Official Service and Instruction Book for St. Jerome, Fancy Farm, Kentucky, 1912
Fancy Farm is a thriving little village in Graves County, Kentucky, located about ten mils west of the county seat, Mayfield and about one mile east of the line separating Graves from Carlisle County. Several up to date business houses located in the village have greatly contributed towards the prosperity of the inhabitants of this section of the country. Fancy Farm, however, is especially noted as the center of a large Catholic population scattered for miles around in the counties of Graves, Carlisle and Hickman. For years it has been known as "the Catholic settlement" and has been highly spoken of during late years because of the large, substantial and handsome church edifice erected to the glory of God by the worthy descendents of Kentucky's noble Catholic pioneers. Fancy Farm has not been negligent in the cause of Christian education. The reputation of its parochial school for thorough, as well as advanced, educational work has often been lauded even by those not of the same religious belief. Especially has this been the case since the erection of the handsome and commodious new school building completed in 1909. To prove their continued zeal and devotion to the cause of religion, and to further the spirit of progress, the Catholics of Fancy Farm and surrounding country are at this writing (1911) engaged in building a modern home for their Pastor.
People often ask "How did the place get the name 'Fancy Farm'?" It seems that somewhere about the year 1843, the residents of this western section of Graves County petitioned for the establishment of a Post Office in the neighborhood. An Inspector was sent here to investigate the matter and report the same. Whilst here, he was the guest of Mr. John Peebles, an applicant for the position of Postmaster. His desire to hold a federal office was nothing so very remarkable, as thousands of Kentuckians can readily understand from personal experience. But there was something remarkable about Mr. Peebles. He was noted for taking an honest pride in the appearance of his home and farm, and employed every means the then existing conditions permitted to enhance the beauty and attractiveness of his property. Whilst being the guest of Mr. Peebles, the Post Office Inspector was requested to suggest an appropriate name for the new office. In a compliment to Mr. Peebles as an agriculturist, he proposed Fancy Farm as a most suitable name. So the promising infant was christened, and has ever since retained the name it so well deserved in its incipient existence; though some envious minds might hazard the intimation that in its adolescence it has failed to contribute ought to enhance its claim to pulchritude.
The first Catholic settlers of Graves County, and the founders of St. Jerome's congregation at Fancy Farm, migrated to this place chiefly from Washington County, Kentucky, in the early years of the second quarter of the nineteenth century. Mr. Samuel Willett, if I mistake not, was the first Catholic to locate permanently in the county. Born in Washington County, Kentucky, when the last century was very young, he, in July 1828, married Elizabeth, daughter of Jesse Hobbs. In the following March he and his youthful bride left their childhood's home and made their toilsome way on horseback to their future home in Graves County. At Christmas of the same year they were followed by Sam's brother, John W. (in later years familiarly known to almost every man, woman and child in Jackson's Purchase as "Uncle Jack"). These two brothers were the pioneers of St. Jerome's congregation, and remained identified with it as its foremost and most active members, and as prominent citizens of their adopted county, for more than half a century, always laboring energetically for the spiritual and temporal advancement and up building of the county they had chosen for their home. Mr. Samuel Willett held the office of High Sheriff for one term in the 1840's, and served as Deputy Sheriff for several years, and by the faithful discharge of his official duties won the esteem of everyone, as he won the love of all who knew him by his clean, noble, and Christian life and conduct. Mr. Sam Willett was appointed Postmaster in 1854 and held the office for many years, to the general satisfaction of the public. He took an active part in the building of the first and second church edifices at Fancy Farm, and was not behind anyone in contributing means and encouragement towards the establishing of a parish school. Though broken down in health and enfeebled by old age, in 1890 and 1891 he strenuously urged the building of a new and larger church, to supply the needs of the steadily growing congregation. He saw the beginning of this work, so dear to his heart, but had not the happiness here on earth to see its accomplishment, for in 1891, the heavenly Father called him home to receive his reward for a long, useful, Christian life. In 1888, "Uncle Jack" Willett left his beautiful country home near Fancy Farm and moved to Mayfield, the county seat, where he resided, the friend of everyone, till his death on October 5, 1909, having reached the ripe old age of eighty-six years.
In July, 1830, Mr. Jesse Hobbs made a trip from Washington County to Fancy Farm, to visit his daughter, the wife of Samuel Willett. After looking over the territory he decided to locate here permanently; but before he could carry his intention into effect death overtook him. In 1831 his two grown sons, Albert and Thomas Hobbs, in accordance with their father's intention, settled near Fancy Farm. In the year 1833 they were followed by their friends and former neighbors, William, Hilary and Lloyd Toon, as well as Cornelius and Henry Carrico and Thomas Hayden. Thomas F. Curtsinger located near Fancy Farm in 1837. From the first day of his arrival he took a lively interest in all that concerned the well being of St. Jerome's congregation. At his home every priest that ever visited Fancy Farm ever found a hearty welcome and was treated with genuine Kentucky hospitality, from missionary life they invariably received comfort, and encouragement from genial, cheerful and practical "Uncle Tommie", as Mr. Curtsinger came to be lovingly called in his older years. He reached the advanced age of eighty seven years and went home to his Father on February 21, 1903.
The above all migrated from Washington County, Kentucky, as did also Samuel and William Thomas and James Elliott, who reached here about 1835. John and James Cash also came from Washington County about the same time. Bland Ballard and John Roberts, natives of Nelson County, and Charles Bright of Union County, settled near Fancy Farm about the middle of the fourth decade of last century.
The well-known Kentucky missionary priest, Father Durbin, soon learned of the few Catholic settlers in Graves County, and as early as 1830 or 1831 (1832) he rode from Sacred Heart Church in Union County, to bring the consolations of religion to the scattered Catholics in Graves. For many years he attended to their spiritual wants as best he could. He bought a tract of land, and on it the Catholics built a log church, about the year 1835 (1836). The first resident Pastor of Fancy Farm was the Rev. Alfred Hagan, who came here in 1840 (1843) and remained till his death in 1845, attending from here the few Catholics dispersed over this and neighboring counties. He was succeeded by the Rev. Patrick McNichols, who watched over the growing congregation with pastoral care for three or four years, and was followed by the Rev. William Oberhulsman. He commenced the erection of a larger and commodious church built of bricks and made on the premises by members of the congregation. Before the completion of the new edifice almost sudden death called him from his labors in the fall of 1855. The Rev. John Boyle continued his work at Fancy Farm for only a few months, turning his charge over to Rev. Patrick Bambury in 1857, under whose administration was completed, and dedicated to the service of God the church commenced by the lamented Father Oberhulsman.
In 1859 the Rev. John Martin Beyhurst, a native of Bavaria, received the appointment as Pastor of St. Jerome's at Fancy Farm, and remained in charge till 1861, when Father William Bourke succeeded him and attended to the spiritual wants of the Catholics in Graves, Ballard, Hickman and Fulton counties for seven or eight years, and was succeeded in 1869 by Rev. John A. Barrett.
excerpted from "the Catholic settlement", A History of St. Jerome Church 1836-2011
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