Churches of Highland County


St. Mary Catholic cornerstone was laid in 1852

By Jackie Wolgamott - For The Times-Gazette



This is a picture of St. Benignus Catholic Church on the corner of Maribeau and Second streets in Greenfield.

This is a picture of St. Benignus Catholic Church on the corner of Maribeau and Second streets in Greenfield.


Jackie Wolgamott | For The Times-Gazette

This is a picture of St. Mary Catholic Church in Hillsboro. The cornerstone of the church was laid in the fall of 1852.


Jackie Wolgamott | For The Times-Gazette

Editor’s note — This is the second of a three-part series on the history of some of the churches in Highland County.

Hillsboro continued to grow in the 1800s. When Father Cornelius Daly visited in Hillsboro in 1845, he found about 15 families in the area of the Catholic faith. The first Catholic mass was held in a home owned by one of the families.

Although many families didn’t attend Catholic Mass, it was decided in 1852 to build a church. St. Mary Catholic Church still uses the same building today, although there have been expansions. The cornerstone was laid in the fall of 1852. The church was dedicated on July 20, 1853.

A bell was brought to St. Mary by Father Michael O”Donaghue as a symbol of peace in 1865. The bell was rang by hand until 1950, when Father Cletus Reiger brought an electronic bell-ringing device to celebrate the Marian Year. Then the bell could ring at noon and 6 p.m.

The church continued to grow and in 1902, it was enlarged and remodeled. In 1923, the current sanctuary was built, the choir loft, and the rectory. In 1988, the narthex and the parish hall were built.

In 2000, St. Mary Catholic School was established. The student body continued to grow and in 2005 a larger parish hall was built to accommodate the school. The last restoration to the building was in 2006.

The same priest from St. Mary also gave services in Greenfield at St. Benignus Catholic Church in Greenfield. The first Catholic Mass in Greenfield was celebrated in 1854 at the home of Owen McCormick.

In 1856, ground was purchased south of the railroad tracks to build a church. The cornerstone was laid on Sept. 13, 1857. The church was dedicated on Christmas Day, 1858.

As the church continued to grow, it was decided in 1899 to separate from St. Mary Catholic Church in Hillsboro.

In 1904, St. Benignus decided to purchase a Methodist church on the corner of Maribeau and Second streets, where it stands today. On Dec. 11, 1904 the first Mass was held in the new building.

St. Benignus had is interior renovated in 1958. In 1962, the basement was excavated and a breezeway between the church and the rectory was built.

The church was once again renovated in 1990 and the church basement was renovated in 1996. On Jan. 2, 1999, St. Benignus dedicated its religious education center.

Back in the 1500s, the Episcopal Church and Catholic Church were one church, but in 1534, the Anglican Church originated. The Anglican Church originated when King Henry VIII split from the Roman Catholic Church because the Pope refused to grant the king an annulment.

The Anglican Church is made of 40 independent churches, and the Episcopal Church in the United States is one of them.

The Episcopal Church does not believe in the authority of the Pope and has bishops. It’s congregants believe in marriage for their bishops or priests. Episcopal practices are governed by the Common Book of Prayer and members follow Nicene’s Creed.

The Catholic Church has centralization and a pope. The pope and priests are not allowed to marry. Centralization is the concentration of control of an activity or organization under a single authority. Decision-making powers are made in the main office and all other offices receive commands from the main office.

The first Episcopal service in Highland County was in Greenfield in 1824 or 1825. It was 1827 until another service was held in Greenfield in the home of Thomas White.

The first mentioned Episcopal service in Hillsboro was in 1838. In the winter of 1851 0r 1852, services were held in the home of a Mr. Bayard. St. Mary’s Episcopal Church was organized in 1853. It was consecrated, having been made or declared sacred, in 1855.

More can be found about St. Mary’s Episcopal history in “The Story of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church” by the late John G. Carson and Hillsboro resident John M. Glaze. The book can be found at the Highland House Museum. The church also has two DVDs being sold as a fundraiser for the church.

Sources for this story included: smehillsboro.weebly.com/history www.cnn.com, St. Benignus Catholic Church website, St. Mary’s Catholic Church website and askanydifference.com.

Jackie Wolgamott is a stringer for The Times-Gazette.

This is a picture of St. Benignus Catholic Church on the corner of Maribeau and Second streets in Greenfield.
https://www.timesgazette.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/33/2021/08/web1_St.-Benignus-church.jpgThis is a picture of St. Benignus Catholic Church on the corner of Maribeau and Second streets in Greenfield. Jackie Wolgamott | For The Times-Gazette

This is a picture of St. Mary Catholic Church in Hillsboro. The cornerstone of the church was laid in the fall of 1852.
https://www.timesgazette.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/33/2021/08/web1_St.-Mary-s-Catholic-Church.jpgThis is a picture of St. Mary Catholic Church in Hillsboro. The cornerstone of the church was laid in the fall of 1852. Jackie Wolgamott | For The Times-Gazette
St. Mary Catholic cornerstone was laid in 1852

By Jackie Wolgamott

For The Times-Gazette