Our History - Prior to 1896: "Mission Territory"
The Catholic community in Porterville existed well before 1896 when Most Reverend Francis Mora, Bishop of Monterey and Los Angeles, established Saint Annes Mission Church as an official parish. Prior to 1896 Saint Annes was a mission of Saint Marys Parish in Visalia. Saint Marys is the oldest Catholic Parish in the San Joaquin Valley, having been established in 1865 with Father Francis X. Dade, Apostle of the Valley, as its first pastor.
Father Dade was a circuit riding priest serving small gatherings of Catholics in remote corners of his 34,200 square mite parish. The earliest home (within what would become Saint Anne's parish) where Father Dade celebrated Mass was that of Samuel Carothers and his wife, Juana Maria O'Connor Carothers, at Deer Creek. The Carothers settled about three miles northeast of the present site of Terra Bella in 1859. Their home was used for the celebration of Mass during the early years. Confirmation was administered on one occasion at the ranch by Most Reverend Thaddeus Amat, the first bishop of the Diocese of Monterey and Los Angeles. The Diocese of Monterey and Los Angeles was established in 1859 with the bishop residing at Los Angeles.
It was Father Dades custom to travel on horseback or by horse and buggy and spend two or three days at the Carothers ranch. During his visits he would celebrate Mass, provide religious instruction, visit the sick, validate marriages and baptize. These were "Fiesta" days when the many workers at the Carothers ranch would join the family in the religious observances. Celebrations would continue with roping and riding competitions, games, dancing and feasting. At the end of the visit Father Dade would travel to Havilah, then the seat of Kern County.
Due to ill health Father Dade retired as pastor of Saint Marys in 1872 and died at Rohnerville, California (24 miles south of Eureka) in 1874. Father Dade was succeeded by Father Cornelius Scannel, who remained as pastor of Saint Marys in Visalia for three years. Father Scannel continued to care for the Catholics in the southern part of the Valley, as did Father Valentin Aguilera who succeeded Father Scannel. During his pastorate Father Scannel was given an assistant, Father M. Cahill. As the Catholic population of Porterville increased Father Peter Carrasco, the fourth pastor of Saint Marys Parish in Visalia, arranged for his assistant, Father Patrick Murphy, to offer more frequent religious services in Porterville. These were the years 1882-1891 when Father Murphy celebrated Mass in a halt known as the Old North Taylor Building in Porterville.