Saint Mary, the Immaculate Conception Derby, Connecticut The story of Catholicism in Derby, the story of Saint Mary's Church, the story of St. Mary's Parish school stands even now as mute evidence of the eternal truth of Christ's prediction embodied in the parable of the mustard seed. Some ten resident pastors in little more than 100 years have established a center of Catholicism which is valued at more than a million dollars. The physical properties including, a beautiful church, rectory, a convent, two schools, and three cemeteries, stand today attesting to the faith and zeal of the people of Derby this past century. As a fur trading community, white settlers first came to the site presently called Derby as early as the middle of the seventeenth century. Most of early New England being predominantly Protestant, there is no evidence that any of these early traders held the perennial faith challenged some two centuries before by would be reformers. The first Catholic to establish his home in Derby was Claudius Barthelme, who came here in 1760, married and raised one son, while engaged in a wide-spread trade with the West Indies. For some time he remained the first and only Catholic within the confines of Derby. Sixty years after Barthelme came to Derby, Divine Providence gave him a companion in his faith. The Reverend Calvin White, the second assistant Rector of St. James' Episcopal Church, re-affirmed the spiritual authority of the Holy Father and was baptized a Roman Catholic in 1820. On September 10, 1833, the first Irish Catholics landed on the Derby docks. The mustard seed began to grow. Orcutt and Beardsley in their book "The History of Derby" compiled in 1880 wrote: "A son of Erin at that time was rather a curiosity for the denizens of the town. Michael Stokes, Patrick Quinn, John Regan, Farrell Reilly, and others soon followed the first until their numbers were legion." It was in this same year that Holy Mass was first offered by Father McDermott within the limits of the city of Derby with 28 persons present. Watered by the grace of that Mass and the thousands that have been offered since, the mustard seed continued to grow into the great tree that today shades thousands of Catholics in two parishes within the three thousand odd acres that comprise the city of Derby. Holding tightly to their twelve century old Catholic heritage, when the flames and guns of their English persecutors deprived them of their churches in Ireland, the Irish continued strong in faith, without a church, for almost twelve years. In 1845 the first Catholic Church was erected in Derby and placed under the patronage of the mother of God. Anson G. Phelps of New York City, owner of most of the land that now comprises St. Mary's property on Elizabeth Street, deeded a small part of this block, one hundred feet by seventy-five feet, to the Most Rev. William Tyler, Bishop of Hartford. On that small lot, the Irish emigrants built a small church fifty feet by thirty-three feet. Small indeed was the building but it provided ample room for the congregation which even yet did not number one hundred souls. The next forty years witnessed an almost unbelievable growth in the Catholic population of Derby. Driven from their beloved native land by the scourge misfortune in 1847 a veritable tidal wave of Irish settlers poured over the docks of East Derby. In the forty years 3,500 Catholics swelled the population of Derby. The thirty-three foot building quickly outgrew its usefulness in spite of the fact that it had been enlarged twice. As the years passed from that historic and memorable day, May 2, 1852, when the first St. Mary's church was solemnly dedicated to the Blessed Mother, Catholicism continued to grow. Catholics, ever devoted to the laws of God and His Holy Church multiplied. Ever zealous for the Glory of God and the physical properties which mirror that glory the Catholics of the late 19th century gave willingly of their time and material possessions to effect a fitting place of worship. Motivated by the misfortunes of chance and the inadequate space within the twice enlarged church, a new and larger church was seen to be essential. Work on the present edifice was begun in March, 1882, the cornerstone being laid on Sunday, June 25, that same year by the Most Rev. Bishop McMahon. Although all work on this new and very beautiful church had not been completed, it was dedicated on November 21, 1883. The main altar, one of the most inspiring in the state was considered by Father O'Donnell in his history of the dioceses as "a masterpiece of workmanship, over 1000 pieces of various stones entering into its construction." With the erection of the present church before the 20th century began, the Catholics of Derby enjoy a history and security of which few other parishes in the state can boast. The years that have passed since 1883 have witnessed the continued zeal of the Catholics of Derby. They remained ever conscious of the beauty that should enhance the house of God and their efforts have been unceasing in making St. Mary's church a fitting and beautiful place of worship. In discussing the physical growth of this parish we have omitted mentioning the vastly more important work of the priests who have labored in this part of the Lord's vineyard, the spiritual works, and the administration of the sacraments to the faithful here. Other things which have been a part of the physical growth of the parish have been left unsaid. Three cemeteries and a fine rectory attest the growth of Catholicism in Derby in no small way.