St. Patrick's Catholic
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
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
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
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
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.