An Illustrated History of Monroe Co, Iowa
Frank Hickenlooper
Albia, Iowa 1896

The Roman Catholics

The Catholics numbered among the pioneer settlers of Monroe County, and were
in the county before Iowa became a State. They early displayed the spirit of
enterprise and devotion to their religion which has marked their course in
every land and in every epoch of Christian history. Since then, four
churches have been built in Monroe County and the society is flourishing.

The membership of Monroe County is largely made up of our Irish population.
They are quiet and industrious, and very greatly reverence their priest. The
priests who have had charge of the organizations in the county have all been
highly educated men, and an embellishment to any community. They are not
only capable of rendering wise spiritual counsel to their parishoners, but
also give temporal advice in matters of a wordly nature.

In order to illustrate the obedience with which the parishioners conform to
the wishes of the priest, an incident is related as an actual occurrence,
but the writer cannot vouch for its truth, though the episode probably

Some years ago, when they were raising funds with which to erect a church,
the times were rather hard for an enterprise of this kind, and the story
goes that the priest, from his position in the pulpit, would assign certain
donations to certain members of the parish; for instance, the CARRs would be
directed to donate so many dollars, the MALONEs so many, etc. The priest,
pointing to one old gentleman, said: "And you must give ten dollars."
Whereupon the faithful parishoner arose, and in a meek though midly
remonstrative tone began: "May it plaze yer riverince, toims are verra hard
an' the price of hogs is"-but at that stage of the remonstrance the priest,
pointing his finger at him, shouted: "You sit down, sir!" The old gentleman
sat down, and a few days later somebody in Albia remarked to him that the
priest was a little hard on him. "Yis, he wor," was hi reply; "but the money
will have to coom." "What wil lbe the result if you fail?" was next asked.
"His riverince would sind me to the divil if I refused."

In 1854 or 1855 the Catholics built a log church in the northeast corner of
Hugh FITZ-PATRICK's field. It stood by the side of the little grave-yard,
which faced the Albia and Chariton highway. The spot where this little
church stood is now growing in grass, but he place will long be remembered
by the friends and descendants of those pioneer settlers who attended mass
in this humble cabin of long ago.

The society was organized by Rev. Father KRAKEL, a German, who conducted
mass in the early '50s and who is now the venerable pastor of the principal
parish in Ottumwa, Iowa.

Among this band of zealous pioneer Christians were the CARRs, COADYs,
SCULLEYs. Through their efforts the handsome St Patrick's Church at
Stacyville was begun in 1860. This edifice was designed by Father CLIFFORD,
a young clergyman of rare talent and amiable social traits. The structure is
built of stone. It is 100 feet in length, 60 feet wide, and 50 feet in
height. it was an ardous undertaking to build it, at the time, and it was
several years before it was completed. The parishioners were mostly poor at
that time, and it was a great sacrifice on the part of many to contibute of
their means. At one time this church interior, with the altar, statuary, and
paintings, was classed as one of the handsomest in southern Iowa.

Among later settlers who were most active and liberal in their endeavors to
complete the church were Edward O'BRYAN, the KELLIHER families, John WELSH,
the MALONEs, the COLEMANs and several others equally generous.

St Patrick's Parish has had the following pastors since its organization:
HAYES, and GAULE. The latter is the present priest.

The church edifice at Stacyville was built in 1864, and the ceremony of
laying the corner stone was observed May 19, 1864. Bishop SMYTH of Dubuque
was present and conducted the services. He placed the corner-stone, and
beneath it was deposited a bottle, hermitically sealed, containing the
following: "Idibus Maii jumpe in fest pentecoste, anno domini 1864. Pio
Nono, papa Feliciter Ecclesiam Regente. Abraham Lincoln, Praside Statuum
Faderotorum America Septenrionalis. Wm. M Stone, Gubernatculum Status Iowa
tenente. illus Reomo Clemens Smyth, Biscopus Dugbuquensis, hunce Primarium
Lapidum. Inagno Coneorsu populi circumstante et equituum exoronte rite et
solemniter posnit." There were also deposited with this record a silver
five-cent piece, a five-cent bill of fractional currency, and a twenty-cent
bill of currency; also a copy of the Albia Union of July 8, 1863-all of
which are doubtless quietly resting to this day in their sealed receptacle.

In 1870 the Catholic community of Melrose organized. They erected a humble
church edifice, but the society increased so rapidly that more room was soon
required. The old building was sold, and is now John FOUTCH's barn; and the
present handsome and commodious building succeeded it. Father O'REILLY is
the priest who presides over these people.

Out at Weller stands a neat little church, built by the Catholics. As it is
too small, it will soon be replaced by a larger structure.

The organists at these churches are: at Stacyville, Mrs. W.W. O'BRYAN; at
Melose, Miss T. McGRATH; and at Weller, Miss WALLACE. Their respective
choirs, especially at Stacyville, attract the attention of all musical ears.
The music is said to be quite exquisite.

In 1874 Father HARRISON organized a congregation in Albia. They bought the
Episcopal church when it was sold by foreclosure, and at present they hold
service twice a week.

Father RYAN preached two years after HARRISON's two years' service; then
Father KING took charge, and led the society for eight months during 1877-8.
Father DAILY then preached eight years, and was succeeded by Father QUINN,
who preached for three years. Father FITZ-SIMMONS next assumed charge, and
preached a year, and was succeeded by Father McCARVILLE, who took charge in
May, 1895, and who is no at the head of the society.

The Albia church has about 125 members living within the city.

The Catholic population of Monroe County reaches beyond 2,000. There are at
present 224 in Wayne township, 542 in Jackson township, 312 in Guilford
township, 398 in Cedar township, about 200 in Union township, and about 200
distributed throughout the other townships, with about 125 in Albia.


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