Clock Tower

Out of the Clock Tower

Hello and welcome to the Greene County Archives' blog, "Out of the Clock Tower".  Please join us as we share information on archival issues, news, special events, and highlights from our collection.

Before the archives program began in Greene County in 1996, permanent records were stored in every conceivable space, in basements, garages, and closets. Usually they were in boxes of various shapes and sizes, although seldom adequately labeled, but occasionally they were just in loose piles of books and papers. Most notable were the old records stuffed into the clock tower of the County Courthouse, where they shared their home with pigeon droppings.

Now, there is a clean, environmentally controlled, well appointed location for the county archives, where our historical records are housed in standard sized boxes on steel shelves. We have taken note of their journey in the name for our blog.

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Jul 31

The Early History of St. Brigid's Catholic Church

Posted on July 31, 2015 at 2:29 PM by Elise Kelly

Irish Immigrants Arrive in Greene County
In the early nineteenth century when Greene County was founded and well into the later part of the century, several Protestant churches were built to serve the Protestant communities that lived in the area.

By the mid nineteenth century an influx of Irish immigrants began settling in the County. Many of the new immigrants were Roman Catholics and the desire to construct a Catholic church became a pressing issue. 

Thomas McClelland's "Declaration of Intention." McClelland emigrated from Ireland.

Archbishop John Purcell via Wikimedia Commons
Missionary Visits
 Missionary visits were first conducted by Rev. Father Juncker of Dayton. Five Catholic families attended the Mass that Rev. Juncker celebrated on Jacob Klein's front porch.

At one point even Rev. Purcell, Archbishop of Cincinnati, made a visit to Xenia to celebrate Mass. Other priests from Piqua, Urbana and Springfield (Rev. James Kearney) came to Xenia to celebrate Mass in the basement of the old court house. 

St. Michael's Catholic Church, Xenia

In 1849, an effort was made to organize a Catholic parish in Xenia. During that year, Rev. Kearney performed several baptisms and recorded it in a record book titled, "Register of Baptism in St. Michael's Church, Xenia." Did you know, St. Brigid's Church was first named St. Michael's Church?

The Arrival of an Irish Clergyman
By 1851, Rev. Thomas Blake was appointed the first resident pastor of St. Michael's. One of the first things Rev. Blake did was change the name of the church.

In the baptismal record book that Rev. Kearney began, written in ink and over the name "Michael" is the name "Bergittae." 

Greene County Marriage Certificate - Signed Thomas Blake, Cath. [Catholic] Priest.

Greene County Marriage Certificate - Signed Thomas Blake, Cath. [Catholic] Priest.

As a native of Ireland, Fr. Blake changed the name of the parish to St. Brigid's  - to honor one of Ireland's patron saints who is known as the "Mary of Gael."
Rev. Blake led the way in planning the construction of a magnificent brick church that would be located on the corner of Second and West Streets.

                                             1896 Map of Xenia (Ward 2)

     Image from "An Illustrated History of St. Brigid's Church,1898, Xenia, OH.

 Interior of St. Brigid's Catholic Church (1898)
 Image from "An Illustrated History of St. Brigid's Church,1898, Xenia, OH. 
Opening the doors to the church, visitors found themselves in a sanctuary of ornate frescoes, glistening white altars, iconic statues, and dramatic paintings of the Stations of the Cross.

Throughout Rev. Blake's tenure, he made missionary visits to Yellow Springs, Jamestown, Wilmington, Waynesville and Morrow.

In exhausting fashion, Rev. Blake traveled up to 20 miles by railroad handcar to celebrate Mass in these distant communities. Serving as the pastor of St. Brigid's for thirty-four years, Rev. Blake decided to resign after he became ill. One year later, he passed away and was interred in the basement of St. Brigid's Catholic Church. His body was later buried at St. Brigid's Cemetery. 

The history of St. Brigid's Catholic Church is rich and extensive. These early years were vital for the growth of the Catholic community in Greene County. As the oldest of six Roman Catholic Churches in Greene County, St. Brigid's remains a stronghold in the Xenia community today.

Until Next Time!

This Week's Trivia Question: Many Irish Immigrants came to Greene County for work. What they built during the nineteenth century has now been converted to Bike Paths. What were they?
Last Week's Trivia Answer: During what war did the Miami Powder Company supply 10,000 kegs of rifle powder a year? - The Civil War

Broadstone, M.A. History of Greene County Ohio. Indianapolis, IN: B.F. Bowen & Company, 1918.
Carroll, Charles, R. A History of St. Brigid Parish 1849-1999. Dayton, OH: Marianist Press, 1998.
An Illustrated History of St. Brigid's Church, 1898, Xenia, Ohio.



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