History of St. Edward Catholic Church

Cynthiana is an old Kentucky town dating back to 1793. Groups of Catholics began to emigrate to Kentucky by way of the Ohio River using the inland buffalo trails which brought them into the fertile regions of Harrison County as early as 1825, Cynthiana was visited as a station from the Scott County mission center.. From that time until 1853 when the Diocese of Covington was formed the scattered Catholics of Harrison County were visited occasionally by priests from White Sulphur, Lexington, Bardstown, Frankfort and Cincinnati. Priests visiting Cynthiana during that period included Revs. Edward & Peter McMahon, Maguire, Joyce, Drew, Lancaster and other priests from Cincinnati. However the visits of the priests were at long and irregular intervals, so many Catholics of Cynthiana took their infants to Cincinnati miles to be baptized.

Shortly after the Diocese was formed Bishop George Carrell assigned Cynthiana as a station to the mission center at Paris, Kentucky. Our congregation in Cynthiana was first organized by Rev. John Force. At that time the Kentucky Central Railroad was under construction and the project brought many Irish Catholics from the East into this part of the State, a number of whom took up permanent residence in Cynthiana. At first Rev. Force said Mass in member's homes. Later the Wall Schoolhouse which stood at Pike and Court Streets was used as the mission chapel. From 1854 on, Mass was offered twice a month at Cynthiana.

In 1857, in reply to the request of the Catholics of Cynthiana for a church,  Bishop Carrell appointed a committee consisting of Thomas English, Patrick McCaffrey and Louis Pohlymeyer to obtain a suitable site for a church. The committee obtained a lot with a fifty foot frontage on Back Street extending to the railroad station. However, the site was rejected by Bishop Carrell, because of its proximity to the railroad. When Rev. Eberhard Brandts became pastor of Paris on February 2, 1860, mass was still being said twice a month at the Wall Schoolhouse.

The present site of St. Edward Church was purchased by Rev. Brandts from William Roper on November 22, 1860. Our new lot  was eighty-six feet by two hundred and eight feet on the west side of Back Street (now Walnut St.). Fr. Brandts (1864-1872) then proceeded to erect a frame building with a school room in the rear. This first church of Cynthiana was dedicated in honor of St. Edward in time for services on Ascension Day in 1864.  Soon afterward, General John Morgan attacked the Federal troops in Cynthiana under the command of General Hobson. During the siege our Catholic school was commandeered as a morgue. On this occasion a destructive fire enveloped the town and the losses of a number of Catholic people were heavy. As a result many Catholics left Cynthiana.

But our numbers grew nonetheless and after a few years, the church building was found inadequate. Part of our growth came from improvements to the roads in Kentucky which brought a new influx of Catholic families to Cynthiana. Father Brandts responded with the plans for a new brick church. In 1869, a tract of thirty acres of land was purchased at the intersection of the Keller and Falmouth Pikes for a parish cemetery. The same year the old frame church building was moved to the rear of the church property. On July 2, 1871 Bishop Toebbe laid the cornerstone of the present St. Edward Church and blessed part of the new St. Edward Cemetery. In the meantime, the Parish congregation had grown to such a size as to require the full attention of its pastor, and accordingly, on October 2, 1872 Bishop Toebbe appointed Rev. Ferdinand Brossart (1872-1875) as the first resident pastor of Cynthiana, making St. Edward mission an independent parish. Fr. Brossart undertook the construction of St. Edward Church and had the church under roof before his transfer, on November 25, 1875.

The church was dedicated on October 29, 1876 during the pastorate of Rev. Thomas Major (1876-1883). The dedication ceremonies marked an outstanding event in the history of the Church in Harrison County. Trains had been chartered on the KCRR from Lexington and Covington which brought great crowds to Cynthiana. From Lexington came the Irish Benevolent Association and the United Sons of Erin, headed by a cornet band. From Covington came the Cathedral Choir and the Newport Barrack’s band. The imposing ceremony was followed with Solemn Mass being offered in the newly dedicated church with Fr. Brandts, Vicar General, as celebrant.

In the meantime, the Cynthiana congregation had increased in size due to the arrival of a number of families of German origin mostly from Mason County and Ripley, OH. In 1883, Rev. Joseph Merschmann (1883-1891) purchased the lot adjoin the church property for a rectory. In July 1891, Rev. Thomas McGrady (1891-1895) raised enough funds for the project by a subscription and from the proceeds of lectures delivered in neighboring towns and was able to begin the building the present rectory. His interest in the welfare of the young men of the parish prompted him to convert the old frame church into a social center and to organize a YMI Council. Father McGrady was an eloquent preacher and he attracted many to the church. 

When Rev. Patrick Jones (1895-1901) became pastor became aware of some financial struggles and hardships which the parish had borne in erecting their parish church. By July 1898, continuing on the work of the preceding pastors, he was able to lift the debt from the parish. Until the time of Father Jones, St. Edward Cemetery had been little more than an unkept field. He had walks and roadways cut and a substantial wall built to enclose it. With the transfer of Fr. Jones to Maysville, on April 8, 1901, his successor, Rev. Frank Kehoe (1901-1903) brought to the pastorate of Cynthiana youthful energy and an indomitable zeal. During his pastorate the beautiful Gothic fan-groined vault ceiling of the church was installed. [Rev. John Adlesperger (1903-1909) served as the next pastor.] Rev. George Bealer (1909-1919) put the finishing touches to the church by installing art glass windows.

Cynthiana had run a Catholic school while still a mission. The school, dating back to 1858, continued to flourish until 1886, at which time it ceased to function for a period of almost thirty-five years. When Bishop Brossart visited Cynthiana in September, 1919 to administer the Sacrament of Confirmation, he urged the congregation to complete their parish plant by establishing a parish school. Shortly afterwards steps were taken to establish a school. A suitable location was secured in the Hedges property adjoining the church property on the west. A fourteen room house on the property was remodeled to serve as a school and to provide a residence for the sisters. Through the efforts of Rev. Declan Carroll (1919-1928), the parish school opened in September, 1920, with an enrollment of sixty-two pupils, under the care of the Sisters of Divine Providence. The Sisters who went to Cynthiana at that time included Sister Angelina, superior, Sister Cecilia, Sister Lauretena, and Sister Lellis.

Rev. Joseph Collins (1947-1957) was appointed to the pastorate of St. Edward on September 3, 1947, which had been made vacant by the death of Rev. William Curry (1928-1947).

(To this point the history was taken from History of the Diocese of Covington by Rev. Paul Ryan, 1953.)

The following was written to complete the parish’s history to mark the 150th Anniversary.

Rev. Albert McCracken (1957–1964) A new school and convent was built in the early 1960’s. In 1961, the southeast corner of N. Main & E. Mill was purchased. Fr. McCracken died on October 8, 1966.

Rev. Urban Hortsman (1964-1971) became the next pastor. On December 30, 1965 the church building and the next-door rectory were destroyed by fire. The fire of undetermined origin was discovered by workmen on the church roof. Within two hours, the church and rectory were damaged beyond repair. Fr. Horstman, narrowly escaped injury from a falling light fixture in the church. New Year’s Day Mass was held (with everyone in tears) in the auditorium of the city hall. For nearly three years Mass was celebrated in the school library and adjoining classrooms. One of the few items to survive the fire was a beautiful statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. She became known to the entire community of Harrison County as the “Miracle Statue.” On November 3, 1968, our present church building was dedicated by Bishop Richard Ackerman. In May, 1970, to honor Fr. Horstman’s 40th anniversary, a surprise collection was taken to purchase the large crucifix which he had wished for, to hang over the tabernacle. The corpus was hand carved in Italy. Fr. Hortsman died on November 21, 1987.

Rev. Lawrence Keller (1971-1986) was named pastor. With much encouragement from the pastor and many money making projects, the parish’s debt of $170,000 was retired by 1980. A careful burning of the mortgage note was held at the evening Mass on December 8, 1980. In fall 1985 property adjoining E. Kehoe & N. Main St. was purchased to provide parking and a playground. Interestingly Fr. Keller and Fr. Brinker from Augusta switched parishes. Fr. Keller died on July 7, 2002 and is buried in Evergreen Cemetery, Southgate, KY.

Rev. Louis Brinker (1986-2001) was appointed pastor. Among many things he will be remembered for is his devotion to Mary, the praying of the rosary and emphasizing the Pro-life message. He is known for his friendliness to one and all. In 2001 he was named “Citizen of the Year” of Harrison County, an indication of the respect which the community had for him. Fr. Brinker died on June 29, 2008 and is buried in St. John Cemetery, Ft. Mitchell, KY.

Rev. Richard Frazier (2001-2004) was named pastor. Several projects on the physical facilities were accomplished due the generosity of parishioners who left St. Edward in their will. In fall 2001 the cafeteria was air conditioned and a new school roof was installed. In summer 2002 the breezeway was enclosed to provide for an additional classroom & office space.

Rev. Douglas Lauer (2004-2017) was installed as pastor. In a desire to prepare and plan for its future, parishioners determined it was the right time to acquire additional property for parking and future school expansion. In conjunction with the Diocesan Parish Annual Appeal, a seven year campaign was conducted to provide financing for this property expansion. In March, 2006 a new mobile classroom unit was installed through the generosity of the Alumni Association. In August, 2006 a new Preschool Program began. In summer 2007, property at 110 N. Main St. and 103 & 105 N. Walnut St. was purchased and demolished in February, 2008. In July, 2008 an anonymous contributor donated the property at 105 & 107 E. Pleasant St. and it was demolished in October, 2008. The cost of this expansion totaled over $350,000. Our Parish Service Award Program began in October, 2008. A new playground for preschool and school was installed in August, 2009. A new Building Fund was established in 2012 to provide for the maintenance and replacement of building needs. Thanks to the generosity of parishioners two property mortgages will be retired in June 2014. A mortgage burning ceremony marked this great accomplishment.

In 2014, the parish celebrated its 150th Anniversary. The Planning Committee arranged for several activities and events: a new parish pictorial directory, a Papal blessing, composed an Anniversary prayer, a Prayer Breakfast, Bishop Foys celebrated Mass and presented our Parish Service Awards in October to celebrate our Parish Feast Day and a luncheon at the country club.

Rev. Harry Allen Settle, Jr. was installed Parochial Administrator in June 2017 and Pastor in July 2018.

The future of St. Edward’s is bright. Many dedicated parishioners help in the mission and ministry of the parish. Each year a small number people are received into the church which is an indication that all is well and growing at St. Edward. Please keep our parish and school in your prayers. St. Edward, our patron, pray for us.