Chapel In The Woods

A few miles from our house, stands this. I drove over there on Tuesday and had a walk around it. At the time, I was the only one there:

Sign for St. Joseph's Chapel, on Route 23, Ashland, Catskills. [Photo by me, 2016.]
Sign for St. Joseph’s Chapel, on Route 23, Ashland, Catskills. [Photo by me, 2016.]

I’d been to it several times before. We even went to a Mass there several years ago. One is held there one day every year.

It is small inside. It has only about a dozen hard wood pews, and seats maybe “30 people.” It is also rather austere; there is no great artwork or magnificence in it.

St. Joseph's Chapel. [Photo by me, 2016.]
St. Joseph’s Chapel. [Photo by me, 2016.]

I sat on a step for a few minutes and there wasn’t a sound to be heard. I was finally thrust back into our 2016 when a truck zoomed by me just below on (the “55 MPH,” but not especially busy) State Route 23. Looking down on the road, the church now finds itself next to it.

In the “old days” before “horseless carriages,” that Route 23 was a winding mail route and main trail. This is the land of Washington Irving’s “Rip van Winkle.” The local radio station even has the call letters “WRIP.”

That church was likely large enough in the early 1800s to accommodate the tiny Roman Catholic population (most of whom were Irish immigrants) of these (then relatively remote) mountains. Far more than for us today, churches were then a focal point in the lives of most of them – and would be where many would rest forever after their deaths. Back then burials often took place in churchyards:

St. Joseph's Chapel graveyard. [Photo by me, 2016.]
St. Joseph’s Chapel graveyard. [Photo by me, 2016.]

But not every grave has an individual headstone:

The "Irish Colleens" Memorial Stone. [Photo by me, 2016.]
The “Irish Colleens” Memorial Stone. [Photo by me, 2016.]

That church has intrigued me from the moment we first saw it after moving into the area, and has now come to help spur on my latest manuscript.

Perhaps this is the historian coming out of me here now. No one forces us to do this. Even if you are composing “fiction” about the past, an author bears a moral responsibility to those once as alive as we are now – to try to recreate them fairly and do their lives justice.

Have a good Thursday, wherever you are.

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Author: “Conventions: The Garden At Paris,” “Passports,” “Frontiers,” and “Distances.” British Airways frequent flier. Lover of the Catskill Mountains...and the 1700s. New novel of 1797-1805, "Tomorrow The Grace," due out in 2019.

5 thoughts on “Chapel In The Woods

  1. It looks charming, and you’ve captured some nice photos. By the way, I attend a Chapel on the Hill. The names seem similar, chapel followed by a prepositional phrase and a geographical feature.

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