ST. THOMAS PARISH HISTORY
Emmetsburg, Palo Alto, Iowa
St. Thomas Parish was established in
1905 by cutting off part of the Assumption Parish, the "mother parish of
northwest Iowa." The new parish was to take care of those Catholics who
lived in the northern portion of Emmetsburg and those six or eight miles north,
east and west of town. The Milwaukee Railroad track, which runs east and west
through Emmetsburg, was made the dividing line between the Assumption and the
new St. Thomas Parishes.
Bishop P.J. Garrigan appointed Father Michael McNerney
to organize new St. Thomas Parish. Father McNerney had been the pastor of Sacred
Heart Parish in Livermore for 17 years.
Farther McNerney was born in Ireland and studied
theology at All Hallows College in Dublin, Ireland. He had been ordained on June
24, 1888, and adopted for the diocese of Dubuque which at that time included all
of the State of Iowa. Shortly afterward Father McNerney arrived in Dubuque and
was made assistant pastor of St. Raphael's Cathedral. He remained there only a
few months before being appointed Pastor of Sacred Heart Church at Livermore in
Humboldt county. Father McNerney came to Emmetsburg in March, 1905. By this
time, however, the diocese of Sioux City had been formed in 1902 to include all
of northwestern Iowa. Bishop P.J. Garrigan had been appointed the first bishop
of Sioux City, and it was he who transferred Father McNerney to Emmetsburg. When
the new pastor arrived, he had no rectory to live in, so he resided for over a
year with Rev. J.J. Smith, V.F., the pastor of Assumption Parish and assisted
Father Smith with his parish duties as well as serving as pastor of the new
There were about 125 families in St. Thomas Parish when
it was formed in 1905. Assisting Father McNerney in the organizing of the new
parish and erecting the new church was a committee of the following men: Robert
Shea, Lot Laughlin, P.V. Nolan, James Dunigan and Thomas J. White.
The first baptism recorded in the new St. Thomas Parish
was that of John Julian Kneer, April 23, 1905. His parents were Francis Kneer
and Mary Jensen. This baptism actually took place in the Assumption church
because the new St. Thomas church was being built.
The first baptism that took place in the new church was
on September 13, 1906. On that date Ralph Thomas Joynt was baptized. He was the
son of Thomas Joynt and Mary McNally. The sponsors were Patrick Joynt and Mrs.
The second child to be baptized in the new church was
Agnes Margaret McEvoy. She was baptized the 30th of September, 1906. Her parents
were Michael T. McEvoy and Mary Rashford. The sponsors were Mr. and Mrs. Charles
Nolan. Margaret McEvoy, wife of the late Lawrence T. Brennan, was 89 years old
on September 17, 1995, and continued to reside in Emmetsburg.
The first marriage recorded in the parish was that
between Robert Laughlin, son of John T. Laughlin and Bridget McCabe, and
Catherine Agnes Jackman, daughter of Patrick Jackman and Margaret Brennan. The
witnesses were Joseph Laughlin and Anna Jackman. This wedding took place October
2, 1905 in the Assumption Church, because the new church had not been completed.
The first wedding to take place in the new church was
between John Joseph Martin and Anna M. Nolan. This was on September 3, 1906. The
Martins were in the undertaking business for many years.
The second wedding in the new church was that of Dr.
Thomas S. Hession and Sadie M. Ryan on September 11th, 1906. Sadie Ryan was the
half sister of the late Mrs. C.J. Stillman, Sr.
The first funeral was that of William
O'Connell, who was buried on the 17th of September, 1906. The second funeral
held in the church was that of John O'Neil, who died in April, 1907. Previous to
this, three members of the parish had died. Funeral services for them were held
in the Assumption Church. They were Catherine Brennan, who died in June, 1905;
John Nolan who died November 20, 1905, and William Hester, who died in August,
On October 8, 1905, the first group of children of St.
Thomas Parish received their first Holy Communion in Assumption Church. They
were: Ray Conway, Valentine Cassidy, Rose Corcoran, William Coonan, Fred Grace,
Marie Cassidy, Claudia Laughlin, Nora Bough, Bernard Kelly and William Millea.
It was not until 1907 that First Communion was held in
the new St. Thomas Church. In that year a class of forty made their First Holy
Communion. They were: Frederick O'Neil;, Matthew Littleton, John Doyle, Earl
Sturgess, James Nolan, Hugh Phillips, Albert Muir, Rolland Dean, Raymond Benda,
Thomas Ganley, Basil McEvoy, Thomas Murray, James Fay, Leo McEvoy, James Mehan,
Vincent Bigley, Joseph Pratt, Maurice Laughlin, James Frambach, Hugh Carney,
John Conway, Ray Lynch, Catherine Corcoran, Josephine Brennan, Anne Bigley, Mary
Pratt Donahue (Mary celebrated her 100th birthday October 14, 1995), Ora Bough,
Mary Conway, Edith Galloway, Catherine McMahon, Alice Donahue, Anne Nally, Ruth
O'Reilly, Alice Conway, Bridget Hickey, Susan Swift, Ethel Doyle, Ellen McNamara
and Agatha Hand.
The Sacrament of Confirmation was administered in St.
Thomas Church for the first time in 1908. In that year a class of sixty-five
were confirmed by Bishop P.J. Garrigan. They were: Agatha Hand, Thomas Ganley,
Mildred Daley, Susan Swift, John Doyle, Matthew Littleton, Joseph Kane, Hugh
Conway, Oscar Doyle, Ellen Phillips, Marie Cassidy, Rose Corcoran, Leo McEvoy,
Vincent Hand, William Millea, Raymond Benda, Bernard Kelly, Mary Pender, Basil
McEvoy, John J. Kane, Frederick O'Neil, James Frambach, William Coonan, Ruth
O'Reilly, James Nolan, Francis Littleton, Raymond Conway, Leo Hester, Valentine
Cassidy, William Littleton, Genevieve Daly, Lily O'Neil, Catherine Corcoran,
Catherine McMahon, Mary Conway, Ellen McNamara, Anna Bigley, Ethel Doyle,
Bridget Higley, Josephine Brennan, Alice Donahue, Mary Pratt, Earl Sturgess,
Edith Galloway, James Mehan, James Fay, Mary Leahy, Ora Bough, Alice Kane,
Joseph Pratt, Claudia Laughlin, Mary Dunigan, John Conway, Hugh L. Phillips,
Maurice Laughlin, Vincent Bigley, Edward Kelly, Issac E Drew.