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

St. Joseph's Chapel

Ashland, 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