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Home North Carolina Gaston County City of Mount Holly Historical Markers St. Joseph's

St. Joseph's

NC-273 at Sandy Ford Road, Mount Holly, NC, USA

Latitude & Longitude: 35° 20' 14.334", -80° 59' 58.902"
  North Carolina State Historical Marker
    North Carolina State
Historical Marker
    Marker Text:
"Built in 1843 for Irish immigrant gold miners. Fourth Catholic church built in state. This is the original building."
     During the 1830s, Catholic immigrants moved into what would become Gaston County at the encouragement of Chevalier Riva de Fionla. Fionla persuaded the newcomers to move to the area to work for him in newly discovered gold mines. The immigrants were recent arrivals to North Carolina from Ireland and, as soon as they were settled in their new homes, they sought to continue worship as Catholics. The first services were held in Fionla’s home and in 1838 Father T. J. Cronin was appointed pastor for the region. One of Cronin’s goals was the building of a church in the region but he died before construction could begin on land donated to the church by one of the first immigrants into the area. Reverend John Guifford followed Father Cronin’s example and began construction of a church in 1843. Father Cronin’s remains were moved to the new church’s cemetery shortly after its completion.

     At the same time in eastern North Carolina, another devout Catholic, William Gaston, was fast becoming a leader in state and national politics, serving in the state and U.S. Congress, and serving as a North Carolina Supreme Court judge beginning in 1833. Judge Gaston was instrumental in the construction of the first Catholic church in his hometown of New Bern in 1841, donating much of the funding to erect the building. Gaston then moved to assist in the completion of St. Joseph’s, the first Catholic church building in western North Carolina, also donating funds to complete its construction. The county in which St. Joseph’s is located was formed and named in honor of William Gaston in 1846.

     St. Joseph’s began to prosper as a new church with an active congregation which helped to establish other Catholic churches in the area as well as providing the basis for the foundation of Belmont Abbey College. The building is still maintained by the Catholic Church and the local community; however, services in its chapel are held only on special occasions.

R.L. Stowe, Early History of Belmont and Gaston County, North Carolina (1951)
Irene Dorsey, “Story of an Abandoned Church,” Charlotte Metrolina Magazine (1974)
William Gaston Papers, Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina, online finding aid:
William Gaston Papers, North Carolina State Archives
Belmont Abbey College website: http://www.belmontabbeycollege.edu/
St. Joseph's Historical Marker Location Map, Mount Holly, North Carolina