The History of St. Mary's Parish in Elgin, IL

From the book "St Mary's Golden Jubilee 1851 - 1901"

Contributed by Source #14


IN 1851 the corner stone of the first Catholic church in Elgin was laid. To commemorate that event, the Golden Jubilee Exercises of last October were held. Among the many committees appointed on the occasion of the jubilee, was one called the Historical Committee. It was composed of the following members: Rev. John J. McCann, Thos. P. Sheehan, M. C. Tobin, Daniel J. Gahan, Jr., and the Misses Ella Mcosker, Maria Grady, Mary Donahue, Delia Ryan and Helen Duhy. Mr. Edward Keogh, Mr. Frank C. Fedou; Mrs. Harry Dorley and Miss Edna Walker were later additions to the committee.

Mr. Thos. P. Sheehan was made president and Miss Mary Donahue, secretary. Mr. Edward Keogh was appointed to write the introduction and some of the biographical sketches; Mr. Thos. P. Sheehan, the history of the parish in general; Mr. Daniel Gahan, the biographies of the clergy; Mr. Frank C. Fedou and Miss Edna Walker, the Golden Jubilee celebration; Mrs. Hayry Dorley, the history of the choirs; and Miss Helen Duhy, the sketch of St. Mary's Academy. The other members of the committee, though doing none of the writing, assisted in collecting material.

The sketches of the parish societies were written by their respective secretaries. Rev. P. Gildea wrote "The Laying of the Corner Stone," and Mr. W. J. McCarthy wrote "With the Boys of '98." Meetings of the Historical Committee were held every week or two for several months. Old parishioners were called upon for information. Newspaper files, city and county histories, and the early parish records were consulted. The result is the present volume.

A few of the men and women who attended mass offered by the first priests in the parish, are still living; and they were consulted in the preparation of this book. Some of the members of the Historical Committee were born here, and have lived here all their lives. The truthfulness of the narrative, therefore, cannot be called in question.

Only those who have been engaged in the same kind of work can fully appreciate the patient labor necessary in the preparation of this volume. Though the work was very tedious, the members of the committee feel amply repaid for their pains. They realize that it will serve as one of the original sources of information for the general historian; for it is on works like this, modest though they be, that the general historian must rely for his data. It is also their hope that it may serve as an humble monument to the pioneers of Catholicity in this section of Illinois, and help to confirm the present and future generations of Elgin Catholics in the faith of the it forefathers


From the quaint old town of Vincennes, in the State of Indiana came to Elgin and to the Fox River country of Illinois, the first Catholic missionaries of whose work and labors we have absolute knowledge. Because of this fact the following circumstances connected with it are of interest to the reader and are therefore introduced in this prefatory statement.

Vincennes, itself, as late as the period of the coming to Elgin of these missionaries, was still to a great extent a frontier town, with a population largely composed of French Canadians, interspersed with European French. Its population had been so composed from long before the revolution, and we find in Law's History of Vincennes that "It was founded by Father Mermot in the year of 1700." In Parkman's Discovery of the Northwest, the author says that Vincennes was at first "An isolated French post, built in the depths of the gigantic forests of the Lower Wabash," and the same author thus continues : "Here the French lived and grew in an atmosphere of Indian social life until the fires of the revolution, kindled afar off, came to their doors."

And then when the fires of that mighty effort for human freedom did come to the doors of this romantic old place, one appeared on the scene in the person of Father Pierre Gibault, parish priest of Vin-cennes, whose name ought to surely stand among the proudest of the immortal patriots of the revolution. Father Gibault was a Jesuit and a personal friend of General George Rogers Clark, the American commander in the Northwest, who, commissioned by Patrick Henry, boldly attacked the British forces wherever found in the Northwest territory then held for the English sovereign by General Hamilton and other commanders, with hordes of Indian allies. Father Gibault, being a patriot as well as a priest, actively entered into the struggle, and commenced his labors by recruiting, at Kaskaskia, a company of his parishioners for service under General Clark. Law's History describes this stout patriotic priest as "a courageous lover of liberty," but more than this, he, according to the same historian as well as according to Parkman, actually fed and supported the American patriotic army under Clark, during all its campaigns against the British troops and defenses in the Northwest territory. He, together with a compatriot named Vigo, a trader from St. Louis, personally indorsed the continental money with which General Clark was alone supplied for the susten-ance of the American troops; and the historian quoted (Parkman) says: "At the end of the war and the overthrow of the British, Father Gibault and Vigo had more than $20,000 of the worthles.s scrip on their hands," at that time an enormous sum of money; and to this the his-torian sorrowfully adds, " it never was redeemed." Father Gibault in his efforts for American success by recruiting and feeding the American army and indorsing continental money, as Law puts it, "to aid the American army disposed of all his cattle, and even of the tithes of his parishioners." For this he was thanked by a vote of the Virginia Legislature, and Parkman says that next to General Clark, the United States is indebted to Father Gibault for the conquest from the British of the great territory forming now the magnificent States of the Middle West, and including Illinois.

Such was the patriot priest in old Vincennes in the time of the revolution; and as the years went by, long after the revolution, the old customs yet prevailed in the old town on'the Lower Wabash. The spirit of adventure was yet strong, and the great land of the West was unin-habited ny few besides the red children of the forest and prairie. Still, the years went by, until at last some French priests; always paragons of missionary intrepidity, living in Vincennes, wistfully looking over the great Western lands that lay beyond them, found in 1837-8, that the Northern Illinois country was receiving some settlers. The coming to the Fox River country of Father St. Palais (afterward bishop of Vincennes) and of Father Guiguen was the result or consequence of this survey of a yet wild land.

It is, and perhaps ever will be, doubtful as to whether or not missionary priests had, before the period referred to, visited the Fox or the Rock River regions. We know that they had been in their vicinities, and that the intrepid and saintly Marquette whose love for, and loyalty to, the great command, "Go teach all nations," knew neither pause nor fear, as his love for, and loyalty to, his fellow-men, whether civilized or savage, knew no bounds, was on the present site of Chicago on his second trip to the land of the Illinois in November, 1674, and that Catholic missionaries among the Indians of Northern Illinois, long after Marquette's time, may be indistinctly traced, down to the period of their removal from Illinois. Apropos of this statement, the writer recollects that he was told in a conversation that he once held with Rev. N. C. Clark, first pastor of the Elgin Congregational Church, and a gentleman held justly in the highest esteem in Elgin during his life, that in his early career in the Fox River Valley, and while traveling through it as a missionary, he, on one occasion, near the present site of Naperville, came on a large gathering of Pottawattamies in the timber, who were before a sort of rude altar performing a ceremony, the nature of which the reverend gentleman did not understand. Inquiring of an Indian the meaning of it, the Indian gave him to understand that they were praying for their dead friends and relatives, and "it seemed to me," said the reverend gentleman "as if the Indians held to the purgatorial doctrine." It would seem from this, as well as from many other circumstances, that either the pioneer missionaries who visited Northern Illinois at a very early day, or later missionaries preaching the gospel, had left among the red men lasting impressions of the Catholic faith.

But historically true it is, at all events, that with the abolition of French ascendancy in the Northwest, Catholic missionary effort therein largely declined, if it did not actually cease. That eloquent and truthful chronicler of Catholic events. William J. Onahan of Chicago, well summarizes the languishing condition of Catholic mission work among the Indians of the prairies, after the fall of the French influence in the Illinois country; and up to the time of the Black Hawk War, thus:

"With the close of the French dominion in the Northwest, effected by the treaty of Utrecht, the presence and labors of the black gown gradually disappeared from the scene, though one or more of the zealous missionaries would from time to time appear on the forbidden territory, to recall and renew among the Indian tribes the teachings of the pioneer fathers." Although, of course, after the revolution there was no forbidden territory in the United States to Catholic missionary work, there had been such before that event, and as a consequence, after the triumph of the " brave Continentals in their ragged regimentals," the work that had been forbidden by force, by habit became supine. It so continued until the early thirties when by emigration the new or white race took personal possession of the Northwest.

Then the struggle of the red warrior, his last stand for the graves of his sires began; but the heroism of Black Hawk availed but little against the power of his white enemies, rushed and driven westward again, the Father of Waters now parted the red man from his old domain, and Northern Illinois began to receive white settlers. The diocese of Vincennes, in which this part of the State of Illinois was located, the old parent of the Elgin church, in 1842 included the great States of Indiana, Michigan and Illinois, with a total Catholic population of 25,000 persons. The Catholic records of Chicago show that "up to the year 1835, the religious wants of the Catholic settlers of Chicago were supplied hy the occasional visits and ministrations of a priest from Detroit or Vincennes." There is no doubt, however, that the priests St. Palais and Guiguen that visited Elgin at, or a short time after, the year indicated were from the latter place; and what a picture of brave devotion to Christian duty is disclosed to us, as we now look back on the journeyings of these solitary priests from the banks of the Lower Wabash to the banks of the Illinois Fox. In their zeal they dared all obstacles, and in their lonely quest after the Savior's work we behold again the men with script and staff walking through the wilderness. Their way lay through miles of solitude, and was beset with dangers through fever-breeding swamps and woods, tangled and almost impassable, across prairies scorched by a blazing sun, or locked in the iron grasp of wintry desolation. And, after all, there were but few Catholics in Elgin in those days of that trying time, when through such scenes came to it Father St. Palais or Father Guiguen. Yet they came, and raised the cross among the new inhabitants.

At the period mentioned, European emigration to the United States was not yet large, and the Catholic inhabitants of Elgin and of the country surrounding it were few and scattering. Many of these people had just pre-empted land, or bought it at the land sale in Chicago. Life's struggle was hard and it was before them, but to them the coming of the Vincennes priests was a sort of ray of sunshine. It gladdened their lives and made bright the darkness through which they toiled. And thus it went on for a time, but the day of the missionary priest was passing. The brothers James T. and Hezekiah Gifford had settled in Elgin in 1834-5, and their liberal inducements were as early as 1838-9 bringing newcomers to their little settlement. To James T. Gifford the first inhabitants of Elgin owe a great debt of gratitude. His land was freely disposed of to all comers. He was a benevolent man, and a man who respected all alike, and to him are the Catholics of Elgin indebted for many favors, among them for the site of their old church, his gracious and voluntary donation.

In 1844, the Rt. Rev. William Quarter was appointed Bishop of Chicago, its first bishop, and we may add first bishop of Illinois. At that time the majority of the Elgin, settlers were American emigrants from the Eastern States, with quite an infusion of emigrants from Kentucky, Tennessee and Indiana, all of them called "Hoosiers". They principally settled in what is still called "Hoosier Grove," in the town of Hanover, Cook county, and among these, quite a number of the emigrant farmers attending the Catholic services held in Elgin also settled. However, soon after their settlement in the location indicated, the Catholic settlers moved to the town of Rutland, west of Fox River where many of their children still live. For years the settlement at Rutland was attached to St. Mary's parish at Elgin, and the period of its severance from the same is told in the subsequent pages, as are all the terriorial mutations that have occurred in St. Mary's parish since its establishment.

Bishop Quarter took possession of his new see on May 7, 1844, and while the bishop's see included the whole State of Illinois; St. Mary's parish was also an ecclesiastical territory of magnificent distances. Down to 1852, or thereabouts, the pastor in charge at St. Mary's had to answer sick and other calls from all over Kane county, north of Batavia. From all of DeKaIb county, from the northern portion of Du Page county; and from the southern part of McHenry county. As the country was rapidly settling at this period, owing to the great European emigration that set into America during the years 1848-9, demands for the services of the Elgin priest from the vast parish that he ministered to were constant and occurring both night and day. A lumber wagon wtth a board for a seat was the mode of conveyance adopted by him generally, and the roads that he traveled may be described as simply execrable. But when the call for him came, it was answered night or day, rain or shine.

Among the very early Catholic settlers in Elgin or its vicinity --and in this purely introductory writing, allusion will only be made to the coming to Elgin and its neighborhood of the very early settlers, all biographical notices of them being extraneous to the subject matter of an introduction--were the Tyler family, after whom Tyler Creek is named, consisting of George, Israel and Calvin Tyler and their aged parents. Another son was Catholic bishop of Hartford, Connecticut. The family were converts, and were the first purely American Catholics in Elgin or its surroundings.

Up to the years 1850-2 the Elgin congregation used to assemble every fourth Sunday in each month to attend mass under any shelter obtainable. The reader will find the places selected and used for the purpose indicated, mentioned in the following pages. Indeed, up to the period named, it was an easy matter to hold the congregation, for it was but small and easily accommodated. The yillage of Elgin itself was at this time merely a sort of way station on the State road from Chicago to Galena, traveled by the Frink and Walker line of stage coaches. In truth it was but a pretty little settlement in a new country. Years had elapsed, it is true, since the coming to the Fox River of the devoted missionary priests from the Wabash, and from their advent to the period that we are now writing of, religious services had at what may be called irregular intervals been held in Elgin, but the attendance was necessarily small. Our great neighbor Chicago itself was as late as1850 but a frontier city of scarce twenty thousand people, without a railway, who looked at the advent of a passenger steamboat from Buffalo as an event of mighty and far-reaching importance; just as the Elgin people of that day looked in rustic wonder at the advent of a Frink and Walker stage coach to their village. The Rutland Catholics, had at or about the period here alluded to become quite a numerous congregation, composed of located farmers, and they, it is also true, were attached to and were territorially within the Elgin parish, but they had a church of their own, and although attended and ministered to by the Elgin pastor, they were in other respects recognized as a separate congregation. As they seldom attended church in Elgin, the Elgin congregation was but little reinforced on such occasions as church services by their western neighbors.

But a new and a great change was at hand, and it came one day in the early spring of 1850, when the whistle of the locomotive sounded over the hills of the Fox River valley for the first time, and little Elgin, now attached to the outside world, became the western terminus of railway travel.

In February, 1850, the first train on the old Galena and Chicago Union railway, now the Northwestern railway, came to Elgin. That is to say, the first train on the road that reached this point. Soon after, the Frink and Walker line of stage coaches disappeared from the scene like an actor who lags superfluous on the stage, and railway communication with the outer world being now well and thoroughly established settlers began coming to Elgin in large numbers. From 1850 to1858 settlers continued to come, and new additions were constantly being made to the Elgin Catholic congregation. During the period of the railway building, too, the congregation was largely added to on Sundaay by the very large number of workmen employed in that work; and so or about the time that work on the old church began, the Catholics of Elgin had become quite numerous as a resident population, apart from the very large number of transient Catholics. To the latter, however, as is related in the following paragraph, the successful erection of the old St. Mary's church is largely due and ascribable.

Elgin remained the western terminus of the Galena and Chicago Union railway for over a year, and then its management commenced its extension to Rockford. In this work, as stated, a very large number of Catholic workmen were employed on the west side of the Fox River. The financial aid which these men were able to give to the building of a church, an effort which the circumstances of the Elgin Catholic would hardly warrant, emboldened the then pastor, Rev. Willian Feely, to make an effort to erect the church (old St. Mary's) of which the corner stone had been laid a very short time before. During 1852 and 1853 the effort was made, and the walls and roof of the edifice were completed by Father Feely. During the succeeding pastorate of Rev. James Gallagher, the interior of the church was completed from the time of its roofing, mass was said in it on the Sundays that were appointed for that purpose until the opening of the new St. Mary's Church. The old church now stands as a reminder of the past, but to Elgin Catholics it has long been, and while it stands it will ever be; a sacred spot, around which cluster the joys and sorrows, but, above all, the holiest hopes of a long past.

Owing to the energy of Rev. Michael Carroll, who succeeded Father Gallagher, the present site of the new St Mary's Church was purchased, and the building standing upon it was long occupied as a parochial residence. After the death of Father Carroll the parish continued to grow steadily but not rapidly, and during the pastorate of Father Eustace, who succeeded Father Carroll, the great civil war took place. Then it may with truth be said that for four years the drum roll never ceased in Elgin. From 1861 to the end of the great struggle, companies and even regimental organizations were being recruited in Elgin, and many of these organizations won names of historic glory and deathless fame. St. Mary's parish furnished to them its full quota of members and the roll call of our honored dead who sleep in the lovely cemeteries of Elgin tells, at least to some extent, of the spirit that animated the people of the parish during the long and memorable struggle for the Union, and for government by the people, and for the people. The efforts and wise judgment of Rev. Terrence Fitzsimmons, who succeeded Father Eustis in the pastorate of the parish, caused the introduction to Elgin of the Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the establishment of St. Mary's Academy in Elgin. This institution has been a splendid aid to the cause of the moral as well as intellectual instruction of the youth of Elgin and its vicinity of both sexes. Year after year since the date of its establishment, it has continued to send forth classes of graduates that mark it as an educational institution of a high grade, and one that deserves well of the Catholic people; indeed we might with truth say of all the people of Elgin.

The organization of St. Joseph's parish, a vigorous German off-shoot of St. Mary's, is related in the succeeding pages. The recent purchase of a splendid site for a new church edifice, to take the place of the present church, by the people of St. Joseph's, tells well of the prosperity of the parish, and is a splendid evidence of the earnestness of the German Catholics of Elgin, and of their present worthy and energetic pastor, Rev. Father Rohde.

The rise and progress of the Catholic church in Elgin from the early day when Elgin, the then pretty little hamlet by the Fox, was but little known, is so intimately associated with the rise and progress of Elgin, the now fine and thrifty city, that the growth of the one seems to be the growth of the other. Elgin, the small frontier settlement of not quite seventy years ago, has grown to be world famous because of its mechanical and other products. At the present time, owing to the wondrous development of mechanism, electricity and of other scientific accessories to human labor, it is impossible to set any bounds to the future growth of a city like Elgin, with a name such as it has acquired for its manufactured products. The growth of St. Mary's parish is now truly marked and gratifying. If you ask for the monuments of this progress and advancement, as was said by the Roman of old, "Look around you." The new St. Mary's Church, one of the handsomest religious edifices in the State, of which the imposing exterior was erected by the efforts of the late revered and lamented rector, Rev. John Mackin, is now about to be interiorly completed by the present energetic and devoted rector, Rev. John J. McCann. This means that when the church is fully completed it will be a true model of ecclesiastical elegance. The reverend rector is assisted in parish work by Rev. Fathers Gildea and Murray, both devoted workers, and Elgin, besides its great and central parish as we may name it, of which we write, now has its prosperous German parish of St. Joseph, with its fine parochial school, St. Mary's Academy, and last, but not least, St. Joseph's new and perfectly conducted hospital.

Among the early parishioners of the church were many who entered business in Elgin. Others there were who attached themselves to various pursuits in life, some professional, others agricultural, etc., but with very few exceptions these have all passed away. Many of their descendants are, however, engaged in business and in the various walks in life here in the city of their birth. To all who read the succeeding pages much interesting information will be given of those who have been, and of those who are still, connected with St. Mary's parish.

In the soft and mellow days of the fall of 1901, in the golden time of the year, the golden Jubilee of St. Mary's was fittingly celebrated, the new church being then dedicated to the service of the Almighty by the Rt. Rev. Peter J. Muldoon, auxiliary bishop to the Archbishop of Chicago. The Jubilee is fittingly described in the subsequent pages. And so, in a golden light, full of promise for the future, ended the first half century of St. Mary's parish.

All the former pastors of the parish have gone to their eternal reward. Rev. Francis A. Lynde, for several years assistant pastor to Father Mackin and for a time to Father McCann, died recently at Boulder, Colorado, whither he had gone to recruit sadly impaired health. All the pastors, from first to last, it may be said to their credit, did their work well, and have left behind them indisputable evidences of that fact.

And now, as we close this introduction to the story of the planting, progress, struggles and successes of this Christian church so dear to many in Elgin, we may well take a momentary glance backward. The retrospect again brings before us a wondrous scene. Again we see the indomitable missionaries, Fathers St. Palais and Guiguen, of the long past, weary and travel-stained, journeying with God's message of love on the yet hot trail of a wild and conquered race, from the far off banks and forests of the Lower Wabash, to the still primeval wilds of the Illinois Fox. The desert land through which the lonely soldiers of the cross then took their tiresome way, is now filled with a mighty population, surrounded by a civilization beyond the wildest imaginings of that long past time; and the solitudes they crossed now hold splendid cities, fifled with people of wondrous energy; such is the change and such the picture. But still the two adventurous priests, plodding westward on their mission of mercy, seem inseparable from the picture, be it that of the past or that of the present. The wilderness here at the end of that journey to which they came, has truly blossomed in the years that have gone; the seed they planted has borne an abundant harvest; their work has remained to this day, and ever will remain, and to such servants of the Lord and to their labors in the desert places may truly be applied the words of the Prophet Isaiah, The wilderness and the Solitary place shall be glad for them, and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose."
Elgin, October 1, 1902.

Priests of St. Mary's Parish of Elgin.

Though assigned the work of preparing a sketch of the priests who have administered to the needs of the parishioners of Elgin, it is with much reluctance that we attempt the task. First, we find of necessity we must trespass on the domain of others of the committee- a sketch of the priests is synonymous with one of the parish, and again, we are forced to a confession of consciousness of our inability to provide even a preliminary historical sketch of our most worthy subjects; yet it is doubtful if any one would be satisfied, under the circumstances, with the result of his efforts. No records of the parish prior to 1853 are obtainable. Those of the diocese were destroyed in the great Chicago fireof 1871; however, partial copies of the diaries of Bishops Quarter and Van de Velde remain which, together with the Easter issue of "The New World" for 1900, a diary kept by the late Jeremiah Ryan, and a memorandum given by Mr. Edward Keogh, afford data that otherwise would have been lost.
All our former pastors and our earliest pioneer parishioners have been called to their eternal home. The accounts received are brief; some do not correspond with those received from other sources; in other instances none at all have been secured.

Notwithstanding the defects in this record and the errors it may contain, owing to the reasons here mentioned, we present the result of our efforts, believing they are substantially correct. Before beginning a sketch of the history of the priests of Elgin, we trust our readers will not deem it out of place if we revert briefly to some of the priests who as missionaries did zealous, heroic, and effective work in this region prior to the erection of the diocese of Chicago, and after Illinois was admitted to the sisterhood of States in 1818.

This date found the territory under the jurisdiction of the Rt. Rev. Dr. Benedict Joseph Flaget, Bishop of Bardstown (now Louisville, Kentucky). Fort Dearborn had been rebuilt but a short time since its destruction, and the massacre by the Indians in 1812 of most of its garrison, and settlers and their families who sought its protection. This fort was the frontier outpost of the northwest. Established there was the g6vernment agency for the payment of the Indians for their lands. Traders and settlers began to assemble about it once more. Again the Canadian voyageurs appeared at the place. The majority of these people, a goodly number of the garrison, and many of the friendly Indians were Catholics at this time.

Their venerable bishop, ever solicitous for the spiritual and temporal welfare of his people, did not neglect those at Fort Dearborn. He sent priests as often as conditions would permit to visit them. Among those from Bardstown came Father Stephen Theodore Badin, who was the first priest ordained in the United States. He was elevated to the priesthood by Rt. Rev. John Carroll, First Bishop of Baltimore, May 25,1793. Father Badin was probably the first priest to visit this section of Illinois. It is recorded that he said mass at the home of Simon Brady, near Kellogg's Grove, in the vicinity of the present city of Freeport, in October, 1827, while on his way to Galena. In crossing the State it is not improbable that he passed through what was later the parish of Elgin. He afterwards administered to the wants of the laborers during the construction of the Illinois and Michigan canal; and to those of the settlers in its vicinity; subseqently he was pastor at Bourbonnais Grove, near Kankakee.

Father Samuel Mazzuchelli, an Italian Dominican, was a zealous contemporaneous worker with Father Badin among the miners at Lapointe (now Galena) among the sparsely located settlers and with the traders and Indians in northern Illinois, though the former priest's missions extended much farther north and west. As with the Jesuit and Franciscan Fathers who immediately succeeded Marquette in the same field, the sufferings and sacrifices of these good priests in the cause of their Master and for the eternal salvation of the souls of His children are known to few but the recording angel.

After the suppresion of the Indians under Black Hawk and the capture of that noted chief in 1832, the remnant of the once powerful tribes of Illinois withdrew beyond the Mississippi. Reports by return-mg soldiers of the beauty and fertility of the country, with its abundance of timber, springs, and fresh flowing streams, soon caused an influx of people from adjacent States, and of emigrants to seek homes among the abandoned fields of the Pottawattamies.


The Sac chief, who rallied the assembled bands of Illinois Indians in their final, though futile, effort to retain from the encroaching white settlers the domain of their forefathers.

"In 1835 the bill that had been passed by the State Legislature became a law and appropriations were made for the digging of the channel to be called the Illinois and Michigan canal. The contractors who had this work in hand sent circulars to the seaports of the United States and Canada, which were distributed among the emigrants who were coming in multitudes to America. Thousands started westward to find ready work, the majority coming from Ireland."

Two years before this time the Catholics of the future city of Chicago, the greater part of whom were French, petitioned Rt. Rev. Joseph Rosati, first Bishop of St. Louis, who then had jurisdiction over a part of Illinois, for a priest. Father John M. I. St. Cyr was sent in response to their call and became the first pastor of Chicago. As a great number of the men who came to work on the canal appeared first in Chicago, Father St. Cyr found that he could not attend to the pressing needs of his flock. He wrote to his bishop for more priests his letter was referred to Rt. Rev. Simon William Gabriel Brute, Bishop of Vincennes, whose recently formed diocese extended westward in Illinois to a north and south line which crossed the stream at "the great whirlpools of the Illinois river, which are about 8,ooo paces above the city of Ottawa."

Bishop Brute immediately sent Father Schaefer to Chicago, and later on with other priests, the zealous Fathers John Guiguen and James M. Maurice De St. Palais (the latter was afterwards pastor of Chicago and later Bishop of Vincennes), to help Father St. Cyr in his mission.

From reports of old Catholic settlers Father De St. Palais was, without doubt, the first priest to visit and say mass in Elgin. This is thought to have been prior to 1840.

In 1842 Father John Guiguen, who had been for about a year assisting Father Dupontavice at Joliet, moved to Meehan's settlement, in Shields township, Lake county (near the present town of Lake Forest). "His dwelling there was a log hut that stood near the Libertyville road. From this station, on horseback, about once in four month Father Guiguen would make a tour of the missions under his charge going as far westward as New Dublin and sometimes Galena, then south and east to Joliet, then north by way of Chicago to his home in the bush. He would visit Catholic settlers wherever he could find them, baptize the children, say mass, and speak words of encourage-ment to the people in the wilderness."

Under his guidance the Catholics of Rutland township and vicinity, on land now the site of the old Catholic cemetery, given by the late Edward Keating, in 1843 began the erection of the first Catholic church, known as the "Barrens Church " in what was later the parish of Elgin and in Kane county. The timber used in the construction of its frame grew on the ground and it was prepared at Tyler's mill, which was located on Tyler creek, about forty rods below where the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul railroad now crosses it, but little more than a mile northwest of Elgin. The Stephens brothers, who, owned land southeast of the church site, were the builders. A permanent floor was not laid in it until the winter of 1845-46, and the building was never completed


The Rev. John Guiguen was born in Brittany, France, near Gourin, a town in the department of Morbihan, January, 12, 1814; he was educated at the preparatory seminary at Plouguerneval, after which he entered the grand seminary at St. Brieux, in the diocese of that name, wherein he studied theology as a preparation for the priesthood and received minor orders before coming to the United States. In October, 1839, he arrived at Vincennes, where he completed his theological course, and was ordained bv Bishop De la Hellandiere, August 16, 1840.

He was sent to Joliet, Illinois, where he remained about a year, and then removed to Little Fort (Waukegan) or near it, in Lake county; at the same time he had charge of the missions in McHenry, Kane and DeKalb counties, which were then parts of the diocese of Vincennes. When the diocese of Chicago was erected in 1844, Illinois was severed from the jurisdiction of Vincennes, and Father Guiguen was recalled by his bishop to the latter diocese, where he served creditably in the capa-city of pastor in many places, as director of the diocesan seminary for several years, and finally as chaplain of the Sisterhood of St. Mary's of the Woods, at the mother house of the Sisters of Providence, at St. Mary's, Vigo county, Indiana, where he died December 17, 1893. His remains rest in the cemetery of the community beside those of his predecessors.


In May, 1844, the Rt. Rev. Wm. Quarter, the first bishop of Chicago, came to assume charge of his lately formed diocese. Soon after-wards the priests sent to the Illinois mission from Vincennes were recalled by their bishop. This was an unexpected difficulty which beset Bishop Quarter's path, but he met it resolutely. He set about founding a college which was the germ of the future University of St. Mary's of the Lake: He opened it June 3rd, less than a month after his arrival.

When the bishop came to Chicago he found two young men studying for the priesthood under the direction of Father De St. Palais, Mr. Patrick McMahon and Mr. Bernard McGorisk. Other seminarians and priests came from many places in response to his call. On November 21, 1844, Mr. John Faughnan, a young Irishman hail-ing from New York, presented himself to Bishop Quarter as a candidate for the priesthood. So worthy and capable did the bishop find him that he was made one of the trustees of the college. He was ordained December 3, 1844, and sent to assist Father Patrick McMahon at Donnelly settlement. In January, 1845, Father Faughnan was appointed the first pastor of Elgin and left Chicago on the 21st of that month for his new field and to establish the parish.
The young, devoted priest lived at the homes of his parishioners in his different missions, but as much as possible with those near the "Barrens" Church, his only edifice of worship. He said mass in the adjoining villages from time to time, and at such other places as best suited the convenience of his people. His flock, in the main, were very poor, struggling in a wild place to build homes and for a foothold in life. Their good pastor cheerfully shared their poverty, and, also, often his own raiment with those whom he believed in need of it more than himself.

While attending his priestly duties in his mission, Father Faughnan contracted a severe cold, which developed into consumption and obliged him to retire to Chicago, where he died, universally mourned, on September 27, 1845, at the bishop's house, at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Madison Street. His funeral was the largest ever seen in Chicago up to that date.

Father P. J. Scanlan immediately followed Father Faughnan as the next pastor of the parish. He was succeeded in 1847 by Father Andrew Doyle. While in the parish Father Doyle made his home in Elgin. It was located where is now the northeast corner of South State and Locust streets. His time in the parish, like that of his predecessors, was brief. Father Doyle died in Chicago some years after leaving Elgin, but the date is unknown to the writer. The death of Father P. J. Scanlan also took place in Chicago on December 28, 1848. The remains of Fathers Faughnan, Scanlan and Doyle were interred in the old cemetery, situated where is now the archepiscopal residence, but after the Chicago fire were removed to Calvary Cemetery.


The fourth pastor of the parish was the Rev. William Feely, who came in the spring of 1848. During the years of Father Feely's pastorate the Elgin parish included, besides the village of Elgin, Dundee, Huntley, Turner Junction, St. Charles, Geneva, Blackberry, Sycamore and "The Barrens" (near the present station of Gilberts). Mass was said on every fourth Sunday at Elgin, "The Barrens," St. Charles and Blackberry, and on occasional week days in the other places named. On Trinity Sunday, May 26, 1850, Bishop Van de Velde was in Elgin. Mass was said in Mr. Richard Keogh's house; later in the day the bishop administered confirmation in the old, unplastered frame church at "The Barrens." This was the first visit of a bishop to the parish for this purpose. Thirty-nine males and forty females received the sacrament of confirmation.

Father Feely was a man possessed of great energy, educated and resourceful. He labored hard and incessantly for the spiritual welfare of his people and for the betterment of fheir temporal conditions. He exerted himself to the utmost in the collection of funds to build a church in Elgin. The hulk of the contributions came from laborers then at work on the railroad which was in course of construction through Elgin, and from young men and women empioyed about the town and on farms in the neighborhood.

On a lot on the southeast corner of Gifford and Fulton streets (obtained gratis some time previous of James T. Gifford, the founder of Elgin), in the spring of 851 Father Feely began the erection of the cobble-stone church of the Immaculate Conception, the corner stone of which was laid on Holy Th-ursday, April 17th, of that year. The mason work was done by Patrick Hennessy and his brother William, who gave much of their labor as an offering for their part in the good work. The carpentering was done under the supervision of the late John Kelley of Pingree Station.

During the time the Elgin church was in course of construction, Father Feely began the erection of the stone church still in use at St. Charles, and one of frame in Blackberry He finished only the exterior of these churches. St. Charles and that part of the parish then south and west of it was divided from Elgin parish in 1853, and mass was subsequently said at Elgin and "The Barrens" church on alternate Sundays, and at other times among the parishioners as usual.

It may be of interest to the parishioners of today to state that during Father Feely's pastorate, mass was said at the house of "Long" John Murphy, which yet stands near the southeast corner of Dundee and North streets, and at the house at the northeast cdrner of Center and Milwaukee streets, which was built and then owned by Mr. E. Barrett; also at the store building yet in use at the northeast corner of Douglas and Dexter avenues, which was built and owned at the time by the late Mr. John Meehan, and on the west side in a portion of the building now at 314 West Chicago street, which at the time was used for school purposes, the teacher being the late J. B. Newcomb.

On June 5, 1853, the third Sunday after Pentecost, Bishop J. 0 Van de Velde said high mass and gave confirmation to fifty-six persons in Elgin, who were the first to receive the sacrament in this city. The next day the bishop visited at the home of Mr. Patrick Keating at Fayville. Late in the summer of this year Father Feely was transferred to Mt. Sterling and Beardstown, Brown county, Ill., where he remained for some time, and afterwards to St. Patrick's Church, Chicago, where he served as an assistant to Father P.1. McLaughlin, during the visitation or the Asiatic cholera and for some time later, when he resigned and came to Elgin to reside.


Father Feely was born in County Galway, Ireland, and finished his studies for the priesthood in St. Isidore's College in Rome, Italy, and was there ordained. While in Rome he mastered the Italian and French languages. The first record of his appearance in America seems to be at Peoria, Ill., where he was pastor of St. Mary's Church between 1846 and 1848. Father Feely died at Elgin in 1864, aged about sixty years. His remains rest with those of his relatives, the Keogh family, in the lot of the latter in Elgin Cemetery.


The next pastor to assume charge of the parish of Elgin was Father James Gallagher. Father Gallagher was born in the parish of Kilgort, St. Johnston, County Donegal, Ireland. In his youth he came to America and relatives think he began his ecclesiastical studies in St. Louis, Mo. He came to Chicago in 1845 and entered the University of St. Mary's of the Lake. He was elevated to the priesthood by Bishop Quarter, September 19, 1846, and the next year was appointed to th& pastorate of Mt: Sterling, Brown county, with dependent missions at Versailles, Beardstown and Pittsfield, Pike county.

The baptismal record kept by Father Gallagher indicates that he was appointed to the parish of Elgin in November, 1853. His first work here was to endeavor to complete the unfinished church, which he
succeeded in doing about 1855. Joseph Hutchison, then one of the young men of the parish, did much of the plastering. The church was dedicated August 26th of that year. During the same year, also, Father Gallagher built a large frame church at Gilbert's Station, on land given by the late Daniel Pingree, about a mile west cf the old "Barrens Church;" the latter was then abandoned and moved away.

Father Gallagher's home in Elgin stood on a lot where is now the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul freight depot, or near it. While boating on Fox River for pleasure with his friend Father Herbert, who was with him for a visit, Father Gallagher was drowned near the dam on June 13, 1858. His remains were buried beneath his church, near the altar.


Father Michael Carroll was the next to succeed in charge of the parish of Elgin. He said his first mass here on June 27, 1858. During Father Carroll's pastorate, the property on which, St. Mary's Church now stands was secured and the building that stood on it served as a parochial residence for many years. Father Carroll did not live long to enjoy his new parish. He died on December 29, 1860. His remains, like those of his predecessor, were interred beneath the church.

The Rev. Michael Carroll was born in Effin, County Limerick, Ireland. No record of his early career has been obtained. He was a pastor in Illinois before the diocese of Chicago was erected, having
succeeded the Rev. George A. Hamilton, first pastor of the parish of Alton, in 1841. While pastor of that parish the following missions depended on his visitations: Brussels and Michael, Calhoun county; Carroll Settlement, or Ridgeley, near Bunker Hill, Macoupin county; Monks Mound and Edwardsville, Jersey county, and Liberty, Adams county. Though mass was said in a temporary structure when Father Carroll went to Alton, the first real church in that parish, St. Mathew's, was built by him in I845. There, in the following year, a successful mission was given by the Rev. F. X. Wenninger, S. I. On November 10, 1847, a Theological Conference of the southern part of the diocese of Chicago was held at Alton, and was presided over by Father Carroll.

In February, 1849, the Rt. Rev. J. 0. Van de Velde, the newly consecrated bishop of Chicago, began the first visitation of his diocese by administering confirmation in this parish. St. Mathews Church was destroyed by fire 1851. Father Carroll and some prominent members of his parish then proposed a change of site; in this they were supported by their bishop, who authorized the erection of a new church, the present Cathedral Divine service was first held in the new church in 1846, Father Carroll officiating, though but the exterior of the edifice was completed. In 1857, when the rt. Rev. Henry Damian Juncker, D.D., the first bishop of Alton, left Dayton, Ohio, for his new field, Father Carroll resigned and returned to his bishop in Chicago; afterwards he made a visit to Ireland and the continent, and on his return to Chicago he was appointed to the pastorate of Elgin.


On May 26, 1861, by the appointment of Bishop Duggan, the Rev. Andrew Eustace came to Elgin to assume charge of the parish as its pastor. If no temporal structures today remain in Elgin as a testimonial of' his work in the parish, it is no evidence that he did not labor diligently here for his people. Almost simultaneous with his coming to the place, the clarion note of war reverberated o'er the land, calling the sons of the North to the defense of their country. It is unnecessary here to state that since the date of 'the celebrated "tea party" in Boston harbor to the present time, the sons of the Catholic church give place to none for patriotism or valor. In the fraternal strife of the Civil War this parish sent more than its quota, from commander to private, to loyally support the flag of the Union.
When the shadow of war's grim specter hovers over any people, the fathers and sons at the front, heroes though they be, do not meet all the trials and sacrifices incident to such conditions. At the homes they leave, from where the heart's hopes and prayers of mothers, wives and children follow their loved ones on the march through swamp and over hill, plain and mountain, those who need the support and protection of strong arms meet with equal fortitude and courage the privations that ensue.

Thus it was in Elgin; yet, as reports of the frightful carnage of this fratricidal conflict came from the South, the hearts of the bravest sank. The majority of the people of the parish were yet poor. With patriotism excited after listening to a war speech, often the head of a large family of children, who depended on his earnings for support; enlisted and went away, trusting to God to care for those he left behind.

These women and children did not look in vain to Father Eustace for consolation or aid, and many were the demands made on his generosity; a kinder-hearted man never lived, and when the sad tidings of sickness in the camps and hospitals of the South, resulting from miasmatic fevers and privations on the march, or the dread news of the death of a father son or brother came, Father Eustace was found at the side of the despairing to give hope with words of encouragement and support.

During these trying times the good pastor did not neglect the spiritual needs of his flock. In October, 1863 he secured, for the first mission ever given in the parish, the services of the Redemptorist Fathers Giesen and Bradley. The mission was very successful, great crowds of people were in attendance, many of whom were non-Catholics. The mission in Elgin terminated on the 18th of the before mentioned month. As a memorial of the mission a large wooden cross was placed on the wall near the gospel side of the altar, where it remained until the old church was remodeled years afterwards. After finishing in Elgin the good missionaries, with the pastor, went to Gilbert's to give the people in that part of the parish the benefits of a mission also.

While in Elgin Father Eustace labored earnestly for the welfare of the church of which he was a worthy priest. In 1868 he was assigned by his superior to the parish of Lockport, Illinois. On the 5th day of March of that year Father Eustace bade adieu to his congregation, and soon afterwards departed for his new field, taking with him the best wishes of the people of Elgin.


The Rev. Andrew Eustace was born in the city of Dublin, Ireland, where he attended school until his fourteenth year, and, then entered the Seminary of Castleknock, in the same county, where he remained two years, preparatory to entering Maynooth College, .and then passed examinations the youngest in his class. 'He remained in Maynooth several years, until the death of his parents, that of both occurring in the same month. In the early 50's he came to his relative, the late Archbishop Kenrick of St. Louis, Missouri. In October, 1854, he entered the famous Carondolet Seminary, then under the presidency of his old friend, Father Feehan, late our most reverend archbishop. In the spring of 1857 he became affiliated with the diocese of Chicago and on the 13th of August following he was ordained in St. Mary's Cathedral by the Right Reverend Anthony O'Regan, then bishop of this diocese.

After exercising the ministry in Chicago for a short time Father Eustace was appointed to the pastorate of McHenry, McHenry county, with its out-missions, and while in that parish he made his home at Richmond, where he built "a fine little church." He built also a parochial residence in McHenry, but was assigned to the parish of Elgin before its completion. After leaving Elgin, Father Eustace had charge of the parish of Lockport and its missions. At Lockport he enlarged the parochial residence. About 1871 he was invited by his cousin, Archbishop Kenrick of St. Louis, to his diocese and was made pastor of the important parish of St. Michael's in that city. There, for nearly twenty-one years, Father Eustace administered to the wants of his people and made many improvements, to meet the requirements of the parish.
In 1891 Father Eustace suffered a severe attack of the grippe, which was followed by other ailments, necessitating his resignation as pastor of St. Michael's. On the 3oth day of July, 1892, he was taken to the Mullamphy hospital in what was thought to be a dying condition, but his splendid constitution enabled him to survive almost eight months longer. He died, on Tuesday, March 21, 1893, just within a week,of the 60th anniversary of his birth. He was attended in his last moments by Father Granville, chaplain of the hospital. Father Eustace was beloved by all who new him. He was possessed of more than ordinary information, was charitable to the poor, a sincere friend and a faiithful worker in the vineyard of the Lord. His remains repose in the priests' circle in the beautiful Calvary Cemetery at St. Louis, near those of his cousin and godfather, Archbishop Kenrick. May he rest in peace.


At the solicitation of the Very Rev. Dr. Dunn, the vicar general of the diocese, the Rev. Terrence Fitzsimmons withdrew from the pastorate of Hartland and assumed charge of the parish of Elgin. He appeared here for duty on the 8th day of March, 1868.
Father Fitzsimmons came to his new field with a mind replete with knowledge, with many years experience in the ministry, and with a determination to do all in his power for the improvement of his parish. Like Father Eustace, he was a man possessed of large physical proportions and a genial, hospitable disposition. He readily formed new acquaintances, whose respect he afterwards retained. Among the young people, especially those employed in the watch factory in Elgin he became very popular, many of whom were parishioners or acquaint ances years before in the vicinity of Boston, Mass.

Father Fitzsimmons was an earnest advocate of the doctrine of Father Matthew, Ireland's great apostle of total abstinence. In the fall of 1872 an organization known as "The Young Men's Catholic Temperance and Benevolent Association " was founded, which soon included among its members nearly all the young men of the parish A little later a similar organization was formed by the older men of the congregation. During the existence of these organizations, which was many years, they had the respect and support of the community at large. Frequent entertainments under their auspices were given, which were enjoyed and were usually attended by the members and their friends in large numbers. To this day the good results of adherence to the principles of these associations are noticeab!e in the parish. The good priest also formed other sodalities and societies among the young people, all of which were to him a source of pride and satisfaction.

For some years after Father Fitzsimmons came here, he said the last mass at Gilbert's station on alternate Sundays. On these days, as did his predecessors, he gave the people of Elgin the benefit of an early mass before he took his long trip, winter and summer, to and from the mission church. This ride was usually taken behind a pair of good horses of his own. It afforded him much pleasure to. possess fine-bred, speedy animals, of which he was a judge. An occasional drive behind these was his indulgence and recreation.

In 1872 the parish was again divided and Gilbert's Station attached to the newly-formed parish of Huntley. After this occurrence the pastor of Elgin was enabled to devote to the people of the town and its immediate vicinity his sole attention;

Realizing the necessity of early religious training for the children of the parish, in unison with other educational development, Father Fitzsimmons, in 1874, broke ground for the stone and brick structure now known as St. Mary's Academy, though it was his intention to dedicate it to St. Rose of Lima, the first canonized American. The £unds for the erection of this fine edifice were obtained from the parishioners by contributions and as the result of church fairs, which were first introduced here under Father Fitzsimmons supervision. Before the school building was completed, a wave of monetary depression passed over the country which was source of discouragement to the poor priest and the beginning of much subsequent trial, and it yet remained unfinished when Father Fitzsimmons resigned the pastorate of Elgin in the fall of 1877. In 1879, having disposed of his property, he went to Chicago to reside with his nephew and namesake, Terrence Fitzsimmons.

The Rev. Terrence Fitzsimmons was born in County Cavan, Ireland. His childhood was spent on his father's farm. At the age of twenty years he bade adieu to his friends and went to Boston, Mass. He began at once classical and theological studies at Philadelphia and Montreal and was ordained a priest in 1835. He returned to Massachusetts, and remained at South Boston twenty years, where he did great good in the temperance cause, having at one time the leadership of 1,700 persons.
He made two visits to Europe, learning to speak the Italian, French and Spanish languages fluently, and acquired great funds of information. He came west in 1857, taking up a residence at Hartland,
McHenry county, Illinois, where he was assigned by Bishop Duggan. Besides Hartland, his charge included Harvard, Woodstock, Crystal Lake and vicinity. This he surrendered when he was transferred to Elgin. For nearly forty-five years did this venerable priest perform his labors, erecting during this time thirteen churches, convents and insti-tutions. of learning, including one in this parish.

Father Fitzsimmons died suddenly, immediately after saying mass, at the home of his nephew, 138 Hubbard street, Chicago, Illinois, on December 8, 1880, in the sixty-eighth year of his age. He was extensively known and had many friends to whom he was endeared by his unpretentious, faithful and efficient work. His remains repose in Calvary Cemetery, Chicago.


In the County Armagh, Ireland, a county hallowed by the works of St. Patrick, his sisters and disciples, in the year 1833, John Mackin was born. From early youth, when he began to form plans for his life work, he had but one idea that of the priesthood.
He studied at the renowned Seminary of All Hallows, Ireland, and was there ordained in 1861for the diocese of Chicago. Bidding adieu to his kindred and the scenes of his childhood, soon after his ordination he sailed for America. Entering his chosen field, he was assigned by the Right Reverend James Duggan, then bishop of the diocese, to St. Mary's parish, Chicago, where he officiated for two years, when he was made pastor of Lockport, with its out-missions of Lemont and Sag Bridge.
At Lockport he built the tower of the old St. Denis' Church and placed therein the bell still in use.
St. Mary's parish, Peoria, became his next charge, becoming there the successor to Father Abram J. Ryan, "the poet priest of the South." In this parish Father Mackin built and established one of the best parish schools in the State. He became pastor of Peoria in March, 1864, and remained until June 8, 1871, when he was transferred to Joliet, where for many years he was pastor of St. Mary's parish.
On the second of September, 1877, during the celebration of his first mass in Elgin; Father Mackin announced that at the command of his bishop he came to assume charge of the parish; then proceeding to the delivery of a sermon evinced pulpit ability few preachers can hope to attain, much to the pleasure and gratification of his hearers.

As soon as he was settled in his surroundings, Father Mackin immeiately bent to his priestly duties. Observing the old church edifice to be no longer adequate to the requirements of the parish, under the supervision of a Mr. Garvy of Chicago, he had it remodeled and enlarged by veneering the walls of the old structure with brick and adding a transept of the same material.

While this work was in progress, the remains of Fathers Gallagher and Carroll were removed from their resting places beneath the old part of the church and appropriately reinterred beneath the new addition. By the end of 1879 the exterior was completed, and soon the interior was finished and refurnished with new altars, pews and stations of the cross, to the entire satisafction of priest and people.

Father Mackin next induced the Sisters of the B. V. M. to locate in the parish and transferred to this order the unfinished parochial school property, upon their agreement to assume the debt on and to complete the same. On the lot in Gifford street adjoining the church a few years later Father Mackin, at a cost of about $6,000, built a parochial residence. Here, soon after its occupancy, while the pastor was in the East on a needed vacation, Father Patrick Eugene Turner, a young priest from Chicago who came as a substitute during Father Mackin's absence, died suddenly with symptoms of appendicitis.

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