St. Mary's Catholic Church of Hamill


As the homesteaders came the spiritual needs of the Catholics were cared for by missionary and residential priests. Hamill, then known as Wamblee, a government trading post, was one of four townsites platted by the government.

The Wamblee Townsite, a land company, donated lots to any denomination that wished to build, and obtained a patent from the government for the lots on which St. Mary's was to be built. Fr. Francis Guessen, Gregory, one of the first priests to visit Hamill, celebrated Mass in the homes of William McClintock and Charles McElhaney. He baptized Roseland Condon Jordan, daughter of James Condon, the first white child born in Hamill.

Fr. Anthony O'Hara was next assigned to the growing parish. He rode the lumber wagon from Lamro to Winner with James Condon and built the first church in 1910. From the town's four thriving stores, parishioners in the true pioneer spirit secured wooden packing boxes for the altar which was designed and hand carved by Nick Koos. Fr. John Novak had charge of all of Tripp County from 19101914.

Msgr. Chas. Virnig (19131917) gave his sermons in both German and English. Fr. Traynor, the first resident priest, ate his meals at the James Condon home and built the rectory. Fr. Nicholas Theis came in 1918 and the Altar Society was officially organized September 22, 1918. Fr. Theis served as pastor until the appointment of Fr. Alfred Alber in 1920.

A second church was built in 1921 across the street west of the first street. In fact, the first church had been built on the wrong lot. The original church became the sacristy for the next church. Fr. Abler had the missions of St. Columba, Iona, and St. Stephen, Dixon. Merle Casey served as altar boy. Fr. Balfe served during the depression years of 19301935. Mass was said in the rectory during the winter months.

Fr. D.C. Padula, Colome, served the parish until the appointment of Fr. James Tunnissen in September 1939. He also served the missions at Iona and Dixon. The church burned when lightning struck the steeple July 5, 1945. Mass was said in the rectory until the completion of the new church in August 1951. When Fr. "Jim" was transferred to Burke in November, 1954 Fr. Cohane, Witten, cared for the parish until January 1956 when Fr. Gerald Scherer was appointed pastor of Witten, Hamill and the Iona-Dixon parishes. He served until August 15, 1965. During his tenure the rectory was sold and moved to Witten, the Iona church was closed and the flooring used in the Witten church. The Dixon church was closed in 1967 and moved to the 1880 Pioneer Town. Fr. Diskin, Winner, was in charge from 1966 1967. Fr. Paul Casper and Fr. Lloyd, both of Lower Brule, and Fr. George Pinger, of St. Joseph's, Chamberlain, tended to the parish's needs until the appointment of Fr. Zeller, Winner, in 1975. He served until the closing of the parish in January of 1977. The church was sold to the Winner Church of the Nazarene and is located on East Highway 44 on the edge of Winner.

Picture and information courtesy of the
Tripp County Historical Society Archives


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