FRENCHTOWN — Holy Family Catholic Church in Frenchtown and its parish celebrated the 170th anniversary of the parish formation and the 150th anniversary of the church building in 2016.
An anniversary celebration was held Aug. 21 with a Mass, dinner and reception at the Versailles K of C Hall.
The Rev. Fr. James L. Simons, in a letter to the parishioners, wrote,” We remember all those who sacrificed much and had the courage to make the journey from different villages in France to settle here in Ohio. Through donations of land by several early settlers, Peter and Catherine Subler and Jacob and Frances Subler, the church and cemetery became reality. Over the years, others have donated land to expand the cemetery.”
He noted that on Oct. 15, 1846, a log church was dedicated, while the current church was dedicated on Nov. 25, 1866.
“The church building is 150 years old,” he said in his letter. “It still stands as a reminder of their courage and zeal. It certainly was a labor of love for those early settlers as they made their own bricks and placed them on a solid foundation. Though the church has been enlarged over the years with new exterior and interior coverings, it still is the structure built with their own hands and money.”
He reported that altars, Stations of the Cross, stained glass windows, pews and electricity were added as the congregation could afford them. In 2008 the outside was repaired and in 2014 a mural of the Holy Family was added along with a new wood altar.
The parish hall, according to Simons, was constructed in the late 1920s, and the current rectory was built in 1902. The original rectory was built in 1850 and still stands near the opposite corner of State Route 185 and Burns Road.
According to church history, land was donated by Peter and Catherine Subler in 1845 for a church and by Jacob and Frances Subler for a cemetery. In 1850, Peter and Catherine donated more land for a rectory.
A log church was dedicated by Bishop John Baptiste Purcell on Oct. 15, 1846, and it served 40 families. The current church was dedicated Nov. 25, 1866, also by Purcell. It was in 1902 that the new rectory was completed.The original rectory, built in 1850 still stands attached to Third Base Bar across the road.
The first recorded marriage that took place in the log church was that of John Berge and Clare Adele Pequignot on Nov. 24, 1946. The first baptism recorded was that of Ludovicum “Lewis” Frantz on Feb. 3, 1850, and the first known list of First Communicants was in 1856.
It was said that between 1926 and 1930, the parish hall was constructed, and the large stone cross was erected in the cemetery.
The Holy Family consists of the Child Jesus, the Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph. Veneeration of the Holy Family formally begun in the 17th century by Saint Francois Delaval, who as the first bishop of New France who founded Confraternity.
The Feast of the Holy Family is a liturgical celebration in honor of Jesus of Nazareth, the Blessed Virgin Mary, his mother and his foster father, Saint Joseph as a family. The purpose of the feast is to present the Holy Family as a model for Christian families. It is celebrated within the Octave of Christmas, the Sunday between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
It is said that families from eastern France left Le Havre France on the ship Elizabeth and arrived in New York on July 9, 1825. They apparently first settled in Stark County around Canton, Ohio, before moving further west to Darke County. More ships left in 1836, bringing more immigrants from Europe. Among the first settlers in the 1830s were Sabourin (Subler), Schmitt, Pequignot, Berge, Monnier, Marchal, Foix (Foy), Frantz, Grillot, Goubeaux, Guillozet, Simon, Begin. Roebulet, Parmenter, Pierron, Obry, Thiebeaux. Later names included Magoteaux, Petitjean, Mougeville, DeMange and Tryon (Treon).
Pastors having served Holy Family are: Frs. Louis Navarron, 1846-50; Louis Gillet, 1850-53; August Rollinet, 1853-54; P. Matthew Convers, 1854-57; Patrick Hennebery, 1857; Bartholomew Langlois, 1857-59; Cyril Brisard, 1859-67; Matthias Kreusch CPPS, 1867-73; John Kayser, 1873-77; Joseph Roth, 1877; Alcide Bourion, 1877-86; J. Leo Boehmer CPPS, 1886-95; Edward Jakob CPPS, 1895-97; Otto Missler CPPS, 1897-98; Joseph Denning, 1898-1901; James Kelly, 1901-05; Frederic Vaile, 1905-08; John Gnau, 1908-15; Francis Cotter, 1915-22; John Stedman, 1922-32; Charles O’Leary, 1932-65; Robert Putnick, 1965-68; Paul Galvin, 1968-70; Cletus Stang, 1970-77; Clarence Diegelman, 1977-86; Edwin Francis, 1986-95; Leo Hoying, 1995-2001; David Vincent, 2001-13; and James Simons, 2013-present.
The office for Holy Family is shared with Immaculate Conception in Bradford and St. Denis Catholic Church, Versailles, at St. Denis. Jane Pierron, is pastoral associate; Mike Meyer, director of youth ministry in Versailles; Alan Capasso, director of youth ministry at Immaculate Conception; Carolyn Stucke, director of religious education and Lyndsey Otte, secretary. Roger Frey is in charge of maintenance.
The parsonage, which is across the street from the church, was built in 1950.
The parish hall, which was constructed in 1927, has been functioning as a place for such events as entertainment, wedding receptions, bingo, family reunions, Christmas parties, funeral dinners, anniversaries, religious education, youth ministry, CYO basketball, parish picnics, plays, community gatherings and Palm Sunday breakfast.
Holy Family Cemetery was formed in 1845, with burials continuing today. More land was donated for additions to the cemetery since the beginning, the most recent being in 2005 of 1.280 acres by the Bruns and Stucke families.
The cemetery contains many unique tombstones as well as numerous surnanes from the early French settlers in this area. There are German and Irish names as well. Some of those names include: Subler, Gasson, Goffena, Didier, Couchot, Pierron, Magoto, Neargarder, Goubeaux, Perin, Marchal, Berger, Grilliot, Voisinet, Sullivan, McEldowney, Martino, Kelly, Frantz, Saintignon, Tynan, Bulcher, Baltes, Simon, Poly, Pequignot, Trion, Bartine, Dapore, Didot, Bey, Cashman, Maniere, Reime, Horning, Mangen, Smith, Winner, Wagner, Ayette and George.
Pierron, before coming to work for the three churches, used to work for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati for 24 years. She retired five years ago and came to work locally.
“Fr. Dave asked me to work for him,” said Pierron, who is responsible for the RCIA and bringing people into the Catholic church.
She and two others were responsible for the creation of the history book designed for last year’s dedication. The others were Keith Didier and Barb Marshal.
The church is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was placed there in 1979, 113 years after the was built.
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