Founding of the Parish

St. Mary’s Parish was established in 1859, some eighteen months before the Kansas Territory entered statehood on January 29, 1861.

The Oregon Trail passed only two miles north of what is now St. Benedict, on the ridge between Wildcat Creek and Turkey Creek. The Trail carried heavy traffic especially in the spring when the prairie grass turned green. In 1852 travelers reported an unending stream of emigrant wagon trains as far as the eye could see. All were heading west with their sights set beyond Kansas. A pioneer woman, Ledreine Berntsen, wrote in her journal (written after 1883 because she calls the town "St. Benedict" which was the name given to the Wildcat settlement on Oct. 11, 1883 when a post office was established here): "Kansas was open for settlers and many people arrived form the north and south to homestead."

The first documented residents of the area were John and Anna Koch and their eight children who arrived from Wisconsin in 1857. They had emigrated from Germany in 1854. No doubt they took the Oregon Trail from St. Joseph, MO, to the Wildcat Creek area, a name given by the wagon drivers because of the many wildcats here at that time. Mr. Koch met a settler named Schumacker who lived in a dugout one half mile west of the present church. The two families shared the dugout that winter. Schumacker later moved to Vermillion Creek; he died in a prairie fire. According to the Koch-Broxterman family history, John Koch took up government land and established a fine farm, having purchased 160 acres of land for $150.

The Koch-Broxterman family history also has this information: "By 1857 the Indians had left the countryside but form time to time they came around on their hunting trips. Their village was approximately a quarter mile northwest of where the church now stands, at a bend in the creek. The many yearly prairie fires have obliterated all traces of the Indian village."

When looking for seed wheat, John Koch met Thomas Carlin at Turkey Creek, four miles north of Wildcat Creek. To quote from the Koch-Broxterman history: "At this time when people were so scarce one was always happy to meet a stranger which resulted in friendships and the same applied to John Koch and the Irishman, Tom Carlin. A little difficult of course was the conversation since there was a German and an Irishman who did not understand German. This much Koch believed to have understood that there was a church somewhere in the northwest and he brought the happy tidings home. The next Sunday John Koelzer and C. Blenker started the search for the supposed church, with bread and meat in a sack and armed with a heavy staff. Such a staff was a very necessary possession for a travel outfit. Because of the many snakes man wouldn't even go to a neighbor without having one along." The journal ends without giving the outcome of the trip.

In 1859, Mr. Koezler led a delegation to St. Benedict's Priory, in Atchison, KS, asking for a priest to say Mass here occasionally. The Benedictines had come to Kansas in 1856 to serve the German settlers. In June 1859, Fr. Edmund Langenfelder, O.S.B., offered the first Mass in Nemaha County. Mass was offered twice in 1859, and again twice in 1860. At that time, the Leavenworth Diocese extended from the Missouri River to the Rocky Mountains. Settlers were fortunate to have Mass once or twice a year as circuit riding priests made their rounds.

A rectory was built in 1861; the parish had the first resident priest in Nemaha County. From St. Mary’s, the priest attended these missions: St. Bridget's to the west, on the second Sunday of the month; St. Augustine's Settlement at Capioma, now called Fidelity, on the third Sunday; St. Joseph Settlement in Marshall County at Irish Creek, now called Lillis, on the first Sunday; and occasionally Elwood, Belmont, Guittard's and Marysville. However, conditions were in flux and the resident pastor was here only a year or so. Records indicate that both diocesan and Benedictine priests came to St. Mary's the next few years. In 1867 a diocesan priest from St. Bridget's took care of St. Mary's and St. Augustine's. From 1868 to 1883, St. Mary's was a mission of Sts. Peter and Paul Church, Seneca. It was only in 1883 that St. Mary's had a permanent resident pastor, and then he in turn had missions to tend. One hundred years later, in 1985, the priest at St. Mary’s also served Sacred Heart Parish in Baileyville. In September 1990, the resident priest at St. Mary's also began serving St. Bede's at Kelly and St. Patrick's at Corning.

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Building a house of worship...

The first church, built in 1859, was a wood frame building measuring 12 by 25 feet. Having been outgrown, it was replaced in 1864 with a building 18 by 35 feet. By 1880 St. Mary's Parish had grown to 60 families and so a third church, measuring 40 by 90 feet, was constructed. The Seneca newspaper on January 16, 1880 said: "messrs. Pat Byrne, Michael Rogers and John Koch were in town Wednesday soliciting aid for a new Catholic church on the Wild Cat. It is to cost $3000 and will be done by August 15."

By 1889 the parish had increased to 109 families. After much debate, it was decided to build a fourth church large enough for all future needs. Fr. Pirmin Koumly, O.S.B., was the priest during the planning of this church. In the fall of 1891 the foundation was laid, "wide enough for a team of horses and eleven feet deep." A small basement was also built for a chapel where weekday Masses were to be said during the winter months. Fr. Pirmin felt unequal to the task of constructing the church as asked to be removed. He was replaced on July 6, 1891 by Fr. Herman Mengwasser, O.S.B., a many of many talents, who pitched in and worked along with the parishioners in the construction. Soon all the streets were piled high with limestone rocks leaving only room for the horses and wagons to pass through, as the parishioners hauled native limestone from the Hurley and Schneider quarries three miles north of town, "so many loads per family". There are 3,400 perches of stone masonry above the water table (the level of white limestone at the front door level) and about 1,200 cords of rock in the entire structure." (from Seneca Courier-Democrat, Nov. 23, 1894.)

The cornerstone was laid on April 30, 1893. On August 11, 1893. The Seneca Courier-Democrat carried this news item: "The immense church structure at St. Benedict is up now to about three feet above the windows, or in other words 32 feet high. It puts on an imposing appearance. Mr. (Bill) Dougherty, the contractor, is taking pride in his work and will see to it that the building is the best constructed in the county."

Although it is commonly said that the parishioners themselves did the masonry work, the Courier-Democrat, Dec. 1, 1893 said: "The new church is looming up in great shape. The mason work is completed and the carpenters are busy, putting on the shingles . . The St. Benedict boom is quieting down, for the reason that the stone masons, about 200 in number, have left." A young carpenter from St. Benedict, did the carpentry work and made the pews. The pulpit was a gift from Frank Drier and cost $400. By the time of the dedication only a few of the new pews were in position, and the statues of the four evangelists were expected from Munich soon.

St. Mary's Church, St. Benedict, KS, has been called "beautiful, absolutely fantastic", "a gallery of art", "equal to the churches in Europe", "something you would expect to find in a large city and not hidden away in this valley", "A tribute to the faith of the Catholic immigrants." One hundred years after its construction, St. Mary's Church is still a treasurer that amazes the traveler who happens upon it.

Because of its historical, cultural, artistic, and religious significance, St. Mary's Church was listed on the Kansas Register of Historic Places in 1977 and on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

The church is located in the Wildcat Creek valley, Nemaha County, KS, one mile west and three and a half miles north on Kansas Hwy 178.

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Dedication and consecration of the Church

The Seneca, Kan. newspaper, The Courier-Democrat, Nov. 23, 1989, describes the dedication of the church which took place Nov. 14, 1894: "The arrival of Bishop Louis M. Fink, O.S.B., was announced on Tuesday the 13th by 6 shots from the celebrated canon of Wildcat. Fifty young men mounted on horseback escorted the bishop from Seneca to St. Benedict. The tower of the church had been profusely decorated including flags of different nationalities represented in the congregation. There were to be seen the flag of the United States, the Papal flag, and the flags of Prussia, Oldenburg, Ireland and Holland."

On the day of the dedication, the canon awakened the people at 5 a.m. By 8 a.m., a large crowed of people had gathered. "St. Benedict's brass band added to the joy of the people by playing some fine tunes. And when the St. Peter and Paul Society of Seneca arrived in a body, headed by the Seneca brass band, there was an enthusiasm manifested such as can be seen only on very few occasions." By 9 a.m., the five church societies gathered under their banners and formed a circle around the church. At 10 a.m., the outside and then the inside of the church were blessed followed by a solemn High Mass. The sermon was in German. At the end of Mass there was a sermon in English. After the service the ladies of the parish served a grand dinner in the old church until 3 p.m. At 3:30, there was a lecture on Christian education. At 6:30 there was a great display of fireworks. After that there was dancing and other amusements until 12 p.m. when all went home rejoicing that they had taken part in the in the celebration of the greatest festival
ever witnessed in Nemaha Co." It was estimated that three to four thousand people were present.

The practice of preaching in German was dropped during the First World War. (A Socio-Economic Analysis of four Rural Parishes in Nemaha County Kansas, Gilbert Wolters, O.S.B., 1938, Catholic University of America, page 157). The church was consecrated on June 1, 1899 (Wolters, page 153).

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St. Mary's Church, a repository of art ...

St. Mary's Church is best described in these quotations from the nomination form in 1980 to the National Register of Historic Places: "The architectural style can be termed 'late Romanesque'; the exterior appears simple but not stark; it is carefully detailed, not overworked . . . Coursed ashlar masonry of vernacular tawny-buff limestone comprises the foundation, walls, and bell tower . . . It is pitched-faced, and dressed squarely at building corners ... Some 'white' limestone is used in a few special applications."

The church measures 162 by 60 feet. The steeple rises 172.5 feed above the water table. The church has nearly 3,000 square feet of window space consisting of 17 large windows, two of medium size and six round windows, each six feet in diameter. Some of the windows are of intricate designed art glass, and some are stained glass, a process in which the glass is painted and then fired until the paint fuses to the glass. The large widows, about six by twenty feet, "consist of two tall arched sections holding a rosette, all lead glazed and framed in wood roll molding." Twelve stained glass window sections in the transept are dominated by hues of ochre, amber, azure and crimson, and depict 12 hand painted saints. These masterpieces were crafted by Mayer & Co. of Munich and New York, as the signature on the southwest transept window states. The cost was $400 each, for a total of $2,400. Other leaded glass windows were made by Wm. Hoehne, Ornamental Glass Co. of St. Louis, and cost $165 each.

The National Register nomination form continues: "In marked contrast to its rather simple exterior, what happens within this building is a superb example of spatial enrichment by decoration and ornamentation.” Vaults in the center and side aisles are 52.5 and 35 feet high respectively. Eight cast iron, four-lobed, fluted columns made in nearby Seneca bear the roof and vault loads. "the church's chromatic, figural and textural quality rests mainly in three areas: wall painting, plaster-of-parish sculpture, and leaded colored glazed."

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Furnishing the church

The church cost $40,000 and was paid for upon completion. Another $40,000 was gradually spent to finish the interior. In 1895 a used organ was bought in Atchison. Four bells weighing 3200,1800, 900 and 500 pounds were bought in St. Louis and blessed n July 24, 1895 by Bishop Louis M. Fink, O.S.B. The same year a large cistern was built for the heating system. A greenhouse was also built. It later housed the electric power plant and has been more recently used as a shop.

In 1899 the new main altar and it reredos, some forty feet high, was built and installed by Wm Bauhaus of Leavenworth, KS at a cost of $2700. "From its white oak base rises a richly molded and gilded system of orders, niches and pediments." In two niches are larger-than-life statues of St. Boniface and St. Patrick, representing the German and Irish makeup of the parish. (In 1899 there were 115 German families and 15 Irish). In addition, the main altar holds six more saints, four angels, and a large six by nine-foot oil painting on canvas of the Assumption of Mary. Below the altar table are three sculptures, tow by two fee each, with a total of thirteen figures in the three scenes: gathering manna in the desert; eating the Passover meal; Jesus breaking bread with some disciples.

In 1900 two gilded wooden sided altars more ornate than the main altar were bought from E. Hackner of LaCrosse, Wisconsin, along with a matching communion rail at a cost of $1500. "Both the main and side altars of the Gothic Eastlake school of design."

On September 7, 1900, Fr. Herman was succeeded by Fr. Anthony Baar, O.S.B., who continued the completion of the interior of the church. In 1901 the church was decorated in such a fashion which would 79 years later be cause for its listing on the National Register of Historic Places. Again quoting from the nomination form to the National Register: "All wall and vault surfaces inside of St. Mary's are lime/horsehair plaster on wood lath, and all are base painted either cream or pale gray. In 1901 G. F. Satory of Wabasha, Minn., applied to this base many colors of painted patterns, bands and friezes. He used stencils -- delineating, floriating and illuminating of cast iron columns, vault ribs and bosses, and window openings. Indeed, every plastered surface in the church is so adorned."

Mr. George Satory decorated 150 churches across America from 1891 to 1931. In an interview with Mr. Satory in the St. Paul (MN) Sunday Pioneer Press, April 17, 1949, page 3, he regrets that his art form will be lost in America after he is gone. He said: "I know of no symbolic church artists left to carry on our work ... I think a church should be a thing of beauty, a work of art as well as a place in which to worship our Lord." In one of his advertisements Mr. Satory claims his work is "original in design and never duplicated." His nephew Edward Satory worked with his uncle for some years reported in 1980 at the time of the interior restoration of St. Mary’s Church, that as far as he knew, of the 150 churches Mr. Satory decorated, only St. Mary's preserved his work.

Working in cooperation with Mr. Satory in 1901, the Russian born artist Td. Zukotynski of Chicago decorated the church with 14 oil paintings. In the nave clerestory are six oil paintings on canvas six by nine feet depicting scenes in the life of Mary, patroness of the church. In the transept are four, circular oil paintings of the four major prophets, on canvas, six feet in diameter. In the apse above the high altar are three oil paintings directly on the plaster wall depicting faith, hope and love; the cross of faith, the anchor of hope, and the Real Presence of God who is Love. Surmounting the high altar is an oil painting on canvas six by nine feet of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven. The artist's signature is on the painting on the left of the main altar. The total cost of both projects was $4100.

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Symbolic art...

Satory decorated the church based on the fifteen mysteries of the rosary which are inscribed in Latin around the church. Prominence of place is given to the Crowning of Mary as Queen of Heaven, the fifth Glorious Mystery, painted on the transept ceiling in a flourish of symbols and monograms, the with Holy Trinity enclosing Mary who is represented by an eight-foot diameter stylistic rendering of the word MARIA with superimposed letters.

In 1903 the fourteen Stations of the Way of the Cross were purchased at a cost of $2200. They are not merely relief work but three-fourths, life-size, wall hung sculptures consisting of 55 figures, plus 28 angels in relief below the Stations.

In 1904 eleven high quality statues were brought from Munich. In addition to the Stations there are 37 free standing statues in the church, plus two figures, Jesus and Mary in the Pieta, and two figures, John the Baptist and Jesus on the baptismal font and a small sculpture of the Good Shepherd on the confessional. The church has 79 angles ranging in size from three in winged heads to life-sized, in various media: carved, case, painted and glazed. This is not an inventory of an art gallery but an expression of the faith of the people.

A photo in the 1905 church brochure shows the church without electric light fixtures. Instead two large candelabras and a chain for a third are shown holding dozens of candles. The silver candelabra now converted to electric light, and some statues are the only furnishings that were brought from the third church which stood in the area of the present rectory. In 1913 pastor Fr. Cyril Bayer, O.S.B., wrote this note about lightning that struck the church on April 25, 1913: "Wherever electric wire led the effects of the lightning can be seen." At some time before 1913 a power plant provided lighting, but gasoline engines provided power for the water pump and furnace hot air circulating fan. "In 1929 the pastor and towns-people organized the St. Benedict Light and Power Company. A line was built a mile and half connecting with the high line between Axtell and Seneca. There are 22 users all in the village." (Wolters, paper 101) On April 2, 1944, the company sold out the Nemaha-Marshall Electric Cooperative for $1200.

In August 1916 it was agreed that a better organ was needed. By October a grand pipe organ was installed, manufactured by the Hinners Organ Company of Pekin, Illinois, at a cost of $2450. It has 17 ranks with 932 pipes ranging from pencil size to nine feet in length. After sitting in disrepair form 1958 to 1983, it was fully restored in 1984 by the Quimby Organ Company, Warrenburg, MO. It is a tracker organ, all mechanical in action.

With the new organ installed by Fr. Gregory Neumayr, O.S.B., and played for the first time on his silver ordination anniversary in 1916, the church was furnished.

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Maintenance of the church

Any building 100 years old has been painted, shingled and repaired many times. The ferocious Kansas weather with its extremes in temperature, thunderstorms and high winds have relentlessly assailed the structure for the past century. The church records show constant attention being given to maintenance. On January 1, 1895, the past and church committee agreed to take out an insurance policy of $5000 on the new church against fire and wind damage. In 1898 improvements were made at the church basement entrance to protect the foundation from water and to give more light to the basement. In 1930 there was a repair of all windows. A new metal tabernacle replaced the wooden one in 1939. The sanctuary floor was covered with polychromatic tile about this time. In 1942 the parish voted to move the pulpit from the south front column to the south wall. The pulpit canopy has since been lost. A statue of St. Benedict was placed on the bare column in 1950. And in 1941 there was a more extensive repair of all church windows with many reinforcing rods being added. Storm windows were installed.

Forty years after George Satory decorated the church in 1901, Frank Mulich of Kansas City, repaired the plaster, cleaned off soot, and touched up interior surfaces including the woodwork and statues for $3600. This work continued form December 4, 1941 to July 10, 1942. The men of the parish did all the heavy dimension scaffolding.

Lightning struck the church and rectory on April 25, 1913 at 1:10 P.M.
There was very little damage to the rectory. At the church, the lightning rod was torn off the cross, screens twisted and burned in the belfry, some tower windows were broken, plaster damaged and a rock knocked out of the chimney. In the sanctuary, the statue of St. Joachim was damaged and two statue pedestals blackened and burnt. Parishioner August Droge made repairs to the tower.

In 1916 the old rock district school and the one acre that now serves as a parking lot west of the church were purchased for $150. Although a tornado came roaring thought the valley on June 1, 1949, the church escaped damage.

Several times over the years, there was wind damage to the church. In 1948 four valleys and some rotten timbers in the roof were replaced and the church was repointed where needed. On October 14, 1953 a stainless steel cross six feet tall with six since square beams replace the wooden cross which had been constructed with about an eight-inch hole at the cross section. Donald Stallbaumer of Seneca, KS was the steeplejack on the project. In 1960 the church was shingled with lifetime aluminum shingles; the built-in gutters were replaced by hanging gutters. This work was completed under the direction of Adrian "Ted" Stallbaumer. Also in 1960, new window ventilators were installed on the south side, changed from center to sill pivot. Art glass was added to the swinging doors of the vestibule. Vinyl floor tile over plywood was installed in 1962. New padded kneelers were also installed in 1962. In 1973 the basement chapel was made into classrooms and bathrooms. In 1973 the entire church was repointed. In 1978 the parishioners insulated the attic with fiberglass insulation. In 1975, the parish well was capped when a rural water district organized in the area became available as the result of leadership largely by members of the St. Benedict community.

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Restoration of the Interior

In 1977, there were many sections of plaster that needed to be repaired and repainted. The ceiling and walls were generally very grimy with dirt. The original decoration by Satory was completed with calcimine paint that would not withstand water. Fr. Bartholomew Dacek, O.S.B., Pastor, and the parish council named a Restoration Committee to study what the options were to repair and repaint the church. Those appointed to serve on this committee were Elmer Skoch, Teresa Stallbaumer, Jill Weixelman and Elmer Ronnebaum.

On September 25, 1977, it was voted at a parish meeting that the parish should proceed with improving the front plaza with new concrete and landscape and to continue to evaluate the interior painting repair and then to work to restore the leaded windows. By November 1 the new plaza was poured, including a handicap ramp.

After an extensive search for qualified artisans, the Restoration Committee recommended that Joseph Oswalt of Waterville, KS be given the chance to demonstrate techniques to restore the interior painting. Oswalt was a commercial artist who had been introduced to the church in 1974 when doing a drawing for an anniversary booklet.

With the demonstration area completed on the south side of the choir and ceiling section, a contract was approved to have Oswalt work as an independent contractor to restore the entire 22,000 square feet of the church interior walls and ceilings. Assisting him were his wife Anita and workers Chari Johnson and Kathy Montgomery who both lived at Vermillion, Kan.

Every square inch of the intricate designs were traced and an exact duplication of all original designs was made. Extensive plastering was also necessary. Since the old calcimine paint was found to be very unstable, it was decided to remove all of it down to bare plaster. The walls were then prepared and redecorated with a washable acrylic latex paint. The oil paintings by Zukotynski were also renewed. The four round paintings of the prophets were affixed over new canvas and then mounted on wood and coated with polyurethane finish. The experimental work began in September 1979. Since the parish had agreed to provide scaffolding, the Restoration Committee recommended that the parish instead purchase the metal scaffolding. The summer of 1980 was extremely hot and Oswalt and his workers labored during the night when the temperature at the ceiling was more tolerable. The project was completed in January 1983. The cost was approximately $110,000 and required 8,000 working hours and 217 gallons of paint.

In an interview printed in the Seneca, KS Courier-Tribune Jan. 27, 1983, an article on the restoration reads: "The names Michelangelo and Rembrandt come naturally to mind when one views the interior of St. Mary's Church. And the comparison between Rembrandt and George Satory, the artist who originally painted the lavish designs in 1901, is one that is easy to make for Joe Oswalt. `George was a master. You can see it in the articulate designs and in the color harmony and balance. We used more than 300 different colors to match his colors, and there are one half million individual designs that all work together. That's what separates the Sunday painter from the Great Master. The master can make it all work together."

The Kansas Preservation Alliance awarded the church the Kansas Preservation Award in 1982. The award and plague were presented to Oswalt and the Restoration Committee and Fr. Dacek by Senator Nancy Kassebaum at ceremonies in Topeka. The Kansas Legislature passed a resolution recognizing the restoration project and those who guided it. A sale was held in 1983; scaffolding, flooring and other materials purchased for the project were sold for more than $8000.

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Window restoration

By 1991 the leaded windows were badly bowed and some cracking of glass. In June 1991 Hoefer Custom Stained Glass, then of McPherson, Kan. began restoring the eight side art glass windows. This work extended into 1994. The project involved the removal and disassembly of each window, cleaning of each piece of glass, replacement of all deteriorated lead, adding cames to stabilize cracked glass and installing new zinc flat rebars. The project costs were more than $4000 per window. This work was led by the Restoration Committee: Ferdinand Deters, Rupert Rethman and Elmer Ronnebaum. The ventilators on the north side were changed to match those on the south side. Thirteen limestone window sills were be replaced as part of the project.

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Steeple repair

Also in 1991, several new rafters were installed in the steeple. New plywood sheathing and copper was applied. The base cornice, which had been removed in a 1974 repair, was reconstructed to match the original design. Arnold Stegman of Wakaurasa, Kan, completed this work.

Heritage Trust Grant helps restore windows, masonry

In 1993, the parish was successful in receiving funding in the amount of $96,500 from the State of Kansas Heritage Trust Fund Grant to relead the transept windows and install two new exterior windows on the west side of the church. The grant, which only required a 20% local, matching funds, also provided funding to reface deteriorated cap stones and tuckpoint the upper levels of the tower and lower basement area. The grant was written and administered by parishioner Elmer Ronnebaum.

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Heating plant

The heating plant is in a near-by boiler house. The records show that a new heating system was installed in 1895; another completely new system in 1911 cost $3600. In 1914 a better tunnel was dug from the boiler house to the church. The boiler was heated with a wood-fired furnace with the wood cut in local timbers and hauled by the parishioners until 1947 when a stoker unit was installed; after that the men of the parish hauled the coal from railroad cars in Seneca. In 1969 natural gas was installed in the village and the parish switched from coal to gas. The church is presently steam heated.

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Fund raising

Except for a short time in the 1930's the parish has always been debt free. All large expenditures were paid by assessments. The custom of paying pew rent was till in effect as the principle source of income as late as 1938. A seat in a pew rented for $4 a year. The average family rented three seats. One family rented seven seats. School-age children sat up front. Everyone 16 years of age and over was expected to rent a seat. Plate collections in the summer of 1937 averaged $6 a Sunday. (Wolters, pp 155-56.)

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The People of the Parish

Since the church was dedicated there have been more than 2000 baptisms and more than 700 marriages in the church. Almost 50 members of the parish have become priests, brothers, or sisters. On Dec. 17, 1949, Father Wilfred Fangman, O.S.B., a native son, was ordained a priest here. Fr. Leander Scheier, O.S.B., Pastor wrote: "This was the first time that the sacrament of Holy Orders had been conferred here in St. Mary's Church, and the wonderful ceremonies of the ordination were thoroughly appreciated and enjoyed by all. The Lord blessed both the day of the ordination and the following day, the day of the First Holy Mass, with ideally beautiful weather."

St. Mary's had 60 families in 1880, 109 in 1889, 120 in 1894 and 150 by 1905. Forty families were cut off and assigned to the new Sacred Heart Parish in Baileyville when it was established in 1912. Since then the number of households has fluctuated at around 120, ranging form 115 in 1932 to 134 in 1951. In 2007, there are 140 households.

Although the congregation is small, the people are dedicated to the preservation of this church. The church is known regionally and is an apostolate to tourists.

The last word is, the people make the church.

Settlers arriving in 1858 were John and Joseph Koelzer, John Dick, Barney Blenker, Matthias Stein, William Bernstein, and Peter Blumer. Peter Blumer donated the 20 acres of church property.

Other arrivals soon after that were Michael Rogers (who named the church), Martin Stallbaumer, Margaret Draney, Martin, Jacob and Joe Rellinger, Martin Bedeau, Justus Aziere, Patrick McCaffrey and James Graney.

Other family names beyond those on the current roster that were once known at St. Mary's Church are: Arnold, Assenmacher, Attins, Austing, Bacher, Baker, Bedo, Bendon, Berger, Bernajeck, Bernarschek, Bertsen, Block, Blocker, Boekenstette, Bokern, Borchers, Brandt, Brokamp, Broxterman, Brucken, Bueltel, Buessing, Burdieck, Buser, Byrne, Carlin, Casey, Cheray, Cohorst, Conlin, Conrad, Coughlin, Dahlinghaus, Damase, DeVillier, Dignan, Draney, Dress, Drier, Droge, Echel, Eigenman, Eisenbarth, Enneking, Fienhage, Fischer, Fuesche, Funke, Gannan, Gellhaus, Gerkens, Gockel, Gormley, Gutendkauf, Halfen, Hammes, Harpenau, Hartmann, Hasenkamp, Heiman, Hencel, Hoefler, Holan, Huerter, Huls, Hunninghake, Hurley, Jacobs, Jordan, Jueshke, Karnowski, Kebria, Keegan, Kelly, Kempf, Klunenberg, Knipper, Kokenge, Kings, Krote, Kotte, Krapp, Kreilich, Kroll, Kruse, Kuhlman, Lackey, Lamping, Larkin,
Latus, Laughlin, Liening, Lightheart, Lighthaus, Lynn, Lueb, Macke, Maden, Manowski, Marick, McGinty, McGrath, McQuaid, Melcher, Meyer, Mohlman, Montgomery, Morton, Moynagh, Mulligan, Mulryan, Niehues, Niekamp, Novak, Oenbring, Osterhaus, Otting, Palmer, Pavlick, Pille, Priott, Poggeman, Quirk, Reninger, Rettele, Rhonspie, Rindspitz, Roenspiess, Rohenkohl, Rohr, Rosengarten, Ruske, Salenski, Sauvago, Schaefer, Schmidt, Schneider, Schonnhoff, Schottel, Schraad, Schroeder, Schulte, Schump, Selback, Sextro, Skoch, Sperfslage, Stegeman, Stockhoff, Stueve, Stuke, Tecklenburg, Terluter, Trapp, Vote, Vondemkamp, Wachendorfer, Walk, Waller, Weber, Welp, Wessel, Wietharn, Wilhelm, Willembring, Winkler and Wissler.

God bless them all for the good that they have done.

visitors since September 2001