St. Joseph Church was founded in 1860 and was the anchor church for Catholics in the southwestern corner of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. After Catholic families that had settled near North Bend and Cleves approached the diocese asking for a Catholic church, Bishop John Purcell granted permission to allow a church to be built. Representatives from both villages, however, demanded that the church be built in their town. To settle the dispute of where the church would be located, the diocese gave the village residents a challenge. The first village to raise the necessary funds would have the church built in their community. Residents of both villages hustled to raise the money. The people of North Bend, however, proved swiftest, and St. Joseph Parish settled in North Bend.

Although St. Joseph Parish was formed in 1860, without a church, parishioners had to attend Mass in Delhi. Priests from St. Aloysius-on-the-Ohio said Mass in the one-story frame building east of South Miami Avenue, which still stands today in Sayler Park.

Then, in 1886, property on Taylor Avenue was purchased for the first St. Joseph Church. The church, including the rectory, was located on the large Holliday, or Halliday family estate and dedicated on July 31, 1887.

The first pastor of the new church, Father Anthony Runnebaum, held office from 1896-1902. He resided at St. Aloysius. Before Father Runnebaum was appointed pastor, several priests had charge of the parish. (click here for list of pastors)

Railroad Workers Build First St. Joseph Church
The actual construction of St. Joseph Church was completed under Fr. Scholl. Five men dug the foundation of the first church, and a Mr. Zinn (no first name found) laid the foundation. Railroad workers, who worked for 96 cents per day, worked on the construction of the church. All the stone came from a quarry near St. Paul, Indiana, and the windows in the first church cost $50 to $75 each.

In 1907, Lillian Sullivan became the first organist and choir director. She played a small, pedal-operated organ. Later, Nell Hanlon became one of the church organists. Denis Gleason, Leonard Meyer, and Frank Franz, Sr., served as the trustees of the parish.

Although the number of Catholics living in the area at first was small, the parish did serve a large territory. The church is bordered by two states and served people living in Addyston, Cleves, Columbia Park, Elizabethtown, Hooven, Miami Township, and North Bend.

Cross Guides Riverboat Captains
The first church also served as a gateway into Cincinnati. Atop the church gleamed a gold cross, proudly displayed on its copper steeple, which could be seen by boat captains on the Ohio River, alerting them to their approach into the Queen City.

The rectory was built in 1911, approximately 100 steps above the Taylor Avenue church on the Holliday (or Halliday-Meyer) property on Harrison Avenue. A building and land adjacent to the rectory were donated by the Gleason family. Many picnics and chicken dinners were held on this property, then called Tippecanoe Park. The present church and school now sit on this property.

The church went through many renovations from about 1953 to 1961. A furnace was replaced, the wooden posts in the church basement were replaced by steel and concrete reinforcements, and the church tower slowly decayed. New windows were installed and the entire church interior was repainted. But the parish could only renovate so much. In 1961, it was decided that a new church was needed. Plans called for building the new facility on the park property next to the rectory.

Father Robert Leugers, who started the church’s first newsletter, The Carpenter’s Shop, began a crusade to redeem Ohio sales tax stamps. He hoped proceeds from the tax stamps could be used to build a new church.

Second Church Built With Tax Stamps
More than 200 volunteers mailed between 3000 and 5000 letters each day across Ohio, asking people to donate their tax stamps to the church. Tax stamps could be redeemed by religious and charitable groups for a certain percent of the face value (between 2 and 3 percent). Because of the volume of mail, up to 9000 letters a day at times, post office officials printed a special pre-cancelled postage stamp for the parish, which is now considered a collector’s item. Tax stamps were received from people of all faiths and in all stations of life, and few empty envelopes were returned. Along with the stamps, people also sent notes of encouragement or apologies for not sending more stamps.

The state reimbursed the parish $260,000 over a six-year period. Although all of the labor was donated, postage cost about $20,000 per year, and paper, ink, and envelopes took about half the money earned. The rest of the proceeds went toward building the new church and school, which cost $200,000. The church was dedicated in 1962. Today, parishioners still boast having a church that stamps built.

The old church was used for many years by the Veterans of Foreign Wars and then as a day care center. In 1965, a new rectory was built after a fire severely damaged the old rectory.

Volunteers Give Time, Talents Treasure and Love
 Over the years, many different parish organizations have existed. Parishioners have joined such groups as the Rosary Society, a girls’ choir, a boy’s Latin club, a softball team, a youth ministry, the Ladies Altar Society, a Men’s Society, and a Parish Information Society. The members of these different organizations have donated their time, talents and love to help the church grow over the past 135 years.

For example, the statue of the Infant of Prague with the crystal eyes was donated to the church in 1953 by an anonymous benefactor. Church members have raised money for such needs as an electronic bell system, blacktop for the church parking lot, and to repair the choir’s organ.

Many parishioners also have donated gifts to the church to remember a loved one. Engraved pewter wine and water cruets and a dish were a gift from Alvina Wolf in memory of her husband Robert Wolf. The statue of St. John Vianney was a gift from parishioners in honor of Fr. Robert Leugers. The crucifix, now hanging above the altar, was given to the church by Harry and Nell Hanlon in memory of Lt. Jack Hanlon. It originally hung from the ceiling in front of the altar in the first church. The Lauer family also donated pewter water and wine holders in memory of their daughter and sister, Holly Lauer.

In 1911, members found another way to say hello and start a parish tradition. The annual parish picnic was held to celebrate Denny Gleason’s birthday and was held at Tippecanoe Park. The annual picnic is still held today.

The parish also participates in the Three Rivers Area Ministries (TRAM), a group of seven area ministers that have banded together to provide services to help needy families in the area. TRAM operates a food pantry and holds food drives throughout the year to fill the pantry’s shelves.

New housing developments and retail growth in and around North Bend, Cleves, Miami Township and other neighboring communities have forced the growing parish to build a new worship space. But like in the past, whenever a problem or need comes along, parishioners have come to the rescue of St. Joseph Church and will continue to make their church proud.