THE HISTORY OF
IMMACULATE CONCEPTION PARISH
(Written in 1990 for the 150th year celebration by Father Mitas)
Where does one begin to tell the story of a 150-year-old parish? It's usually best to start at the beginning:
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth...
Well, maybe we don't have to go back quite that far, but it's not a bad idea to remember that every good thing begins with God. Having mentioned that, let's fast forward a few years, say, fifteen billion or so, to the year 23,000 B.C. That is where the Story of our parish begins.
It starts with the original inhabitants of our parish, the
Indians. In the ice age of about 23,000 B.C., a group of them arrived at the
Bering Land Bridge at a point in what is now the northern
Anthropologists call our first parishioners "Clovis
Peoples". They hunted mastodon and mammoth for food. They were nomads, really, with no permanent dwelling
of any kind. Church law, therefore, would not recognize them as being our
parishioners for that reason alone, not even considering the fact that not only
was there no parish here, but also, Jesus hadn't yet established the Catholic
Church! These Clovis Peoples wandered
back and forth across the
Then, about 2,000 B.C., they started farming. At the dawn of the Christian era, they had gotten fairly good at it. Even so, they still obtained most of their food from the wild; hunting deer, fishing, and gathering nuts and berries. At this time they also became a social people, trading hematite, galena, and obsidian (among other things) with other tribes.
These contacts with other tribes lead to a complete change of lifestyle. Eventually, around 800-1000 A.D., a new kind of Indian emerged. Called "the Mississippian" by anthropologists, he was a farmer who learned to domesticate the plants that he had received in trade from Mexican tribes, namely, corn, beans, and squash. In addition, the Mississippian started building f1at-topped mounds, just like his neighbors south of the not-yet-existing border. Many of these mounds still existed when the Europeans arrived. The Europeans, however, realized that they could never plant a decent strawberry patch with an enormous mound smack dab in the middle of it, so they removed all of them shortly after they arrived here.
Just what did the Mexicans get from our Indians in -
exchange for all this wonderful stuff? Tobacco! (This was years before the
Surgeon General's warning!) While all this trade was going on, the local
Mississippian was also learning how to extract salt from the various salt
springs in the
About 1400, the Mississippian's settlements collapsed. It is believed that a combination of severely cold winters and soil that had been depleted from many consecutive years of planting without fertilizing was the cause. The true reasons “may never be known. In any event, our first parishioners, no longer able to live here, moved south and east. Then new residents moved in.
The new inhabitants were socially inferior to the ones they
replaced. They farmed a little, but mostly hunted, fished, and gathered. These
are the Indians with whom we are most familiar; the Osage,
The European immigrants eventually succeeded in driving the
Indians out of
We all know about the French explorers who claimed the
The Meramec Settlement was nothing more than a loose
association of cabins, but in 1799 it boasted a population of 115. This may not
seem like much, but consider this; in 1796
Life was seldom rosy in those early days along the Meramec.
Besides the difficulties inherent in trying to live off the land, they also had
to deal with the marauding Indians. In
1778-80, a major incursion of 140 British soldiers and 1500 Indians made an
abortive series of attempts to capture
After the Indian problems abated in the early 1800's, the
remaining settlers, who had originally obtained their land from the Spanish
government in its attempt to populate the area, were now given more land by
that same government as a reward for the part they played in resisting the
Indians. Although the land was cheap and
easy to get, making it pay off was hard.
The necessary tools (traps, salt-making apparatus, etc.) were in short
supply, thus expensive. These land-rich but cash-poor settlers were forced to
borrow from the
It's hard to imagine that one man could own the entire city
In the 1820's and 30's, German-speaking settlers started to
arrive. They came from southern
But why did they come here? One would think that a man who
had to plow a field behind a mule all day would look for land that's nice and
The first German settlers were not great in number, but they were Catholic, and that is where the story of Immaculate Conception Parish really begins.
That question should have a simple answer, but, unhappily, one cannot be given, for it demands a more fundamental question: what determines the founding of a parish? Three separate dates lay claim to witnessing the foundation of our parish: 1839 (the year the parish land was purchased), 1840 (when the first Mass was celebrated), and 1842 (when the first church was built).
The Diamond Jubilee Committee chose 1842, and thus celebrated our 75th anniversary in 1917! The Centennial Committee, however, picked 1840, obviously thinking that the first celebration of the Eucharist was more significant than the construction of a building. They celebrated the 100th anniversary in 1940. We have chosen to endorse the Centennial Committee's point of view and confirm their decision that, indeed, Immaculate Conception Parish was founded in 1840. We thus mark 1990 as our sesquicentennial year.
Fr. Fischer was a man shrouded in mystery; not because we
don't know where he came from (he came from
It was 1838. Gregory XVI guided the Holy Catholic Church.
Martin van Buren guided the
from Rheno-Prussia: Jacob Hampel, Peter Hampel, Stephan Becker, Severin Puellin
from Rheno-Bavaria: Michael Kessler, Adam Kessler
from origins unknown: Christian Schmitt
These 14 men with their wives and children formed our parish.
In 1839, Fr. Fischer purchased 160 acres of land in his own
name (and, presumably, with his own money) from the same Christopher Frederitzi
mentioned above in order to start the parish. The history books mark the date
of the sale as
Fr. Fischer immediately leased the land to the same Jacob Hampel mentioned above for ten years, with the understanding that Hampel would then clear 40 acres for church use and build a log church. From this we deduce that it took Hampel three years to accomplish the building of the .church, since the church was not ready until 1842. In the mean time, tradition has it that the first Mass was celebrated in the homes of one of those first fourteen families in the year 1840, the exact date and place being lost in the dark obscurity of the distant past.
Fr. Fischer did not live here. The Old Cathedral remained
his primary assignment. Since the German population of the diocese was rapidly
expanding and he was one of the few priests in the diocese and one of the even
fewer who understood German, his value to Bishop Rosati increased
exponentially. Correspondingly, Bishop Rosati relied on him more and more to
minister to the spiritual needs of Germans all around the diocese. Thus, while
his apostolate expanded, it also became more specified. He became famous among
the German Catholics of St. Louis, and he served them in
The first church was a log building, 24 by 30 feet, built by Jacob Hampel in 1842 on what is now the front lawn of the rectory .A picture of this building, in its later modified state, is to be seen in an ancient lithograph elsewhere in this volume.
By our standards, of course, it was ridiculously small. We must look at it, however, in the context of its own circumstances. The Lord Jesus proclaimed the penny offered by the poor widow to be a sum vastly greater than the thousands tendered by the millionaires because of the depth of her sacrifice. In that light, that humble edifice outshines the great Cathedral of Chartres. Its construction by the 14 first families of Immaculate Conception Parish proclaims eloquently the depth of the commitment on the part of those people and the fervor of their apostolic zeal. You will find as you read on that our parishioners have always applied themselves with that same spirit of self-sacrifice in supplying the needs of their parish.
Has our parish always claimed the sinless Mother of God .as our patron and protectress? Most of us probably assume this is so without even thinking about it, but this cannot be taken for granted. The dogma of the immaculate conception of Mary was never officially proclaimed by the Church until 1854. Even so, all the evidence points to the conclusion that from the very beginning in 1840, our parish had been known as Immaculate Conception. Our baptism record book from 1843 bears the following inscription (in Latin): "The Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary across the Merrimac (sic), dedicated under the title Immaculate Conception". This notation, however, was in the handwriting of Fr. Reis, who did not arrive here until 1853.
The National Catholic Almanac for 1846 lists our parish and lists it under that same title. We assume, therefore, that Fr. Fischer, in conjunction with his sturdy parishioners, chose the Sinless One as patron of our parish from its very origins in 1840. Two further things are noteworthy about the selection; first, that same title had been given numerous local parishes, some, like Kaskaskia, many years before ours, and, second, the devotion to the Immaculate Conception is particularly French. (Maybe Fr. Fischer was "Jean Pierre" after all!)
The original 14 families continued to comprise the entire
parish until 1846, when five more families arrived: Henry Blank, Anton Klahs,
Gerhard Poepper, William Poepper, and Bernhard Konert. In the following years, revolutions and
religious persecutions would drive many others from their homeland to seek
haven in the new world. Many found their way to the banks of the Meramec, the
vast majority of them being Catholics from southern
George Bernard Shaw described the Americans and British as "two peoples separated by a common language". The same could have been said of our first parishioners. Though they all spoke German, some spoke Low German and others High German. This apparently would cause some kind of division in the parish, but now it is hard to say what and to what extent.
Despite its growth, Immaculate Conception Parish was still a
mission parish with no resident pastor. Shortly after Fr. Fischer founded St.
Mary of Victory in 1843, the demands of the new parish coupled with his own
declining health required him to discontinue the arduous journey from downtown
With all due deference to our present and former pastors,
this title would have to best suit Fr. Melcher. A chance meeting with Bishop
In 1868, Pope Pius IX established a new diocese in
Bp. Melcher's successor, Fr. Simon Sigrist, visited Immaculate Conception once a month. The parish, however, continued to grow. By the early 1850's, Fr. Remigius Gebhard came over from Mattese every other Sunday. In addition, Fr. Gebhard oversaw the construction of a new church, begun in 1851. Though only nine years old, the old log church had become too small to hold the congregation, but was kept and used as a residence for the priest or parish caretaker, whoever happened to need it more? It stood until 1890. At 30 by 50 feet, the new church was more than twice the size of the old one. Built of stone, it must have been the most impressive building in old Maxville at the time. (Photos of its interior and exterior are found elsewhere in this
It is a slight exaggeration to say that it was built in 1851. The walls were built then, but the roof was not! Neither were the inside walls plastered, nor were there any pews, baptismal font or pulpit. It was only after Fr. Brockhagen .arrived in 1859 that those things were put in. Even so, one cannot help but be impressed by the progressive spirit of our forebears. They established a pattern, often repeated throughout our history, of always having the courage to undertake new building projects when necessary, and doing a proper job of it. They could have contented themselves with the small church of logs despite its obvious inadequacy. Instead, they undertook a burden which certainly must have stretched their humble means to the limit for the needs of the parish and the glory of God.
This was Mary Louisa Frederitzi, who was baptized at
Immaculate Conception by Fr. Sigrist on
An epidemic of cholera broke out in the 1850's. Its effect on our parish was two-fold; first, the number of deaths in 1854 more than quintupled from the previous year, and, second, the dread affliction claimed the life of Fr. Gebhard, who had spent a great deal of time ministering to its other, victims. He was only 29 years old. Getting a replacement for him was not easy. His place was taken by a series of priests who visited our parish irregularly throughout the remainder of the decade. Some lived at Assumption; the others occupied, briefly, the old log church.
Strictly speaking, it's not accurate to call Fr. Brockhagen
our first resident pastor, since Fr.'s Lipowsky, Blaarer, and Lentner did dwell
here, though for a very short time each. It is true, however, to say that when
Fr. Brockhagen arrived here in 1859,
Immaculate Conception was Fr. Brockhagen's first assignment
He was ordained a priest only a couple of weeks before he arrived in
At this point we will diverge from the chronological historical narrative and focus in on the individual histories of the various parish organizations, properties, institutions and persons.
J. P. FISCHER.
Our parish founder.
He offered the first Mass here in 1840 and performed the first Baptism in 1843.
Served here 1840-1844. Lived at the Old Cathedral and
Witnessed the first marriage in 1844. Served here 1844-1846. Lived at Mattese.
His name does not appear anywhere on any of our own parish records, but the official record of priest assignments to our parish in the Archdiocesan Archives indicates that he was appointed to serve our parish. If in fact he did, it would have to have been in 1846. Residence unknown.
Not much is known about him, not even his first name. One exception; he is said to have possessed a certain measure of medical knowledge and actually performed surgery! When he served here in 1847, it was forbidden for any priest to also be a surgeon! Lived at Mattese.
Officiated at the first funeral in our cemetery in 1848. Served here 1847-1849. Lived at Mattese.
Served here in 1849 and again in 1855-56. Lived at Mattese in 1849, here in 1855-56.
Began construction of the stone church in 1851. Served here 1850-1852. Lived at Mattese.
Served here in 1853 and again in 1856-57. Lived at Mattese each time.
J. B. SCHLUESSLBRENNER.
Served here in 1854. Though his first two names are unknown to us, his last name (which in German means "key-burner") is the longest of any priest we've ever had. Residence unknown.
First priest to
actually reside here. Served from
The records of the Archdiocese show that after Fr. Reis's second departure in 1857, the parish was completely vacant, with no priest coming here at all for several months.
Served and lived here for a few months in 1858.
Served here at
the end of 1858, coming from his home at St. Peter's Parish in
Fr. Schlefer wrote a glowing
description of this man's copious accomplishments and virtues in the 1917
jubilee booklet. We chose to represent
these highlights from that eulogy to our first resident pastor: He came to
There was no housekeeper. There wouldn't be one for a year and a half.
The Hermann Wiegmann family, who lived close to the church, promised the archbishop that they would give free breakfast to any pastor whom he might send. They kept that promise, but Fr. Brockhagen discovered in a big hurry that the promise did not apply to lunch or supper. For months, Fr. Brockhagen arranged his parish visits so that they always fell around or Finally, many parishioners got together and gave him some hens, the eggs from which he exchanged with the Wiegmann's for his lunch and supper.
Twenty-five people came the first
Sunday he was here. He founded the parish school the next day, 15 pupils
attending. He used one room of the
rectory as a classroom and he himself was the teacher. Church attendance gradually
increased over the following weeks. In July, 1859 he instituted the collection
of "pew rental", raising $250 (which he used to buy pews!). He later
raised enough money to put a roof on the church, plaster its interior walls,
and purchase bells and an organ. In 1860, tired of sharing his house as a
school, he built the first parish school. He added a new sanctuary onto the
church in 1866-67 and built another school building/convent across
From "Maxville" he served
many other parishes, ranging from Mattese to
Fr. Brockhagen took a census in
1874, revealing a parish population of 109 families with 585 souls. He left
Immaculate Conception on
Msgr. John Rothensteiner, in his comprehensive "History of the Archdiocese of St Louis", described him thus:
"He would tolerate no half-measures: either one way or, another, his will had to go. He was a man of disconcerting frankness of utterance, bluff and independent, and not in the least ingratiating. The rude tillers of the soil soon found out that Fr. Brockhagen knew more about farming and raising cattle than they; and that his advice in the case of sickness, though freely given, was worth as much as a doctor's prescription; and above all, that their pastor was a man of deep faith and piety, and that his heart was of gold."
Served here from 1876-1882. Had the most beautiful handwriting of all our parish priests.
Took care of the parish from Fr. Wieger's death in early 1882 until Fr. Meller returned as pastor in May, 1882.
Served here from 1883-1888.
Served here from
Maintained the parish in September-October, 1892 until Fr. Schulte could arrive.
Pastor from October, 1892-June, 1908. He built our present church in 1895.
Pastor here from June, 1908-July, 1922. He was pastor when we observed our 75th anniversary in 1917 and wrote the story of the founding of the parish for that jubilee book, a gold mine of information from which we have extracted many king-sized nuggets. He also compiled the biographies of the early pastors which you've read thus far. Under him, a new school was built in 1922. That same building now serves as our parish center.
Many parishioners with us today still treasure fond memories of this rotund and gregarious man. He was also a colorful character, never abashed about discharging his true mind. He has left us a written record with personal impressions and descriptions of persons and events of 80 years ago. We will share some of those with you later on.
AUGUSTINE LAGER, D.D.
Pastor from July,
1922 until his death on
Served our parish longer than any other
priest, was pastor here from April, 1927 until his death in October, 1958, at
the age of 91. Though ordained rather late in life (at age 33), he lived long
enough to celebrate his 50th anniversary as a priest with us here in
1950, and eventually marked 58 years of priestly service before he died.
Present-day parishioners describe him as a quiet, gentle man. He had been a
professional actor and traveled extensively prior to his ordination. He spent
53 years of his priestly life in north
In his 31 years here, Fr. Salland added the new section on the west end of the cemetery (1927), built the present rectory (1936), and redecorated the church. He was pastor at the time of the centennial in 1940, and when the present convent (1950) and school (1957) were built. He also directed many theatrical productions on the old stage in our parish center for the youth of our parish. He is buried next to Dr. Lager in our graveyard. Fr. Salland served our parish longer than any other priest.
Served our parish from April, 1958-June, 1968. A former military chaplain, Fr. Auer came here immediately following his discharge from the service. Before he came, people used to say, "Our Father...", but after he arrived they started saying, "Father Auer!" (Ed. note: Sorry!)
Pastor from June, 1968-June, 1975. While here, he had the church painted "vassar rose" (pink) and "moon mist-a muted gray" (blue).
Served here for about six weeks in 1975 before suffering heart failure and had to leave. Baptized one person.
DAVID THOMAS, J.C.D.
Pastor from August, 1975-June, 1981. Our second pastor to hold a doctorate, Fr. Thomas was trained in Canon Law. Under him, the concession stand was built, the organ was added to the west transept and the baptismal font was built in the east transept. He also added the rest rooms on the back of church.
(Thank you, Fr .Thomas!)
MSGR. MAURICE BYRNE.
Pastor from June, 1981- February, 1988. First monsignor to head our parish, second pastor named "Byrne". He built the new classrooms over the bus garage and initiated the consolidation of the parish school with St. David's. He also air-conditioned the church. (Thank you, Monsignor!)
JOHN JAY HUGHES, D. Theol.
February, 1988-October, 1989. Fr. Hughes came to us as after many years
of teaching at universities in
MSGR. DONALD SULLIVAN.
Our present pastor. Arrived here in October, 1989.
Served here from December, 1946-January, 1947. Our first assistant pastor was sent to help the 79-year-old Fr. Salland.
Served here from February, 1947-April, 1959, in Fr. Salland's infirmity. Although Fr. Salland was technically the pastor, Fr. Fuchs pretty much ran things, especially toward the end. While here, he oversaw the formation of the Credit Union and the Bus Association, not to mention the building of the convent in 1950 and the "new school" in 1957. He also added offices on the front of the rectory and an entry way on the back, in 1958. All the while, he was paid an assistant's salary. The parish got its money's worth out of Fr. Fuchs.
August 1958-June, 1960. Came here to help administrator Fuchs while Fr. Salland was dying and stayed on after Fr. Auer replaced Fr. Fuchs.
June, 1960-May, 1961.
May, 1961-June, 1963.
June, 1963-April. 1966. Was instrumental in the building of the bus garages.
June, 1964-May, 1965. When Fr.’s Auer, Muesenfechter, and Zinzer were here together in 1964-65, it was the only time in our parish history that as many as three priests were assigned to our parish.
April, 1966-February, 1971.
June, 1971-June, 1976.
June, 1976-August, 1977.
August, 1977-June, 1979.
June, 1979-June, 1983.
June, 1983-June, 1988.
As best as can be determined, to date only two men from our parish have answered the call to the priesthood and two to the deaconship. They are:
RONALD R. TIEFENBRUNN, ordained priest
CARL T. SWARINGIM, ordained priest
JOSEPH C. STRECKFUSS, ordained deacon
RONALD HOPMEIR, ordained deacon
Unhappily, we are not sure that the following list of vocations from our parish to the religious life is complete. We submit the following as the record of those vocations from our parish of which we are aware:
BAPTISMAL NAME RELIGIOUS NAME ORDER
Anna Klahs Sr. M. Liberta FRANCISCAN
Katharina Klahs Sr. M. Sabina FRANCISCAN
Theres Telgmann Sr. M. Venantia FRANCISCAN
Julia Becker Mother M. John URSULINE
Pearl Becker Mother M. Canisia URSULINE
Sr. Clare Therese Ziegler PRECIOUS BLOOD
In 1839, Fr. Fischer bought 160 acres of land from Christopher Frederitzi. The sale price was $400. Fr. Fischer put $275 down and paid off the remaining $125 over the next three years. Since he paid $10 interest on the debt, the total purchase price of those 160 acres actually comes to $410. Was that a good price? Consider this; Frederitzi had bought that same piece of land a year and a half earlier for $180. Make up your own mind!
Since Church law requires that all Church property be held in the name of the local bishop, Fr. Fischer transferred the title to our parish land to Archbishop Kenrick in 1844. In return, Kenrick compensated Fr. Fischer with $300. (One gets the idea that either Fr. Fischer was a saint whose gaze was so strongly fixed on the Kingdom of God that he had no use for money at all, or that if Barnum was right about a sucker being born every minute, we now know that of all the children born the same minute as Fr. Fischer which one the sucker was. In any event, though his people liked him, salesmen must have LOVED him.)
The original 160-acre lot formed a perfect square whose north-south orientation was like a baseball diamond with the second base position being northernmost, home plate southernmost, first base easternmost, third base westernmost. The church was built right on top of the first base position. In 1866, Kenrick sold 140 acres to Julius A. Gerard, leaving 20 acres for parish use. He received $2,000 in compensation. (Curiously, Fr. Brockhagen himself purchased 12 acres northwest of the parish plot from Gerard by 1876, and his brother, Bernhard Brockhagen, bought 61 acres on the southwest from Gerard in 1868.) The remaining 20-acre lot formed a perfect rectangle and stretched, using once again the baseball illustration, from first base about two-thirds of the way toward second, on the direct line between first and second.
These 20 acres were all the land the parish needed for the
next 84 years. Then in 1950, Fr. Salland bought a half-acre of land from
Caroline Wingbermuehle and Bernard Venker for: $2,450 in order to build the new
convent. In 1957, he bought another 4.4 acres from the Meyer family to build
the new school. Later, another 3.8 acres were purchased from the same family in
exchange for an easement through the parish property from
In 1965, the Highway Department purchased 3.5 acres of our
land to build Interstate 55, paying us $5,500. Last year, we received $10,000
from the developers of
As a result of all this wheeling and dealing in real estate over the past 150 years, Immaculate Conception now occupies a plot of land 22.16 acres in size, on a lot that extends virtually all the way to Highway 55 on both sides of Church Road.
Before you read this history of our parish school, you aught to consider first of all what a Catholic school truly is.
Most of us think of an institution run by priests and nuns because we know that the purpose of a Catholic school, above all else, is to make our children better Catholics. People take for granted that priests and nuns, being superlative Catholics themselves, are best suited for doing that. Many older Catholics never had a lay teacher, or if they did, it was only one or two at most Moreover, most of these same Catholics take for granted that not only was this the best possible system, but that, in fact, this system of priests and nuns staffing the schools was the only way Catholic schools had EVER been operated.
Consequently, many Catholics are very uncomfortable about the present situation in which most American Catholic schools are staffed almost exclusively by lay people. In the minds of many, lay teachers can never be as good as the nuns and, besides, they cost a lot more in salaries. And so, therefore, many look upon the modern state of the Catholics schools as a digression-a going backward rather than forward-into a kind of school we've never seen before. This distresses them greatly.
As you read this history, however, please notice that all throughout the 131 years of our parish Catholic school's existence, the lay people have always been instrumental in every aspect of the school: they founded it, they built it, they staffed it, they organized it and they paid for it Our people have always embraced the task of imparting the truths of the Catholic Church through seven generations, much of it through the various religious orders that have staffed the school, but more still through the cooperative efforts of the good laity. And the faith survived! It perdures still and will further thrive, so long as each of us understands our duty and responsibility in this great work.
When our children were baptized, a bumming candle was given to us. This candle symbolized the flame and light of faith. It was given to us to symbolize that, as the torch of the Gospel was given to us, so now we, too, much pass it on to each subsequent generation. That candle was given to us that we may never let it go out It must illumine the very souls of our children, whom God faithfully entrusted to our care.
The story of our parish school is really the story of THREE schools! The first one was started by the PARISHIONERS THEMSELVES! When Fr. Reis left the parish in 1857 and no priest was sent to take his place, parishioners Heinrich Blank, Theodore Klahs, Bernhard Klahs, Wilhelm Pepper, Gerhard Konert and Wilhelm Konert (who all lived in the "Low German" settlement) got together and built a little log school in their community. Not only did they build the school, but they hired the teacher, paid his salary, and took turns boarding him; all at their own expense. When Fr. Brockhagen arrived in 1859, the school was very much in operation. He asked one of its founders why they started it, he responded thus: "Father, we thought that without a school the church would soon be for the sparrows." There was no priest, so our staunch parishioners took the task of passing on the faith to their children into their own hands. This school, which probably was started in 1857 or 1858, was closed in 1880. .
One of the first things Fr. Brockhagen did when he arrived was to establish a PARISH school, the second one of the three mentioned above. This institution, founded 131 years ago, now ranks as one of the oldest Catholic parochial schools still in existence in the entire Archdiocese. It may in fact, be THE OLDEST. but the exact ranking is beyond our ability to determine. Fr. Brockhagen used his own house as the first school and he himself was the first teacher.
Since his parish duties required him to travel extensively, Fr. Brockhagen quickly relinquished teaching and a LAY TEACHER was hired. The school opened with 15 pupils. Counting the kitchen. the rectory only had four rooms; Fr. Brockhagen lived in two of them, one was the classroom, and the teacher was quartered in the kitchen! The pastor endured this situation for six months until the growth of the school grew thick and his patience wore thin. A new log school was built in 1860. It consisted of two rooms; one classroom, 30 by 18 feet and a teacher's room of 12 by 18 feet It was built - by the hands our own parishioners and was located roughly where the exit driveway from the parking lot is now. Its picture is to be seen on that same old lithograph mentioned before.
In 1871 a new. stone school was built. It stood for almost 90 years directly across
From 1860-1875, a lay man conducted the school. In 1872, Fr.
Brockhagen brought over some Franciscan sisters from
In 1883, Fr. Angenent talked the Franciscan Sisters into
sending some sisters to resume teaching in our school. They staffed the school
from then until 1889, when they left for the same reason as before. After they
left, lay men were again hired to teach from 1889-1893. (By the way. when we
say lay men. we mean MEN; the only females who taught in our school were the
sisters.) Then, the newly-arrived
pastor. Fr. Schulte. recruited the Ursuline Sisters to teach at
For the next 30 years our school remained essentially
unchanged. We have parishioners still with us who remember what our little
school was like in the early 20th century. They spin a touching yarn about the
rigors of school life. back then: the many different grades all together in
either the "big room" or the "little room", going across
Then in 1921, Fr. Schlefers began the construction of a new school building, the same building which now serves as our parish center. Finished in 1922, its lower level served as an auditorium, complete with a stage. The classrooms were located upstairs. The old stone school still served as a convent and would later be used for classrooms again as the size of the school continued to expand.
With the school still growing, by the 1950's it became evident that something further still needed to be done. Plans were drawn up to expand the 1922 building, adding not just more classrooms, but a full gymnasium and auditorium as well. These plans, obviously, were never implemented, but a new school was built instead in 1957, at the northern limit of the parish property, on land specially purchased for the expansion. But the school continued to grow, and with it, so did the need for more classrooms. A temporary solution was found in constructing six new classrooms on top of the bus garage. This was done in 1984.
Then a different solution was hit upon. From the beginning,
there had been only one parish in the Arnold/Maxville area, Immaculate
Conception. Then, in 1963, Cardinal Ritter divided
The pastors and parishioners noticed that the following set of circumstances existed:
1) Immaculate Conception School was bursting at the seams and looking to expand,
2) Construction of the needed new classrooms would cost several hundred thousand dollars more than what the parish had,
3) St David had empty classrooms that were getting emptier, and
4) Immaculate Conception renders very good bus service from its well-managed Bus Association.
Talk about a solution presenting itself! Why should
Immaculate Conception borrow hundreds of thousands of dollars to build new
classrooms while St. David's, which is located at a convenient distance, has
classrooms begging for students? The leaders of the two parishes got together
and, decided that the consolidation of the two parish schools into one was an
ideal solution. Thus
The transition was difficult for many. The parents, teachers, and administrators of both parishes had grown accustomed to having things done their own way and having absolute control over their own destiny. Changes had to be made and a certain measure of control sacrificed-not an easy thing to do! On the whole, the transition was smooth and received well, especially since people had a clear picture of the alternative scenario in which Immaculate Conception had a nice school but no money and St David's had no school and no money, too.
Perhaps the biggest change, however, came in the way the school tuition was paid. In the days before consolidation, parents were asked to take part in a large-scale "gentlemen's agreement", in which they were asked to put a certain amount of money in the parish collection each week. It was understood that even though the money was technically a donation to the parish, it was really tuition paid for their children to go to school. This system proved unworkable because a shockingly large number of parents did not live up to their obligations. Many gave nothing at all! This would not have been a problem if they had sat down with the pastor and worked out some kind of assistance or special arrangement for paying. These parents, however, chose not even to do as little as that. They preferred to place the burden of paying for their children's Catholic education on their neighbors, who themselves were already sacrificing many things to fulfill their obligations. That situation was grossly unjust and could not be tolerated any longer.
In its place, a system was set up in which each parent was
expected to pay tuition according to a precise schedule. A special committee
was formed to review the cases of those who legitimately needed assistance, so
that Catholic education would not become something for only the privileged. It
was. perhaps, regrettable, but necessary without doubt. We now have every hope
that our parish school, now 131 years old, will survive and offer top-quality
CATHOLIC education to the good people of
One of the more distinctive features of our parish is our cemetery
.How unusual are we for having and maintaining one? As of this writing, there
are 253 parishes and missions in the Archdiocese of St Louis. Fifty, or 19.8%,
have their own graveyard. Of these. none are in the City of
The first burial in our graveyard was of Mechtildis Becker,
When it was first laid out, the cemetery extended from about ten feet west of the present rectory to a point about half-way between the west end of the present parking lot and the road that runs north-south and bisects the cemetery .This was called the "old cemetery". Tradition tells us that when a death occurred in a family back in the early days, the surviving relatives would come to church and tell the pastor of the unhappy event. The priest would then make arrangement for the funeral and instruct the family where to dig the grave. Then he told them to get their shovels and start digging! In those days, the cemetery was not laid out particularly well and tombstones were expensive and usually made of soft marble and, in the style of the times, very thin and easy to topple over. Add to that the fact that many of those who died were small children, and you have a combination of factors which explains why most of the graves in the "old cemetery" do not have monuments marking them. It's not because no one is buried there.
But there's one more situation which we're sure you've noticed. If you say that the "old cemetery" began ten feet west of the present rectory, then you're talking about the area where the present parking lot is. That's true. The decision was made years ago to pave that part of the cemetery and use it for parking. But, you say, surely they moved the remains of those people who were buried underneath! Surely when we park there we're not parking on top of someone's great-grandfather!
Upon his arrival in 1922, Dr .Lager instituted a much better system for recording deaths and burials. From that time on, we have exact information about each person who died and where they're buried. Through 1989 as many as 1,400 have been buried in our graveyard, many of whom we have no idea where.
When Fr. Salland arrived in 1927, he laid out a new cemetery
which, for the time, was a model of efficiency. Each grave is systematically
apportioned, surveyed, and marked with a numbered ceramic piling. When Bishop
Donnelly, Auxiliary Bishop of
Many changes have taken place in the graveyard over the
years. The stone crucifix in the priests' section was installed (we don't know
when), and statues of
Besides being distinctive, the graveyard is also one of the
nicest features of our parish. Because of their proximity, our beloved dead are
never far from our prayers or our fond recollections. On All Souls' Day each
year, our scout troop lovingly places a candle on each of the graves. The warm
glow of the many hundreds of candles gives to whoever may be driving on
Even though there are very few open graves still available for purchase and future expansion seems impossible, we hope that the cemetery will always be thoughtfully cared for and appreciated by our faithful parishioners. Many of their children, parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents rest there waiting for that trumpet blast of the Lord's second coming.
In the 150 years of our parish's life, the parishioners have been subdivided into just about every kind of grouping and organization imaginable. Below is a listing and a very brief history of each one:
THE MARRIED MEN'S SODALITY (St. Joseph Maenner-Verein):
Founded by Fr. Brockhagen in 1867 for the purpose of helping the pastor provide
for the physical parish plant. Donated
THE MARRIED LADIES' SODALITY: Founded by Fr. Brockhagen in 1869 under the patronage of St. Anne. Originally established to "defray the expenses of the altar", this organization has sponsored countless activities, social, commercial and spiritual, over the past 121 years. Still active.
THE YOUNG MEN'S AND YOUNG LADIES' SODALITY: Founded by Fr. Brockhagen in 1873. Originally two separate groups (one for males, one for females), later merged into one. Has gone through many phases and has been disbanded several times, but now perdures as the C. Y .C.
THE GUARDIAN ANGEL SODALITY: Founded by Fr. Schlefers in 1908 as an organization for the school children, it became the "Junior Sodality" under Fr. Salland. Currently inactive.
THE HOME AND SCHOOL ASSOCIATION: Founded by Fr. Fuchs in 1951 for the purpose of facilitating cooperation between the school and the parents of its students. Still active.
THE CREDIT UNION: Founded by Fr. Fuchs in 1956. Now serves
Catholic parishes all across
THE BUS ASSOCIATION: Founded by Fr. Fuchs in 1955. The men who founded this organization and still keep it going deserve special recognition and praise. When the need for bus service to help get the children to school was recognized, Fr. Salland donated $5,500 out of his own pocket to buy a bus. Unfortunately, more were needed. Fr. Fuchs approached the Archbishop for a loan, .but was .summarily informed that .the Archdiocese had no interest in getting into the bussing business. He was turned down. Undaunted, two of the charter members of the fledgling organization, Henry (Hank) Bauer and Leander (Lee) Meyer, mortgaged their OWN HOUSES to raise the capital needed to buy the equipment. Their heroic sacrifice is not, however, out of context from the pattern established long ago of the people of our parish rising to the occasion when the needs of the parish were involved. .
The danger, of course, in listing parish societies like this is that some invariably get left out. Not meaning to exclude or diminish their importance, we lump together the following groups in this general acknowledgement
THE ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION
THE CHURCH CLEANERS
THE MANY DIFFERENT SCOUT ORGANIZATIONS
THE CATHOLIC KNIGHTS
THE KNIGHTS OF
THE FOOD PANTRY
THE MAINTENANCE CREWS
THE BUILDING COMMITTEES
and all those other committees mandated by Church law: THE LITURGY COMMITTEE, THE PARISH COUNCIL, THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES, THE FINANCE COMMITTEE, THE SAINTLY WOMEN OF PARISH WHO WORKED SO HARD TO ASSEMBLE THE BOOK THAT YOU'RE READING RIGHT NOW!
The oldest of all our parish buildings is the church, and because of its importance, we thought we'd give it its own section.
Many people are surprised to learn that the church is NOT as old as the parish. Those same people are downright stupefied to learn that it is, in fact the THIRD church our parish has constructed. It was built by Fr. Schulte in 1895 on the site of the stone church of 1851. Even though it was built of stone and only 44 years old, it had become too small. The parish decided it needed a new church and supported its construction in two ways; first, by providing the labor in hauling the bricks and other building materials to the job site, and, second, by eventually paying the $11,758.50 that it cost to build.
The cornerstone was laid
The first baptism in the new church was of Maria Carolina
The oldest photograph of the interior of our parish church bears the date 1915. We presume that its appearance at that time is virtually identical to the way it looked when it was brand new. That photo is reproduced elsewhere in this tome.
As you look at it, you will be struck by how vastly dissimilar it was to the way it is now. As you examine the other photos of the interior, the ones from 1940, 1970, and 1990, you will notice that through the years a process of gradually removing everything ornamental and beautiful from the church has been going on. What we are left with today is but a shadow of what once was.
The church is now 95 years old and looking at it today we see how well it's stood up, against the elements, especially when compared to anything built today. We are thus moved to remark, "They don't build 'em like they used to!" Before those words leave our lips, however, we should consider the following. The original foundation of the church was laid so poorly that just 13 years after it was built, in 1908, the following description was written by Fr. Schlefers:
"The front wall, the transept and the arch over the communion railing were disfigured by broad cracks from the foundation to the roof. The western corner is entirely separated from the building by heavy fissures, not to mention the cobweb of cracks in the ceiling. When we came to Maxville in 1908 we found the people discouraged on account of the bad condition in which the building was. A member of the parish said to us, `There we have a barely finished new building falling down on us and still $4,000 debts on it.' We also felt discouraged."
In 1912 Fr. Schlefers organized the men of the parish to make the necessary repairs. They discovered that the foundation stones had been laid virtually without mortar and had collapsed completely. It was subsequently shored up.
That solution only proved to be temporary, however. The new foundation which had been laid in 1912 had yet to settle. When it did in 1926, it almost took the sanctuary arch with it again. It was at that time that the three steel rods which span the entire length of the transept from wall to wall were added. People think that they're just there for decoration or to hang things from. In fact, they hold the building together!
Incidentally, the church is 110 feet long and 40 feet wide. It is 34 feet high on the inside and the steeple rises to a height of 121 feet There are 19 rows of pews in the nave and the main aisle gives the brides and their fathers (among others) a walk of 67 feet from the vestibule doors to the first step of the sanctuary. Its seating capacity, counting the choir loft, is 330 adults but holds 385 adults and children mixed.
As this is being written, there is talk of building a new
church to replace the 1895 structure. Our old church, the "grande
dame" of our parish has served us well but needs many repairs. More to the
point, with the booming expansion of
If the dead now resting in our graveyard could speak to us today, what would they say? Truly they are speaking to us in the history and the pattern of what they've accomplished in this parish over the past 150 years. They adjure us to have courage in taking up the tasks that lie before us, as they did so well. They warn us against being chained to the outdated notions of the past. For theirs was a frontier spirit, a spirit of building new, of taming the wild, virgin soil and of bringing into existence what never before had been.
Let us therefore accept their sage counsel, for their wisdom flows from the One who said, "Seek first His Kingdom, and His righteousness, and all these other things will be given to you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow: tomorrow will take care of itself."
In this last section we simply wish to present unrelated bits of trivia, statistics and the like. We think you'll find it interesting.
YEAR POPULATION (FAMILIES/TOTAL) INCOME
1853 unknown/350 unknown
1874 109/585 unknown
1910 unknown/unknown $1,317.81
1923 154/523 $6,649.52
1930 1361485 $6,863.24
1940 182/485 $7, 760.17
1950 238/756 $19,797.12
1960 700/2,534 $68,246.67
1970 694/2,324 $123,151.65
1982 930/3,400 $311,166.07
Random notations in the death register...
John Kessler, died
Albert Schaeffner, died
Florence Becker, 19, died
Margaret Simon, 65, died
Sunday Mass schedule, 1959:
Sunday Mass schedule, 1968: Sat.
FR. SCHLEFERS ON THE 75TH ANNIVERSARY IN 1917:
Fr. Schlefers was pastor here 1908-1922. After writing the parish history for the 1917 souvenir booklet, he started keeping a notebook and filled it with things he thought noteworthy for posterity's sake. He wrote on the front cover these words: "We intend to mark down the historical events of our parish. This may prove helpful for the writer of the parish history in the year 1942. The writer of the 1940 history (Fr. Salland) prudently chose not to include the observations from Fr. Schlefers' notebook, for reasons that will become fairly obvious. We share these things with you not so much because we thought they were historical, but we personally found them hysterical! And so, since we lack Fr. Salland's prudence and good sense, here goes... (names have been omitted to protect the guilty!)
"The celebration of the jubilee (1917): A bunch of fallen-away or almost fallen-away Catholics, under the leadership of a fallen-away Catholic, ______ proprietor of a public dancing hall and moving picture show, made up a petition to have the present pastor removed. (!) Real cause: the pastor would not have parish festivals in _______'s hall. Among the signers (of the petition) were: ________, the stingiest man I ever met, ______ & ______, who refused to send their children to Catholic school, ______, a drunkard and a girl spoiler, ________ 'the bottle', and the _______'s, ignorant men and bullheads and some such like. They even tried to break. up the jubilee celebration by reporting to the Archbishop that we would sell beer at the occasion (!). All their intrigues were futile, of course, as the most reverend Archbishop guessed correctly that _______'s machinations were only a sign of his jealousy. ________ was a trouble-maker in every parish he belonged to..."
Although we have no written record of it, we presume that those guys were not around for the 100th anniversary in September, 1940, and so a good, PEACEFUL time was had by all.
At the same time, it is our profound hope that the progeny of those gentlemen are not able to identify their grandfathers in the above descriptions, or, if they do, that they have a real good sense of humor!
We hope your enjoyment of the sesquicentennial was enhanced by the little bits of information arranged and presented here, for that is why we went through the effort to do it.
Special thanks to those who assisted in the compilation of this history:
Ron Baechle, who did all the artwork and diagrams
Bob Vickers, who did the layout work
Larry Williams, who copied all the photos
Dr. David Browman, of
Rev. William B. Faherty, S.J., of