A Brief History

In the Beginning, prior to 1866, the Catholics of Abingdon, Harford County Maryland, came to the Theodore Delmas home, Delmas Place, for Baptisms, Confirmations and Monthly Mass by a priest who came to Abingdon from St. Ignatius in Hickory. As far back as October 12, 1847 the St. Ignatius register records a Baptism at the House of Misses Delmas near Abingdon, Harford County by Fr. Thomas O’Neill. Through 1860-1866 five other Baptism were done. There is one reference of Mass at the Delmas home on May 8, 1866 recorded by Fr. O’Connor from St. Ignatius. On November 23, 1865 Archbishop Spalding conferred Confirmation in the private chapel of Mr. Delmas for 22 persons. He stated “ There are 300 Catholics in this neighborhood who contemplate building a church on a donated lot early next spring.” The Archbishop required each head of family to pay 50 cents a month toward the cost but this is scarcely ever paid. Despite the infrequent celebration of Mass in Abingdon, the residents never lost hope of a church of their own.

This dream of a church was rewarded by the generous gift of 4 acres of land on the west side of the Abingdon to Bel Air Road “at the top of a hill” deeded Oct 31, 1865 by William Pannell and his wife Mary. They were non-Catholics and he was owner of the nearby Harford Furnace Mill. He believed this would be of benefit to the Irish and Czechoslovakian Millworkers and their families. The stone work was done by Mr. George Lochary, a member of St. Ignatius, who donated his services (valued at $600). The cost of the building amounted to about $4000. By July 12, 1866 James Cardinal Gibbons laid the cornerstone.The First Mass was said by Fr O’Connor in the new church on Christmas morning 1866. 150 years ago!

At first, it was the 3rd daughter mission church of St. Ignatius and then became mission of St. Stephens in 1871 until 1965. Early credit is given to Fr. Francis Patrick O’Connor, St. Ignatius pastor, for building St. Francis in 1866. In 1887 a newspaper described a three day Fair for the benefit of St. Francis de Sales Church. Hence, we begin our historical trip for our entire yearlong celebration of this sesquicentennial 150TH Jubilee year. REMEMBER WE ARE ST. FRANCIS!!!