How Lycurgus In Allamakee
County Got Its Name Remains Iowa Mystery
In ancient Greece a temple was
erected inn Sparta to that citys famous son,
Lycurgus. Now a church dominating the prairie
landscape in Allamakee County northeast of Waukon,
perpetuated the Spartan lawgivers name.
Lycurgus is located about halfway
between Waukon and Lansing in Allamakee County. Just
why a settlement of sons and daughters of Ireland on
the Iowa frontier happened to choose the name
Lycurgus seems to be a question no one can answer.
Settled in 1851
The first settler was a Mexican war
veteran who took up land in 1851. By the middle
1860s settlement had progressed to a point
where a hotel and store did business in the area and
stages left mail at the sore. Lycurgus was on the
nations postal map.
It was a short-lived village,
however. For many decades now, all of Lycurgus has
been the church with its cemetery, rectory, and
parish hall on a four-acre church plot in the midst
of one of the richest farming sections of northeast
Iowa. Officially the church is St. Marys, but
in common parlance it is the Lycurgus church.
The building is a handsome structure,
designed by the same architect and similar in style
to St. Patricks church at Waukon.
Priest Came in 48
The church owes its origin in the
early 1850s to visits of the Rev. Thomas Hore,
a priest who in 1848 brought a colony from Wexford,
Ireland to found a New World Wexford in Allamakee
county. He built the first Catholic church west of
the Mississippi north of Dubuque. Father Hore rode
over the prairie trails a number of times to say mass
in the homes of settlers at Lycurgus.
In 1859 and 1860 a stone church was
built, members of the congregation quarrying the rock
and one of the group hauling the stone from quarry to
building site on a primitive stone boat with disk
wheels cut from a large oak.
By 1913 attendance at the Lycurgus
church from the farms roundabout had become so large
that the stone building was too small to meet the
needs of the parish, and the present church was
erected. The pastor at the time was the Rev. P.J.
McNamara, who was to continue on as pastor at
Lycurgus until his death in 1936. His grave in the
church cemetery is a hallowed shrine.
The 50 families in the church
membership are nearly 100 percent of Irish decent.
~La Crosse Tribune, March 6, 1950
~transcribed by Aubrie Monroe for Allamakee co.