Parish History

The first Mass in Placerville was celebrated in the early spring of 1850, in a building made of rough-hewn logs, located below Union St. near Hangtown creek. Fr. John Ingoldsby was the first Catholic missionary to this area, and he was also the first priest stationed in Placerville.

The first Catholic church was built in 1852 at the site of the current church on Sacramento Street. This building was destroyed by an incendiary fire on April 4, 1865. Fr. Largan, the pastor at that time, moved quickly to replace the church. A new brick structure was dedicated on August 13, 1865. This building was used until 1963, when it was replaced with the current structure.

A bell was donated by miners in 1852, when the first church was built. It was recovered after the fire in 1865, and installed in the new structure. This bell was transferred again to the new building in 1963, and is still in use today.

St. Patrick's Hall, which is presently used for youth activities and the Clothes Closet, was built in 1937. It was refurbished and dedicated to Fr. John Cantwell in 2011. The Parish Center and Gurnell Hall were built in 1988. At that time, the church was also extensively remodeled, and the parking area was expanded.

The Franciscan Sisters of the Atonement came to Placerville in 1948. The first sisters to staff the mission were Sisters Mary Arthur DeLaurier, Mary Victor Bourgeau, and Catherine Swetz. The Sisters of the Atonement celebrated their 50th anniversary here in 1998, and served continuously in Placerville until 2001, when Sister Thomas Marie Heavey left.

Ursuline Sisters Helen Hermreck and Charlotte Keller came to Placerville in 1977. Sister Charlotte, who ministered especially to the youth, passed away in 1986.   Sister Helen continued her pastoral ministry to the sick, elderly, homebound, and poor of the parish until retiring to the Motherhouse in Kansas in April, 2005. Sister Helen moved to the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph convent in Maple Mount, Kentucky in January, 2009, and passed away there on March 27, 2011 (obituary is here).

The first Catholic church in Georgetown, built around 1857, was at the corner of Church and Placer streets. This structure was destroyed in 1869 when a fire swept through the entire town. Temporary facilities were used for Mass until Fr. Gualco bought an armory on Main Street in 1882. In 1923, a new church was built on Main street next to the armory building. The current St. James church on Harkness street was built in the early 1980's, when Msgr. Nolan was pastor. Georgetown has had one resident pastor, Fr. O'Kane, who served from 1902 until 1923.

A priest from Placerville still celebrates Mass in Georgetown each Sunday. In the past, priests from Placerville have also served churches in Coloma and Green Valley, and the State penitentiary in Folsom.

The first Catholic church in Coloma was a log cabin, built in 1850. The present St. John's church was built in 1857 (see photo below). The Green Valley church was built sometime in the early 1880's.

Fr. Thomas J. Hayes is 3rd from left in the front row. Bishop wearing miter is Robert J. Armstrong.

Click to see the inside of the church

St. John's Church, Coloma, CA. (Click on this picture to see the inside of the church).

Click for more on Fr. Ingoldsby

Fr. John Ingoldsby's grave marker in St. Patrick Cemetery, Joliet, IL.
(Click on this picture for more on Fr. Ingoldsby).

List of Pastors



Fr. John Ingoldsby


Fr. Woulfe, OFM


Fr. Riordan


Fr. Handy


Fr. James Largen


Fr. Richard Nagle


Fr. John Nuget


Fr. Patrick O'Connell


Fr. Michael Gualco


Fr. B. Becker


Fr. P.J. Kline


Fr. Bernard McFeeley


Fr. Denis Horgan


Fr. O'Flanagen


Msgr. Thomas J. Hayes


Fr. Joseph Hanrahan


Msgr. Cornelius F. O'Connor


Fr. Thomas O'Brien


Msgr. Patrick Nolan


Fr. Anthony Gurnell


Fr. John Sullivan


Fr. John Cantwell


Rev. Hernando Gomez-Amaya



"Churches of El Dorado County California", by Will O. Upton. 1940
"Reminiscing", by Claire Freeman. The Mountain Democrat, Jan. 18, 1997
"Placerville", by Rev. T. J. Hayes. Nineteenth Diocesan Annual - 1928