ANNALS OF IOWA
VOL. X, NO. 1. APRIL, 1911. 3D SERIES
CATHOLIC MISSIONARIES IN THE EARLY AND IN THE
TERRITORIAL DAYS OF IOWA
BY REV. JOHN F. KEMPKER, DAVENPORT, IOWA
Since the days of Father Marquette and of Father Hennepin,
it is not definitely known that any Catholic priest set foot within
the present limits of Iowa until about the year 1828. From that time
until 1832, Rev. Fathers Joseph A. Lutz, Charles F. Van
Quickenborne, and Francis Vincent Badin made visits to several
scattered settlements in this region, as may be seen from the
following meager accounts.
Rev. Joseph A. Lutz was a zealous young German priest,
stationed in St. Louis. From this point he made several missionary
journeys along the banks of the Mississippi river, of which,
however, no record is found, excepting of a protracted visit in 1831
to the people of Prairie du Chien.
Rev. Francis Vincent Badin was an early priest of Detroit. But
he must not be confounded with Rev. Stephen Theodor Badin, the first
priest ordained in the United States, who was also on duty among the
Pottawattamie Indians in Indiana from 1830 to 1836. Rev. Francis V.
Badin was stationed at Prairie du Chien, where he signs the
registers, "Francois Vint Badin, priest," commencing May 29, 1827.
During that year and the years 1828, 1829 and 1830, he makes many
records of baptism, marriages and burials at Prairie du Chien,
Galena and Fever River. Rev. Charles Felix Van Quickenborne was a
zealous and most exemplary Jesuit priest of the province of St.
Louis, and of him it is said that he held divine services in the
lead mines of Dubuque about the year 1832.
These priests did what they could for the Indians, and it is
probably that they visited the Indians and traders and trappers on
the west bank of the Mississippi river. In the autumn of 1831,
Bishop Joseph Rosati, at St. Louis, ordained as priest the Rev. John
McMahon and the following autumn, 1832, appointed him as pastor of
Galena, Illinois, with contiguous territory. Father McMahon arrived
at his destination the same autumn and became very active in
administering to the spiritual wants of the community, opened a
school, had several converts, and in June, 1833, he died from an
attack of cholera, at Galena, and was buried there.
Bishop Rosati in the early spring of 1834 sent as pastor to
Galena the Rev. Charles P. Fitz-Maurice, who divided his time
between Galena and Dubuque. He entered claims for church grounds at
Dubuque, obtained a subscription for one thousand one hundred
dollars, had the boards and timber engaged and contract for the
building given out to a carpenter, when in the summer of 1834 he
also was snatched away by the cholera and laid to rest with Father
McMahon. Then all the building arrangements were abandoned. During
this year Dubuque witnessed the building of a church by the
When Patrick Quigley built his log house in Dubuque, it became
the headquarters of the priests, and was used for divine services
until the building of St. Raphael's church. Samuel Mazzuchelli, for
five years a Dominican Friar in Faenza and in Rome, was sent by his
superiors to Bishop Fenwick, of Cincinnati, Ohio. He bade Milan
farewell and departed from Rome in June, 1828, for Lyons, France,
where he studied the French language. On October 5, 1828, he sailed
for New York and arrived at Cincinnati the same autumn. Here and at
St. Rose Dominican Convent, near Springfield, Kentucky, he continued
his studies, especially English, became sacristan of the Cathedral
in Cincinnati in 1829 and in September of this year entered the
Dominican Convent of St. Joseph's, Perry County, Ohio, to prepare
for ordination and there became catechist. In the cathedral in
Cincinnati Bishop Fenwick ordained him deacon in July, and priest on
September 5, 1830. He was immediately sent as missionary to the
Island of Mackinac, where he was received with the greatest joy.
In the early summer of 1835, Father Mazzuchelli succeeded to
the pastorate of Galena and in the beginning of July made his first
visit to Dubuque. He at once made arrangements for building the St.
Raphael's church at Dubuque, for which he laid the corner stone on
August 15, 1835, and a little later that for St. Michael's church in
Galena, bringing both these churches under roof that autumn. He was
a very talented and energetic priest. visiting and organizing many
congregations, one as early as 1835, at Davenport, where he
commenced the building of a church in 1837 and completed it in 1838.
It was a two-story brick building, 25 by 40 feet in size and
dedicated on May 23, 1839, by Bishop Mathias Loras of Dubuque.
The church at Dubuque was stone, 40 by 80 feet in size. Of this
Eliphalet Price, in ANNALS OF IOWA, October 1865, page 541, says:
The first Catholic church erected in Iowa was commenced at
Dubuque in the spring of 1835, under the management and direction of
an educated and gentlemanly little French priest by the name of
Mazzuchelli. This was a stone edifice. We took the contract, and
furnished the stone for this building until it was about eight feet
high, when we left Dubuque for a more northern latitude. We never
transacted business with a more honorable, pleasant and gentlemanly
person than the Rev. Mr. Mazzuchelli. We left him seated upon a
stone near the building, watching the lazy movements of a lone
Irishman, who was working out his subscription in aid of the church.
We have never seen him since.
The first priest to extend his visits to the southeastern part
of the State was the Rev. P. P. Lefevre, pastor of the St. Paul's
church on Salt River, Ralls County, Missouri. He came in 1834,
founded two or three small missions in the Black Hawk Purchase
(Keokuk in Lee County, 1834, and Moffets Mill, at Augusta on Skunk
River, in 1836), and made occasional visits until 1837. Following
him, Rev. August Brickwedde of St. Boniface church, Quincy,
Illinois, was given charge of this locality, and he made missionary
visits annually for the Easter services to the people of Fort
Madison, West Point and "Zucker" Creek, all in Lee County, in the
years 1838, 1839 and 1840. He celebrated mass in a log house of John
Kempker on Sugar Creek (now St. Paul, Lee County) on May 11, 1838;
and during the summer of that year the people of this settlement,
the Holtkamps, Hellmanns, Kempkers, Dingmanns, built a log church on
a site four miles northwest from West Point, which constitutes the
present St. James church at St. Paul. Pope Gregory XVI, on July 28,
1837, created the diocese of Dubuque, in Wisconsin Territory, with
jurisdiction over all the region north of Missouri and lying between
the Mississippi river and the Missouri river, and he appointed the
Very Rev. Mathias Loras, then Vicar General of Mobile, Alabama, as
the Right Rev. Bishop. He was consecrated in the Cathedral of Mobile
on December 10, 1837, by the Rt. Rev. Michael Portier of Mobile,
assisted by Rt. Rev. Anthony Blane, of New Orleans; and then made a
visit to France and to the Pope at Rome. In 1838, Bishop Loras
appointed Father Mazzuchelli as his Vicar General and Administrator
of Dubuque, which gave him the title of Very Rev. Samuel
Mazzuchelli, V. G. O. P.
Rt. Rev. Bishop Mathias Loras, journeying on steamboat from St.
Louis, arrived at Dubuque on Friday, April 19, 1839, and was
installed in St. Raphael's Cathedral on Sunday, April 21st; and on
the following Sunday, April 28. 1839, held public services in St.
Michael's Church, Galena, Illinois over which region he had been
appointed as Vicar General of St. Louis. Rt. Rev. Bishop Mathias
Loras was a polished scholar and gifted orator, with a keen mind and
mature judgment. His character was one of great gentleness and
unflinching devotedness to his high vocation. He was well schooled
in missionary life. Students today rank him as a saintly bishop and
a great statesman.
On his arrival he found in a salubrious climate, a vast
territory of unbroken prairies which showed marvelous fertility of
soil, teeming with grasses. flowers and game; dotted with beautiful
groves; abundantly supplied with good water in springs brooks and
rivers. This territory was populated by about thirty thousand
Indians, in addition to perhaps forty-three thousand white
inhabitants, of whom nearly three thousand were Catholics. His only
churches were St. Raphael's Dubuque; St. Anthony's Davenport; St.
James', Lee County, and the Jesuit Indian mission at Council Bluffs;
there was not a home nor a school in the territory; and he was met
by his only priest, Father Mazzuchelli. To the new diocese he
presented the companions whom he brought from France, namely; the
Rev. J. Anthony M. Pelamourgues, Rev. Joseph Cretin, and the
seminarians Remigius Petiot, Augustin Ravoux, Lucien Galtier and
James Causse. He at once entered upon his famous career. A brick
residence was built at Dubuque under the direction and supervision
of Father Mazzuchelli, to give quarters for bishop, priests and a
seminary. Schools and congregations were organized at various
points. On May 23, 1839, he held Episcopal visitation in Davenport,
blessed the church, promised them a priest, and sent Rev. J. A. M.
Pelamourgues in September of the same year, who opened a school at
once, and who attended the entire region, which until 1846 often
included Rock Island, Muscatine, Burlington and Iowa City. His
memory is held in benediction by all the early settlers regardless
of creed. In July, 1839, the Bishop made his visitation to St.
Peters, Minnesota, accompanied by Father Pelamourgues, and he made
provision for that portion of the vineyard, and also for Prairie du
Chien. He induced a young Indian to come back with him, to teach his
young priests the Sioux language.
Rev. R. Petoit was ordained in the autumn of 1839, and assigned
to Galena, remaining on duty for many years in northwest Illinois
and southwest Wisconsin.
The Holy Order of Priesthood was administered for the first
time in the great Northwest by Bishop Loras in his cathedral at
Dubuque on January 5, 1840, when he ordained the Reverends Augustin
Ravoux, Lucien Galtier and James Causse. Father Ravoux was sent to
Prairie de Chien; Father Galtier to St. Peter's, Minnesota, and soon
was built the first church in honor of St. Paul, which gave the name
for the present city of that name. In 1844, Father Galtier was sent
to Keokuk, and built the first church there. Later he was placed in
charge of Prairie de Chien. In 1841, Father Ravoux took up his
quarters in St. Peter's and became the great pioneer and Indian
missionary of Minnesota.
The Bishop appointed Father Cretin specially in charge of the
Wennebago Indians, and Father Pelamourgues of the Sac and Fox
Indians. Father Cretin also was appointed Vicar General and given
special directions for opening of schools, a seminary, and
academies; in addition to which he joined with the Bishop in
performing priestly functions on the missions wherever called, to
preach, say mass, hear confessions, answer sick calls, teach the
catechism. In 1840, the Bishop endeavored to obtain Sisters for his
schools. Being unsuccessful at this time, he in 1843, prevailed upon
the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary to remove their
Mother house from Philadelphia to Dubuque. They arrived the same
year under the guidance of Mother Frances Clarke, and immediately
established schools in their new home. The Very Rev. Terence
Donaghoe was received as their director in 1843, and appointed as
Vicar General of the diocese. He likewise aided in missionary work
in Dubuque, Holy Cross, Bellevue and Maquoketa.
Father Mazzuchelli was assigned to attendance principally at
Galena, Burlington, Iowa City and Muscatine; building St. Paul's
church at Burlington in 1839; St. Mary's church at Iowa City in 1841
and Old Man's Creek the same year, and celebrating divine services
at Fort Madison in 1839. He was constantly on duty until 1843, when
he made a visit to his old home in Milan, Italy he wrote an
interesting account of his missionary labors which was printed in
the Italian language.
In 1840 and 1843 the Bishop attended the church council at
Baltimore, Maryland. In 1842,
the Bishop organized the congregation of Holy Cross near Dubuque,
and St. Andrew's church at Bellevue. He had two churches joined at
Prairie du Chien and floated down the river in the shape of a raft,
ordering one to be erected as St. Andrew's church at Bellevue, the
other as St. Mathias' church at Muscatine. Furthermore.
congregations were organized at New Vienna, Guttenburg, Fort
Atkinson, Garnavillo, near Iowa City, St. Vincent's on English
river, Ottumwa and Mt. Pleasant. He made many bishop's visitations
from the years 1842 to 1846. From 1843 until 1846, Father Cretin
made special efforts for the Winnebago Indians, and for their
benefit resided part of the time in the Winnebago Mission (near Fort
Atkinson), Iowa, and Prairie du Chien.
In 1841, Rev. J. C. Perrodin arrived and was appointed pastor
of the Maquoketa church, Jackson County, and also attended Bellevue
and other stations.
In 1840, Rev. John G. Alleman came here from the Dominicans in
Ohio and built a brick church 16 by 18 feet in dimensions, in Fort
Madison, the St. Joseph's congregation, where he built a larger
church in 1844. He built a frame church about 20 by 40 feet in size
in West Point in honor of St. Philip, and also attended the churches
at St. Paul, Primrose Farmington and Keokuk. From then until 1848.
he spent most of his time in Lee County, Iowa, but was often absent
in the performance of missionary duties in Burlington, Dubuque and
wherever he heard of the arrival of German immigrants In 1846 he
organized a congregation in the St. Vincent settlement (two miles
west of the present Riverside, Washington County), aided by the
Schnoebalen and Edelstein families; built a log church and laid out
a town site which was named Strassburg. In 1843, Rev. John Healey
was appointed pastor of Burlington, and later resided with the
Bishop at Dubuque and then was appointed pastor of Bellevue.
In 1843, Rev. Anthony Godfert was appointed pastor of Iowa
City, and from there also made visits to Muscatine, Burlington, Old
Man's Creek and Washington County. Rev. James Causse was on duty
part of the time at Dubuque, but later on resided chiefly at Potosi,
All these clergymen were assiduous and diligent, and went about
everywhere in humility and apostolical zeal, whilst their conduct
and holy character commanded the confidence and admiration of all
Thus 1846 found us with an academy for boys at Dubuque,
conducted by priests of the cathedral. Mother Frances Clarke had in
her community thirteen sisters and seven novices, an academy with
seventy young ladies, and several schools.
The Indian mission at Council Bluffs was organized by the
Jesuit missionaries from St.
Louis, under the jurisdiction of Bishop Loras. They arrived at
Council Bluffs on the morning of May 30, 1838, and were received
with great joy by the Indian chiefs and braves, mostly
Pottawattamies. The company consisted of the Jesuit Fathers Rev.
Felix Verreydt, Rev. J. De Smet, and Brother Mazelli. These took
possession of the vacated soldiers' barracks, at the site of the
present Pierce school, near the church of St. Peter and Paul. They
conducted regular services, built several more log houses, had an
Indian school with generally an attendance of about thirty children,
baptized about one hundred in the first year, in spite of many
obstacles; and on Our Lady Day, August 15, 1838, they celebrated
high mass, at which the entire Latin singing was chanted by the
Indians. Father Christian Hoecken, Jesuit, also aided in this
mission. However, with the dispersion of the Indians the mission
waned, and by the year 1843 was almost abandoned; although the
chapel with its cross, little tower and chapel bell remained in
place for many years, and was seen there by Rev. Father William
Emonds when he was resident pastor of Council Bluffs as late as
1855. Hard by this chapel was a cemetery, and many years later, when
the streets were graded, the historic traces appeared in the finding
of Indian shells, of rosary beads and medals.
The activity of the Bishop and his priests continued; but our
study comes to a close with the Territorial days of Iowa in 1846, at
which time we find the Bishop with the same vast territory in good
bodily and mental vigor, aided by Rev. John G. Alleman at Fort
Madison; Very Rev. Joseph Cretin, at Dubuque; Very Rev. Terence
Donaghoe, at Dubuque; Rev. Anthony Godfert, at Iowa City; Rev. J. A.
M. Pelamourgues, at Davenport; Rev. J. C. Perrodin, at Maquoketa;
Rev. H. Herrog, at Burlington; with the Indians mostly gone from
Iowa, but large numbers of Sioux, Chippewa, Mandans and Winnebago in
Minnesota, under the car of Rev. Father A. Ravoux near Fort
Snelling, and Rev. George A. Bellecourt, Pembina; with several
academies and schools under the guidance of twenty Sisters of
Charity, several priests, and some lay teachers; thirteen churches,
nine stations, and a Catholic population of nearly seven thousand.
In the directories for Dubuque, we sometimes come across the
announcement as occasion required, "Sermons preached in English,
German, French or Sioux" language.
In 1844, the dioceses of Chicago and Milwaukee were created,
and some of the Dubuque priests remained there, as follows: Very
Rev. Samuel Mazzuchelli, Rev. Lucien Galtier, and Rev.James Causse
in Wisconsin; Rev. Remigius Petiot in Illinois.