Churches in Todd County
Source: History of Morrison and Todd Counties, Minnesota, Volume 1, Illustrated, by Clara K. Fuller (1915); transcribed by Vicki Bryan
In Todd County, as in nearly all new counties, the school house was the first place for holding public worship by those religiously inclined. Prior to this, however, there had been prayer meetings held at the homes of Samuel Sergeant, C. S. Hamlin and Peter Losey, which was before the erection of a school house in Round Prairie Township, which was the first in Todd County. It was built in the summer of 1866 - a small structure with board roof. It was here in the autumn of 1866 that was held the first public religious service by an ordained minister, Rev. Buck, of the Covenanter denomination, the leading sect at first in this county. Beyond doubt this people had a regular church society in 1867, and by this people the trend of religious thought was governed for many years.
In this school house was the first baptism in Todd County, and the person baptized was John R. Mathews. Between 1866 and 1870 several ministers occasionally visited this section of the country. Among them are recalled Reverends Cutler, Presbyterian, Peter Losey, Methodist exhorter, and other Godly men. In 1868 a larger school house was erected in Round Prairie and for a number of years church services were held there.
First Church Building
Up to 1872 Todd County had no dedicated house of worship. It was during that year that a union church was built in what is now the village of Long Prairie. Later this building fell into the hands of the Baptists, who are still using it. For a number of months this was the only church building in the county.
In the early months of 1877, Rev. Dr. J. F. Locke, coming from New England on account of his health, settled in Burnhamville. After about a year his child died and there being no church building in the township, nor any minister aside from himself, he, in the open air of the lake shore conducted the funeral services.
At that date east from Pillsbury the nearest church was at Little Falls - twenty-five miles away. North, it was sixty miles; south, thirty miles; west, ten miles. Mr. Locke decided there must be a Congregational Church formed at Pillsbury, Swanville, Burtrum, Grey Eagle, Round Prairie, Clarissa, Bertha and Staples, and in five years each place had a church built, dedicated and out of debt. Thus the seed was first sowed and in 1910 it was said there was not a township, and practically not a village in Todd County that was without a church building. Catholic, Congregational, Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist, Christian, United Brethren, Episcopal, Lutheran, Free Methodist, Adventists and Christian all being thus represented. Not less than three hundred thousand dollars was expended by that date for church edifices. No county in Minnesota has a better church record than Todd. It has been remarked that the pioneer minister here was worth more to this county than all the politicians it ever produced.
Among the pioneer missionaries such names as John Johns, I. N. English, Peter Scott, C. W. Woodruff, George F. Morton, John Norris, J. F. Oherstein, Father Brender, D. H. Mason, W. G. Palmer, B. F. Kephart, J. F. Woodward, E. N. Ruddick, William Hitzmann and others were conspicuous for their good works.
In 1910 it was found that there were more than two thousand five hundred Sunday school scholars in Todd County, aside from Catholic and Lutheran denominations.
Denominations Now Represented
The county had churches in 1911 as follows:
At Long Prairie - Catholic, Methodist Episcopal, Baptist, Lutheran and Presbyterian.
Staples - Methodist, Congregational, Catholic, Adventists, Baptist and Episcopal.
Eagle Bend - Swedish Lutheran, Swedish Mission, Swedish Episcopal, Norwegian Lutheran and an English Methodist Episcopal.
Bertha - Congregational, Methodist Episcopal and German Lutheran.
Grey Eagle - United Brethren, German Lutheran, Congregational.
Browerville - Two Catholic, United Brethren and Christian.
Clarissa - Catholic, Congregational, Norwegian Lutheran, Swedish Lutheran and Norwegian Synod.
West Union - Methodist and Roman Catholic.
Hewitt - Methodist Episcopal, United Brethren and Seventh Day Adventists.
Little Sauk - Swedish Lutheran.
Long Prairie - Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, Catholic and Presbyterian.
Also churches at the original starting point as before stated, at Round Prairie.
Since 1911 there have been other churches added to the already long list; hence it will be seen that Todd County is well equipped with churches of various denominations.
Methodist Episcopal Conference
Concerning the work of one single denomination, the minutes of the Methodist Episcopal Conference for 1914 show the following for Todd County: There were churches of this denomination in Todd County as follow: Eagle, Bend, Hewitt and Bertha, Long Prairie, Staples and Clarissa.
At Long Prairie the church had a membership of seventy-eight; estimated value of church property, eight thousand dollars; Sunday school membership, one hundred and forty-six.
At Eagle Bend the membership was twenty-eight; estimated value of church property, two thousand nine hundred and fifty dollars; number in Sunday school, three hundred and thirty-six.
At Hewitt and Bertha charge the membership was one hundred and nine; estimated value of church property, six thousand five hundred dollars; number in Sunday school, two hundred and three.
At Staples the membership was two hundred and seventy-five; estimated value of church property, fifteen thousand dollars; number enrolled in Sunday school, three hundred and seventy.
Other Church History
The subjoined account of church life in Todd County is from the pen of an old settler and newspaper man, Mr. Sheets, who wrote in 1911 as follows:
"In the development of the county from its earliest settlement, the people did not devote all their attention to material progress alone, but the educational and religious interests kept even pace with that of industry. What was done on these lines previous to the Indian outbreak can only by conjectured, but it is known that there was a Catholic Church in Long Prairie early in the fifties and no doubt there were other religious organization in the village. With the later and permanent settlement of the county, there is more certainty. So far as known, the first regular religious services were held in the new store building of Chandler & Fisher in the year 1868, conducted by Rev. John Jones, a Baptist minister living in what is now the town of Kandota. Services were held once a month until February 1872, when death put an end to his labors. The Baptist Church was organized in August 1872, under the supervision of Rev. J. E. Wood, state missionary, and soon after - perhaps the following year - Rev. P. W. Fuller, of Maine, became a resident pastor. He lived on a homestead in North Reynolds.
"The Catholics a little later got into the field. The first services were held in May 1869, conducted by Father Buh, in the home of Mr. Venewitz. In the fall of the same year a long church was built and soon after, in 1871, a frame church building was erected on the site of the present imposing structure. Rev. John Schenk was the first resident priest, beginning his work in the year 1874. He was true type of the frontier priest, living contented in a plain, rough building with rude furniture. Many will remember him as a man of austere bearing and little inclined to social life, but known to those who became acquainted with him to be quite companionable. He was studious and well educated. In 1876 the church number about one hundred and fifty families and was the place of worship for many Catholics living down the prairie towards the north as far as Moran brook. Many years ago the attendance was so large that on occasions of special interest, the members could not all be accommodated at one time in the church building. There are now two Catholic churches in Browerville, one maintained by the Germans, the other by the Polish people of that vicinity. The Polish church edifice in that town, erected last year, is the finest structure of the kind in the county, with the Catholic Church building in Long Prairie, second."
A Versatile Pioneer Pastor
"The Methodists were also early in evidence and it is probable they were the first in the field, although there are no records to prove this. Reverend Barkaloo preached about once a month in the Whiteville settlement, west of Long Prairie, as early as 1868 and perhaps earlier. He lived on a homestead in Pope County, and held services in several places, traveling long distances to meet his appointments. The Methodists of the county organized in 1870 and A. H. Reed was the first pastor. He then lived on a homestead in South Reynolds or Little Sauk and was also county surveyor for a time. He was followed by Rev. W. A. Putnam and afterward by A. A. Sutton, who held services not only in Long Prairie, but at difference points up the river to the west. Rev. W. P. Fenlason came in 1875 and did pioneer religious work for two or three years, sometimes rustling his living at outside work. He was on the log drive one spring on Partridge River and having been trained to work as a boy in Maine; he surprised the lumberjacks when they put him in a perilous place to break a jam. When the boys found out he was no tenderfoot preacher, they made up a purse for him and sent him home.
"The United Brethren denomination was among the later of the pioneer churches, there being regular appointments in Hartford and in Grey Eagle in an early day. It may be said that this organization began in 1870, when the Sarff Brothers settled in Hartford and began to hold regular religious services before they made their houses built, holding meetings under the trees. They organized a class of denomination known as Christian Union, an off-shoot of the Methodist Episcopal Church, which is now extinct. When the eloquent Elder Tibbetts, of the United Brethren denomination, came up from Southern Minnesota he secured the merging of this class into one of the church he represented and the United Brethren denomination now has the church he represented and the United Brethren denomination now has organized societies at Browerville, Hewitt, Grey Eagle, Clotho and Moran. In the early days Revs. Jacob and William Sarff preached regularly and worked on their farms at the same time. Among the pioneers of the United Brethren society were E. J. Reed, I. N. English, Reverend Cook and Reverend Hankins."
First Sunday School Organized
"Not connected with any denomination, but of equal importance, D. H. Mason deserves a place in the history of pioneer religious work. He was at the head of the organized Sunday school work. He was indefatigable in his work in Todd County being done in the early seventies. Through his efforts, many Sunday schools of all denominations owe their inception. He continued his chosen work, always on the frontier, until a few years ago when his health gave way and he became insane. It is a curious fact that Rev. A. A. Sutton, who was, perhaps, Mr. Mason's most intimate friend at one time, also became insane about the year 1876.
"The Lutherans probably have more organized churches in the county than any other denomination and very likely the largest membership. The writer cannot say when this society first made its appearance in the county, but perhaps it has its beginning in the Scandinavian settlements in Little Sauk, Gordon and Kandota. The German Lutherans had a church organization east of the village in 1875, when the genial Rev. W. F. Hitzmann first commenced his work. He remained in charge of the local church for about thirty-two years, until his health gave way and he removed to the southern part of the state in 1906. Rev. O. P. Ojen was also a pioneer Lutheran, having charge of the work in the town of Gordon and elsewhere in the Scandinavian settlements."
"The Free Methodist society has become a prominent factor as a religious body in some parts of the county. Although it is not among the pioneer churches, it is doing work very similar to that of the first religious bodies. Its church buildings are all in the country districts and it is a part of the tenets of the church to avoid the influences of wealthy surroundings and worldly vanities. Among the evangelical churches the Free Methodists seem to be the most potent in keeping up religious interest in the sparsely settled country districts.
"Among the last post-pioneer churches might be mentioned what are known popularly as the German Methodists. They have flourishing churches at several points in Germania, Bertha and Iona. Like the Free Methodist this society is almost wholly in the country districts.
"The Christian Church, or Disciples, have organized societies in Browerville and at Batavia, with preaching services about once a month, although in the past years they have had resident pastors. They have church buildings at both points and have a zealous membership, which keeps up an interest in the Sunday school and church work."
Long Prairie Methodism
St. Peter's Methodist Episcopal Church of Long Prairie, Todd County, was organized in the latter weeks of 1871, at a quarterly conference for the Long Prairie mission, Sauk Center district, when Peter Losey, Henry Reid, Horace Pierce, Alvah Sutton and Jacob Crouse, "trustees of the parsonage on said mission" were elected. This meeting was held at the Round Prairie school house and David Brooks was minister, with the presiding elder as chairman. On June 9, 1883, at a quarterly conference held at the Reynolds church, trustees were elected for the "First Methodist Episcopal church of Long Prairie" and for the "Methodist Episcopal Church at Maple Hill."
But another record shows that prior to this a church had been organized, for at the Minnesota conference held on March 20, 1876, it is found that "Albert Allee, J. S. McKay, Jeremiah Adams, Alonzo B. Curtis, and Thomas H. Shinneburger were elected to take charge of the estate and property of the Methodist Episcopal Church at Long Prairie under the corporate name of the St. Peter's Methodist, Episcopal Church of Long Prairie. (signed) E. R. Lathrop, presiding elder, and W. P. Fenlason (pastor), secretary."
On Monday, May 23, 1876, lot 9 in block 2, original town site was deeded to these trustees. On June 18, 1883, lot 10 in block 2, was deed to the "board of trustees on condition that they agree to build a church during the summer and fall and to hold the same as a church lot."
The following have served as pastors at Long Prairie in this church; Revs. Alvah Sutton, W. P. Fenlason, F. L. Post, J. S. Bouck, O. Barnett, J. S. Bean, H. C. Klingel, E. G. P. Sanderson, Doctor Williams, I. H. Snell, J. D. Deets, B. F. Kephart, E. H. Nicholson, George E. Tindall, C. W. Stark, Charles R. Oaten, E. R. Stevenson, H. A. Cleveland, F. J. Bryan, M. E. Hedding. The present pastor is Blaine Lambert.
The membership of the church in September 1915, was about one hundred. The estimated value of church property was eight thousand dollars. The present building was remodeled from the former church and was doubled in its size in 1905, making a very neat bungalow style building, with leaded-glass windows and all finely furnished within.
It should be added concerning the interesting history of this church that its first building was the parsonage. The early preacher resided at Long Prairie and preached at five points, three of which were Bear Head, Long Prairie and Whiteville, the latter so called from the pioneer family name White, and the church was six miles to the west of Long Prairie. Rev. O. Burnett probably erected the church at Long Prairie in 1883 as well as one at Whiteville. The Methodist Church at Reynolds was also a pioneer institution.
Polish Parish of St. Joseph at Browerville
The following account of St. Joseph's parish is based on inquiries from old parishioners and church documents written by Rev. J. Guzdek, while the history of the development of the parish is written by Sister Avellina Mrozla.
Soon after 1872 the Poles began to arrive from Europe, especially Silesia, and colonize the forest regions about the then little settlement of Long Prairie, at present the county seat of Todd County.
It is probable the deceased Joseph Wieszalla was the first settler in the locality of Long Prairie. The life of the pioneers was very similarly to that of the primitive. The immigrants brought with them only the most necessary household articles and thus were forced to seek their livelihood amid the then vast and wild forest of America.
Between the years 1874 and 1880 the number of Polish immigrants increased when the following families arrived: Jon, Marcinczyk, Galus, Miodek, Dudek, Baron, Feist, Gurzenda, Hosalla, Lamuzga, Bartylla, Berczyk, Wrobel, Buhl, Stach, Ulik, Lyson, Cygan, Mocko, Poplinski, Mundry, Kulig and Gonsior.
Soon after came: Kurtz, Goligowski, Jambor, Kubica, Hennek, Swoda, Golla, Pietron, Kotula, Konieczko, Kaluza, Jakubik, Sowa, Jaglo, Gerstensberger, Adamiec, Worzecha, Lisowski, Janikula, Janiecki, Boruszewski, Jarosz, Rogalski, Kolodziej, Drong, Knosalla, Maj Marzke, Murgas, Gaffka, Giza, Wodarz, Nanik, Ostrowski, Przybytta, Smialek, Twardowski, Wierzgata, Gwozdz and others who are still living there today. Many of these have died and are survived by their children.
The Polish people are strongly attached to the faith of their forefathers; hence on finding themselves to be quite a community deprived of religious consolations they, with the aid of some German Catholic settlers, resolved to build a small church so as to have a place of worship.
At that time the diocese of St. Cloud was only vicar apostolic of northern Minnesota under the spiritual guidance of Bishop Rupert Seidenbusch, O. S. B., who died in 1895. To him a Polish-German delegation had recourse petitioning for advice and permission regarding the erection of the church.
First Church Organized
The bishop gave his consent, promising to send a priest as soon as they completed the church. A meeting was called on March 5, 1883, in Whitesel's school house, in Hardford Township, for the purpose of planning the erection of the building and electing a board of officers.
They elected John Marcinczyk, John Bartylla, Peter Lamuzga, Thomas Feist, Ignatius Baron, John Stevens, with Joseph Cygan and John Becker as advisors. The building committee consisted of Joseph Luke, John Stevens, Peter Hermes, Thomas Feist, John Bartylla, Ignatius Baron, Peter Lamuzga, and John Becker.
Furthermore they decided to form a church society, which was to be the foundation of the newly organized parish. This society was to provide lumber and other building materials on which each member was to bring three loads. These resolutions were signed by the following: John Becker, Peter Lamuzga, Joseph Jon, Ignatius Baron, Thomas Feist, John Stevens, Frank Lamuzga, John Schneider, Mathias Hager, Joseph Gonsior, Francis Bartylla, John Bartylla, Martin Usobel, Thomas Macko, Joseph Poplinski, Albert Lyson, Joseph Cygan, Joseph Luke, Francis Miodek, and Peter Fischer.
Donations for the Church
Apart from the German members, who numbered about thirty, among whom were Joseph Luke, Matthias Hager, Joseph Hermes, Peter Hermes, J. C. Borgert, William Disselbrett, Henry Dreimann, Barney Brever, Peter Fischer, John Schneider, J. B. Benning, Thomas Laidlaw, Joseph Woell, Henry Spieker, Lorence Shower, the Poles gave their first offering for the building of the church and may justly be reckoned the founders of the parish of St. Joseph.
They donated as follows: John Marcinczyk, $30; Thomas Feist, $31; Martin Wrobel, $20; Rochus Czeck, $30; Francis Miodek, $20; Francis Buhl, $15; Stanley Kulig, $30; Frederic Poplinski, $20; Joseph Cygan, $30; Thomas Mundry, $10; Joseph Gonsior, $30; Albert Lyson, $25; Peter Lamuzga, $25; Joseph Jon, $30; Thomas Mocko, $30; Norbert Mocko, $30; Francis Bartylla, $30; Stanely Stach, $20; Rochus Kolodziej, $10; John Bartylla, $30; John Cygan, $10; Ignatius Baron, $30; Joseph Poplinski, $20; John Warzecha, $10; Louis Pollak, $10; Michael Uilk, $10.
This netted $600. The Germans offered an equal sum, and together with about $100 donated by individuals of other denominations made a total of $1,304.35. D. R. Jackson made the plan at the cost of $22.50. The building thus erected was a common frame building without a steeple, costing about $1,500.
The people rejoiced on seeing the structure completed. Taking into consideration the financial circumstances of those days the offerings made for God's honor were very liberal.
The church, though not then completed, was dedicated and given under the patronage of St. Joseph, patron saint of Joseph Cygan, then a trustee. The following year, March 5, 1884, the parishioners again held a meeting in the Whitesel's school house at which they elected a standing church committee in the persons of Joseph Cygan, John Marcinczyk, John F. Becker and Joseph Luke. Further it was resolved that no pew rent be paid but all pay equally; those not having money were to give notes in order to pay the remaining church debt. The meeting was attended by eighteen Poles and four Germans, while the entire parish consisted of fifty-seven families, thirty Polish and twenty-seven German families.
Pastors of St. Joseph's
Because of the lack of Polish clergy Bishop Siedenbush appointed Rev. Ignatius Tomazin, a Slovenian, who began to conduct regular services in 1884; however, being a Slovenian, he could not satisfy the demands of the Polish speaking people, consequently the bishop removed him. During the year 1885 the parish was only a mission, attended monthly by Rev. Urban Fischer, O. S. B., of Collegeville.
In 1886 Rev. Clement Gruenholtz, a Pole, was made permanent pastor. His pastorate was of short duration and in 1887 the parish again became a mission, alternatively attended by Rev. John Sroka, Rev. C. A. Gunkel, Rev. John Studnicki, Rev. P. Chowaniec, Rev. Vincent Schiffers, O. S. B., Rev. Gregory Steil, O. S. B., when in 1887 Rev. J. Studnicki became pastor and remained until his death in May 1887.
Rev. Methodius Slatinski
The vacancy was filled by the valiant Rev. Methodius Slatinski, who though a Bohemian, knew enough Polish to administer to the people. His pastorate was of most notable importance to the history of the church of St. Joseph at Bowerville, It was due to his energy that the first Polish parochial school was built in the St. Cloud diocese. He fully understood the harmful influence of the Catholic young generation. In his great undertaking he was morally supported by the noble Rt. Rev. Otto Zardetti, who was consecrated and nominated bishop of the newly organized diocese of St. Cloud.
It was during Rev. M. Slatinski's administration that the parish began to flourish. The church was equipped with richer vestments, chalices, statuary, etc. John Marcinczyk was the donor of a chalice costing thirty-five dollars and forty-five cents. A. Lukas, Martin Wrobel, Frank Buhl and John Marcinczyk donated a fifty-dollar canopy.
School of Holy Angels
The school question was first seriously considered in the year 1890. Two committees were appointed; one committee, consisting of Henry Becker, William Disselbrett, James Bake, John Lucas, John Marcinczyk and Martin Wrobel, was enjoined with the duty of collecting due bills and defraying the church debt; the other committee, consisting of Peter Hermes, Thomas Feist, Francis Miodek and Frederic Poplinski, was to raise a fund for the purpose of erecting a school.
Rev. M. Slatinski encouraged his parishioners to take interest in the noble work. The erection of the school building would have been an easy task had it not been for certain individuals whose aim in life is always to play the cockle in a field of grain. The parish was composed mostly of European immigrants, used to a different school and church supporting system, where the government has under its protection and care the financial church and school affairs.
New Customs Learned in America
The people seemed not aware of the fact that the "fides" and school tithes formed a part of the taxes they paid in the old country. Here in America the direct contribution towards the support of church and school was new, a blow on purses they thought. The more learned and honest men admitted the theory, as it was explained, namely, that the financial affairs of the church had nothing in common with the government, and, therefore, the church must, of necessity, support itself.
These unfavorable circumstances served the ignorant and malicious kickers as good pretext for sowing strife and discord, and as a natural result great agitation was stirred up the moment Rev. M. Slatinski began to build. Work on the building was rushed and the school completed in 1891. The money raised by voluntary contributions was insufficient and the pastor was forced to demand of his parishioners to sign notes against their will. This act created great dissatisfaction, which resulted in the division of the parish into two parts.
Among the parishioners those of good understanding saw there was no other way but to pay cash or sign a note in order not to undermine the parish's solid foundation. Others, being dissatisfied and overcome by inimical hatred for all authority, turned away from the church. The uproar became so manifest that Rt. Rev. Bishop Zardetti felt himself in conscience bound to close both institutions - the church and the school. Such punishment was unendurable for all who deemed themselves possessed of sound character. They, therefore, humbly submitted and sent, on March 7, 1894, a petition to the bishop signed by ninety-two, together with a promised guarantee for the fund those families intended to raise. The petition was granted them and the parish restored to its original good feeling, having the guaranteed fund necessary for its maintenance.
Division of the Congregation
The second episode during Rev. M. Slatinski's administration was the separation of the Catholic people into two parishes. Dissensions brought about by the building began again to ferment to such a degree as to cause great disorder in the parish; a non-paying party existed whose debt remained unpaid year after year.
The cost of the school building was four thousand dollars; besides that there was a debt on the church of about one thousand dollars. The small parish could not flourish under such heavy debt, resigning discord and indifference in paying dues. Moreover, a natural antagonism spring into existence between the Poles and Germans; one party would upbraid the other for existing disorders. The controversy ended when the nationalities were separated into two distinct parishes.
About this time Rt. Rev. Bishop Zardetti was promoted to the dignity of archbishop and transferred to Bucharest, Romania, in 1894. Rt. Rev. Bishop Marty, O. S. B., bishop of Sioux Falls, filled the vacancy the same year. On April 7, 1895, he came to Browerville to adjust the affair. By this time the number of Polish families outnumbered the German.
The pastor called a meeting, at which the bishop presided. The main point for consideration was the debt, which was to decide about the further and sounder foundation of the parish. Both sides favored separation. Here arose the question as to who would undertake the burden of the debt. Both sides hesitated until Rev. M. Slatinski, by words of encouragement, persuaded the Poles to take it upon themselves. The following agreement was drawn up:
"Browerville, Minnesota, April 21, 1895
"At a meeting of the Polish Catholics with those speaking other languages the following points were unanimously agreed upon:
"I. The Polish Catholics will keep the church property as it now stands and will pay the debts contracted on the same.
"II. The one thousand, five hundred dollars principal and interest which are due now and three hundred dollars salary of the Benedictine Sisters will be paid on November 1, 1895, and whatever money will be needed over and above the pew rent and notes due by the members of the congregation which will be paid thru, shall be furnished by the fifteen men, each of whom has become responsible for one hundred dollars. The names are: Stephen Berczyk, Francis Bieniek, Rochus Czech, Thomas Feist, Paul Gonsior, Blasius Kiszelewski, Rochus Kotodziej, Stanislaus Kuligt, Charles Lamuzga, Peter Lamuzga, John Luaks, Thomas Lisowski, Thomas Mocko, John Marcinczyk, Martin Wrobel.
"III. The Catholics hitherto members of St. Joseph's congregation, but not Polish, will pay to the treasurer the pew rent and school money due up to the present time.
"IV. The same will form a congregation by themselves and as soon as possible go to work to build a church of their own. They will also have their own school. For ten years they will have the use of one school room in the school house of the Holy Angels, but will buy their own furniture and pay their teacher.
"V. For one year they will have the use of the chapel in the school building.
"VI. Should they be in need of these rooms longer than the time mentioned they will pay a rent to be determined by the Polish congregation with the approval of the bishop."
Notwithstanding the foregoing agreement the German Catholics wished to be released from all claim on the St. Joseph's parish, provided they would be freed from their standing dues, and use the money for their own parish; in consideration of which there was a general understanding on July 7, 1895. The agreement then read as follows:
"Browerville, Minnesota, July 7, 1895
"At a meeting of the Polish Catholics of Browerville, Minnesota, the following proposition was placed before the people to act upon:
"Let the Germans separate themselves completely from St. Joseph's church by withdrawing from the Holy Angels school building, which they are allowed to use for either church or school purposes for a period mentioned in the contract between the Rt. Rev. Bishop and the two congregations, leaving the premises from this date. The St. Joseph's congregation leaves it to the honor and conscience of individual members of the new congregation to pay what they owe to St. Joseph's Church at the latest by November 1, 1895. Moreover, let the Polish congregation not have any recourse to any other means of collecting or enforcing their claim against the members of the congregation except that of honor and conscience."
"The above proposition was accepted by the Polish congregation as the most expedient under the circumstances and the result is hereby submitted to the German congregation, to take note of and act upon. - M. C. Slatinski, pastor; Charles Lamuzga, Martin Wrobel, Bernard Brever, J. C. Borgert.
"On motion of the German party it was agreed to put November 1, 1895, as limit to settlements from the German side after which date all notes and other book accounts held by the St. Joseph congregation against the new congregation shall be, if yet unsettled, declared as cancelled and destroyed. - Charles Lamuzga, Martin Wrobel, Bernard Brever, J. C. Borgert."
Polis Members Assume Dept
In this way the parish of St. Joseph devolved with all property on the Polish side, and the Poles obligated themselves to pay all standing debts of the German side. The Germans then formed a congregation of their own.
The cemetery grounds were donated by Joseph Buhl, a Pole; consequently they also became the Polish parish's property; however, the bishop recommended that the Germans be allowed to bury their dead in the same cemetery until they had provided for one.
From that date the former parish was divided into an entirely Polish congregation under the same title of St. Joseph, and the newly organized German congregation of St. Peter. Regarding the act of separation it will be in place to publish the letter of the bishop to Rev. M. Slatinski, dated on July 12, 1895:
"St. Cloud, Minnesota, July 12, 1895
"Rev. Dear Sir: After hearing Mr. Heid, I understand that it is the free proposal of St. Joseph's congregation to dismiss the German Catholics of the new congregation without demanding payment of the indebtedness, on condition that they leave the school house and give up all claim to the old property. The Germans are willing to accept this offer. The settlement is not such as I would have desired, but if it will promoted brotherly feeling between the Catholics of Browerville I will approve of it; and hope that God's honor and the honor of the Catholic people will then be practiced.
"With best wishes, your humble servant,
"M. Marty, O. S. B.
"Rev. C. M. Slatinski, Browerville."
Beginning with August 1895, the newly organized German congregation, in charge of Rev. J. B. Brender, then pastor of Long Prairie, rented the second story of Kahlert's store, where services were held until the year 1896, when they built a church.
The two facts achieved by Rev. M. Slatinski will perpetuate his name as the founder of the well-established parish of St. Joseph at Browerville.
The school building is equipped with three class rooms and a number of apartments, living rooms for the Sisters. The school called Holy Angels is a two-story, brick-veneered building, adding grace and completeness to the church premises.
Instructors in the School
The Polish Sisters of St. Benedict have charge of the instructions. The present staff consists of: Sister Armella, superior and music teacher; Sister Avellina, teacher of grammar grades and organist; Sister Jadwiga, teacher of intermediate grades; Sister Augusta, primary teacher; Sister Simplicia, cook; Sister Renata, general housekeeper. For the first school semester the following Sisters were employed: Sisters Seraphica, Casimir, Adela and Sebastian, respectfully, succeeded by Sisters Kastaka, Candida, Isabella, Constantia, Mildred, Victoria, Caroline, Zitta, Opportuna, Canisia, Rufina, Adalberta, Edith, Hedwig, Oswalda, Emma, Albina and Victorine.
With the end of 1895 Rev. M. Slatinski left the diocese and went to Pennsylvania, where he has been ever since, pastor of St. Michael's parish at Homestead. The vacancy at Browerville was filled by the newly ordained Rev. Simon Dabrowski, who shortly after, in May 1896, exchanged parishes with Rev. J. A. Dudek, past of Perham, Minnesota.
The Parish House
A few months after Rev. J. A. Dudek became pastor of St. Joseph's parish he was commissioned to care also for the German parish. Previous to his coming to Browerville the foundation for the St. Peter's church had been laid and the superstructure was completed through the supervision of Rev. J. A. Dudek.
Rev. J. A. Dudek was born at Popielowo, Upper Silesia, Poland's portion taken by German. Having almost completed his classical course he left his native country and came to America, a youth of sixteen. He entered St. Francis Seminary, Wisconsin, where, after having completed the courses of philosophy and theology, he was ordained for the St. Cloud diocese, and in 1894 was appointed pastor of Perham and Browerville, successively. In 1902 he built a fine parsonage, one among the finest residences of Browerville, at the cost of four thousand dollars. In 1906 he was transferred to Gilman, Minnesota, and his place taken by Rev. J. S. Guzdek, pastor Opole, Minnesota, who is, up to the present time, administering the government of the parish.
Rev. John St. Guzdek
The following history of the progress and development of St. Joseph's parish is furnished by Sister Avellina Mrozla:
Rev. John St. Guzdek was born on November 4, 1876, at Chocznia, Galicia, Poland's part taken by Austria. He was the son of Albert Guzdek and Mary Sordyl, proprietors of the real estate called "Gurdkowka." He attended the elementary parochial school of the parish at the early age of six. When eleven years old he passed examinations, and the following year he took up the classical course at Wladowice, county seat, adjoining "Gurdkowka." Having completed the classical course it was his intention to study medicine, but having felt himself called to the priesthood he went to Cracow to finish philosophy. Next he served in the Austrian army; a year later, in 1897, he went to Italy with the intention of taking the theological course. While there he changed his mind and came to America, landing in New York on July 28, 1898. His half-brother informed him of the lack of Polish clergy in the diocese of St. Cloud.
He was admitted into the diocese and, in 1898, took up the continuation of study of theology at St. John's University, Collegeville, and finished in St. Paul Seminary. Having passed examinations he was elevated to the dignity of priesthood and ordained by Rt. Rev. Bishop J. Trobec, bishop of St. Cloud, on March 25, 1901.
He read his first mass on March 27, at St. Anna, Minnesota, where his half-brother, Rev. S. Dabriowski, was pastor. After Easter of the same year he was appointed pastor of the Polish-German parish of Duelm, and entrusted with the Polish mission at Little Falls, where he completed the work on the St. Adalbert's church, then in progress. In 1902 he was transferred to Opole, Minnesota he was transferred to Opole, Minnesota, where he built a fine parsonage at the cost of four thousand dollars.
Erection of the New Church
On June 27, 1906, he was transferred to Browerville, St. Joseph's parish. One year later Rev. Guzdek began preparations for the erection of a new church to be built in place of the small frame building, which no longer could accommodate the increased number of families. The parish then numbered over two hundred families. The following year it came to action, as may be seen from the minutes here quoted:
"Sunday, May 26, 1907
"Special meeting was called to order in the parochial school building by Rev. J. S. Guzdek, vice-president of the St. Joseph's congregation of Browerville, Minnesota.
"The object of the meeting is to decide whether or not to build a new church building for our parish, the St. Joseph congregation of Browerville, Minnesota.
"Motion made and seconded that Robert Holig act as secretary of the meeting. Motion carried unanimously.
"Almost all the members of said congregation were present.
"Motion made by Rev. Guzdek that a vote shall be taken whether or not to build a church. Being seconded.
"The motion being carried unanimously that a new church shall be built. A question by Rev. Guzdek, when shall the new church be started and built?
"After long discussion it was decided that the starting of the new building, in legal form, shall be commenced immediately after this meeting.
"Motion made and majority in favor, only contrary V. Maj and V. Brenny to the above question.
"Motion made and seconded that the question arises, how much shall the new church cost?
"Motion carried unanimously that the said church building shall cost between the sums of $25,000 and about $30,000. This sum shall be only for building without fixtures and painting.
"Plans and specifications of the new church are to be selected by the building committee; and said building committee shall have the absolute right to let the contract or contracts and act in every respect in the building of the new church; furthermore, shall have the full right and power to buy and sell all material, etc., necessary for the said building in behalf of the congregation and for them.
"Motion to the above was made and carried by acclamation.
"The building committee of nine men were named by the congregation, then voted on and carried by acclamation; and that those said nine men voted among themselves for seven men; and the seven men shall compose the legal building committee of said congregation.
"The following nine men were named by the congregation: Rev. J. S. Guzdek, Martin Wrobel, Robert Holig, John Sobota, Vincent Maj. Valentine Brenny, Stephen Berczyk, Simon Kaluza and Peter Wodarz.
"The next question was about personal assessment of each of the members. All were in favor of assessments on each member and of electing assessors for said purpose shall assess all members of said congregation into four classes as follows: First class, $200; Second class, $150; Third class, $125; Fourth class, $100. The assessments were made payable, first half of January 1, 1908, second half on January 1, 1909.
"Assessors being selected as follows: Peter Buhl, Charles Hadash, Martin Hudalla, Theodore John, Frank Jambor, Mike Motzka, John Morcinczyk, Paul Pampuch, Casper Pietron, Joseph Schenk, Jacob Spychata, John Salawa, John Waleczka.
"The building committee will now have legal authority to take the building transactions in their charge.
"No other business, therefore the meeting adjourned.
"Robert Holig, Secretary of the Meeting.
"Rev. J. S. Guzdek
"Vice President of St. Joseph's church of Browerville, Minnesota."
The church plan was made in the modern renaissance style, dimensions one hundred and fifty-one by seventy feet, by Boehme & Cordella, of Minneapolis. The interior of the church presents a beautiful agricultural decoration, with a golden light piercing through the amber-stained windows. Two rows of pillars with their capitals give it a splendid appearance. The structure is made of grayish-white Lime Belt brick. In planning the sketch Rev. J. S. Guzdek was governed by the thought that it was time to put an end to the primitive style of building box churches. Rev. J. Guzdek, in working out his ideas, found a great-cooperative factor in his countryman, Victor Cordella, architect and artist. They achieved a great work, and justly deserve a prominent place on the pages of Todd County's history.
A Move for Economy
The building committee accepted the plans with great enthusiasm. The majority, fearing the big cost, asked to lessen the dimensions, to which proposition the pastor was made opposed, knowing that such change would spoil the agricultural symmetry and proportion. Victor Cordella changed the dimensions as far as it could be done, being most careful not to spoil the symmetry.
In May 1808, work was begun. Four bids were opened. Hirr & Zierton, a firm of St. Cloud, was the lowest, and to it the contract was given the building at the cost of $24,350.
The parish supplied bricks, excavation, stones and sand; the rest belonged to the contractor. The stones and brick cost $4,100; plan, $1,086; freight, $235; steam-heating plan, $2,842; pews, pulpit and railing, $2,207; stained windows, $1,879; stations, $250; holy water fonts, $50; bells, $930; statuses for the steeple, $500; chandelier and carpet, $550; other minor articles $400. In this way the church was erected at the cost of $40,000, to the surprise of all. It is a puzzle at the present day to all who at sight estimate it at $70,000.00.
Blessing of the Corner Stone
On July 23, 1909, Rt. Rev. Bishop James Trobec blessed the corner stone, in which ceremony a number of diocesan clergy participated. Rev. A. Gospodar, of Swan River, preached an appropriate Polish sermon for the occasion and Rt. Rev. Bishop delivered an English sermon.
The church was completed for Easter in 1909. By strange coincidence the first services in the new church were held on the same date as the last services a year before in the old church.
The old church was razed and during the time the new one was being built services were held in the school chapel.
Everybody was most liberal toward the church during the same year Rev. J. Guzdek collected thirty-seven thousand dollars. Within a year the church was fully equipped, having a dept of twelve thousand dollars, which since then has been brought down to three thousand, eight hundred dollars. Rev. J. Guzdek's plan is to pay off all debt this year and by next fall have the church consecrated.
Dedication of the New Church
On April 21, 1909, on Wednesday following Whitsunday, the parish celebrated the best feast of its history - silver jubilee of its existence. The new church was blessed the same day. Rt. Rev. Bishop Trobec, of St. Cloud, and at the time the only Polish bishop; Paul Rhode, auxiliary bishop, of Chicago; Rev. St. Nawrocki, of Chicago; Rev. B. Goral, of Milwaukee, and a number of other diocesan clergy were present at the double solemnity.
On account of Rt. Rev. Bishop Trobec leaving on that afternoon for Europe to go to Rome "ad liminia" the parish tendered him a hearty farewell. After his departure, Rt. Rev. Bishop Rhode proceeded to bless the four new bells, which he named Joseph, John, Mary and Paul, respectively. It was a day of general rejoicing. Pleasing memories, no doubt, will abide for years with all who participated in the celebration.
Shortly after the church was blessed Rev. J. Guzdek made a trip to Europe for an extended vacation, which he deserved for his arduous labor. While there he visited his native country and practically all of Europe, and also settled his military affairs with the Emperor Francis Joseph, of Austria, who freed him from further military obligations which he was under, giving him the title, "reserved military chaplain," in the rank of captain.
Continuation of Pastoral Work
On his return from Europe Rev. Guzdek resumed work on improvement as follows: Made basement of the church into a large hall equipped with stage; enclosed premises with original fence and cemetery with iron fence; laid cement platform before the church and cement sidewalks; put waterworks and electrical lights in the three parish buildings; built a new stair into the school; renovated the altars; donated to the church a large oil painting of St. Ann, masterpiece of his genius, valued at five hundred dollars; built a grotto and beautified the premises to such an extent as to make them the main feature of the town of Browerville, estimated in value at seventy-five thousand dollars.
He caused societies to organize. The Rosary Society has three hundred members, with post-mortem rights by which the society pays the funeral expenses. At present Mrs. St. Berczyk is president of the society. The Rosary Society of young ladies has one hundred and fifty members, with Mary Bartylla, president; Anna Cygan, vice president; Gertrude Berczyk, treasurer; and Julia Gerstenberger, secretary. St. Aloysius Young Men's Society has eighty members, of whom Rev. J. Guzdek is president; Peter Arbeiter, treasurer, and John Hudalla, secretary. The arch-confraternity of the Sacred Heart has a membership of three hundred with Rev. J. Guzdek as president; Alex Wodarz, secretary, and Mrs. Frank Votzka, treasurer. Third Order of St. Francis Society, a local committee of the Polish National Council of America, has Rev. J. Guzdek, president; Simon Kaluza, secretary; Martin Wrobel, treasurer; with Alex Wodarz, Michael Czoch, John Sobota, Peter Wodarz as advisors.
The present board of directors of the St. Joseph's parish consists of Rt. Rev. Joseph Bush, president; Rt. Rev. Edward Nagl, vicar-general; Rev. J. Guzdek, vice president; Vincent Hudalla, treasurer, and Norbert Bartyla, secretary.
Trustees of the Congregation
The office of trustees, from the founding of the parish, was performed by the following members: Joseph Cygan, John Marcinczyk, John Becker and Joseph Lake. These constituted only a church committee because the real trustees, as members of the board of directors, acted as such only after the year 1895, when the parish was incorporated according to the regulations of the plenary council of Baltimore and the state of Minnesota. From that time on the office of proper trustees was held by Martin Wrobel and Charles Lamuzga until 1899; Frank Lukas, Peter Wodarz, Joseph Schenk, Simon Bartylla, Theodore Jon, Peter Drong, Joseph Goligowski, Alex Wodarz and Francis Kubica until 1906; Frank Buhl and Francis Berczyk, 1906 to 1909; Robert Holig and Michael Czock, 1909 to 1912; Robert Bartylla and Vincent Hudalla at the present time.
Greek Catholic Church
Two-thirds of the citizens of Browerville are Polish and German Catholics and one-third Americans. The latter belong to either the United Brethren or the Christian Church.
In 1913 the Slovenians from the surrounding country built a Greek Catholic church east of town on a little hill near the Long Prairie River. A Greek Catholic clergyman of Minneapolis holds yearly services for them. They number about twenty families.
The old folks adhere to the Polish church, for in it their children were brought up. Members belonging to the Polish parish are all Silesians, with the exception of a few Bohemian and Slovenian families.
A real Bohemian settlement is in the neighborhood of Browerville, but religiously is unorganized.
Character of Polish Nation
The Poles are strongly attached to religion, as can be inferred from the great sacrifices they make for church and religious purposes.
Poles as American Citizens
The Polish nation, in spite of the great tragedies; which is in its history it has gone through, and the sufferings caused by the present European War, shows a steel character of perseverance. United by Kasciuszko and Pulaski, great in American history. Being accustomed to work, and to bear misery, poverty, suffering and persecutions in German, Austrian and Russian servitude, they became an important element in America. Expression can be given to the fact that any hard labor, considered by other nationalities as too dangerous or too menial, will be done by Poles, for they well understand that it is not the work but the character that degrades a man. As emigrants from Polish soil they took a liking to the farms in America. These they cultivated most carefully, improving them from year to year. In attaching themselves to American soil they have also become its most devoted citizens, as in time of need no doubt will stand as its most zealous defenders.
The members of St. Joseph's congregation are mostly farmers, with a small number who are engaged in commerce and town industry.
The parish numbers two hundred and fifty-six families, about one thousand four hundred and fifty souls and one hundred and fifty school children. It prides itself in possessing a good choir of twenty-eight members under the director of Sister Avellina, organist; a dramatic club, and stringed orchestra under the direction of Sister Armella, music teacher.
The yearly income for the maintenance of the parish is nearly four thousand dollars, pew and rent donations. There is a monthly collection for the purpose of adorning the church and altars.
Further calculations are that the school building will undergo a remodeling and a residence be built for the Sisters as soon as the parish is freed of debt.