IAGenWeb Project - Clayton co.

Sacred Heart Catholic Church

Exterior view of Sacred Heart Church

The Sacred Heart Church of Littleport is celebrating its centennial this month. The present church, shown here, was built in 1909. Improvements including the painting of the green and gold tower were completed in 1959.

Interior view of Sacred Heart Church

This Register photo shows the beautiful interior of the Sacred Heart Church at Littleport. Members of the church will celebrate the 100th birthday of the church during special ceremonies on Sunday, August 16.

Littleport Sacred Heart Church notes its 100th Year
by Rev. J.J. McBride

Sacred Heart Catholic Church of Littleport will celebrate its 100th birthday on Sunday, Aug. 16. On that day Archbishop James J. Byrne of Dubuque will offer a noon mass at the church. The Rev. Francis J. Phelan, Monti, will preach the sermon. Members of the church will attend a diner that Sunday at Thoma's in Garnavillo beginning at 2 o'clock. A booklet containing centennial news highlights has been prepared and individual copies will be available.

The following history and recent facts about the church were written by the Rev. J.J. McBride, pastor, who resides at Garber:

A Parish is Founded

On November 8, 1869, Archbishop John Henessey of Dubuque bought two acres of land near Littleport for a Catholic church. This piece of ground had belonged to John and Alice Fitzgibbons and was sold to the archbishop for the sum of $50. The site for the new church was located about half a mile south and west of the town of Littleport. Since no person living today remembers the exact site of this first church, a legal description is given here:

That parcel of land commencing on the east and west lines on the north side of the NW 1/4 of the NE 1/4 of Section 36 in Cox Creek Township at a point nine rods east of the NW corner of said NW 1/4 of the NE 1/4, Thence in a southwesterly direction along the puclic road to a point where said road crosses the line on the west side of the NW 1/4 of the NE 1/4; thence south to the center of Honey Creek, thence in a northeasterly and northern direction along the center of Honey Creek to a point where Honey Creek crosses the north line of said NW 1/4 of the NE 1/4; thence west to the beginning, containing two acres.

The "public road" mentioned above no longer exists. Its path, however, can still be discerned. It passed just south of the present Lorraine Thein home. From there it pointed in a southwesterly direction up along Honey Creek crossing it at several places. From the given description it would seem that the first church was located just north of Honey Creek and just south of the public road. This would place the church in the area just south and east of the buildings on the Lyle Pritchard farm.

The assumed location of the first church tends to be confirmed by the story of the building being moved into Littleport. The report states that the church was moved across Honey Creek twice, one to the south side and then back again to the north side. A map in an atlas of the State of Iowa dated 1875, clearly shows a church and a schoolhouse located in this very area. Slightly to the northeast and across Honey Creek from the church one stood a small country school.

The small frame church was constructed in 1870 under the supervision of Dennis Hays, a charter member of the parish. Dennis Hays came from County Claire, Ireland, and was married to Bridget Liddy. Mr. Hays, along with John Farrell and Timothy Murphy comprised the first executive committee for the parish. The Rev. J.J. Quigly was the first pastor for the new church. He served the parish during 1870 and 1871. Father Quigley lived in Elkader and was pastor there from 1867 to 1887. He had originated from County Limerick, Ireland. There is no evidence of any connection or relationship between Father Quigley and Dennis Quigley, the founder of Littleport, although they were close in age.

The early people of Sacred Heart Church were Irish and German in origin. Some of the pioneer parishoners were:

Dennis Hays
Dennis Liddy
Cornelius Lucey
John Donahue
Patrick Wiley
Joseph Schwartz
Bernard Conerty
Daniel McCarthy
John Smith
John Henessey
Jim Sullivan
Phil Sullivan
Tim Murphy
Anton Buechel
Charles Helderman
Michael Wiley
Frank Thuren
Mike O'Day
Tim Shine
Tom Madden
Maurice Conway
Martin Quinlan
Arthur Alloway
Mike McDonough
Patrick O'Laughlin
John O'Connor
Patrick Dinan
John Farrel

By the year 1872 the church of Littleport had become a mission of Elkport. Father Michael Quirk, living at Elkport, was Littleport's pastor from 1872 until 1875. The priests of the Elkport-Garber parish have served continuously as Littleport's pastors since 1872. In addition to these two charges, Father Quirk was responsible for the missions at Cox Creek and Greeley. Father Quirk built a church at both Cox Creek and Greeley in the early 1870's. With what spare time there might be remaining Father Quirk took care of the mission at Colesburg. In fact the Colesburg church continued to be a charge of the Elkport-Littleport priests until 1924.

The oldest record of a baptism at Littleport dates back to 1872. On January 14, 1872, Father Qirk baptized Ann Farrel. Likewise the oldest marriage record goes back to this same year. On March 3, 1872, Father Quirk united in marriage Patrick Larkin and Mary Mackin.

Sacred Heart Cemetery

Property for a cemetery was purchased by Archbishop Hennessey on October 31, 1873. This land consisted of 40 acres owned by David and Jane Galer. Its legal description is as follows: The southwest quarter of the northeast quarter of Section No. 36 in Cox Creek Township. Purchase price was $780. Our present cemetery is located on a part of this property. There is evidence that at this time the parish hoped eventually to build a larger church on this 40. This would help to account for the buying of such a large piece of land. The cemetery is located about a quarter of a mile southeast of the site of the old church. It is about three quarters of a mile from the cemetery to the present church.

Even the oldest graves are marked by stones whose inscriptions are still visible. Some of them are as follows:

James Donnohue, age 4, died May 8, 1874, son of John and Bridget Donnohue.
Margaret Culligan, age 7, died Dec. 19, 1874, daughter of John and Mary Culligan.
Thomas Farrell, age 5, died Dec. 27, 1874, son of John and Bridget Farrell.
Mary Culligan, age 5, died Jan. 1, 1875, daughter of John and Mary Culligan.
John Smith, age 61, died January 18, 1876

One of the interesting items about Sacred Heart cemetery is the placing of the inscriptions on the monuments in relation to the graves. As in most cemeteries, the bodies are buried facing the east. The monuments too, are placed at the head of the grave, which is the usual custom. In most cemeteries the inscriptions are then so placed on the stones that they can be read while standing at the foot of the grave. In Sacred Heart cemetery, however, most of the inscriptions are on the side of the stone opposite the graves.

This may have been done because the entrance to the cemetery is on the west and having the inscriptions on the west side of the stones made it easier to find the names being sought. Several of the family names found on the markers in the cemetery are:



A Resident Pastor

In the fall of 1875 the Rev. B.W. Coyle came to take charge of the Littleport and Elkport parishes. During his term as pastor Sacred Heart parish grew to about 35 families with a Sunday school enrollment of 100 children. Father Coyle was Littleport's only resident pastor in its 100 years of history. It is certain that he lived at Littleport, perhaps for as long as two years. A news item in the Elkader paper dated April 15, 1878, states, however, that Father Coyle was making preparations to move to Elkport and that Littleport was sorry to lose Father Coyle. One reason why he may have lived at Littleport might be because it was more convenient to travel from there to his missions at Cox Creek and Greeley. In 1878 he was relieved of his charge at Greeley and Cox Creek.

There is some evidence in parish records that the house in which Father Coyle lived was the one just south of the Littleport Catholic Cemetery. This house is still standing today among the trees and underbrush, but unoccupied. Father Coyle continued to take care of the LIttleport parish until 1882 while living at Elkport. He has been described as a "debtor to all that he might be a benefit to all." He was tall, slender, and persuasive, his ministration was most successful and his memory held in benediction. Father Coyle was born in New York state, his parents having been natives of Ireland.

From 1882 until 1884 Father John fogerty was Littleport's pastor. Father P. Corbett was pastor from 1884 until 1887. He also had a brother who was a priest, Father J. Corbett, located at Sabula, during that time.

The Old Church Goes to Town

From 1887 to 1893 Father M. Sheehan was pastor of Sacred Heart parish. It was during his pastorate that the church building was moved into town. Mr. H. Shadle, of Volga, an expert on moving buildings, was engaged for the task. During the month of April in 1892 the project was begun and completed. The distance was about three quarters of a mile. The church was fist moved to the south side of Honey Creek, taken some distance, then then across the creek again to the north side before going into town. The building landed at its new site without a single window broken and with only some cracked plaster on the sidewalls. On Sunday, May 1, 1892, the parishoners gathered in it for mass at the new location.

This same site has become the place of the present church. The property had been purchased on April 2, 1892, by Archbishop Hennessey from Joachim and Maria Franke for the sum of $75. In 1895 the two acres upon which the church had formerly stood was sold to Amy Alloway for the sum of $56.

From 1893 to 1898 Father E.L. Dullard was pastor of Sacred Heart parish. It is said that he planted the five large pine trees which are still standing in Sacred Heart cemetery.

In the fall of 1898 the Rev. Daniel T. Minogue, born in Ireland, came to Elkport and Littleport to serve as pastor. Father Minogue came from Dubuque where he had been pastor of St. Anthony's parish for about 10 years.

In 1902 a flood struck Littleport doing considerable damage. Parish records indicate that water entered the old church and destroyed the mass vestments, which had to be replaced with new ones.

Tragedy struck for the Littleport parish and its pastor, Father Minogue, when on the night of Thursday, July 16, 1908, the old church, which had been moved in from the country, burned to the ground. On that fateful night a destructive storm and flood invaded Littleport. Rising waters poured into homes and basements as well as tearing up streets and sidewalks. At the height of the storm the Keve Brothers lumber yard just north of the church caught fire, presumably ignited by the flooding waters coing in contact with a barrel of lime stored in the lumber shed. The high waters made it impossible to fight the blaze effectively and the fires spread to the church building on the south. The church was partially insured.

The New Church

The congregation immediately went ahead with plans to replace the church. Before long the debris was cleaned up to make way for the erection of a new structure on the same site. The foundation and cornerstone were laid in the fall of 1908. The cornerstone can still be seen in the foundation at the southwest corner of the church. Carpenter work continued the next spring in the month of April. Construction of the new church, which measures 36X60, was finished in May of 1909. Contractor for the project was Henry Benschneider, Elkader.

This building, which is still in use, is of a small and simple design, yet dignified and beautiful. Its tower rising high from the sidewalk up dominates the entire community. A 1,500 pound bell calls its members to worship on Sunday mornings. The news item concerning the ceremony of dedication calls the new church "just as perfect as it can be in its every detail."

Dedication of the new place of worship was set for Tuesday, June 15, 1909. the date was described as a "gain day for the people of Littleport." Neighboring parishes were well represented. The building was solemnly dedicated by Father Reilly, pastor of Elkader. Father Dullard, the former pastor of Littleport, preached the sermon. The ceremony of dedication began with a Solemn High Mass at 10 a.m. Father Hartigan of Strawberry Point was the celebrant; the deacon was Father O'Doherty of Dubuque; subdeacon was Father A.J. Walshe of West Dubuque. Father Reilly of Elkader was master of ceremonies. In the sanctuary was Father Hetherington of Volga City and Father Minogue, the incumbent pastor. The choir from Elkport with Mrs. Nora Fallon at the organ, supplied the music.

Throughout the day there was music and refreshments on the grounds. A dance in the evening terminated the exercises. The news report concerning the dedication stated that "the day will go down in the annals of history as a red-letter day for the town of Littleport." The article in speaking of Father Minogue and his people says, "now they can offer sacrifice to their God in a house worthy of Him, and may they long contine to do so." Within a short time afterwards Father Minogue departed for a trip to Ireland and Rome.

At about this same time the parish disposed of the property in the country which was purchased in 1873 for a church and cemetery. Thy buyer was August Rodas and the sale price was $1,640. The parish kept, however, about one acre of land in the northeast corner which was being used as the parish cemetery. This same piece of ground still serves as Sacred Heart Cemetery today. the actual sale date for this 40 acres, excepting the cemetery, was Februry 6, 1909.

World War I

With the advent of World War I in 1917, Sacred Heart parish saw many of her young men march off to serve their country. Among them were:

Leo Whittle
Emmett Whittle
Clement Whittle
Louis Zapf
Emmet Liddy
Paul Kafer

Mike O'Day
Sylvester Curran
Frank Farrell
Joe Farrell
John Farrell
Raymond Liddy

In 1922 flood waters again deluged Littleport. This time the water level within the Catholic church was up almost to the window sills.

Death of Father Minogue

One of the saddest days in the history of Sacred Heart parish was Friday, May 2, 1924. On that afternoon about 2:30 Father Minogue was struck by a train and died as a result of the injuries. The accident occurred on the railroad bridge which crossed the Turkey River just above the mouth of the Volga River and about one mile northwest of Garber. Father Minogue was fishing on the bridge in the company of his dog. A mixed train approached, having just left Garber and heading for Littleport. The train was traveling slowly and Father Minogue was aware of its approach. In order to avoid its path the priest took a position on the pier of the bridge along with his dog, which he was holding.

As the train came closer, the dog became frightened and attempted to escape. In trying to save the dog from danger Father Minogue was struck by the side of the locomotive and knocked from the bridge. The priest did not fall beneath the train but the force of the blow and the fall to the river bed below was sufficient to cause his death within a few minutes.

The engineer on the train was the only witness to the accident. the train immediately stopped, the crew picked up the injured man and placed him on the train. The train then returned to the Garber depot and Doctor Kriebs of Elkport was summoned. Father did not regain consciousness after the accident. A coroner's jury composed of T. Phelan, P.J. Cassidy and M.J. O'Connor ruled the death accidental.

Father Minogue was waked in St. Michael's rectory at Garber and the funeral was from St. Michael's Church. The date of the funeral was Tuesday, May 6, 1924, at 10 a.m. About 70 priests were present. Archbishop James J. Kean of Dubuque delivered the sermon. Father Minogue was 61 years of age at the time of his death. He was buried at Mt. Olivet Cemetery near Dubuque. He had served the parishes of St. Michael's and Sacred Heart for 26 years, the longest term of any pastor in the history of the two parishes. He was pastor during the time at which both the present churches of Littleport and Garber were erected. Father Minogue has been the only pastor in the 100 years' history of Littleport parish to die while in its service. His only survivors were a brother and a sister in Ireland. May he rest in peace.

Father William Goetzinger

Father William Goetzinger then became pastor of Littleport while living at Garber and being responsible for St. Michael's. He remained here until 1938. Father Goetzinger died in Waterloo in 1967. During his tenure the Littleport church was decorated in the winter of 1927-1928. Electric wiring and fixtures were installed in the church for the first time in 1929. Shortly after this the great depression struck our country. It is interesting to note that in 1927 the income for the Littleport parish was $2,582.43. By 1932 the income figure had dropped to $729.71. The church building including the tower underwent extensive repairs in 1936.

Father Olinger

In 1938 Father Julius Olinger became pastor of Littleport and Garber. He remained until 1942. Presently, he is pastor of St. Mary's Church in New Hampton.

The church interiors were again decorated in 1940.

The World War II Era

Father Harold Ginter was pastor of Littleport from 1942 until 1945. This was the years of World War II. Once again Sacred Heart parish said "goodbye" to her young men as they went off to war.

During the battle of the "Belgian Bulge" Lowell Zapf, presently a trustee of our parish, was taken prisoner for several months.

Miss Catherine Dinan R.N. of the Littleport parish served her country duing the war as an Army nurse. Catherine enlisted in 1942 and was later stationed in the European war theater. In Germany she was attached to the Third Army and was awarded two Battle Stars. At the end of the war she held the rank of first lieutenant. For over the past 20 years she has been a nurse in Veterans Hospital.

Ludwig J. Wach, born and raised in the Littleport parish, paid the supreme sacrifice while serving in the Navy during World War II. Ludwig Wach was born on June 23, 1908, in Littleport, the son of Anton Wach and Elizabeth Braun. He went to school in Littleport. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy soon after Pearl Harbor. He was a crew member on the Navy submarine Wahoo. There is a book in the Littleport library entitled "Wake of the Wahoo" written by Forest J. Sterling, a former crew member of that submarine. He tells of the heroism of these men and mentions Ludwig Wach by name several times. The Wahoo was credited by the Navy with sinking at least 21 Japanese ships.

The Wahoo left Midway Island in the Pacific for her last voyage on September 11, 1943. It is thought that she was lost in action off the coast of Japan. The Wahoo was presumed lost on October 11, 1943. The Wach family received a notice on November 9, 1943, that their son, Ludwig, was missing in action. Later he was declared dead. The Wahoo carried a crew of 80 men.

After the war, on January 30, 1946 [may be 1945], a Memorial Mass was offered at Sacred Heart for Ludwig Wach. The Rev. F.J. McEnany, pastor, was the celebrant. The Rev. Edward Fitzgerald, then pastor of Elkader, and now the retired bishop of Winona, Minn., was the deacon. The Rev. John Fagan, pastor of Strawberry Point, was subdeacon. The Rev. Charles Steinlage, pastor at Colesburg and ex-military chaplain, preached the sermon. The American Legion Post of Elkader participated. Recently a plaque was placed on the Wach family lot in Sacred Heart Cemetery to commemorate their son and brother, although he is not buried there. May God grant unto him eternal rest!

The parish records indicate that the pastor and trustees met at the end of 1944 to consider the problem of the number of families moving from the parish, making it increasingly difficult to meet the expenses of the church. Repairs were again made upon the cross and tower in 1944 and 1945.

Father Ginter has recently been located at Sacred Heart Church, Fillmore and has just retired because of failing health.

The Rev. Francis J. McEnany was pastor of Littleport from 1945 to 1947. In June of 1947 a serious flood again hit the town of Littleport and water rose in the church almost to the level of the window sills. Father McEnany is now pastor of Sacred Heart Church, Eagle Grove.

Recent Events

The Rev. Loras J. Holmberg was pastor of Littleport from 1947 to 1949. Father Holmberg died in 1958 while pastor of St. John's in Delhi.

Father Robert J. Saunders was pastor from 1949 to 1955; he is now pastor at St. Michael's Church, Norway.

Father Joseph L. Kissling became pastor in 1955 and remained until 1960. During his time the interior of Sacred Heart church was redecorated. Father Kissling is now pastor of St. Henry's in Marshalltown.

From 1960 to 1965 the Rev. Mark W. Moore was pastor. He is now located at St. Mary's Church, Ackly. During his pastorate at Littleport, on September 5, 1962, Roseann Wiley from our parish entered the Sisters of Mercy at Cedar Rapids. She is the daughter of John M. and Doris Wiley of Littleport. Sister Roseann began her training for the Sisterhood at the old Mercy Novitiate in Marion. Presently Sister Roseann teaches at St. Matthew's School in Cedar Rapids and is Superior of the convent there. Sister Roseann was born and raised in Sacred Heart parish. Her father has been a parish trustee for many years. Needless to say, the people of Sacred Heart church are proud of Sister Roseann and wish her God's richest blessings always!

As far as we know, Sister Roseann is the only religious vocation from the parish in its 100 years of history. Reports of one or two other girls from the parish entering the convent in early years simply cannot be substantiated.

There is no evidence of the parish ever having had a parish school.

During the time of its 100 years' history Littleport has been served by 19 different pastors.

Father Jerald Blackburn was pastor at Littleport from 1965 to 1967. It was during his pastorate that Sacred Heart church acquired its attractive green and gold colored tower. He also made some improvements at the cemetery.

Father John M. Peters became pastor in 1967 and remained here until July 1969.

In August of 1969, the Rev. J.J. McBride, the present incumbent arrived.

The Parishoners

A complete list of the Littleport parishoners is:

John and Ivanelle Dinan
Richard, Donna and James Dinan
Mrs. Katie Dinan
Ernest and Regina Harbaugh
Stephen, Rosemay and Loren Harbaugh
Addie, Thomas and Gary Kenneally
Paul and Helen Kirby
Alan, Robers and Ronald Kirby
Mrs. Charlotte Lenhart
Harold H. and Mary Liddy
Miss Mildred Liddy
Oscar and Kathleen Meese
C.E. and Vera Michael
Ray and Florence Miller
Otto and Margaret Schmelzer
Merlin and Germain Stoffel
Paul, Thomas, Ronald, Carol and Cathy Stoffel
James and Vicki Stoffel
Patrick and Lois Stoffel
Clarence and Hilda Wagner
Clyde, Thomas, Dale and Julie Wagner
Earl, Ruth and Linda Whittle
John G. and Susan Wiley
John M. and Doris Wiley
Mrs. Hazel Zapf
Lowell and Dorothy Zapf
J.P. and Michael Zapf
Mrs. Una Zaph
John and Dannie Zapf
Paul Stoffel - now serving in the U.S. Army


Source: The Clayton County Register, Wednesday, August 12, 1970 (included the church photos)
The newspaper article was contributed by Kathy Foy. Kathy is researching the Liddy family.
Transcription by S. Ferrall for Clayton co. IAGenWeb

Post-note from S. Ferrall: Due to declining membership and the need for substantial renovation to the building, the Sacred Heart church held it's last regularly scheduled mass in May 1989. In January 1990 the steeple was removed from the church and the building was torn down, the lumber to be used elsewhere. Plans were that the cross that was atop of the steeple would be used in some way to commemorate the 120-year history of the church.


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