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A Hstory of St. Patrick's Catholic Church
as compiled by Gayle Stuart for the Antique City Roots publication
Volume III, Issue 4, October 2001
stpatrickearly.jpgSt Patricks

In 1872, Father B. P. McMenomy, who was pastor at St. Francis in Council Bluffs, said the first Mass in Walnut.  At that time Mass was being offered downtown in Snyder's Carpenter Shop over a store in the Vollstedt building on the northeast corner of Central (now Antique City Drive) and Highland Streets.  The first St. Patrick's Church was built in 1874 at the extreme east end of Highland Street, one block north and three blocks east of the Rock Island Railroad Station.

John and Alex Stuart and George Mullen went to see Right Rev. John McMullen and received permission from the Dubuque Diocese to build a church.

The property was purchased from Mr. & Mrs. I. T. Spangler for $123.50 and B. F. Allan at $75.  St. Patrick's, a frame building, was built under the supervision of Father Bernard McMenomy at a cost of $3,500.

Parishioners hauled the limestone blocks used for the foundation by team and wagon from a quarry in the Oakland vicinity.  Walnut was then a mission of St. Francis of Council Bluffs.  Later it was a mission of Saint Peter & Paul of Atlantic, with Father Edward Gaule serving from 1876 to 1883.  It is believed that a Father Foley, from Stuart, would stop and offer services from time to time.  He came on the railroad.

The first baby to be baptized in the church was Thomas McCarty.  Among the first baptisms was Charles F. Stuart, son of Donald and Elizabeth Stuart.

From 1883 to 1916 Walnut had a resident pastor.  Father Richard Dollard was the first.  Avoca was then a mission of Walnut.  During his pastorate, the rectory was built.  He also bought the bell in 1888 at the cost of $600.  The bell is inscribed "Rev. Richard Dollard Walnut, Iowa June A.D. 1888, McShane Bell Foundry, Henry McShane & Co. Baltimore MD Trademark 1888."

At this time St. Patrick's was in the Davenport Diocese under the direction of the first Bishop John McMullen.  In 1898, Father P. J. Morin was appointed pastor and served until February 1904.  Father P. F. Gaffney came in 1905 and served Walnut until his death in 1915.

In 1911 the Des Moines Diocese was formed and the structure of the church was changed from the Diocese being the owner of the property to each church being a corporation.  Under Father Gaffney this was done.

In the by-laws written in 1912, it was stated in #9 "No lay person can be elected a member of the corporation who is not a pew holder in the church and who is not at least a yearly communicant..."

In 1916 Father Herman Albers from Avoca started serving Walnut, and it then became a mission under his charge.

In 1934, Father Valentine Cashman came and Father Albers was transferred to Harlan.  Father Cashman served both Walnut and Avoca and passed away on February 14, 1947.

Father E. J. Schuman arrived in 1947 serving both parishes until his death on April 30, 1955.  He drew up plans for a new church in Walnut and the new church in Avoca.

In 1952, an electric organ was given to St. Patrick's in memory of John and Mary Dolan Stuart by their children, Mrs. F. A. Gallagher, Alex Stuart, and Cecil Stuart of Walnut, Dr. Frank Stuart of Atchinson, Kansas, and Edward Stuart, Lees Summit, Missouri.  It was a Wurlitzer organ from W. J. Massey Piano Co. of Des Moines at the cost of $1,271.43.

In July 1955 with the arrival of Father Joseph Schulte, plans were made to build a new St. Patrick's Church.  The new location was at the end of Central Street known as the Boiler Estate.  The purchase price of the lot was $4,000.  Members of the building committee were George Gross, William Nilan, Cecil Stuart, Frank McDermott, and Dr. Frank Weber.

The present St. Patrick's Church, a brick structure, was started in the fall of 1957 and completed in October of 1958 at a cost of $43,000.  The church is 80 feet long and 36 feet wide with a full basement.  It will seat 200 people.  Pews were built by the Turney Woodworks Company of Harrison, AR and donated by Mr. & Mrs. George Gross.

The sanctuary furniture designed and built by the Carroll Church Goods Company of Carroll, Iowa was donated by Anna Kastner a former Walnut parishioner.  The church was blessed and dedicated November 12, 1958, by Bishop E. C. Daly of Des Moines, Iowa.

While serving both parishes, Father Schulte also directed the building of the new church in Avoca.  Trustees serving at that time were George Gross and William Nilan.  Joseph Fitzpatrick served as the cemetery trustee.  Mrs. Walter Rieck served as the president of the Altar and Rosary Society.

The last baptism in the old church was that of Paul Allen Koppold, son of Virgil and Rosemary Koppold, on August 24, 1956.  The last marriage in the old church was Mary Clare Weber to John Diver on August 23, 1958.  Mary Clare was the daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Frank Weber.

The first baptism in the new church was Michael Francis Martin, son of Carl and Teresa Martin on December 27, 1959.  The first marriage was Rose Cerrino to Ralph Arndt in 1960.  The first communion class was held in this church in June 1959 with six members:  Willa and Walter Rieck, Sandy Kramer, Duane Ausdemore, James Blum, and Terry Koppold.

The first confirmation class was May 22, 1965, with Bishop George Biskup officiating.  The members of the class were:  Dean Ausdemore, William Hoffmann, Vaughn John Gross, Sandra Bauerkemper, Diane Blum, Rebecca Hoffmann, Cheryl Lamer, and Patricia Martin.

The first funeral was for Mrs. Mary Anne Goeken, sister of Mrs. M. E. Murphy on July 20, 1959.

The shrine to the south of the church was built and dedicated in the summer of 1959 in memory of Daniel J. Gross, a former parish member who died of cancer in November 1958.  Father James J. Hanna, S.J. built the shrine.

Since 1958 the church has been changed several times.  The altar was turned to face the people in 1967, and the altar railings were removed in 1970.  The organ originally was in the balcony.  (Donated by the Cecil Stuart family in 1967.)  It was brought downstairs in 1971.  Three front pews on the south were removed, and it was put there.

In June of 1972, the walls to the north and south of the altar were removed and replaced by wrought iron pillars.  The organ and choir were moved to the baptismal room and the pews were replaced.  At this time the church walls were repainted, carpet installed, and a new Tabernacle purchased.  The canopy was torn down and replaced by one made from the altar given by the Sisters of St. Joseph's Academy in Des Moines, and the large wooden crucifix was hung on the back wall and lighted.

A brick bulletin board was erected at the church entrance.  The bell that had been removed from the old church property was mounted on steel beams on the church lawn and is rung electrically from inside the church.  This mounting was a gift from Mr. & Mrs. George Gross.  It was dedicated and rung for the first time on December 10, 1972, to celebrate the church centenniel.  In 1975 the parking lot west of the church was paved.

In June of 1979, Father Wingert supervised the installation of new rock glass windows to replace the plain amber panes that were installed when the church was built.  The new windows depict scenes from the Bible:

  • Birth of Christ given by Lester & Kathryn Sievers Family
  • Christ Child in the Temple given in memory of Charlie & Veronica Matthiessen
  • Baptism of Our Lord given by Alex Stuart Family
  • Miracle at Cana given by Walter & Betty Rieck Family
  • Last Supper given by Cecil Stuart Family
  • Crucifixion given in memory of Dr. & Mrs. M. M. Moore Family
  • Resurrection given in memory of Dr. Frank & Blanche Weber
  • The Pentecost given by George & Susan Gross
  • The Cross of Triumph given by George & Susan Gross
  • Choir Area Harp given by Harold & Mary Hansen Family
  • Left Window given by Gene & Elaine Hoffmann Family
  • Entry Door Windows given in honor of Harold & Mary Hansen

The shrubbery around the church was removed in the fall of 1979 because of a moisture problem in the basement.  At that time remodeling was begun in the basement.  Electric fans were installed in the church ceiling in the spring of 1979.  After an especially hot summer, air conditioning was installed in the church in August of 1980.

(End of information compiled by Gayle Stuart.)