In 1819 the Rev. Roger Smith, a priest from St. Ignatius Church in Hickory Maryland, purchased a half acre from Daniel Glackin for a church and a burial ground. The church was built and the first religious service was held in 1819. The congregation consisted mostly of Irish immigrants working in the lumbering operation bordering the Susquehanna River and the canals on both sides of the river. They called it St. Patrick’s Chapel.
St. Patrick’s Chapel is a testimonial to the toil and faith of the early nineteenth century residents of Cecil County. Old Conowingo was a busy thoroughfare; a major crossing of the Susquehanna River. Here Lafayette and Compte de Rochambeau, with their troops, crossed the Susquehanna in 1781 on their way to Yorktown. Here, lumber operations were established and canals created to foster the growing economic life of the county and here people built their church telling us that their faith was as important as their commerce. For these reasons alone, the chapel is an important landmark deserving preservation.
With the advent of the railroad, canal commerce diminished and the population shifted away from Pilottown. The chapel was abandoned several times during its’ 188 year history. In spite of sporadic “restoration” attempts, the chapel frequently experienced neglect. A passerby in the 1920s remarked that the grounds were overgrown with brush, the front door swinging on its hinges, and the interior invaded by animals. Most old wood framed buildings would not have withstood such an assault. However, this building refused to collapse; refused to die. In 1934 a Mass Commemorating the chapel's 125th Anniversary was celebrated. Plans were made to restore it but the Depression and World War II sidelined those goals. In 1947 Good Shepherd Parish assumed responsibility for the chapel and repairs were made. In the early 1970's, more work was continued and a Mass was celebrated in 1972. In 2004, the St. Patrick's Historical Association was established and the chapel was once again restored. In September 2010, the newly renovated chapel was rededicated by Bishop Malooly. It still stands, a witness to our past, and a potential refuge to future generations. This is a humble, courageous building, but it needs our help! It stands there saying “I’m part of your history, I won’t let you forget me.”