A History of St. Jerome Catholic Church
Fancy Farm is a thriving little village in Graves County, Kentucky, located about ten miles west of the county seat, Mayfield, and about one mile east of the line separating Graves from Carlisle County. Several up-to-date business houses located in the village have greatly contributed towards the prosperity of the inhabitants of this section of the country. Fancy Farm, however, is especially noted as the center of a large Catholic population scattered for miles around in the counties of Graves, Carlisle and Hickman. For years it has been known as the "Catholic Settlement," and has been highly spoken of during late years because of the large, substantial and handsome church edifice erected to the glory of God by the worthy descendants of Kentucky's noble Catholic pioneers. Fancy Farm has not been negligent in the cause of Christian education. The reputation of its parochial school for thorough, as well as advanced, educational work has often been lauded even by those not of the same religious belief. Especially has this been the case since the erection of the handsome and commodious new school building completed in 1909. To prove their continued zeal and devotion to the cause of religion, and to further the spirit of progress, the Catholics of Fancy Farm and surrounding country are at this writing (1911) engaged in building a modern home for their Pastor.
People often ask "How did the place get the name 'Fancy Farm?'" It seems that, somewhere about the year 1845, the residents of this western section of Graves County petitioned for the establishment of a Post Office in the neighborhood. An Inspector was sent here to investigate the matter and report on same. Whilst here, he was the guest of Mr. John Peebles, an applicant for the position of Postmaster. His desire to hold a federal office was nothing so very remarkable, as thousands of Kentuckians can readily understand from personal experience. But there was something remarkable about Mr. Peebles. He was noted for taking an honest pride in the appearance of his home and farm, and employed every means the then existing conditions permitted to enhance the beauty and attractiveness of his property. Whilst being the guest of Mr. Peebles, the Post Office Inspector was requested to suggest an appropriate name for the new office. In a compliment to Mr. Peebles as an agriculturist the proposed Fancy Farm as a most suitable name. So the promising infant was christened, and has ever since retained the name it so well deserved in its incipient existence; though some envious minds might hazard the intimation that in its adolescence it has failed to contribute aught to enhance its claim to pulchritude.
The first Catholic settlers of Graves County, and the founders of St. Jerome's congregation at Fancy Farm, migrated to this place chiefly from Washington County, Ky., in the early years of the second quarter of the nineteenth century. Mr. Samuel Willett, if I mistake not, was the first Catholic to locate permanently in this county. Born in Washington County, Ky., when the last century was very young, he, in July, 1828, married Elizabeth, daughter of Jesse Hobbs. In the following March he and his youthful bride left their childhood's home and made their toilsome way on horseback to their future home in Graves County. At Christmas of the same year they were followed by Sam's brother, John W. (in later years familiarly known to almost every man, woman and child in Jackson's Purchase as "Uncle Jack"). These two brothers were the pioneers of St. Jerome's congregation, and remained identified with it as its foremost and most active members, and as prominent citizens of their adopted county, for more than half a century, always laboring energetically for the spiritual and temporal advancement and up building of the county they had chosen for their home. Mr. Samuel Willett held the office of High Sheriff for one term in the forties, and served as Deputy Sheriff for several years, and by the faithful discharge of his official duties won the esteem of everyone, as he won the love of all who knew him by his clean, noble and Christian life and conduct. Mr. Sam Willett was appointed Postmaster in 1854 and held the office for many years, to the general satisfaction of the public. He took an active part in the building of the first and second church edifices at Fancy Farm, and was not behind anyone in contributing means and encouragement towards the establishing of a parish school.
by Rev. Charles Haeseley, Pastor
Information for this section comes from The History of St. Jerome, Fancy Farm, KY; Sesquicentennial 1986. This publication is currently out of print.
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