St. John Mission – Dividing Ridge

The early history of this faithful congregation dates back to 1850, when the first Catholic settlers of the region settled near the headwaters 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.  The contacted Reverend George Watson, who in the late 1850’s and early 1860’s had the congregation at Morning View under his care.  The year book 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 offered the first Mass in a log-barn of John Cahill, then sanding 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 motives, and others by curiosity to see the fabled horns and cloven foot of the poor priest.  The advent of this priest created no little animosity and consternation in the ranks of the “Know Nothing” element as no prevalent in Ky., and the resolved to give the 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 their rebuke.  But their plans leaked out, and reached the ears of the faithful Irish at Dividing Ridge, who, led by John Cahill, then supervised a 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, Smith, 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.  The 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 Reverend Augustus Gädker At Falmouth, the old log church at Dividing Ridge became inadequate to serve the congregation, and in 1881 the present church was erected.  Father Gädker likewise acquired an ace 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 charge of the congregation at Double Beach.  Father Jones had built a pastoral residence at Double Beach, but shortly thereafter he took up residence at Dividing Ridge.   In 1895, Father James Taaffe was appointed pastor of Dividing Ridge, and he established as the place of his residence 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 from Dividing Ridge to Williamstown, the St. John congregation becoming a mission attached to St. William Parish. 


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