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St. Peter's
Catholic Church


Blessing, Texas
 

306 Hickory Street          28°52'12.20"N          96°13'11.14"W

History

St. Peter's Catholic Church Cemetery



 


ST. PETER’S CATHOLIC CHURCH

THOUGH CATHOLIC SETTLERS INITIALLY ARRIVED IN THIS AREA IN THE 1800S, IT WAS IN 1912, JUST FIVE YEARS AFTER THE FOUNDING OF BLESSING, THAT A MASS WAS HELD IN THE COMMUNITY. AT FIRST, MASS WAS HELD IN THE HOMES OF BLESSING RESIDENTS, WHENEVER TRAVELING PRIESTS WERE AVAILABLE. IN 1914, THE TOWNSITE COMPANY, OWNED BY CITY FOUNDER JONATHAN EDWARDS PIERCE, DONATED LAND FOR USE AS A CHURCH. CATHOLIC RESIDENTS COMPLETED CONSTRUCTION ON A BUILDING ON THE PROPERTY IN 1915. IT WAS PLACED UNDER THE PATRONAGE OF SAINT PETER. AT FIRST, ST. PETER’S CATHOLIC CHURCH WAS A MISSION PARISH ATTENDED ON OCCASION BY PRIESTS FROM VICTORIA, PORT LAVACA AND OTHER SURROUNDING COMMUNITIES. IN 1930, THE REV. A. J. WEBER BECAME THE CHURCH’S FIRST RESIDENT PRIEST.

THE CHURCH HAS MOVED TWICE IN ITS LONG HISTORY. IN 1947, MEMBERS PURCHASED THIS PROPERTY, OPENING A REMODELED ARMY CHAPEL HERE THE NEXT YEAR. THAT STRUCTURE WAS REPLACED BY THE CURRENT ONE, WHICH WAS DEDICATED IN 1976.

THE CONGREGATION OF ST. PETER’S CATHOLIC CHURCH HAS A LONG HISTORY OF HELPING RESIDENTS OF THE BLESSING COMMUNITY. THEY HAVE PROVIDED REGULAR MEALS TO SENIOR CITIZENS, AND HAVE GIVEN FOOD AND OTHER DONATIONS TO THE NEEDY. THE CONGREGATION HAS ALSO ORGANIZED AREA SOCIAL EVENTS, INCLUDING AN ANNUAL FALL FESTIVAL WHICH HAS BECOME A COMMUNITY TRADITION. TODAY, ST. PETER’S CATHOLIC CHURCH CONTINUES TO BE A BEACON OF LIGHT IN THE BLESSING COMMUNITY, SERVING THE NEEDS OF AREA RESIDENTS. 2008

Inscription typed by Faye Cunningham
 

 


St. Peter's Catholic Church


Blessing, Texas

Researched and written by David Holubec,
Matagorda County Historical Commission member - October 2005.

 


CONTEXT  

St. Peter’s Catholic Church has been at the heart of ecumenical benevolence in the agricultural based rural community of Blessing located in western Matagorda County. As the town developed so did the congregation and they have worshipped in three different buildings. Through ninety-five years, the tradition of service to the young and old that was begun in a private home in 1912 has never faltered. During times of war, hurricanes, drought or bountiful harvest this church as been a bulwark for all.

OVERVIEW

In 1850, General Zachary Taylor (1784 – 1850), from Virginia, was elected the twelfth president of the United States. His term was cut short by illness and paved the way for Vice-president Millard Fillmore’s (1800 – 1874) succession. The “Compromise of 1850” was being promoted by Kentucky senator, Henry Clay (1777 – 1852). According to the compromise, Texas would relinquish the land in dispute (including parts of the present states of New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado and Wyoming) but, in compensation, be given ten-million dollars -- money it would use to pay off its debt to Mexico. The Mexican - American War (1846 – 1848) was over and the boundaries of Texas were established. The fertile lands and promise of plenty made Texas an inviting territory for settlers. Early Catholic settlers, William A. Dawdy and his wife Elizabeth, would settle in Matagorda County and along with other early Catholic settlers, live their faith and realize their dream of experiencing the promise of a rewarding Christian life on the Texas coast. The Dawdy’s would be prominent among the first pioneering families that introduced the Catholic faith to Blessing, Texas.

In 1850, William A. Dawdy (1810 – 1887) and his wife, Elizabeth Ellis Dawdy (1820 – 1891) prepared to leave the comforts of Memphis, Tennessee to experience the allure of Texas. William and Elizabeth arrived at the port of Indianola on Matagorda Bay in Calhoun County (1846). Indianola was founded in August 1846 as Indian Point by Sam Addison White (? – 1869) and William M. Cook. It became the chief port through which European and American immigrants journeyed into western Texas.

The Dawdy family migrated to the town of Matagorda (1827) where they bought two city lots in 1852 and made their home. In 1866 Dawdy purchased five-hundred acres of land west of the Colorado River and bought an additional two-hundred acres in 1867. This area later became known as “Dawdy’s Mound,” which is near the current town of Blessing (1907). William Dawdy was a building contractor and was commissioned to construct several early river bridges. One such bridge he constructed was “Deming’s Bridge” in 1857 for Edwin A. Deming. He was later commissioned by Matagorda County officials to build a county jail in Matagorda, Texas in 1870.

Matagorda County was one of the original twenty-three counties created when the Constitution of the Republic of Texas was adopted on March 17, 1836. On May 4, 1847, the new frontier Catholic diocese (Galveston) was first established by Pope Pius IX under the direction of Bishop Jean Marie Odin. (1800 – 1870)

The Catholic Diocese of San Antonio was founded in 1874. It was the largest diocese in Texas, in terms of population in 1900. The Blessing area of Matagorda County was considered “mission” territory of the Diocese of San Antonio. The Catholic immigrant’s love for their faith was so great that they procured priests from Victoria, Port Lavaca, Refugio and Wharton to visit their small communities.

In 1907, Jonathan Edwards Pierce (1839 – 1915), the brother of famed Texas cattleman, Abel Head “Shanghai” Pierce (1834 – 1900), plated the town of Blessing after granting the Galveston, Harrisburg, and San Antonio Railroad the right-of-way for their rail lines and later the St. Louis, Brownsville and Mexico Railroad lines, making Blessing, a two railroad town.  William and Elizabeth Dawdy’s grandson, Pleasant (Ples) R. Dawdy (1860 – 1930) and his wife Elizabeth Rowles Dawdy (1874 – 1964) were also Catholics and lived in Blessing, which was three miles from Dawdy’s Mound.  Ples was a cattle drover with his uncle Asa Dawdy (1847 – 1896), who was a trail boss for Abel Head “Shanghai” Pierce.

The first Catholic Mass was said in Blessing on July 12, 1912 at the home of John Roach, with Father Francis Pallanche, a traveling priest. Twenty-seven people were in attendance. Over the next few years, when a priest was available, Mass was said in the homes of John Roach, Frank Cobb, and J.D. Murphy.

On January 1, 1914, local Catholics began plans to erect a church. The Blessing Town site Company, owned by Jonathan E. Pierce, donated Lots 10, 11, & 12 of Block 15 of the Blessing Original town site (BOTS) for use as a church or school.  As a memorial to loved ones, Alfred Fred Foisy (1865 – 1935), agreed to bear the greater part of the expense. The church was a wooden frame, Mission style structure that measured thirty feet by fifty feet, with two towers on the west side. A Mission style altar was donated by Ples and Elizabeth Dawdy and the wooden pews were donated by Episcopalians, John R. Rowles (1847 – 1933) and his wife, Margaret J. Rowles (1850 – 1938), who were the parents of Elizabeth Dawdy.

The new church was dedicated on April 20, 1915, by the Most Reverend John William Shaw (1863 – 1934), Bishop of the San Antonio Diocese (1911 – 1918) and later Archbishop of New Orleans (1918 – 1934), along with Reverend J. X. Heck, pastor of St. Mary’s Church, Victoria; Monsignor Jacobus B. Schnetzer, pastor of Church of the Blessed Sacrament, Houston; and Reverend Francis Pallanche, pastor of Port Lavaca and Blessing. The church was placed under the patronage of Saint Peter, “Prince of the Apostles.” The music of the Mass was Gounod’s “Convent Mass in C,” sung by the new church choir, with Anita Hill (1892 – 1978) as organist. After the service, the Sacrament of Confirmation was administered to ten adults and ten Mexican children.

St. Peter’s Catholic Church was a mission parish attended on occasion by priests from Victoria, Port Lavaca, Edna, El Campo and Hillji. In 1927, John and Mary Murphy donated an acre of land for a Catholic cemetery as a memorial to their son, Joseph F. Murphy (1920 – 1927), the first person to be buried there.

Before 1927, the church was remodeled to make room for a bell tower and choir loft. This remodeling changed the appearance of the church from its original Mission style appearance. The first resident priest was Reverend A. J. Weber, who served from 1930 to 1936. In 1930 - 31 a rectory was built on a portion of Lots 7, 8 & 9 of Block 15 of Blessing Original Town site. In 1933 a wing was added to the church due to the increase in membership. Other priests that served over the next ten years were Father L. A. Blinka (1936 - 1939), Father John Hanacek (1939 – 1942) and Father Hubert L Bauman (1942 – 1946).

In 1947, Lots 1 – 12, Block 14 of Blessing Original Town site were purchased to accommodate an Army chapel that was purchased from Camp Hulen Army Base (1926 – 1946) in Palacios and moved to Blessing and remodeled. It was dedicated by Archbishop Robert Emmet Lucey (1891 - 1977) on December 19, 1948. The original church building was converted into a parish hall and later sold to Frank Hahn of El Maton.

On March 28, 1963, construction of a catechetical center was begun and later dedicated under the leadership of Father Edward Bily (1926 - ) at a cost of about $52,000. Religious instructions are held in the center every Wednesday during the school year. It also serves as a community center for meetings and social gatherings.

In 1956, long-time parishioner, Elizabeth R. Dawdy donated seven-thousand dollars to the church to be used for Catholic educational purposes.

In 1975 a new church and rectory were built under the leadership of Father Jerome Stryk. Architect Robert E. Morskovsky of San Antonio was the architect for the project. Edna Lumber Company was the general contractor. The cost of the project was $205,000. The dedication was held on April 18, 1976, with Archbishop Patrick Flores (1929 - ) of San Antonio officiating. In June of 2000, Bishop Flores would make national headlines when he was released unharmed after being held hostage for nine hours by a man claiming to have a grenade. The man was afraid he would get deported after being charged with driving with a suspended license and thought Flores could help him. The previous church building was sold to Andrew Olquin, and moved away. The old rectory was sold to John Hamala and moved to El Maton.

In 2000, Dawdy family decedents, Richard (1905-1989) and Emma (White) Dawdy (1906-2000), bequeathed a portion of their estate to St. Peter’s Catholic Church, Blessing, Texas and Holy Cross Catholic Church in Bay City, Texas.

On June 1, 2001, a new rectory was purchased (BOTS - Block 16, Lots 17 – 20) and the old rectory was converted to the church office.

The Dawdy family and countless other families have strived to live their faith and realize their dreams of owning fertile lands and experiencing the promise of plenty in the “Lone Star” state. Texas was an inviting territory for early Catholic settlers and remains so today as the Catholic Church continues to grow and prosper in Blessing, Texas, continuing the proud heritage that was etched for them so many years before.

SIGNIFICANCE

Since its dedication on April 20, 1915, St. Peter’s Catholic Church has been a religious influence on the town of Blessing, Texas. Throughout the years, the parishioners of St. Peter’s Catholic Church have not only evangelized the word of God, but have been a positive presence in Blessing.

St. Peter’s Catholic Church has always been the largest church in Blessing. It remains so today. In 1915, the ladies of the church organized the St. Peter’s Altar Society. These ladies have decorated the altar, prepared church meals and cleaned the Church over the years. Since about 1950, the Altar Society has prepared an annual turkey and dressing meal during the Church’s annual Fall Festival. This festival is attended by most of Blessing; Catholic and non-Catholic. Since 1976, the Altar Society, along with the St. Peter’s Knights of Columbus, has provided meals for the senior citizens of the Blessing area each week.

The Knights of Columbus was also organized in the early days of the church for the men of the parish. These men have kept up the grounds of the Church and helped perform repairs through the years. Each Thursday, the “Knights” hold a Bingo Game that is well attended by all of the Blessing area. This is the only entertainment for some of the senior citizens of Blessing and the surrounding area.

During the Christmas season, it has always been a tradition to have the Tidehaven High School band play a Christmas Concert for the church members. After the concert, the students enjoy a meal provided by the Altar Society and then go Christmas Caroling on a hayride through the Blessing area. Some of these same youth participate in the monthly Catholic Youth Organization sponsored dances. The Youth Organization has been instrumental in providing activities for area youth since about 1976.

As in any community, the poor is ever present. St. Peter’s Catholic Church strives to help those in need as often as they can. Over the years, the Church has provided food for their small food pantry, money for electric or gas bills and money to purchase fuel for travelers without funds.

In the small community of Blessing, St. Peter’s Catholic Church remains the largest Church, not only in size, but in love for its community and fellow Christians. The parishioners take pride in their Church and their community as they spread the word of God and share the love of its fellow neighbors.
 


 

Copyright 2009 - Present by St. Peter's Catholic Church & Matagorda County Historical Commission
All rights reserved

Created
Sep. 14, 2009
Updated
Sep. 14, 2009
   

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