Monday, August 4, 2014

Over the River (the Potomac) and on to St. Patrick's Church

That's the Potomac River there on the left in the photo up top, and it's the stretch of river along which our Farrell, House, Hartley, and Bigerstaff ancestors lived. It's near the long ago town of Magnolia, West Virginia, now all but gone except in the memories of a small group of folks. See that ridge line on that left far mountain? And see where it dips down, presumably to meet the river behind the greener ridge that rests in front of it? Right along in there is where Magnolia sat. And a bit down river and across from Magnolia still stands an old mission church, St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Little Orleans, Maryland. It sits up the hill aways from the river and the C & O Canal that runs next to it, looking too beautiful and historic in the warm summer sun. It captured my imagination at first sight.

Actually, we began our day driving east from the Western Maryland town of Frostburg in Allegany County where Mom lives to Little Orleans. Brother drove because he knows the area all around Little Orleans where a friend had a hunting cabin. He's been there many a time with the guys, and even thought the cabin was back in the thick woods, at night they'd all drive to a gathering place in Little Orleans, a town that somehow bills itself as the Sturgis of the East because of a motorcycling event. This year it's taking place between August 6 to 10. The rest of the year it's as peaceful as can be.

But up on the hill a bit is our target: a quiet county church. Take a look at these photos below from Cousin Joseph. Beautiful!

Visit the page for St. Patrick's Catholic Church on Find A Grave here.

How I came to visit this place is a story unto itself and so let me share that first. (Isn't it funny in genealogy how one thing for sure leads to another?) It starts with a DNA match over on AncestryDNA. Mom matched cousin Joseph and he was a wealth of knowledge! He shared that our mutual ancestors living as they were along the river on the West Virginia (formerly Virginia) side were Irish Catholic immigrants who boated across the river to attend services at St. Patrick's on the Maryland side. He found some of his Irish ancestors buried there and so did Cousin Rich.

The oldest church records from about the 1830s were still available and could be seen at St. Peter's Church in Hancock, Maryland. WOW! I imagined going there and finding the Farrell's registering baptisms and confirmations. Maybe I'd find the burial records for Thomas and Judah Farrell, our ancestors. But more on that later.

So up the hill we drove and parked. Mom waited in the car while brother and I quickly walked the grounds searching for Farrells. I took as many photos of stones as I could with the intention of eventually checking Find a Grave to see if another photo is needed. The size of the cemetery surprised me. The last picture above is deceptive and didn't give me any idea of the depth of the grounds. I had also expected to find the oldest stones closest to the church, but I could see right away that old stones were everywhere, so my strategy of looking for old stones to save time was not going to work. So up and down we walked. We got nothing. Bummer.

Oh, well. Sometimes you look and find and sometimes you look and don't find. When I just started with genealogy I was like a genea-junkie and always expected that "found it" high every time out. But now I've learned that I better just relax and enjoy the looking too. And I did enjoy this visit to the old mission church here in Little Orleans just for being there. And besides, just because I didn't find them doesn't mean that they aren't buried there. Sometimes there are some things we just don't get to know with certainty.

The bed of the old C&O Canal. These days it sits next to a hiking trail and picnic park.
Old stone work next to the hiking trail. Lush green beauty all around.

Down at the edge of the Potomac River, looking east towards Magnolia.


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