Historical Marker St Mary's Church Site of first catholic church in Delaware, usually called "Coffee Run" Church, land purchased 1772 by Rev. Matthias Manners. First church erected shortly thereafter. Last church erected by Rev. Patrick Kenny, remained standing until 1908. Services discontinued in 1884 upon erection of churches at Hockessin and Ashland
Church history -- St. Peter's of New Castle 1804-1984, by Patricia Austin DiSabatino
Beginnings of the Catholic Church in Wilmington, Delaware by Donn Devine
Pioneer Catholic church nears 200th anniversary by Ann Morris Mertz
The history of St. Peters of New Castle began near Red Clay Creek in Hockessin. Catholics had come to northern Delaware from Maryland at the time of the revolution both for economic reasons and to escape the increasing religious intolerance. Although Maryland had been created as a Catholic haven, it became a colony with a dominant Protestant orientation after the "Glorious Revolution". As described by Devine, Jesuits from Bohemia Manor in Maryland bought the land now near Lancaster Pike and Loveville Rd in 1772. Masses were held there by traveling priests until 1804 when Father Patrick Kenny from Dublin took possession of the plantation from the tenant.
As noted by DiSabatino "One of Father Kenny's first ecumenical acts was to say Mass for the first time in New Castle in 1804. For several years thereafter, New Castle remained a preaching station with no resident pastor of its own. ... In 1806, New Castle was the political hub of Delaware and more important economically than Wilmington. A collection taken from the fledgling parish of St. Peter's in that year amounted to $6.25. The trustees decided that it was time to build a church. On April 15, 1806, a building site at Union and Harmony Streets was purchased for $350.00 from Samuel Rowan. This is the same land that is presently occupied by St. Peter's Church."
As noted by Mertz, the remarkable Father Kenny in his 40 years in Delaware was instrumental in starting St. Peter's Church in Wilmington, St. Peter's Church in New Castle, St Josephs on the Brandywine, an orphanage, a boarding school and a college, traveled to mission stations in West Chester, Ivy Mills, Concord, Doe Run, Hagley Yard, Wilmington, New Castle, Londonderry and Philadelphia and by farming the land to produce cash, was able to build frame church, barn, stone house and outbuildings which survived at least til 2008 (although the farm buildings are slated for demolition).
Sacred to the memory of The Revd PATRICK KENNY born in the county at Dublin Ireland and for nearly forty years pastor of the church of St. Peter Wilmington who died on the 21st day of March 1840 aged 79 years revered and regretted RIP
Coffee Run Cemetery enclosed by an iron fence was established in 1786 or earlier and is believed to have been the first Roman Catholic burial ground in the State. Within the enclosure, to the L. of the entrance is the Site of St. Mary's Church (Coffee Run Church), the first Roman Catholic CHurch in Delaware; it was a log structure which Father Kenny used also as living quarters before the completion of his stone rectory adjoining. With the church as his base, he attended five other missions in Delaware and nearby Pennsylvania, and almost unaided kept Catholicism alive in the region during that early period. After the erection of other churches the building decayed until it was finally razed in 1908. High weeds and bushes cover the site and nearly conceal the gravestones, some of which have fallen. Father Kenny's stone is a horizontal slab.
The Father Kenny House, a two-and-one-half story dwelling of stone and frame bears a marble marker in the east wing inscribed "P K 1812" It was built by the Rev. Patrick Kenny (1761-1840), born in Dublin Ireland, who came to America in 1804 and became a pioneer Roman Catholic priest in Delaware.