Catskills, Then and Now: St. Joseph’s Chapel

May 30, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

St. Joseph’s Chapel, located at the hamlet of Ashland in Greene County, is the oldest Roman Catholic Church in the Catskills. The church was established around 1800 and is located on a hillside along Route 23 between the hamlet of Windham and the hamlet of Prattsville. It serves as a mission church for St. Theresa of the Child Jesus Church at Windham, and is part of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany. The church is surrounded by a small cemetery which contains approximately 100 gravestones, many of them unmarked. The lack of a headstone and/or markings typically meant the family of the deceased did not have the money to purchase it. One memorial within the cemetery is marked as “Irish Colleens,” which is dedicated “in loving memory of the 14 Irish girls who came here from Ireland in the 1800s and who tragically lost their lives in a fire. They are buried here in a mass grave. May God bless and hold them in the palm of his hands.” The girls worked in the local cotton mills as weavers. Hanging inside the chapel is a poem titled “The Irish Colleens” by Robert W. Boughter (1896-1983), who is also buried at the cemetery. Although the church no longer offers regular services an annual service is usually conducted in the springtime by members of St. Theresa’s Parish of Windham.

 

 

                                                            The Irish Colleens

 

 

In the lovely Catskill Mountains

And high upon a hill

There stands a little church-yard

Lies a story now quite old

For it tells of Irish Colleens

And their story should be told

They came from far old Ireland

And with them brought their skills

They worked as expert weavers

In the local cotton mills

But the bitter winters took their toll

And long before their time

They died penniless and friendless

In that land of mountain pine

Within that little church-yard

Stands granite great and tall

To plainly mark the resting place

Of those who had it all

And nearby those who had no wealth

And for which they must atone

For their lack of worldly treasure

With a chip of native stone

But when they stand there proudly

Up high before the throne

I am sure they will be welcomed

And no longer be alone

I think that in that church-yard

A marker should be placed

To honor those courageous girls

In their final resting place

We have statues by the millions

And they need not atone

I think we can do better

Than a chip of native stone

 

The two photographs seen here of St. Joseph’s Chapel are separated by 110 years. The vintage postcard titled the “Oldest Church in the Catskills” was published by Albert Hahn. The postmark shows that it was mailed in 1909. My photo was taken over a century later in the spring of 2019.

 

St. Joseph’s Chapel, located at Ashland in Greene County, is the oldest Roman Catholic Church in the Catskills.Oldest Church in the CatskillsThis vintage postcard titled the “Oldest Church in the Catskills” was published by Albert Hahn. The postmark shows that it was mailed in 1909.

St. Joseph’s Chapel in the town of Ashland in Greene County is the oldest Roman Catholic Church in the Catskills. The church was established around 1800 and is located on a hillside along Route 23 between the hamlet of Windham and the hamlet of Prattsville. It serves as a mission church for St. Theresa of the Child Jesus Church at Windham, and is part of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany. The church is surrounded by a small cemetery which contains approximately 100 gravestones, many of them unmarked. The lack of a headstone and/or markings typically meant the family of the deceased did not have the money to purchase it. One memorial within the cemetery is marked as “Irish Colleens,” which is dedicated “in loving memory of the 14 Irish girls who came here from Ireland in the 1800s and who tragically lost their lives in a fire. They are buried here in a mass grave. May God bless and hold them in the palm of his hands.” The girls worked in the local cotton mills as weavers. Hanging inside the chapel is a poem titled “The Irish Colleens” by Robert W. Boughter (1896-1983), who is also buried at the cemetery. Although the church no longer offers regular services an annual service is usually conducted in the springtime by members of St. Theresa’s Parish of Windham.

The Irish Colleens


In the lovely Catskill Mountains
And high upon a hill
There stands a little church-yard
Lies a story now quite old
For it tells of Irish Colleens
And their story should be told
They came from far old Ireland
And with them brought their skills
They worked as expert weavers
In the local cotton mills
But the bitter winters took their toll
And long before their time
They died penniless and friendless
In that land of mountain pine
Within that little church-yard
Stands granite great and tall
To plainly mark the resting place
Of those who had it all
And nearby those who had no wealth
And for which they must atone
For their lack of worldly treasure
With a chip of native stone
But when they stand there proudly
Up high before the throne
I am sure they will be welcomed
And no longer be alone
I think that in that church-yard
A marker should be placed
To honor those courageous girls
In their final resting place
We have statues by the millions
And they need not atone
I think we can do better
Than a chip of native stone

 

St. Joseph’s Chapel, located at Ashland in Greene County, is the oldest Roman Catholic Church in the Catskills.St. Joseph's ChapelAshland, Greene County

St. Joseph’s Chapel is the oldest Roman Catholic Church in the Catskills. The church was established around 1800 and is located on a hillside along Route 23 between the hamlet of Windham and the hamlet of Prattsville. It serves as a mission church for St. Theresa of the Child Jesus Church at Windham, and is part of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany. The church is surrounded by a small cemetery which contains approximately 100 gravestones, many of them unmarked. The lack of a headstone and/or markings typically meant the family of the deceased did not have the money to purchase it. One memorial within the cemetery is marked as “Irish Colleens,” which is dedicated “in loving memory of the 14 Irish girls who came here from Ireland in the 1800s and who tragically lost their lives in a fire. They are buried here in a mass grave. May God bless and hold them in the palm of his hands.” The girls worked in the local cotton mills as weavers. Hanging inside the chapel is a poem titled “The Irish Colleens” by Robert W. Boughter (1896-1983), who is also buried at the cemetery. Although the church no longer offers regular services an annual service is usually conducted in the springtime by members of St. Theresa’s Parish of Windham.



The Irish Colleens
By Robert W. Boughter


In the lovely Catskill Mountains
And high upon a hill
There stands a little church-yard
Lies a story now quite old
For it tells of Irish Colleens
And their story should be told
They came from far old Ireland
And with them brought their skills
They worked as expert weavers
In the local cotton mills
But the bitter winters took their toll
And long before their time
They died penniless and friendless
In that land of mountain pine
Within that little church-yard
Stands granite great and tall
To plainly mark the resting place
Of those who had it all
And nearby those who had no wealth
And for which they must atone
For their lack of worldly treasure
With a chip of native stone
But when they stand there proudly
Up high before the throne
I am sure they will be welcomed
And no longer be alone
I think that in that church-yard
A marker should be placed
To honor those courageous girls
In their final resting place
We have statues by the millions
And they need not atone
I think we can do better
Than a chip of native stone

 


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