The State of West Virginia was not a year old when Our Parish came into being. The Diocese of Wheeling was still very young and Clarksburg was yet a small town.
It would seem pertinent to devote some time to the city wherein our Parish is located and the Diocese of Wheeling of which we are a unit.
There is a tradition that a trapper named John Simpson visited the present site of Clarksburg in 1764. However, it was not until 1772 that Daniel Davisson, who acquired foru hundred acres of and within which the present city is located, made a permanent settlement. The settlement received its name from George Rogers Clark, who had become a famous Indian fighter. It became recognized as a town by the General Assembly of Virginia in 1785 and became also the County Seat of the new Harrison County.
Clarksburg, at first, consisted of small groups of log cabins, huddled closely together for greater protection from Indian raiders. It is interesting to find a fortification nearby, called Nutter's Fort, to which the settlers fled at the slightest sign of danger. The fort no longer exists but it is pointed out that the old Roosevelt Wilson High School is built within its palisades.
By 1796 Clarksburg had almost 40 houses, a courthouse, and a jail. Later it possessed a post office and received mail passing East and West. An event happened in 1824, which was destined to bring fame to the city. Thomas Jonathan (Stonewall) Jackson was born in a log cabin in the present Main street between Third and Fourth streets.
The building of the northwestern Turnpike in 1836 was a blessing to Clarksburg, especially when a system of stagecoaches was established. But the wonder of the age dawned with the arrival of the first Baltimore and Ohio Railroad train in 1856. This date is of very special interest to us, because as we shall see, it was to be the occasion of the establishment of our parish eight years later.
Parishes, such as we know today with well defined boundaries, were practically unknown in our diocese at that time. God only knows how many private homes became temporary churches when mass was celebrated in them to accommodate the people of the vicinity.
Clarksburg before 1864 was one of these "missions" cared for by priests coming intermittently from places as far as Brownsvile, Pa, Cumberland, Preston County and Weston. This latter place took Clarksburg as its mission. Soon after it became evident that the Catholic population was growing. A priest came from Weston once a month and celebrated Mass in private homes. Finally Bishop Whelan decided that the time had come to establish Clarksburg as a parish, with a resident priest, Father Daniel O'Connor, who was the pastor at Weston, resigned and was appointed pastor of Clarksburg.
It is noted that before the coming of the railroad in 1856 there is no evidence of Catholic life here. The Irish workers, who had built the railroad in its westward extension from Baltimore to the Ohio River, were the first Catholics to come. They had been recruited in the west of Ireland, principally from the counties of May, Galway, and Roscommon. They had been pauperized by the Great Famine of earlier years and were glad of the opportunity to escape the miserable conditions under which they had been forced to live. They brought nothing with them, because they had nothing to bring. They possessed however a sturdy manhood and a deep attachment to the Faith.
When Father O'Connor became pastor of Clarksburg, he found nothing here but, as he tells us, a fence less grave yard which had been donated by Major James Jackson. It is interesting to note that this cemetery was later abandoned and is now Jackson Memorial Park on the Eat End of the City.
The new pastor set himself immediately to the task of building a church. Property was purchased from Major James Jackson on the East Side of Elk Creek. The actual site chosen for the church was on the junction of Pike and the present Sandy Boulevard.
Father O'Connor tells us that the bricks used in the building were made on the grounds to the number of two hundred thousand. Begun in 1864, the Church was completed and dedicated to the Blessed Virgin under the title of her Immaculate Conception, August 5, 1865. Father O'Connor notes that the total cash for grounds and Church did not exceed $12,000.00. This was a goodly sum in those days, contributed by workers who were few and poorly paid. It is Father O'Connor's boast as well as his tribute to the generosity of the parishioners that the debt was liquidated within a year.