Cemetery Road (Ridgeway, WI.)
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Directions: From Highway 151 (southwest of Ridgeway), turn onto Cemetery Road. The former church once sat beside St. Bridget's Cemetery.
In 1850, the first St. Bridget's Church was built. No more than a small wooden frame building, it was located a few miles southwest of the village of Ridgeway (where St. Bridget's Cemetery, is today).
In those early days, it was rare for rural areas to have permanent pastors, and St. Bridget's was no exception. Joining the Mineral Point parish in 1851, St. Bridget's was officiated by many different ministers, over the next twenty-four years.
In 1875, St. Bridget's would get their first resident pastor, with the arrival of Rev. Hugh McMahon.
In 1877, the original church was razed, and a new one built next to the pastoral residence (which had been built less than a year earlier).
When Rev. L.P. O'Reilly arrived at St. Bridget's in 1893, he found that the church was in desperate need of repair. With his congregation's full support, repairs were done on the building, as well as improvements made. These improvements included a steeple and bell. A new heating system, and a brand new altar.
The fate of the country church was sealed on August 15th, 1904, when lightning struck the church, and it burned to the ground.
Instead of rebuilding the church at the same location, the decision was made to move St. Bridget's into the village of Ridgeway.
On October 20th, 1904, the cornerstone for the new church was layed, and then blessed by the Archbishop of Milwaukee, S.G. Messemer.
St. Bridget's opened again for services on February 19th, 1905, with the offical dedication, taking place in September, of that same year.
The story of St. Bridget's, seems to fit perfectly with the many "spooky" stories associated with Ridgeway, and the Ridgeway Phantom.As to specifically who was the priest that tragically fell down the steps at St. Bridget's, and when did it occur, is unknown (at least for now).
In her book Along The Miltary Ridge To Ridgeway, author Melva Phillips lists six priests that were residents of St. Bridget's from 1876-1904.
Rev. Hugh McMahon: (1876)
Rev. Excel: (1876-1878)
Rev. Luby: (1878-1886)
Rev. J.W. Vahey: (1886-1893)
Rev. N.J. Doyle: (1893)
Rev. L.P. O'Reilly: (1893-1909)
While any one of the five priests could have been the victim of a fall on the St. Bridget's steps (excluding Rev. O'Reilly-obviously), there are a couple of names (using Ms. Phillips' book as a reference),
that raise an eyebrow.
Rev. McMahon was replaced less than a year after taking over at St. Bridget's. However, it should be noted that Rev. McMahon was over 90 years old when he took over as pastor at St. Bridget's.
Rev. Vahey, while at St. Bridget's for seven years, was forced to resign because of "ill health".
Even more curious is Rev. Vahey's replacement, Rev. Doyle.
Ms. Phillips book describes Rev. Doyle as "a very young man of much piety and great energy.", and yet, he was replaced only a few months after taking over at St. Bridget's.No reason is given as to why Rev. Doyle was so quickly replaced by Rev. O'Reilly. It just seemed weird that the book would mention him so highly, just to have him drop off the face of the
globe, a few months later.
....Interior of St. Bridget's (prior to the fire).
....The cemetery at St. Bridget's.
....Grave of the first resident pastor, Hugh McMahon.