Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Padre Meets the James Gang

Jim Mullooly, cousin to many of Orlando's Irish, has done extensive research on Fr. Thomas Aquinas Quirk. Jim even portrays Fr. Quirk in Living History enactments. The following story is taken from an article he wrote in 2004 for The Catholic Spirit, a publication of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston.

The missionary Fr. Thomas Quirk came from his service in the developing town of Huntington, WV in 1884 to serve the area which included St Michael's at Knawls and later Orlando. In Huntington he had built a church, where he presided over mass. and a school, where he taught. From his time in Huntington, the following is a story he loved to tell.

by Jim Mullooly

When Fr. Quirk was in his early 30's, sometime during the first week of September, 1875, there was a Methodist Church conference in Huntington and many strangers were about. Father Quirk, one day at school recess, caught sight of some fine looking horses that several well dressed men had hitched near the church and school. He hurried over, got down in the street to examine the steeds, expressing his admiration for a particular sorrel, a blooded, spirited animal, only heeding his owner, and wisely declined the owner’s suggestion to trot him down the street.

Right, above: detail from Thomas Quirk's ordination portrait.
Left: Some of the James Gang

In the course of the conversation, the owner of this admirable horse asked him how much he would give for it, if for sale. “$800” was Father Quirk’s immediate reply, “but I’d have to rob a bank for that kind of money.” Previously he had given these men directions to the Huntington National Bank, not but a block away.

An hour later school was disrupted by shots fired and shouts. He sent to ask what “all the hubbub was about,” as he put it. Later he discovered that the “gentlemen” were none other than Jesse James and his brother Frank, who had just robbed the bank described. He always enjoyed recounting the story on himself but added, characteristically, “the James boys were good boys, but just started wrong.”

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