at Holy Mass for the first time in their own church, blessed as it was and set apart for the service of Almighty God.

Among the principal Catholic families living in this part of the country, who were accustomed to hear Mass at "the station near the Big Spring," I find the following: John Shephard, Thomas Bowman [sic, but believed to be Boarman], John Byrnes, Clement Gristy, George and John B. Medley. After these yet before the opening of the new church, we find William Mitchell, James Pagett, Charles Peak, Abram Rhodes, Henry Cooper, Sylvester Wheatley, Peter Brown, P. P. Nevitt, and William Lancaster. Immediately after the erection of the church we have the name of Charles Jones, who died last year having done his duty faithfully towards the erection of the present beautiful church of St. Martinís.

In the baptismal register I find the first baptism in the church was administered to Sarah Frances, daughter of William Bryan and Nancy Vowels, born 17th of November, 1848, godmother, Sarah Ann Craycroft. This was on January 12th 1849. It seems strange that the child was not baptized at an earlier date, unless, that at this time people began to settle near the newly erected church. I am inclined to this opinion myself. The first four baptisms I find recorded, are names not mentioned in the foregoing list, and strange each child of the four was born the year before the blessing of the church. At that time Father Coomes was living with Mr. C. A. Craycroft, and if these families lived in the neighborhood no doubt they would not keep their children a year without baptism; nor if they were here when the church was dedicated would they, after the general communion keep their children six months longer without their sacrament. I am, therefore, inclined to think that these families settled here a few months after the new church was ready for service.

Immediately after the opening of the new church we have the names of such families as the McDonoughs, Flahertys, Ritchies, Nevitts, Norris, Thompsons, Osbornes, Mattinglys and Waynes. These are the names most frequently occurring until 1850. Later, we have the families of the Whelans, Redmonds, Rineys, and Rays.

The last baptism recorded at St. Martinís by Father Coomes was administered on April 26, 1870, to Laura Isabel, daughter of William B. Lancaster, Sue Mattingly being godmother. During the long time which Father Coomes had charge of this mission he was occasionally assisted by Fatherís Wathen, Chambige, R. A. Abell, Bekkers and Deguaquier. After Father Coomes, came Rev. J. Creary, and Rev. John A. Barrett, both of whom remained but a short time. In 1871, Father Barrett had charge and was succeeded by Rev. James Ryan in 1872. He is at present the Rt. Rev. Bishop of Alton, Illinois. During the pastorate of Father Ryan, a school was opened and a new pastoral residence was built and attention given to many needed repairs. He was succeeded in 1873 by Father E. Van Troostenberghe, who also was pastor but a short time. He died of yellow fever in the South, whither he had gone to nurse and assist the sufferers.

In 1873, Rev. James OíConnor became pastor. He is now in charge of Holy Cross congregation in Marion County. Father OíConnor did much good work during the seventeen years of pastorship and endeared himself to all by the kindly qualities of head and heart which he possesses. He was succeeded by Rev. John J. Fitzgerald. Father Fitzgerald was no stranger to the people of St. Martinís, as for a number of years he was in charge of St. Johnís and St. Ambroseís in Hardin County and Spiritual Director to the Loretto Sisters at Bethlehem Academy. It seems that some success attended his efforts at St. Johnís and the Rt. Rev. Bishop, considering that he might be equally successful at St. Martinís appointed him pastor of St. Martinís with St. Patrickís as part of the mission. St. Patrickís is attended about twice a month from St. Martinís. Occasionally, Mass is also said at West Point at the house of Mrs. McCormack about two miles from the railway station. Father Fitzgerald enjoys the trip on the handcar down the track. Mr. Lynch is section master at West Point and with right good will does he direct his men "to run the hand car down to McCormackís." Besides, when the mills at Grahamton are working and Catholics are in town, Father Fitzgerald has said Mass for them as they are far from church and too poor to pay for conveyances to attend at St. Patrickís, the nearest church. We hope to see the day that St. Patrickís may have a resident pastor. No better people can be found than those of St. Patrickís.

The new church of St. Martinís is of the simple gothic, rather the ornate style of architecture. It is built of brick with trimmings of terra cotta and cut stone. The extreme dimensions are one hundred and fifteen feet by forty-five. The main entrance is through the tower, which rises 86 feet and is surmounted by a beautiful cross. The clear story is over graceful arches resting on eight iron columns. These are surmounted by graceful and beautiful Corinthian capitals. Everything is well proportioned and finished in first class style. Messrs. Eblen and Smith of Louisville did the brick work and gave entire satisfaction. The stained glass windows reflect great honor on Alberts and Luskey, also of Louisville. The donors of the windows are as follows: Rev. J. J. Fitzgerald, Joshua Lancaster, Mary Rhodes, Mark Lancaster, W. T. McDonough, Joseph Brown, Mrs. McDonough, W. A. Brown, Miss Alma Brown, Mrs. W. A. Brown, P. P. Nevitt, Mrs. P. P. Nevitt in memory of Thomas Ballard, J. H. Thompson for his deceased relatives, Mr. R. C. Craycroft, Mr. And Mrs. J. W. Medley, Mrs. Isabella Simms in memory of Michael Whelan, Charles Shircliff for his parents, Mr. W. H. Edelin in memory of Mrs. Eliza Edelin and Mrs. Donie Edelin, Charles Jones in memory of deceased relatives, and now it stands a memorial to himself.

The windows are all of artistic work and give a beautiful appearance to the church. Besides the above, many donations have been made to the church. The Stations of the Cross, which are very beautiful, have been donated by Mr. W. H. Edelin, a new missal by Mr. R. C. Craycroft for his family, a fine crucifix by Ben and Will Whelan and altar cards by Mrs. Dan Whelan and James Brown, the large candlesticks the donations of Mrs. Snyder and the ladies of the parish, altar linens by Mrs. Schwabenton, Mrs. P. P. Nevitt and Mrs. Will Craycroft, besides the handsome donations from Loeb and Soloman of Vine Grove and Myers and Jacob of Big Springs.

Above all others, the names of Mr. And Mrs. Henry Cissell who have passed to their reward and who generously donated towards the work over two thousand dollars must not be forgotten. God blessed them with worldly means and back to Him they gave it.

Mrs. Mary Catherine Brown, now preparing to receive the rewards of her good works, has also in her kind generosity not only donated the magnificent gothic main altar of the church, but moreover, has contributed over a thousand dollars. To these in great measure is the congregation indebted for the fine church which is now an honor to Meade County, and a lasting memorial to the generous donors. After these special mention should be made of R. C. Craycroft, Joshua Lancaster, ______Thompson, P. P. Nevitt and the Rt. Rev. Bishop of Alton, Illinois, a former pastor of this congregation: "You were right in thinking that I had only pleasant recollections of so kindly and Catholic a people who were so good to me in my youth and inexperience." This too, sums up my own estimate of the people who have changed only for the better since the days of Bishop Ryan as pastor. To our non-Catholic neighbors and friends we also extend our sincerest gratitude for their kindness and generosity in helping us toward the erection of the church. They are today as proud of it as if it were their own.

The following are the chief and principle donators to the work: Augustus Brown, F. T. Whelan, Charles Jones, Joe Hall, Richard Flaherty, Robert Spalding, B. E. Ritchie, Mrs. Mary Bickett, Lee Hager, Thomas Hager, E. C. Hardesty, W. L. Wright, C. A. Montgomery, John P. Osborne, J. W. Newton, J. W. Medley, J. F. Knott, Mrs. Mary Rhodes, Mrs. Eliza Bickett, Fred Edelin, F. M. Lancaster, R. E. Yates, Charles Shircliff, Joseph Peak, M. W. Flaherty, Richard Norris, Joseph Medley, W. B. Lancaster, Robert A. Craycroft, G. C. Redmond, W. E. Pendleton, W. T. McDonough, Joseph C. Brown, H. P. Jones, W. T. Hughes, G. T. Bickett, J. A. Snyder. W. Craycroft, A. A. Ray, W. H. Hager, H. T. Peak, A. S. Craycroft, J. H. Thompson, P. P. Nevitt, E. M. Whelan, John Buckman, Mrs. John Mattingly, Joshua Lancaster, E. V. Buckman, R. A. Hamilton, Mrs. Sallie Hardesty, C. H. Peak, Lee Berry, Francis Ritchie, F. E. Hardesty, J. O. Cosby, B. W. Talbot, E. O. Bickett, J. V. Redmond, Ben Lancaster, Edward Lancaster, John Brown, Mrs. Ida Owings, Rev. Anthony Sullivan, William Osborne, Hilary Rhodes, Mrs. Hilf, Mrs. Elizabeth Bickett, Mrs. Bowman, Mrs. Overton, Mrs. Arnet, Ed Ritchie, George Corbet, Lahie Hobbs, Ben Whelan, William Whelan, Doctor Cosby, Sr., R. A. Nevitt, Matilda Mitchell, Elias Ray, Joe Bickett, and many others. I must not omit the name of M. W. Flaherty, who has so generously helped to put the work where we find it today. In the very beginning when we were seeking ground on which to make the bricks, after many others in better circumstances refused us their property, Mr. Flaherty like the good and generous Catholic he is, came forward to tender us his best field and if necessary all his fencing.

Such kindness should not go without special mention. Not only this but all the rock used in the foundation of the new church was quarried from his property, adjoining the new edifice. (Mr.) Flaherty, though he never saw ____the dear old isle, is thoroughly Irish____2 his nature and aspiration. From such a man I could not expect anything but good will towards the erection of the new church.

When I asked Mr. Flaherty about the origin of the name referring to this locality, he told me that "someone brought it over from Ireland." In truth, when a post office was opened here, Mr. Flaherty as chief petitioner, requested the name to be St. Martinís as it is locally known, but by return from the post office authorities it was overlooked for the equally Catholic name of Flaherty.

No words of mine could convey an adequate appreciation of the work done by St. Martinís congregation in connection with the new church. Were we to estimate the cost of the church, including all the work, I think twenty thousand dollars would be a low estimate. Everything not in a strictly professional sphere was done by the congregation. With hearty good will and with earnest purpose did they respond to every call. Those who saw the site of the present church two years ago can, in some measure, realize the amount of work done towards bringing the church to its present state of completion.

I must not omit to mention the fact that St. Martinís justly boasts of one of the very best choirs in the diocese among the country parishes. Miss Rebecca Brown, who took charge when Father Fitzgerald was appointed pastor, and who is a godchild of our pastor, has by her earnest endeavors and by her constant perseverance organized a choir of which she may be justly proud. Her choir sang the Mass at the cornerstone laying and at the dedication. She is indeed, ably assisted in the choir by Miss Alma Brown, Miss Frankie Craycroft, who is the principal singer, by Misses Ella Flaherty, Carrie Cooper, Nannie Craycroft, Katie Flaherty, Edith Craycroft, Victoria Craycroft, Hallie Craycroft, and by Messrs. James and Jerome Cooper, J. Edelin, Lafe Whelan, Damien Cooper, S. Lancaster, J. Whelan, and John Osborne.

The choir of St. Martinís was assisted by the St. Paul Juvenile Brass Band of Louisville at both the ceremony of the laying of the cornerstone and the dedication. This band is composed of small boys under the leadership of Professor Hollywood, and under the care of Father York, pastor of St. Paulís.

Father York, who is himself an excellent musician, may well be proud of his band. Father York and our pastor were classmates at St. Mary Seminary, Baltimore, hence the close friendship formed then has not been decreased by years of separation, but rather more closely cemented by such events as the dedication of St. Martinís3.



1.  Ben. J. Webb, The Centenary of Catholicity in Kentucky, Charles A. Rogers, 1884, reprinted by Unigraphic, Evansville, IN, 1977,
     p. 421, is the statement to which the author refers.

2.  The clipping from which the compiler typed this account was damaged on the edges and the exact words could not be deciphered.

3.  It is believed by this compiler that Father Fitzgerald himself may have written this history of St. Martinís at the time of the dedication
     of our present church building in 1894.