History of Old St. Mary's
St. Mary's parish was founded in 1834 by
Father Martin Kundig to accommodate the spiritual needs of the German speaking
Catholics arriving from the small farming community of Neustadt. It is the third
oldest parish in the city.
In 1840, Father Kundig was given authority by
Bishop Peter Paul LeFevere to solicit funds for the building of St. Mary's
Church. His initial effort raised two dollars and fifty cents!
1841, Antoine and Monica Beaubien sold to Bishop LeFevere, for the sum of one
dollar, the land at St. Antoine and Croghan streets (now Monroe) to be used as
the site of the new St. Mary's Church.
The cornerstone for the First Church,
built on the same site as the present one, was laid on the feast of corpus
Christi, June 19, 1841. Its completion fell to Father Otto Skolla, who replaced
Father Kundig when he suffered a nervous breakdown. Father Skolla was a
Franciscan who had been released from his monastic obligations to minister to
the native people. St. Mary's was his first pastorate.
Everyone, who could,
joined the effort. Women of the parish carried many of the 96,484 bricks
incorporated into the ample building of 60 by 125 feet to the masons during
The solid brick structure which had a steeple topped with a
cross that was "visible for a great distance," was consecrated in honor of the
Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary on June 29, 1843. The tower's
four bells were donated by Antione Beaubien and his wife.
In 1847, the
Redemptorist Fathers took over the administration of the parish and shortly
thereafter found it necessary to install balconies over the side aisles as well
as one in the back to accommodate the many children of the parish. As well, they
had the church decorated with oil colors and many religious pictures. The simple
high altar was replaced by a handsome carved one.
In 1872, the Franciscan
Fathers replaced the Redemptorists. The new pastor, Father Appolinaris Hattler,
staged a fair which netted the handsome amount of $4,000 toward the construction
of the new church. It wasn't until July 20, 1884, however that the cornerstone
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