St. Patrick's Catholic Church
In 1854, as the culmination of an interesting and historic series of events beginning in 1837, the first Catholic Church of Geauga County was built. Located on land donated by James Sidley, son of the first Catholic settler in the area, the original church was constructed on the southeast side of Sidley Road opposite the still existent cemetery. After enlargement in 1859, the dimensions of the house of worship were thirty-five feet by fifty-eight feet.
Ireland of the early nineteenth century was a crowded island with little opportunity for the ambitious man and many laws, which still discriminated against Catholics. The Irish had been coming to America since the Revolutionary War but most of the early immigrants had settled near Boston and New York. In the 1830’s, members of the Sidley family decided to come to America and settle – some in New York, some in Massachusetts and some in Ohio. City life of that era being undesirable, and the land in the Western Reserve being sold by the Connecticut Land company at two or three dollars per acre, members of the William Sidley family, of County Limerick, arrived in south Thompson in 1837. They cleared land, built houses and barns, planted crops and became the first, and for some time, the only Catholic settlers of the area.
When Mary Knowles Sidley, wife of William, felt she did not have long to live, she expressed her wish for a priest to give her the Last Sacraments. Although her husband and sons doubted that a priest could be brought in time, her young son Robert, riding one horse and leading another for the priest, made the two-day trip to St. Mary’s in the valley of the Cuyahoga. Arriving late the second day, he and the priest, Reverend McLaughlin, started the return trip early the next morning. In addition to attending to Mrs. Sidley’s spiritual needs, Reverend McLaughlin found many other duties to perform: confessions to be heard, children to be instructed and baptized, and marriages to be validated. The day following Mrs. Sidley’s funeral he started the return trip to Cleveland after inviting young Robert to visit him when the crops had been harvested. Robert made two such visits in succeeding winters and, in the third year, went to the Seminary in Baltimore.
From 1844 through 1849, this new little Catholic community was periodically visited by priests from Cleveland, including Reverend McLaughlin, Reverend Maurice Howard, Reverend DeGoesbrian, Reverend James Monahan and Reverend James Conlon.
The community was growing. Peter Carraher, his wife, nine sons and one daughter, and Robert Sidley and his two sons and others were settling in south Thompson – or the "Burg’ as it was then known.
Priests from St. John Cathedral in Cleveland continued the occasional visits attending to the needs of the Thompson Parish through 1853 with Mass being said in the homes. In 1853 the Thompson Parish was made a mission of Painesville. When, in 1854, the first church was built, Bishop Amedeus Rappe of Cleveland came by horse and buggy to administer the Sacrament of Confirmation. At that time, Reverend Charles Conquerelle of Painesville had been serving the needs of the Thompson Parish. From 1856 through 1862, the area was again attended by the priests from St. John Cathedral, namely Reverend E. Hannin, Reverend L. Hoeffer, Reverend E. M. O’Callaghan and Reverend Alexis Caron. In 1863 Reverend John Tracey of Ashtabula visited Thompson monthly and continued to do so until, in 1865, Reverend Daniel O’Keefe was appointed the first resident pastor. Reverend John Hannon succeeded him in 1866. The subsequent pastors, serving through 1895, included: Reverend T.P. Thorp, Reverend Peter Cody, Reverend E. M. Hills, Reverend Nicholas Franche, Reverend P. Barry, Reverend John Desmond, Reverend J. J. Clarke, Reverend F. J. Hroch, Reverend J. LeBrun and Reverend J. Johnson.
During all this time, many families had joined the Parish. A list of family names would include: O’Shaughnessey, Murphy, Callahan, Burns, Mooney, Morgan, Ferron, Fitzgerald, Harvey, Sullivan, Connelly, Flavin, Burke, Donovan, Corrigan, Cain, Silk, Croft, Quinn, Buckley, Ahern, Mahoney, Campbell, McKee, McCormack, Norton, Foley, Zollers and Cavanaugh.
While Reverend Hroch was serving the area, the pastoral residence, which was located about two miles from the church was sold and another was built nearer the church at a cost of about seven hundred dollars. In the Civil War period and after, there was prosperity but, about 1893, the church was hit by depression – many young were leaving the area, the old members were dying, farms and homes were neglected – and the church again became a mission attended from Jefferson, Ohio. When erosion made it desirable to move the church in the 1890’s, the foundation of hand-cut stone was supplied by Mr. Francis Lennon, a stone mason who moved into the area in 1882, and set by him with the heart-given help of the parishioners.
In 1901, Reverend J. McInerney became pastor of the Parish and served through 1903. He was followed by Reverend Richard A. Dowd from 1903 to 1907. Then, once again, the Parish became a mission attended from Jefferson by Reverend J. N. Rhein until 1919 when, in September, St. Patrick’s was attached to St. Mary’s Church of Chardon with Reverend John J. Price as pastor. His tenure was followed by Reverend Thomas F. Barry, Reverend John Schaefer, Reverend Barry again, and Reverend M. L. Stevenson who, in 1934, enlarge the sanctuary and added a priest’s sacristy in preparation for the observance of the eightieth anniversary of the church. There were about eighty-five families in the Parish by this time. In 1935, Reverend James Maruna was appointed and he served through 1948, during which period the rectory was remodeled, oil furnaces and electric lights were installed in the church and parish house and the Parish continued to grow. December 7, 1948, after various priests from Madison and Cleveland served for the ailing Reverend Maruna, Reverend W. J. Kimmons became pastor. In May 1949 the interior of the old church was decorated, the sanctuary was remodeled, a garage was built, sidewalk was installed and the area was landscaped. A new electric organ was purchased. The congregation at this time consisted of 150 families and about 600 members. The Parish organizations included the Holy Name Society for Men, the St. Patrick Guild for Women, the Patrician Club for Teenagers and the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine for Catholic Children attending Public Schools.
During the first century of its existence. St. Patrick’s Parish had been honored by seven sons called to the priesthood and two daughters to the convent. The priests were: Reverend Alexander Sidley, Reverend William Sidley, Reverend John Sidley, Reverend Bert Ernst S. J. (Missionary in India), Reverend Matthew Herttna. The Sisters were Mother Angela, Order of St. Ursula, and Mother Helena of the Congregation of St. Augustine.
At the time of the Centenary celebration, two grandchildren of the original settler were the oldest living parishioners. Robert Sidley was ninety years old and Miss Rose Sidley was eighty-seven. A third parishioner, Mrs. Mary Roach, was eighty-four and living in Hartsgrove. They, along with an overflow crowd at the tiny religious structure, observed the centennial: a Mass of Thanksgiving, with Archbishop Edward F. Hoban as celebrant: and music by the Parmadale Boys’ Choir. In the lovely rural setting it was a most inspiring ceremony.
Reverend Kimmons served during this period and through an era of rapid growth of family membership, planning and working toward the inevitable: - in 1960, about three and on-half miles from the previous site, a modern house of worship and, several years later, a Rectory were constructed on Rock Creek Road and the congregation moved into its third home. Since Reverend Kimmons, the pastors have been: Reverend Kraynak, Reverend Mara.
As of 1976 that congregation, consisting of three hundred families and approximately one thousand members from Thompson, Montville, Huntsburg, Painesville, Leroy, Madison, Geneva, Rock Creek, Rome and Windsor, now find it difficult to imagine the services of the early days with the few neighborhood Catholics standing before coal stoves, reading prayer books under smudgy oil lamps with only occasional visits from priests who celebrated masses in the parishioners homes. Only the venerable cemetery on Sidley Road land donated by Robert Sidley, son of the original settler of the Parish, remains as silent testament to the dedicated people of faith who, with hearts as well as hands, built from the soil of south Thompson the Parish of St. Patrick.