2429 Jasper Avenue, Muscatine
Seventy-Six Township,
Muscatine County, Iowa

St. Malachy’s of Ardon Preservation Society

    The vision of this non-profit corporation is as follows:

    * To maintain the church building and grounds as a community historical landmark
    * To make the building useful to the surrounding community, i.e.: theater, lecture facility, meeting place
    * To restore the building to some point in its architectural history, i.e.: raise the steeple, uncover frescos

    To become a member of the St. Malachy’s Preservation Association please contact
    Mike Furlong at 2391 Independence Ave, Letts, IA 52754. Email address: mikefurlong76@gmail.com

    For inquiries regarding St. Malachy's records of baptism, confirmation, marriage and funerals, please contact:
    St. Joseph Parish, Office Secretary
    815 Second St., Columbus Junction, IA 52738-1205

Cemetery Records Preservation Association Special Events

History of St. Malachy’s Church of Ardon, Iowa
Source: “St. Malachy’s Church of Ardon, Iowa, Cookbook, 1988”
Printed by Jumbo Jack’s Cookbook Co. P.O. Box 247, Audubon, Iowa

In the late 1840’s and early 1850’s, a number of Irish Catholic families, driven from Ireland by the potato famine, settled near relatives and acquaintances in 76 Township in Muscatine County, Iowa.

These immigrants and other Catholic families in the area established the parish of St. Malachy’s of Ardon in 1856, a brick church built 1 ½ miles west of the village of Ardon on present day X-43 north of the existing 76 township hall. Bartholomew Cashman donated one acre of land for the structure with the construction done mainly by the parishioners, the brick being fired in a kiln ¼ mile north of the church. Ten acres of timber land across the road were given by the Thomas Kelly family for fuel. The new church was named after a twelfth century Bishop of Ireland, St. Malachy. Because of the shortage of priests in this area, Bishop Loras of the Diocese of Dubuque (the Davenport diocese was created in 1881) designated St. Malachy’s an out-mission to be served when a priest was available.

The first assignment was from St. James Church in Washington, Iowa, with Father William Purcell riding horseback the 35 miles on the last weekend of the month and staying at the Cashman log cabin. The priest would baptize infants, perform weddings, have Sunday Mass, then head back to Washington.

In 1860 St. Malachy’s was served by Father Phillip Laurent from St. Mathias in Muscatine with services still only once a month. Later in the same century (1882), responsibility was given to St. Mary’s Church in Nichols.

Because of overflowing attendance, in 1902 it was decided to build a new frame church, with a tall steeple to be seen for miles, on a rise of land ½ west of Ardon where the Milwaukee tracks intersected the gravel road leading to St. Malachy’s cemetery. (The cemetery was started in 1850 with the burial of James O’Brien on land donated by the John Byrne family). Such was the sharing spirit at the time, that many non-Catholics contributed to the building fund with Isaac Lee donating the acre of land for the church site.

The new church continued to be served by the priests from Nichols until 1920 when it was assigned to St. Mathias again. In 1930 responsibility was transferred to St. Mary’s at Wilton and remained there until 1968 when Father Lenoch, principal of Hayes Catholic High School in Muscatine, conducted services.

By June of 1969 St. Malachy’s was ministered to by priests from St. Mary’s in Muscatine until mid 1972 when the parish was again assigned to St. Mary’s of Nichols under the care of Father Sullivan who had St. Joseph’s in Columbus Junction also.

This alignment continued, even though the Nichols pastor’s residence was moved from Nichols to Columbus Junction, until August of 1988. During this period, Father Farrell from St. Ambrose College served in the spring and summer of 1987. A realignment of parishes in the fall of 1988 brought St. Mary’s of Wapello to our group of three churches with St. Mary’s of Nichols re-assigned to the priest at Lone Tree.

Over the years, the appearances of St. Malachy’s has been altered as weather and time took their toll. The stable for horses no longer sets across the road and two stained glass windows high in the tower are gone, but a side door has been added. In 1918 a choir loft was built and in 1927 the present cement steps and porch replaced narrow wooden steps, Later, the ceiling frescoes’ were covered over and in the 1940’s Miss Bride Coady paid for the installation of electricity. In the early 1950’s the old wood and coal burning furnace was replaced with an oil burner.

In 1952, the present interior was completed and later the round, stained window behind the altar was removed. The grounds were landscaped with trees in 1982 and the windows protected from vandals and the elements with clear Lexan in 1984. The trains that interrupted many a Sunday service and thrilled the children in summer Bible school finally ceased and the high wooden bridge spanning the tracks was removed in 1984.

During this period the cemetery was improved also by the donation of a wrought iron front fence in 1952 by Miss Bride Coady. In 1983 a heavy duty panel fence surrounding the graveyard was installed.

Father Steve Ebel celebrated Mass weekly at St. Malachy’s of Ardon in a setting the 1902 parishioners would be comfortable with, as the original pews, statues, altars and railing, and stained glass windows are intact. In 1981 the old brick church was torn down.

St. Malachy’s parish was suppressed June 29, 1991 by the Bishop of Davenport due to a severe shortage of priests in the diocese. A non-profit corporation (St. Malachy’s of Ardon Preservation Society) was formed in June of 1991, to take ownership of the building, contents and grounds.

Rev. William Purcell 1856-1860 Served from Washington (Monthly)
Rev. Philip Laurent 1860-1882 Muscatine St. Mathias (Monthly)
Rev. William Purcell 1882-1889 Nichols
Rev. Robert Nolan 1890-1901 Nichols
Rev. Michael Nolan 1901-1905 Nichols
Rev. Bernard Fitzsimmons 1905-1913 Nichols
Rev. James O’Neil 1914-1916 Nichols
Rev. Maurice Kissane 1917-1919 Nichols
Rev. Timothy Leahy 1920-1925 St. Mathias
Rev. Edward Cone 1924-? St. Mathias
Rev. Paul Moore 1925-? St. Mathias
Rev. Charles VanWaus 1926 Buffalo
Rev. Jacob Schoenfelder 192?-? Wilton
Rev. John Cash 19?-? Wilton
Rev. James Brady 193?-1939 Wilton
Rev. Benjamin Barnes 1939 Wilton
Rev. Richard Egan 1939-1943 Wilton
Rev. Edward O’Hair 1943-? Wilton
Rev. John McEniry   assisted from St. Ambrose Academy, Davenport
Rev. Anthony Conrad   assisted from Assumption High School, Davenport
Rev. Vincent Morrissey 1958-? Wilton
Rev. William Wiebler   assisted from Assumption High School, Davenport
Rev. Marvin Eldred   assisted from Assumption High School, Davenport
Rev. Francis Lenoch 1968-1969 Principal of Hayes Catholic High School, Muscatine
Rev. Carl Clems 1969-? Muscatine, St. Mary’s
Rev. William Meyers   Muscatine, St. Mary’s
Rev. Thomas Buechele ?-1972 Muscatine, St. Mary’s
Rev. William Sullivan 1972-1979 Nichols
Rev. Walter Helms 1979-1985 Nichols
Rev. Theodore Borger 1985-1987 Nichols then Columbus Junction
Rev. Anthony Farrell 1987 St. Ambrose College, Davenport
Rev. Stephen Ebel 1987-1991 Columbus Junction

Page updated June 14, 2011

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Page created on March, 2010 Lynn McCleary