IAGenWeb

Winneshiek County IAGenWeb

 St. Anthony of Padua Church

this page was last updated on Saturday, 30 August 2014

St. Anthony of Puda Cemetery Photo by Bill Waters

View Map

View Cemetery table

St. Anthony of Pudua Church Photo by Bill Waters

St. Anthony of Pudua Church Entrance Sign Photo by Bill Waters

St. Anthony of Padua Chapel

World's Smallest Church Beckons Visitors For more than 100 years, the doors of St. Anthony of Padua Chapel, near Festina in Winneshiek County, have beckoned to bring worshipers inside. But at "The Smallest Church in the World", church-goers may have to take their turn at worship, because the tiny chapel -- 20 by 14 feet in size -- seats just eight people in its four pews. Even so, the church has served as the setting for more than 90 weddings, mostly for descendants of Johann Gaertner, his daughter Maria Anna, and her husband, Frank Joseph Huber, Sr., the builders of the church. The Smallest Church is located two miles from Festina, three miles from St. Lucas and five miles from Ft. Atkinson. The Chapel still has its own bell, in a belfry that stretches 40 feet high. The chapel's fascinating history dates back to 1832 when the Winnebago Indians signed a treaty with the United States, giving up a sizeable portion of their land in Wisconsin. In return, they received a smaller tract of land given up by the Sac and Fox Indians in northeastern Iowa. Fort Atkinson was built on this land to protect the Winnebagos from other tribes. Then in 1846 treaty was signed, exchanging all the Winnebagos' lands in the U.S. for unspecified lands in central Minnesota. This left a large tract of land in northeastern Iowa completely unpopulated after the garrison abandoned Fort Atkinson in February on 1849. Several families from Indiana moved into the area in the spring of 1849, reaching the Turkey River across from the Indian agency in April. However high waters prevented their crossing until May. The group of settlers were Catholic and worshipped at a log church at Old Mission, the site of the present Chapel, called Our Lady of Seven Dolors. This church burned down in 1854, and the congregation dispersed to other churches nearer to their farms. A new log church was built two miles northeast of Old Mission at Festina. Some years later the Old Mission cross was splintered by lightning and it's presently concealed beneath the floor of the St. Anthony of Padua Chapel. In 1885 Francis and Maria Anna Huber and John Gaertner began to build a stone chapel near the site of the old log church that had burned. When Gaertner had been drafted into Napoleon's army in France, his mother made a promise to build a chapel in honor of the Blessed Virgin if he returned safely. However, a depression followed the war and she was unable to fulfill her promise before her death. Gaertner remembered his mother's promise and told his children about it. Maria Anna Huber suggested that it be built on the site of the old church. Neighbors helped build the chapel. Ferdinand Barthelme, Clem Brockkamp, Joe Huinker and Nicholas Wagner quarried the stone from a quarry on the Huberís' land known as Snake Hollow because of a large den of rattlesnakes there. The chapel dedication took place in 1886 by Rev. August Sauter, then pastor at Festina. Joe Spielman donated $20 toward the bell, and Gaertner gave $75 toward the wood in the building. The balance was paid by the Hubers. Johann Gaertner and Frank Joseph Huber both died in 1887. Mrs. Huber carried on the work alone and had the vestibule built in 1888. Before her death in 1902, Maria Anna Huber donated stained glass windows. Beneath a picture of the church it says: Smallest Church at Festina St. Anthony of Padua Church, rural Festina, is proclaimed as the smallest church in the World. The chapel measures 20' x 14' and seats only eight people in its four small pews, but it has been the setting for nearly 90 weddings, mostly descendants of Johann Gaertner, his daughter Maria Anna, and her husband, Frank Joseph Huber, Sr. Submitter note: Taken from one of the many scrapbooks Dorothy (Livingood) Schave compiled in her lifetime, 1920-2008. She did not date this one or name the paper but two other articles in the scrapbook she had dated 1991 and I assume it was the Postville, Iowa paper of the time.

St. Anthony of Pudua Church Altar Photo by Bill Waters

St. Anthony of Padua Altar

St. Anthony of Pudua Church F. J. Huber Window Photo by Bill Waters St. Anthony of Pudua Church M. A. Huber Window Photo by Bill Waters

Huber Windows

St. Anthony of Pudua Church J. Gartner Window Photo by Bill Waters St. Anthony of Pudua Church M. Gartner Window Photo by Bill Waters

Gartner Windows

Huber Cabin Sign Photo by Bill Waters Huber Cabin Photo by Bill Waters

Huber Cabin

Please, contact the County Coordinator to submit additions or corrections.

Winneshiek IAGenWeb Home

Copyright statement
~all of which applies to the Winneshiek Co. website. ~
this page was last updated on Saturday, 30 August 2014