Osceola is one of the counties of Northwestern
Iowa in which the Catholics obtained a strong foothold at an early day.
In Osceola County they were the first of the religionists to organize.
The centers of their activities were at Ashton and Sibley. The German
Catholic families settled at and near Ashton, and the Irish Catholic
families in the Sibley neighborhood.
The first Catholic settlers in Osceola County were Nicholas Boor and John Streit, who came on the 19th of June, 1871, and filed an claims in Gilman Township. The first mass celebrated was in May,1873, on the southwest quarter of section 16, Holman Township, at the home of Patrick Larkin, by an assistant priest of Rev. Father Lenehan, of Sioux City. This was the commencement of the Sibley parish and the St. Andrew's Roman Catholic Church. The parish was first served by priests from Sioux City, Le Mars and Sheldon. In 1883, the congregation bought the old Sibley schoolhouse for church purposes, but in 1897 erected a house of worship and purchased cemetery grounds.
In 1880, the part of the congregation residing in the Ashton neighborhood consisting of German Catholic families had greatly increased in numbers, and decided to form a separate organization. In September of that year a meeting was held to decide upon a location for a church building. The Sioux City & St. Paul Railroad Company had offered to donate five acres of land if the Catholics would build the church near the Ashton station, but John Streit donated the same amount of land from his farm, two and a half miles from the station, but nearer to the center of the settlement. Mr. Streit's offer was accepted, and in September, 1880, Rev. Father Lynch, resident priest at Sheldon, celebrated mass in Mr. Streit's house. In March of the following year, Rev. Father Lynch said mass for the first time in the new but un-plastered little church, representing the parish of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. The congregation did not grow much until church was moved to the railroad station in 1885. Land was then bought for a parish cemetery. The first resident priest was Rev. James McCormack, who came in June, 1888, and in the following spring erected a substantial building for a parochial school, which he placed in charge of the Sisters of St. Francis. In October, 1893, a new and worthy house of worship was erected, and five years later the growth of the parish and consequent increase of child population made it necessary to have a larger and more complete school building and an enlarged Sisters' residence. These expansions and accommodations have made the Sibley congregations secondary to the church in Ashton.
In the fall of the year that the
Methodists organized their first class at Sibley (1872) the
Congregationalists organized a society in the public schoolhouse. Most
of its members lived east of Ocheyedan Creek. The home missionary on the
field and first pastor on the new church was Rev. Benjamin A. Dean. In
the year following the organization of the church it was admitted to
membership in the Sioux Association of Congregational Churches, a
district association of the State body. In 1875, the first meeting house
of the society was erected opposite the northeast corner of the
courthouse square - the building which was purchased by the German
Lutheran Church in 1896. In the latter year, the Congregationalists
built their larger church, one of the features of which is a fine
memorial window placed in honor of Mrs. Ellen P. Dean, wife of the first
pastor, both of whom did so much to establish the organization. The
first Congregational Church of Sibley is one of the strongest religious
bodies in Osceola County.
The German Lutheran Church of Sibley is a flourishing organization and its pastor also serves congregations at Harris and in Viols Township. The Baptists have also supported a church since 1974; and there is a German Presbyterian Church, which dates fro 1895.
Besides the Catholic Church of Ashton, the Methodists have been well organized since 1882. Ocheyedan, in the northern part of the county, is the center of quite a religious field, represented by the Methodist Episcopal Church, which has been in existence since 1872 and owes it to Rev. John Webb, the first Methodist minister of Sibley; the Congregational Church, organized in 1888, and the St. Peters Evangelical Lutheran Church, established in 1901.
The first German Lutherans of Horton Township came into Osceola County from Will County, Illinois, in 1883, and in 1887 organized a church known as the Evangelical Lutheran Church. About 1896, some Presbyterian Germans in West Holman Township, a few miles west of Sibley, organized Hope Church, and in 1899 the First Methodist Episcopal Church of Harris was dedicated by Rev. Dr. Wilson S. Lewis (afterward Bishop Lewis). These are three representative churches of rural districts.
Source: History of Northwestern Iowa, Its History and Traditions 1804--1926 by Arthur F. Allen; Volume I; Chapter 16; Pages 553-557
Transcribed by Kevin Tadd