Most of the heads of the families who founded St. Joseph in what was then Pleasant Valley, Ohio, were, like their patron, humble workmen. Most of them probably arrived on the railroad which connected Pleasant Valley with Columbus to the southeast and, to the west, Urbana and other county seats. The railroad and the men’s status as laborers, however, also made it easy for them to depart. Out of the nearly 80 adult males who appear as part of the congregation between its founding in 1864 and the year 1870, no more than half appear to have been present at any one time.
Only six Catholic households are known to have existed in the Pleasant Valley area in 1860. Pleasant Valley was a station visited occasionally by the priests from St. Patrick Church in Columbus as early as 1861. Priests also traveled by horseback and horse-and-buggy from London and West Jefferson. The congregation was organized in the spring of 1864 by Rev. Edward Fitzgerald, the pastor of St. Patrick. On April 1, $300 was paid as a down payment on two lots, numbers 89 and 90, which were placed in Father Fitzgerald’s name. They were the sixth and seventh lots east of Church Street and fourth south of Main Street, on the north side of what is now Jackson Street. A one-story frame house, facing south, was built and soon converted for use as a church.
In 1869, St. Joseph was the hub of a wide mission area, including Marysville and Milford Center in Union County and Woodstock, Mechanicsburg, and St. Paris in Champaign County. It was not until 1904 that Plain City was given canonical status and Rev. Herman N. Santer took up residence, with missions in Milford Center and Woodstock.
There were 26 families in St. Joseph (Union) in 1899 when the lot at 140 West Avenue was purchased for $375. The new church was dedicated on Tuesday, August 28, 1900. When completed, the new church had cost $9,000, and of this only $800 was still owed. The parish minutes of the time indicate that a good portion of the funds needed were raised through lawn fetes, ice cream socials, bazaars, dinners, picnics, and “sales” at parishioners’ homes.
The newspaper account of the time mentioned the trials and tribulations of the congregation in building the church. For example, at one time, by laborious saving, they had $1,800 in the bank, only to lose it when the bank failed.
The church in Plain City is still in use, although it has been modified inside and out: inside by the requirements of the liturgical changes of the last seventy-five years, and outside by a severe storm on the evening of July 12, 1966, which toppled the steeple. In 1958, the basement was excavated under the entire structure for a meeting hall, kitchen, and other necessary facilities.
The Pastors of Saint Joseph
- Fr. Edward Fitzgerald: Feb. 29, 1864–1867
- Fr. Francis C. Mallon: 1867–1868
- Fr. F. McMelon: 1868–1869
- Fr. N. A. Gallagher: 1869 (4 months)
- Fr. Matthew F. McGrath: 1869–1870
- Fr. Henry Kiffmeyer: 1871–1873
- Fr. Benedict Mathias Mueller: 1873–1898
- Fr. Martin A. Heintz: 1898–1905
- Fr. Herman H. Senten: 1905–1906
- Fr. S. J. Kreuzkamp: 1906–1907
- Fr. Lawrence L. Demming: 1907–1908
- Fr. Frederick Prieshoff: 1909
- Fr. George F. Hickey & Fr. Ralph J. Markham: 1910
- Fr. George F. Hickey & Fr. John McGlinchey: 1911–1912
- Fr. George F. Hickey & Fr. John Lampe: 1912–1913
- Fr. George F. Hickey & Fr. William John Patrick O’Connor: 1914–1917
- Fr. David Powers: 1917–1924
- Fr. William J. Leaver: 1924–1949
- Fr. William J. Meyer: 1949–1953
- Fr. Robert Roster: 1953–1956
- Fr. Robert J. Beckman: 1956–1958
- Fr. Karl A. Wuest: 1958–1970
- Fr. Fred Falce: 1971 (8 months)
- Fr. Richard P. Baird: 1971–1972
- Fr. Richard Dirksen: 1972 (1 month)
- Fr. Robert Roster: 1972–1973
- Fr. Karl A. Wuest: 1974–1977
- Fr. Edward Healey: 1977 (14 days)
- Fr. Stephen Metzger: 1977–1981
- Fr. Raymond J. Carter: 1981–1985
- Fr. Homer D. Blubaugh: 1985–1987
- Fr. Charles F. Klinger: 1987–1991
- Fr. Kevin F. Lutz: 1991–1997
- Fr. Patrick A. Toner: 1997–2015
- Fr. Joseph J. Trapp, Jr. 2015–Present
Special thanks to Joe Hofbauer, Fr. Kevin Lutz, and Deacon Anthony Bonacci for history and photographs used here.