St. James

In 1868, the Congregation at Brooksville received a resident priest. The early centers of Catholicity in Bracken County had been at Milford, in the southern part of the county, and at Augusta on the Ohio River in the northeastern part of the county. Some of the first settlers in the vicinity, now constituting St. James Parish, had sought homes on the land, others seeking employment on the roads and other public works. As early as 1840, Reverend Stephen Montgomery, O.P., pastor of St. Mary Church in Covington, who attend Maysville as a regular mission, likewise came into contact with Catholic settlers of Bracken County. The scattered Catholics of Bracken County later came under the care of the pastor of Maysville, when a resident priest was stationed in that town. In 1857, Reverend John McSweeney, pastor of Maysville, attended a station at Milford, which brought him into contact with the Catholics of central and southern Bracken County. In the early sixties, the Catholics of this section were visited by itinerant missionaries who traveled this section of the Diocese on horseback visiting the scattered Catholic families.

In the early days, Mass was said in the homes of the Catholics. The home of Dennis O'Brien, who settled in Brooksville in 1859, became the headquarters for the missionary priests and Mass was usually said there. At times, Mass was likewise offered in the homes of Terrence Carrigan and William Cullen. During the years, 1857 to 1866, the Catholics of Brooksville and vicinity often attended Mass at Augusta, which had a considerable congregation. After the arrival of the Benedictine Fathers in Covington in 1858, Augusta was attended from St. Joseph Priory, Covington.

In 1866, Reverend Alto Hoermann, O.S.B., then pastor of Augusta, organized the congregation at Brooksville. He had been offering Mass at Brooksville at regular intervals since his appointment to Augusta. Father Alto urged the new congregation to erect a church. On August 22, 1866, Dennis O'Brien deeded to Bishop Carrell a lot for a church, and the erection of a church was enthusiastically begun the same year under the direction of Father Alto. When completed in the following spring, Brooksville's first church was named in honor of St. James. It was a humble frame structure, the interior walls unfinished, with a temporary altar, and benches constructed of rough planks serving as pews.

Shortly before Christmas, in 1868, Reverend James McNerney was appointed as the first resident pastor of St. James Parish, Brooksville. As there was not as yet a pastoral residence, Father McNerney made his home with Dennis O'Brien. The congregations of Double Beach and Minerva were likewise under Father McNerney's care.

Father McNerney at once began to renovate the church at Brooksville. He enlarged the building and put in pews. In the fall of 1869, the church was formally dedicated under the patronage of St. James, by the Very Reverend John A. McGill, Administrator of the Diocese. The pastorate of Brooksville's first pastor continued until August, 1873, when he was transferred to Falmouth, Kentucky. After the short pastorate of Reverend Michael Callaghan, from August to December, 1873, the parish was for several months without a resident pastor, being cared for by the pastor of Augusta.

In the spring of 1874, Reverend David O'Donohue was assigned to Brooksville, remaining until August, 1876. During the pastorate of Father O'Donohue, the parish purchased the residence of Dennis O'Brien and land adjoining the church property. The O'Brien residence became the parish rectory. In August, 1876, Reverend John A. Redmond, a young and zealous priest, a native of Maysville, and who had been serving as assistant pastor at Maysville for the past two years, was appointed pastor of Brooksville. One of his first undertakings was the establishing of a parish school. During the twelve years of his pastorate (1876-1888), Father Redmond maintained the school under great difficulties and with much sacrifice. It was always kept up to a very high standard. In his characteristic zeal, Father Redmond more than once undertook to teach in the school when a suitable teacher could not be obtained. This school, more than any other thing, did much towards elevating the spiritual character of the parish. In 1881, Father Redmond placed a cupola on the church and installed a bell. Four years later, on his first visit to Brooksville, Bishop Maes blessed the new St. James Cemetery, situated on adjoining church property. In the early part of 1888, Father Redmond started a fund for a new church, but in August of that years, he was transferred to Paris, Kentucky.

Father Redmond's successor, Reverend Thomas N. Kehoe, owing to a number of circumstances, deemed it more advisable at the time to repair the old church, and the fund raising for the new church was discontinued for the time being. Father Kehoe took a great interest in the parish school, and during the six years of his pastorate, the school continued to flourish, despite the fact that the number of children in attendance was gradually decreasing, because about this time many families moved from Bracken County to the Blue Grass section of the Diocese. The first son of the parish to be raised to the Priesthood was Reverend John F. O'Dwyer, son of Martin W. O'Dwyer, and grandson of Dennis O'Brien, one of the pioneers of the congregation.

When Reverend Thomas J. Coleman became pastor on September 10, 1907, the growth of the mission at Minerva warranted more attention, and Father Coleman began the practice of saying Mass at both Brooksville and Minerva on Sundays and holy days. In 1913, the question of a new church at Brooksville was again put forward. At that time, Father Coleman made plans for the erection of a new brick church and brought it to completion.

In the spring of 1914, work was begun on the new St. James Church, and on July 12, 1914, the cornerstone was blessed by Very Reverend Ferdinand Brossart, V. G. On December 6, 1914, Bishop Maes solemnly dedicated the present brick church at Brooksville. The new church had been completely paid for by the time the work was completed. In the summer of 1916, the church was frescoed and rendered a finished structure in preparation for the Golden Jubilee of the foundation of St. James congregation which was observed October 15-17, 1916.

Father Coleman's pastorate continued until 1918, when he was transferred to St. Thomas Parish, Ft. Thomas. The pastors who succeeded Father Coleman, each in his own way, brought about a notable development in the parish. Father Edmund Corby organized the parish school together with a four-year high school. When Father Gerald Connolly became pastor in 1921, he requested the Benedictine Sisters to take charge of the school. Father Connolly, likewise, succeeded in building a new brick school and a new brick rectory, bringing St. James Parish to the status of an ideal rural parish.


excerpted fromĀ History of the Diocese of Covington, Kentucky, on the Occasion of the Centenary of the Diocese, 1853-1953, by Rev. Paul E. Ryan