Our Parish History
In the early days of Cabell, Wayne, and Putnam Counties and the City of Huntington, the spiritual needs of the small Catholic population were met by missionary priests who travelled along the Ohio River who would briefly visit the small community present before continuing down the river to Kentucky and Ohio. The first recorded priest to serve the area was the Reverend Father Charles Farrell. Father Farrell was ordained in 1845 in Richmond, Virginia and served until 1847, when he was transferred to the See of Wheeling when the Most Reverend Richard Whalen became the first ordinary of the Diocese of Wheeling in 1850.
The beginnings of Saint Joseph Parish actually occurred in nearby Guyandotte. In 1872, the Reverend Father Thomas Quirk, a native of Clonmel, County of Tipperary, South Ireland, became the first pastor of the Catholics in Cabell County and the surrounding area. Father Quirk established a parish there, and entrusted it to the patronage of Saint Peter. This was only a brief start, and the parish of Saint Peter was quickly disbanded. Father Quirk began to gather the Catholics in the area and erected a temporary church on Eighth Avenue at 20th Street. The first Holy Mass offered in this building took place on the last Sunday of October, 1872. An ardent supporter of Catholic education, Father Quirk also established a small parochial school in Huntington. Thanks to the early work of Father Quirk and the support of Bishop Whalen, Saint Joseph has had a strong presence in Catholic education to this day.
In the early 1880’s, high water flooded nearly the entire City of Huntington. Father Quirk noticed that the area of 6th Avenue and 13th Street was out of the high water district. After the flooding had stopped, Father Quirk quickly purchased the land where the present campus of Saint Joseph Parish and Schools is located, save the current high school building south of 6th Avenue.
In September of 1884, the Most Reverend John J. Kain, second Bishop of Wheeling, transferred Father Quirk to a mountain parish in Lewis County. The Reverend Father John W. Werninger, a native of the Diocese of Wheeling became pastor. In 1889, Father Werninger built the present church building which housed both the church and the school. In 1894, Father Werninger engaged three Sisters of Mercy to take over the school; the Sisters of Mercy were succeeded by the Diocesan Sisters of Saint Joseph in 1900. During his time as pastor of Saint Joseph, Father Werninger was charged by the bishop to oversee the establishment of mission churches throughout the southern section of the diocese. In the interim, the Reverend Father Joseph Gormley served the people of Huntington. After Father Werninger’s return, Father Gormley stayed on as an assisting priest.
In 1899, Father Werninger was transferred to Saint John Parish in Benwood, and the Reverend Father Henry Altmeyer was assigned as pastor. During his pastorate, Father Altmeyer oversaw the enlargement of the church by removing the wall between the church and the school (roughly located where the side entrances are today). The new altar was located where the steps into the sanctuary currently are located. Father Altmeyer also undertook the modernization of our church building by replacing the gas light fixtures with electric ones; he also replaced the original plain windows with our present stained glass. In 1913, Father Altmeyer built the present rectory building. In 1916, to accommodate the rapidly growing Catholic population, Father Altmeyer again enlarged the church building to its present size by adding the area where the current sanctuary and sacristies are located. Included in this renovation was the addition of the four stained glass windows depicting the Evangelists, as well as a further modernized lighting system. The exterior of the church was also updated, which gave us our current stucco exterior and a new main entrance. Due to his faithful service to the people of God, Pope Pius XI, on the recommendation of the Most Reverend John J. Swint, Fourth Bishop of Wheeling, Father Altmeyer was elevated to the dignity of a Domestic Prelate, giving him the title of the Right Reverend Monsignor Henry B. Altmeyer. Sadly, after 30 years of holy service to the people of Saint Joseph, Monsignor Altmeyer returned to the Lord while on vacation in Atlantic City, New Jersey in the summer of 1930.
To succeed Monsignor Altmeyer, Archbishop Swint named the Right Reverend Monsignor James F. Newcomb, P.A., as the fourth pastor of Saint Joseph. Monsignor Newcomb briefly served as Superintendent of the Diocesan School System shortly after his arrival in Huntington, and was a fervent supporter of Catholic education. He immediately set out to build a new high school building and in January, 1932, the new (present) high school building began to function. In 1933, Monsignor Newcomb replaced the wooden altars with marble ones and installed the present mission-style crucifix above the main altar. Monsignor Newcomb also replaced the wooden church floor with terrazzo due to an infestation of termites. At this time, Monsignor Newcomb also installed the present south entrance. In August of 1960, after a long period of illness, Monsignor Newcomb passed away at Saint Mary Hospital.