March 1, 2024 | Archives
Fr. Stephen Van Lal Than

Mary Carrico’s original school bell, which adorns the hallway of Mary Carrico Catholic School in Knottsville to this day. The school was named after Carrico, a beloved teacher, at the request of her son who donated $60,000 to the school. COURTESY OF ARCHIVES

The Knottsville billionaire responsible for naming Mary Carrico Catholic School


A fair share of people in Daviess County, Ky., believe that Mary Carrico, the namesake for Mary Carrico Catholic School, is an official Catholic saint. This is understandable; however, it is not the case. Then, who is she? Well, the archives can give us the answer as well as the story of how her name came to grace the school. Perhaps the most interesting part of this tale is the person who brought it all about.

Mary Carrico was one of the early educators in Knottsville. A photograph of her, as well as her school bell, still adorn a hallway of the school. Few people remember, however, why the school was named in her honor after decades of the local Catholic schools being named after the church, St. William. As it turns out, that was due to the influence of her very affluent and loving son.

It all began with the debt incurred from building the newly-constructed St. William’s High School. A young lady, who was a student at St. William’s, had heard of a wealthy and generous businessman who had lived in Knottsville before moving away to make his fortune: Robert H. Gore. The young lady decided to write the businessman and tell him about the needs of the school. Mr. Gore, whom our archives confirm was very active at responding to the needs of the Church, immediately replied. He asked the young lady to speak with her priest, Fr. Maurice Tiell, and Bishop Henry J. Soenneker, to inform them about the details.

The philanthropist visited Knottsville, met the young lady, and spoke with the bishop. He donated $60,000 to the school in memory of his mother, and the school received her maiden name, Mary Carrico. (Though her married name was Gore, her maiden name of Carrico may have been used as it was her name when she was teaching or perhaps due to its prominence in the area and its Maryland to Kentucky Catholic roots). He also gifted the young lady a full-ride scholarship to a Catholic university after she finished high school, should she choose that path.

But perhaps the most intriguing part of the story is that of Robert H. Gore himself, a local man with a fascinating history, who is now relatively unknown in the area.

Gore began working as a janitor and bell ringer at St. Paul Church in Owensboro. After becoming a newspaperman, he had a brilliant idea about coupling subscriptions with life insurance. He shortly after became the modern equivalent of a billionaire. He was appointed governor of Puerto Rico by President Franklin Roosevelt. Throughout his life he was a generous philanthropist. He donated heavily to the Catholic Church. Though the high school merged with St. Mary of the Woods shortly after the rededication, the legacy continues in the current Mary Carrico Catholic School.

This story is a beautiful example of sharing the blessings God has bestowed upon you. Regardless of where he was or how rich, Gore never forgot the Church or where he was from. As important as he was, there are numerous letters in our archives of him corresponding with religious sisters, even if just exchanging genial conversation. He was also generous with his presence, happy to travel from his residence in Florida back to Kentucky. May his generosity inspire us all. 

Edward Wilson is the director of the Diocese of Owensboro’s Archives and the Archives of the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph. Comments and questions may be sent to [email protected].

Originally printed in the March 2024 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.

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