(Continued From Yesterday)
ST. JAMES SACRED HEART CATHOLIC CHURCH
On the north side of the pike, a little more than a mile west of the old
brick toll house, is the site of St James Chapel, the first Catholic church
in Washington County. This historic building disappeared more than 80 years ago,
but the location is marked by a tall pine tree and a well-kept cemetery which is
still used by members of the Catholic denomination in Donegal Township and
Among the first settlers in that section was an Irishman named Robinson,
who came about the close of the Revolution. As a native of old Ireland it naturally
follows that he was a Catholic. Henry Montague, another settler who hailed from
the Emerald Isle, located about 1794 near Coon Island. Others settled in that
section and in 1809, Montague purchased the land upon which stood the cabin
of Edward Gaither, which had been raided by Indians in 1781. This land joined
the Montague farm, and , according to available records, the first mass in
Washington County was celebrated in the old Gaither cabin in 1811 by Father
O’Brien who was traveling west over the old emigrant road. Prior to that, the first
Catholic sermon in the County was preached in the Courthouse in Washington in 1801,
by Father Lannigan, another priest traveling over the old trail to the farther west.
On that occasion, many Protestants went to hear him.
Montague’s was headquarters for Catholics on their way west, and in 1814,
when Father Fenwick, afterwards the first Bishop of Cincinnati, was on his first
western missionary journey, he stopped at Montague’s for the night, and held
divine services to the few Catholic families in that section. During this visit
he consecrated and blessed a small plot on the Montague farm as a burial ground.
Montague, his family and several other early Catholic settlers are buried there.
This graveyard is on the road from Coon Island down Dutch Fork.
Sometime in early 1820s the Catholics of that vicinity felt that they
needed a church. There is an old tradition, well authenticated by the deed, that
when the question of a location was discussed, Michael Dougherty, a
Catholic, and John Shaffer, a Protestant (probably a Presbyterian or
Methodist), whose farms joined at this point, each donated half the ground for
the church and graveyard.
Crumrine says that the church was completed before the end of 1821; but
this is a mistake, for the deed is dated September 24, 1834. Dougherty and
Shaffer jointly conveyed to Henry Conwell, Roman Catholic Bishop of Philadelphia,
for $1.00 and in consideration of promoting and establishing a Roman Catholic
Church called Saint James Church and for no other use, intent or purpose whatever.”
Both clauses clearly show that the land was a gift.
St. James Chapel was evidently built before the end of 1824, under the
direction of Father Maguire, who came during the construction of the National Pike.
Irish workmen on the road (there were many of them) joined the Catholic families
in that section in making the contributions necessary for the first edifice
which was frame.
Father Rafferty, of Pittsburgh, held services at regular intervals from 1830
to 1833, after which Father Horner, of Wheeling, supplied the congregation until
1836. Bishop Kenrick, of Philadelphia, visited the church in 1836, and the next
year sent Father Gallagher to take charge of this hand other missions in the
County. As the first regularly appointed pastor of a Catholic church in Washington
County, he held services at St. James and in Washington once a month. In 1846,
Father F. Duffy succeeded Father Gallagher, and he immediately had the frame
chapel replaced by a brick edifice, 33 by 50 feet.
Father Duffy was succeeded, by Father Gallagher, again and he remained
until 1849. The next year Father James McGowan arrived, to be succeeded by
Father Henry Duff Lambert.
In 1852, Father Daniel Hickey took charge of the Washington and
Greene County missions, to become the first resident priest in Washington County.
He took up his residence in a small frame house on the north side of the pike
one-tenth of a mile east of the church and cemetery. Whether this parish house
was built at that time or earlier is not known; but, it still stands, now the
residence of Adolph Mertig. (probably Hertig-HSD)
The construction of the Hempfield Railroad from Wheeling to Washington in
the 1850’s was doubtless the reason Father Hickey selected this for his residence,
for, like most early railroads, it was built by the Irish, and this ceased an
increase in the membership of St. James. Some of those Irish remained in the
County to become the ancestors of many of the present generation. Father
Hickey died October 5, 1854, at the early age of 31 and was buried in the
little cemetery. Other priests followed him, until Father J, McEnrue arrived
The old frame church was replaced by a brick edifice in 1846, but a quarter
of a century later it was found to be unsafe. In 1872, a site was purchased in
Claysville, and a new brick building, still standing, was completed in 1874.
This was dedicated, as the Church of the Sacred Heart, by Father M. Domenec, in the
summer of 1874. During the construction period mass was celebrated in
private dwellings and in the Claysville school hall.
On old headstones in the little cemetery you can still read the names of
many of the early Catholics who settled in that region, many of them born in
Ireland. Burials are still made, the last one being J. Bruce Blayney in 1941, a
soldier of World War I.
ROGERS TAVERN Picture
A short distance west of the Catholic cemetery is the old Rogers Tavern, a
frame house on the north side of the road. Searight says it was kept by a man, named
Rogers, at an early date, and later, by Jacob and Michael Dougherty. In 1830,
Jacob Jones, the father of B.F. Jones, an early iron manufacturer of
Pittsburgh, was proprietor.
Ever since travel closed on the pike a hundred years and more ago, it has
been a farm house. William A. Guess, the present owner, has lived there all
his life, and knows much of the history of the old stand, told to him by his
father. The house, large and well kept, has been changed very little since the
old tavern days. It contains nine rooms, and the construction shows that it was
built at a very early date, probably before the pike came through.
The old colonial type stairway, the doors, and mantels are original. The
tavern dining room was on the west side, with a large built-in cupboard that
dated from the erection of the house. The kitchen just in the rear is the same
that was used during tavern days. The big, open fireplace, where cooking for the
guests was done in large kettles and Dutch ovens, has been walled pu; but
the original is still there. The barroom was in the front, across the
hall from the dining room.
Mr. Guess told me that, although this tavern was operated by
others, it was owned and under the management of John Valentine, who ran another
tavern a short distance west. Valentine kept most of the stage passengers at
Rogers while he entertained the Pike Boys at his stand where he had a large
well paved wagon yard.
A large stage stable stood across the road from the house, but it
was torn down years ago, and a shed now occupies the site.
The big log barn, about the only one left of tavern days of Washington
County, is still standing a little east, of the house and on the opposite side of
the road. It was covered, with weatherboarding, by Mr. Guess years ago.
A large watering trough for stage and Conestoga wagon horses stood
under a big poplar tree in front of the house. The water was piped from a
spring on the other side of the road; but the trough and tree have been gone
these many years. The poplar grew so large that the limbs were dangerous to the
house, and as they interfered with telephone wires. Mr. Guess permitted the
telephone company to remove it. After it was cut it measured 98 feet in height
and six feet in diameter at the stump.
On the south side of the pike and about 100 feet below the barn, is a
large spring which feeds a dam built by Valentine long ago. In the winter, he
cut and stored ice for use at both taverns.
Mr. Guess described a still house that Valentine built at this spring;
where he made whiskey for both taverns and for the Valentine House in Washington,
in which he had an interest. The still house disappeared years ago; but the dam
is still there, as good as ever.
The story, of a mail carrier of long ago, was told by Mr. Guess. The
Rev. Thomas H. Boyle, to help supplement his meager salary as a preacher, carried
the mail through that section on horseback. He was supposed to make 40 miles a
day; but during deep snows and bad roads in the spring and fall this was not
possible. Later this mail-carrying preacher became presiding elder of the
Methodist Church in Pittsburgh.
On September 23, 1945, a Conestoga drawn by six Belgian mares, came over
the pike on a journey from Lancaster to Pittsburgh, and then through Washington
to Wheeling. It was an historic trip, for it had been almost a hundred years
since one of these wagons of commerce had traveled the old National Pike;
and probably never again will another pass that way. It stopped at the old toll
house, and then paused briefly at the Rogers Tavern. Photographs were taken at
each place, and when it reached the Valentine Tavern, it stopped for a few minutes
while another picture was taken. Thousands of these wagons had passed these
points during more that 10 years of freighting over the pike. For a few minutes
it revived memories of the old road in the days of its greatest glory, when they
parked every night in the wagon yards on both stands.
On top of the hill just west of Rogers, John Valentine kept a wagon stand
in a frame house during all the years of pike travel. The old tavern is still
standing on the north side of the road, now the home of William J. Dieringer. This
was one of the most popular stands on the old road.
George A. Valentine, Washington’s well-known druggist, is a great-grandson
of the old proprietor, and he told me that the house was built about 1812 or not
later than 1814. Located on the old road between Washington and Wheeling, it was
probably a stopping place from the beginning. Although travelers were rather scarce
before the pike was completed, many emigrants passed over the old road to settle
in the Ohio country and Kentucky. In fact, there was a constant stream of them
during the 19th century, and John Valentine catered to their needs. They frequently
remained several days to rest before facing the hardships of travel in the
land farther west.
Shortly after the pike was opened to Wheeling in 1820, stagecoaches ran
on a regular schedule, and the Pike Boys with their Conestoga loaded with
merchandise came through thicker than fleas. They always made it a point to stop at
The unusual popularity of this stand, during all the years of pike travel,
is explained by Searight, who says that John Valentine possessed unusual talent as
a good tavern keeper. In fact, the Valentines were a family of tavern keepers—the
father, Charles, and his sons, John, Lewis, and Daniel; and son-in-law, John Rettig.
Charles and Jacob, the other sons, joined the ranks of the Pike Boys. Julian Valentine
was a relative, possibly a brother of the original Charles. Therefore it is
little wonder that John Valentine possessed the talent of a tavern keeper to
a rare degree. He was born to the business.
George Valentine remembers the old _________m? [blackened out] early
boyhood, when it had not been changed from tavern days. A long porch was in front,
but this, was removed, by Mr. Dieringer when he remodeled the house. In describing
the arrangements of the old inn, Mr. Valentine said that the east front room was
the tavern parlor, with the dining room in the rear, connected by a doorway. Mr.
Dieringer removed the partition and made one big room, leaving one original
fireplace and mantel; but the fireplace in the other room was closed.
The tavern barroom was on the west side, opposite the parlor. This is now
the Dieringer dining room, and the old mantel, a prized possession of the
past, is still there.
The tavern kitchen was in a one and one-half story “L” addition on the rear,
but this was torn away many years ago. Mr. Valentine remembers the big open
fireplace with cooking cranes and irons to support the logs for the fire. All
cooking in tavern days was at this fireplace.
A blacksmith and a shop to repair wagons and stages was an important part
of the equipment of every tavern stand. Mr. Valentine said that the shop was a
brick building a short distance east of the house and on the edge of the
wagon yard; but it disappeared long ago.
A two-story log house for the accommodation of emigrant families going
west stood in the rear of the tavern house. John Valentine gave these travelers
space in the yard for their wagons. In bad weather, they slept in this cabin,
and cooked at the big stone fireplace. They were always poor, and the proprietor
seldom received money in payment for his generosity. He never asked for it, for
that was a way of life in those long dead years. If you had money you were
expected to pay for accommodations. If you did not, you were just as welcome.
This old log house of the emigrants disappeared long ago with the people who
had camped there on their way to settle the West.
The wagon yard, paved with heavy stone, was on the east side. This stone
paving is still there, but is covered with a heavy layer of earth and a beautiful
lawn. When you look at it you would never dream that each night throughout the year
big Conestogas and emigrant wagons were parked there. A short distance east of
the house is a log cabin that dates back to tavern days; but the shingle covering
gives it a modern appearance. The stage coach stable across the road was torn down
several years ago.
The original spring house stood in the rear of the tavern, but is was
torn down by the Dieringers and the present stone springhouse erected on the
Valentine’s was one of the very few taverns and wagon stands on the
entire route of the National Pike that was conducted by the same proprietor during
all of those glamorously romantic years of through travel. When John Valentine died
in the old house in 1868, his son, George, inherited the farm, but travel had
ceased many years before. The son never operated the tavern, but his boyhood memories
of the old stand are traditions handed down to his descendants.
One of the most interesting visits in my quest for old taverns on the
National Pike in Washington County occurred one day in the fall of 1953, when I
stopped at the John Valentine stand. The ancient house had been completely remodeled,
and you would never dream that it was erected more than 140 years ago. Although
it stands close to the road, you will find it almost concealed behind a high
Miss Nancy Dieringer, daughter of the owner, conducted me through the
house explaining the changes, and I was fascinated with the restorations that
were made without losing any of the old charm. I can best compare this
restoration to that at the Century Inn in Scenery Hill, which has been described.
William J. Dieringer purchased the property in April 1911, from George’s
mother, Mrs. Laura B. Valentine, of Washington, and several years later he
decided to remodel. The long porch was removed from the front; and a colonial type
doorway installed. The two rooms on the east side were made into one large living
room, and Mrs. Dieringer completely redecorated the entire interior with
colonial design wallpaper.
When you enter you feel that you have stepped back across the vanished
years into the long ago. The original stairway, preserved in all its beautiful
colonial lines of 140 years ago, is finer than can be found in any modern dwelling.
The four original bedrooms on the second floor, were preserved, The house is
completely furnished with valuable antique furniture, collected from far and near,
and scattered about are many interesting relics, all tastefully arranged. During my
visit Miss Dieringer explained in detail that the many changes that were made on
both the outside and interior.
Since the death of Mrs. Dieringer several years ago, Mr. Dieringer has lived
there with his son, Daniel, and daughter, Miss Nancy.
On October 19, 1932, a man destined to be elected President of the
United States within less than three weeks, passed over the old pike from Washington
to Wheeling on his campaign tour. In the automobile with Franklin D. Roosevelt
was Michael Benedum, “the great wildcatter” and Mr. Dieringer’s friend and employer.
The car stopped and Mr. Dieringer was called out to meet the man who was to become
the next President.
(To Be Continued)
For part 26 of The National Pike Story For part 28 of The National Pike Story