‘Little Catholic Church on the Irish Mountain’ stood in West Virginia for 150 years before burning

The square, simple building was originally constructed of hewn logs, and many years later, in 1928, the log structure was covered in white-painted clapboard siding. The church was nicknamed St. Colman.

A large unadorned wooden cross rose above roof level at the front of the chapel. Inside, the white altar and some of the congregational pews were built in 1904 by Father JJ Swint, who was a carpenter and priest, and later became Bishop of Wheeling.

Outside, the chapel graveyard contains the graves of several dozen Irish residents of the area, marked with upright granite and marble headstones. It also has what is known as a “lost corner”, located at the back of the cemetery, which is a small patch of unconsecrated land where the unbaptized were buried. A tombstone bears the epitaph:“Remember good friends as you pass. As you are now, I once was. As I am now, you must be. Prepare for death and follow me.”

Although the area lost some of its population as some of its men left to work on the railway, the Irish Mountain community continued to thrive in the 20th century, averaging 15 to 20 families occupying the area, the appointment said. But the mission church never had its own priest, always relying on Hinton’s parish, St. Patrick.

At the time the nomination to the Register of Historic Places was drafted – 1984 – the author of the form described worshipers there as “casual.

Kelli Thompson Harrison, 50, of Crab Orchard, West Virginia, told CNA that her ancestors were Irish Catholic immigrants who worshiped at St. Colman’s Catholic Church.

“It’s really heartbreaking because there’s so much history there,” she said. The church was a place of meaning and purpose for the immigrant community, Harrison said, and it saddens him to see it destroyed.

The chapel had attracted attention in recent years for reasons other than its Catholic history – it has been visited by ghost hunters, who claim to have experienced “cold spots” and the presence of ghosts at the site. In particular, the presence of the cemetery’s “Lost Corner” seems to have captured the imagination of paranormal enthusiasts.

Ghosts or not, the attention paid to the chapel by ghost hunters has caused it demonstrable harm. In 2012, “the windows, pews and altar were smashed and destroyed” by vandals, according to a report by the Beckley Register-Herald. The attackers also allegedly spray painted a message inside the chapel: “This s*** is not haunted.”

It is unclear whether the alleged arson attack that destroyed the church this week is linked to its ghostly reputation or to the series of arson attacks against Catholics that have plagued the nation as a whole in recent months.

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In particular, Catholic churches, crisis pregnancy centers and other pro-life groups have been on heightened alert in response to threats of retaliatory attacks by pro-abortion activists following the landmark decision. on abortion issued by the Supreme Court of the United States on June 24.

Jerry B. Hatch