“A History of the Diocese of Covington, Kentucky”
by: Rev. Paul E. Ryan
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.