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Robert Conway Family
One of The First Catholic Families in Dayton

The Calvary Chronicle Newsletter - Spring 2005, Page 1

[transcription of article]

In the early 1800's a few Catholic people came through Dayton. Some helped clear the woods and others helped build the Erie Canal. However, there was one family that established themselves in Dayton and saw to it that Catholics had a respectable place to worship.

The Robert Conway family moved to Dayton in 1831 from Baltimore, Maryland and was known to be the first Catholic family in Dayton. Robert, a copper by trade, moved to Dayton with his wife, Sarah, and their nine children. It is believed the children were born prior to moving to Dayton.

Conway felt strongly about his religion. A year after moving to Dayton, Robert arranged to have a priest come to Dayton. The Rev. Edward T. Collins came to Dayton, lived in the Conway house and Robert Conway was even responsible for supporting him. Rev. Collins became the first resident clergy and stayed for about two years. Within a year or two several other Catholic families moved to Dayton. They had no place to worship except the Conway household.

After Rev. Collins left, the Cincinnati diocese sent several missionary priests to administer sacraments to Catholics scattered throughout Ohio. People came for miles to the Conway house on Spratt Street to worship. The Conway residence soon became too small to accommodate the Dayton Catholic Community. Services were moved to a small building on St. Clair Street which also housed a bakery.

In 1837 the small congregation was able to build a small, brick one-story church. This was the beginning of Emmanuel Church. Emmanuel was dedicated in November 1837 with Father Emanuel Thienpont as pastor.

The children of Robert and Sarah were Hannah, Mary, Elizabeth, Ellen, Catherine, Michael, Adam, Edward and Robert. None of the children except Robert married. He as well as his brother, Edward, became dentists. Mary was a housekeeper, Hannah and Betsy millineries, Ellen and Catherine seamstresses, and Michael a brewery worker. Robert, Sarah and their children are buried in Section 1. Although the exact date of Robert's death is unknown, it is believed to be about 1850, before Calvary Cemetery was established. He was first buried at St. Henry Cemetery and his body moved to Calvary on the Conway family plot.

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