Saturday, May 19, 2007

St Michael's Church

This entry has been taken almost entirely from the book The Rock From Which You Were Hewn written by Father Donal O'Donovan and privately published 1987.

To the right is the brick church as it looked in the 1980s.

In the 1840s and '50s priests travelled the Virginia wilderness in what would become Central West Virginia, performing mass and providing the sacraments perhaps four times a year. One of the locations they used was the Braxton County Courthouse. St. Patrick's Church in Weston was the home church for these circuit riding priests.

We are interested here in the three parishes that began to form just south of Weston. The first, the closest to Weston, was St. Bridget's. The next was St. Bernard's and the third was St. Michael's. These three would comprise the three parish circuit that would be served by the priest who lived at the rectory on Loveberry Hill, located in St. Bernard's parish. St. Michael's, the furthest from Weston, was the last of the three to develop.
St. Michael's Beginnings
St. Michael's began at Knawls Creek, (or Flesher's Run.) Shortly after the Civil War Michael and Margaret (Grogan) Griffin and several other Irish families moved to the Knawls Creek area. The Griffins were particularly instrumental in building a parish there and the records show the first services were held at their home. Agnes Carney, daughter of Patrick & Ellen (Naughton) Carney who lived on Clover Fork, was baptized at the Carney home in August of 1876. She was the first child recorded as baptized in the parish. Father John Tracy was the pastor. By 1878 the community that met at the Griffins' farm was called St. Michael's at Griffins.
To the right is Margaret (Naughton) Carney, mother of the first child baptised in St Michael's parish.

Thanks to Bonnie (Brown) Neal for this great photo, below left, from the internet that shows the clapboard covered log church with its cupola and clapboard-siding.

The first building, a log structure, was built on land given by the Griffins, on the hill between Knawls Creek and Clover Fork. In 1882, records show, Father Tracy said mass at St. Michael's "every fifth Sunday and on Holy Days when convenient." According to the Pastoral Report of 1904, the parish at Knawls Creek had 145 souls: 8 were Irish born, 120 were of Irish descent, 3 were German and 14 were colonial.

About ten years after the log church was built it was sided with clapboard and painted white. Although St. Michael's congregation moved in 1907 to Orlando, the old white church remained and was a beloved landmark for neighbors and parishioners until it was removed in the 1970s to the Bulltown interpretive park and restored to its log exterior.
Thomas Quirk (to the right) came to pastor the three church circuit and live at the rectory on Loveberry Hill. For a little more on this fascinating may see the entry Oct. '06, Orlando's Priest Father Quirk.

A Pretty Church on the Hill
"By the end of the nineteenth century, the center of population had moved from Knawls Creek to Confluence (which would be renamed Orlando). Confluence had become the center of the oil and gas drilling industry for southern Lewis County and northern Braxton County. The new industry brought about a marked decline in the farming industry itself as a source of livelihood. Much more money could be earned working for the oil and gas companies. Father Quirk gave us an insight into the situation: "'There is a restless flocking hither and thither to the towns.'"

In 1901 Father Quirk purchased land in the The Rusmisell & Fury Addition (the lot where John Moran later built his house). The new St. Michael's, a frame church on the hill, was dedicated in July, 1907. .
On the left is a wedding photo: a couple stand in the center of the photo, she in a long white gown.
Eight years after the new church was dedicated, in July of 1915, it was struck my lightning during a storm and it burned to the ground. In his 1915 Pastoral Report Father Quirk wrote, "St. Michael's Church burned down last July. We saved about $600 worth of furnishings The new church will be of brick with stone trimmings."

A Brick Church on the Floodplain
Moving to the lower ground, in the floodplain, did not meet with the approval of Father Quirk. He had some unkind words to say about the younger generation. "The new generation has become so infernally lazy that they hate to climb the smallest elevation."

The first mass was celebrated in the brick church on December 13, 1917. In August of 1918 Father Quirk wrote, "The flood recently played havoc with the furnishings of the building which we are now trying to repair and replace." -pg204
Above, right: St Michael Parishioners all, this 1921 family photo shows: 1.unkown 2. John Vincent Carney 3. Winifred Frances (Arkle) Carney 4. Mike Moran 5. Margaret Catherine Carney 6. Joe Eddie Moran 7. Mike Carney 8. Jim Carney 9. Pat Carney 10. Catherine (Moran) Carney, Mike's sister 11. John Carney (the donor of this photo) 12. Patrick Lee Arkle Carney 13. Rose Angela Moran 14. Ann Dolan
To the left is detail from the brick church.
See the Feb '07 Orlando Floods.

The parish of St. Michael's was officially disbanded after Father Quirk died in 1937. Orlando was already beginning to doze as the trains moved their passenger services out of Orlando.

.The young people of St. Michael's community were leaving the area, but their allegiance to the community remained. A parishioner had left money in his will to have the property maintained and every summer one of St. Michael's sons, Father McDonald, officiated at a mass in the old clapboard-sided log church and parishioners brought their children and grandchildren to share in their heritage. See the Dec '06 entry, The 13 Minute Mass.

The yellow poplar log church has been restored and moved to an historic park along with a number of buildings which reflect the area's heritage. St. Michael's community continues to gather at the tiny log church in its new location. In the summer of 2006 another son of St. Michael's parish said mass to the two- and three-great grandchildren of the original Irish settlers who came to Knawl's Creek and Clover Fork.
When the United Brethren denomination and the Methodist Episcopal denomination merged into the United Methodist Church, the brick church was purchased to house a joined congregation. As it turned out, the denominations may have chosen to merge, but Orlando's congregations congregations did not merge. Next, a Baptist congregation purchased the building and is at home there today.