Sunday, May 11, 2014
Is This Church the Birthplace of Bourbon?
They may not have been Kentucky's earliest distillers but the English Catholics who migrated to the American Holy Lands beginning in 1785 played a disproportionate role in establishing the bourbon industry there. Many of the names of those First Families are familiar to bourbon fans today.
Holy Cross parish, in Marion County, is known as the birthplace of Catholicism in Kentucky. It was established in 1785 when “a league” of sixty Catholic families was formed in Maryland. Each pledged to migrate to Kentucky and agreed to settle in the same area for mutual support, to increase their chances of getting a priest, and to establish a church.
Until 1787, Mass was held in private homes. Under Father William DeRohan, the first chapel was built at Holy Cross. A grotto today marks where this structure, the first west of the Alleghenies for Catholic worship, was built. The present brick church was built in 1823.
The whiskey families associated with the Maryland migration include the Beams, Boones, Cecils, Dants, Haydens, Mattinglys, Medleys, Pottingers, Wathens, Wheatleys, and Willetts. They mostly settled in Nelson, Marion, and Washington County.
(Holy Cross history is courtesy of the Archdiocese of Louisville.)