IAGenWeb Project - Allamakee co. Misc. Historical Items

Lycurgus, Makee twp.

How Lycurgus In Allamakee County Got Its Name Remains Iowa Mystery

In ancient Greece a temple was erected inn Sparta to that city’s famous son, Lycurgus. Now a church dominating the prairie landscape in Allamakee County northeast of Waukon, perpetuated the Spartan lawgiver’s 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 1860’s 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 nation’s 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. Mary’s, 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. Patrick’s church at Waukon.

Priest Came in ’48

The church owes its origin in the early 1850’s 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. IAGenWeb

Photos of St. Mary's Lycurgus & additional info. (opens a new page)


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