Recently discovered information reveals that the French Catholic family — Peter LaBoon (Pierre LaBon)–resided in the Brushy Creek township in the old Pendleton District (now Anderson County)around 1791. The family remained Catholic until about 1825 when the children married into Protestant families as there was no church nor Catholic priests in the area. Many of the members of the LaBoon family are buried in the Fairview Methodist Church Cemetery.
A Cemetery riding priest from Montreal rode annually to New Orleans and sought out Catholic families on the way. In the winter of 1792 – 1793, this priest came to the home of Peter LaBoon. The priest made annual visits to Anderson County until 1799.
For the next fifty years, Catholicism lay dormant in Anderson. In 1850 the Reverend Jeremiah O’Connell began visiting Anderson twice a year. Father O’Connell was a priest with the Columbia, South Carolina, Missions. He records in his book Catholicity in the Carolinas and Georgia, published in 1879 that the families of Timothy Whelan and William and James Shanahan were his host while making his semi-annual visits.
The next recorded Catholic families to live in this area were operatives on the Blue Ridge Railroad started around 1850. By 1854 the railroad was as far as Walhalla and many Irish Catholic laborers were brought from New York and Pennsylvania to dig the tunnel through Stumphouse Mountain. A large settlement known as Tunnel Hill grew up with about 500 residents. A frame church–St. Patrick’s –and rectory were built. Father O’Connell and two other priests– Father Lawrence O’Connell and Father Joseph– made this their headquarters for all upstate missions beginning with Anderson.
Two families connected with the Blue Ridge Railroad project became permanent residents of Anderson–Captain John McGrath and Mr. M. D. Kennedy. these men visited Columbia, Charleston, and Savannah collecting funds for the purpose of purchasing land and building a church. civil records show that a lot at the corner of North McDuffie and Earle Streets was deeded to Rt. Reverend P. N. Lynch, Bishop of Charleston, on December 15, 1868.
Between 1868 and 1881, the church was built and the parish family grew when several Polish families moved into the area.
St. Joseph’s first permanent church was dedicated on May 10, 1881, by Bishop Lynch. The Anderson Intelligence, in an article on the dedication, quoted Bishop Lynch congratulating the little band of faithful in Anderson who had built this temple of worship. A small cemetery was located behind a church. Mrs. Bridget Kennedy was the first to be buried there.
In 1900 Madame Rose Lummis, a nun of the Sacred Heart, from Simcoe, Ontario, Canada, arrived with her companion Miss Gleason to open a school in Anderson. Madame Lummis came to Anderson due to health problems and before her school could be started she succumbed to pneumonia. She is buried in Silver Brook Cemetery. Sr. Lummis is the subject of a Vatican investigation for Beatification.
The Parish grew again in the early 1900’s due to an influx of skilled Bohemian weavers employed by the Anderson Mill. By 1910 the original church was too small. Father Andrew Gwynn of Greenville solicited donations from his Northern friends, parishioners, and area non-Catholics for the purpose of enlarging and renovating the McDuffie Street church. Bishop Northrup rededicated the church on October 10, 1910.
In 1919 Father Thomas Macklin was appointed the first resident pastor in Anderson, succeeding Father Gwynn who served the parish for nine years. The Anderson church was part of a three-church mission: Sacred Heart in Abbeville, Our Lady of Lourdes in Greenwood, and St. Joseph’s in Anderson.
Father Timothy McGrath was appointed pastor in 1922. He stayed in Anderson until 1925 when Father E. F. Sweeney came as pastor until the parish was returned to the Greenville Mission. Anderson was without a resident pastor until 1929.
In 1929 Father McGrath returned to St. Joseph’s and built a rectory adjacent to the church on McDuffie Street.
In 1930 Father Henry Speisman was appointed pastor. He was the fifth pastor of St. Joseph’s and was assisted by Father Charles Baum until 1940.
From 1949 to 1952, St. Joseph’s was served by Father Maurice Daly. Father Daly saw the parish grow again during the expansion of the industrial sector in the early 1950’s.
Father Christopher Barry became the pastor in 1952 and served until 1959 with his Administrator Father Remegius Fleishell, OFM.
The Diocese purchased a house at 601 Boulevard Avenue in 1956 to serve as a convent. The bishop appointed Father Will Croghan’s the eighth pastor.
The Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart sent four Sisters to Anderson, and they opened a Catholic Center in the rectory on McDuffie Street. The Sisters started a CCD program and a course of study for adults and children. The rectory was moved to 601 Boulevard.
December 1958, saw the ordination of the first Anderson native to the priesthood, Father Francis A. Friend. Father Friend was ordained in Rome.
In 1959 Father Louis Williamston was appointed as the ninth pastor of St. Joseph’s. The McDuffie Street church was renovated during his tenure. Father Williamston died in 1962.
Father Williamston was replaced by Father John Pat. The parish had grown to 200 families. The property on Cornelia Drive (eight acres) was purchased in 1963. Bishop Francis Reh broke ground for the school and hall in 1964. Father Pat celebrated the first Mass in the new building in November of that year.
Father Timlin was appointed the eleventh pastor and worked to relieve the indebtedness from the building program. According to an article in the Anderson Daily Mail, the deed represented one of the longest continuous ownership of property in Anderson history.
In 1973 Father Paul F. X. Seitz became the twelfth pastor. The land adjoining the Cornelia Street property on McLees and a home were purchased. The home was remodeled to accommodate the Sisters of St. Francis who were teaching in the school. The parking areas were paved. The parish had grown to 300 families. Father Seitz remained in Anderson until 1978.
Father Dave Degan became the thirteenth pastor in 1978. He watched the parish expand to nearly 400 families before he moved in 1982.
Father Robert Millard replaced Father Degan in October 1982. The physical and spiritual growth of the parish continued until by 1983 there were approximately 500 families. In early 1983 a committee to study the expansion needs of St. Joseph’s was formed. A survey of the parish was taken and the results showed an overwhelming majority of the parishioners wanted a permanent church. A fundraising drive was started in October 1987, the ground was broken for a 650-seat church which was dedicated in 1988.
Fr. Don Abbot became the fifteenth pastor in 1990, and on June 2 of that year, a longtime parishioner, Paul Shook, was ordained a Permanent Deacon by Bishop David B. Thompson.
Father Timlin returned in 1992 as our sixteenth pastor. In the summer of 1994, a no-interest, 20-year loan from the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency was granted in order to remove asbestos from the school classrooms and the parish hall which is now known as the Father Francis Friend Hall.
Spiritual and physical growth surged throughout the following years. The beautiful and spiritually inspirational crucifix suspended above the altar was installed in 1994. Statues of Our Lady and St. Joseph were positioned dominantly in the church, and statues of Our Lady of Grace and St. Joseph were placed on church grounds.
In 1995 the rectory which was located at 605 Boulevard was sold and the home that formerly accommodated the Sisters of St. Francis became the site of the present rectory. In 1997 upon Bishop Thompson’s approval, the lot adjoining the church property (formerly a doctor’s office) was purchased and now houses St. Joseph’s Catholic Church Offices thereby ending the office space leased in the Windsor Shopping Center.
In February of 1998, the parish hall was dedicated to the memory of Father Francis A. Friend who was the first Anderson native to be ordained to the priesthood. The hall is now known as The Father Francis A. Friend Hall.
On February 10, 1998, Bishop Thompson blessed the Meditation Garden and Monument to the Holy Innocents (located just off the parking lots on McLees Rd.) and the newly acquired church office building at 1303 McLees Road.