Parish History and Timeline


In June 1840, a group of German Catholics from Abbeyville area rode to Strongsville to meet Bishop Purcell who was returning to his diocese of Cincinnati.  With him was Father O'Dwyer of Cleveland.  The people requested that a parish be established for the Catholics in the area.  The next day, June 9th, Father O'Dwyer offered Mass for the group in the home of Mr. Lawling.  This marked the beginning of our Catholic community, seven years before the founding of the Diocese of Cleveland. 

At the recommendation of Bishop Purcell, two church buildings were constructed.  Because the Rocky River was often swollen, one log cabin church was built on the east side of the river named in honor of St. Mary, and, the other church on the west side of the river was also named in honor of Mary, Queen of All Saints.  By 1849, both of these churches were too small for their growing congregations.  A majority of parishioners selected a third site in Liverpool township near Station and Law roads (the land was obtained from Aloys Grabenstetter).  They then built their third church for worship and dedicataed it under the patronage of St. Martin of Tours.

In 1860 the church was again found to be too small so they erected yet a new larger church at a cost of $30,000.  Local farmers, who agreed to give a year of their time, performed all the construction work.  The brick for the building was made from clay, dug and fired within a half mile of the site.  In the spring of 1861, time was taken to plow the fields, then they were left to the Lord's care.  Parish tradition tells us that it was one of the best harvests in years.  The interior of the church took another 20 years to complete.  The altars were built by German craftsmen and statues were purchased from Germany.  In 1881 the large pipe organ, built by the Milwaukee firm of Odenbrett & Abler, was assembled in the church loft.  This historic organ is housed in a carved butternut Gothic case with a polished tin facade and is still in use today.  In 1897 the current stained glass windows were installed.

The strong faith of the parishioners brought them together to pray and worship through thick and thin: wars, assassinations, pandemics, fires, storms, droughts, and depressions.  Yet the strong bonds that developed among families and new residents, their faith in God and the grace of the Sacraments sustained people through it all.  

In the 1930's a parish school, that never achieved a large enrollment, closed.  Masses ceased to be celebrated in the German language.  The horse barn to the north of the church was dismantled as the family automobile replaced the horse and buggy.  In the early 1940's a parish centennial was held.  

Major renovations to the church were done in 1961 and an education building/social hall was built where the third church had once stood.  After the parish celebrated its 125th Anniversary in 1965 a few more renovations were made on the church building.  A few years later the rectory, built in 1894 which also held the parish offices, also underwent restoration.

In the 1990's the Catholic community could see that their fourth church was too small.  As they looked to the future the parishioners decided to construct their fifth church with a seating capacity of 900 persons.  It was completed in 2002 along with new parish offices, a parish hall, and meeting rooms.   On November 3, 2002, the Most Rev. Anthony Pilla, BIshop of Cleveland, solemnly dedicated the new church and parish complex.  The former church was not razed but designated as a "chapel" to be used for smaller gatherings.  On November 6, 2022, the Most Rev. Edward C. Malesic, Bishop of Cleveland, presided at a Mass of Thanksgiving followed by his participation in the burning of the mortgage.  

The parish cemetery has been in use since 1850.  In it are buried war veterans going back to the Civil War, family members whose surnames are now local street names, and departed clergy who served the parish.  Around 1990 the cemetery was expanded with a pond, walkways, monuments, a 20' axed granite cross, and a shrine to Our Lady of Fatima.  Due to the increase in cremations, the Garden of the Luminous Mysteries was erected in the cemetery and consecrated on November 2, 2023.  It consists of five columbaria with a total of 120 niches for above ground inurnments.

One hundred eighty-three years after the first Mass was celebrated in the Lawling home, life continues to grow and prosper for the Catholic community of St. Martin of Tours, Valley City.



Missionary priests were sent to the area by Bishop John Baptist Purcell, Bishop of Cincinnati, which encompassed all of Ohio.


On June 9th, a group of German Catholics from the Abbeyville area rode to Strongsville to meet Bishop Purcell and a Fr. O'Dwyer on behalf of some 30 families in the area. The following day, June 9th, Fr. O'Dwyer celebrated Mass in the home of Mr. Lawling marking the beginning of what would become St. Martin of Tours Parish.

Bishop Purcell however recommended two churches be erected due to the flooding of the Rocky River.


 A log church was built on the west side of the river near what is today Rt. 252 and Neff Rd., named Queen of all Saints.


A small brick church was built on the east side of the river near Zion Lutheran church on Abbeyville Rd and named, St. Mary. 

Priests from the Congregation of the Precious Blood (C.PP.S) served both communities until 1861.  From 1842 until 1900 twenty-three priest served the parish.


On April 23, Pope Pius IX created the Diocese of Cleveland from the Cincinnati Diocese to serve over 10,000 Catholics across northern Ohio.


Both previous churches were now too small for the growing Catholic population.  A third church was built on Station Rd. near Law Rd. on land obtained from Aloys Grabenstetter.  The church was dedicated under the patronage of St. Martin of Tours.


Adjacent to the St. Martin of Tours church a Catholic Cemetery was established.


Rev. Peter A Capeder, C.PP.S. became the first resident pastor of St. Martin of Tours Parish.


Adjacent to the church a wood frame school was erected.


A 4th church was built for the growing parish community and still stands today as a Chapel.

All construction was done by local farmers who agreed to give a year of their time. They did their spring plowing and then left the fields to the Lord's care. They dug clay and fired bricks within a short distance from the church. Legend says the harvest that year was "one of the best" in years.

The building's exterior was completed at a cost of $30,000.

The steeple rises 90 feet.  It contains two bells cast by Buckeye Bell Foundry of Cincinnati.  The smaller bell in 1849 and the larger bell in 1861.

The beautiful interior of the church and its furnishings would take twenty years to complete.


1862 - 1864

Rev. John Peter Dolweck was appointed the first Cleveland Diocesan priest to serve as pastor.  He served until 1864 when he left the Diocese to become a member of the Benedictine Order.


The parish School was moved into the old 1849 church building after a fire destroyed the wood-frame structure.

1872 - 1885

Father Rebholz served as pastor and began the worked to complete the interior of the church, including the beautiful Gothic altars and statues from Germany, Stations of the Cross made of terra cotta, church pews, and eventually a pipe organ.  The front high altar contains statues of St. Martin of Tours (316-397), St. Peter and St. Paul, and the four Evangelists: St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke, and St. John.


School operation became permanent.   Over the years, staff alternated between religious and lay personnel.


The pipe organ constructed by Odenbrett and Abler of Milwaukee, Wisconsin was installed in the church loft.  It is housed in a polished butternut furnishing with a Gothic style and is still in use today.


The present rectory was built on Station Rd. about 30 yards from the church.

1897 - 1909

Rev. Francis Xavier Braeunig served as pastor and in 1897 guided the installation of the stained glass windows. The original green glass windows were packed and sent to a mission church in the Dakotas.


On May 6 at 8:00 PM, a major storm (lightning & wind) damaged the church and threatened the lives of 4 people..

1909 - 1937

Rev. Julius Kitter served as pastor.  He was also a civic leader for both Liverpool township and Medina county. He had many accomplishments; including stone roads, a new central school and electricity for the area. Power was to be brought from Brunswick, but World War I interfered. St. Martin's constructed its own small plant that was used until power was brought from Grafton, in 1928.


Rev. Jerome Rohner was appointed pastor.


A number of changes occurred this decade: Offering a Mass in German was discontinued.  The horse and buggy garage to the north of the church was demolished giving way to garages for automobiles.  And, parishioners began serving an Annual Chicken Dinner which continues to this day.


The parish school, which never achieved a large enrollment of students, was closed.  

1937 - 1956

Rev. John C. Schaefer served as pastor.


In June, the parish celebrated its Centennial Anniversary; 100 years of faith and worship.

1956 - 1964

Rev. John F. Gruss served as pastor.


Original rectory was expanded to include an office and living quarters for a housekeeper.


The 100th Anniversary of the dedication of St. Martin of Tours church.  The interior was renovated for the occasion.

1964 - 1966

Rev. Thomas Sullivan served as pastor.


The third church constructed in 1849 and later used as the school was demolished.  A boiler house and stack that stood between the church and rectory was also demolished. 

In their place a parish Activities Center and Education Building for Religious Instructions were built and still in use today.

1966 - 1967

Rev. Martin E. Cummings served as pastor.

1968 - 1974

Rev. Paul V. Summers served as pastor and was laid to rest in the parish cemetery.

1974 - 1986

Rev. Francis Botzman served as pastor and was laid to rest in the parish cemetery.

1986 - 2017

Rev. Thomas R. Dunphy served as pastor and was laid to rest in the parish cemetery.  He oversaw the construction of the current church started in 2002, parish offices, meeting rooms, and the parish hall.  He expanded the parish cemetery and initiated many of the forthcoming events in this timeline during his pastorate. A street near the new 2002 church was named in his honor.    



The 125th Anniversary of the 1861 church was celebrated.  A carved wooden Sign Board was erected in front of the church to mark the occasion.


The 1861 church exterior and interior were restored during this year.  Major work included restoration of the fresco paintings and the refinishing of interior woodwork.


Seven acres of land was purchased for future parish expansion to the north of the church.


A youth program for High School Teens was begun called "Life Teen" which included an evening Mass.


A walkway around the 1/2 acre cemetery pond was installed that included a granite altar for outdoor Masses.  On the altar are inscribed the names of the pastors who served the parish.  Parishioners donated and erected 15 granite monuments around the pond walkway depicting the Mysteries of the Rosary on one side and the Stations of the Cross on the other.


A twenty foot tall white axed granite Cross was erected on the west side of the cemetery pond. A shrine to Our Lady of Fatima was erected on the north edge of the cemetery.




Donors purchased bricks to pave a walkway to and around the Cross


Parish Pastoral Council reorganized the RCIA and RCIC programs for adults and children seeking to become baptized Catholics.  

Deacon James Petrus was helpful in this effort until his untimely death.


A Capital Campaign for over $5 million began to construct a new larger church and parish center.




On April 1 a Groundbreaking Ceremony was held for the new church and complex.  The new church allows for seating of 900 congregants as opposed to the 300 in the 1861 church.  In addition a Eucharistic Prayer Chapel was configured in the construction.  Some church artifacts were preserved from other closed churches of the Diocese.  The Stations of the Cross came from St. Josephat church; the Stained Glass windows in the corridor between the new and old churches came from Nativity church; the Rose window and side windows came from Our Lady of Czestochowa church. 

Administrative offices, meeting rooms, and parish hall and full kitchen were also constructed to the over all parish complex.



On October 3, the Eucharist was transferred from the 1861 church to the new 2002 church. 

On October 5, the first Mass was celebrated in the new church.  

On November 3, Bishop Anthony M. Pilla, Bishop of Cleveland, dedicated for sacred worship the new St. Martin of Tours church for a jubilant congregation.  The fifth church in the history of the parish.

The 1861 church was immediately designated a "Chapel"; still used today for funerals and weddings.upon request.


2016 -present

Deacon William "Bill" Perkins, husband of Michelle, was ordained to the permanent Deaconate and assigned to the parish.


2018 -present

On May 1, Rev. Daniel J. Reed was appointed pastor.