Graettinger, Iowa Centennial


     As the early settlers established their homes in Palo Alto Count some
families of the Irish Colonies followed the Des Moines River north from the
original settlement near Emmetsburg. In 1857 Miles Mahan built his log cabin
on a bluff on the west bank of the river about three miles south of the
present site of Graettinger. The Edward and John J. Mahan homes were near.
The first white boy born in the county was James Mahan, who was baptized by
Father John Aylward of Fort Dodge in 1857 when he came to administer to the
Catholics of the area.
     P.R. Jackman was 16 years old when he came in 1856. He homesteaded in
south Walnut Township near the river. About that time the Nolans, Laughlins,
Bradleys, Crowleys, and Kanes claimed land in the vicinity. in the next
decade (1870's) the McEvoys, Conways, Morans, Milleas and O'Connors arrived.
When Father John J. Smith was assigned to northwest Iowa in 1871, Assumption
Catholic Church had been built in Emmetsburg, and these families were
members of his scattered parish.
     The Graettinger brothers came in 1880 and were influential in platting
and bringing the railroad to the town that bears their name. The depot was
completed and the rail service began in 1882. The development of the town
was at a standstill until J.A. Spies and his father entered the scene in
1885. They opened a lumber yard; started constructing buildings. During the
following years the Stewarts, Leonards, Dargans, Quinns, Doyles, Redmonds,
Cunninghams, McCartys and Dinans took up residence in the neighborhood. They
traveled by wagon, or by foot to Emmetsburg to attend mass and catechism
classes until Fatehr John Kelly, a young priest from Ireland was appointed
to this region in 1890. He ministered to the Catholics of Lake Mills, Forest
City, Buffalo Center, Bancroft, Armstrong, Ledyard and Estherville.
     The next year Father Kelly became the resident pastor fo St. Patrick's
in Estherville, and established Immaculate Conception of Graettinger as a
mission. The first mass in this area was celebrated in the home of John
O'Connor by Father Smith. Father Kelly offered his first mass in Graettinger
in a one room school that proved too small. After that, mass was celebrated
on alternate Sundays in John B. Lambe's place of business. A frame church
was built in 1892 on land donated by J.A. Spies. The first cemetery was in
Graettinger where the Lutheran church now stands. Later Mr. Spies gave land
for St. Jacob's cemetery and the old graves were moved to that site.
     A parish picnic was held in 1892 at the Tom O'Connor farm. Then annual
picnics were held at the Miles Mahan home for the next years. The members of
the first parish committee were James Dargan, Tom O'Connor, Sr., Tom Doyle,
Sr., Joe Graettinger, and John Mahan. The first altar boy to serve Father
Kelly was Walter Montgomery. The first wedding solemnized on November 22,
1892 was Paul E. Schany and Mary E. Jackman. Other early marriages included
James Mahan and Katie Graettinger; James Kane and Bridget Millea; James
Millea and Kate Leonard; Tom Millea and Mary McCarty.
     The members of the first Holy Communion class were Sade O'Connor, James
O'Connor, Tom O'Connor, V.L. O'Connor, Ellen O'Connor, Tom Doyle, Hannah
Doyle, Lizzie Graettinger, Annie Graettinger, Annie Stewart, Mike Stewart,
Jim Quinn, Mary Quinn, and Mary Cunningham. The catechism teachers were Mrs.
Frank Lambe and Mrs. John Leonard. Mrs. J.A. Spies was the first organist
and was succeeded by her daughter, Mrs. John Jackman; then by another
daughter, Elisabeth Spies. Elisabeth continued as organist until the 1960's.
     In 1898 a rectory was built in Graettinger and Father Kelly became
first resident pastor, giving up his parish in Estherville. The congregation
grew so rapidly that it was necessary to enlarge the church. A new section
was added on the west with two large colorful windows in the widened part
and a dome above the sanctuary. The entire structure was brick-veneered.
This was done from 1912-1913. The result was a beautiful edifice, which
stood until it was replaced in 1987.
     T.S. Sullivan and Josephine Guerdet were the first to be married in the
new building. Sometime during the following years parish boundaries were
set, and St. Thomas Church in Emmetsburg was given those families north and
west of Emmetsburg.
     Six members of Immaculate Conception became nuns: Sister Mary Rosalie
O'Connor, Sister Mary Paulette O'Connor, Sister Mary Gertrude Dinan, Sister
Mary Mechtilda Hendricks, Sister Elizabeth Mahan and Sister Mary Jude Speer.
     Father Kelly was honored on his Golden Jubilee on June 27, 1939. (He
had been a priest for fifty years). He served as pastor in Graettinger until
his death on February 13, 1941. He had given fifty years of dedicated
service to the local people. He is buried in St. Jacob's Cemetery.

The following was submitted by Pat Martin with the kind permission of
editor, Daniel F DeLong

The Globe
April 4, 1902

First Graettinger Pastor Serves Parish 50 Years
     In 1891, Father John Kelly became the resident pastor of St. Patrick's
in Estherville and established Immaculate Conception Parish in Graettinger
as a mission parish. A frame church was built in 1892, serving 40 families.
A rectory was built in 1898, at which time Father Kelly became the first
resident pastor. Father Kelly served the parish until his death in 1941.
     Father Dennis Hurley (1941-1951), Father E.S. Maynard (1951-1959),
Father Albert Conlon (1959-1960), Father Clement Flannery (1960-62) and
Father Vincent Beacom (1962-1984) all served Immaculate Conception Parish
over the years.
     During Father Beacom's tenure, a Parish Center was built in 1966 and a
rectory was built in 1968.
     ...The parish celebrated its centennial in 1991 with a concelebrated
Mass by Bishop Soens, Father Kelly and several former priests of the parish.
Following the Liturgy, a picnic meal was served on the church grounds.
Father Kelly and his musical group, "The Dixie Daddies," furnished an
afternoon of entertainment.
     Immaculate Conception Parish has grown from 40 families to its current
190 households. It is clustered with Holy Family Parish in Emmetsburg,
Sacred Heart in Ayrshire and Sacred Heart in Ruthven.


Submitted by Pat Martin with the kind permission of editor, Daniel F DeLong

The Globe
April 4, 1902

Present Ayrshire Church was dedicated in 1981

     Earliest Catholic settlers in the Sacred Heart Parish Ayrshire are came
from Prussia, and homesteaded in 1870.
     The early Catholics had to depend on the services of the priest from
Emmetsburg. In the summer of 1889, Father Timothy Sullivan was appointed
pastor of Gilmore City with several communities along the M & St. L railroad
as mission parishes. Ayrshire was the northernmost parish. He offered the
first Mass in Ayrhisre in the fall of 1889 in the home of Patrick and Mary
Flannigan. Their home was located directly across from the present day
     Ground for the church and school was purchased on Oct. 18, 1889 and the
church was built in 1890. Father Sullivan ws spiritual leader of the
Catholics at Ayrshire until January, 1894. On Jan. 9, 1894, Calvary cemetery
land was bought. A rectory was built in 1899.
     Over the years the parish purchased land for future needs.
     Sacred Heart Parish of Ayrshire was incorporated under the title of
Sacred Heart Catholic Church on March 4, 1912. Bishop P.J. Garrigan was the
first president. Msgr. James T. Saunders, as Vicar genral of the diocese was
first vice-president. Father Luke Carroll, the first resident pastor, was
the first treasurer. John T. Maguire and K.J. McElroy were the first lay
     The first baptism recorded by Father L.J. Carroll was that of Claire
Bowen, born Dec. 23, 1893 of Patrick Bowen and Lizzie Anglum Bowen. She was
baptized on Feb. 7, 1894. Thomas Conlon and Carrie Waldron were the first
couple to be married at Ayrshire on Feb. 17, 1896
     Building of a convent and school were started in 1920, however deflated
values of farm commodities caused suspension in building operations. School
work was resumed in September, 1922.
     The school was finished and ready for opening in the fall of 1924. It
was served by the Franciscan Sisters of The Holy Family from Manitowoc, Wis.
     The school was started with the intention of having a high school, but
the 9th and 10th grades were discontinued with the end of the 1949-50 school
year. It started as a boarding school, but this was discontinued in 1929.
The grade school continued until the fall of 1968.
     Following Father Sullivan and Father Carroll other priests to serve as
early pastors included Fathers Patrick T. Lynch, 1916-1922; Edward J Smith,
1922-26; Edward A Dunn, 1926-1931; William F Mason 1931-1936; and Patrick
Leo McCoy, 1936-1945.
     After Father McCoy went to the service, Father William P. Hyland was
pastor until July 26, 1950. Father Lawrence F. Schoepner remained at
Ayrshire until 1953. In the fall of 1953, Father Thomas M. Parle came to
Ayrshire to spend seven years. On June 17, 1960, Father George J. Benjamin
came and remained eight years. In July of 1968 Ayrshire was blessed with
Father Patrick J. Nooney. Father Nooney left Ayrshire on Feb. 29, 1972. On
the same day the present pastor Father E. Everette Apt, arrived in Ayrshire.
     Priests who have served us since 1977 include: Fathers Al Loeffelholz,
Henry Weimer, Gerald Zemam, Al Reicks, Don Slaven, Ben Jensen and currently
Verne Stapenhorst.
     The parish has nurtured many vocations to the priesthood, religious
life and one deacon.
     Since the school has closed, the building is used as a meeting hall for
both community and parish activities as well as for CCD classes.
     Father A.J. Loeffelholz became our pastor in 1979 and under his
guidance the new Sacred Heart Church in Ayrshire was built. Groundbreaking
ceremonies were held on October 12, 1980, and it wsa dedicated on July 12,
1981 with most Rev. Frank H. Greteman as celebrant. The new church has 6000
sq ft divided into three main areas, the church, dining hall, and classrooms
at a total cost of $298,000. The stained glass windows from the old church
were used in our new facility. A bell tower, which houses the bell from the
old church, was constructed in 1982.
     In June of 1986, a statue of the Sacred Heart was erected and dedicated
in his memory. Because the new rectory for the Ruthven Ayrshire parishes was
constructed in Ruthven, the rectory in Ayrshire was no longer needed. Tom
Cordon purchased the cast lots with the rectory, renovating it into their
     In 1988, Sacred Heart Church of Ayrshire celebrated its centennial.
Father Weimer was pastor at the time.
     The parish has 65 families.

Additional Information I have from
Sacred Heart Church
Ayrshire, Iowa

Church History
     Over a century ago, in the year 1870, the earliest Catholic settlers
homesteaded near Ayrshire. They were two native born Germans, Henry and
Edward Sanders,ancestors of the Paden family. Later that year Dan and Ellen
(Brennan) Sherlock homesteaded one mile north and one and one-half miles
east of Ayrshire. Mr. Sherlock was a native of Ireland, who came to Canada,
then Fort Dodge, finally settling in Ayrshire. Their home was the first
Ayrshire post office.
     Many more Catholics followed them into the Ayrshire community. Among
the earliest arrivals were the following families: Mr and Mrs. Pat Bannon,
Mr and Mrs Chris Bannon, Mr and Mrs Pat Brady, Mr and Mrs James Boyle, Mr
and Mrs Chris Conlon, Mr and Mrs Pat Clare, Mr and Mrs Tom Carroll, Mr and
Mrs Phil Dailey, Mr and Mrs Pat Duffy, Mr and Mrs George Donovan, Mr and Mrs
Tom Conlon, Mr and Mrs John Conlon, Mr and Mrs Mike Eagan, Mr and Mrs John
Fagan, Mr and Mrs James Fitzpatrick, Mr and Mrs Pat Flanigan, Mr and Mrs Pat
Geelan, Mr and Mrs Felix Hagan, Mr and Mrs John Hand, Sr., Mr and Mrs Joseph
H Kibbie, Mr and Mrs John kennedy, Mr and Mrs Martin Kane, Mr and Mrs John
Martin, Mr and Mrs Pat Maguire, Sr., Mr and Mrs Pat O'Grady, Mr and Mrs Dan
Sherlock, Mr and Mrs Henry Sanders and Mr and Mrs John Waldron.
     Earliest Catholic families in Palo Alto County were seven families and
two single men who formerly lived in Kane County, Illinois. They had left
Illinois and had intended going to Sioux City. When they traveled as far
west as Fort Dodge, they met a government surveyor by the name of Lynch, who
adivsed them to take the west branch of the Des Moines river and go
northward. They finally settled near the present Emmetsburg. Later other
families settled south and west of Emmetsburg. For Catholics in the Ayrshire
community, Emmetsburg was the nearest place to attend Mass. Father John
Marsh was the first priest in Emmetsburg in 1858.
     ...When the parish was organized in 1888, some of the children of
original parishioners had marred and other families had moved in. In the
spring of 1890, when a church building was started, the following had been
added as members of the parish: Mr and Mrs John Anglum, Mr and Mrs James
Anglum, Mr and Mrs Pat Bowen, Mr and Mrs Chris Bannon, Mr and Mrs J.J.
Brown, Mr and Mrs Rhos Clare, Mr and Mrs. Chas Duhigg, Mr and Mrs Sam
Donavan, James and Joseph Donavon, Mr and Mrs Thomas Eagan, William Eagan,
Pat and John Fagen, Barney Farrell, Mr and Mrs John Higgins, Sr., Mr and Mrs
Patrick Hoben, Mr and Mrs Tom Hand, Mr and Mrs John Hand, Jr., Pat and Mike
Malloy, James and William Martin, Mr and Mrs Richard McCabe, Mr and Mrs John
McNally, Mr and Mrs Pat Maguire, Jr, Mr and Mrs John Maguire, Mr and Mrs
Lewis Maguire, Mr and Mrs Mike Maher, Mr and Mrs Chas Nolan, Dennis Noonan,
John and James Sherlock, Mr and Mrs William Smith, Mrs Chas Thompson, Mr and
Mrs Edward Warren, Mr and Mrs Peter Waldron, Sr., Mr and Mrs John Mullen, Mr
and Mrs John Paton, Mr and Mrs William Wycoff, Mr and Mrs Sam Easton and Mr
and Mr James Degnan.
.....The first baptism recorded of Ayrshire people in Gilmore City is that
of Alice, daughter of J.F. Kennedy and Celia Waldron, born October 25, 1889
and baptized November 4, 1899, with J. Waldron and Alice Waldron as
sponsors. The first marriage recorded there of Ayrshire people is that of
Thomas Miller and Margaret Conlon with T.H. Conlon and Maria Jennings as
witnesses. Father T.J. Sullivan signed bouth of these certificates.
...Names on the Windows of the Old Church:
Richard McCabe & wife, J.P. Fitzpatrick & wife, P.F. Maguire & wife, John
Conlon & wife, Thomas Miller & wife, James Boyle, James Hand & wife, Peter
Waldron & wife, Frank Hand & wife, James Conlon, Dennis Noonan.
...Young ladies who became sisters from Sacred Heart Parish are:
Kathryn O'Brien...Sister Mary Agnes
Ann Carroll...Sister Mary Anita
Mary C Haywood...Sister Mary St. Jude
Mary Antoine...Sister Salome
Cecilia O'Brien...Sister Daniel
Loretta Kollasch...Sister M. Pierre
Marie Molloy...Sister M Irenita
Julia Carroll...Sister Mary Hilda
Lucinda Hand...Sister Mary Paschal
Margaret Donavon...Sister Bertille
Muriel Faye...Sister Maureen
Lillian Kibbie...Sister Myrene
Nellie Higgins...Sister M Domina
     Besides the above, two others who were first cousins became Sisters.
Their grandparents were among Ayrshire Sacred Heart's first parish membrs.
They are Sister Mary Shaun (Winifred) Noonan and Sister Mary Christopher
(Kathryn) Noonan. Their parents, Jay and Esther (Waldron) Noonan and Ed and
Rose (Donahoe) Noonan, were married at Sacred Heart Church in Ayrshire in
June, 1918.
...First Communion Class of 1894...
Mae (Miles) Martin, Doll (Thompson) Jones, Sarah (Everett) Tatman, Cora
(Dailey) Hossack, Winifred (Anglum) Smith, Doll (McNally) Degnan, Margaret
Donavon, Bridget (Everett) Kiley, Mary Fitzpatrick, Mel (Kane) Wessar, Julia
Dailey, Margaret (Carroll) Haywood, Mary (Lynch) Everett, Clara Stanbach,
Dick McNally, Frank Fitzpatrick, Bernard Corley, William Burke, James
Martin, J.J. Martin, Mike Waldron, Joe McNally, Joe Stambach. Priest Father


The Globe
Thurs, April 4, 2002

Submitted by Pat Martin with the kind permission of editor, Daniel F DeLong

Ruthven [Palo Alto Co, IA] Sacred Heart has Irish Ancestry

     Predominately Irish ancestors settled in the Ruthven area in the late
1880's and were instrumental in establishing Sacred Heart Parish.
     A church was erected in 1889 under the direction of Father L.J.
Carroll. The wood frame church cost $3,500. The rectory was built the
following year. At that time, 12 families and their relatives made up the
     The Sacred Heart Guild was formulated in the early years as a spiritual
and financial aid to the parish. They have promoted many projects as
fundraisers to serve their various causes.
     In the 1950's, Father Elmer Thom had the foresight to start a building
fund. From that campaign, the present brick structure became a reality. It
was completed in December 1963 at a cost of $105,000. The bell tower was
completed two years later for $8,000.
     Father Al Loeffelholz is credited with directing the planning and
completion of the present brick rectory in 1983 for a cost of $167,000.
     Sacred Heart in Ruthven celebrated its centennial in 1989. Father
Gerald Zeman was the pastor at the time and a book committee compiled the
church centennial book. A parish dinner was held for the 114 households that
were registered.
     Presently Ruthven shares its pastor, Father Ben Jensen with Sacred
Heart Church in Ayrshire. Along with Ayrshire, Immaculate Conception of
Graettinger and Emmetsburg Holy Family are clustered with Ruthven.
     These ladies from the parish entered the convent: Sister Macrina (Agnes
Currans), Sister LaSalette (Catherine Ruddy) and Sister Christopher
(Catherine Noonan). Sisters Macrina and LaSalette entered the Sisters of
Mercy and Sister Christopher joined the Dominican Order.
     There have also been men to enter the priesthood from Sacred Heart:
Father James M. Nolan, Brother John Slagle, Father Francis Schuler, Father
James Fransco, Father Thomas Geelan and Father Michael Wempa.
     Sacred Heart has 430 registered members and serve as a spiritual refuge
for many vacationers and summer residents of Lost Island Lake area.
     Numerous pastors have served Sacred Heart, Ruthven: Father L.J. Carrol
(1887-1899), FAther D.F. McCaffery (1899-1907), Father J. Bigauette
(1907-1908), Father Damouette (1908), Father E. W. Fowler (1908-1910),
Father J. Bigauette (1910), Father A.G. Schaefer (1911-1913), Father Mathias
Stork (1913-1916), Father James Kelly (1916-1917), Father L.J. Carrol
(1917-1918), Father George Hicky (1918), Father P.J. Connolly (1918-1921),
Father Dennis Clark (1921-1922) and Father A.J. Lynott (1922-1923)
     Also, Father George Hicky (1923-1924), Father A.J. Neul (1924-1926),
Father T.A. Coleman (1926-1930), Father E.L. McEvoy (1931-1941), Father D.K.
Hurley (1941), Father George O'Brine (1941), Father Henry Meyer (1941-1943),
Father Charles Kneip (1943-1944), Father James A. Kane (1944-1950), Father
A.A. Bausch (1950-1952), Father E.D. Thom (1952-1960), and Father M.J. Hood
     Also, Father Robert Waters (1967-1968), Father Wm. Wingert (1968-1973),
Msgr. Robert Joynt (1973-1978), Father Wm. Devine (1978-1979), Father Al
Loeffelholz (1979-1983), Father Henry Weimer (1983-1988), Father Gerald
Zeman (1988-1995), Father Allen Reicks (1995-1998), Father Donald Slaven
(1998), Father Ben Jensen (1998-2001) and Father Verne Stapenhorst, present.

Further Notes from
Sacred Heart Catholic Church
Ruthven, Iowa

     The beginning history of Sacred Heart Parish may be found in the Iowa
Catholic Historical Review, May of 1935, Volume VIII, Beginnings of the
Catholic Church in Northwest Iowa, with special references to Emmetsburg and
Palo Alto County by Msgr. E.L. McEvoy.
     One of the original parish families that settled east of Ruthven, is
James Currans' family. Mr. Currans arrived in 1869 and Mrs. Currans arrived
in 1870. They were followed by Patrick and James F. Nolan, who arrived in
1883, and later by the Browns, Brennans, Geelans, Caseys, Flemmings,
Donlons, Doyles, Morans and the Washingtons.
     Prior to 1885, the Catholic people of Ruthven and vicinity traveled to
Emmetsburg for Mass. In March of 1885, Father Smith of Emmetsburg,
celebrated the first Mass in Ruthven, at the home of James P. Nolan. Shrotly
thereafter, Father N.D. Norton, who was in charge of the Spencer, Milford
and Estherville parishes, took over the Ruthven Mission, Father Norton
celebrated Mass at the homes of J.P. Nolan and P.J. Nolan, at the Brennan
School in Highland township and later at a hall in Ruthven, that was used as
a skating rink.
     .....Local history reveals that two pioneer women of the parish were
instrumental in the cause to build a church. Every Sunday morning, the women
of the parish would prepare the hall to make it presentable for divine
service. Often, these women were confronted on Sunday morning with the
unseeming evidence of what took place in the hall the previous evening. It
would seem that the men of the parish were less concerned about the
condition of the hall on Sunday morning, so two of the parish women, Mrs.
Susan Currans and Mrs. P.J. Nolan began collecting money for the fund that
resulted in the building of the church.
     ...One of the early nuptial Masses at Sacred Heart Catholic Church was
a double wedding ceremony held at Mr and Mrs John Brown's home. The name of
the couples cannot be recalled; however, one bride was a niece of Mrs.
Crowley and the otehr bride was a niece of Mrs. Nicholas Geelan.

Barnett, Dan; Brennan, Jas; Brennan, Thos., Brown, J.H.; Brown, J.J.; Brown,
Mary; Brown, Wm.; Burditt, S.S.; Burke, Mrs. M.; Burns, Jas.; Callahan,
Jno.; Callahan, M.; Clear, Thos.; Currans, Mrs. Jas; Currans, Henry;
Currans, Jno; Currans, Mary; Currans, Ruth; Currans, Thos.; Currans, Wm.;
Daniels, Chas.; Dodge, Mrs. F; Dolan, Jno.; Dolan, Mary; Donlon, Anna;
Donlon, Mary; Dunn, P.J.; Eaton, F.; Fleming, Anna; Fleming, Jno.; Fleming,
M.; Foley, M.; Foley, Neil; Geelan, F.; Geelan, M.; Geelan, N.; Geelan,
Rose; Geelan, Tom; Geelan, Wm.; Goff, Mrs. L.G.; Grady, Thos.; Grady, Jos.;
Grady, Leo; Grady, Louis; Greene, J.; Handy, Bernice; Horan, Thos.; Hughes,
Tim; Keenan, Ed; Lee, Mrs.; Metz, Chas.; Meyerhofer, S.; Moan, W.A.; Monk,
Jas.; Moran, Jas.; Moran, Jos. Sr; Nolan, Con.; Nolan, J.F.; Nolan, Mrs.
W.C.; Radigan, P.; Redden, Jno.; Ruddy, Ed; Schade, J.B.; Slagle, Mrs.;
Torphy, Jas.; Torphy, John; Torphy, Josephine; Washington, Ed; Washington,
M.T.; Welsh, Mrs.; Wilcox, Mrs.