From 1870 until the parish was founded in 1875, Mass was celebrated in the homes of the people. The present church was built in 1904. It was a mission of St. Mary's Church, Piqua, until 1905 when priests from Tipp City began as administrators. In 1946, priests from St. Remy, Russia took over as administrators. In 1969, Immaculate Conception became a parish. The parish purchased five acres of land, house and barn fro its resident priest. The main source of extra income has been the parish festival which began in 1972. A parish hall was constructed on the Buckneck road property under Father James Duell. In 2013, Immaculate Conception, under Father James Simons, became part of the region that already included Holy Family, Frencthown and St. Denis, Versailles.
Shared beginnings for St. Denis and Holy Family
St. Denis and Holy Family trace their beginnings back to the founding of St. Valbert's Parish in 1839. St. Valbert's was established by Bishop John Baptist Purcell to serve the French settlers in Jacksonville (Versailles), Champaigne (Frenchtown), Russia and Newport. Fr. Louis Navarron was named the pastor. The location, the current St. Valbert's cemetery, was chosen as it is central to those communities.
In 1846, parishes were established in Russia and Frenchtown. The people of Versailles continued to worship at St. Valbert's until 1864 when the Baptist Church, on the corner of Main and Second Streets was pruchased. That Church building was destroyed by the Great Fire of 1901.
Holy Family Parish
As travel was difficult, the people of Frenchtown wanted their own parish. In 1846, a small log church was dedicated under the name of Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph by Bishop Purcell. That church building burned to the ground in 1848 and was immediately rebuilt.
The current church building in Frenchtown was built in 1866. The area was becoming more prosperous as the railroad brought more business to the area and an increase in the demands for the products of the farmers.
The bricks for the church were made and fired in Frenchtown. Lumber was procured locally. Stones for the foundation were brought in from a distance. The small bell is the original church bell brought from France by Father Navarron. The church cost $3,000.
In 1889, the Church was renovated and enlarged and stained glass windows were purchased. In 1890 the current three altars were added. In 1901, a fund raiser was begun to build a new parish rectory which was completed in 1902.
This is the oldest church building in Darke County that is in continuous operation.
The parishioners settled on a new name for their parish. St. Denis was chosen. He was the first bishop of Paris, France, appointed in the 3rd century. He led his people during a time of widespread persecution which lead to his death by beheading. The legend is that he picked up his head and walked a mile with it. That legend is depicted in the statue that is at the south church entrance. The Church in France was growing in its love of Christ. The early parishioners wanted that same kind of community where the love of Christ was very much alive.
In 1888, the parish bought the property surrounded by South Center Street, East Wood Street, Second Street and East Ward Street. A church was built and a school (1893-94) and convent followed. By 1961, the parish out grew the church. The church was torn down and a new church was dedicated in June 1962.
The church building tells the story of our French heritage in the stained glass windows on the south side and the Mass on the north side.