IAGenWeb Project - Allamakee co. Misc. Historical Items

Logo copyright Waukon Standard, used with permission

Logo courtesy of Jeremy J. Troendle, Managing Editor, Waukon Standard

Permission to publish the Wexford Wanderings series on the Allamakee co. IAGenWeb was granted by the author, Hugh E. Conway. We thank him for his generosity.

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16 * Article: 17 * Article: 18
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page 1-- Introduction & Articles: 1-5
page 2 -- Articles: 6-10
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Articles: 11-15
page 5 - Articles: 22 & 23


The historical tale of Wexford, Iowa would not be complete without including background information on Father Thomas Hoare, the founder and patriarch of the Wexford Church. His efforts and direction resulted in the settlement of many immigrant families to the Wexford area.

The early immigrants, including Timothy Madden, cheered with joy when Father Hoare (a real live Catholic priest) arrived with fellow countrymen from Ireland. Now, they could attend Sunday Mass and have a clergyman to tend to their spiritual needs.

Thomas Hoare was born in the late 1790’s and grew up in Coldblow County in Wexford, Ireland. His calling to the priesthood began at an early age and in preparation he entered St. Kieran’s College. When his friend and mentor Patrick Kelly was appointed the first bishop to the new diocese in Richmond, Virginia in 1820, Thomas traveled with him and was ordained as a Catholic Priest by Bishop Kelly shortly after arriving in America. For six years, Father Hoare was a parish priest near Richmond, VA until his health deteriorated and he returned home to Ireland, where he became a parish priest at Annacurra and Killaveney in the Ferns dioceses.

The agonies Father Hoare found in Ireland made him pledge to lead as many Irish as possible to a destination in America near Little Rock, Arkansas, where Bishop Andrew Byrne, the first bishop of the Little Rock diocese, promised good land and a better life. For nearly a dozen times in 35 years, poor Irish farmers had awakened to the rancid smell of rotting potatoes, the signal that potato blight was again ruining another year’s crop. What little food the fields produced, the ruthless landlords confiscated from the poor farmers to sell to England. Hungry Irish laborers had watched first starvation, then disease pass through the countryside, killing friends, neighbors, and fellow countrymen by the tens of thousands.

During a Sunday sermon, Father Hoare addressed a church packed with Irishmen from many different counties. He spoke of his intentions to take as many countrymen as possible to America where comfort, prosperity, and independence from landlords were expected. Approximately 400 families with a total of about 1200 people worked for nearly a full year to save the $25 each of them would need for the steerage fare to cross the Atlantic. The large number of immigrants required three ships for transport.

In October 1850, Father Hoare and 450 parishioners set sail on the 1090-ton Ticonderoga, a sailing vessel registered in New York. A list of immigrants from the Ticonderoga sill hangs in the back of the church at Wexford, IA. Another 450 parishioners left the same day on the 915-ton Loodianah, a sailing vessel from Canada. An additional 300 parishioners left eight days later on a smaller vessel, the Chasca, a Boston registered ship.

For the $25, each person received three quarts of water a day, a small weekly amount of flour, sugar, molasses, oatmeal, and rice, and a skimpy 10 cubic feet of storage space for possessions and tools. The berthing area or sleeping space was a space six feet by six feet that was shared by four individuals who often were not related.

The Ticonderoga made New Orleans in roughly forty days, while the Loodianah was at sea for nearly two months, and the Chasca required nearly 70 days to reach New Orleans. Soon after arriving in the United States, Father Hoare took the members from the Ticonderoga north to Arkansas, but found that Bishop Byrne had died before telling anyone of the incoming immigrants. Additionally, other settlers had taken all the promised good quality land near Little Rock, leaving little suitable land for farming. So three hundred people went north again to St. Louis and waited there for Father Hoare to scout for land near a town named Dubuque, IA.

Father Hoare traveled upriver to Dubuque stopping at the New Melleray monastery where Father Walsh told him of land available upriver in Allamakee County. There Father Hoare found wonderful land in a scenic setting that reminded him of Ireland and seemed to have qualities including rich black soil needed for a prosperous settlement. Over a period of time, he bought a total of 2157 acres of government land in Lafayette Township and Taylor Township in Allamakee County, Iowa for $1.25 an acre. But when he summoned his flock from St. Louis, only 18 families were still able to come. Many of the travelers couldn’t wait because they were penniless and had taken jobs in St. Louis. Others had left along the way going to Texas. Still others had stayed in New Orleans and Arkansas to take care of sick family members.

The families traveled with optimism upriver on the steamer Franklin landing at Lafayette Landing near the mouth of Priest Coulee “Wexford Creek.” In the same year, other immigrants from the Loodianah and Chasca arrived in Allamakee County. A list of some of the new settlers included: Burn, Brennan, Brinkley, Brophy, Bulger, Collins, Curran, Esmond, Fennel, Finn, Gavin, Heatley, Heyfron, Hoare, Howe, Kavanagh, Joyce, Kelly, Kinsella, Lamb, McKeogh, McNamara, Mullins, Murphy, Noland, O’Neil, Ryans, Stafford, Sullivan, and many others. The new settlers cleared the land of trees, which were used to build cabins, and farmed - raising wheat, corn, potatoes, and cattle.

Three miles upstream from Lafayette Landing away from the Mississippi River, the parishioners built a small log church on a knoll overlooking the Wexford valley. Since the building was completed near the feast day of St. George, the church was dedicated to St. George. Hugh Vincent Gildea, a pioneer church builder in Iowa, was given credit in helping design and build the church as well as a two-story house and barn for Father Hoare. Word spread rapidly about the prosperous community at Wexford, Iowa and many additional immigrants soon arrived.

The settlers at Wexford came with a deep religious faith, hope for a better future, and a brotherly friendship toward neighbors that has been passed down through the generations.


As the population of new immigrants increased in the Wexford valley, the settlers were required to build a number of churches, each bigger than the last, to accommodate the growing number of people. The following short narrative provides information and a brief history of how and when the churches were built as well as some historical perspectives and interesting stories involving events occurring in the past.

Timothy Madden and early settlers in northeast Iowa welcomed the new Irish immigrants and helped with their effort to quickly build St. George’s Chapel, the first Catholic Church built in northeast Iowa. St. George’s Chapel was a small log church located on the edge of a scenic knoll overlooking the Wexford valley. Hugh Vincent Gildea, a pioneer church builder, was given credit for helping to design and build the church at Wexford. The Wexford church was one of several churches built in Iowa under his expert direction and supervision.

Building a log church is quite an undertaking requiring the help and support of the whole community. Men quickly set to work felling trees from the small knoll, which were then cut into logs to build the church. The logs were placed on blocks and held in place with wedges while a light rope coated with crushed charcoal was stretched along the length of the log, lifted, and twanged to mark a straight line. The log was scored along two sides with a double-bladed axe at two to three inch intervals. A broadaxe was used to slice off chips and hew a flat surface on the top and bottom of the log to form the wall logs and support beams. One key to working with logs was to saw or cut joints running against the wood grain and chisel when working with the grain of the wood.

A foundation of limestone rocks was constructed to raise the lower logs off of the ground and keep the wood from rotting. The bottom sills were wooden beams that rested on the rock foundation with sleepers or floor beams running the width of the church spaced at four-foot intervals and covered with boards making a rough but usable floor. The ends of the logs were notched to fit together similar to comers on a Lincoln log set. Joists were set on top forming a point or pitch where the rafters attached. The pitch or angle of the roof was steep to help keep the rain out when using wooden shingles. They originally wanted to use straw bundles to cover the church roof but decided on using oak shingles split using a board brake and shaving knife that pried off individual shingles which were then smoothed before placing on the roof using four and six inch overlaps.

The cracks between the stacked logs were chinked using local clay that was moistened with water and packed between the logs. The chinking helped hold the logs in place and sealed air leaks between the logs. A small fireplace and rock chimney were constructed to keep the church warm in winter.

The parishioners built Father Hoare a comfortable two-story house and a small barn in the vicinity of the church. When he had time between missionary trips, Father Hoare raised crops and kept a few sheep and cattle.

The people of Wexford rejoiced at having a place of worship in a free land away from the greedy landlords and starvation occurring in Europe. They corresponded with friends and relatives telling of this wonderful piece of paradise on earth with acres and acres of good black soil for raising crops.

Within the first year, the number of people in the Wexford area tripled as new settlers arrived from the eastern and southern states as well as many immigrants from Europe. By the late 1850s, the log church was too small to accommodate the large number of parishioners and a larger wooden framed church was built using local lumber cut at nearby sawmills. The wooden church was also called St. George since construction finished near the date of this patron saint. St. George Church, nearly double the size of the log church, was placed near the center of the plateau still commanding a good view of the Wexford valley. The parishioners, including Timothy Madden, completed building St. George Church in late 1857 or early 1858. Father Walsh was the pastor and had the honor of saying the first Mass in the new wooden church that was built with a small earthen basement beneath.

The congregation at Wexford rapidly increased in number and the wooden church was again crowded with every pew full. An especially large number of people attending a memorial Sunday Mass caused the wooden floor in the church to give way dumping many of the parishioners into the earthen basement. Poor old Mrs. Thornton, who was boisterous, large in stature, and quite a bit overweight, yelled in exasperation with the efforts of friends and neighbors to free her “Leave me be. You be bruising me!"

The collapse of the floor necessitated the building of a newer, bigger church which could hold the growing population of Wexford. The people of Wexford wanted to make sure that any future church would be able to stand the rigors of time and hold a larger congregation. They got together and decided to build a church made of limestone rock quarried from the hills in the Wexford valley. The next segment in Wexford Wanderings will take up this adventure.


part I

The people of Wexford wanted to make sure that any future church would be able to stand the rigors of time and hold the ever increasing flock of worshipers. The parishioners decided to build a church made of native rock dug up from the local limestone quarries in the Wexford valley.

Many a stonemason traditionally has felt a deep love for constructing wonderful buildings and monuments made of stones that may last for centuries. Building large structures with stone, especially limestone, dates back to 2800 BC, when the ancient Egyptians built the pyramids using sharp edged stone tools and large hammer stones. The ancient stonemasons used pegs and string to achieve a flat strait surface on the stones top, bottom, and sides by hitting and grinding the stone with different sized hammer stones.

In the Americas, the Inca, Aztec, and Mayan civilizations constructed temples and pyramids made of stone from local quarries using tools made of flint and obsidian. Limestone was the major construction material in many parts of their temples. Limestone remains pliable enough to be worked with stone tools during the quarrying process and only hardens once removed from its bed. As well as the structural use of limestone, most of the ancient mortar mixtures consisted of crushed, burnt, and mixed limestone that mimicked the properties of cement. Later improvements in quarrying techniques by skilled masons reduced the necessity for this mortar as the stones were shaped to fit together perfectly.

It is no wonder the early settlers of Wexford wanted to build their church from limestone, since five of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World contained limestone in their construction process including: 1) the Egyptian pyramids at Giza, 2) the walls in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, 3) the Temple of Artemis (Greek) or Diana (Roman) at Ephesus, 4) the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus in Asia Minor, and 5) the Pharos of Alexandria lighthouse built off of the coast of Egypt. The other two architectural wonders of the ancient world were the 40-foot tall ivory and gold Statue of Zeus (Greek) or Jupiter (Roman) at Olympia and 105-foot tall bronze statue of the Colossus of Rhodes made in the likeness of Helios (Greek) or Apollo (Roman).

In the mid to late 1830's, Father Samuel Mazzuchelli (or Michael Kelly to the Irish) was instrumental in the construction of three limestone structures along the Mississippi River including; St. Raphael's Cathedral at Dubuque, IA, St. Gabriel's Catholic Church in Prairie du Chien, WI, and St. Anthony's Catholic Church in Davenport, IA. Additionally, the original Capitol building for Iowa was built at Iowa City, IA in the 1840's using limestone all through the structure.

Lucky for the early settlers at Wexford, a few of the Irish immigrants were masons who brought with them the traditions and skills of quarrying and working with different types of rock. Other newcomers to the Wexford community were involved in the construction of earlier limestone buildings in other parts of the country. The parish was overjoyed to find rich quantities of high quality limestone in the Wexford area suitable for construction and excellent to use in building a church that would be beautiful to the eye of the beholder and withstand the rigors of time.

In northeast Iowa, the majority of limestone rock quarries contain galena limestone. Limestone is a sedimentary rock that is formed from the layering of formerly living organisms such as coral and seashells. Limestone has a wide range of colors from bone white through tan to a dark grayish hue. One unique characteristic of limestone is the material is soft relative to other rocks with a level of hardness near 3 on the Molis scale. When first removed from the ground, limestone is soft and chalky which makes drilling, forming, and dressing much easier for the masons. Once exposed to air, limestone begins to harden, making the stone an excellent material for buildings.

The Wexford community came together during the construction of the church as parishioners used sledgehammers, chisels, and iron bars to painstakingly break large blocks of limestone at the quarry. Cutting the rock was done with physical labor using specialized tools and by slicing blocks along the natural grain of the rock. The rough stones were piled and heaped onto wagons and hauled back to the construction site using big draft horses.

The whole community helped in moving the building stones, but the following parishioners were given credit in the Wexford Register for having hauled at least eight loads of rock: Flor. Bohrer, Mr. Brady, Mr. Brennan, Ph. Byrne, Mr. Cooney, Pat Crowe, Mr. Doyle, Mr. Duncan, Mr. Healy, Mr. Heatly, Mich. Howe, Mich. Keenan, Mr. Kelly, Pat Kiernan (Kernan), Mr. Lamb, Mr. Mooney, Dan Murphy, John Ryan, Mr. Stafford, and Mich. Thorton.

The actual construction of the church did not begin until Father Mathias Hannon said a prayer and blessed the ground above the site where the church would stand. Before the wall construction started, a layer of mortar was needed below the first row of stones.

The main binding material that holds the limestone blocks in place is mortar consisting of (1) part lime to (3) parts sand mixed in water. When the lime, sand, and water are mixed together, a very plastic and creamy paste of putty is formed that can be applied beneath and between the limestone blocks.

The lime for the construction was made on-site by heating clamshells and limestone pieces to high temperatures driving off the carbon dioxide. As the mortar sets or hardens, a carbonization process occurs converting the lime back into the harder calcium carbonate. The lime takes in carbon dioxide from the air and hardens. Since lime mortar is slightly water soluble, moisture can be used to reseal any hairline cracks during the hardening process. Another advantage of lime mortar is that it is soft and porous resulting in little change in volume and size during temperature changes.

Under the direction of John Doyle, the initial boundaries for the location of the first row of blocks were marked off and a layer of mortar was laid down. The edges of the rough limestone blocks from the quarry were smoothed and formed using specialized hammers and chisels. Stonemasons used wedges, plum lines, and levers to set the stones in a straight line and hammer them into place with wooden mallets.

When the first row was completed, the process was repeated trading layers of stone and mortar while building up the walls. As the walls grew, supporting wedges were removed and mortar was used to fill in the gaps. A sharp tool - "the tuck pointer" - was used to smooth and even out surfaces of the mortar around the rock blocks. Framing was positioned in locations for the windows and doors.

A total community atmosphere was part of the construction process for the church with each family volunteering and taking turns preparing meals and bringing water and drinks to the workers. This was the community's new church and everyone wanted to be involved in the construction process.

Similar to when the church was built, faith in God and love for the neighbors still reverberates through the hills and valleys of Wexford. Please standby, as the story continues next month on the construction of the limestone church.


part II

The new rock church was being built for the communities and everyone wanted to be involved in the construction process. A total community atmosphere prevailed during the construction of the church with each family involved in building their future church.

There were so many people helping that neighbors used nicknames to identify which person they were talking too. They used certain characteristics such as hair color (Red Dan and Black Dan) and (Red Jack and Black Jack). Another characteristic was height or age (Long Ed, Short Ed, Old Ed, and Young Jimmie's Ed) and (Old Pat, Young Pat, and Patsy). Additionally, there was size (Thin Tom and Stout Tom).

Then, they used different derivatives of similar names (Jim, Jimmy, and James) and (Nick, Nickie, and Nicolas). They also combined the first and middle name (John Francis and John Henry). Additionally, they used abbreviations of the first two names, JJ (John Joseph) and JT (John Thomas).

For women, there was [Mary Ann Mike (Mary wife of Mike) or Mary Ann Jerry (Mary wife of Jerry)] or [Katie Mick (Kate wife of Michael) or Katie Pat (Kate wife of Pat)]. Then there were different derivatives of similar names Rose, Rosie, and Rosalie. The system worked perfect with the descriptive names often transplanted from Ireland helping to bring harmony in what could have been chaos.

Under the direction of Hugh Vincent Gildea, the limestone church was constructed with no loss of life or limb. Granted, there were many cuts, bruises, and blisters during the process of chipping, chopping, and hauling over 200 wagon loads of limestone from the quarry to the construction site and during the construction of the walls. Many of the workers went home after a hard days work with aches and pains all over their bodies. Long days were spent working for the future church in the Wexford parish.

During the building process, many a farmer learned to understand and appreciate the skill and talent that masons have acquired in building and constructing with limestone rock. On the other hand, the masons were well pleased with the time and effort of the parishioners who spent many hours digging in the quarry and bringing back to the construction site the best limestone rock to build their future house of worship.

As the limestone walls were rising on the outside of the church, the floor was being built out of sturdy wood harvested from trees cut near the site that were sawn into boards, sanded, shaped, and lovingly fitted into the floor. Large sturdy support beams on which the floorboards rested ran across from one wall to the other. Crossbeams were used with the support beams to further strengthen and support the flooring.

A small dirt basement and storage area was located below the church. For winter heating, a large wood burning stove and a large drying rack for storing kindling and wood were located beneath the church.

A beautiful altar was built near the front of the church on a raised platform that was positioned two steps higher than the floor. A railing was built along the front of the raised platform that allowed the parishioners to kneel in a row along the railing when receiving Holy Communion. In the 1860's, the Catholic Mass was still said in Latin and all of the womenfolk covered their heads when attending church.

To reach the main entrance to the church, a fifteen-step wooden stairway with a small landing on top was built. To help climb the steep set of steps, guardrails were attached to the sides of the stairway, making it easier for the youngest and oldest members of the parish.

Many of the pews from the previous wooden church were lengthened, refinished, and given a new coat of varnish. Additional wooden pews that were longer and wider were made to accommodate the larger space and increased size in the new limestone church. The pews were placed in two rows facing the front of the church with an aisle between the pew's end and the wall and a larger aisle separating the pews in the middle.

Wooden kneelers were built into the bottom back of the pews to accommodate the parishioners in the pew row behind. In front of the first row of pews, there was a railing with a kneeler attached to the bottom to be used by occupants in the first pew.

My dad has an interesting true life story about the pews that I would like to share with you. During one hot summer, the pews in the church were given a good heavy coat of varnish at the beginning of the week. This week had been extremely hot and humid and the varnish on the pews did not thoroughly dry. During Sunday services, Father Laffan gave a rather long and meaningful sermon on the evil of sin and the suffering in hell where brimstone and hellfire would torment the wicked for eternity. By the end of the sermon, people's clothes were sticking to the pews with many of the congregation practically losing their clothes with shirts, trousers, blouses, and skirts stuck to the tacky glue-like varnish.

There was a time when bids were taken on the pews for pew rental with the front pews going for a much higher price than the rear pews. People even put their names on plates at the end of their pews laying claim to that specific location. Today, the names are gone from the pews but many family groups in the congregation still sit in the "family pew". To this day, some people do not like moving away from the comfort of their own pew during Sunday services.

Another segment on the limestone church construction will continue next time.


part III

Using the architectural design of Hugh Vincent Gildea and the construction knowledge of John Doyle, the limestone walls were constructed with evenly spaced openings for exquisite stained glass windows. Soon after the construction, the best quality multi-colored glass windows that money could buy were made for and used in the Wexford church.

The overall shape and design of the windows reminds me of a real long native American arrowhead similar in shape to a Clovis or Folsom point starting at a single tip on top then widening out into a long rectangular shape with a straight horizontal bottom. Today's youth would find the shape similar to that of a stout Apollo rocket ship sitting on the pad prior to launch.

When the sun shines through the multi-colored glass, a dazzling array of colors comes out of the many different shapes and sizes of embedded glass, reminding one of what an angel observes from heaven with an unearthly radiance composed of changing shadow from the darker stained glass and brilliant sparkling cascading colors from the light-colored glass pieces. On a bright sunny day, the overall effect from light passing through the twelve main windows stimulates and tingles the sense of sight, activating the visual center of the brain, forming wonderful, inspiring images.

An especially appealing feature found in the lower section of each of the windows is the four circles of green connected together in the center by a circular piece of gold glass forming the shape of a "lucky" four-leaf clover in remembrance of Saint Patrick, the famous Irish Saint who used an Irish shamrock to help teach how the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were combined together into one.

Each of the main windows in the church has a similar design consisting of a lower, middle, and upper section as described in the next few paragraphs. In the lower section of each window centered inside a square is the four-leaf clover shape with a double layer of circular shaped glass that is surrounded with a thin layer of pieces of multi-colored glass, This glass square is bracketed on each side by a glass piece, forming a small rocket ship shape centered inside a square pane of glass.

Below the four-leaf clover shape is a rectangular pane of bright, blood-red glass surrounded by a thin layer of different-colored glass and bracketed on either side by white squares. Ten of the windows have a message in white embedded inside the red, rectangular glass. Some of the windows have sustained damage from over a century and a half of wear from the ravages of Iowa's harsh weather. The replaced glass sections are easily recognized and stand out from the quality and vibrant colors of the original stained glass.

The middle section of each window on the east side of the church is composed of a large, centered, rectangular sheet of translucent yellow glass surrounded by a light greenish sheet of glass. Next, on all sides is a colorful pinkish pillar-shaped glass bracketed by thin white glass. The glass layer nearest the wooden frame of the window is a vibrant maroon.

The upper section or pointed part of each window contains an interlaced floral design of glass and a large central circle with biblical symbols or Christian images inside the circle. Each window contains different symbols or images.

On the east side of the church starting from the back, the first window has a red circle on top containing a large male lion with bright eagle wings. The bible mentions a lion with the wings of an eagle, which could be a reference to St. Mark, who in Revelations is depicted as a lion with wings.

The red rectangle on the bottom of the window has IN MEMORY OF REV. THOMAS HOARE DONATED BY THE FIRST SETTLERS. This window was dedicated to the missionary priest who founded the Wexford parish. It is interesting to note that often the spelling of the last name of the immigrants was changed or Americanized when they come to this country. In many references of the period, the spelling of Father Hoare's last name is often found as Father Hore or Father Hoar.

The next window on the east side has a blue circle on top containing a golden crown with a cross inside. These symbols may be an old Masonic symbol that symbolize Christ the King and his triumph over death on the cross. The red rectangle in the bottom has DAVID BORER. There is a David Bohrer born 13 May 1840, died 25 June 1923 buried at the Gethsemane Cemetery near Lansing. Again, the last name has been Americanized from Borer to Bohrer.

The middle window on the east side has a red circle on top containing a crown of thorns with three spikes (two on top and one on the bottom) and the inscription INRI inside a rectangle. The symbols represent the instruments used in Christ's Passion and Crucifixion and the letters INRI were on the placard near the top of the cross and stands for Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. The red rectangle on the bottom states QUIGLY FAMILY. The Quigley family hailed from County Kilkenny, Ireland and three Quigleys are buried in the Wexford cemetery. The Quigly last name has been Americanized with an additional e added between the i and y.

The next window on the east side has a blue circle on top containing a Priest's hands holding a chalice. The chalice is the one of the most important vessels used in the Catholic Church. The chalice is used in the Eucharist and for Catholics holds the blood of Christ. It has been consecrated by a bishop and is closely associated with the parish priest. The red rectangle says JOHN S BORER FAMILY. John S. Bohrer, born 28 February 1828, died 19 February 1908, is buried at Wexford. Other Bohrers buried at Wexford include, Jacob Bohrer, native of Canton Solenthurn, Switzerland, died 26 February 1855 at age 67 years; his wife Anna Maria Bohrer, native of Canton Solenthurn, Switzerland, died at age 67 years; and Mary (Bohrer) Hurm, native of Canton Solenthurn, Switzerland, died 22 May 1861 at age 41, wife of Mathias Hurm.

The window on the east side nearest the front altar has a red circle on top with a white mother bird feeding two young chicks. In Syriac Christianity, the Holy Spirit's image was often depicted as that of a brooding or hovering mother bird taking care of her chicks. The white color indicates purity of spirit. The red rectangle has M. & T. MOONEY. Michael Mooney, native of Dublin, Ireland was born in 1815, died 21 May 1904, and his son Thomas Mooney was born 12 May 1842, died 29 March 1910. There are currently 21 people having Mooney as the last name buried in the Wexford cemetery.

Since there is so much information and each window seemingly tells its own story, the tale will continue next time with the windows on the west side and front of the church. A special thanks goes to Msgr. Cletus Hawes and Maurice Mooney for providing information used in this article.


part IV

The windows located on the west side of the church do not receive as much direct sunlight through the multi-colored glass. Yet, the sun shining through still provides a dazzling array of colors as the light passes through the many different shapes and sizes of embedded glass. They have an unearthly radiance composed of shifting shadows from the darker stained glass and subdued sparkling colors from the lighter colored glass pieces.

Additionally, the windows on the west side of the church are similar in arrangement and design as the east side windows, except for the center section where the green and translucent yellow colored panes of glass are switched so it is green in the middle then translucent yellow.

The window on the west side nearest the front altar has a red circle with a white sacrificial lamb on an altar holding a banner in its mouth. Christ offering himself up as the Paschal Lamb, similar to Passover, to atone for our sins with the banner signifying Resurrection, victory over death. The red rectangle has IN MEMORY OF M. & M. QUIGLY. Michael Quigley was a native of Kilkenny, Ireland, who died 2 February 1877 aged 47 years, and his wife Mary Quigley, born 1830 and died 12 September 1895. Adding the "e" between the l and y has Americanized the last name.

The second window from the front on the west side has a circle of crackled blue glass containing a heart encircled with a crown of thorns and topped by a fiery wooden cross. This is the symbol of the Sacred Heart of Jesus indicated by the heart of Jesus surrounded by a crown of thorns, behind which lay a burning fire of love in the form of the burning cross. The red rectangle in the bottom reads PATRICK KIERNAN FAMILY. Like many of the pioneer farm families, the Patrick Kernan family was large by today's standards with seven sons and two daughters including Thomas, James, Patrick, Stephen, Michael, Simon, Joseph, Catherine (Kernan) Delaney, and Mary (Kernan) Niblock. Dropping the "i" between the k and e has Americanized the last name. There are at least 18 people having the last name of Kernan buried in the Wexford cemetery.

The middle window on the west side has a red circle with three letters superimposed to form what looks like a crest. It could be the crest for St. George since the first two churches at Wexford were named for St. George and there is a St. George School in the Virgin Islands with a similar crest. Maybe someone who is better qualified can make a positive identification of the crest. The red rectangle at the bottom has IN MEMORY OF M. & M. GLEASON. Margaret Gleason, born 1825, died 28 April 1905; Martin Gleason, born 31 August 1861, died 2 July 1892; and Michael Gleason, born 1 May 1854, died 15 November 1931, are buried in the Wexford cemetery.

The next window on the west side has a blue circle containing a chalice held in a priest's hand with the other hand holding a host above the chalice. The chalice is used to hold blessed wine, which for Catholics symbolizes the Blood of Christ. The host symbolizes the body of Christ. The red rectangle at the bottom of the window states REV. M. J. HETHERINGTON. Father Hetherington was a native of Ireland and served as pastor and the eleventh priest at Wexford from 1891-1898. It was during his pastorate that the bell was installed in the tower atop the church. He was really active in spiritual work organizing the parishioners into bible study groups, societies, and sodalities. A sodality is a voluntary association of the faithful that is established and guided by competent ecclesiastical authority for the promotion of special works of Christian charity or piety.

The window on the west side closest to the back of the church has a plain pink circle with no symbols or letters. The original glass may have been damaged in the past and replaced with plain pink glass. The red rectangle on the bottom states DONATED BY HUGH CONWAY AND FAMILY. Hugh Conway was born 15 August 1835 and died 8 October 1909. There are at least fourteen people with the last name of Conway buried at Wexford.

The window on the west side of the front entrance has a blue circle containing a large bull with wings. In Revelation(s) St. Luke was often depicted as an ox with wings. The red rectangle on the window has no writing.

The window on the east side of the front entrance has a blue circle with the Archangel Michael who looks over and protects the church from any harm for all time. It seems fitting that the Wexford church should be protected by one of the most powerful of the Archangels. The red rectangle on the window has no writing.

Above the entrance of the door is a transom made of a multi-colored glass with the original inscription "DONATED BY MICHAEL MOONEY 1848." When the bell tower on the front of the church was added in 1894, the window was relocated and is now inscribed with "IMMACULATE CONCEPTION 1848."

There is mystery surrounding the date of 1848 on the window. Was this date important to the early French and Irish settlers who were already in Iowa or to the newly arriving immigrants with Father Hoare? There is a record of a log cabin "Cabin Hill" being built by the colonist French as a place for missionary priests to stop and say mass when they traveled up and down the river visiting Winnebago Indians. Cabin Hill preceded the arrival of Father Hoare. Michael Mooney's obituary indicated that when he came to Lafayette Township there were only eight other settlers present. Additionally, parishioners from the Wexford church celebrated its Centennial in 1948.

Or, did the arriving immigrants with Father Hoare have some special reference to the year 1848, maybe as the date when the decision was made to come to America? Was the window made in Ireland or in the United States? Many questions are still left unanswered.

When the bell tower was added in the front of the church, a multi-colored glass-plated oval window was positioned on the bell tower halfway between the entrance door and the platform where the round dome starts. Much later, Micky Madden donated a light in remembrance of his mother Mary (Manton) Madden that shines through this oval window seemingly beckoning and lighting the way for the faithful to the church. Today the Immaculate Conception Church at Wexford has from dusk to dawn an electric light shining through the oval window.

When observing the inside of the church, one could imagine the original parishioners kneeling in prayer with their special request and petitions twirling within the church then being directed by the overall design of the church's inside and windows to be reverently sent upward toward the mighty power on high.

A special thanks goes to Msgr. Cletus Hawes, Father Louis Trzil, Francis and Leonette (Mullarkey) Kernan, Jimmy Conway, and Dan Conway for supplying information used in this article.

page 1-- Introduction & Articles: 1-5
page 2 -- Articles: 6-10
page 3 --
Articles: 11-15
page 5 - Articles: 22 & 23

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