Warren County Iowa Genealogical Society




    St. Marys Immaculate Conception Catholic Church

    St Marys Immaculate Conception Church, 101 Saint James St., St. Marys, IA 50241, (641) 297-2267, St. Marys Immaculate Conception Church

    Saint Marys Immaculate Conception Parish, written by Rev. Carl A. MEIER, is copied from the History of Warren County, Iowa, by Gerard SCHULTZ and Don L. BERRY, The Record and Tribune Company, Indianola, Iowa, 1953, pages 119-151

    The Immaculate Conception Catholic parish of St. Marys was established in 1870. At that time this territory was under the jurisdiction of the bishop of Davenport, Iowa. From 1870 to 1876 Fathers SASSELL and SMITH from the St. Marys Catholic church on Second avenue in Des Moines took care of the spiritual needs of the then few Catholics in this area, coming from Des Moines about once a month and holding the various services at St. Marys. A small church was built on the present parish property in St. Marys which was used also as a school in those days. On March 25, 1876, the Rev. Joseph KNAEPPLE was sent by the bishop of Davenport to be the first resident pastor of St. Mary’s. He built a small priest's house as an annex to the church building.

    Father KNAEPPLE remained as pastor of St. Marys until the fall of 1880 when he was succeeded by the Rev. John FENDRICH, who remained but a short time, being followed in July, 1881, by the Rev. John STRITZELBERGER. Bishop John McMULLEN of Davenport administered the sacrament of confirmation for the first time in St. Marys on May 1, 1882, confirming forty-two men and thirty-nine women. From that class of 1882 several members are still living in St. Marys — Rosa GEHRINGER, now the widow of W. J. McCLAVY; Henry CROAT, recently moved to Des Moines, and Joseph SCHULTE. Father STRITZELBERGER was replaced in April, 1883, by the Rev. G. H. SCHUMACHER.

    Under Father SCHUMACHER’S regime the parish expanded with the building of the first parochial school in 1891. Three Sisters of the Most Precious Blood from St. Louis staffed the first school. Father SCHUMACHER remained as pastor of St. Marys for fifteen years. His successor was the Rev. Peter STAHL, who came to St. Marys in the fall of 1898. Father STAHL, incidentally, is now retired and living in Algona, Iowa. The present church in St. Marys was built during Father STAHL’S tenure as pastor, being erected in 1901, using mostly the help of the local parishioners. On January 5, 1903, Father STAHL was transferred and his successor in St. Marys was the Rev. Herman ALBERS, a young priest who remained but a few months. He was succeeded by the Rev. John COOK. Father COOK remained in St. Marys until November 2, 1908, when he was followed by the Rev. Joseph A. MINCH. The parochial school under Father COOK was closed for financial reasons in 1904. Father MINCH, however, reopened the school in 1911, having secured the services of the Franciscan Sisters from Clinton, Iowa. These Sisters remained until 1921 when the St. Marys school district became consolidated. Father MINCH remained as pastor of St. Marys for over twenty-eight years, the longest tenure in the history of the parish. The Rev. Daniel SHEEHEY took his place in September, 1936, upon Father MINCH's retirement. Father SHEEHEY is now himself retired, having been succeeded by the Rev. J. J. JUDGE, who cared for the parish for six years. Father JUDGE, now the pastor of St. Joseph's Catholic church, Winterset, was transferred there on February 17, 1944, being followed in St. Marys by the Rev. Charles J. PHELAN.

    Under Father PHELAN, the annual St. Marys dinner was begun, and has been continued since. Upon his appointment to erect a new parish in Windsor Heights in Des Moines, Father PHELAN was succeeded by the present pastor of St. Marys, the Rev. Carl A. MEIER, who formerly was at St. Marys of Rosemount and St. Augustine's of Milo, both in Warren County.

    From a very small beginning, the St. Marys Catholic parish has grown into a congregation of approximately ninety families at the present time. Sisters from the St. Ambrose and St. John's convents in Des Moines come out each Saturday morning for the religious instruction for the school children in addition to the annual summer vacation school lasting two weeks. There are over 300 members of the congregation now.

    On March 26, 1876, Anna Marie LIKHUS, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Henry LIKHUS, was baptized, the first listed on the records of the parish. The first marriage was between John Bernard MATLAGE and Gertrude LANSING, having been celebrated on June 10, 1876; while the first death and burial in the St. Mary’s cemetery was that of Anna Marie GERLEMAN, daughter of Henry and Mary GERLEMAN, under the date of April 25, 1876. Since its inception as a parish, there have been 224 deaths registered, 715 baptisms and 142 marriages. St. Joseph's Catholic parish in Winterset was a mission station of St. Mary’s from 1898 to 1901 under the Rev. Peter STAHL.

    It is interesting to note that even before the Sisters came to St. Mary’s in 1891 to open the first parochial school, St. Marys had its religious training and school under lay teachers, the first being Clem SCHEVE and Mart GILLESPIE. They taught in German, and the classes consisted of catechism or truths of religion, Bible history, reading, writing and arithmetic. School was conducted only during the winter months, the fall and spring classes not being held. Later Jim McCLAVY was the teacher.

    In August, 1912, the diocese of Des Moines was erected with Bishop Austin DOWLING as the first Catholic bishop of the diocese. He was succeeded in 1923 by Bishop T. W. DRUMM, who in turn was followed by Bishop Gerald T. BERGAN who remained as bishop of Des Moines until March, 1948, when he was promoted to archbishop of Omaha. The present bishop of Des Moines is Edward C. DALY, O.P., who is in charge of the territory in which St. Marys is located.

    The people of St. Marys have always been a God-fearing and stable people. Witness the names of the present members and one will find the BROMMELS, CROATS, SCHUMACHERS, MILLERS, SCHULTES, LIMKES, McCLAVYS, LIPPOLDS, GEHRINGERS, LEITNERS, all of whom are descendants from the first parishioners.

    Parish records from 1870-1970 are on microfilm at the State Historical Society of Iowa, Des Moines, Iowa, film # War-56 (LDS film # 1034022).