LITTLE HOCKING-The nearly 200-year-old St. Mary's of the River cemetery in Little Hocking continues to be an active cemetery, with the deceased being buried alongside those whose roots can be traced back to Ireland.
Ernie Thode, manager of Local History and Genealogy at the Washington County Public Library in Marietta, said St. Mary's of the River was the first Catholic church in the western portion of Washington County.
According to the St. Ambrose Catholic Church website, www.stambroseohio.org, St. Mary's of the River was blessed by its first pastor, Father Dean Hartnedy, in 1877. It was located just off U.S. 50 in Little Hocking. In 1883, a parish cemetery was opened there.
ASHLEY RITTENHOUSE The Marietta Times
Bryan Hayes adjusts flowers at the grave site of Father Louis Phillips in the St. Mary’s of the River cemetery Thursday as Charlie Wilsbacher watches. Both Hayes and Wilsbacher are members of the St. Ambrose Catholic Church in Porterfield, to which the cemetery belongs.
"The early ones (buried there) were from Ireland," Thode said. "Many of those buried there are from Irish railroad worker families. The railroad brought laborers from Ireland to western Washington County beginning in the 1840s."
He said many of those buried in the cemetery are originally from County Mayo in Ireland, with last names including Barrett, Lavelle, O'Donnell and Walsh, just to name a few.
Thode said there are also several military veterans buried in the cemetery, including Henry S. Pitzer, who was a corporal in the Marines in World War I and lived from 1899 to 1976 and Howard Russell Jacobson, who was in the U.S. Navy and served in World War II.
St. Mary's of the River
Located on Orchard Drive off U.S. 50 in Little Hocking.
Established in 1883.
About 250 people are buried there, many of whom are from Irish railroad worker families.
Belongs to the St. Ambrose Catholic Church in Porterfield.
The St. Ambrose website indicates that parishioners of the St. Mary's of the River Church lived all over the area, including Little Hocking, Belpre, Vincent and Fleming.
Because there were so many Catholics in the area in 1895, St. Ambrose Catholic Church was built in Vincent that year. A second St. Ambrose Catholic Church was dedicated in 1939 at the corner of Maple and Ridge Streets in Belpre. It is not known why the two were given the same name.
Eventually, the two were combined into what is now the St. Ambrose Catholic Church in Porterfield, which was completed in 1998. The St. Mary's of the River cemetery now belongs to that church.
"Somewhere around 250 (people are buried there)," said Belpre resident Bryan Hayes, a member of the church "You don't have to be a member of the church (to be buried there) but you have to be a Catholic, unless it's waived by the priest."
Towering over the grave markers is a pure white statue of the Virgin Mary, whose arms are outstretched. Attached to the platform on which she stands is a plaque which reads, "Pray for those here buried".
Buried closest to the statue is Father Louis Phillips, who once served as the priest at St. Ambrose Catholic Church in Belpre.
"Fixing that monument was one of our projects - it's falling down," said Hayes.
Hayes is also a member of a recently established committee that's working on some improvements in the cemetery.
"We made a committee to straighten out who is buried where," he said. "We sat down and wrote rules and regulations for the cemetery and we've been plotting out the cemetery, making sure the graves are marked according to the map."
Hayes said the group is also in the process of purchasing a tractor to be used for mowing the cemetery.