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St.Joseph Mission SJ Parish Records 1747
Posted by: George H. Stevens Date: February 25, 2001 at 12:44:43
  of 178

1. Seeking any information about the current custodian of any surviving parish records (circa 1740-1814) and graves or tombstones at St. Joseph's Roman Catholic (Jesuit) Mission, at or very near Priest's Ford, on Deer Creek, above the Susquehanna River in what was then Baltimore County & is today in Harford County MD.
2. Walter W. PRESTON, in 1901, may possibly have had access to these records when he wrote about the origins and early members of "The Catholic Church In Harford County," in his "History of Harford County Maryland, (1608-1815)," (pp 60-66) originally published in Baltimore, MD, 1901, and republished in 1972 by the Regional Publishing Company of Baltimore. Samuel MASON, Jr., of Little Pines Farm in Darlington, MD, also appears to have had (indirect?) access to such records in discussing the early Catholic Church in his "Historical Sketches of Harford County, Maryland," (see pp. 78-82), published in 1955 by the Intelligencer Printing Company of Lancaster, PA.
3. Mason also had access to a paper about the early Catholic Church in Harford County, written by Dr. George W. Archer and read before the Harford County Historical Society in 1889, shared (with Mason) by "the Misses Harlan" who in 1955 still lived in a former "Trappist Monastery" at Priest's Ford, on Deer Creek, nearby but separate from and not to be confused with the remains of this older Jesuit Mission.
4. Preston states that very early in the 18th Century "members of the Catholic Church began to take up lands and settle about Deer Creek and its tributaries, from the Susquehanna River in the east to the neighborhood of Cooptown in the west. He then implies but does not quite come out and directly state that the following families were Catholic: "Of the first names that are in evidence of this immigration, these are spome of the more prominent: WHEELER, CLARKE, SHEA, McELROY, FOY, and at a period somewhat later, FLANAGAN, CRETIN, DORAN, McBRIDE, QUINLAN, MATTINGLY, JENKINS, GREEN, COOPER, COSKERY, CAIN, BUSSEY, BOARMAN, MACATEE." It is not clear whether Preston took these names from land records or from parish records of the St. Joseph Mission.
5. Mason notes that between 1740 and 1747, a Jesuit Priest, Father Bennett Neal settled on Deer Creek. In 1747 he bought 160 acres of land and owned 4-5 slaves who helped to clear and work the land and may have helped to build a church. However, at slight variance, Preston reports that in 1750 Neal purchased from Henry Beach a narrow strip of 18 acres on the south side of Deer Creek, "together with houses, gardens, fences, and profits belonging or in any way appertaining thereto." This Deer Creek (Roman Catholic) church was somewhere in this area and was known as "St. Joseph's Mission."
6. As a "Mission," St. Joseph's was supported by a larger Catholic presence some distance away, probably by the larger Jesuit Mission or Parish and Agricultural Estate [replete with slaves], "Bohemia Manor," at the head of the Bohemia River, in Cecil County, MD, which dated from 1704, over on the Eastern Shore, across the upper end of Chesapeake Bay. Fr. Bennett Neale came to St. Joseph's Mission from Bohemia Manor. This larger estate, also known as "Old Bohemia" came to be presided over, later in the 18th Century, by the Rev. John Carroll, SJ, who ran a preparatory school there before going on to establish in 1789 a Catholic College in Georgetown (then MD) that is today Georgetown University (now DC).
7. Fr. Bennett NEAL was grandson of Capt. James NEALE & was the Grand-Uncle of Archbishop Leonard Neale of Baltimore. He was accompanied to MD by his brother Edward Neal & by Wm. Bennett who bought 100 acres and established an Iron Forge on the north side of Deer Creek, across from St. Joseph's Mission.
8. The Jesuit "Mission of St. Joseph" stood on a hilltop overlooking Deer Creek and also was known as "Priest Neale's Mass House." It was massively built of stone with walls a yard thick and walnut ceiling beams, since plastered over. The building was a story and a half tall and measured 26 x 46 feet. Fr. Bennett Neale lived at this church from 1747-1770; he died in 1781 down in St. Mary's County, to the south. Fr. Neale was succeeded at St. Joseph's Mission in 1770 by the Rev. Ignatius Mathews, assisted by Rev. Bernard Dedrick. In 1779 Rev. Charles Sewall replaced Rev. Mathews.
9. Mason observes that two Iron Forges (out of a total of seven iron forges on the lower portion of Deer Creek) were very near this church, The Lancaster Forge and The Nottingham Forge, and he speculates that the Jesuits established a Roman Catholic Mission in this area specifically to tend to the needs of a large number of Irish workmen who were employed at the forges. A grist mill was nearby and the "Mission-Farm" paid an income of 24 Pounds Sterling a year towards support of the resident Priest.
10. Georgetown College (which also--until ca. 1952--owned and managed Bohemia Manor over to the east in Cecil County) decided in 1811 to sell the St. Joseph's Mission Farm & Estate on Deer Creek at Priest's Ford. This was done in 1814 and the estate was bought by Dr. James Glasgow, whose descendants owned it from then until as late as 1955.
11. A graveyard is about a quarter-mile to the west of this old church, not far from but distinct from "The Trappist Monastery at Priest's Ford" on the South bank of Deer Creek and some three miles north of Churchville, MD. In 1955 there were many graves marked with field stones but only one of marble, broken, but inscribed "I.H.S. In Memory of James Cain who was born on the 9th day of March in ye year of God 1752 and departed life on ye 15th of April 1797. Age 45. May he rest in Peace."
12. Mason reports that "When the old chapel was sold in 1814, the present Chapel at Hickory was built, although the exact date is unknown" However, Preston reports that in September of 1779 Fr. Sewall bought two acres of land from Martin Preston at a low & nominal cost and that "on these grounds was begun the building of a new chapel, which was not, however, completed for [until] several years later. Not, indeed, until some time about September, 1792. The new chapel was apparently at some distance from the earlier Mission. Preston reports that this new "building further was enlarged in 1848," and today is known as St. Ignatius Church, at the intersection of Hickory & Forest Hill Roads.
13. Mason notes that the "Trappist Monastery" at Priest's Ford is actually some little distance further down Deer Creek from St. Joseph's Chapel, & was always a Protestant Church, with its first building having been ereced in 1761, despite the fact that the Trappist Order did not arrive in the U.S. until 1803.
14. In 1764 Thomas Shea, who had lived at Priest's Ford for 50 years, deeded to Fr. Bennett Neale one of his farms on 115 acres, which adjoined the original 18 acre tract. This farm, still known by the name of "Paradise" was in 1901 the home of Mr. R. Harris Archer who lived in the old chapel. In 1786 another tract of 369 acres was added to the lands around St. Joseph's Mission; however this land was on the opposite side of Deer Creek in close proximity to the other two tracts.
15. There are minor discrepancies between the two accounts by Mason & Preston (above), and I have not seen the historical paper read by Dr. George W. Archer at the Harford County Historical Society in 1889. Does St. Ignatius Roman Catholic Church (as described by Preston) still exist? And does St. Ignatius retain any of the parish records of the earlier St. Joseph Mission? Do these early parish records reside at what is left of the Jesuit Estate of Bohemia Manor, over in Cecil County? Or do they reside at the Georgetowbn University Archives in Washington DC; or in the Maryland Hall of Records at Annapolis, MD?
16. Am seeking access to the earliest parish records of the Jesuit Mission of St. Joseph in order to explore any FOY family records (birth/death/marriage/baptism/1st comunion), this Foy Family having been cited by Preston as among the early Deer Creek families whom he strongly implies to have been Catholic. Indeed, Miles Foy (1674-1751), in his will (18 November 1751 - 9 December 1751, then Baltimore County), asked to be "buried at the Roman Chapel," by which I believe he intended the Jesuit Mission at St. Joseph, very near his Estate, "Eightropp," also on Deer Creek in what was then Baltimore County, but lies today in Harford County. I am descended from NC Foys who migrated to Craven County NC out of Baltimore County, MD, circa 1740-1750.
With appreciation for any help that you can provide.
Cordially, George H. Stevens (GHStevens3@AOL.COM)
705 Gleneagles Drive; Fort Washington, MD 20744-7012
Home: 301-292-1202


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