History of St. Patrick's Parish,
Compiled in 1937 by Mrs. E. F. Dougherty & Mrs.
Prior to the coming of a resident pastor to
Waukon, Father Thomas Hore of Wexford, the cradle and
nursery of Catholicity in Allamakee County, served
this parish as part of his mission, having come to
this vicinity in 1851.
The first Catholic child born in 1850 in the
immediate vicinity is said to be Margaret Cassidy
whose parents lived on the old Patrick Keenan farm in
Jefferson township. Mr. and Mrs. John Williams were
the first Catholics to own a home in Waukon, having
bought the site later known as the J. M. Collins
The first pastor of St. Patrick's Church, Waukon, was
the saintly Michael Kinsella, who was the incumbent
from 1855 to 1857. He lived with the Patrick Norton
family about two and one half miles northwest of
Waukon on what is now the Henry McCullough farm.
There he celebrated Mass in their log house for the
Catholics of the neighborhood. At this time was
purchased the first "Church Forty", now
Mount Olivet cemetery, two miles northwesterly from
Waukon. Father Kinsella did not have sufficient funds
with which to purchase this property, so Patrick
Norton and Thomas Farley advanced the money. They,
with the help of Richard Reddy, cleared a plot of
ground, cut down large trees and built a log church
which was very small and plain.
The first one to be buried in the "Church
Forty" was a girl about nine years old, the
daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Phelan.
Besides the parish here, Father Kinsella's mission
comprised the larger part of Allamakee, Winneshiek,
Howard and Mitchell counties. Here he spent his time
traveling to and fro, visiting the few scattered
settlements and with his piety and zeal, brought
comfort and consolation to the pioneer Catholics.
Sometimes Father Kinsella, a tall, frail man, rode
horseback on his rounds of missions and home;
sometimes he used a small two-wheeled cart or sulky.
Weeks beforehand he would send word concerning the
time and place for Mass. The good people of the
countryside were depended upon to pass the word along
from neighbor to neighbor. And so successful were
they in spreading the news that even though these
Catholic people had to walk miles, everyone came who
could possibly do so. Often the place designated was
a two-room log cabin. In such cases the yard was
filled with worshippers.
There is a story told of one of Father Kinsella's
visits to the McLaughlin cabin on Bear Creek near
Dorchester. He brought with him a shiny new pail used
for watering his horse. When he was ready to leave,
he looked at an old tin pail which his host was
holding and asked to make a trade, "And I'll
need ten cents to boot," the priest added. Mr.
McLaughlin hesitated. The offer seemed a strange one.
"I can't trade with you," he told his
friend, "See, this old pail even has a hole in
it." "No matter," was Father
Kinsella's reply, "I can stop that leak with a
rag. I must trade." He was so insistent that his
host complied, and the deal completed, the priest
departed with his ten cents and the leaky pail. It
was not until weeks later that Mr. McLaughlin learned
that the dime paid the passage on a ferry plying the
Iowa River, which the good man must cross on his way
back to Waukon.
From historical data of father Jon Kempker we obtain
a sketch of the second pastor. His name was Patrick
O'Farrell. Born in Galway, Ireland he came to the
United States at an early age. Bishop Loras ordained
him to the priesthood in March 1857 at St. Raphael's
Cathedral, Dubuque, and he was appointed to Allamakee
County at once, becoming the second pastor of Waukon
parish and including in his mission all the territory
of his predecessor.
His was a sterling mind, well cultured, with a
beautiful soul and there was a mutual attachment
between pastor and people. But there was one thing he
could not learn, good horsemanship. He suffered much
from horseback riding, the only means of travel and
this led to an accident which incapacitated him for
further service in the mission here and he was
removed in 1859. His housekeeper during his residence
here was Mary Keegan, and aunt of Julia, Catherine
and Pat Tierney now living on Hardin Street, Waukon.
In succession we find the names of three other
priests: Father Walsh, 1860; Father Nagle 1862; and
Father Hannon 1862 - 1863. It is said that Father
Hannon looked forward to fishing while making his
visits around the county. At that time, many of the
streams several miles north of Waukon were filled
with trout. The priest seldom p aid this vicinity a
visit without planning to catch plenty of fish for
the evening meal.
The next and first priest to actually live in Waukon
was Father Clement J.G.Lowery. His parents came from
Switzerland settling in Ohio where he was born in
1837. He was ordained by Bishop Smythe O.C.S.C. in
November 1862, and came to Waukon in 1862 remaining
until 1866. He lived with Mr. and Mrs. James McDevitt
where the Cain building now stands on the corner of
Main and Pitt Streets. There Mass was celebrated
until the autumn of 1864 when the present site was
The dwelling on this property was converted into a
church and used as such until 1869 when it, with all
the early records, was destroyed by fire.
Father Dennis O.D. Brennan came to Waukon in 1868. He
built a brick structure, eighty by forty, the expense
of which was borne by Patrick Keenan and a Mr. Liddy.
They were later reimbursed by the parish. This church
was at first considered far beyond the needs of the
congregaton but was twice enlarged before it was
replaced. In 1885 the tower for the new bell was
installed. Father Brennan's health began to fail and
this caused him to resign and return to Europe in
September 1869. Father James B McGowan was the next
pastor arriving, according to baptismal records, in
October 1869 and remaining until June 1876. Father
Patrick Feeley spent a short time here in the autumn
of 1870. The site of the Sister's school was
purchased in January 1875.
Father John Hawe born January 1, 1851, county
Kilkenny, Ireland, and ordained January 1, 1873 by
Archbishop Hennessy at Dubuque, came to Waukon in
1875 remainng until 1885. It was during his pastorate
in 1882 - 83 that the Sister's school was erected and
opened. The north half of the present school was
built at a cost of five thousand dollars. The
material for the school was all hauled overland from
Lansing by team.
Father Hawe invited the Presentation Nuns of Dubuque
to act as instructors. The first Superior was Rev.
Mother Presentation and she with two assistants,
Sister Mary Alcocoque and Sister Mary Stanislaus
conducted the school for five years. Sister Mary
Teresa was in charge of domestic work.
Father Byrnes came to Waukon from Lawler in 1885 and
died the same year being in Waukon only a matter of
Succeeding Father Byrnes was Reverend Patrick A.
Walsh. Born in County Kilkenny, Ireland, June 13,
1857, he was educated and ordained before coming to
America . His ordination took place in the Cathedral
at Waterford, Ireland, June 13, 1880 and he arrived
to take charge of the Waukon parish in 1885.
During his time in 1893 the school was enlarged to
it's present size. He was made irremovable rector by
Archbishop John Joseph Keane and remained in charge
until 1912 when failing health caused him to retire
to St. Anthony's Home at Dubuque where he died
October 27, 1925. He had as his assistant, Father
John M. O'Donnell from 1910 to 1912. Father Thomas
Campbell was here in charge of the parish during the
summer of 1904 while Father Walsh was on vacation in
Father M. Norton, a native of Ohio was the next
pastor of St. Patrick's. He was ordained in May,
1882, and spent many of the years of his priesthook
in our neighboring parish, Lycurgus. He came to
Waukon from Webster City in June 1912 and soon after
his arrival, plans for the present beautiful church
were under way. On April 13, 1913, Mass was
celebrated for the last time in the old church, which
was then razed to make place for the new structure.
Since it was necessary to acquire more ground for the
large edifice, an additional forty feet were
purchased. In this connection it is interesting to
note the rise in the price of Iowa land. In 1855,
forty acres -- known as the "Church
Forty"-- were bought for $250. In 1913, forty
feet commanded a price of $1000.00.
The cornerstone of the new St Patrick's Church was
laid on the afternoon of August 24, 1913. With ideal
weather, an immense crowd gathered for the imposing
ceremony. Very Reverend G. L. Haxmeier of Lansing
officiated by order of the Archbishop. He was
assisted by fourteen other priests. Father T. G.
Brady of Dubuque spoke to the large crowd from a
platform erected on the north side of the building.
The following items make up a list of the contents of
the cornerstone: Coins taken from the cornerstone of
the old church, a prayer book, rosary, copies of the
local papers, and three Catholic papers - Davenport
Messenger; St. Louis Watchman and Milwaukee
Citizen, too, there is a document consisting of
church data, a portion of which is copied there from:
"This is the 10th year of the glorious reign of
Pope Pius X, whose chosen motto is "to restore
all things to Christ."
St Patrick's church of Waukon is now a legally
incorporated society in accordance with the statutes
of Iowa. President, Jas. Joseph Keane; Vice
President, John Joseph Keane; Pastor Rev. M. K.
Norton; also Board of Directors, Hugh O'Donnell,
Treas., T. F. McGeough, Sec'y.
President of the U.S.A. - Woodrow Wilson
Governor of Iowa - George Clarke
Mayor of Waukon - I. L Beeman
Very Reverend Haxmeier, Lansing; Father Brady,
Stuart, Slattery, Dubuque; Father Reilley, Elkader;
Father Clune, Postville; Father Hogan, Monana; Father
Cusick, Covington, Kentucky; Father Sheehan, Harpers
Ferry; Father Ryan, New Albin; Father Sheehy,
Dorchester; Father McNamara, Lycurgus; Father
McCullough, West Ridge; Fathers Norton and Reynolds,
The church is of the Spanish Renaissance style of
architecture and is a hundred and sixty feet long and
sixty feet wide. It is built of white pressed brick
with a red tile roof. The exterior trimming is a
granite-like stone while the three altars and the
altar rail are of exquisitely-cut Italian marble. The
stained glass windows too, are from across the sea --
from Munich. Pulpit, pews, and benches, are of heavy
oak, as is all the woodwork in the edifice.
The dedication of St. Patrick's church took place
October 6, 1915, the Most Reverend James J. Keane
being in charge of the ceremony. Nearly six years
later in January 1921 -- Father Norton was raised to
the rank of Domestic Prelate by order Pope Benedict
XV. In failing health for many years, Monsignor lived
but a short time to enjoy this great honor. He died
March 28, 1921, at the age of sixty five years.
Father P.F. Reynolds, who has been pastor at Hanover
for many years was Father Norton's first assistant in
Waukon. Later came Fathers James H. Roche 1914 -
1916; Ambrose J. McMahon 1916 - 1919; James H. Roche
1919 - 1921; Father P.J. Boyle served the parish in
1921 from the time of Father Norton's death until
September when Father J.C. Stuart of Dubuque became
pastor of St. Patrick's.
As President of Columbia Collete, Father Stuart
resigned to accept the irremovable rectorship in
Waukon. Twenty-two years before that, he had been
ordained in Rome by Archbishop Zardelli. He served as
assistant priest for a short time at Marshalltown and
then joined the faculty at Columbia College where he
later became president.
In 1932 Father Stuart was elevated to the rank of
Domestic Prelate with the title of Monsignor, in
recognition of his years spent in behalf of Catholic
education. During the time -- nearly fifteen years
--that he was rector of St. Patrick's he was assisted
by the following young priests; Fathers Daniel
O'Sullivan, 1922 - 1929; Harold N. Binter, 1929 -
1930; and Clair Drummy, 1930 - 1036.
In the autumn of 1935, the interior of the church was
decorated and a few minor changes made.
Only a few months later -- on May 1, 1936, Monsignor
Stuart died suddenly while paying a visit to his
friend, Father McNamara, at Lycurgus. In June, Father
P.W. McElliot came to assist Father Drummy until the
appointment of a new pastor.
On August 11, 1936, Reverend Ernest J. McDonald was
appointed to the irremovable rectorship at Waukon. He
was born September 5, 1883 at Waverly, attended the
paublic schools of that city and graduated June 16,
1908, from St. Joseph's (now Columbia) College of
Dubuque. Afterwards, he studied at Creighton
University and St. Paul Seminary, being ordained June
10, 1913. On August 30, 1936 Father was installed as
pastor of St. Patrick's and under his able leadership
the Church in Waukon has continued to grow and
Father John J. A. Breitbach served the parish as
assistant priest during the first few months of
Father McDonald's rectorship. Ill health prevented
his remaining with us and another newly ordained
priest, Father Louis Ernsdorff replaced him and is
the assistant at St. Patrick's at the present time.
Father William J. Baxter, the first priest ordained
from the parish, was born in Ludlow township,
Allamakee county; was educated at St. Joseph's, now
Columbia College, going from there to St. Paul
Seminary and being ordained from Mt. St. Mary's
Seminary of the West at Cincinnatti, Ohio, by Most
Reverend Henry Moeller D.D., June 21, 1903. He said
his first Mass at Waukon on Sunday, June 28, 1903,
and is at present pastor at Osage, Iowa.
Reverend Cyril Langheim is the second priest born in
Waukon. His ordination took place June 20, 1937, at a
Wisconsin Monastery. He belongs to the Capuchin Order
and his life work will be in the foreign mission
Within the next year, St. Patrick's congregation will
be further honored when two more of its sons are
ordained to the priesthood. They are James Regan and
Edward Sullivan, who are completing their studies at
the Seminary in Baltimore. A large number of young
women have gone out from this parish to devote their
lives to God. They belong to various branches of the
sisterhood but the majority of them are Presentation
The congregation of St. Patrick's numbers about 1400
people. At least 250 families make up the parish
whose beginning was so very humble. It is a far cry
from the little log church on the "Forty"
to the present beautiful structure; and in honoring
the pioneers of the parish on August 15, we, of a
younger generation, are mindful of the fact that the
faith and determination of these good men and women
contributed largely to our progress. We are more
indebted to them than words can tell and to those who
remain, we hope to be able to show in a measure, our
~source: Compiled by Mrs. E. F. Dougherty &
Mrs. W.H. Hegeman, 1937; the history appeared in the Waukon
Democrat August 5, 1937
~contributed by Jeannie Hegeman, who writes:
"This old church history was compiled by my
grandmother and her sister-in-law in 1937"