St. Patrick’s Catholic Church (Little Orleans, Md.)

Saint Patrick's catholic Church

Saint Patrick’s Catholic Church

As one crosses over the low-water bridge spanning Fifteen Mile Creek in Little Orleans and starts down the Oldtown-Orleans Road, the little brick church on the top of the knoll serves an an exclamation point on a postcard-worthy scene.  I’ve driven past the church many times and never stopped to have a closer look, but I’ve always been enamored by the shamrock window and the simple elegance of the building.

The shamrock at Saint Patrick's

The shamrock at Saint Patrick’s

I’ve often wondered if the church has any connection to the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, so I (as usual!) turned to Thomas Hahn’s Towpath Guide to the C&O Canal and found the following: “On a knoll across the creek from Little Orleans is quaint little St. Patrick’s Church, surrounded by a cemetery which predates present church building.  Earliest burial date noted was 1802.  Cemetery contains the graves, many of them unmarked, of Irish canal construction workers and their descendants” (187).



The church itself dates to circa 1860, and the monuments are a mixture of the old and the new.  Many have unique weathering and have been polished by the hands of time.  The person honored with this stone was a “Native of County Monahan,  Ireland” and passed in 1863.  The first name and additional information weren’t legible.

Looking off toward West Virginia

Looking off toward West Virginia

In all, the view from the churchyard was as pleasant as looking up at the church from below.  We obviously have an interest in the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, and paying homage to the Irish canal workers was a great experience–even though we couldn’t readily identify any of their graves.  Nevertheless, this was a great side trip from the towpath into local history, and I’m glad that I finally took a closer look.

Sign at Saint Patrick's Church

Sign at Saint Patrick’s Church

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