The Durbin Family
The first Durbins in Kentucky were Christopher and brother Phillip. They initially came about 1775, finally settling in Madison County. There, it is thought, they erected the first Roman Catholic church within the state.
Christopher’s son, John J. Durbin, was born in Maryland about 1769. He married Patience Logsdon in Madison County Kentucky on 8 April 1793. Together, they parented 10 children. One of these ten was Elisha John Durbin born 1 Feruary 1800; another was his sister Rebecca born in 1803.
Elisha John Durbin was ordained to the Roman Catholic priesthood in 1822 at Bardstown and two years later, was given his parish. The boundaries of his responsibility included all of Kentucky from about Breckenridge County westward to the Mississippi River, as well as circuit riding responsibilities for parts of northern Tennessee, southern Indiana and southern Illinois. It was a territory that covered about 30 counties and 11,000 square miles. He made his headquarters at Sacred Heart church in Union County Kentucky. From there he built churches all over the western part of the state, beginning with St. Ambrose near Henshaw in Union County. The other churches in Union County, in Paducah, at Fancy Farm, and Henderson and all points in between all trace their beginnings to this one man. For 60 years he labored in western Kentucky. After a stroke, he was reassigned to an academy in 1885, as chaplain, at Shelbyville where he died two years later. Elisha John Durbin’s sister Rebecca, married John “Jack” Thomas 28 January 1820. She was seventeen. They had a total of nine children, many of whose descendants later worshipped at churches that “Uncle Elisha” had built and pastored. Rebecca and Jack Thomas are my maternal 3’rd great-grandparents.
The lithograph at the top of this page is of St. Vincent’s Academy in Union County Kentucky. In the trees in the foreground is where the original log Sacred Heart Church once stood on land that belonged to the Alvey family. It is from this spot that the Reverend Elisha Durbin launched his 60 year missionary efforts. When the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth began their school here (St. Vincent’s), the parish church site was relocated across the road. The church graveyard, containing some graves of Revolutionary War veterans is to the right of this image. It is the earliest Catholic cemetery in western Kentucky.