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“St. Joseph’s Church, R. C., at Middletown. In 1879, the Rev. Charles H. Heichemere, S.J., the pastor of old Bohemia Church in Maryland, began to celebrate Mass in the auditorium of the Old Town Hall in Middletown. He would drive over on alternate Sundays bringing his altar boy with him. At that time, there were only about fifteen Roman Catholics in that neighborhood. Fr. Heichemere was succeeded by the Rev. John B. Gaffney, S.J., and, in 1882, he began urging that a church be built in Middletown. The site of St. Joseph’s Church was purchased by means of a public subscription.

The contract for building the church was awarded to Stevens, Miller and Co., on Oct. 19, 1883. The corner-stone was laid on Sun., Nov. 18, 1883, by the Rev. Father Murphey assisted by the Rev. John B. Gaffney. At 10 o’clock, a Mass was celebrated in the Town Hall, after which the congregation marched to the church site. Here the corner-stone was laid and blessed and the 750 lb. bell was also blessed. In the evening Father Murphey delivered a lecture in the Town Hall. The church was incorporated on Feb. 3, 1884.

The church was dedicated on Oct. 5, 1884, at the morning service, by Bishop Thomas A. Becker. Bishop Becker celebrated Mass previous to the dedication ceremonies. He was assisted by Fathers Bradford, Keiley, Hayes and Gaffney. St. Peter’s choir, of Wilmington, assisted with the music. In the evening Father Keiley delivered a lecture. The site of the rectory was donated by Mrs. Sarah Lockwood.

Old Bohemia Church near Warwick, Md., mothered not only St. Joseph’s Church but all of the Catholic churches in Delaware and Pennsylvania. St. Francis Xavier’s Church, better known as Old Bohemia Church was founded by the Jesuit Fathers in 1704. It is the oldest Catholic church on the Eastern Shore. There was a college at Old Bohemia which was attended by Charles Carroll of Carrollton, one of the Signers, his cousin, John Carroll, the first Bishop of America, and others, who became prominent in the. life of the Colonies. The College was founded, in 1745, by the Rev. Thomas Poulton, S.J., and it was the forerunner of Georgetown University. It was continued until 1790, when the present Georgetown University was founded in Washington, D. C. The Jesuit Fathers and the Sulpician Fathers conducted Old Bohemia until 1899, when secular priests were placed in charge. It is served today by the Rev. John H. Walsh who also looks after the Middletown and Chesapeake City Parishes.” (1)

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Text Source:

1. Frank R. Zebley, The Churches of Delaware, Wilmington, Delaware, 1947, p. 184

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