THE IRISH IN IOWA

 The Globe, 7 March 1957

Mass First Celebrated in Log Cabin
Homes at Gilmore City and Vicinity
In 1884; Church is Erected in 1889

GILMORE CITY- During 1881 and 1882 hundreds of thrifty Iowa and Illinois farmers came and bought lands in Pocahontas county and in the vicinity of what now is Gilmore City. To them this county presented many special inducements. Its railroad facilities were excellent, no bonds had ever been issued to embarrass it with debt, it had a new courthouse and the crops had been abundant.
In May, 1884, Gilmore City was platted. And in 1889 a Catholic Church was constructed. In the years of 1884 and 1885 the Rev. Matthew Norton began his visits to the newly platted town of Gilmore City. From these early days Father Norton celebrated the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in the  log cabin homes of the Catholic pioneers and until the time of the first Catholic Church was built. Father Norton also said Mass in a hall above one of the stores in town.
Father Norton lived at the St. Patrick's rectory in Lizard township and from his home there "On the Lizard" he traveled over the territory doing the work of Christ. Father Matthew Norton died June 4, 1886, at the age of only 31 and in the ninth year of his priesthood. The Missions attached to St. John's parish here and which were attended by Father Norton were Sacred Heart at Ayrshire [Palo Alto Co], St. Mary's at Mallard [Palo Alto Co] and St. Margaret's at Rolfe. The three Missions were established as parishes in 1890 and 1891.

Charter Members Listed

Among the charter members of St. John's parish were P.J. Gaughan, T.C. Connelly, P.J. Gaughan, T.C. Connelly, P.J. Kelly, J.J. Griffin, Dave Mulholland, M. McCormick, J.J. Sinnott, M. Myers, M. Fitzgerald, T. Comminskey, Thomas Loftus Sr., Thomas G. Galligan, Patrick Ford, John McCormack, Edward Dunne, E.M. Calligan.
The first resident pastor of St. John's parish was Rev. T.D. Sullivan whose pastorate was from July 1, 1889 to April, 1901. The first church here was built shortly before his arrival and on July 4, 1889, it was formerly blessed and dedicated by the Most. Rev. John Hennessey, Archbishop of Dubuque. A rectory was also built about this same time.
St. John's second pastor was Rev. Stephen Butler, whose pastorate was the longest of any of the pastors who have been at Gilmore City, Father Butler served from April 4, 1901, until July 28, 1920.

Pastor for 19 Years

During Father Butler's 19 year pastorate St. John's parish accomplished a great deal. The first public school building erected in the early 1900 period became too small for the number of children attending. It was ........[line missing]...and Father Butler had the structure moved from the eastern part of town to where the present parochial school now stands. It was placed on a stone foundation and the exterior was covered with a brick veneer.
St. John's parochial school after being remodeled was opened on September 11, 1911, with four Nuns from the Servants of Mary whose Motherhouse is in Omaha. The first Sisters who taught at St. John's school were Mother Mary Philipps. Sister Mary Fidelis, Sister Mary Cecelia and Sister Mary Ingnatia. There were 67 children enrolled.
Also in 1911 under the supervision of Father Butler a new rectory was erected at a cost of $7,000. The old rectory was but 32x32 and cost $1,873. Early in 1917 Father Butler bought from A.E. and J.H. Murdock the original Murdock home which was fixed up for a convent for the Sisters.

Paper Praises Parish

Relative to accomplishments of the parish during the first 10 years of Father Butler's pastorate the Gilmore City Globe of May 3, 1911, carried an extensive article. Excerpts from that article read as follows:
"St. John's Catholic Church in Gilmore City is an institution, the activity and force of which is felt throughout the community, among Protestants as well as Catholics. The able and public spirited leader of the church, the Rev. Stephen Butler, enjoys wide favor and his counsel is held in high regard in everything pertaining to the betterment of the community.
"The local church was established twenty-one years ago at which time the present church was erected. Father Butler has occupied the parish for the past ten years and under his leadership the congregation has grown rapidly. The church has also been improved and the interior, in particular, was frescoed and the altars replaced.
"Upon the building of the new public school house by the city, the former public school with its four commodious rooms became vacant. This was purchased by St. John's parish and as it adjoins the church in the back is to be converted into a parochial school, three rooms of which will be devoted to instruction and the fourth to the purpose of a dormitory. The building has been remodeled throughout and will be brick venered [sic] soon so that next September there will be opened under the supervision of Father Butler, a thoroughly well equipped parochial school. Four Sisters have been secured to take up the work at the outset and no doubt a large enrollment will be made from the first as instruction will be given throughout the grade and high school courses. Special emphasis will be placed upon music, also, the teaching of which is so finished an accomplishment with the Sisters."

Six Pastors Since 1920

Since Father Butler there have been six pastors,  Rev. J.G. Murtagh served St. John's from July 28, 1920 to November of 1924; Rev. Joseph T. Finnegan, December 1924 to December 1931; Rev. Hugh O'Brien, December 1931 until his death August 17, 1941, and he is buried in St. John's cemetery; Rev. Herbert Hermsen, August 1941 until his death June 25, 1948 (buried in St. John's cemetery); Rev. Robert J. Joynt, July of 1948 to December 27, 1951, when he entered the U.S. air force as a chaplain, and presently is pastor at Odebolt, and the present pastor, Father Clement T. Flannery came to Gilmore City on December 27, 1951.
There have been seven assistant pastors at St. John's. They were: Fathers E.F. Casey, A.A. Cavanaugh, Thomas A. Coleman, Thomas Coffey, A.J. Nuel, Emmett J. McCoy, and Cletus Keleher, the present pastor at Sioux Rapids.
The first baptisms in St. John parish: John Kruel, son of W.H. Kruek and Anne Kreuchten, with Father Sullivan officiating and Mary Flynn, daughter of T. Flynn and Mary Murphy, with Father Sullivan officiating. W.E. Otis and M.L. Tischenbanner were the first couple to be married on October 22, 1889. The first funeral was that of Mary T. (Lane), wife of E.M. Calligan who died January 22, 1898.

First Communion Class

The first Communion class was comprised of the following children:
Wm. Joseph Connolly, James Henry Connolly, Elizabeth Ann Connolly, Frederick Eugene Maher, Mary Alice McGrath, John Joseph McGrath, James Francis McGrath, James Patrick Dunne, Lucy Cecelia Dunne, Ellen Julia Dunne, Michael Joseph Griffin, Julia Agnes Keleher, Mary Elizabeth Keleher, Leo Patrick Keleher, Margaret Bernadine Flaherty, Nora Veronica Flaherty, Martin James Mulholland, Mary Josephine Mulholland, William Leo Mulholland; Thomas James Loftus, Maurice Edward Bonne, George Richard Bonne, Rosa Veronica Bonne, Julia Mary Wolfe, Joseph Francis Heanberry, Thomas James Heanberry, John Hartnett, George Hartnett, Frank Hartnett, Ida Josephine Kane, Michael Fitzgerald, James Joseph Fitzgerald, Thomas Joseph Donnelly, William Edwin Bollard, James Raymond Kane, Matthew James Shine, Ellen Cecelia Shine, Letitia Dorina Kahl.
A total of 74 persons, 40 boys and 34 girls, comprised the first Confirmation class on November 5, 1902, with the Most Rev. Philip J. Garrigan, D.D. Bishop of Sioux City, administering the Sacrament. The Confirmants came from St. Patrick's on the Lizard, St. Margaret's at Rolfe and St. John's.
One of the most active organizations in the parish is the St. John's Altar Society which was founded in 1916. The original officers were Mrs. Thomas Calligan, president; Mrs. C.L. Hogan, secretary, and Mrs. Thomas Maher, treasurer.

Several Join Religious

Two young men and six young women from St. John's parish entered the religious life. The priests were Rev. M.B. Murray, who was ordained June 11, 1898, and celebrated his first Solemn High Mass in St. John's Church June 19, 1898, he died at Coggon, Iowa, May 29, 1916; Rev Edward Dunne, born in Gilmore City November 26, 1892, ordained June 11, 1918 and celebrated his first Solemn High Mass in St. John's Church June 16, 1918. He died at Emmetsburg where he was pastor of Assumption parish November 17, 1937
The Nuns from St. John's parish: Sister Mary Teresa (Ellen Julia Dunn), Servants of Mary; Sister Muriel, O.S.F. (Olive Ford), Sister Mary Mercedes (Irene Rapp) Servants of Mary; Sister Mary Barbara (Bernadine Telfer) Servants of Mary, Sister Mary Paulina (Margaret Rogers) Servants of Mary and Sister Mary Joseph (Veronica Donnelly) Servants of Mary.


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2001 Cathy Joynt Labath