Bob Powell Published

October 13, 1903: Bishop John Joseph Kain Dies

Bishop John Joseph Kain served as bishop of the Wheeling Diocese, and Archbishop of St. Louis.

Roman Catholic Bishop John Joseph Kain died on October 13, 1903, at the age of 62. In the late 1800s, he was the driving force behind the growth of the Catholic church in West Virginia.

Kain was ordained as a priest in 1866. His first pastoral assignment was in his native town of Martinsburg. His missions ranged from nearby Harpers Ferry to Leesburg, Virginia. During his seven years in this position, he helped rebuild communities that had been ravaged by the Civil War.

In 1875, he succeeded the Right Reverend Richard V. Whelan as the second bishop of the Diocese of Wheeling, which covered most of West Virginia. Respected for his brilliant intellect, Kain was often consulted for his views on issues such as labor unions and education. During his time in Wheeling, immigrants—many of whom were Catholic—poured into West Virginia to work in the state’s coal mines and factories.

Kain focused on building churches and schools to serve these new Americans. By the time he left to become Archbishop of St. Louis in 1893, he had established 15 new parishes and founded six new Catholic schools.