Ours is a rich and long history in our community. In June 2007, Reverend Michael Roark put together a historical sketch of our parish history. In February of 2017, Michele Harris updated the document. To obtain his entire paper, please click the link below. We have presented a short excerpt from his paper to get you started.
Before the railroad from Philadelphia and Wilmington came to Salisbury in 1860, the town’s location at the head of navigation on the WicomicoRiver governed its development, and it was entirely oriented to the Chesapeake Bay.A key factor in the establishment of our Diocese of Wilmington in 1868 was the extension of rail service to Crisfield in 1866, with the immediate prospect of further extension to the PocomokeRiver opposite what is now PocomokeCity. A branch eastward to the developing OceanCity resort was also envisioned.The new diocese comprised the fourteen counties of the Delmarva Peninsula. Previously the nine Maryland counties had belonged to the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the three Delaware counties to the Diocese of Philadelphia, and the two Virginia counties to the Diocese of Richmond.(A nationwide reorganization of dioceses in 1974 returned the Virginia counties to the Diocese of Richmond.)
What may be the first documentary evidence of a Catholic community in Salisbury appeared in a letter cited in the manuscript referenced above, from Bishop Alfred Curtis, Ordinary of the Diocese of Wilmington from 1886 to 1896, to Father (later Monsignor) Edward Mickle, a pioneer Catholic missionary of southern Delmarva.Bishop Curtis is said to have stated that in the spring of 1860 Archbishop Martin John Spalding of Baltimore, responding to complaints of visitors to the Eastern Shore about pastoral neglect of the region, sent a Redemptorist priest, whose name Bishop Curtis does not mention, to investigate.The priest found a ready welcome and lodging at the hotel of a Catholic resident of Salisbury named John Tracy.Mr. Tracy arranged for the priest to preach in a public hall the next day, and the day after that Mr. Tracy’s daughter Katie made her First Communion.At that time only two or three Catholic families were known to live in the Salisbury area.
Father Thomas J. Peterman, on pages 534 and 535 of his Catholics in Early U.S. Delmarva and related footnotes, states that Redemptorist Father Joseph Henning reported to Archbishop Spalding in a letter from Salisbury dated June 16, 1865, on his mission to reconnoiter the state of Catholicism on the Lower Eastern Shore.Baptisms by Father Henning are documented in Snow Hill on June 18 of that year, and in Princess Anne on June 20.He may have been attending descendants of Acadian Catholics exiled from Canada in 1755, who had settled in present-day Worcester and Somerset Counties eight or nine decades before his visit.
In 1867, the year that Salisbury became the seat of the newly-formed Wicomico County, John Tracy deeded to the Archdiocese a parcel of land behind his hotel, on Church Street about two-thirds of the way from St. Peter’s Episcopal Church to the Wicomico River. On it stood a small, unpretentious frame building he had built at his own expense and largely with his own labor, to serve as a chapel.In September of the following year Bishop Thomas Becker, in his first recorded act as first Ordinary of the new Diocese of Wilmington, officiated at its dedication under the title of St. Mary.The Salisbury congregation was made a mission of Holy Cross Parish in Dover, Delaware, and remained so until 1890.The site of that first church now lies under Business Route 50 or the adjacent parking area to the south of it, across High Street from the west end of the Parsons Home property.
St. Francis De Sales Parish
Holy Redeemer Church
Church Located at 535 Riverside Drive, Salisbury, MD