St. Isidore's Catholic Church
During or after the potatoe famine of the 1840's, many Irish families fled their country to the United States hoping for a better life. By 1857, a group of these families had migrated westward across the eastern half of the United States and settled in Dora Township in Moultrie County.
The most important part of their life was their faith. However, there was no church out on the prairie for them to worship together in. When Father Anthony Vogt, pastor of the Decatur parish, learned of the hardships the settlers were enduring to get to Mass, he decided to come to them. The first Mass on this, then unfenced, prairie was celebrated at the home of Edward Bresnan on the 14th of August, 1863.
During that year, Father Vogt collected the money and bought and paid for forty acres of land from the Illinois Central Railroad at $5.00 per acre. There were then only 16 families, not one hundred persons in all, but this small group began immediately to make plans to build.
The first church was erected in the fall of 1864 at the cost of $200. The small frame building, 20 feet by 40 feet, was dedicated to the patron saint of Farmers, St. Isidore, and has been the heart of "Little Ireland" ever since.
The name of the forefathers who helped with this project were: Edward Bresnan, Patrick Smith, Timothy Sammon, M. Cronin, Patrick Burns, Sr., Daniel Tueth, William Fogarty, Patrick Neilan, John Kinney, James Nolan, Francis Ryan, Richard Delahunty, Patrick Griffin, John Dunne, John Hickey, and Nicholas Bahan.
The first baptism recorded in St. Isidore's Church record book is that of Jerome Nielson, June 10, 1869, son of Patrick Nielson and Mary Ann Faherty. The first marriage recorded is Henry Conlin and Marie Ready, no date given. The second marriage recorded is that of John Murphy, son of Patrick Murphy and Briget Campin, Queens Co., Ireland, to Elizabeth Masterson, daughter of Patrick Masterson and Briget Bresnan of Moultrie County, Illinois on Oct. 12, 1871. The first death recorded is that of Anna Delehunty, wife of Richard Delehunty, on August 1, 1870. (The early records, for the most party, have been well preserved. They are recorded in Latin, complicating reading, and some places the ink has faded, also complicating reading.)
By 1890, the church had grown to 500 members. The pastor, Father Edward McGowan and his people completed the present brick church in 1891. In 1945, Father James Malony remodeled the interior and faced the old soft brick with hard brick veneer. In 1952, a beautiful brick rectory was built. The first person baptized in the present structure, in 1891, was Daniel L. Reedy.
The church, standing on its own forty acres of land, attracted more Irish settlers, enough to fill the south half of Dora and spill over into Marrowbone and Lovington Townships. The people now living in this area are mainly farmers. Their houses are similar. Since all the people went to the same church, they helped each other build their homes, perhaps that is why they're all similar in structure. The oldest home in the area is that of Mrs. John Madigan, one-half mile east and one mile north of the church. The second house is the old Thomas Hickey residence.
Every year on March 22nd, in honor of St. Isidore the patron saint of farmers, the parishioners bring seed, tools, and farming equipment to the church to be blessed.
Presently, Father Frank Corbett is the pastor of St. Isidore Church; however, Fr. Kruger, assistant pastor, lives in the rectory. Fr. Corbett, being the pastor of St. Isidore's, St. Mary's at Dalton City, and Our Lady of the Holy Spirit at Mt. Zion, resides at the Mt. Zion rectory.
The cemetery which is now near the church is not in its original place. It was originally located one mile west of the present cemetery. When the ground was bought for the church, the cemetery was moved to its present site. The cemetery is presently neat and well cared for and shows the tribute the present generation feel for these, their forebearers.
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