St. John the Baptist

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Parish History

St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, located at the corner of West Main Street and Luray Avenue, stands as a memorial to John Carrell Jenkins, a Maryland soldier who died for the Confederacy and whose family gave the initial sum of money which made possible the erection of the Church. Young Jenkins was one of three brothers who enlisted in the Southern Confederacy.

John Carrell Jenkins

The Jenkins family not only paid for the construction of St. John's Church, but donated its altar, bell, pews, sanctuary lamp, vestments, and sacred vessels. A marble tablet on the east wall of the Church reads: "Pray for the Soul of John Carrell Jenkins - Died October 11, 1861 - Out of Whose Means Principally - This Church Has Been Erected."

Original Church

John Carrell Jenkins was born on June 14, 1834 and was 27 years old when he joined the tide of Southern sympathizers fleeing Maryland to join the Confederacy. He was inducted at Camp Lee, VA in June 1861 and assigned to Capt. J. Lyle Clark's company, Gilham's Campaign. Marked by brief skirmishes and incessant rain, there was an outbreak of measles among the ranks of country soldiers leaving the town boys on duty. The regiment had established camp in the valley mountains of Pocahontas County, where soon fatigue and privation of doing double duty began to tell on the town boys and an outbreak of camp fever and dysentery added more names to the sick list. On September 21, John Carrell Jenkins fell ill with fever later diagnosed as typhoid. With an enemy attack imminent, the sick and wounded were transported to Warm Springs, VA on October 1. On October 11, 1861, John Carrell Jenkins died in Warm Springs, VA. His body was taken to Richmond for burial. Bishop McGill conducted the funeral at the Cathedral. Interment followed in its private cemetery. At the end of the war his grieving father came to remove the remains to their final resting place in the family vault in Baltimore, MD.

JC Jenkins Grave

Original Church

It was the desire of the Jenkins family that a church be erected in western Virginia as a memorial to John Carrell Jenkins. Front Royal was chosen as the site of the memorial, where there was already a number of Catholics. It is said the first Mass ever held in Warren County was celebrated in a railroad camp in 1872 by Rev. J. J. Kane of Winchester. Until the church was completed, Mass was celebrated in the George Macatee home and frequently in the Crudden home in nearby Riverton.

The site of St. John's Church was donated by George W. and Henrietta Macatee. The estimated cost of the property was $200, with construction costs estimated at $5,500. The architect was Major R. J. Black of Richmond. Capt. Gustus A. Macatee, a brother of George Macatee, was contractor. The stone foundation was laid by Ripberger of Strasburg and the brick work was done by Pine Brothers of Richmond. Rev. D. J. O'Connell laid the cornerstone and started construction in 1883 but was soon appointed rector of the North American College in Rome. The Church was completed under his successor, Rev. J. B. O'Reilly. The Church was dedicated on September 7, 1884 by Rt. Rev. John J. Keane, Bishop of Richmond, who was assisted by Rev. O'Connell; the Rev. D. Roley of Baltimore was the Celebrant of the High Mass, with Rev. O'Reilly assisting. Bishop Keane in his dedicatory sermon said, "The Church was built with the money of one who gave his life for the Confederacy; its cornerstone comes from the battlefield of Manassas, its limestone framing from Fisher Hill, and its red brick was made from the soil of Front Royal, saturated with the blood of the soldiers of the Confederacy".

Original Church Bell