Monisgnor Thomas Acquinas Quirk

Weston Democrat
September 17, 1937

Monsignor Quirk Dies at 92; Spent 53 Years in the County

Venerable Prelate Had Renounced Honors and Opportunities to be of Service to Friends in His Adopted Home - Buried in St. Bernard's Cemetery.

One of West Virginia's three monsignors of the Roman Catholic faith, a man who gave up an earldom in England and offers of higher places in his church in this country to minister to the spiritual and physical needs of the Sand Fork, Goosepen, and Orlando sections of Lewis county for fifty-three years is gone.

Monsignor Thomas Acquinas Quirk died at 2:30 o'clock Sunday afternoon at his rectory on Loveberry ridge near the site of the first Catholic church in Lewis county.

Death came one week - almost to the hour - after the venerable priest, who celebrated his ninety-second birthday last March, fell in a cold rain in the yard at his home. After that he developed a severe chest cold and his condition steadily grew weaker.

The parishioners of Father Quirk's three churches at Sand Fork, Goosepen, and Orlando held their priest in high esteem as was evidenced by the presence of the hundreds who visited the rectory in his final illness. Everything possible was done for him by them.

In 1934 these same parishioners gathered at the grove near the Sand Fork church to honor their priest on the occasion of his fiftieth year as a priest in Lewis county. The next year they again gathered with the priesthood of the state to do honor to Father Quirk when he was invested with the title of monsignor by Pope Pius.

Final rites were held at St. Bernard's church, which is just across the road from the house in which he died, Wednesday morning at 10 o'clock.

Solemn high mass was celebrated by the Rev. Father P. H. McDermott, dean of the priests in Clarksburg. Most Rev. John J. Swint, D. D., bishop of the Wheeling diocese, preached the funeral sermon and gave the absolution following the mass.

Others assisting in the mass were: Rev. Father Daniel Murphy, of Weirton, deacon of the mass; Rev. Father M. O'Reilly, of St. Clara, subdeacon; Rev. Father Edmond Yahn, of St. Joseph's Cathedral, Wheeling, master of ceremonies; Rev. Father John J. Mueller, assistant rector of St. Patrick's parish here, assistant master of ceremonies; Rev. Father John Griffin, of Salem, and Rev. Father John Quinn, of Clarksburg, censer bearers. A choir composed of priests of the diocese sang throughout the mass.

Monsignor Quirk's remains were placed at rest before a large marble Calvary crucifix in the St. Bernard cemetery on a knoll adjoining the church. The Calvary was erected by Monsignor Quirk a number of years ago.

Surviving relatives include a brother, Patrick J. Quirk, of Cincinnati, Ohio, and six brothers and sisters in Ireland. The brother from Cincinnati and his two sons, Thomas Quirk and Howard Quirk, were at the bedside of Monsignor Quirk when he died.

Mr. Quirk told an interesting incident in the life of the clergyman which was little known before. He stated that Monsignor Quirk was a fugitive from England because he had assisted political prisoners to escape while he was a resident of that country. He believed that the prisoners were being unjustly treated.

The earldom he renounced was that of Mount Eagle. He renounced it because he would have had to renounce his church and affiliate himself with the Church of England, he once told friends, and further because "it would only be an expense."

Monsignor Quirk's parents were Michael Quirk, an Englishman, and Catherine (Rice) Quirk, an Irish woman.

It was on March 7, 1845, that Thomas Acquinas Quirk was born at Clonmel, Ireland. He was the son of a captain in the English army. Because his father was transferred a great deal he lived in England, Canada, India, and Australia with his parents while he was a very young child. These residences, he says, he does not remember.

The young man entered the English army where he was a cadet. At the age of 17 years he was sent to the United States in 1862 to study the warfare tactics of the Federal army. He became a member of the 69th Infantry of New York, Union army, and served in several skirmishes in the Valley of Virginia.

After the war Father Quirk returned to England and in a short time he left the army and went to Paris where he studied for five years at St. Sulpice school for the priesthood. At the same time he attended lectures in law and medicine at the Sorbonne university.

Bishop Richard Vincent Whelan, who was the first bishop of the Wheeling diocese of the Catholic church, wrote to St. Sulpice asking for priests who would volunteer to service here in West Virginia. Because of the fact that Father Quirk knew of the Valley of Virginia through his war service, he was the only one at the school to volunteer.

He came to the United States, going first to Pittsburgh to visit Father Stephen Wall, whom he had heard of through a brother of Father Wall, who was a student at St. Sulpice. Father Wall wanted the young theologian to stay in Pittsburg [sic], but as he had promised Bishop Whelan come to West Virginia, he would not stay. After being in Pittsburgh ten or eleven months he went to Wheeling to assume his new assignment.

At the time there were only six priests in West Virginia, five others were ordained at the same time with Father Quirk, bringing the total number to twelve for the state. The men with whom Father Quirk began his service are all deceased. They were: Father Wilhelm Gril, a German; Father John Silvain, a Frenchman; Father Terrence Duffy, a native of Nicholas county; Father William Walsh, and Father Davis Walsh, who were no relation. They were all ordained at Wheeling in 1870.

In commenting upon his army day recollections of the United States, Father Quirk once said that he desired to return to this country because he saw that opportunities were without limit here, and "there are still great opportunities," he added. He said that on his first visit to America he "found it a great country and that it needed great citizens."

After spending nine months at the cathedral in Wheeling, Father Quirk was sent to Parkersburg where he stayed one year and three months. He then went to Huntington "when it was still a cornfield." Often he pulled corn from a field which stood where Third avenue is now located. During his pastorate of twelve years there the Rev. Father John Joseph Kain became the bishop of the Wheeling diocese.

For work in the rugged wilds of central West Virginia Bishop Kain needed a priest who was a horseman. He found such a man in the person of Father Quirk. He found more than that. He found a priest, a doctor, and a lawyer.

This young man of 39 years was sent to the Sand fork parish in Lewis county. From this location he travelled [sic] on horseback to Webster, Nicholas, Braxton, and Gilmer counties. He gave medical treatment to both Protestants and Catholics throughout this area because often the services of physicians could not be secured. During the winter of 1893 he made eighty sick calls. The young priest was five feet and eleven inches tall. He weighed 178 pounds.

In connection with his long years of travel on horseback it is interesting to note that the priest owned only six horses since he began his pastorate in Lewis county in 1884. The horses were "Bob," a gray horse, used six years; "Remy" a sorrel horse used for eighteen years; "Partnership," a blooded horse, used for six years; "Trixy," the best of all, used for twenty years; and "Prince," a white horse used for twenty-two years.

During recent years Father Quirk was "packed" around in cars the majority of the time and he didn't like it, he often remarked. The three parishes that he had charge of at the time of his death were:

Sand Fork, St. Bernard's church - Services held the first and fifth Sundays of each month and on all church holidays.

Goosepen, St. Bridget's church - Services held the second and fourth Sundays of each month.

Orlando, St. Michael's church - Services held the third Sunday in each month.

Father Quirk performed his first marriage mass in this county in 1886, and since that time he married about fifty couples. He baptized about 275 persons and buried about 300. There were about 360 parishioners in the priest's jurisdiction when he began his work. This number dwindled a great deal, though, after the oil and gas excitement of the 1900 period subsided.

Many of his parishioners were fortunate enough to be made newly rich when the valuable minerals were found in the ground beneath their rugged farms. Many of those who acquired nice fortunes in this way moved from their farms to the cities.

Father Quirk, however, remained as priest, doctor, and lawyer for his flock. He said that he was always satisfied with his parish in this county, and when he was asked by bishops to move to larger parishes he replied that he could "do what little he can do here." Bishop John Joseph Swint offered Father Quirk any place in the whole Wheeling diocese, but his answer was that "it is hard to transplant an old tree."...