Our Parish History
The Beginnings of the St. Joseph Cathedral Parish
written by Rev. Mr. James Gorski
Due to overcrowded conditions in St. Patrick’s church and a desire for a new church to be more centrally located in the city of Columbus, in the summer of 1866 Rev. Edward M. Fitzgerald, then pastor of St. Patrick’s took steps in the construction of a new church. Father Fitzgerald was encouraged by the generous donations made accumulating nearly $37,000 from around 250 individuals. From the more influential members of St. Patrick’s was chosen a building committee. The committee consisted of John Conahan, Theodore Leonard, treasurer, John Joyce, John D, Clarke, Thomas Bergin, William Naghten, secretary, John Caren, Michael Harding, William Wall, James Naughton, William Riches, John McCabe, Michael Hartman, John Duffy, Martin Whalen, Bernard NcNally and Michael Galvin.
A subcommittee was selected to examine and discuss favorable locations for the church. Many eligible sites were proposed , but the prevailing desire was to have the church erected on Broad Street. Two lots with a total frontage of 120 feet on Broad Street and a depth of 200 feet on Fifth Street were purchased from John Miller, through John Joyce, on April 1866 for a price of $13,500. A meeting was held of the men of St. Patrick’s parish to determine the name of the new church. Rev. Fitzgerald left the choice to those in the meeting. A motion was made by J. D. Clark to adopt the name of St. Joseph, it was seconded and agreed to thus came the name of St. Joseph church on Broad and Fifth Street. Michael Harding was the architect that was requested to prepare plans and specifications for the church. It was projected to be 193 feet in length and 90 feet in width. The plans were modified slightly as to the superstructure as the work progressed but otherwise remained as first proposed. Mr. Harding staked out the foundation on June 6, 1866 and John McCabe, the contractor began to work of excavating the site. John Stoddard was then contracted for the masonry work. The work continued on the foundation until November 11, 1866 when the first cornerstone was laid.
It was a beautiful and chilly November day when the processions started from St. Patrick’s. The most reverend Archbishop Purcell was expected to be present on this joyous occasion but because of conflicting scheduling did not attend. In his place Right Rev. Doctor Sylvester H. Rosecrans, Auxiliary Bishop of Cincinnati attended. The procession started at 2 p.m. with Capt. William Riches as chief marshal and the following individuals as assistants: City Marshall Patrick Murphy, Thomas Bergin, James Joyce. J. C. Nevill, Patrick Dunn, George Burke, John Howard, William Naghten, John Caren. The procession moved in the following order: Hemmersbach’s brass band, St. Joseph’s Mutual Benevolent Society, St. Boniface’s St. John’s, St. Martin’s and St. Aloysius’s Societies of Holy Cross Church, Sub deacon carrying a processional cross accompanied by acolytes, twenty sanctuary boys in cassock and surplice, carriages containing the Bishop and clergy, Sodality of the Blessed Virgin, Holy Angels Society, the class of boys and girls who had received First Communion and Confirmation on the morning of that day, St. Patrick’s Society from London, Societies from Newark and Delaware, and finally St. Patrick’s Society of Columbus. It was noted that the procession was quite colorful with big banners and beautiful regalia worn by the participants. The procession moved along Grant Ave. (formally known as Seventh St.) to Broad where it turned west and stopped at Fifth St. Arriving at the foundation of the church, the societies formed a guard on the outer wall. It was noted that the windows of the neighboring houses, the streets, and grounds were filled with people awaiting the ceremonies.
The corner stone was laid on the southeast corner of the building, at the intersection of Broad and Fifth. In it’s cavity was placed a sealed tin box, continuing the name of the church, the names of the principal officers of the State and National governments, copies of recent Columbus newspapers, the names of the reigning Pope, the Archbishop of the Province, and pastor. Also included were the names of the officiating Bishop and his assistants, and numerous other articles to serve as mementos of the occasion. Bishop Rosecrans delivered and address from a temporary platform and was said to be eloquent and forcible in the language he used pleading the divinity of the Catholic Church. At the conclusion of the sermon, the Hemmersbach band played “Te Deum”. The clergy present were Rev. Father O’Reilly of Valparaiso, Ind. Rev. John B. Murray of Chillicothe, Revs. Louis Cartuyvel and Daily of Newark, Rev. E. M. Fitzgerald of St. Patrick’s Church, Revs. John B. Hemsteger and F. X. Specht of Holy Cross Church, Rev. Father Hillebrand of St. Francis Hospital. Special trains on different railroads brought large delegations from adjoining towns with the number of individuals being estimated at 6000. With the corner stone being laid, the foundation walls were covered over for the winter with the intention to resume work on the building with the advent of spring.