Nichols, Iowa Centennial Book
Nichols - Our Town - 1984


Nichols, Iowa Centennial Book 1884-1984, pages 16-21

         In the early 1800s when the Jesuit missionaries crossed the Mississippi River at Dubuque, the Catholic Church expanded into the Iowa area of the Wisconsin Territory. The Very Rev. Charles Mazzuchelli, a Dominican missionary, was the first priest assigned to the Territory of Iowa, and through his efforts the first Catholic Church was erected in Iowa City.
         In 1853 the Bishop of Dubuque appointed Rev. Mathias Hannon, an Irish born priest, to assist the Rev. J. P. McCornick at St. Mary’s in Iowa City. Father Hannon conducted missions in more than 25 adjoining localities around Iowa City, including Nichols (then known as Nichols Station). Father Hannon served until 185 and was succeeded at St. Mary’s, Iowa aCity, by Father Michels and Father William Emonds.
         During the early 1870s, a growing number of predominantly Dutch, German and Irish Catholics in the Nichols community began a serious effort to build a church. Up to that time, the few scattered families of Catholics had to go long distances, either to Iowa City, Davenport or Muscatine, to worship.
         On 17 September 1874, the first meeting to make arrangements for building was held. A committee of six, James Ryan, John Brugman, Arnold Hiebing, Stephen Brugman, Patarick Barry and Timothy Sullivan, were appointed as a building committee. The task was no easy one. Without a resident pastor to lead them, small numbers and not much money, the church to be erected could not be a very pretentious one.
         Being aware that the deceased Samuel Nichols had provided in his will that his estate furnish half the brick for the first church built in town, the committee availed themselves of this generous offer and with the subscription of the members of the church and of their friends, they erected and completed the old St. Mary’s Church. It served for nearly thirty years.
         In 1876 the Rev. Nicholas Duggan, pastor of St. Mary’s Church in Wilton and also serving as pastor of the Nichols church, sent a petition to the Most Rev. R. J. Hennessey, D. D., Bishop of Ddubuque, bearing 36 signatures pledging $491 a year to support a priest at Nichols Station. The first resident pastor was Rev. William Purcell, coming to Nichols Station in March of 1877.
         Early baptisms are recorded at St. Mary’s Church in Wilton. Baptisms of Catholic children born in the Nichols Station area from 1870 through 1876 are also found at West Liberty. From 1876 through that year, Nichols Station is mentioned. Father Duggan baptized eight children listed under Nichols Station in 1876. The last record listing Nichols Station is on 17 December 1876.
         A growing congregation saw the need for a larger and better equipped church. Thus it was that in 1904, under the direction of the pastor, the Rev. M. F. Nolan, a building committee of four was selected. On the committee were Frank Ryan, Albert Hazen, Henry Hiebing and Henry Brugman.
         In April of 1904, the first St. Mary’s Church was dismantled and six months later, on Sunday, 30 October 1904, the newer St. Mary’s Church was dedicated. The account of the dedication taken from The Gazette newspaper of October 1904 stated that the church was “the most richly constructed and handsome building in the state, considering its size.” The main building was 40 feet by 77 feet with 18 feet sidewalls. The outer walls were made of St. Louis Pressed brick, and the tower rose one hundred feet from the base, topped by a gold-leaf cross.
         Father M. F. Nolan, who succeeded his deceased brother, Father Robert Nolan in July 1901, successfully took charge of raising funds to build the $18,000 building. It is interesting to note that the town’s bank, the Nichols Savings Bank, advertised their capital and surplus funds as totaling $17,000, a figure less than the members of the church donated to build this new place of worship. The building stood until the spring of 1920, when defective wiring was blamed for the tragic fire that destroyed the building.
         Father M. W. Kissne and five committeemen, Lawrence Foley, Thomas Dean, Arnold Kaalberg, Louis Hiebing and G. B. Bekker, worked with parishioners to begin the task of rebuilding. The church was rebuilt on the old walls, which had survived the fire. The cost of the new building was $30,699, plus donations for the stained glass windows. A large debt of $11,800 remained after the 1920 fire.
         Father T. P. Coleman served six years as pastor and was instrumental in reducing the debt. The depression followed, and it was not until 1944 that the last $1400 of the obligation was met.
         In 1940 the church was redecorated. Lightning struck the steeple of St. Mary’s Church on 5 July 1953. Slate shingles torn from the roof littered the yard, and extensive damage resulted. The following Sunday prayers were offered in thanksgiving as no fire had resulted. The church tower and steeple were repaired.
         One topic much discussed by parishioners when they were building the new church in 1920 was the need for a full basement under the church for parish and community meetings. Poor water drainage made such a basement inadvisable.
         In 1955 a new 38 foot by 90 foot cinderblock building, complete with cooking and meeting facilities, was built at a cost of $15,900 and an estimated 600 days of donated parish labor.
         The new building was dedicated 31 January 1956 following a solemn High Mass. Celebrant was Rev. L. J. Brugman, who was pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Ottumwa, Iowa, at that time. He was the first priest to be ordained from the Nichols parish on 26 April 1936. The most Rev. Ralph L. Hayes, D. D., Bishop of the Diocese of Davenport, gave the sermon, which also marked the eightieth anniversary of the parish with a resident pastor and the twentieth anniversary as a priest for the Rev. L. J. Vogel, pastor of St. Mary’s at Nichols.
         Following Vatican II, held from 1963 to 1965, a new era began in the Roman Catholic Church.
         In 196 new pews were installed and a new carpet was put down. The permanent altar faces the congregation. This was a change that came about following Vatican II. The communion railing was removed to unite the parish and priest in celebrating the Mass together. In the present St. Mary’s the tabernacle rests on the portable altar used immediately following Vatican II and now is permanently mounted below the suspended crucifix on the south wall of the church.
         There is a Pariah Council, and the ladies of the parish have the Altar and Rosary Society.
         CCD classes are held during the year for those of school age. Each summer members of the Franciscan Sisters of Clinton, Iowa, conduct week-long classes in religious education.
         Twelve families participate in offering bits of bread and wine each Sunday and join with St. Mary’s choir to complete the liturgy for the sacrifice of the Mass.
         The rectory formerly sat on the corner lot directly west of the church. The present parish rectory is situated northwest across the street from the church. It was the home of John Foley and Agnes O’Brien Foley and was given to the church in their will. It has been rewired, interior improvements made and covered with white vinyl siding in 1976.
         Nine women from St. Mary’s have become nuns:
         Wilhelmina Agnes Brugman entered St. Rose Franciscan Convent at LaCrosse, Wisconsin, 8 December 1895. She died 21 January 1896 and was returned home for burial as a novice.
         Sister Wendeline Brugman, born 19 October 874, entered the convent in 1892, and died on26 October 1956. She served in the Wisconsin Indian Mission. Both she and Wilhelmina were daughters of Stephen Brugman and Hendrina Hiebing Brugman.
         Sister Mary Digna, born 6 March 1876, entered the convent in 1897. She died 21 February 1964 and is buried at The Villa in LaCrosse, Wisconsin. She was a teacher.
         Sister Mary Cordula, born 1877, entered the convent in 1895 and was a nurse. She died 15 April 1975 and is buried in The Villa in LaCrosse, Wisconsin.
         Sister Mary Regis was born 30 April 1881, entered the convent in 1904, died 28 September 1965, buried at The Villa, LaCrosse, Wisconsin. She was a nurse.
         Sister Mary Adele was born in 1916 and entered the convent 5 August 153. She is a teacher. She was the daughter of Henry Brugman and Anna Milder Brugman.
         Another daughter of Henry and Anna Milder Brugman, Sister Mary Hendrina, was born 31 July 1919 and entered the convent 27 August 1948. She is a seamstress.
         Sister Mary Julia, daughter of Henry Schaapveld and Cecelia Milder Schaapveld, entered the Holy Cross Order, Notre Dame, Indiana, on 2 February 1944. Sister Mary Julia spent three years doing missionary work in East Bengal, Pakistan. She presently [1984] works as a lay instructor and overseer in the Department of Psychiatric Nursing at Purdue and Northwestern Universities.
         Sister Mary Ramona is the daughter of Frank Kaalberg and Marie Milder Kaalberg, and entered the Order of the Sisters of Humility of Mary on 8 September 1956. She was graduated with a Doctor of Philosophy from Peabody College in Nashville, Tennessee, and is now an Associate Professor of Education at Marycrest College in Davenport, Iowa.
         The John Brugman and Marie Healy Brugman family gave two sons to the priesthood. Father Leonard J. Brugman was the first priest ordained from the Nichols parish on 26 April 1936. He said his first Mass the following day in his home church.
         Father Bernard Brugman was ordained to the priesthood on 18 September 1943 and also offered his first Mass at St. Mary’s in Nichols.
         Those who have served the St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Nichols are: Rev. William Purcell, 1877-1899, also had charge of Lone Tree, Riverside and Seventy Six; Father Robert Nolan, 1890-1901, also had charge of Lone Tree and Seventy Six, died in Nichols on 10 June 1901 and was succeeded by his brother; Father M. F. Nolan, 1901-1 905, also had charge of Seventy Six and Lone Tree.
         The Rev. B. J. Fitzsimons, 1905-1913, also had Seventy Six; Father J. A. O’Neil, 1914-1916, with Seventy Six as an outmission; Father M. W. Kissane, gave up Seventy Six in 1919 but took care of West Liberty from 1919 to 1921; Father Thomas P. Coleman, 1922-1926, also had charge of Columbus Junction and Wapello.
         Father H. M. Thoman, 1926-1931, also had Columbus Junction and Wapello; Father P. D. Moore, 1931-1937, also had Wapello; Father H. M. Staunton, 1939-1944, also had Wapello; Father L. J. Vogel, 1944-1964, also had Wapello; Father John Hebenstreit, 1964-1969, also had Wapello; Father Sullivan, 1969-1979, also had Columbus Junction and Ardon; and Father Walter Helms, since 1979, serving in addition St. Joseph’s at Columbus Junction and St. Malachy at Ardon, Iowa.

~ St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church – page 16.
~ St. Mary’s interior – Easter – 1982. – page 16.
~ St. Mary’s Catholic Church – on fire in 1920. – page 17.
~ Father Walter Helms, Pastor – St. Mary’s Church; Nichols. – page 17.
~ St. Mary’s Catholic Church in 1904 – page 17.
~ Present Rectory – St. Mary – page 18.
~ First Rectory – built in 1892. – page 18.
~ Parish Hall constructed in 1955. – page 18.
~ Interior of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in 1904. – page 18.
~ St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetery. – page 19.
~ Sister Mary Julia – page 19.
~ Sister Mary Ramona – page 19.
~ Sister Mary Adele – page 19.
~ Sister Mary Hendrina – page 19.
~ Father Leonard Brugman – page 19.
~ Father Bernard Brugman – page 19.
~ Rev. William Sullivan – page 20.
~ Rev. Lawrence J. Vogel – page 20.
~ Gayle Kaalberg, President of St. Mary’s Parish Council presenting Leo Van Aken a plaque for his serive to the Church 1970. – page20.
St. Mary’s Parish Council (members and officers 1984); Robert DeReimacher, Father Walter Helms, Gayle Kaalberg (treasurer), Eugene Brugman, Ann Wieskamp (secretary), Margaret Kaalberg (president), Judy Wieskamp. – page 20
~ Officers, St. Mary’s Altar & Rosary Society 1984: Mary Carter, treasurer; Marie Kaalberg, secretary; Judy Wieskamp, president.- page 20.
~ St. Mary’s Religious Education instructors: Father Walter Helms, parish pastor, instructor grades 9 thru 12; Carol Kaalberg – parish religious coordinator, 3, 4 & 5; Martha Peterson, 6, 7 & 8; John Stroppel, 1 & 2. – page 21.
~ Annual Christmas Potluck, 1983 – Back row, Joe Stroppel, Sparky Stroppel, Jason Simmonds; Front frow, Jennifer Simmonds, Katina Kaalberg, Galo Stroppel, Brian Wieskamp. – page 21.

Nichols Octogenarians Are Life-Time Members of St. Mary’s Church
Nichols, Iowa Centennial Book 1884-1984, page 21

         John Foley and Henry Salemink will be singled out for special recognition when St Mary’s church of Nichols Tuesday celebrates the 80th anniversary of the coming of the first president priest.
         Both are 80 years old and both are life-time members of the Nichols church.
         John Foley, son of Dennis Foley and Mary Wickham Foley, was born near Nichols, then known as Nichols Station, on August 8, 1875. He is the last surviving of four children. His parents came from Ireland to this country in the sixties.
         Mr. Foley married Agnes O’Brien June 9, 1915, in St. Malachy’s church, Ardon, Iowa.
         He has lived under the shadow of the steeple of St. Mary’s church since 1912. He has the distinction of being not only an 80-year continuous member of St. Mary’s church but also of being the first child baptized in the first little St. Mary’s church in Nichols Station by the late Father Nicholas Duggan, then resident pastor of St. Mary’s church at Wilton.
         Henry Salemink, son of Henry Salemink and Mary Wieskamp Salemink, was born at Nichols on August 1, 1875, just a week before the birth of Mr. Foley in the same community.
         Mr. Salemink is the only surviving child of four children. He married Dora Epping on April 30, 1923. They have one son, Richard Salemink. Mr. Salemink has lived his entire life – a member of St. Mary’s church, Nichols.

St. Mary's Cemetery
Nichols, Iowa Centennial Book 1884-1984, page 21

         The St. Mary’s Cemetery was established on a country hill two miles west of Nichols in the early days of the church. From 1877 to 1905 both St. Mary’s of Nichols and St. Mary’s of Lone Tree were served by the same pastor, and thus a burial site was selected between the two towns.
         Two former pastors are buried in this cemetery, Father Robert J. Nolan and his brother, Father M. F. Nolan. An Italian marble altar was erected on these priests’ lot in 1955 by the Nichols and Lone Tree pastors, Rev. L. J. Vogel and Rev. C. A. Egert, and a parishioner, B. A. Milder.
         The altar was designed in Italy and brought to America in 1926. It was in the Mercy Hospital Chapel in Davenport until 1954. The Sisters of Mercy Hospital gave the altar to St. Mary’s Cemetery Association at the time of a new chapel construction in Davenport. The original twelve ton altar was cut by Iowa Memorial Company of West Liberty, and the marble table portion was used in the cemetery altar.
         Memorial Day services are an annual event held in the cemetery.

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