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
The new parish was organized during the administration of the Rev.
Schwebach, who in the year 1869 was appointed by the Bishop of the
pastor of St. Peter's Church. By this time the congregation of St.
had acquired such a membership that the church was entirely inadequate
to the demands made upon it for their suitable accommodation. Beside
there was such an array of nationalities, and consequently diverse
in the congregation, that the authorities deemed it expedient to
another parish without unnecessary delay. Six months after assuming the
duties as pastor of this church, Father Schwebach, together with some
hundred families, withdrew from St. Peter's and organized the
of St. Joseph's. The talk of establishing this new parish and the
of necessary buildings proved neither easy nor pleasant, as the people,
though zealous and liberal as it was possible for them to be, were
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
while a committee appointed by the congregation at once set to work
funds with which to procure the necessary materials for the buildings
pay for the labor employed in the erection of the same. The members of
this committee were: Messrs. Thomas Tully, Anton Links, George Davis
John Stack. Not satisfied with soliciting the aid of Catholics living
their immediate vicinity, these men visited a number of the lumber
located around the northern part of the State and received from them
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,
were held in the new building. The church was completed during the
part of December, the dedicatory services being held by the Rt Rev.
Melcher, first Bishop of Green Bay, on the I5th of that month. From
time the work of improvement went gradually forward; pews, bells,
vestments, interior decorations were added one by one to the common
until today St. Joseph's stands as well and fully equipped as any
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,
same being finished and ready for occupancy in 1874. The school was
in July of that year, and it was then placed in charge of Sisters of
Dame, who opened it for regular attendance during the following
This school has proved a blessing in many ways to the Church at Oconto,
where previously Catholic educational interests had been sadly
The Sisters of Notre Dame, however, enthused new life into the
and as a result since their establishment there the parochial school
its interests here became a factor of paramount importance to the
Two years prior to the completion of the school a bell weighing
hundred pounds was purchased and placed in the church tower. This of
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
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.
societies organized in the congregation there are the following:
of Our Lady for Young Ladies, organized in 1878; Catholic Knights of
1878; Catholic Knights of Wisconsin, 1885; Ancient Order of Hibernians,
1890; Catholic Order of Foresters, 1893, one hundred members; Altar
one hundred members; League of the Sacred Heart; Young Ladies'
eighty members. There are also some flourishing Sodalities for the
which were organized in 1894. In addition to these there is a Literary
Club, organized in 1896, with about sixty members, and a Ladies'
established at about the same time with forty members.
St. Joseph's Church
ST. JOSEPH CATHOLIC CHURCH
HAS FACE LIFT
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 pout 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
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 view
from middle pews.
Stained Glass windows at St.
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
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