The faith of Catholic families in eastern Daviess County inspired the building of a small log church in 1845 which was the beginning of St. Mary of the Woods Parish. Richard W. Barrett donated an acre and five poles of land upon which a 30 x 46 foot log Church was built. A 14 x 20 foot addition on the back served as a sacristy. The new church was located on the present site of St. Mary’s Cemetery.
In 1878, after 33 years as a mission church, St. Mary’s became an independent parish. Fr. Kyran King was the first resident pastor. During his pastorate the third church, a brick building was constructed on the present site in Whitesville. The dedication ceremony took place on June 8, 1884. The Fr. Hugh O’Sullivan era (1893-1938) saw many improvements in the parish plant. A brick kiln was built on the property and used to fire bricks to build a rectory in 1898, a stable referred to as “Longtrail”, and a new school building completed in 1918 and referred to as the O’Sullivan Hall. A portion of the Hall also served as a convent for the Sisters of Charity who came to reopen the school.
On October 6, 1978 the fourth and present church building was blessed and dedicated under the leadership of Fr. Philip Riney. In 1990 the stable underwent extensive renovation to accommodate the parish office. Then in April 2000 the Rectory was demolished to make room for the present Parish Center which was to include a large hall and offices. A new Rectory was constructed at its current location on the south end of St. Mary Grade School. When the Parish Center was completed in 2004, parish staff moved into the new offices and the old Longtrail building was torn down.
Today St. Mary’s consists of approximately 830 families. The faith community continues to grow through the efforts and generosity of many dedicated persons, and by the grace of God. The parish continues to support St. Mary Grade School and Trinity High School. Our prayer is that our efforts, however small, may in some way bring others closer to our loving God.
St. Mary’s church and school areal view