IAGenWeb Project - Allamakee co. Church records
updated 7/10/2013

St. Patrick's Parish, Waukon

On Thursday last, Father Norton of St. Patrick's church in Waukon, was the recipient of high honors at the hands of the Pope when he received a message from Rome announcing that it had pleased his holiness, the Pope,  to elevate him to the rank of Domestic Prelate in his household.

~Waukon Republican & Standard, and re-printed in the Postville Herald Dec. 30, 1920.
~contributed by Reid R. Johnson

History of St. Patrick's Parish, Waukon
Compiled in 1937 by Mrs. E. F. Dougherty & Mrs. W.H. Hegeman

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 property.

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 purchased.

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 weeks.

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 Ireland.

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

Priests present:
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, Waukon.

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 prosper.

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 field.

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 Nuns.

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 gratitude.

~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"


Iowa Churches
by correspondent

Waukon - St. Patrick's parish in Waukon, which now worships in one of the finest mission style churches in Iowa, was organized in 1851. After about four years, during which time the congregation was served by priests from Wexford, the Rev. Michael Kinsella was appointed the first full-time pastor at Waukon. He said mass in the log home of the Patrick Norton family, with whom he also made his home. During his pastorate, land for the Mt. Olivet cemetery was purchased.

About 13 years later, the converted home, which was then used as a church, was destroyed by fire. That year, 1868, a brick church was built. Money to build the church was lent to the parish by Patrick Keenan and Mr. Liddy, who were later repaid. At the time of construction of the old brick church, it was thought to be far too big for the needs of the parish, but the congregation grew so rapidly that on two later occasions additions were made to the original building.

Construction of the present church was started in 1915, under the direction of the Rev. M.K. Norton. Cornerstone of the edifice was laid in August. The church is 160 feet long and 80 feet wide, and was built of pressed white brick with stone trimmings. The Spanish mission architectural style used in the church makes it one of the most beautiful in the state.

In 1921 Father Norton was elevated to the rank of Domestic Prelate by the Pope in recognition for his service. He died two months after receiving the Papal honor.

He was succeeded by the Rev. John C. Stuart, a former colege professor and president of Columbia college, now known as Loras. Father Stuart was also named a Domestic Prelate in 1932 for his years of service as a Catholic educator. He died May 1, 1936.

The Rev. E.J. McDonald, present pastor at St. Patrick's, succeeded Father Stuart. During his pastorate, a school was erected at a cost of $65,000 and a new rectory built. The old school building was converted into a modern home for the teaching sisters of the Presentation order in Dubuque.

~Cedar Rapids Gazette, March 11, 1950
~contributed by S. Ferrall



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