Search billions of records on

Oconto County WIGenWeb Project
Collected and posted by RITA
This site is exclusively for the free access of individual researchers.
* No profit may be made by any person, business or organization through publication, reproduction, presentation or links
to this site.


 Researched and contributed by: RITA
This church is now closed.
.St. Joseph Catholic Church.
City of Oconto
The History of the Catholic Church in Wisconsin
published 1895 - 1898


THE foundation of this congregation dates back to the year 1870, prior to which time St. Peter's was the only Catholic church in the city. The new parish was organized during the administration of the Rev. Mathias Schwebach, who in the year 1869 was appointed by the Bishop of the Diocese pastor of St. Peter's Church. By this time the congregation of St. Peter's had acquired such a membership that the church was entirely inadequate to the demands made upon it for their suitable accommodation. Beside this, there was such an array of nationalities, and consequently diverse interests in the congregation, that the authorities deemed it expedient to establish another parish without unnecessary delay. Six months after assuming the duties as pastor of this church, Father Schwebach, together with some one hundred families, withdrew from St. Peter's and organized the congregation of St. Joseph's. The talk of establishing this new parish and the erection of necessary buildings proved neither easy nor pleasant, as the people, though zealous and liberal as it was possible for them to be, were sadly deficient in means.

However, as evidence of the earnestness involved in this undertaking, the Rev. Pastor with his own means purchased the necessary land for a site, while a committee appointed by the congregation at once set to work soliciting funds with which to procure the necessary materials for the buildings and pay for the labor employed in the erection of the same. The members of this committee were: Messrs. Thomas Tully, Anton Links, George Davis and John Stack. Not satisfied with soliciting the aid of Catholics living in their immediate vicinity, these men visited a number of the lumber camps located around the northern part of the State and received from them much material aid and encouragement. Finally, with sufficient funds in sight to guarantee , them in the undertaking, and a liberal donation in labor and material from citizens of all denominations, work on the church was begun. Matters now progressed rapidly, so that in November, 1870, services were held in the new building. The church was completed during the early part of December, the dedicatory services being held by the Rt Rev. Joseph Melcher, first Bishop of Green Bay, on the I5th of that month. From this time the work of improvement went gradually forward; pews, bells, altars, vestments, interior decorations were added one by one to the common property, until today St. Joseph's stands as well and fully equipped as any church in the diocese. So encouraged had the people become by their successful efforts to acquire a church, that they soon after decided to establish a parochial school. To this end work was begun on a building in 1873, the same being finished and ready for occupancy in 1874. The school was dedicated in July of that year, and it was then placed in charge of Sisters of Notre Dame, who opened it for regular attendance during the following October. This school has proved a blessing in many ways to the Church at Oconto, where previously Catholic educational interests had been sadly neglected. The Sisters of Notre Dame, however, enthused new life into the community, and as a result since their establishment there the parochial school and its interests here became a factor of paramount importance to the community. Two years prior to the completion of the school a bell weighing seventeen hundred pounds was purchased and placed in the church tower. This of course was duly blessed, its sponsors being Mrs. A. Dillon, Mrs. P. Guck, Mrs. George Lynes, Mrs. Norton and Messrs. George Davis and William Luby.
St. Joseph's Church, Oconto, Wis

In this manner improvements were made on the church property and additions added to it until the year 1883, when the members of St. Joseph's congregation became thoroughly aware of the fact that the rapacity of the church was entirely inadequate to the demands that increasing members put upon it. So it was unanimously decided to build an addition to the original structure. This in the first place had been forty by eighty feet, and it was decided that this space with an additional twenty feet added to the west end of the building would not only prove amply sufficient but at the same time allow the church to maintain an appearance of reasonable proportions. Without unnecessary delay this addition as well as a sacristy was built onto the church, the work when completed representing an outlay of some $1,500. Nothing further in the way of additions or improvements occurred until 1888, when the present beautiful altars and handsome and substantial altar railing were placed in the church. At about the same time the interior of the church was handsomely decorated and statues of St. Joseph and Our Lady purchased.

In the latter part of 1891, owing to his advanced age and growing infirmities, the venerable pastor of St. Joseph's, Father Schwebach, asked for and obtained an assistant in the person of the Rev. P. J. Lochman, who assumed the duties of co-rector on November 3. It is Rev. P. Lochman, who assumed the duties of co-rector on November 3. It is proper to mention here that at different periods preceding the advent of Father Lochman the congregation had paid to Father Schwebach the purchase money advanced by him for the original church site and other accumulated church properties, receiving from him warranty deeds for same. This condition applied to everything except the parochial residence, which still belonged to the pastor, although there existed a contract executed by him and the congregation jointly whereby it was also to become parish property on the payment of a stipulated amount. Of this but little had been at that time paid, so that when Father Lochman assumed the active pastoral duties, that together with other outstanding indebtedness amounted to over $3,000. On March 4, 1892, occurred the death of the venerable Father Schwebach, who had labored faithfully and continuously behalf of the people of this congregation for a period extending over more than twenty years.  His remains rest in the Catholic cemetery at  Stevens  Point, Wisconsin.

From time to time under the administration of Father Lochman many improvements have been made to the property in general. Among these may. be mentioned galleries in the church and the  decoration of church windows, the remodeling and entire, refurnishing of the pastoral residence and enlargement and general improvement of the school building, which had come into rather dilapidated condition.  A basement was built under the school and divided into compartments which were used as kitchen, dining room and store rooms by the Sisters. Besides these there was a furnace room and hall which is used for church meetings as well as by lie different societies belonging  to the congregation. This created an additional expense; however, the entire church debt had been paid off before the end of 1894. The next improvement decided upon by this energetic pastor and congregation was the remodeling of the church, which in many ways had become sadly out of repair. This was done, the structure being moved to the corner of Fourth and Section streets, where the pastoral residence stood, while that building was transferred to its present location, where it was placed upon a substantial stone basement. While the reconstruction of the church was going on the members of St. Joseph's conregation held divine services in St. Peter's Church.  At last the work was completed and on January I, 1896, the church was solemnly dedicated by the Rt. Rev. Bishop Messmer of Green Bay, assisted by the Very Rev. Vicar-General Fox, a life long friend of the conregation, and some twenty members of the clergy. Among the latter were the Rev. Father Reagan, professor of  Notre  Dame,  Indiana,  who was born and reared in the parish, and the Rev. Leopold Drexel, a professor of St. Francis Seminary, near Milwaukee. Since the rebuilding of the church it has received additional improvements in the way of furnaces and electric lights, the latter having also been placed in the parsonage. The estimated value of the entire property as it now stands is at less than $35,000.  The present congregation of St. Joseph's numbers about four hundred families, and the parochial school, which is in charge of Sisters of Notre Dame, has a regular attendance of three hundred and ffifty pupils.

During the lifetime of St. Joseph's congregation several interesting and successful missions have been held, among the number being one by Father Cooney, in July, 1875, one by Father O'Neil in March, 1878, and done by the Redemptorist Fathers during the present pastorate in April, 1892. Of societies organized in the congregation there are the following: Society of Our Lady for Young Ladies, organized in 1878; Catholic Knights of America, 1878; Catholic Knights of Wisconsin, 1885; Ancient Order of Hibernians, 1890; Catholic Order of Foresters, 1893, one hundred members; Altar Society, one hundred members; League of the Sacred Heart; Young Ladies' Sodality, eighty members. There are also some flourishing Sodalities for the children, which were organized in 1894. In addition to these there is a Literary Club, organized in 1896, with about sixty members, and a Ladies' Auxiliary, established at about the same time with forty members.

The Rev. P. J. Lochman, present rector of St. Joseph's at Oconto, Wisconsin, is a native of Green Bay, where he was born in 1857.   Here he passed the earlier days of his life, receiving his primary education in the Cathedral school of that city.   He entered Calvary College in 1872, where he took the classical course, graduating with the class of 1876.   He then took a theological course in St. Francis Seminary, near Milwaukee, Wisconsin.    He was ordained to the priesthood in June, 1881, by the Rt. Rev. Bishop Krautbauer, who almost immediately appointed him as pastor of St. Rose congregation at Clintonville, Wisconsin, where he remained for two years.   He was the first resident priest given to that congregation, and while there built a school and a parsonage.   He also erected a church at Tigerton, and completed the first Catholic church built at Antigo. From Clintonville he was transferred to Freedom, Wisconsin, where he remained for over eight years. There also he built a parsonage, repaired the school house and made other notable improvements. While maintaining this pastorate he succeeded in converting a number of Oneida Indians, whom he assisted in building a church on the Indian reservation. On November 3, 1891, he assumed the duties of his pastorate at Oconto.


St. Joseph's Church
Oconto, Wisconsin


Its parish almost 100 years old now, At. Joseph's Catholic church gleams under December skies as workmen finish painting and sandblsting the exterior. There's little resemblance here to the 80 x 40 frame structure that first served the congregation when it began in 1870, but that original church still forms the core of the building above.

St. Joseph's started out in the middle of a mud puddle on the corner of Section and Fourth sts when Catholic settlers who began arriving in 1844 became too many for St. Peter's to care for in this growing lumber town. It was moved to Park av in 1895. At that time, two wings were added, stained glass windows installed, and a stone basement put in.

The 700 pound bell, blessed in 1872, still calls the flock to church where they kneel before alters and communion table that hace served the church since 1883.

Oconto County Reporter

                              Above: Inside view taken in 1945

Left Main Alter view taken 1912

Please click on the photos below for a larger view

Stained Glass windows 
right side  of the Main alter 
to front right of the right  isle facing the alter.

Stations of the Cross, right side,
middle: Catharine Moroney Bellew, sister to Mary Louise Moroney, wife of
John James Noonan, Sr.

Main, right and left alter
from middle pews.

Stained Glass windows at St.
Joseph's Church.
St Joseph's Catholic Church

Stained Glass windows left of the
Main alter to front left of left isle facing the alter.

Stained Glass windows left of the
Main alter to front left of left isle facing the alter. 
Margret Delaney .... May 6, 1832  to  May 9, 1889 

Stained Glass windows at St.Joseph's

Church, Oconto, Wisconsin.

Stained Glass windows right side,

alcove, facing the alter

St Joseph's Church, Oct. 16, 2001:
Interior building  photographs
taken during the 100th Anniversary Celebration 
of the Wedding
of John James Noonan Jr. and Mary
Genevieve [Jane/Jennie] Herald/Hearld,

 Contributed by: Mary Beth Noonan Jensen