NOTE: These two articles, Historical Sketch of St. Agnes Catholic Church by Father Robert M. Maure and Catholic Church Here to Celebtrate 51st Anniversary by Sarah Spencer Scurria, were submitted by Josephine Phillips Hodge. St Agnes was renamed St. Edwards in 1948. RPS January 2006.




By Robert M. Maure

June 15, 1947

{Yes, according to general say so of Miss or Mrs. Fama, the St. Agnes Church in Tallulah dates back to a distant 1855. I doubt that we have Civil Parish Records for it, for at that time no courthouse existed in Tallulah, and even if it did, Louisiana did not issue Birth certificates a hundred years ago. Keep, therefore this venerable age of St. Agnes for yourself, for present day women-folk are not inclined to reveal what burden of years is resting on their backs, preferring to be perpetually young and attractive. Also this writer and the people entrusted to his care do not crave for publicity or a centennial celebration within six short years to come.}


St. Agnes Chapel, humble and unpretentious, originally served from Lake Providence, was a prideful record of able servitors & faithful communicants. Weddings and Funerals, Christenings and Communions have made history, and left lasting echoes within its walls & here are touches unique in Church history.


Much of the timber used in these walls was brought from the dismantled church at Milliken's Bend--Milliken's Bend, now a phantom town buried in the restless waters of the mighty Mississippi River, but historic in Civil War times when it was the headquarters of three Federal Generals, and outstanding in the era of cotton and steamboat supremacy.


The church there, by the side of a high green levee, was built under the auspices of one Honoré Morancy, a gentleman planter and connoisseur d'art, who with his brother Emile and little sister, Victoria, had escaped to these United States from a Santo Domingo native uprising.

This was accomplished through the ingenuity of their nurse who had secreted the children in a sugar hogshead which was ultimately rolled onto a rescuing vessel belonging to a Stephen Gerard.


The little church was probably built as a votive offering for an escape from peril, and its kindly sponsor attended it faithfully, bemoaning the onslaughts of the irreverent river whose muddy waters besmirched its whiteness and finally tore it to pieces.


What little could be saved of the original church, was rebuilt about 1/2 mile south of the present levee, within two or three miles of the old Milliken's Bend location--but in what year is uncertain to say; it may have been between 1882 and 1884/85. Neither do I know exactly in what year said chapel was broken down and moved to its present location right here in town, what is now highway 65; there are differences of opinion about it. But some reasonable conclusion may be reached perhaps from given premises and accordingly I judge that the Chapel must have come to Tallulah proper by the end of 1911 or in the early part of 1912.

(In this connection I rest my figuring on the following statements: A catholic couple still living here had pointed out to me some two years ago where the chapel’s second location had been and their's was one of the last--or even the last wedding performed in said chapel thirty-six years ago, 1911 therefore. It was Rev. Fr. W. P. Nothofer who united them in holy wedlock, When however Tallulah and all its surrounding was submerged in flood waters May, June and July 1912, St. Agnes stood serenely at its present location and there are numbers of witnesses for it. Regarding this period therefore I would advise you to consult Rev. M. P. Nothofer whose brilliant memory can surely shed some light along these uncertain times and developments.)


In 1927 St. Agnes faced another more widespread flood with five to six ft. of water inside the church as attested by citizens of the town who were then living here, remembering these more recent dates as vividly as if they had happened only yesterday.


When the stately automobile began taking over our era replacing the horse and buggy and steamer conveyances, when networks of good roads and highways were built, shrinking the distances from place to place, then St. Agnes was regularly served from Lake Providence whose zealous Pastors visited this Community twice every month (of that period Rev. Fr. Robert DeVrindt can tell you more than I am able to report of it), until the formal erection of the Parish was established on the 25th of October 1936, and Rev. Fr. J. C. Vandegaer arriving here as the first resident pastor on the 25th of November 1936, under the able leadership of Most Reverend Bishop Danile F. Desmond, of blessed memory.

On the 9th of November 1939 the writer of this historical sketch was dispatched to Tallulah, where he arrived on the 16th of said month, faithfully keeping his residence here, and the less is said of him and his activities the better for past, present and future generations. Let the good Lord be the sole judge of it while you are acquainted with the rest of these records.

Looking into the near future with prophetic view, the oft moved and rebuilt St. Agnes Church has yet a great mission to fulfill. So far it has served the white Catholic population of Madison Parish, but under the energetic activities of our far-sighted new and beloved ordinary, Most Rev. Charles Paschalis Greco, D.D., St. Agnes is destined to go on the hike once more to serve a hopeful colored Catholic population in Tallulah, where the Church expects to reap an abundant harvest of souls in years to come.

With light or heavy heart Tallulah's early Catholic settlers may bid farewell to dear old St. Agnes which has seen a century float by, but a relic of the distant past will not be left behind, and has to accompany them to a new, larger and brick veneered building, able to accommodate an ever growing Catholic population. The old St. Agnes Bell which has seen so much happiness and sorrow, worry and grief, times of bitter strife and well earned peace, will accompany the change from the old to the new, nobody is inclined to part with that Bell which has a history all its own.


The oldest folks of the parish will tell you how way back in 1882 a fussy little stern-wheeler, the Iron Mountain, pushing four barges, was drawn by a whirling current into the crevasse in the Buckhorn levee, just above Milliken's Bend. There the luckless steamer was dashed to pieces, but the barges broke away and kept afloat. Machinery settled in the silt beneath the boiling waters, but the woodwork floated far and wide, and for many years startling effects were accomplished therewith in the negro cabins, cotton houses and fences of the neighborhood. The Steamer's smoke stacks rested themselves above the Talla Bena gin and the Iron Mountain heavy whistle effectively awoke the countryside.


The Bell with its silver tone was also used for a time on the plantation to send the hands into the fields and call them back at noon. But ultimately it found its way to Tallulah, and is now in the belfry of St. Agnes. This steamboat bell has found a resting place Under God's Roof and daily sends its benisons afar.


No longer attuned to the crisp commands of captains, the picturesque profanity of mates, and the chanting of roustabouts, one yet feels that much of the beauty and appeal of its tone had been gathered from the night winds, the lapping of the waves, the lonely call of the waterfowl, the whisper of fringing trees, the answering bells of other boats and all the thousand sounds known only to the river.


Just listen to the dying tones of the bell, listen to the strange story hidden within its molten depths: “In nomine Domini, in nomine Domini, in nomine Domini", is its massive call to the good people of St. Agnes in Tallulah.



By Sarah Spencer Scurria

October 1987


The Catholic Church will celebrate its 51st anniversary in Tallulah this month. A covered dish dinner will be served October 21st in conjunction with the celebration in the parish hall.

The parish hall at St. Edwards Catholic is used for educational and recreational purposes and was built while Father Louis Voorhies was pastor. It has been a very beneficial addition for the people of the parish, especially for the youth.

The first Catholic Church in the Village of Tallulah was St. Agnes Catholic Church, which was located on Highway 65. It was a white frame building typical of the style built during this period. St. Agnes Church was humble and unpretentious. The priest came from Lake Providence to serve here.

This church served as the house of worship for the Catholics in this parish until the land was bought on Highway 80 for building the new church. This was where the beautiful St. Edwards Church was built, with the front overlooking Brushy Bayou.

The first ordained Catholic priest to serve as a residing minister for St. Agnes Church was the honorable Father John C. Vandegaer, who arrived in Tallulah on October 19, 1936. His first mass was joyfully celebrated on Sunday, October 20, 1936. This was a beautiful beginning for the Catholics in this have their very own priest, to be able to attend mass every Sunday and on Holy Days of Obligation.

Here their babies were baptized, received their First Communion, were later confirmed, weddings were performed here and members of the church had their funeral mass in this sacred building. Memories linger, both joyous and sad ones.

The formal erection of the parish was on October 25, 1936. Formal installation of the first priest was on November 26, 1936.

Father Vandegaer served the parish in a most dignified and dedicated manner until November 16, 1939, when Father Robert M. Maure became pastor.

During Father Maure's pastoral leadership, the new Catholic Church was built and at this time the name was changed from St. Agnes to St. Edwards. The bishop at this time was the Most Reverend Charles Pasguale Greco D.D., Bishop of the Diocese of Alexandria.

The present location was purchased by Father R.M. Maure on the 15th of January, 1947 as the old location was too small for future development.

St. Edwards Catholic Church was dedicated by the Most Reverend Charles P. Greco on October 3, 1948. The rectory was built in 1947 and Father Maure took up residence there on the 19th of December 1947.

Following is a list of the priests in the order in which they served as pastors of the church from its beginning until the present time. Each one serving the people of the parish in a most dedicated manner, giving of themselves and their time in such a sacrificial way, leaving a beautiful heritage when they departed either to serve in another parish or by death.

1936-39--Reverend John C. Vandegaer (deceased)

1939-54--Reverend Robert M. Maure (deceased)

1954-56--Reverend Bernard F. Maquire (deceased)

1956-61--Reverend William Hopp (deceased)

1962-62--Reverend Conners (died in a fire at Rectory same year at the age of 46)

1962-66--Reverend Richard Lombard

1966-68--Reverend Joseph Montelbano

1968-70--Reverend B.A. Scallan

1970-75--Reverend Gillis Boyer

1975-78--Reverend John Gayer (deceased)

1978-80--Monsignor Matthew J. Scanlon (deceased)

1980-87--Reverend Louis Voorhies

1987-90--Reverend Terry Edward Allen

1990-94--Reverend Silvan Waterkotte (deceased)

1994-96--Reverend Ignatius Eckelkamp

1996-98--Monsignor Patrick Murphy
1998-??--Reverend Ferre D’Cruz