175th Fun Facts

  • The Bridge Street location of Immaculate Conception Church was doubled in 1889 under the direction of Fr. John Carey, pastor. The altar that was installed and consecrated at this time came from St. Peter’s Cathedral in Wilmington, who replaced their own altar with a larger one. This high altar from the Bridge Street location still remains present in the chapel of the current church, dedicated in 1973.

 

  • The first rectory of Immaculate Conception was a four-room cottage built in 1870 on the north corner of the church property on Bridge Street. The cost: $1,100.

 

  • According to colonial historian Father Russell Perkins, the early Catholic families who settled along the Elk River often came from Annapolis and southern Maryland. Wanting both more farm land and safety from persecution as a result of anti-Catholicism elsewhere in the colony, the families that came to live in what is now Immaculate Conception parish territory knew that the isolation of the Eastern Shore would make practicing their faith a little easier – as long as they could find a priest to serve their sacramental needs.The land upon which St. Jude mission church was built upon was donated by parishioner Alice L. McDaniel. The first Mass offered in the church was held in June 1969.
  • For the 135th Anniversary of the parish in 1984, Joan Berwick and a group of parishioner-quilters made a wall-hanging memory quilt, with each committee and organization of Immaculate Conception providing a design that represented their specific focus. By the time of our 150th anniversary in 1999, however, the quilt had been lost, and calls were put out to seek where it might have gone. To date, as far as we know, it has yet to be found.

  • Sometimes parish life can be less-than-exciting. For the year 1906, the only entry in the Immaculate Conception church records states: “Nothing of special interest this year. The same two trustees – Powers and Denver – were chosen again.” Thankfully, the same notation cannot be made about Immaculate Conception parish/St Jude mission in 2024.

  •  Father Francis Blake became the first resident priest of Immaculate Conception parish in 1868. Originally a priest in Brooklyn, NY, before coming to Elkton, Fr. Blake returned to his native Ireland in 1872.

  •  When Fr. William Lawler was named pastor of Immaculate Conception in 1983, he placed a great emphasis on the liturgy and social concerns as central to parish life. Parish outreach began in October 1983 when a parishioner broke her arm and needed assistance from parishioners to stay in her home. The first director of Parish Outreach was Leona Papagno.

  •  Quick to embrace many of the reforms brought about by the Second Vatican Council, Monsignor Lynch led Immaculate Conception parish as it formed its first parish council in January 1968. The council -- both then and now -- is comprised of a number of elected parishioners who serve as a representative voice for all parishioners and also offer feedback on what needs to be accomplished at the recommendation of the pastor, finance council and various subcommittees of the parish.

  • Original plans for the “new”1973 Immaculate Conception Church called for a “living
    backdrop” of plants on a portioned wall behind the altar.

  •  During Msgr. Lynch’s pastorate, three parishioners were ordained Priests, Father William Juergens in June 1957 – the first graduate of Immaculate Conception School to become a priest; Father John McMenamin in June, 1959; and Father Roland Calvert in February, 1965.

  •  In 1946, Father Charles Conway was named pastor of Immaculate Conception parish. He was responsible for building a new school and convent on Bow Street to replace the smaller, inadequate structures that existed near the original church on Bridge Street. By 1969, the debt on the school and convent were paid off, thanks to then-pastor Msgr. Francis Lynch.

  • For the building of the original church on Bridge Street in 1849, parishioner Mrs. Butler Lyons deeded a plot of land to the Archbishop of Baltimore (Elkton – and all of Cecil County – was then part of the Baltimore Archdiocese). Both Catholic and non-Catholic farmers from the area helped haul the stone from the Lyons’ property to the location on Bridge Street.

  •  Father Peter Paul Arnd, the pastor of Immaculate Conception from 1901-1938, announced in 1923 that he wanted to begin a parochial school here in Elkton. Monthly church collections raised the necessary money over a period of four years, and in 1927, ground was broken for the school. Opening on September 6, 1927, students were taught by the Ursuline Sisters until 1930, when the Franciscan Sisters of Glen Riddle, PA, took charge.

  •  When Bishop Alfred Curtis, the second bishop of the Wilmington diocese, came in 1889 to bless the cornerstone of the addition to Immaculate Conception Church on Bridge Street, The Cecil Democrat reported in its August 24th edition that “the address of Bishop Curtis was a forcible exposition of the claims of the Church he represents and offended many of his Protestant hearers in attendance that day by the startling boldness of his utterances. No less than 1000 persons were present.”

  •  The earliest Baptismal records relating to Elkton’s small-and-scattered Catholic community show that most families here were predominately Irish, with surnames such as: McLaughlin, Harley, Hagherty, O’Neill, Quigley, Sweeney and Whaelon. There were, however, a few names that may not have necessarily been connected to the “old sod”: Towers, Morgan, Dorman, and Venny. Many of the priests who came to baptize these children are listed as having travelled from mission sites in Harford County, MD, and near Hockessin, DE, at Coffee Run.

  •  One of the first priests to serve what is now our parish territory was Father George King, a Jesuit who ministered out of the church at Old Bohemia (St. Francis Xavier). Father King was a widower when he became a priest; his son Charles followed him into the priesthood. Although Father King ministered to scattered Catholic families up-and-down the Eastern Shore of Maryland, he had a special love for the few Catholics he found living in Cecil County in the mid1800s.

  •  When the new Immaculate Conception Church was moved to its present site on Bow Street in November 1973, the old Bridge Street property (where the original church stood for 124 years) was sold to Union Hospital for $110,000.00 with the provision that the small cemetery remain and be enclosed with a fence.

  • In 1872, when Fr. William Dallard became pastor of Immaculate Conception, he desired a bell tower to be built on the existing church structure. To raise money for the tower and bell, he invited a guest lecturer [unnamed in recorded history] to read selections from Dickens and a wide variety of poetry. While it is true that funds were raised as a result of this event, The Cecil Democrat reported it thusly: “The lecturer garbled his words and was a poor quality of culture.” (Yikes!)

  •  St. Rose of Lima in Chesapeake City was actually once a mission of Immaculate Conception (as St. Jude is today). The mission arrangement began in August 1874 when the cornerstone of St. Rose was first placed by then-Bishop Becker and Fr. Dallard, the pastor of IC at the time. It remained a mission until 1879, had a brief period of independence, and then became our mission again from 1894 to 1905. In more recent times, it has been attached as a mission to St. Joseph’s parish in Middletown, Del.

  • Two notable moments from 1901-1902 when Fr. Arnd took over as pastor of Immaculate Conception: he enlisted the help of four parishioners to begin a Sunday school program and also requested that a choir be established, with practices being held on Friday evenings. Miss Bessie Finnan was the organist.

  • By the 1950s, with the Catholic population of Cecil County growing, it was determined that Mass should also be offered in North East, MD. The first Liturgy there was offered at the North East Fire Company Hall on June 2, 1957, with over 200 people in attendance. By the next summer, two Masses were held each Sunday at the fire hall.

  • On the day of the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Immaculate Conception Church – September 17, 1972 – Fr. James Eckrich, the pastor, carefully planned for every detail and spoke eloquent words about old traditions meeting new beginnings. However, Father forgot one very important item: a shovel to break ground with. Fortunately, a contractor present for the event found one to be used in the back of his truck, and the ceremony was saved.

  •  Immaculate Conception School first opened on September 6, 1927. The Ursuline Sisters were placed in charge of the school and remained there until 1930, when the Franciscan Sisters of Glen Riddle, Pa., took leadership. Interestingly, the entire school was already debt free when it opened its doors, thanks in part to a monthly collection at Sunday Mass and parish card parties.

  • Father Peter Paul Arnd, the pastor of Immaculate Conception from 1901- 1938, introduced electric lights to the parish rectory on December 31, 1914. The Church was wired for electric light shortly thereafter in early 1915.

  • A few pastors of Immaculate Conception died young while serving in our parish: Father James Murphy arrived in 1890 and died in 1892 after having contracted pneumonia from a parishioner to whom he was ministering; shortly thereafter, young Father Farley arrived in 1895 and died two weeks later (no cause given). Thankfully, the pastors who followed – Fathers Campbell and Arnd -- lived long, healthy lives at the helm of shepherding our parish community well into the 1930s.

  •  An addition to the original Immaculate Conception Church on Bridge Street was added in 1889, and Wilmington’s second Bishop Alfred Curtis laid the cornerstone of the new addition. A special train came to Elkton that morning from Wilmington and Newark, carrying nearly 400 additional worshippers for the Mass and ceremony.

  •  On the twelve-hundred pound bell that hangs in the church belfry, blessed in June of 1875 by our first Bishop Thomas A. Becker, are inscribed the words (in Latin): “Mary conceived without sin, pray for us.”

  • For a short period of time during World War II, Oblate Father George Creswell turned the basement of the Immaculate Conception Church into an emergency hospital after an explosion at one of the local plants connected with the Bainbridge Naval Training Base and the Aberdeen Proving Grounds.

  •  Long before the first Immaculate Conception Church was built on Bridge Street in Elkton, a parishioner by the name of Mrs. ButlerLyons offered her estate (named “Wilna Place”) near Childs for home Masses to be celebrated. In due time, the stone from her farm land was used to build the original Church.

  •  The first Confessional inside the original Immaculate Conception Church was finished in April 1902 and cost a grand total of $48.

 

  • The cornerstone of the “new” Immaculate Conception Church on Bow Street – built in 1973 – contains copies of The Delmarva Dialog (the Catholic newspaper of our diocese), The Cecil Whig and The Cecil Democrat. 

 

  • As the Catholic community in Elkton was growing, the pastor at the time (Father George King, S.J., from Old Bohemia) recognized the need for a permanent Church structure in the town. It took two years for the building to be finished along Bridge Street, but as it was nearing completion, the contractor refused to hand over the keys to Fr. King. More than $600 was still owed, and King was nearly remanded into the hands of the sheriff until the bishop and diocese stepped in to save the entire situation.

 

  • Parishioner Alice L. McDaniel donated the land which was used to build St. Jude’s in North East. Finished in the summer of 1969, the mission church was dedicated on October 26 of that same year.

 

  • According to parish history, the first Immaculate Conception Christmas Bazaar was held on December 6, 1902, in which a dinner set, and silver service were raffled off. Nearly $850.00 was netted at this first fundraiser for the church. 

 

  • Jesuit priests would minister to scattered Catholics in Cecil County in the 1700s, their home base being St. Francis Xavier (Old Bohemia) in Warwick, Maryland. Many of the Catholics living in Elkton at the time were Irish laborers digging the C&D and Susquehanna canals or working at local iron furnaces.

 

  • In 1969, Rev. James P. Eckrich was appointed pastor of Immaculate Conception parish and was tasked with the “good problem” of creating more worship space to accommodate the growing number of Catholic families in Elkton. In time and after many surveys and studies, the decision was made to close the original church on Bridge Street and build a new worship site next to the existing grammar school. Philadelphia-based architect Edward Holland was chosen as designer of the current church structure, and groundbreaking for the new Immaculate Conception Church was held on September 17, 1972 – fifty-one years ago today. Sight and Sound Theatres' "Miracle of Christmas".

 

  • The first resident pastor of Immaculate Conception Church was the Rev. Francis Blake, described as a “polished Irishman of short stature and red hair.” He arrived here shortly after the Diocese of Wilmington was created in 1868, and named pastor by our first bishop, the Most Rev. Thomas A. Becker.

 

  • The original mission of Immaculate Conception Church (begun in 1849) started with only seven families in Elkton and the outlying very-rural parts of eastern Cecil County.

 

  • A practice known as ‘pew renting’ was first mentioned in the Immaculate Conception parish records of 1860. Although the pastor at the time was hoping to raise $300 through this method, only $97 was actually collected, $6.00 of which was found to be counterfeit.