June 5, 1853: St. Joseph Settlement Founded

St. Joseph Church at the St. Joseph Settlement.

The earliest record of the St. Joseph Settlement, a community of German Catholic immigrants, dates to June 5, 1853. The settlers originally came from the southern German states of Bavaria and Hesse—areas that opposed Frederick William IV’s absolute monarchy.

They emigrated to the United States and settled St. Joseph on the hills above the Ohio River on the Marshall-Wetzel county border.

The first school was built of hewn logs in 1854 and served as both a school and chapel until 1856, when the first church was built. The church and schoolhouse—along with a rectory, community building, and cemetery—are still the heart of the St. Joseph community.

St. Joseph reached its heyday during the Ohio River Valley oil and gas boom of the late 19th century. Small stores popped up throughout the area, and the settlement expanded to nearly 50 square miles.

Students at St. Joseph were taught both German and English well into the 20th century, and some German words and phrases are still in use. St. Joseph’s old church is still in use, and its schoolhouse is a public library and parish museum.