Dew Upon the Mountains, 12.

One of the main aspects of home the Irish carried with them to North Adams was their religion.  Roman Catholicism was an essential part of Irish personal and communal identity. Unfortunately it was looked on with disapproval by the majority of Protestant citizens of New England.  The first Irish immigrants who arrived would hold mass in their living rooms as they had no formal place to serve as a spiritual sanctuary.  As more and more Irish began settling around North Adams it became harder to worship without a church.

Dew Upon the Mountains, 11.

A large majority of Irish immigrants had settled in Pittsfield Mass, about twenty miles south of North Adams. Under the guidance of Reverend Bernard O’Kavanagh, they built the St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in the early 1840s.  St. Joseph’s acted as the “mother” church to all Catholic Churches that were built throughout the next few decades.  Many of the Irish immigrants who wanted to form their own churches or to join St. Joseph’s were terrorized and abused by the Know-Nothings a political party, founded on a strong hatred of immigration, especially of Roman Catholic immigrants.[1] The members acted with a fierce mob mentality against those they considered “not white” like the Irish.[2]

Dew Upon the Mountains, 21.


In November of 1862, Father Charles Lynch was assigned  to the North Adams parish by the Reverend Patrick Cuddihy an Irish immigant who took over for Rev. O’Kavanagh after his retirement.  North Adams was growing rapidly with the influx of Irish fleeing the Potato Famine and it had become apparent that an organized church was desperately needed.  Rev. Lynch facilitated the purchase of a church from the local Methodists in the 1850s however, the parish soon outgrew their new home.  In 1865 Lynch bought land on the corner of two prominent main streets in the center of North Adams and asked his congregation to build their grand new church.  The first brick was laid by Reverend John Williams the bishop of Boston on October 29th 1867.  Two years later Saint Francis of .Assisi Church was completed and “became one of the most impressive churches in New England”[3].

Dew Upon the Mountains, 27.



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[1] The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. “Know-Nothing party.” Encyclopedia Britannica. May 05, 2017. Accessed December 5, 2017.

[2] Kathrine F. Mullaney, Catholic Pittsfield and the Berkshire. Pittsfield, Massachusetts: Press of the Sun Printing, 1897

[3] Joseph C. Day, Dew upon the mountains: a history of St. Francis of Assisi Parish, North Adams, Massachusetts … in the Berkshires. 1st ed. North Adams, MA: St. Francis of Assisi Parish, 1989. 26