Patrick’s Catholic church in Lee township will observe the 100th
anniversary of its founding at special services this Sunday,
Edward C. Daly, O. P. Bishop of Des Moines diocese will give the mass at 8:30 a.m., followed by a centennial
permitting, a ham dinner will be served on the church grounds from
noon until 2:00 p.m. Sunday. Fr.
John Hart is the present pastor of St. Patrick’s parish.
It was Father Hart who conducted some extensive historical
research this summer and learned that St. Patrick’s church dates
back to the year 1852, instead of the previously assumed founding
date of 1856.
Father Hart has written a complete history of the church and the
Irish settlement where it is located, in which he relates that St.
Patrick’s is older than any Catholic parish in Des Moines and in
the early days served as a focal point for all Catholics in south
The first log
church at St. Patrick’s was built in 1852, on the 40 acres of
land in the southeast quarter of section 32 of Lee township.
Gillaspie, a pioneer resident of the Irish settlement, wrote the
following account in an early Madison
county history: “Some
were for having the Church and the cemetery on the north side of
North River, and others for having it on the south side.
In the meantime, a government surveyor, returning from
further west, getting sick, at the home of Patrick Walsh on the
south side, died. The corpse
was prepared for the grave. Mr.
Walsh and some neighbors left home to locate a burying ground,
when some half a dozen smart fellows from the north side slipped
in, took up the corpse and started to the cemetery on the north
side. So where the cemetery
was, the church should be near, and as a majority of the people
were on the north side, the people built a good-sized church in
quotation is the one which gave the mistaken idea that St.
Patrick’s parish was established in 1856.
By the year
1868, the original log church has been outgrown, and it was
decided that a larger frame church should be built at the Irish
Settlement. This new church
was built under the direction of Father Brazill, since he still
had St. Patrick’s as a mission. This
church still stands and is in use at the present time.
early days, the parish enjoyed a rapid growth.
From February 1874 to June of 1875, Father Patrick Smith
baptized 47 infants, and witnessed eight weddings.
Early in 1877, Rev. Michael Rice1 was sent to the Irish
Settlement, and for the next seven years remained as pastor.
In those seven years there were a total of 324 baptisms.
One of the
more interesting considerations of the St. Patrick’s parish is
in the territory which it served.
The first pastor was Father Timothy N.
Mullen, who made the
Irish Settlement his headquarters as early as 1852, and was make
missionary extraordinary between Fort Des Moines
and Council Bluffs. Since there
was no other priest closer than Ottumwa, the territory of the
parish was about the same size as the entire diocese of Des Moines
Some of the
men of St. Patrick’s parish, from the earliest times, dedicated
themselves to the Priesthood. These
include Father Daniel Mulvhill, Msgr. Henry Malone, Father J. C.
White, and Father John Weill.
who left the parish to enter religious life include: Cecilia
Durigan, who took the name of Sister M. Victoria; Mary A. Crogan
took the name of Sister M. Kiernan; Mary Kiernan took the name of
Sister M. Juanita in the order of St. Francis at LaCrosse,
Wisconsin; Ann Connor took the name of Sister M. Benedict in the
order of St. Benedict in Guthrie, Oklahoma; Agnes Caffery took the
name of Sister M. Aquinas with the Sisters of St. Joseph at
LaGrange, Illinois; Theresa Cain took the name of Sister M. Angele
with Ursuline Sisters of St. Louis, Missouri; Catherine Connor
became Sister M. Alberta and joined her aunt in the Order of St.
Benedict; Josephine Dooley took the name of Sister M. Sheila with
the order of St. Francis of Clinton, Iowa; two sisters, Sheila and
Susanne Mulvhill have entered the Sisters of Charity and taken the
names of Sister M. James Catherine and Sister M. Susan.
approximately 40 families that now make up the St. Patrick’s
congregation, about 85 percent can trace their ancestry back to
the early settlers. Some
families are still on the farms first claimed by great
in a few cases, there is the sixth generation in the Irish
|Taken from an
article published in the Winterset Madisonian, date
by Judy Wight Branson