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Jeremiah Donovant, a stonemason from Ireland, came to America in the early 1850s to help build St Mary’s Catholic Church in Edgefield. Completed in 1858, Jeremiah migrated to the Mine Creek area of Edgefield District in the 1860s. In 1863 he met and later married Emiline Rodgers, the window of Confederate soldier John Salter. John Salter and Emiline were charter members of Richland Springs Baptist Church.
Jeremiah’s first house had a chapel in one side and was the first Catholic Church in Saluda County. He converted Emiline to the Catholic Faith and the first priest to enter Saluda County came to baptize her. Jeremiah would go around to surrounding churches and, as services let out, he would ask for help to build his church. He gave the land and the St. Joseph Catholic Church was built at the site of the present cemetery.
Emiline and her sister-in-law, Mary Rodgers, brought all their children up in the Catholic Faith. In 1917, Fr. Michael Lariveire became the first resident priest and resided with local families until a rectory was built.
In 1920, Mary’s son George gave land to build a new church, St. Bridget, which was built in the mid 1920s and later renamed St. William, as it stands today. Later a school and convent were built. Our Lady of Mercy Sisters were brought in to teach school in the 20s and ran it until 1944.
The faith of the St. William remains a living tribute to the faith that once burned in the heart of a simple Irish stonemason. Wallace Rodgers, a lifelong member of St. William has researched the history of his church and the surrounding community and has graciously agreed to lead our program. We will also be able to go the St. William Catholic Church Cemetery which is located nearby where the founders of the church are buried. The program will take place on Sunday afternoon, April 28, at 2:30 pm. The address of St. William is 1199 Ridge Spring Highway, Ward, SC. All are invited.