Loveberry Road in Lewis County is a rural, scenic place in Lewis County for many
reasons, but drive round a curve and there is St. Bernard Parish and cemetery, nestled on a hill, peaceful and serene.
St. Bernard Parish was settled on Loveberry Road in 1884. It was formed by combining St. Bridget and St. Michael with St. Bernard.
After Father Adeodatus Boutlou, the first pastor, could no longer assume his duties, Fr. Thomas Quirk was appointed.
In 1875, it was reported that St. Bernard logged 289 parishioners with 57 families, which held the largest population of all Lewis County Catholic Churches at the time.
St. Bridget recorded 272 parishioners, and St. Patrick had 245. St. Bernard reached its peak in parishioners in 1895, listing the population at 400.
Quirk spent 67 years in the priesthood, dying at the age of 93 in 1937. The Weston Democrat previously reported that Quirk fell in his yard, and developed a “severe chest cold.”
Quirk’s home was located on a hill overlooking St. Bernard’s. The home is no longer there, but remnants remain, including the root cellar.
In 1934, Quirk celebrated his 50th year as a priest in Lewis County. The following year, he was bestowed the honor of Monsignor by Pope Pius XI.
Since 1886, Quirk administered approximately 50 marriages, baptized about 275 people, and buried roughly 300 individuals. He served as a priest, doctor, and lawyer for his parishioners. Shortly after his death, his home was torn down.
St. Bernard has not been active for 20 years, but a homecoming is held each year in October. Father James DeViese of St. Patrick Church in Weston said there are older parishioners whose parents
are buried in the adjoining cemetery, and funeral services are still held there.
DeViese said they are trying to map the cemetery, as it contains over 400 graves. The mapping would allow for more detailed documentation of burial sites. Headstones were also not as common as they are today, so some graves may not be marked at all.
Following its closure, there have been break-ins in the past, but the church and its grounds are now protected by security cameras and the doors have been replaced.
There used to be a one-room school building that belonged to the church. It was built on a hill by an outcropping of rocks on Loveberry Road. DeViese said when surveys were conducted in that area, employees of EQT found artifacts left over from the school.
The land for St. Bernard’s was purchased from Gideon Draper Camden, Richard P. Camden, and Minter Bailey, who also owned the land where The Weston Democrat now stands.
The three of them made a grant of 100 acres to seven Irishmen to build a Catholic church, cemetery, and a home for the priest. They were John Hayden, Thomas White, James Mullady, Thomas Mullady, Michael Copley, Patrick Copley, and Michael Collins.
The land was transferred in 1849 to Bishop Whelan from Bailey, Gideon Camden, and Richard Camden. A log church was originally built on the site, with the current church being built in 1910.
Legends surround the church, as is commonplace with old buildings and cemeteries, according to DeViese.
One legend states that Quirk’s spirit has been seen sitting in his favorite chair in front of where the rectory stood looking at St. Bernard Church.
Another legend claims that Quirk’s spirit will not allow anyone to remove anything from the church, especially the Bible. There is no substantial proof to either legend, DeViese said.
Strange occurrences have been attributed to Quirk and John Kennedy, who committed
suicide. Kennedy is buried outside the consecrated ground of the cemetery, while his headstone is placed within the fence.
DeViese said this is very unique to the church. He said it is uncertain to say why this happened in Kennedy’s case, but he suspects it was done in service to the mourning family.
According to the doctrine, there are no laws that distinctly prohibit a gravemarker within the grounds. However, murder, even that of oneself, was considered a sin, so his remains could not be placed within the grounds. The idea was that when one kills himself, he can no longer repent for that sin.
Because of a better understanding of mental health issues today, DeViese said that
excluding the remains of someone who committed suicide is no longer a practice in Catholic faith.
Allowing Kennedy’s headstone to be placed on the consecrated ground shows Quirk’s sensitivity to his parishioners, DeViese said. Kennedy’s relatives are buried within the church cemetery.
For more photos, please find the story online at www.westondemocrat.com.