Biography of Rev. Francis McCarthy
Napa County, CA Biographies





THE REV. FRANCIS F. McCARTHY.
The Rev. Francis F. McCarthy, pastor of the Roman Catholic parish of St. Joan of Arc at Yountville and one of the best known and most popular clergymen in Napa county, is a native son of the old Blue Grass state, but has been a resident of California since the days of his childhood. He was born in the pleasant hamlet of Dant, Marion county, Kentucky, and is a son of Florenz and Serena (Brunsted) McCarthy, who in 1890 came to California with their family and settled at Napa, where Father McCarthy was reared. He early dedicated his life and talents to the service of the church, and after a thorough course in St. Patrick's Seminary at Menlo Park he was graduated therefrom in 1909 and ordained to the priesthood. His first service was as assistant to the pastor of Sacred Heart parish in San Francisco, and he thereafter continued in the active service of the church, being stationed at Oakland when in 1920 he was appointed by Archbishop Hanna to visit the mission centering at Yountville, to take up his residence there with a view to a study of its possibilities for parochial self sustenance and to become its first pastor if its creation into a parish were found feasible.

After months of strenuous labor the indefatigable clergyman found conditions sufficiently favorable in the community to form a substantial basis for his recommendation for the creation of a parish, and formal steps were then taken to that end. Generous contributors aided in the cause of raising funds for the new ecclesiastical enterprise, a plot of ground was donated for the purpose and in May, 1921; work was begun on the erection of the church buildings, the church and the rectory and the installation of a water system and other essential outfittings. On Sunday morning, July 31, 1921, the new church was dedicated and placed under the patronage of the soldiers' saint, Joan of Arc, his grace, the Most Rev. Edward J. Hanna, D. D., archbishop of San Francisco, having charge of the dedicatory service in the presence of a distinguished body of the clergy and a large assemblage of the people of the community, solemn high mass being celebrated by the Rev. Francis F. McCarthy, who meanwhile had been installed as resident pastor. He has thus continued to serve the parish and has done much to further and extend its interests and its influence. Father McCarthy also has charge at Oakville and at Rutherford, and he is happy to report conditions flourishing throughout his prosperous and growing parish.

The first priest mentioned in local records, not considering the Franciscan padres who were ministering to the Indians here in the days of the old Spanish possession, was the Rev. Fr. Rousche, who was appointed to carry on missionary work here in the middle '50s of the past century and who, with his assistants, made his headquarters in Napa. In September, 1856, a lot on Main street in that city was donated as a site for a Roman Catholic church and in 1859 a house of worship was there formally dedicated by Archbishop Allemany. It was in that building, which by that time had been supplanted by a much more commodious edifice, that Father McCarthy received his boyhood instruction in the lessons of the church. In the summer of 1860 the Rev. Peter Deyaert was appointed pastor of that church, the parish then including not only the whole of Napa county but most of Lake county and including the congregations at Suisun and Sonoma. In 1865 the two latter communities were set off as separate parishes, and for more than twenty years, or until along in the middle '80s, the boundaries of Napa parish ran from Kelseyville to the Knoxville mine, to the boundary line of Yolo county, to the boundary of Solano county, to the Three Mile House on the Vallejo road, to Pablo bay and thence again to Kelseyville. By this time St. Helena also had become a promising settlement and in 1866 Father Deyaert erected there a building for church services.

The Soldiers Home at Yountville was opened in 1884 and thereafter mass was said at the Home monthly for the comfort of those of the veterans holding to the Catholic faith, and this presently was extended to a bi monthly function, the services being conducted by the Napa clergy. By 1887 St. Helena had grown to a point justifying its formation into a separate parish and to it were joined Oakville and Rutherford, leaving Yountville in the Napa parish. It was thus that Yountville became the sole remaining mission of Napa, under the ministrations of Father Slattery, until 1904, and from that time until 1916 under those of his successor, Father Joseph Byrne, who in the latter year was succeeded by the Rev. John R. Cantillon, who was in charge of the mission when in 1920, under the direction of Father McCarthy, it was established as the parish of St. Joan of Arc. Father McCarthy said mass at Rutherford for the first time on Sunday, November 14, 1920, before a congregation of about fifteen. On the following Sunday, on his appearance at Yountville, he found a congregation made up of veteran soldiers, farmers and villagers to the number of about fifty. It was apparent that Yountville should be the location of the parish home, for not only was it the largest of the three villages and the first approached, but it also was in the shadow of the Soldiers Home, from which calls from the veterans would be frequent. It also was imperative to erect a new church for the conduct of the new parish, the nonsectarian chapel at the Soldiers Home not being fitting to the creation of the familiar devotional environment sought by Catholic worshippers. With this end in view Henry Grigsby donated to the diocese the fine plot of ground on which the handsome and substantial establishment of St. Joan of Arc now stands and in due time, and by the unselfish aid of those interested, the present church and parish buildings were erected, as related above. The church edifice cost just under fifteen thousand dollars and the rectory something more than seventy five hundred dollars. An additional charge of seventeen hundred dollars was laid to the furnishing of the church and something more than fourteen hundred dollars to the furnishing of the rectory, while the water system cost about fifteen hundred dollars, this with other expenses of construction bringing the cost of the parish establishment up to more than twenty seven thousand dollars. This was supplemented by numerous generous gifts in the way of the essential furnishings of the church, altar, pews, statues and other articles being furnished by friends of the church in San Francisco as well as in the home community, so that St. Joan of Arc parish now is not only well but quite handsomely provided for, Father McCarthy very properly entertaining a feeling of gratification that his labors have been so tangibly rewarded. In 1926 Father McCarthy built the community hall in Yountville as a social center and adjunct of the church. In the Napa Daily Register,for February 13, 1924, there appeared quite an interesting and informative history of this parish, from the pen of Father McCarthy, a valuable contribution to the history of this section of California.

From:
History of Solano County, California
BY: Marguerite Hune
and Napa County, California
BY: Harry Lawrence Gunn
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co.
Chicago 1926


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