courtesy of Delila Duffy)
The following history of St. Patrick’s of Irish Settlement was compiled and written by Father John Hart in 1956. Information found in parentheses with Father Hart’s history has been added at the time of this printing in hopes it will further illuminate portions of the past.
In introduction to this History of St. Patrick’s Parish of Irish Settlement in Madison County, Iowa, it is appropriate that we list some of the problems which presented themselves and made the task of compiling this material difficult.
The first problem was to discover the exact date of the founding of this rural parish. This year of 1956 had been considered the year to commemorate the first one hundred years of existence. The reason for this belief is an article written by Mr. James Gillaspie of Crawford Township, Madison County, Iowa, for the Madison County Historical meeting held at Winterset, Iowa, on March 19, 1907. Mr. Gillaspie came to the Irish Settlement with his parents as a young man twenty-six years old in 1856. He was one of the large number of young men who left from St. Patrick’s Parish to serve in the Grand Army of the Republic during the Civil War. However, his historical sketch of the Settlement’s beginning was written when he was seventy-seven years old and fifty-one years after he had arrived in Madison County. In his account, he admits that the dates he gives are merely a guess based on his memory. We are sure that he did not have at his disposal the sources of information which we have discovered in our search. Therefore, there seems to be no reason to feel that we are violating James Gillaspie’s memory to contradict his dates on the establishment of St. Patrick’s Parish. It seems that the above-mentioned paper was the only attempt, to the present time, to collect some of the early information concerning the parish. In reference books at the County Library in Winterset, as well as the county paper, the “Madisonian”, which deals with the history of the county, the only information on St. Patrick’s of the Irish Settlement discovered where verbatim quotations from the history written by Mr. Gillaspie. As a matter of fact, it seems that the county authorities of Madison County were not aware of the fact that St. Patrick’s Parish actually existed until April 10, 1875. Actually, the property of St. Patrick’s was registered in the name of Bishop Mathias Loras on April 30, 1855. However, in the entry, the name was spelled “Lords” instead of Loras and the local authorities were not aware that the property was for religious use so, consequently, kept selling it for delinquent taxes.
The first settlers
One of the other problems faced was that of locating the names of some of the early families and dates of their arrivals. In Mr. Gillaspie’s history, he merely gives a list of the names of early families with the earliest settlers listed under the date 1854. However, as we shall see later on, there was a large number of Catholic families settled here at least two years prior to that date. We have attempted to clear up the exact names and dates by examining the early claims registered in Madison County, as well as the early census registries at the State Historical Society in Des Moines.
There were several factors which made this search fruitless. First, it was a common practice of the early settlers to spend two or three years in the parish before they actually registered their claim to land.
There was also the practice of several families living in the same home, and it is practically impossible to discover whether the families listed on the census records actually came to live on the land of Madison County. Many may have made the Irish Settlement a stopping point in their trip farther west or before moving into the city of Des Moines. For these reasons we shall, later on in this work, merely give the recitation of the names of the early settlers as they were listed by Mr. Gillaspie. We shall also use his dates even though, in some cases, they may be inaccurate by at least a year or two.
Iowa in the 1840s
Before we can go into the history of the Irish Settlement, we must outline the background of the section of the State of Iowa which includes this territory. Before the year 1843, this entire part of the state was closed to settlement and was reserved for the Indians. With the steady progress of settlers moving westward, it was necessary that the Federal Government purchase more and more land from the Indians for settlement.
On March 23, 1843, there was ratified a treaty between the Sac and Fox Indians and the United States Government. According to the terms of this treaty, in return for $800,000.00, the Sac and Fox Indian Tribes relinquished their claims to the western two-thirds of the State of Iowa.
Further, the treaty stipulated that on May 1, 1843, the land would be opened to white settlers. The Indians were given the right to select a tract of land which could be retained as a reservation until their final removal to Kansas in October, 1845. The tract they selected was three miles southwest of the present capitol of the State of Iowa. This became known as Keokuk’s Village. The result was that the territory around Des Moines was opened for settlement and settled two and a half years before the actual city itself.
The “Stript” controversy
There is another strange fact which undoubtedly plays a part in the early history of and references to the Irish Settlement. This was the controversy over the so-called “Stript”. It seems that in the early history of Polk County, Iowa (the county in which Des Moines is located), there developed a heated contest over which settlement would be given the distinction of being the county seat. This contest was between what is now Polk County and what is now Des Moines, but was then Fort Des Moines. It seemed that the claims of Polk City were the best, for as its citizens pointed out, Fort Des Moines was located only four miles north of the southern boundary of the county and, therefore lacked the desired central location
By some unknown means, the then Fort Des Moines was able to get the General Assembly of Iowa to grant the northern tier of townships of Warren County to Polk County. (Warren County is directly south of Polk and directly east of Madison County). This tier of townships, which became known as the “Stript”, seems to have met the “central location” requirement and Fort Des Moines was made the county seat. It seems that the small settlement of the Fort had a very effective Chamber of Commerce because it was only a few years later that it became the state capital.
The officials of Warren County did not take this piracy without a struggle. However, when the Fourth General Assembly, meeting in Iowa City on December 12, 1852, returned the “Stript” to Warren County, there was no objection from Fort Des Moines. They had already secured the county seat.
The return did not go into effect until March 1, 1853, so at least until that date, and no doubt even much later, a great deal of the territory of Irish Settlement was actually in Polk County. As a matter of fact, at the time the first log church was built at St. Patrick’s in 1852, it was within 100 yards of what was then Polk County (the southwestern-most corner of the “Stript”). For this reason it is legitimate to conclude that all early references to Catholics and Catholicity in Polk County and Des Moines territory must include the Settlement.
The focal point of the Irish Settlement has always been forty acres of land located and described as the southeast quarter of the southeast quarter of Section 36 in Lee Township, Madison County, Iowa.
Directly to the east of this piece of land is Warren County, Iowa. Presently located on this tract is St. Patrick’s Church, the parish rectory and the parish cemetery. It is also the location of the original log church which was the first and marked the definite establishment of the parish.
Iowa’s roots of Catholicism
Before going into the local history, it would be appropriate to establish the Catholic backgrounds of the State of Iowa. In 1837, Bishop Mathias Loras was appointed the first Bishop of Dubuque. When he arrived to take over his new Diocese, he discovered that, in the entire state of Iowa, there was only one priest, Father Samuel Mazzuchelli, O.P. Father Mazzuchelli became one of the most outstanding figures in the religious history of the state.
We are indebted to Msgr. M. M. Hoffman of Dyersville, Iowa, for some of the early records of the Diocese of Dubuque which have a bearing on the Irish Settlement. As we have seen, this section of the state was not opened to white settlers until 1843, just seven years after the consecration of Bishop Loras. One of the chief concerns of Bishop Loras was the care of the immigrants who were entering the state in greater and greater numbers.
In the year 1849, the Bishop made a trip up the Des Moines River Valley. It is known that he was at Ottumwa on this trip and as Msgr. Hoffman states, it is possible that he also came on up the river to visit the Fort Des Moines area. If this is true, he would have, at that time, visited the Irish Settlement for even then there were a greater number of Catholics in the Settlement than in Des Moines proper. We will probably never know if Bishop Loras did make this extension of his 1849 visit to Ottumwa.
It does appear that even if Bishop Loras did not personally visit the scattered Catholics about Fort Des Moines, he did hear of their presence. In 1850, Father Timothy Mullen was sent to Polk County. There is a letter in the Archdiocesan Archives of Dubuque from Father Villars, who was the pastor of the church at Keokuk, dated June 29, 1850, addressed to Bishop Loras. This letter seems to have been, in part, a report relayed to the Bishop by Father Villars for Father Mullen. In this letter it was reported that Father Mullen “had almost been mobbed at Fort Des Moines and he fled to Keokuk”.
At that time, Fort Des Moines was not even an incorporated town and there were only a few settlers near the junction of the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers. From the fact that Father Mullen soon returned, we must conclude that this so-called mobbing was not motivated by anger, but the result of the joy of the Catholics at the visit of a priest. Also, since even as late as 1854, there were only eight Catholic families in Fort Des Moines itself, it must have been the Catholics of the Irish Settlement who were so joyful at the visit of Father Mullen.
Father Mullen moves to Irish Settlement
Shortly after this first visit, Father Mullen moved to the Irish Settlement or at least made it the headquarters for his missionary activities in south central Iowa. On May 7, 1852, Father Mullen reported by letter to Bishop Loras from Fort Des Moines. In this report he invited Bishop Loras to come and make a visit – “I will expect your Lordship will call to see our new colony on your return, and give your Pastoral Benediction”. At the time that this letter was written, Bishop Loras was attending the First Plenary Council at Baltimore. This clearly shows that by 1852 Father Mullen had already established his colony at the parish of St. Patrick’s in the Irish Settlement. It would have been unlikely that he would invite his Bishop to come and give his blessing had the parish not been established.
In 1850, Bishop Loras opened Mount Saint Bernard Seminary in Dubuque for the training of priests. In the letter of 1852 from Father Mullen to Bishop Loras, there was included a certificate of ownership of forty acres of land in the Settlement – “which you can dispose of as you see fit for your Seminary”. It is clear that this was the same forty acres which is now occupied by St. Patrick’s Parish. This response of the newly settled immigrants to the support of the Seminary is a clear indication of the faith which has constantly flourished in the Irish Settlement. It is impossible to establish whether or not Bishop Loras accepted the invitation to visit Father Mullen’s parish.
North or south of the North River?
There is an often repeated story regarding the actual establishment of St. Patrick’s Parish which must be granted the seal of authenticity. About in the middle of the section of land where the Irish settlers concentrated, was located the North River. There was considerable controversy among the early arrivals as to whether the proposed church should be located north or south of this river which divided the territory. At this point we should quote directly from Mr. Gillaspie’s history. His description is as follows: “Some were for having the Church and the Cemetery on the north side of the River, others on the south side. In the meantime a stranger, an old man and a government surveyor, returning from farther west, getting sick and stopping at the house 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 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 the summer of 1856.”
This quotation is the one which gave the mistaken idea that St. Patrick’s Parish was established in 1856. From the quotations which we have given above, it is proven that the date of the establishment was actually 1852, not 1856. Mr. Gillaspie, as well as local narrators, tell us that the forty acres of land was donated by Mr. Thomas Finan, one of three brothers who settled here with their families.
“Irish Colony – is in a flourishing state”
From the following year, 1853, we have two sources of information concerning St. Patrick’s Parish. First, in Brigham’s History of Des Moines and Polk County, we quote from the chapter entitled “The Catholic Church in Des Moines and Polk County”, written by Father John F. Kempker. (Rev. Kempker died as the pastor of the Catholic Church at Riverside, Iowa, and was one of the early historians of the Catholic Church in Iowa. He was also one of the early pastors of Sacred Heart Church in West Des Moines). In this account Father Kempker tells that in 1853, Father Mullen came back to the Des Moines Valley. “He was accompanied by several families who settled about fifteen miles southwest of Fort Des Moines, known as the ‘Irish Settlement’ and at Churchville also.”
During the same year, Father Mullen again wrote a letter of report to Bishop Loras dated June 24, 1853, which was sent from Fort “Desmoin”. His report was “The Irish Colony I established in this vicinity is in a flourishing state. There is still excellent prairie and timber vacant, we expect an increase of twenty families in September”.
In the latter part of 1853 it seems the missionary activities of Father Mullen were concentrated in the vicinity of Council Bluffs. He set about the task of reorganizing St. Francis Parish. This parish had been originally set up by the Jesuit Missionaries but was abandoned a few years earlier. At the same time that Father Mullen was sent to Council Bluffs, Father John Kreckel was appointed pastor of Ottumwa. Des Moines was given to him as an out-mission. For the next few years, the spiritual needs of St. Patrick’s parish were taken care of from Ottumwa by the itinerant priests who traveled through the countryside doing their best to care for the needs of the widely scattered Catholics.
In 1854, Father Kreckel celebrated Mass in Fort Des Moines and found only eight Catholic families. He did report from this visitation that “The Catholics in the Settlement have made better progress”. This was the first time that the Sacrifice of the Mass was offered in Des Moines, a full two years after the first church had been built at St. Patrick’s.
In the same year, 1854, Father Kempker tells us that Father Philip Laurent reported on a trip that he made on horseback from Council Bluffs to Dubuque. Undoubtedly, in Council Bluffs Father Larent had known Father Mullen and, through him, had heard of the Irish Settlement. The report is “He tells of passing through Des Moines after he had stopped over Sunday with the Catholics of ‘Irish Settlement’, where he said Mass and preached for them. The people raised a purse of thirty-five dollars which they presented to him”. It may seem that thirty-five dollars is of no consequence, but when we consider that it would represent the entire amount with which a man and his family would move west and settle on the new land of Iowa, it shows great faith and generosity.
Father McCormick comes to “New Ireland”
It was about this same time that Father Francis McCormick became the resident pastor of St. Patrick’s parish. In the Catholic Almanac for 1857, we find several entries listed under the Diocese of Dubuque.
In Madison County the Almanac listed “New Ireland – sixteen miles from Fort Des Moines” with Rev. Francis McCormick as resident pastor. In another section of the Almanac, alphabetically listing all the priests in the United States, we find Rev. Francis McCormick with his address as New Ireland, Iowa. In Polk County there is this listing “Fort Des Moines, St. Ambrose; a flourishing city, the capital of the state will soon be here. A brick church is about to be built on two splendid lots given by the Bishop of the Diocese – attended by Rev. Francis McCormick”.
In Warren County there is listed “St. Lambertus (German) four lots in Churchville – attended by Rev. F. McCormick.” This status of the church, of necessity must be for the year of 1855 since in the year 1856, Father George Plathe was the pastor of Des Moines and built the first St. Ambrose Church.
Early in 1855, Rev. Louis De Cailly, the grand-nephew of Bishop Loras, was appointed as pastor of Des Moines. It was Father De Cailly, who came, in that same year, to Des Moines and purchased two lots on the southeast corner of 6th and Locust in the city, which was the site of the church built the following year.
Father Kempler tells us that Father De Cailly remained only a few months in Des Moines, most of which he spent in the Settlement, where he contemplated the building of a log church near the present Chruchville. No doubt he was the guest of Father McCormick at this time. In the fall of 1855, Father William Emonds spent a week in Polk County and undoubtedly also enjoyed the hospitality of Father McCormick.
St. Patrick’s served from Des Moines – once a month
As we mentioned earlier, in 1856 Father George H. Plathe came to Des Moines and established St. Ambrose parish. The first baptism is dated April 8, 1856. At the same time, Father McCormick was sent to another parish and St. Patrick’s was served from Des Moines. Once a month, Father Plathe came to say Mass and to administer the Sacrament. In 1857, Des Moines became the state capital, insuring the rapid growth of the city. In 1860, Father Plathe was forced to retire to Dubuque because of poor health. For a period of nine months, the needs of this section were taken care of by Father J.J. Marsh who was stationed at Fort Dodge, Iowa.
In 1861, Rev. John F. Brazill came to take over the pastorate of St. Ambrose parish in Des Moines. For the next twenty-four years he remained at this post. At the start, he followed the same schedule of Mass once a month at the Settlement. About 1865, St. Ambrose added an assistant pastor who celebrated Mass twice a month at St. Patrick’s. One of the first assistants was Father B. Cannon.
A new frame church is built
By the year 1868, the original log church had been outgrown and it was decided that a larger frame church should be built at Irish Settlement. This new church was built under the direction of Father Brazill, since he still had St. Patrick’s as a mission. The new church was constructed about two hundred yards north and a little west of the original church. This church still stands and is in use at the present time (1956). The first church was built in about the center of what is now the cemetery. As a matter of fact, Father Rice, one of the later pastors, is buried in the ground which was immediately below the sanctuary of the log church.
The frame church is about forty feet by one hundred feet. It was not until later that the tower was built and the church bell placed. There was a bit of good criticism of the proposed new church and the fancy carpenters sent out from Des Moines by the local builders to take care of the construction. Parishioners were certain that the only proper type of construction was with logs and that this new fad of milled lumber would soon prove to be impractical. In the early summer of 1868, as the walls of the new church were being put in place, a severe windstorm arose and leveled them. It was necessary that the walls be put in place a second time. It was also necessary that iron tie-rods be placed at the top of the walls to hold them secure. These tie-rods are still carrying out their appointed task. We do not know exactly when the church was completed or on what date the first Mass was said in it, but it was sometime during 1868.
(In 1871, the church bell was purchased. It took four teams of horses to pull the bell from Bevington, Iowa, and several more teams to raise it. After it was installed, the parish celebrated with a procession and Mass. It has been a saying at St. Patrick’s that there will never be a serious storm within hearing distance of the bell.)
A resident pastor for St. Patrick’s
Probably a short time after this church was completed, the Catholics of the Settlement once again were blessed with a resident pastor. In the Catholic Directory for 1872, we find that Rev. A.F. Moynahan was listed as stationed at Irish Settlement, with the notation that the neighboring churches and stations were attended by him.
Unless there were two priests of the same name and with the same initials, Father Moynahan served as pastor of St. Patrick’s at two different times. However, he did not remain very long, for early in 1874, Father Patrick Smyth came as pastor. Father Smyth started the present records of the parish and the first baptism dated February 8, 1874. This is, however, twenty-two years after the parish was founded.
The parish grows
From February of 1874 to June of 1875, Father Smyth baptized forty-seven infants and witnessed eight weddings. The next pastor was Rev. Joseph Gaffney, who spent slightly more than a year at St. Patrick’s.
Early in 1877, Rev. Michael Rice1 was sent to the Settlement and for the next seven years remained as pastor. In those seven years there were three hundred and twenty-four baptisms. At the end of his pastorate, Father Rice’s health failed and from February, 1883, he was assisted by Father Thomas O’Reilly. At age forty, Father Rice died and, as we mentioned earlier, was buried beneath the site of the first log church.
After the death of Father Rice, Father Moynahan returned again as pastor and served from September, 1884, to the end of 1906, a period of twenty-three years. At that time he retired and lived in Council Bluffs until his death.
Father Michael F. Dugan was the next pastor. He served twenty-eight years until his death on December 29, 1935.
(Father Dugan was a very holy man. When Joe McLaughlin was small, he had a severe kidney infection which affected his ability to walk. Father Dugan prayed for him and soon his legs were all right.
Father Dugan thought men were better than women and would never allow his housekeeper to be in the same room when he was eating. He called her with a bell when he wanted her.
Father Dugan always held cathechism class after Mass. He was a very strict man, but he was, nonetheless, very good to sick people.)
In January of the next year, Father John J. Judge was appointed to St. Patrick’s. He remained for slightly more than three years before being transferred to St. Mary’s, Iowa.
(Father Judge had an Irish temper, but was very kindhearted about visiting the sick.
It was in Father Judge’s time that St. Patrick’s only caretaker was employed. Ed Flaherty of Mammoth (Monmouth), Illinois, lived in a small house constructed on the west edge of the grounds. Ed took care of the furnace, dug graves, and did odd jobs. Ed passed away in 1946, and there have been no other caretakers since. The house was torn down in the 1960’s)
In 1938, Father Rudolph Schneller was appointed, but served for only about six months. Because of a severe injury in a car accident, he was unable to continue at his post. For that reason, Father John J. Reynolds took over the care of the parish in that same year, 1938.
(Father Reynolds was a good organizer, especially of parish picnics. He enjoyed helping the farmers with threshing and other work. He loved to play cards and was good at card tricks. Electricity was brought to Irish Settlement in 1939 and the first light fixtures, purchased in Council Bluffs, are still in use.)
Father Reynolds remained for twelve years and is now (1956) the pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Woodbine, Iowa.
For the next two years, from 1950 to 1952, the needs of the parish were met by the Passionist Fathers of St. Gabriel’s Monastery in Des Moines. (Probably the most remembered were Bernard Mary Coffey, Jordan Grimes and Randall Joyce.)
In 1952, the present pastor (Rev. John Hart) was appointed.
(During Father Hart’s stay, the Centennial of the church was celebrated. He spent time in Dubuque researching the parish history, which he wrote.
Father Hart had the belfry repaired, eliminated the west door of the church, and carpeted the sanctuary. He was one of the first priests to say home Masses and said Mass many times at the home of Pete Weil who was bedfast.)
The territory of St. Patrick’s parish
One of the more interesting considerations of the St. Patrick’s parish is in the territory which is served. As we noted earlier, the first pastor was Father Timothy N. Mullen who made the Irish Settlement his headquarters as early as 1852. Speaking of his assignment, Msgr. Hoffman relates that he was made Missionary Extraordinary between Fort Des Moines and Council Bluffs on the Missouri River. Since there was no other priest closer than Ottumwa, we might say that the territory of the parish was about the same as the entire Diocese of Des Moines today. Even in 1855, when Father McCormick was pastor, there was no other priest in the entire Diocese. By 1872, there were established churches in Des Moines, one in Council Bluffs and a mission parish at Panora in Guthrie County.
It was in 1874 that the first preserved records of baptisms and marriages were kept. In these records there is a blank for the place of origin on the parents of the child baptized. Father Smyth made only two distinctions for some were from “Hiberniae” (Ireland) and others were from “Americae”. However, in the case of Father Rice’s records, the notations were a bit more exact. In these records it is discovered that parishioners lived in Winterset, Patterson, Bevington, Churchville, St. Marys, Commerce and Booneville. With an average of nearly fifty infant baptisms a year, one can easily understand that, even in present-day standards, the parish at the Irish Settlement was a good-sized one.
St. Patrick’s divided
With the death of Father Rice, the process of paring down the territory of St. Patrick’s parish was started. As Mr. Gillaspie was a witness to the breakup, we can best quote from his account – “After the death of Father Rice, St. Patrick’s Parish was divided, all sough of North River were stricken into the Parish of Churchville and now attend there where they have a large congregation.” This was in 1884
About the same time, or a bit earlier, Rev. N. Sassil, who was the pastor of the new German-speaking parish in Des Moines, opened a mission parish at St. Marys, Iowa. Then, just nine years later in 1893, Sacred Heart Church was established in Valley Junction, to which was attached Cumming of Warren County as an out-mission. Valley Junction is now West Des Moines, and for all practical purposes is part of the city of Des Moines. Also, about the same time, St. Joseph’s parish of Winterset was founded. Part of the territory now included in St. Boniface parish of Waukee was served from St. Patrick’s. At the present time, the parish embraces a strip roughly eight miles wide and about ten miles long.
St. Patrick’s parish has been under the jurisdiction of three different Dioceses. Originally it was under Dubuque. In 1881, the southern part of the State of Iowa was made the new Diocese of Davenport. Then in 1911, the western half of the Davenport Diocese was made the Diocese of Des Moines and automatically, St. Patrick’s became part of it.
Settling of the Irish
As we mentioned earlier, there is no end of problems in setting dates and names of the early settlers. From our search, the earliest records of an Irish settler is that of J. C. P. Malone, who registered a claim in 1847. IN 1848, J. H. Couch registered his claim and settled with his wife and five children. In the next year, Allen Major settled with his wife and four children. In 1850, there were four families, another five in 1851 and seven in 1852. These are by no means complete listings. Since a family would usually live with already established families before they started for themselves, there is no way of determining an exact count.
Contrary to some opinions, the concentration of Irish immigrants in Madison County was not the result of planned colonization. There were several factors which inspired the settlement of the Irish.
First of all, the land itself was ideally designed for the needs of the early homesteaders. The two requirements, wood and water, were furnished by the North River and the timber which lined its banks. There can be no doubt that the early establishment of the church at Irish Settlement was the greatest incentive. The deep Catholic faith of the Irish made them anxious to insure the practice of their religion.
For the most part, the settlers made Madison County the second or third place of residence after landing in the New World. As we shall see later on, practically all of the more populated states in the east are represented among the places of previous residence of the settlers. Nor was the Irish Settlement able to satisfy the restlessness of many of the immigrants. Later on, when the organized efforts of Catholic Settlement in Nebraska and Minnesota began, there were many of the residents who once more packed their belongings and moved on. There are still many family ties between those who remained and those who moved. The same is true of many of the Irish settlers in Des Moines, who spent some of their earliest residency in the Irish Settlement before moving into the city.
Gillaspie’s report of early settlers
It was mentioned earlier that it is practically impossible to compile an accurate listing of the early settlers. The best we can do is to quote directly from Mr. Gillaspie’s report – “But for the purpose of this letter I will confine myself to the Irish settlers who settled in Madison County prior and up to 1860. I will begin with Crawford Township and give the names, and also, as far as I know, where they came from directly to Iowa. They are as follows: Andrew Connor and family, in 1854 or earlier, came from Wisconsin, is now dead, father of Stephen and John Connor of Crawford and Michael of Lee. Patrick and John McManus, in 1854, from Wisconsin. Patrick is dead, the family moved away. John’s family moved from here. John McLaughlin and family in 1854. John came from Wisconsin and was the father of Michael of Lee and John of Winterset. He is dead for many years. John Ryan and family, brothers and sisters, in 1855, from Wisconsin. Mr. Ryan is dead for many years, father John and William Ryan of this place. John Fallon and family from Pennsylvania in 1855, I believe. John died here many years ago and his family moved west. John Cunningham and family came from Wisconsin in 1855. Mr. Cunningham died a few years ago, was father to Joseph and P. J. of this place. Thomas, James and John Finan, brothers, came in 1855, I think from Wisconsin, owned a saw mill on North River as well as farms. Sold out and moved west. Each of the Finans had families. John Connor and family in 1855 from Wisconsin, I think, after a few years he sold out and moved away. John Manion and wife from Wisconsin in 1856. Sold farm and moved to Des Moines. John Roddy and family about 1856, sold out and went to Des Moines after a few years. John Monaghon and family from Wisconsin in 1855. Mr. Monaghon is dead and his family moved away.
“We now come to the Irish who located in Crawford Township, south of North River. Darby Gill and family in 1855 from Canada, I think. Mr. Gill is dead. Some of his family have died, some live in Warren County and some in Polk. Michael Donahue and family in 1855. He is dead and the family moved away. Pat Swift in 1855. He is dead and the family gone. James Gallagher and family in 1855 from Canada. He is dead. His son James F. Lives in Des Moines, his son Dominick’s family live on the old farm. Frank Cassady and family in 1855 from New York City. He is dead, two of his sons went west. Mrs. McLaughlin of Lee Township is his daughter, and two other daughters live in Des Moines. Patrick Smith and family came here from New York City. He came in 1855 and bought his farm, his wife and children came in 1856. Mr. and Mrs. Smith are dead. They were the parents of Luke A. Smith of this place and John Smith of Winterset. Thomas McGirr from New York City in 1855, remained three or four years, then went to California where it is believed he died. He was unmarried. James Gillaspie came here from New York City in the spring of 1856, accompanied by his wife and other relatives. He is still living on the old farm. Charles Walls and family came in 1856, bought and sold four or five farms, lived here until 1874, then returned to New York City. He is long in his grave. John Harrington and family in 1856 from New York City. After living here about thirty-five years, he traded his farm for Des Moines property. He is dead and his son, Matthew Harrington, is living in Des Moines. John Crawley and family came from New York City in 1856, lived on a farm for several years and died. His family sold the farm and moved to Cass County where some of them are still living. Michael Loftus and family came here from Canada in 1857. Mr. Loftus died several years ago. His son, Mike, and several of his daughters are still residents of this place. Michael McGlone and family came here from Canada in 1857. Mr. McGlone is dead. His widow and son, Martin, still live on the farm. James Kirby and family came here in 1856 from Pennsylvania. Mr. and Mrs. Kirby are dead. Their son, John F., and daughter, Maggie, live on the old farm. William and James, the other sons, live near on farms of their own. Patrick Reilly and family came here in 1855 from Canada. He is dead, the farm was sold a few years ago. His son, Patrick, and two daughters, all married, live in Des Moines, and another son, John, lives in Iowa east of Des Moines. Darby Carr and family came in 1855. Mr. Carr died and the family after several years moved to Des Moines. Thomas O’Toole and family came here in 1860 from Des Moines, sold his farm a few years ago, and is now living in Omaha, Nebraska. Thomas Durigan and family came in 1858, lived here for several years, then moved across the line to Warren County where he died. Some of the Durigan family are still living in Iowa, but not on the old farm. James McDonnell and family came here in 1860 from Wisconsin. Mr. McDonnell sold his farm a few years ago and moved to Nebraska where he died. His son, Dennis, lives in Crawford Township. John Cutler, an early settler in Warren County, settled in this township in the early 60’s with his family. William Kennedy and family came here in 1855 from Philadelphia and, after living here for many years, moved to California, where he died. Mrs. Robert Smith of South Township is one of his daughters. Having now given the early settlers of Crawford, I will now take up the task of giving the names of the early Irish Settlers of Lee Township.
“I will say here that I cannot be so accurate as to the dates of the years in which many of those old settlers came here. And cannot, perhaps, give all their names, but I will give them to the best of my knowledge – that is, of those who came here up to 1860. Lee Township – Allen Major came here in 1855 from Warren County. He is now dead, his son, John lives in Iowa but has left the old farm. John McCarty and family in 1855. He is dead but some of his sons live on the old farm. David Welsh and John Welsh, brothers, came as early as 1855. David settled in Lee Township and John across the line in Warren County. David is dead and the family has moved away. Timothy Horn and family came here from Des Moines in or about 1860. He is dead, his son, James, and two sisters live on the farm. Daniel Mulvihill, some time in the ’50, not sure of the date. He died a few years ago. His son, James, lives on the farm and another son, Daniel is a Catholic priest in Des Moines, Iowa.
“Jeremia Dooley and family, am not certain of date of coming here. James and Patrick Maher and their families, do not know date. James Lynch and family, not sure of the year. Mr. Lynch still lives in good health on the old farm. Michael and Patrick Duffy and their families, not sure of the year. Peter Laughlin came to Lee from the western part of the country some time close to 1860. He is dead a few years. His sons, Thomas and John still live here. Andrew and James Hanrahan and their families and several other Irish families moved here into Lee Township in the early ‘60’s. I now close my Lee Township narrative.
“In order to give a correct idea of the History of the Irish Settlement, it is necessary to name briefly several families in Warren County across the line in the townships adjoining Crawford and Lee, who came in the years previous to 1860. They are as follows: John Spain and family and John Cahill, also his father and family, Michael Doheny and family, Edmund Ryan and family, William Ryan, John and Thomas Bell and their families. I forget their names. Bernard King, Neil McElwee and family, Anthony McElwee and a family by the name of Friel, Patrick Cassady and family, two brothers Michael and James Kane and their families, John Mackin and family, John Welsh and family, Peter Murray and family, Pat Walsh, William Shay and family, Patrick Butler and family, and a Mrs. Gallagher and family. She was a widow.
“A list of settlers who came later to the Irish Settlement since 1860. I will merely give their names as far as I am able, and where they settled. But before giving the names of those who came since 1860, I will name a few of those who came in the early ‘50s. Patrick Walsh, Adam Walsh, and John Cutler came to the Settlement in 1852. There are several families belonging to the Settlement who came previous to 1860 who live in the southwest corner of Polk County. Among these are the Hoyes, Malones and others. In 1860, and since, those who settled in Warren County are R. McGuire, E. Slavin, Ellwood Brothers, John Collins, James Davitt, Mr. Fagan, James Doud, Pat McNerney, T. Harrigan, Pat Breslin, J. Graham, Ed McCusker, Peter McDonnell, Pat McConnell, John Linnan, Thomas Gallager, John Mulroy, James Banks, George Banks, Michael Cast, Mr. Cash was a very early settler in 1855. The Hall brothers, John and Michael, Joseph Nugent, Pat Waldron, P. Brownrigg, William Hayes, Peter Quinn, Ed McManus, Felix McManus, Pat McManus, James Sheehey, Pat Ward, William Gavin, the McAndrews family were early settlers, I do not know the year. John McGovern, Thomas Powers, Neil Enright, John Keeney, Matt Lillis, Thomas James and Daniel Heaffey, Robert Kelly and others. All the foregoing listed are men or were men with families with the exception of two or three who settled on the Warren County side of the Settlement since 1860 or about that time. In this list I do not mention any of the young men who grew up or were born here. Some of those mentioned have removed since to other places. Many are dead, but there is generally speaking in most cases, some one, two or more representatives of each family remaining.
“List of those settled in Crawford Township since 1860 – Bernard Johnson, P. Gill, William Costello, John Peter, Thomas Mulroy, John Marrinan, Thomas Linnan, Thomas Swift, Pat Swift, William Connolly, Robert McGovern2, John Kelly, John Tiernan, Pat Kilduff, the Hagan family, John Franey3, P. Graney, Martin Gavin, John Dillon and Thomas Burke. Lee Township since 1860 – James Condon, Thomas Glynn, Maurice Breen, Peter Kelly, M. M. Gilleran and his father. Martin Waldron, James Brazill, Lawrence King, John Pollard, Stephen Murphy, James Kiernan, John Clarke, Michael Dorgan, Richard Dorgan, Michael McNamara, Michael Phillips, John White, John Roach, Thomas McKeon, and Tim O’Herron.
“In order to show fully the Irish Settlement, I must include part of Union Township. Here we find Edward Monagan, Patrick Nolan, Michael Donohue and Martin McNamara.”
Not only Irish
While the name is given, and remains to this day, St. Patrick’s of the Irish Settlement, it would be wrong to give the impression that there was a restriction as to nationality. We have pointed out before that the concentration of Irish Catholics in this particular locality was more by chance and the result of the church being there than it was by design. There were also among the early settlers several families from Germany, whose Catholic faith made them accepted and respected members of St. Patrick’s parish. Perhaps one of the earliest of these was the Rose family whose origins were from the province of Alsace between France and Germany. In 1854, John Churchman, a German Catholic, laid out the town of Churchville. Among the others must be listed proudly the names of Kasper and Conrad Weil, Anthony Weidman, Charles Snyder, Julius Reiman and Michael Grassman.
It is possible that in this enumeration of the names and dates of the early settlers of St. Patrick’s we have made some omissions and mistakes. This is not intentional and we have gone to a great deal of effort to investigate all known sources of information.
History from the parish cemetery
Usually, one would expect that the markers in the cemetery would reveal a great deal about the early settlers who are buried there. We have already related the story of the founding of the cemetery and through that, the parish. These early burials were made about the log church and at first the graves were marked only by small wooden crosses. Later, there was a concentrated effort to plot and mark the burial spots. Each grave was marked and everything was prepared for the drawing up of a map showing all the graves. However, the day before the mapping was to take place, a fire swept through the cemetery and destroyed all the markers. For this reason, the oldest stone marker in the cemetery bears the burial date, 1857. A great number of the early graves were lost and a majority of these early settlers lie in unmarked graves. It is not infrequent to discover third and fourth generations coming back to find the resting spot of their forefathers and being sent away disappointed.
One of the great tragedies of Irish Settlement is clearly written on the names and dates of the later stones. A diphtheria epidemic raged through the community in 1863. Perhaps most indicative of the tragedy is the case of J. and B. Harrington, for on the stone it is indicated that there were three of their children who died on the same day. These children were John, age seven, Agnes, age five, and Catherine, age two years, all of whom died on March 11, 1863. This is not an isolated case for, in the family of Casper Weil, there were four children who died in the same summer and fall. In this case, two – Heinrich, age eight, and William, age five – died on August 29, 1863. The other two were Thomas, age four, and Mary M., only one and a half years. These children were the brothers and sisters of Peter Weil, one of the older settlers who passed away just a year or so ago. They were also brothers and sisters of Father John Weil who was one of the early pastors of Churchville.
Peter Weil often told the story of how his parents decided to bury Heinrich immediately after he died and made the trip to St. Patrick’s, for they did not as yet have a cemetery in Churchville. Upon their return home, they discovered that William had died while they were gone.
The McDonnells were about as deeply hit by the epidemic for, in their case, Roseanne, age eight, died on April 14, 1863, and Catherine, age sixteen, and Ellen, age six, both died on April 25 of the same year. Two children of the Thomas Bells died in September of 1863. There are several cases where a family lost one child and it is properly noted on the grave stones.
Since there were a great many of these early graves which were not marked, it is reasonable to assume that the above number is a very small percentage of those who actually were taken. The names of the Butler and McCusker families are always mentioned in regard to this loss but their graves have remained unidentified.
There are other records to be discovered from the markers which are a bit more cheerful. One of the inscriptions which is proudly displayed reads: “Henry Davitt – Born in the Parish of Abington County, Limerich, Ireland, March 25, 1784 – Died November 13, 1885.” This gentleman was born in Ireland just eight years after our Declaration of Independence and died thirty-three years after the parish was founded. There is also the stone of John Cutler whose dates are 1832 to 1932. We are told that he died just a few weeks before his one hundredth birthday. It is interesting to note that every county of Ireland is represented among the places of origin of the settlers.
Sons and daughters of St. Patrick’s
As is natural in any good Catholic community where the faith is strong, people gravitate toward vocations in the religious life. Some of the men of St. Patrick’s parish, from the very earliest time, dedicated themselves to the priesthood. Father Daniel Mulvihill, Msgr. Henry Malone, Father J.C. White, and Father John Weil all served in the Davenport Diocese and most of them later on in the Des Moines Diocese after it was established.
There have been others in recent years who were baptized at St. Patrick’s, but since they have said their first Masses in other parishes, we shall not attempt to claim them as our own.
The males did not monopolize the dedication to God, for there was an even greater number of young ladies who left St. Patrick’s parish to enter the religious life. Without stepping on the toes of any other parish, we can claim as our own, ten of these girls. They are Cecelia Durigan, who took the name of Sister M. Victoria in the Sisters of St. Joseph: Ann Connor took the name of Sister M. Benedict in the Order of St. Benedict in Guthrie, Okla.; Mary A. Grogan took the name of Sister M. Kiernan in the Sisters of Mercy in New Orleans, La.; Mary Kiernan took the name of Sister M. Juanita in the Order of St. Francis at LaCrosse, Wisconsin, Agnes Caffery took the name of Sister M. Aquinas with the Sisters of St. Joseph at LaGrange, Ill., Theresa Cain took the name of Sister M. Angela with the Ursuline Sisters of St. Louis, Mo., Catherine Connor became Sister M. Alberta and joined her aunt, mentioned above, in the Order of St. Benedict at Guthrie, Okla., Josephine Dooley took the name of Sister M. Shiela with the order of St. Francis of Clinton, Iowa. The two sisters, Sheila and Susanne Mulvihill, have entered the Sisters of Charity and have taken the names of Sister M. James Catherine and Sister M. Susan.
There is another point where St. Patrick’s parish can very well take pride. There are very few of the parishes in this part of the country that can boast of a list of their young men who marched off to defend their country in the War between the States. Here, again, we must rely upon the history of James Gillaspie, for he was included in the number of vets of the Civil War. Others who fought at that time were “George Banks, John McWilliams, L.A. Smith, William McMichale, Patrick Doud, M.M. Gilleran, Martin Waldron, Thomas Burke, William Couch, Charles Condon and others whose names I do not remember.”
In every war since that time, the men of the Irish Settlement have given their service and even their lives. Among the stones of the cemetery is one in the memory of Martin Douheny who gave his life during World War I. He died on board a troop transport on his way to France and was buried at sea.
Migration to the city
It has been the history of many of the early settlements of the Irish farm communities that settlers slowly drift into the cities and abandon the farms. However, in the case of the approximately forty families that now make up the congregation, about eighty-five per cent trace their ancestry back to the early settlers mentioned in this work. There have been a number who have moved into the city, but there are many that have remained on the land. Some families are still on the farms first claimed by great grandparents. Actually, in a few cases at the present time, there is the sixth generation of residence in the Settlement.
During the past twenty-five years, the agricultural economy of this country has undergone radical change and enormous development. The trend has been constantly and rapidly towards larger and larger farms. With the mechanization, it has become necessary that the family-size farm double, and even triple, in size and acreage. Since we have seen that St. Patrick’s parish is hemmed in on all sides, this economic development has, of necessity, slowly pared down the number of parishioners. An example of this is that on one of the farms of the parish, the remains of six other farm buildings can be seen. Today the farm supports one family while fifty years ago it supported at least five families.
Even in the face of declining numbers, the faith of those who remain on the land in the Irish Settlement is as strong and vigorous as ever. The church itself is kept in good repair. True Christian charity, which is effective assistance to those in need, as well as generous support of the church, distinctly marks the philosophy of the people of St. Patrick’s.
St. Patrick’s since 1956
In the twenty-three years since Father Hart compiled St. Patrick’s Centennial History, many world events have occurred – the Viet Nam war, a president assassinated, another president resigning in disgrace, men on the moon, and in our own area, an interstate highway constructed a mere half mile from our doors. Vatican II was called and with it came changes in the church’s liturgy.
But in spite of all this, Irish Settlement remains much the same. Even the hitch rails still stand.
In the interval since 1956, some of the original family names have been lost. The Ryans and Tiernans are no longer on the Settlement’s roster; however, their relatives are still involved in the parish.
And several pastors have served the parish between the time of Father Hart and the present pastor, Father John Richter. (See their pictures and the dates of their pastorates on pages 26 and 27.)
After Father Hart left to build a new parish in Council Bluffs, St. Patrick’s was served by Father Cornelius Gaul. It was Father Gaul who replaced the old organ with an electronic model. In 1958, Father Dennis Curtin was appointed pastor. Father Curtin served both St. Patrick’s Church and Assumption Church at Churchville. He was pastor at the time Father James Kiernan, son of John and Alice Kiernan, was ordained. Father Curtin also organized a young couples study club. He was known as very ecumenical and as an outstanding homilist.
Father Dan Clarke served as pastor from 1962 to 1970 at which time he was assigned to the pastorate of St. Marys’ church. It was during Father Clarke’s pastorate at St. Patrick’s that Sister Paula Watts, daughter of John and Elizabeth Watts, was received into the Marion Sisters (1964). And in 1968, the parish celebrated the centennial of its present church building. Under Father Clarke, the building was rejuvenated as he and the men of the parish revamped the body of the church with paneling on the side walls, new pews, carpeting and a center aisle replacing the side aisles. The Bishop celebrated Mass on the day of dedication and the parish enjoyed a potluck supper.
(For a nostalgic look at St. Patrick’s church building in 1935 at the time of Father Dugan’s death, see the photo on page 25. Contrast it with St. Patrick’s today, shown on page 31 and opposite page 34.)
Father Clarke was also responsible for the front rooms of the rectory being joined to make one large room for parish use – and for the installation of the gas furnace in the church.
During the next two years (from 1970 to 1972), St. Patrick’s was blessed with two pastors, Father Lawrence Beeson and Father Richard Bergman. It was during this period that St. Patrick’s “skunk” incident took place.
On a spring day a pair of skunks decided to take up residence under the church, forcing the parishioners to have Mass in the rectory for several months. St. Patrick’s has, over the years, had several “experiences” with the wildlife of the area. At one time, a bird flew into the church on Pentecost Sunday, causing one parishioner to wonder out loud if it might be the Holy Spirit. On another occasion, raccoons found their way into the sanctuary and attempted to devour the Good News. A new missal had to be purchased.
It was during the stay of Father Beeson and Father Bergman that an auction was held, selling off the old furniture that had been stored in the attic. The present Wurlitzer organ was installed at this time.
Father Beeson left St. Patrick’s to take over the job of religious education coordinator for the city of Council Bluffs and Father Bergman moved to Churchville as pastor. At that time, Father Michael O’Reilly was appointed pastor of St. Patrick’s.
Father Frank Bognanno came to St. Patrick’s in 1973 and began his five year pastorate. During that time, he remodeled the other two rooms in the rectory to make two large rooms on the first floor for parish use.
Father Bognanno left St. Patrick’s in 1978, and Father Joseph Schulte took up the position and served for the next year. In 1979, St. Patrick’s present pastor, Father John Richter began his service to the parish.
The future of St. Patrick’s
The decline of the congregation evident in the past 50 years seems to have reversed itself in the 1970’s. One of the reasons for this is Irish Settlement’s proximity to Des Moines and the growing popularity of building homes in the country.
Also, in the last few years good jobs in the surrounding towns have become less plentiful and attractive. There have been greater attempts at more concentrated farming: hog confinement units, larger cattle feeding lots, and intensified row cropping. These have helped to keep more of the farm families at home. Sons and daughters of the families have married, built homes in the community, and are raising their families here. This is evidenced by the many pre-school children seen in the present congregation.
The emphasis at St. Patrick’s has always been, and continues to be, on community. The recently converted downstairs of the rectory has provided a large room for parish activities. The first Sunday of each month is designated for a social hour after Mass with coffee and rolls served. Adult as well as youth religious education classes are held here. And, doing its part to conserve energy, the parish uses the new “hall” for celebrating Masses on Saturdays and some Holy Days during winter months.
The Parish Outreach Program is the latest undertaking. At a recent Mission, the congregation was challenged by the mission priest to do something for someone as a community. Therefore, on the first Sunday of each month, the children take up a special collection which is given to the Catholic Council for Social Concern. Feedback is usually received about what the money was used for, making it more meaningful and personal.
The people of St. Patrick’s are proud of their heritage and the fact their parish is the Mother Church of the Diocese. It has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places and was chosen to be honored by a visit of the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, during his pilgrimage to the United States in October, 1979.
Pope John Paul II visits St. Patrick’s
On September 18, 1979, the announcement was made that the Holy Father would visit St. Patrick’s, Irish Settlement, on October 4, 1979.
Immediately following the announcement, the news media descended on the parish and began their coverage of this momentous occasion, interviewing most of the parishioners at least once in the ensuing two weeks.
The Parish Council, along with the newly appointed pastor, Father John Richter, met that same evening and began their planning. First on the agenda was spiritual preparation which took the form of evening devotions each day to pray for the safe trip of the Holy Father and for the success of his mission. There were Masses offered two or three evenings a week for the same purpose. The parishioners each spent an hour in prayer in the church during the days of preparation.
The Council members began the physical preparation of the church and grounds immediately. The grounds were mowed and limbs cleaned up. The church itself was cleaned inside and out until it was shining.
Pamphlets regarding the church and postcards picturing the church were printed and offered to visitors. Extra wiring was required to accommodate the TV equipment. Flowers were gathered from everyone’s yard for use on the alter and vegetables were collected for the horn of plenty displayed in the vestibule.
Hymns were practiced daily to be sung during the Holy Father’s visit. Many of the parishioners donated their time to stay at the church and welcome visitors and reporters as well as to answer the telephone which rang continually. The men of the parish stood watch every night.
Father Richter and Joe Bognanno, site coordinator, attended daily meetings at the Bishop’s house to keep abreast of plans at the diocesan level, while the Council met often to keep things moving on the parish level.
Mingled with all the serious preparation for the Holy Father’s visit, the humor of the Settlement showed through, and several of the stories are bound to be told to future generations. Some of the more interesting stories are related here.
Prior to the visit of the Holy Father, Gary Kiernan filled a transport with 5,000 gallons of water to help settle the dust. The story went around Booneville that Gary was going to have the water blessed by the Pope and planned to sell it in small bottles.
When Mike Tiernan was getting ready for the Pope’s visit, he remarked that it was chilly, to which his father spoke up, “I always told you it would be a cold day in hell before the Pope ever came to St. Patrick’s.”
The day after the Holy Father’s visit, a woman whose sister was very ill, asked permission to squeeze the holy water from the sponge in the fountain. She proceeded to squeeze the sponge – into a Pepsi bottle.
The Holy Father’s congregation
Following is a complete list of St. Patrick’s Parish members who were present during Pope John Paul II’s visit there:
Forty-two minutes with the Holy Father
Across from St. Patrick’s Church is the farm of John and Marilyn Connor and it was there, in a lush, green pasture near a grain bin, farm machinery and bales of hay, that Pope John Paul II’s helicopter landed shortly before 2:30 p.m., October 4, 1979.
As the Holy Father walked into the church, he first saw altar boy, Bobby Mulvihill, and stopped to pat him on the head in blessing and ask his name. All the way to the altar, Pope John Paul stopped at nearly every pew to hug and kiss the children. St. Patrick’s youngest member, 11-day-old Justin John Banks, son of David and Carol Banks, received the Holy Father’s blessings, as did three-week-old Nicholas Lyons, son of Gary and Mary Jude Lyons.
Bishop Maurice Dingman of the Diocese of Des Moines welcomed Pope John Paul II to St. Patrick’s, after which the Holy Father offered a prayer at the altar and read the address that appears on page 33.
Plans had been made to include the Holy Father in the church’s potluck picnic on the grounds. However, tight scheduling and a later arrival in Iowa than planned, forced the Pope to go directly from the church to his helicopter and on to the Living History Farms where he would celebrate Mass with 350,000 people.
Though Pope John Paul II was only with the parishioners of St. Patrick’s for forty-two minutes, his presence was deeply felt by all. This leader of the Church radiated warmth and joy and affection for each member of the parish, but especially for the children. He embraced them, kissed them, blessed them and provided them, and their parents, with memories that will last throughout their lives.
The parish of St. Patrick’s, Irish Settlement, was indeed blessed by the visit of the Holy Father and is proud to have been the church chosen to represent the rural parishes of America.
The words of the Holy Father will remain with us even though he has left. It is our hope, as children of God, to continue the spirit of community and the dedication to our Lord that has been the history of St. Patrick’s. We are the current generation of St. Patrick’s parishioners. By God’s grace, our children and their children and all the future generations will cherish and prosper this parish that was started so many years ago by our pioneer forefathers.
The Holy Father described St. Patrick’s much better than we can when he referred to “a small, unpretentious church at the center of a group of family farms, a place and a symbol of prayer and fellowship, the heart of a real Christian community where people know each other’s problems, and give witness together to the love of Jesus Christ.”
The message of Pope John Paul II
Following is the prepared text of the address given by the Holy Father at St. Patrick’s of Irish Settlement, October 4, 1979.
Dear brothers and sisters, it gives me great pleasure to be here today with you, in the heartland of America, in this lovely Saint Patrick’s Church at the Irish Settlement. My pastoral journey through the United States would have seemed incomplete without a visit, although short, to a rural community like this. Let me share with you some thoughts that this particular setting brings to mind, and that are prompted by my meeting with the families who make up this rural parish.
To proclaim Jesus Christ and his Gospel is the fundamental task which the Church has received from her Founder, and which she has taken up ever since the dawn of the first Pentecost. The early Christians were faithful to this mission which the Lord Jesus gave them through his Apostles: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” This is what every community of believers must do: Proclaim Christ and his Gospel in fellowship and apostolic faith, in prayer and in the celebration of the Eucharist.
How many Catholic parishes have been started like yours in the early beginnings of the settlement of this region: A small, unpretentious church at the center of a group of family farms, a place and a symbol of prayer and fellowship, the heart of a real Christian community where people know each other’s problems, and give witness together to the love of Jesus Christ.
On your farms you are close to God’s nature; in your work on the land you follow the rhythm of the seasons; and in your hearts you feel close to each other as children of a common Father and as brothers and sisters in Christ. How privileged you are, that in such a setting you can worship God together, celebrate your spiritual unity and help to carry each other’s burdens. The 1974 Synod of Bishops in Rome and Paul VI in his Apostolic Exhortation “Evangelii Nuntiandi” have devoted considerable attention to the small communities where a more human dimension is achieved than is possible in a big city or in a sprawling metropolis. Let your small community be a true place of Christian living and of evangelization, not isolating yourselves from the diocese or from the universal Church, knowing that a community with a human face must also reflect the face of Christ.
Feel grateful to God for the blessings he gives you, not least for the blessing of belonging to this rural parish community. May our heavenly Father bless you, each and every one of you. May the simplicity of your life style and the closeness of your community be the fertile ground for a growing commitment to Jesus Christ, Son of God and Savior of the World.
I for my part thank the Lord for the opportunity he gave me to come and visit you, and as Vicar of Christ to represent him in your midst. Thank you also for your warm welcome and for offering me your hospitality as I prepare for my encounter with the large group of people at the Living History Farms.
My gratitude goes in a special way to the Bishop of Des Moines for his most cordial invitation. He pointed out many reasons why a visit to Des Moines would be so meaningful; A city that is one of the major agricultural centers of this country; the headquarters also of the dynamic and deserving Catholic Rural Life Conference, whose history is so closely linked to the name of a pastor and a friend of the rural people. Monsignor Luigi Ligutti; a region distinguished by community involvement and family-centered activity; a diocese that is involved, together with all the Catholic bishops of the heartland, in a major effort to build community.
My Greetings and best wishes go also to the whole State of Iowa, to the civil authorities and to all the people, who have so generously extended to me a hospitality marked by kindness.
May God bless you through the intercession of Mary, the Mother of Jesus and the Mother of his Church.
1. Michael V. Rice is "Martin V. Rice" per the Dubuque Diocese record.
2. An error was made by Father John Hart in quoting the original paper written in 1907 by James Gillaspie. The name "Robert McGovern" is a composite of the names Robert Morris and T. McGovern. And in between were several other names given in the 1907 paper but missing in the 1956 transcription. The "Robert McGovern" written in 1956 should say "Robert Morris, Wm. Connor, Pat Curtis, Michael Casey, Thos. Dee, Pat Doud and T. McGovern".
3. Correct name is "Graney".