This is from: “A History of the Diocese of Covington Kentucky”
By: Rev. Paul E. Ryan, 1953
St. William Parish
In 1820, when Grant County was formed from a part of Pendleton County, the county seat became known as Philadelphia. Later the same year, the name was changed to Williamstown. The Cincinnati and Lexington Turnpike passed through the village, forming its main street.
Among the early Catholics at Williamstown were the Smiths, Hogans and O’Haras. In the early history of the Diocese, priests stationed at St. Stanislas’ College at White Sulphur visited the Catholics of Grant County. During the episcopate of Bishop Toebbe, Catholicity in Grant County was enlivened by more frequent visits of priests. Bishop Toebbe himself visited this section, saying Mass, instructing, baptizing and administering the Sacrament of Confirmation in the homes of the Catholics. Williamstown, during the episcopate of Bishop Toebbe was attended most of the time from White Sulphur. In 1918, the first resident pastor of Williamstown, Reverend James J. Taaffe, wrote thus of the period when Williamstown was attached to White Sulphur:
Through the 70’s, the homes of Dr. O’Hara, Ptk. Bannon and Mrs. Belle Clark had the honor of entertaining the good Bishop, and in these homes he said Mass and instructed his scattered flock. On the occasion of these visits, he also spoke in the Court House, kindly offered by the town authorities for this purpose. Fathers Moore, Major and Bowe were also frequent visitors from White Sulphur and held service in the Court House once a month. These missionaries were succeeded in the early 80’s by Father Donnelly, familiarly known as Jumbo, to distinguish him from little Father Edw. of the same name. The present pastor was then assistant at White Sulphur and it was our duty to come to Williamstown, where we held service in the Court House once a month. While this service had his advantages, it had also its defects on account of environments…
The writer will not soon forget a memorable experience in ’83 when he buried the murdered Jim Bannon from this seat of Justice. This man was cowardly assassinated on the streets of Williamstown, and his adherents clamored loudly for the blood of his murderer. It needed only a word to lead the mob to the jail where his murderer was entombed, and wreak their vengeance according to Judge Lynch. I held the service, in the Court House, and after the sermon, which was not a funeral eulogy, a better feeling prevailed, and the culprit was left to be dealt with according to law.
During the early part of the episcopate of Bishop Maes, the care of Williamstown was given to the pastor of St. Luke Parish, Nicholasville. Reverend George C. Bealor of Nicholasville had the care of the congregation from the spring of 1893 to January, 1906. The congregation in 1893 numbered about fourteen families. In the beginning, Father Bealor was accustomed to offer Mass in the courthouse, but later the Catholics of Williamstown undertook to build a church under his direction. A lot was purchased on North Main Street upon which was erected the present frame church, which was dedicated under the patronage of St. William. The generosity of Lawrence Cavanaugh was largely instrumental in the erection of the church. From 1906 to 1912 Fathers Charles Rolfes and Romaine Van der Vorst attended the Williamstown mission.
In 1912, Bishop Maes appointed Reverend James J. Taaffe the first resident pastor of Williamstown, who assumed charge of the parish on Ascension Thursday, May 16, 1912. Father Taaffe immediately turned his attention to the embellishment of the interior of the little church on Main Street.
St John Mission
The early history of this faithful congregation dates back to 1850, when the first Catholic settlers of the region settled near the head waters of Grassy Creek, at a point known as Dividing Ridge in the northwestern part of Pendleton County. Among the Catholic settlers were the Donehue, Cahill, Kelly, McLafferty, Powers, Lowers, Moran, and Hogan families. After clearing ground on which they built their cabin homes, they turned their attention to the matter of finding a priest who would offer Mass for them. They contacted Reverend George Watson, who in the late 50’sand early 60’shad the congregation at Morning View under his care. The Yearbook of 1912 and 1913 of St. William Parish and missions contains the following account of the first visit of Father Watson to Dividing Ridge:
He came and offed Mass on a log-barn of John Cahill, then standing on the Walnut Branch of Grassy Creek. The use of this barn was made necessary on account of the concourse of people to this first service, some attracted by religious motive, and others by curiosity to see the fabled horns and cloven foot of the poor priest. The advent of this priest created no animosity and consternation in the ranks of the “ Know Nothing” elements as now prevalent in Ky., and they resolved to give this first apostle a becoming suit of “Tar and Feathers” as a rebuke for his intrusion. Accordingly a night was appointed when they would go to Morning View to administer this rebuke. But their plans leaked out and reached the ears of the faithful Irish at Dividing Ridge, who, led by John Cahill, then supervising devoted band of his countrymen working on the Construction of the K.C.R.R., betook themselves to Morning View to defend the good priest. They were all well armed and ready to administer such a dose of “Liberty of Conscience” as these self-styled patriots would never forget. The enemy scented the trouble in store for them and very prudently refrained from executing their full purpose. These noble defenders guarded the good priest for two days and nights, and left him with the assurance of full and ample protection in the exercise of his ministry.
The good seed planted by Father Watson was nourished in the succeeding years by the periodic visits of Fathers Willie, Mackey, and McNerney. During the pastorate of Father James McNerney at Falmouth, the Catholics of Dividing Ridge built their first log church under his direction on a piece of land which had been given to them for that purpose by Francis Mann, a non-Catholic. This site was considered one of the highest points in Pendleton County and was a very suitable place for a church. During the nineteen year pastorate of Father Augustus Gadker at Falmouth, The old log church at Dividing Ridge became inadequate to serve the congregation, and in 1881 the present church was erected. Father Gadker likewise acquired and acre of ground adjoining the church for a parish cemetery.
In 1894, the care of St John Mission at Dividing Ridge was given to Father Patrick Jones who at that time also had the charge of the congregation at Double Beach. Father Jones had built a pastorial residence at Double Beach, but shortly afterwards he took up residence at Dividing Ridge. In 1895, Father James Taaffe was appointed pastor at Dividing Ridge, and he established his place of residence at the home of Squire Cahill. Father Taaffe, during the next eighteen years, continued as the resident pastor of St. John Parish. On Ascension Thursday, 1912, Bishop Maes transferred Father Taaffe to Williamstown, the St. John Mission becoming attached to St. William Parish.
St Joseph Mission
The first church established in Grant County was St. Joseph Church at Blanchet. The Bouscaren family came to Kentucky from Guadeloupe in 1850, and settled at the present site of Blanchet. They named their Grant County estate Caribbean Farm, in remembrance of their former home in the Caribbean Islands. Priests visiting the Catholics in Grant County, during the early history of the Diocese, offered Mass in the Bouscaren home. The scattered Catholics of the vicinity, numbering about forty, were gathered together at the Caribbean Farm for Mass and instructions. The hospitality of the Caribbean Farm was extended to all. Reverend John Bowe of White Sulphur managed to be there every other month for divine services. Bishop Toebbe often visited the Bouscaren home and encouraged them in their noble work. On his visits he always found converts ready for Baptism and First Communion. In the Bouscaren home, too, he administered the Sacrament of Confirmation.
On March 19, 1871, Marie Bouscaren (later Mrs. George Dungan), and her sister Georgina (later a nun of the Visitation Order at Washington, D.C.), began a campaign for the building of a little chapel. After the two young ladies had made a beginning, the subscription list was turned over to Mr. H.L. Blanchet, who had been a liberal contributor, and he carried on the fund raising project among his friends in Williamstown, until the necessary funds were available. Mr. Bouscaren donated the ground for the new church and also for a cemetery. The erection of the church was begun about the middle of August in 1871, under the general direction of Father Bowe, and a member of the Bouscaren family, who at the time was engaged as an engineer in the construction of the Cincinnati Southern Railroad. The cornerstone was laid by Bishop Toebbe in September of that year, assisted by Father Bowe. On September 21,1872, Bishop Toebbe, assisted by Father Leo M. Lambert, dedicated the church in honor of St. Joseph. The little cross on the church, peering gracefully above the giant oaks and poplars of the Caribbean Farm, always attracted the attention and admiration of the travelers along the Cincinnati-Lexington Pike, and on the Queen and Crescent Railroad.
Among the priests who served St. Joseph Mission were Father John Bowe, who built the church; Father Thomas C. Moore, who had it plastered; Father Leo M. Lambert, who erected the altar and donated Stations and a picture of St. Joseph; and Father Edward Donnelly.
In 1875 and during construction of the railroad, Fathers Brossart, Quinn, Major and Clermont were frequent visitors at Caribbean Farm. From 1893 to 1906, Father George C. Bealor visited St Joseph Mission regularly as did Father Charles Rolfes, from1906 to 1912. Other priests in transit who celebrated Mass at St. Joseph Mission were Fathers Burns, Sullivan, O’Neal, Coleman and Kathman. The little church served the Catholics of Blanchet, Williamstown, Corinth, and Mason.
In 1912, when Williamstown received a resident pastor, St. Joseph congregation at Blanchet became a mission attached to Williamstown and has remained such ever since.