The History of Saint Patrick Parish
In the seventeenth and early eighteenth century, Stoneham is said to have been inhabited by Pawtuckeog Indians. In 1619, Sachem, a descendent of the Pawtuckeog Indians, deeded the lands of Charlestown, Watertown, and Cambridge in exchange for some corn and the title to her plot of land on Mystic Pond. Until the 1700s, Stoneham remained part of Charlestown, which then extended all the way North to Wilmington and was commonly known as “Charlestown End.” Twenty-five years into the eighteenth century, 1725, the town would declare its independence, separating from Charlestown and incorporating as the Town of Stoneham. In the 1830s, transient people, mostly from Nova Scotia and the New England state north of Massachusetts, began migrating into Stoneham in search of work in the thriving shoe industry. If the Irish brought with them the spirit of determination to make a better life for themselves, they also brought with them their own religion, new and unfamiliar to the Yankee culture of a New England town like Stoneham. There were no Catholic churches in the town; the spiritual needs of the Catholic people of Stoneham were met first through a mission church in Charlestown and later by a mission in Malden.
Recognizing the rapid growth in the Catholic Census and the still difficult geographic locations of the mission centers, the Diocese of Boston, led by Bishop John J. Williams, founded the first Catholic Church in Stoneham in the year 1868. Although there is nothing documented as to how our parish received its name, it seems reasonably safe to assume that, due to its predominantly Irish population, it was named for the Patron Saint of Ireland. And so it begins - Saint Patrick Parish. On February 22, 1868, the Christian Union Church (Universalist Meeting House) was purchased by the Diocese of Boston in an agreement entered into by Bishop John J. Williams. Later that year, the church was lifted from its foundation and moved to the corner of Central and Pomeworth Streets, opposite the site where our church now stands.
The people of St. Patrick’s Parish would have their first church. The parish was initially established as a mission center and, accordingly, it comprised the communities of Stoneham, Wakefield and Reading.The new parish began to operate in it is official capacity on August 31, 1868, when the parishioners welcomed William H. Fitzpatrick as the first pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish. Reverend Dennis T. O’Farrell was appointed the second pastor. In his tenure as pastor he would plan and direct the building of St. Patrick Church in 1887.The parish was beginning to outgrow the church which the people of St. Patrick’s had used for nearly twenty years. Father O’Farrell saw the need for a new and more spacious church and began to carry out the necessary plans. The new church was built across the street on the opposite corner of Pomeworth and Central Streets. It would be constructed of wood at a cost of $38,000, a vast expenditure in 1887! From its beginnings in 1868, St. Patrick Parish has continually grown in its numbers. When the church was built in 1887 it is estimated that there were 1200 - 1400 parishioners. Today, we number slightly over 16000 with 4500 registered families in the parish.