History of the Churches
St Joseph's Mission Church - 1765
Catholic Church on the Eastern Shore"
St. Joseph's Church was established in 1765 by Father Joseph Mosley
as St. Joseph's Mission. Father Albert Peters was the last resident
Jesuit pastor when, in 1864, the Mission was transferred to the
Diocese of Wilmington.
after the Indian tribe inhabiting this area, was the original
name of the district in which Father Mosley established his residence
and built the church. His correspondence is inscribed, "Tuckahoe,
on Wye River, and St. Joseph's Talbot County Head of Wye."
from London used to anchor in the Wye, three miles from his house,
and the Captains executed commissions for him and took care of
letters to and from England. But this means of communication was
only occasional and uncertain, so Father Mosley directed that
letters to him should be addressed in care of Father Harding,
at Philadelphia, 110 miles away. When postal facilities were increased,
many years later, the catalogue of the Province gave the address:
"Wye Mills P.O. and Cordova P.O."
Priest's residence was in a lonely rural spot and there was not
a Catholic living within six miles of it. The Mission, in the
days of Father Mosley, and for years afterwards was very extensive,
embracing ten counties. In later years, it was restricted to the
charge of Talbot, Caroline, and Queen Anne's Counties.
the time of the surrender of the Mission to the Wilmington Diocese,
the stations depending upon St. Joseph's were Denton and Easton.
Denton, where there was a wooden church, was ten miles away, and
Easton, the county town of Talbot, was a greater distance. The
parish priest now resides at the latter place, from which St.
Joseph's is attended as a station.
Joseph Moseley was a native of Lincolnshire, England, born November
16, 1731. He studied at St. Omers, and entered the Jesuit Society
in 1748. Coming to Maryland in 1758, he labored for some time
in Charles and St. Mary's counties and, in 1765, he founded the
Mission of St. Joseph's and remained in sole charge of that "arduous
station" until his death on June 3, 1787.
letters of Father Mosley are a record of missionary tolls and
privations, presenting a graphic description of the country and
the conditions of the Catholics. They exhibit the fullest consecutive
account of Maryland that is available from the pen of any Catholic
missionary during the eighteenth century.
letters from 1758 to 1768 were written by Father Mosley to his
sister, Mrs. Dunn at New Castle on Tynes, England, and to his
brother, Father Michael Mosley, S.J., who was at the time chaplain
to the Acton family at Aldenham, Shropshire, England. They were
published in Woodstock Letters, 1906.
Mosley went to Bohemia, August 11, 1764, and began immediately
visiting the more remote stations depending upon that Mission,
which included the whole of the Eastern Shore, or the present
Diocese of Wilmington.
the first letter to his sister, after settling at Tuckahoe, he
gives the reason for founding the new mission and describes his
surroundings. The letter is dated October 14, 1766. "It's
a Mission that ought to have been settled above the sixty years
past, by means of immense trouble and excessive rides it had given
our gentlemen, that lived next to it: yet, till these days, no
one would undertake it, either for want of resolution or fear
of the trouble notwithstanding, it had contributed to the deaths
of several of ours and had broken the constitution of everyone
who went down to it although it was but twice a year, except calls
to the sick." " I was deputy in August 1764, to settle
a new place in the midst of this mission. Accordingly, I set off
for those parts of the country. I examined the situation of every
congregation within 60 miles of it and before the end of that
year, I came across the very spot, as providence would have it,
with land to be sold, nigh the center of the whole that was to
be tended. I purchased the land and took possession the March
Lewis of White Marsh gave him eight Negroes to cut down the woods
and to open a plantation. Father Manners of Bohemia contributed
260-10 pounds Sterling and Father Harding of Philadelphia, 7-10
pounds Sterling to pay for the land.
Mosley describes the miserable shack in which he lived for a time.
"My dwelling house was nothing but a few boards driven from
oak trees, not sawed plank, and these nailed together to keep
out the coldest air. Not one brick or stone about it; no plastering,
and no chimney, but a little hole in the roof to let out the smoke.
In this I lived till the winter, when I got it plastered to keep
off the cold and built a brick chimney."
expresses his hope of bettering things and of providing for future
ease and comfort. "The Chief congregation is but ten miles
off: second, 20; third, 24; fourth, 22; fifth, at home; sixth,
22 miles. All these I visited once in two months. I have two others
which I visit but twice a year - the first, 30; the other 90 miles
off. Notwithstanding the troubles I had to purchase the land,
to improve the place, to build and tend the workmen, yet I never
neglected any one of my missions on their due and set times."
more distant stations must have been in Dorchester and Somerset
Counties, perhaps Meekin's Neck, Tangier Island and Quantico.
Mosley was in trouble for a time, shortly after the Declaration
Maryland Legislature prohibited any minister of religion to preach
unless he took a prescribed oath. Father Mosley neglected to do
this, not through disloyalty, but from scruples of conscience.
The other Priests in Maryland had freely subscribed to the oath,
but in his remote position he was not aware of this and he waited
until he could find out what course should be determined on by
his Brethren, so that concerted and uniform action might be taken.
For this delay, he fell under suspicion; as soon as he discovered
what had been done by the other Catholic clergymen of the province,
many of who were Englishmen like himself, he presented himself
to take the oath. The objection was raised that the time had expired
for compliance with the law. Father Mosley sent a petition to
the Legislature, and a special act was passed to enable him to
those days a sermon at a funeral was indispensable, and Father
Mosley notes in his diary, "No sermon, not having qualifies
by an oath, to be taken by law, by all that would preach."
On the 12th of September, 1780, he notes: "Burial of Mr.
William Youngs Queen Anne's Co., Sermon, having qualified by a
private Act for myself."
to his sister, October 4, 1784, Father Mosley renewed the correspondence
which had been long interrupted by reason of the late "tedious
and calamitous war."
dilates upon the improvements that had been made, and upon the
brighter prospects for religion.
I first settled," he wrote, "I had not one of my own
profession (Catholic) neighbor than six or seven miles; but now,
through God's particular blessings. I've many families joining
and all around me. The toleration here granted by the Bill of
Rights has put all on the same and has been great service to us.
The Methodist, who have started up chiefly since the war, have
brought over to themselves chief of the former Protestants on
the Eastern Shore of Maryland, where I live. The Protestant ministers,
having no fixed salary by as heretofore, have abandoned their
flocks, which are now squandered and joined different societies.
We've had some share. Since the commencement of the war, I've
built on my farm a brick chapel and dwelling house. It was a difficult
and bold undertaking at the time. I began it, trusting on Providence,
and I've happily finished without any assistance either from our
gentlemen or my congregation.
Mosley was so proud of what he had accomplished. As he received
no contributions from the congregation and was not aided by the
procurator of the missions, he must have paid for the brick house
and the chapel from economies and savings in the personal expenses
of living. Pew rents and collection boxes were unknown in those
primitive days. The residence and chapel were under the same roof;
this arrangement being adopted in several of the Maryland missions,
in order to evade the operation of the law at the time, which
forbade public places of worship for Catholics. The priest, as
a private gentleman, attached the chapel to his residence. It
was considered to be a part of his private property to which his
neighbors were invited.
zealous labors of Father Mosley were crowned with such success
that he could report five or six hundred communicants in his mission
in 1786. The territory dependent upon St. Joseph's had in earlier
times been visited by one of the priests from Bohemia who, on
his rounds lodged with some Catholic family. Records mention some
priests stationed at Queen Anne, such as Father James Quinn who
was killed in crossing the Choptank River, in 1745, dragged by
his horse from the St. Joseph's tournament was held each year
from 1868 to when Knights tried spearing the rings riding on the
running board of automobiles rather than mounted on horses. The
practice apparently did not prove popular because of it, and the
fact that quite a few of the riders were in the Armed Services,
were cited as reasons for not holding the tournament in 1918.
350-acre farm surrounding St. Joseph's was held until 1882, when
it was sold to John P. Steele. The Church and a few acres surrounding
it, were retained.
1848 some alterations and changes were made to the Church but
to what extent is not definitely known. While searching through
the records of St. Joseph's Church, papers were found asking parishioners
to subscribe to the fund. The paper was hung at the rear of the
church and read as follows:
church was built in the year 1782, by Father Joseph Mosley, of
the Society of Jesus. It is now not only too small for the congregation,
but also needs repairs. A record will be kept at the church in
which will be inscribed names of those who contributed and the
sums which they subscribed."
cemetery adjoining the church is almost as old as the church itself.
Records of Father Mosley's record that Mr. Charles Seth was the
first person to be buried on these grounds on January 3, 1767.
Joseph's remodeled in its present design in 1900, is the oldest
Catholic Church in existence on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.
who have served St. Joseph's from Easton since it became a part
of the Diocese of Wilmington in 1874 have included Fathers, Tuohy,
O'Neill, Comiskey, McGoldrick, Walsh, Murphy, Daughtery, Irwin
and Gegan. Right Reverend Monsignor Joseph Irwin, Father John
Farrington, Father Howard T. Clark, Father John Kavanaugh, Father
Paul F. Jennings, Jr..
present pastor is Father Robert E. Coine.