The Wall and Fr. J. J. O’Connell

This brick wall, built sometime in the mid 1800’s, stands along the west end of the graveyard and between it and Park Street. According to Rev. J. J. O’Connell, pastor of St. Peter’s from 1848 to 1871, “I built the wall at the rear of the cemetery in Columbia, and erected also the front wall, built in rock and brick masonry, with its magnificent iron gates and railing, which is an ornament to the city, with the aid of only one plain, well disposed man, James Claffey.” (Catholicity in the Carolinas Page 216)

Father J. J. O’Connell was assisted in his ministry by his brothers, Father Lawrence and Father Joseph, but apparently they did not help with construction of the walls which were probably built in the more prosperous times prior to the Civil War, after which priorities would have been elsewhere. The church was not damaged during the war. Probably slave labor and/or Irish labor were employed in manufacture of the bricks and the wall and Fr. O’Connell and Mr. Claffey provided plans and supervision for the project. Or maybe the priest and Mr. Claffey were at least semi-skilled brick masons and built the wall!

At some point in its history the wall had tilted to the west and had to be corrected and reinforced with additional foundation and bricks along the base of the wall. That reinforcement (done about 2015) is visible in the photograph. The front wall with iron gates and railing was probably sacrificed when the current church was built in the early 20th century.

The parents of all three O’Connell priests and other family members are buried in this graveyard, and more information about the family is available HERE. There is more about Fr. J. J. O’Connell and his legacies including the book he wrote HERE.

A day trip idea and information about the institution he founded just west of Charlotte, NC, are HERE.

2 thoughts on “The Wall and Fr. J. J. O’Connell

  1. Liz Baker

    James Claffey is my great great grandfather. He and his wife Rose Eliza McKenna were the ones I had asked you to check to see if gravestones in church basement. We feel sure they were buried at St. Peters as it was their church. Have you found any information on this. We would love to know for sure.
    Liz Baker

    1. We have not been able to find markers for James and Rose Eliza McKenna Claffey in the graveyard or in the church basement. For those interested in this name in particular, some descendants of James and Rose Eliza McKenna Claffey are buried in the St. Peters Cemetery at Elmwood. They are:

      Col. Robert M. Claffy (1855 – 1915)
      Annie Hughes Claffy (1855 – 1930)
      Robert M. Claffy (1881 – 1951)
      Mary E.(Ellie) Claffy (1886 – 1962)
      (Wife of George W. Collins)
      Mary Louise Claffy (1888 – 1905)
      Thomas B. Claffy (1911 – 1912)
      Joseph F. Claffy (1915 – 2002)

      Note the change in spelling from Claffey to Claffy.

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