As early as 1887 the tents of engineers and geologists could be seen in the vicinity of Cumberland Gap, the site of the entrance of the once-famous Wilderness Road into Kentucky. These engineers were in the employment of an English Syndicate, "The American Association Limited," which had purchased eighty-six thousand acres of land at Cumberland Gap. Active construction was underway in the large basin by 1889. An ideal city of the future was being laid out. Streets of magnificent width were chartered and surveyed. The streets and avenues were given English names. Middlesboro was expected to become another Pittsburgh.
The Syndicate donated a lot to be used for a Catholic church. Work on the church was begun in September of 1889, a frame structure being erected at that time. The present St. Julian Church, a brick structure, was erected by Reverend Patrick M. Jones in 1892, supplanting this first frame building. In the beginning St. Julian congregation enjoyed the most promising prospects. Middlesboro had been erected on a large scale, on the assumption that there were plentiful iron and coal resources in the vicinity. The iron ore supply proved to be below expectations. And thus St. Julian Parish did not realize its expected growth.
The first Mass was said in the original frame church in May of 1890 by Reverend Francis T. Marron of Knoxville, Tennessee. Shortly afterward, Bishop Maes appointed Reverend Theophilus Nyssen as the first resident pastor. In 1892, Father Nyssen was succeeded by Reverend Patrick M. Jones. Father Jones and the congregation immediately began to look for a more centrally located church site.
In a letter to Bishop Maes, dated April 10, 1892, Father Jones wrote:
"We are now located in the Gorman Block in a hall. We had a fair number at Mass this morning, few non-Catholics among the number. In a short time I hope to be able to give you an intelligent account of the prospects. At present, I am in a deal with the Land Co. for the very best church site in town. I am so endeavoring as that it must not cost a cent of money. I will report progress to you as soon as I hear from them."
Father Jones was successful in prevailing upon the Town Company to accept the original lot and building for the present church property. With the aid of the town's fire engine, he had the land drained and made suitable for a building site.
In the meantime, the altar was moved from the original frame church on Tenth Street to a room in the Gorman building where the Middlesboro Hotel now stands. For about a year, while the new building was under construction, Mass was celebrated in the Gorman building. During the first three years, the parish had about two hundred communicants. But in 1895, with the collapse of the English Syndicate, which had founded the town, the congregation diminished proportionately with the population of the town, which had fallen from ten thousand to four thousand inhabitants. The following years meant a hard struggle for the congregation in order to be able to maintain the church. After the transfer of Father Jones in 1894,
the parish continued under the care of diocesan priests until 1899, when the Benedictine Fathers of Cullman, Alabama, were given charge of the southern part of the Diocese. During that time, the pastorates of resident priests were intermittent. Reverend William Cassander went to Middlesboro at intervals to care for the needs of the congregation. In the first part of 1899, Bishop Maes visited Middlesboro considering the prospect of establishing a hospital.
The first Benedictine Father assigned to Middlesboro in 1899 was the Reverend Giles Schuelckers, O. S.B., and since that time the parish has been under the care of the Benedictine Fathers. The pastorate of Father Fidelis Meierl, O.S.B. (1934-1939), is memorable for the numerous improvements made on the church property. The interior of the church was redecorated, new windows and pews were installed, and an adequate heating system was provided. Under his direction, a building was constructed on the church property to serve as a parish recreation hall. The Golden Jubilee of St. Julian Church was observed on October 11, 1942, under the direction of Reverend Joseph Stangl, O.S.B., whose pastorate extended from 1939 to 1949. On that occasion, the parish comprised of about sixty families, being about the same size as it was in the early 1890's. At that time also the pastor of St. Julian Parish attended the congregations at Pineville and at Balkan.
During the summer of 1947, a vacation school was conducted at St. Julian Parish by the Sisters of Divine Providence-Sister Frances Grace, C.D.P., Sister Mary Rose, C.D.P., and Sister Marie Angeline, G.D.P. In the autumn of 1947, the Sisters of Divine Providence opened a parish school. The new parish school, established under the direction of Father Joseph Stangl, O.S.B., was housed in the renovated parish hall. Fifty children enrolled in September of 1947.
More to be added soon...
Rev. Theophilus Nyssen, 1891-1892;
Rev. Patrick Jones, 1892-1894;
Rev. Jerome Feys, 1894-1895;
Rev. B. Hoovenaers, 1895;
Rev. William Cassander, 1895-1897;
Rev. Wendeling Goehrig, 1897-1898;
Rev. Giles Schuelckers, 1899-1902;
Rev. Alphonse Kling O.S.B, 1903-1907;
Rev. Augustine Palm, O.S.B., 1907-1922;
Rev. William Geis, O.S.B., 1922-1934;
Rev. Fidelis Meierl, O.S.B., 1934-1939;
Rev. Joseph Stang, O.S.B., 1939-1949;
Rev. Kevin Cronin, O.S.B., 1949-1955;
Rev. Otto Hering, 1955-1960;
Rev. Eugene Wagner, 1960-1962;
Rev. James McHugh, 1960-1962;
Rev. Bela Folfody, 1962-1969;
Rev. Verne Hogan, 1969-1982;
Rev. Charles Rooks, 1982-1986;
Rev. Stephen Glalenstein, 1986-1994;
Rev. John Dane, 1994-1997;
Rev. Lee Trimbur, 1997-2001;
Rev. Jerome Stern, 2001-2004;
Rev. Patrick Fitzsimons, 2004-2007;
Rev. Amal, 2007-2010;
Rev. Thobias Sabriar, 2010-2016;
Rev. John Morairty, 2016-2019;
Rev. Kiran Varaparla, 2019-present;
SOURCES: Covington Archives, Parish Files: "St. Julian Parish, Mid Middlesboro, Ky." Catholic Telegraph: March 3, 1899; October 31, Decem ber 5, 1901. The Messenger: September 19, 1927; September 19, Octo ber 6, 1942; January 6, 1943; August 10, September 21, September 28, 1947; January 6, 1952.