The McKeefry Brothers, Priests of the Catholic Church.

The <cKeefry brothers - Priests of the Catholic Church

Hugh, Patrick and William Anthony McKeefry were 3 brothers who all became priests of the Catholic Church. They were the sons of William and Catherine McKeefry who had emigrated to America but returned to settle in Mayogall, Parish of Lavey, Co Derry, Ireland in the latter half of the 19th century. The McKeefry brothers had 2 sisters Catherine and Alice who both married and had families. Catherine married a Felix Mulholland and Alice married a Francis McKeefry.
Father Patrick McKeefry was born on a transatlantic ship. The other 2 brothers birthplaces are as yet unclear but they were apparently born in Kilrea Co Derry. Hugh the eldest child apparently did not return from America with his parents and was ordained to the priesthood in Virginia. Anthony the youngest returned later to America and became a priest for the diocese of Richmond, Virginia. Patrick went to St Columb's College Derry and eventually to the priesthood at the Irish College Rome.

The History and Parishes of the McKeefry brothers.

Father Hugh J McKeefry.


Born 3rd January 1848 - Ordained for the Diocese of Richmond at Mt St Mary's Seminary, Baltimore, Maryland, USA - 30th January 1871.

Parish Appointments in America.

  • 1873 - Fredericksburg, Virginia. Spotsylvania County - Immaculate Conception.
  • 1877 - Keyser, West Virginia. Mineral County - Church of the Assumption.
  • 1879 - Staunton, Virginia. Assistant.
  • 1884 - Martinsburg, West Virginia. Berkeley - St. Joseph's - pastor.
  • 1901 - Richmond, Virginia. St. Patrick's - "irremovable rector".

Died 16th July 1921.
Buried at Mount Calvary Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia, USA.


St Mary's, Fredericksburg, VA, USA

On Sunday, November 15, 1871, the Reverend Hugh J. McKeefry, took up his duties as resident pastor. Father McKeefry had only recently come into the diocese and had come to Fredericksburg from Harpers Ferry where he had been temporarily stationed. He was to remain here for four years.
The first recorded action of the new pastor was the baptism of Amelia Francis Dumbacher on November 25, 1871, ten days after Father McKeefry had become pastor. He recorded this baptism in a parish register which he probably picked up in the neighborhood of a Union Army Post. This register, which was in use until 1929 was a military record book whose pages are all headed with designations such as "Corps, Staff, Rank & Regiment." Two other registers date back beyond Father McKeefry's time. One has an entry dated September, 1862, two months before the first battle of Fredericksburg. The entry records a Baptism performed by a Father Donnelon. The child receiving the Sacrament was Eleonore Ryan, daughter of Jacob and Marie Ryan. This book was in use until 1928. Many parishioners of today will find their names inscribed in this register, linking them with the dim past. A third register, recording deaths in the parish shows its first entry as 1866 and was in use until 1936.
In June of 1872, St. Mary's played host to the statewide convention of the Catholic Benevolent Society. The press followed this convention with great interest and one can imagine the pride of the parishioners, as their city, for the first time, was the scene of statewide Catholic activity.
Bishop Gibbons paid a visit to Fredericksburg in November of 1872. In his diary he notes that he arrived in Fredericksburg on November 21, and started with Father McKeefry, for Tappahannock. On the 23rd they returned to Fredericksburg and, on the following morning, November 24th, the Bishop confirmed 13 persons. That evening he preached a sermon on the Ecumenical Council and the Doctrine of Papal Infallibility. The Fredericksburg Ledger reports that a large congregation of all faiths was in attendance, attracted by the Bishop's reputation for "eloquence and ability." The "Ledger" further reports that "Bishop Gibbons is a young man of frank and intelligent countenance and pleasant and persuasive address."

Bishop Gibbons, upon his return to Bichmond, noted in his diary the Catholic "population" of Father McKeefry's missions. Fredericksburg 180 Ashland 40 Chesterfield 26 King George Co 16 Tappahannock 10 - Total 272

These figures provide an interesting sidelight, the size of the area covered by our first pastor. These areas remained within the province of the pastors of St Mary's until comparatively recent times.
In 1875, Father McKeefry was transferred. He was truly a pioneer of this diocese. First resident Pastor at St. Mary's, he went on to build a church at Keyser the year of his departure from Fredericksburg. He also remodeled the church at Martinsburg and secured a convent for an order of Sisters. He built rectories at Keyser and Martinsburg and also here in Fredericksburg. He later served as Rector of St. Patrick's in Bichmond.

The above extract was reproduced from a Centennial Booklet produced by St Marys in 1958, with the kind permission of Fr Bob Gloisten, St Mary's, Virginia, USA.

Fr Hugh McKeefry was first Pastor of Keyser parish, West Virginia, USA.

The erection of the Church of the Assumption in Keyser was begun by Father Jeremiah O'Sullivan of Westernport, Md., who celebrated the first mass on September 20, 1874, for the three Catholic families in residence. History records that Fr. O'Sullivan, later named Bishop of Mobile, Alabama, received his orders from Bishop McGill who stated that the Diocese of Richmond was experiencing a scarcity of priests and could not supply a pastor for Keyser or Piedmont.

The present church stands almost on the same spot where troops were camped and on which Col. James A. Mulligan, of the Chicago 23rd Illinois Volunteer Irish Brigade, erected a temporary chapel, in which Father Butler, D.D., chaplain of Col. Mulligan's Brigade, officiated on an unknown date during the Civil War. Fr. O'Sullivan administered to the spiritual wants of the Catholics in Keyser until December 19, 1875.
On December 19, 1875 the Rev. Hugh J. McKeefry was sent by the Bishop of Richmond, Rt. Rev. James Gibbons, later James Cardinal Gibbons, of Baltimore, Md., to assume charge of the parish of Keyser. The congregation then numbered about 225 souls. Shortly after his arrival, Fr. McKeefry paid off the debt of $443 and enlarged the church to twice its original size. He organized a school which he himself taught for a short time. He was one of the pioneer priests and, as such, had to suffer many privations, especially when the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad moved the Division to Piedmont, for with it went Fr. McKeefry's parishioners. Scarcely a dozen families remained, but the Good Shepherd did not desert his poor people. However, before his departure for other fields into the Master's Vineyard, Fr. McKeefry had the satisfaction of seeing the return of the Division to Keyser. With his departure to become Rector of St.Patrick's Church in Richmond, Fr. McKeefry took with him the love and esteem of the many Catholic and non-Catholic residents who knew and respected him through the years. Fr. Hugh left Keyser some time in 1878.

The above extract was reproduced from a Centennial Celebration booklet 1874 - 1974, with the kind permission of Brother Luke D. Stone, T.O.R., Pastoral Associate, Assumption Catholic Church, Keyser Parish, West Virginia, USA.


The following reference to the work of Father Hugh McKeefry is taken from the book - THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN THE CITY AND DIOCESE OF RICHMOND by a Priest of the Diocese, published in 1906.

Rev. Hugh J. McKeefry, the gentlemanly and highly esteemed "irremovable rector" of St. Patrick's Church, Richmond, came to the diocese in 1871. Stationed temporarily at Harper's Ferry, he was the same year appointed by Bishop McGill as the first resident pastor of Fredericksburg. His labors there and later on in the Valley of Virginia were eminently successful.
Father McKeefry's abilities, zeal and energy are strikingly shown by the rapid spiritual and material advancement which St. Patrick's parish has made since he came to Richmond to take charge of it.
Some two or three years ago he had erected on a lot in Fulton, a large building which he uses at present as an additional Sunday-school for the children of that section of his parish. Between $5,000 and $6,000 have been altogether expended for the Fulton lot, building and improvements.
On Sunday, September 26th, the new Church of St. Teresa at West Point, which Father McKeefry had just completed, was solemnly dedicated by Bishop Van De Vyver. It is not only the first Catholic Church ever reared in Prince William county, but is the first and only Catholic Church in that particular section of the State.
Father McKeefry constructed also the Church at Keyser in 1875, and remodeled that at Martinsburg, where he secured for the Sisters the building known as 'The Berkeley Female Academy.' He also built rectories at Keyser, Fredericksburg and Martinsburg. The last named is a building of much beauty and elegance. Erected Saint John's Catholic Church around 1913.

The above reference was kindly sent to me by Kevin Cawley, Archivist & Curator of Manuscripts, University of Notre Dame, USA.


Father Patrick McKeefry Parish Priest Dungiven Co Derry Ireland 1926 - 1938.

Rev Patrick McKeefry

Born on a transatlantic ship en route from the USA to Ireland on the 28th July 1863.
Ordained to the priesthood in 1886 at the Irish College, Paris; France.

Parish Appointments in Ireland.

1886 - 1889 CC Malin, Co Donegal

1889 - 1890 CC Limavady Co Derry

1890 - 1897 CC Termonamongan, Co Tyrone

1897 - 1905 CC Langfield, Co Tyrone

1905 - 1912 CC Buncrana, Co Donegal



1912 - 1913 CC Clonmany Co Donegal

1913 - 1926 PP Banagher Co Derry

1926 - 1938 PP Dungiven, Co Derry

Fr McKeefry died. 21st January 1938 in Dungiven and is buried in the adjacent graveyard.

The Funeral of Fr Patrick McKeefry.

The building of Ballymonie Chapel.

A Tower and Bell for St Patrick's Church, Dungiven.


Father William Anthony McKeefry, Dean of Richmond Diocese, USA.

Rev William A McKeefry

Born 2nd September 1866.
Studied for the priesthood at St Charles' College, Ellicott City, Md and Ordained for the Diocese of Richmond at Mt St Mary's Seminary, Baltimore, Maryland, USA - 19th December 1891.

Parish Appointments in America.

Died 11th February 1930.
Buried at Mount Calvary Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia, USA.


ON JULY I, 1927, the Rev. William Anthony McKeefry, who had been pastor of St. Joseph's Church, Martinsburg, W. Va., assumed the pastorate of St. Mary's. Born in Kilrea, County Derry, Ireland, September 2, 1866, Father McKeefry came from a family which gave two other sons to the priesthood. One of these was Father Hugh J McKeefry, with whom his younger brother lived as a boy in Martinsburg. He made his studies for the priesthood at St. Charles' College, Ellicott City, Md., and at St. Mary's Seminary, Baltimore. In both of these schools he gave a good account of himself as a student. He was ordained to the priesthood on December 19, 1891.
Among the accomplishments of Father McKeefry's priestly life were the building of the school in Staunton, of the beautiful Gothic church in Harrisonburg and of the convent and school in Martinsburg. He possessed a charming personality, made an excellent appearance and was one of the best pulpit orators of the Diocese. At the time of his appointment to Alexandria, Father McKeefry's health had become greatly impaired. In the spring of 1929 fire ravaged and severely damaged St. Mary's Church. Though infirm of health, he possessed the courage and the strength of heart to start immediately to restore and beautify the church. His zeal prompted him to do more active parochial work than he was able, but he had to delegate most of it to his assistants, Fathers Lawrence F. Kelly, Hugh McFadden, Martin Quinn, Julius Schmidhauser and Thomas E. Mitchell, who had been one of his altar boys in Staunton.
On February 10, 1930, in company with Father Thomas A. Rankin, of St. Charles', Arlington, he visited a neighboring priest who was ill. He appeared none the worse for the trip but suffered a heart attack the next morning and passed away that day, the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, to whom he had a great devotion.

The above extract was reproduced from a Centennial Booklet produced by St Marys in 1958, with the kind permission of Fr Bob Gloisten, St Mary's, Virginia, USA.

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