The History of the Church of St. Martin

By James Kellen

Grass Roots Heritage


A century ago, and more, when some of our grandparents and great-grandparents were but teenagers and the land lay open and free, men and women, most of whom were married, and a few singles, settled the Coteaudes Prairies of Minnesota's far southwest corner. Where small towns, farmsteads, and decimated tree claims now make up this landscape, the settlers of the 1870's experienced an undulating prairie of little definition, save for the silhouette of the hills, the meandering streams, and the occasional slash of a ravine. As you stand amid this vast sea of grass, your heels sinking into the rich loess; a soft, scented breeze brushing your face; the scudding clouds overhead, visualize for a moment a dark speck on the far horizon to the east. As it moves nearer, you can make out a lone horseman cantering toward you. When he nears, he dismounts, and leads his horse to where you stand. This could have been blond-haired, 6 '2" Father Charles Koberl, resident pastor of St. Rose of Lima, Avoca, who had come to minister to the Catholics of the Woodstock area.

But we are ahead of our story: Father Koberl was a native of Austria where, presumably, he received his seminary training and ordination in March, 1869. Bishop John Ireland made a wise choice when, in 1878, he appointed this strong, dedicated, practical priest to Avoca. He had all the necessary ingredients for success on a new frontier, being a superb horseman and a gifted linguist.

Father Koberl ministered to numerous settlers in his extensive parish of Avoca, which stretched from Fairmont, Minn., to Flandreau, S.D. Some could be reached by rail line, the others, preferably by horseback, buggy being more tiring. In this age of no roads, the priests preferred to baptize the very young in their homes, and take Holy Communion to those too aged or infirm to get to church.

Concomitant with the arrival of Father Koberl was that of the settlers themselves. In late January, 1878, Michael O'Mahoney arrived from Olmstead County. In March, other families: E.W. Powers, N.J. Powers, John and Richard Shea, Pat and J.J. Hartigan, John and Walter McNallan (distant relatives of Father Hilary McNallan), and William Ryan all drove from Wabasha County. That spring, O'Mahoney and E. W. Powers were among the first to break sod. An interview with the latter stated: 'When he hauled his lumber from Luverne, there were no roads and he had to travel using maps and a compass, and on the way was one sod shanty where Edgerton is and a few near Luverne.'

There is no record of Father Koberl's Masses in Woodstock during 1878, but there were at least two baptisms: Frances and David Soules, Lowville, Murray County. If not a whole lot richer spiritually for the Catholics, the year of 1879 saw the organization of Burke Township. Worthy of mention here, was the terrible misfortune of John Wingle's loss of two horses within a week to lung fever. The first baptism in Burke Township was that of Briget O'Mahoney, September 9th. Because the village of Woodstock had been only recently platted and yet without any buildings, Mass had to be offered elsewhere, hence the celebration of it in late October, 1879, at the Post Office Hall, Pipestone.

The year 1880 was a mix of parish activity, joy and sorrow, and some spiritual growth. The M.D. Moriaritys lost an infant son in January. An item in the Pipestone County Star* mentioned that M.C. O'Mahoney was preparing to prove-up his government claim, one of the first in the county to do so. When Daniel Duggan moved to his farm southwest of Woodstock in April, he brought with him from St. Paul the best stock to be found in the county. Father Koberl offered Mass in Pipestone for the Catholics of the county on May 14th and again on June 20th, and didn't return until early October. It was well that he came when he did.

October 14th saw the beginning of the terrible winter which lasted until April 18, 1881. Shoveled out of one blizzard, another was in its wake. The temperatures dropped, trains did not run for weeks at a time (which meant no mail), fuel and food became scarce, and farmers did their chores by going through tunnels, some even entering through the roofs of their barns. In the midst of it, young P. Hartigan lost an arm in a threshing accident in late November and died a few days later. In January, 1881, the M.D. Moriaritys lost another infant, their second in as many years.

Father Koberl's next assignments were in St. Paul. His last years were at Sacred Heart parish which he established, going to his Maker on February 20, 1899.
*Hereafter referred to as the Star.


Father William John Keul was an Easterner, ordained at the early age of 28. His bishop evidently gave him permission to go west, where he was incardinated into the St. Paul Diocese. He had had previous assignments at Currie and Avoca before coming to Woodstock about October 1, 1881.

Catholicism was taking a sense of permanence and official status in Pipestone County in this era. It is evidenced by an item in the Star, January 12, 1882, which said:

'To the Catholics of Pipestone County.-Services will be held at the residence of W.H. Ryan, in the town of Burke, southeast corner section 14, on Friday, January 13th, and thereafter services will be held every Friday, or twice a month. Edgerton, Pipestone, and Woodstock are now one parish. By authority of Rev. Father Keul, Avoca.'

By mid March, 1882, a road was built from Pipestone to Woodstock. Now teams could move cords of stone, purchased from c.c. Doodnow's quarries to the site of the new and first Catholic church in Woodstock, the same site on which the church now stands. The number of cords, or the price ($2.50 @?) is not known. Josh L. O'Dell was possibly the stone mason, as he had done work in Woodstock in late April and early May, 1882.

Meanwhile, what could have been the first home wedding in the parish, occurred between William Ryan, Luverne, and Annie Clifford, Hatfield, at the residence of W.H. Ryan on January 13, 1882, Father Keul officiating. In mid June, Morris Moriarty had obtained a license to open a 'Gin mill' in Woodstock. The temperance society, known as St. Patrick Abstinence Society, had its hands full.

The parish continued to grow. There were the joys of births, contrasted by tragic deaths. M.D. Moriarty family lost three children in three years. The drama that unfolded at the Michael C. O'Mahoney home was probably the single, greatest tragedy to have happened to a family in the history of the parish: over a 10-day period in early September, 1883, they lost four children to the scourge of diphtheria. The names of those four children are uniquely engraved on the O'Mahoney tombstone in St. Martin cemetery. The oldest daughter, Kate, was spared. Yet, the grief of the family must have been profound beyond telling.

In mid October, the Catholic community of Woodstock, Pipestone, and Edgerton bid adieu to Father Keul, who, from an article in the Star, April 11, 1890, had some sort of serious problem, for it said:

'Fr. Wm. Keul, whom many of our older residents will remember as once having charge of the Catholic flock throughout this section, and who went to the bad and was fired by the church, is now said to be an Episcopal clergyman in Milwaukee'. This item has not been authenticated, but it is reason enough to believe that he repented and later, in 1900, became a Benedictine. In religion, he went by the name of Father Fidelis. He was known as 'Pop' to his confreres and 'Fiddlesticks' to his students. He taught history and English in a Newark, New Jersey, college until his death November 6, 1922. His remains rest in St. Mary Cemetery, East Orange, New Jersey


Father John Conway, who was born in Kilkenny, Ireland, was the first foreign priest to serve the Woodstock area. He received his training and was ordained at Maynooth, Ireland in 1878. He was a scholastic giant, ranking first in Moral Theology and Sacred Scripture, second in Dogmatic Theology, won a prize in church history, and pursued a course in advanced theological study.

Five years later, Father Conway arrived, first in the Diocese of St. Paul, then in the fall, at Avoca, to pick up where Father Keul left off. In late October, 1883, he offered Mass in the Woodstock school. On this occasion 'all Catholics of Woodstock and the surrounding district were requested to attend, as some most important business must be transacted.' The nature of the unstated, business was soon brought to light. One November 11, after Father had heard confessions and said Mass, the congregation met to consider means for a proposed new church. The next issue of the Star, November 15, stated:

'Woodstock is still on the "boom," The Catholic Society is getting ready to put up a church, 28 x 50 feet, 16 foot posts, which will be an ornament to our town. Perry and Eyland have the contract for furnishing the lumber. Ed Wilkins has the building contract, and will push the work along as fast as the weather permits.'

The parish was then incorporated as the 'Church of St. Martin of Woodstock, Minnesota.' The name was quite likely prompted by Bishop John Ireland as a remainder of his years in France, whose great apostle is St. Martin of Tours. The official articles of incorporation are dated, December 20, 1883, and bear the personal signatures of Bishop John Conway, Michael C. O’Mahoney and John Wingle (lay members). Thus, the first Catholic parish in Pipestone County was established.

Construction got underway in mid January, 1884. A temporary setback occurred when a stiff northwest wind blew down the raised frame of the church. Ed Wilkins and his crew had the structure ready for the first Mass, Tuesday at 10:30, June 17, 1884. More serious was the savage July storm that moved the building from its foundation. This did considerable damage. Later in July, 1884, Thomas Grace resigned as Bishop of the Diocese of St. Paul, to be replaced by John Ireland, his auxiliary.

Early October saw the beginning of a cemetery, formerly known as St. Bridget, but more about that later. In this era, the parish was growing and thriving, consisting of about forty families, many of Irish descent. To have Mass on one Sunday a month plus some weekday Masses was, at this time, considered a great accomplishment.

Residents were anxious for security of their homestead (Homestead Act, by President Lincoln, in 1862, granting ownership after five consecutive years, plus certain stated improvements). In February, 1884, Patrick Hartigan made such final proof. Father Conway saw need for the community to build or acquire a rectory.

In November of 1884, John and Rosanna O'Neill, with their nine children, moved to Woodstock from Canada. Two of these, Fannie and Francis, would later enter the religious life.

Father Conway was active in both the social and spiritual dimensions of his parishioners. He staged the first of the Church Fairs from December 28, 1884, to January 1, 1885. Supper was served each evening with amusement following. Shortly before his departure, he arranged a mission, to be conducted by Father Alex Doyle O.P.

It was time to say farewell to Father Conway. He returned to St. Paul, where he taught at St. Thomas Seminary, 1886-1887. In 1887, he organized and founded St. James parish, St. Paul. From 1889-1893, he was one of the priest editors of Northwestern Chronicle. During the next twenty-three years, he edited several Books and magazine articles, some controversial. Suspicion suggests that Father Conway took 'French Leave' of the priesthood. No record of his death or burial has been found.


Ah! but 'not to worry,' as the Irish were wont to say. Father Francis Patrick Kervick followed on the heels of Father Conway, and was to stay in Woodstock longer than any priest ever had, even to the present day, but it would always be as a missionary rather than a resident priest.

Father Kervick was born in Baltimore, Maryland, one of seven children in an impoverished family, two of whom would become priests, and two would become nuns. After ordination in London, he sailed to the United States in 1881. He served several mission assignments before coming to St. Martin in October, 1885. Avoca was the mother parish; Fulda, Pipestone, and Woodstock would be missions.

Father Kervick lost no time, and the parish entered into its first mortgage. It borrowed $300 at 100% interest from a parishioner, Daniel Duggan. As collateral for the loan, Duggan held a mortgage on lots 7 and 8, Block 15, and he demanded that the church be properly insured for $400.

To meet the social needs of his parishioners, Father Kervick followed the lead of his predecessor by having a 4-day fair that ended on Christmas eve, ending with a dance. Proceeds were $150.76, a generous amount.

In July, 1886, a puzzling item from the Star, under "Woodstock Whittlings" stated that the Woodstock church was plastered and ready for occupancy; hence the reason for the mortgage.

Tradition has it that the first church was never dedicated, but the facts speak for themselves. An article in the Star stated: "The new Catholic Church in Woodstock will be dedicated Sunday, August 22, 1887. Rev. F.P. Kervick will officiate." That the pastor should dedicate a church in a mission territory is not surprising, but what is curious is that a generous three and one-half weeks later, September 16, Bishop John Ireland, himself, administered the Sacrament of Confirmation to the Catholics of Woodstock and Pipestone in St. Martin newly plastered church. Was Father Kervick so impetuous that he could not have waited for the bishop to dedicate the church on the same occasion as the conferring of Confirmation?

During the winter of 1887, storms prevented Father Kervick from getting to Woodstock as often as scheduled. Three times he had been stranded, and he decided to stay close to Avoca. He resumed his schedule after Easter, but in the meantime, a number of Catholics from Edgerton had been put in his charge. Up to now, he could make his rounds by train: with Edgerton on his list, it meant horse and buggy. He sometimes offered Mass at Woodstock and Edgerton on the same Sunday.

Father Kervick experienced a real baptism of cold and snow with the famed blizzard of 1888, the blizzard the settlers used for marking events as happening either before or after that storm. The Sioux City Journal described that 12th day of January in these words: "By 3:00 p.m., the storm had reached a degree of severity to wipe out all former records, and yet the fury of the elements increased until 9:00, at which time, the storm resembled a raging, whirling, dashing tempest. The dreadful cold, with wind and snow, made it dangerous for people to be out of doors. The storm was absolute monarch of the highways." Loss of livestock was heavy. James Jackson lost the greater part of his pureblood herd. Jackson was the Scotsman who spent the greater part of his lifetime in the Woodstock area, and who in the early 40's, embraced Catholicism. His death occurred February 3, 1943, his burial in Woodlawn cemetery, Pipestone, Father Hilary McNallan in charge.

On occasion, Father Kervick staged a spiritual blitz. Dedicated to the Catholics in his charge, he went from place to place, day after day, tending his flock. One such schedule was thus: April 23, 1889, at the P. Kelley residence, Ellsborough Twp. (Murray Co.); April 24 at the Chris Hogan residence, Fountain Prairie; April 25 at the John Gilronan residence, Altoona; April 26 at the James Dixon residence, Sweet; April 27 at Pipestone, April 28 at Woodstock; and April 29 at Edgerton.

In September, 1889, Bishop Ireland visited southwestern Minnesota, and he spent a few days with Father Kervick at Avoca. No doubt the bishop wanted to inform the pastor of the contemplated changes for the Diocese of St. Paul. Of importance to the Catholic settlers of Pipestone County, was the division of the Diocese of St. Paul into the Dioceses of Duluth, St. Cloud, and Winona on November 2, 1889. A month later Joseph Bernard Cotter, native of Liverpool, England, was consecrated as the first bishop of Winona.

These were difficult times. Richard Atkins, a parishioner, remarked that the farmers in Wisconsin were as financially poor as were those in Woodstock. Proceeds from the Church Fair in 1890 were $51.71. Stormy weather and poor crops all lent to the financial difficulties at St. Martin.

Moving to Pipestone County would mean a change in administration for Father Kervick, but before going on, as a diversion, you may read an account of the cemetery.

St. Bridget Cemetery

On October 10, 1884, Michael C. and Hannah O'Mahoney deeded land from their farm to the Diocese of St. Paul for the parish cemetery.

Even before these four acres went on record as a cemetery, their earth cradled the dead of the parish, especially infants whose mortality rate was high in the 1870's and 1880's. And each to be sure, whether child or adult, had a unique history. While it would be of interest to pursue each of these individual histories, space does not allow; so we will sketch the lives of just two, the donors themselves.

Michael C. O'Mahoney was a native of Mallow (County Cork) Ireland. At age seventeen, he migrated to the United States, where in 1863 he married Hannah Mulvihill, also an Irish immigrant. To this union were born five children: Kate, Minnie, William, Bridget, and Matthew. During the Civil War, Mike served as a Marine engineer aboard the Monitor, that low iron clad vessel of war that battled the Merrimack. After the Civil War, they moved to Chicago where they resided until after the terrible fire of 1871. The O'Mahoneys sustained heavy personal losses, and Hannah suffered lung damage due to smoke inhalation. Seeking a climate with cleaner air they moved to Minnesota, eventually settling in Pipestone County. That spring, along with several other Irish settlers newly come, he broke sod for the first time in April.

Credited with being the first settler in Burke township, he was active in the organization of that township and served as its first board chairman. To feed an ever growing family, he combined farming with the running of a stage line between Woodstock and the county hub before the railroad extended to the latter. Acquainted with sorrow, the O'Mahoneys saw four of their five children go to the grave in September, 1883. Later that same year, he became one of the two lay trustees who signed the parish's original Articles of Incorporation.

In 1901 the O'Mahoneys sold out and moved to Pipestone. Following recurrence of lung problems, Hannah died in April, 1901. Michael was laid to rest next to his beloved Hannah October 11, 1921.

While there exists no extant document of which we are aware that makes reference to the idea that the cemetery might have been named in honor of St. Bridget, there are at least three obituaries, the first in 1887 and the last in 1912, that mention specifically St. Bridget as the name for the cemetery. Because the parish population was predominantly of Irish descent, it seems reasonable that the early parishioners might have referred to their burial ground as St. Bridget. That a church and its cemetery are given names that differ is common practice.

From a brief mention made in the Woodstock News for October 25, 1912, we learn of what appears to have been the first major physical attention given the cemetery:

"A large number of residents of the Woodstock Catholic Church went out to their burying ground last Monday and again on Wednesday, and put in days hauling gravel, building driveways and walks and in other ways improving the plot. It is a good work and the combined efforts of the large crowd made a wonderful improvement."

To further enhance the cemetery, the parish purchased an acre of land from Bertha Jordan in 1929 for $100. Attached to the south side of the original plat, this acre is frequently referred to as the 'new part,' where most of the burials have taken place in recent years.

Shortly after this transaction, the iron fence, posts, and gates were constructed along the east side.

Throughout the years there have been numerous attempts to beautify the grounds with flowers, shrubbery, new trees, and the mowing of the grass that Jim Kellen recalls doing in the second half of the '40's for $60 a season. Cutting it as many as ten times annually, it would take him six hours a time if he 'raced,' an hour or so more if done leisurely; but this has all been revolutionized by the volunteer mowing done since the 1970's.

In Father Brown's time, Richard and Stella Lingen used an electronic device to thoroughly scan the plat. They located more than 80 unmarked graves, giving the lie to the wag who wrote that, "The one thing that will stick up for a man when he is down is his tombstone." All information, such as names, dates, locations, and the like, were platted on a large chart by Stella and serves as the source from which decisions can be made for new grave locations, burials already made, and who owns which lots.

In the summer of 1982, volunteers continued their diligent work in improving the plat. With many to share the labor, fifty evergreens were planted replacing those lost to wind and drought over the years. The finishing touch was when, as a fitting memorial to the dead, a crucifix was placed by two evergreen trees.

The cross was made by Edward O'Hearn and the fiberglass corpus was painted by Marlene Staloch.

The death of Christ unites the death of everyone to eternal life with the Father. Both the crucifix and the trees symbolize everlasting life.

Public Awareness


Early in 1890, Father Kervick was transferred from Avoca to Pipestone. He would serve at St. Leo as their resident pastor and pastor-at-large for the remaining area of Pipestone County, Woodstock being his chief mission. There must have been considerable clamor in the county, Pipestone in particular, when Father Kervic arrived. To meet him at the Omaha railway station on Tuesday evening, March 11, 1890, were parishioners and townspeople, well-wishers, and members of the hot-stove league. Though it would be a full three weeks before he had his effects removed from Avoca and finally settled, his first residence was in the Nichols house near the Catholic church, Pipestone. It is reported that he retained the "servants who were in charge of his Avoca residence."

Wasting no time in his new assignment, Father announced that there would be no services that coming Sunday at St. Leo because there were no seats in the church. The following Sunday, however, Mass was offered at St. Martin; presumably, there were seats.

In the nineties and earlier, families of Luxembourgian ancestry began moving into the parish: to name a few; John Kellen, Sr., in about 1889; Nicholas Biever, Sr., in 1889; John George, Sr., in about 1889; and Henry Kellen, Sr.. in 1890.

The nineties were a period of good times and also financial panic, anti-Catholicism, muck raking, and political experimentation. Under the aegis of the Independent Party, Patrick Gildea. running against James Jackson, won a seat in the Minnesota Legislature in 1891. A native of Ireland, he settled and farmed in Cameron Township, Murray County, and attended church at St. Martin. What is of special interest, is that Gildea is the only parishioner with a Woodstock address to have ever served in the Minnesota Legislature.

It will be remembered that back in 1885, the parish had borrowed $300 payable in three years at 10% interest, due December 1, 1888. For some unaccountable reason, that mortgage was not satisfied until December 3, 1891. But it is well that it was paid when it was, for in 1893, there began the worst depression of the nineteenth century. With low prices and poor crops, building came to a halt; it was not until 1896 that things began to pick up.

Because of a severe flu epidemic, the Lenten fast for 1892 was suspended, except for Easter week. In May, a county-wide Dorcas Society was organized at the residence of Father Kervick. The avowed purpose of the society was to teach children and adults the art of sewing and to make free clothing available to the deserving poor. Dues were $. 50: a year, lessons were $.06 each, and the organization was open to anyone, regardless of nationality or creed. Mrs. Patrick Powers was to serve as secretary for the Woodstock divisional area.

That there was some of the entrepreneur in Father Kervick there was no doubt. In June of 1893, he obtained the food concession for the encampment of the Southwestern Minnesota G.A.R. (Grand Army of the Republic). In September, he served as poultry Superintendent at the Pipestone County Fair, a position he held for at least four years.

In March of 1894, the ugly spectra of anti-Catholicism reared its head when Father Kervick, (who wrote a letter of rebuttal that appeared in the Star) was accused of stockpiling arms and ammunition in his basement. On a happier note, he began keeping chickens in April, only to have them all stolen four years later. By early June, Patrick Hartigan had trapped, gassed out, or shot enough wolves in 1894 alone to have earned almost $200 in bounty money, quite likely the best cash crop he had that year. In late June, Mabel Maguire, who had received a certain amount of musical training at the parochial school, Elkton, S.D., organized a choir at St. Martin and became the first organist of which there is any record.

By 1895, the panic (depression to us) was deepening, and there occurred the first sheriff's sale of a non-Catholic Woodstockite. That people of the era took seriously the Sunday Law is typified by the celebrated case of Delaney vs. Cheatham. One Sunday in June, John Delaney, who had a high regard for keeping holy the Sabbath had an equal abhorrence of seeing it broken. One Sunday he caught John Cheatham at work in his field. On Monday, Delaney drove to Pipestone and swore out a warrant for Cheatham’s arrest. Two days later, Cheatham was arraigned in court, found guilty, and fined $16.90.

The panic had eased up considerably by 1896. Construction resumed, and the bicycle was becoming popular, both as a vehicle of pleasure and a means of transportation for the young at heart. But alas! In late June the Maguire family moved to Pipestone, the mother taking a position as telephone operator. St Martin lost its organist.

As we move a year closer to the twentieth century, we find that 1897 was a mix of the temporal and spiritual in the parish. In February, Father Kervick was called to Baltimore to be at his father's death bed. That June, a Miss Hagan, a cousin to P.H. Powers, became the pastor's new housekeeper. Rosanna O'Neill died in September, and her funeral was one of the largest seen by the parishioners at that time.

The parish literally ran on horse power during all of the nineteenth century and well into the twentieth. When one of these beasts of burden went lame, came down with glanders and had to be destroyed, or was stolen, it was a matter of inconvenience, hardship, and loss, as seen in this account: "Thieves entered the barn of John Kellen, Sr., Burke Township, on Saturday night and took there from a dark sorrel horse, with heavy mane and tail, rather on the light order, heavy foretoe, 5 years old, front feet white to fetlocks, white strip in face, low, heavy set animal, scar on right forearm caused by wire cut, large sore on right foreshoulder, small sore on left fore-shoulder. Cards giving a description of the stolen animal have been sent in all directioned today and it is hoped that the thief will be apprehended." Whether or not the thief was apprehended is not known, but the horse was of greater importance to the nineteenth century farmer than the tractor is to his twentieth century counterpart.

In mid-November, 1897, the church underwent some repair, but no account was recorded as to its nature, but well emphasized at the time was the first apostasy when James J. Hartigan married Bessie Young out of the church. Just after Christmas a special service was held with all the frills: early communion, song, blessing, and benediction.Loretta Riffel presided at the organ. A library was added with Mrs. James O'Neill in charge.

When Father Kervick made his numerous trips between Chandler and Edgerton, he often found it necessary to engage the services of young Guy Rokes, a non-Catholic, to transport him in his father's shiny new buggy. Pick-up spot was the Omaha depot. One such time Rokes drove him to the District 56 schoolhouse, often referred to as the Shields school, where Father Kervick offered Mass, which seems strange when the Catholics had their facility in Woodstock.

Father Kervick's Christmas of 1899, would be his last in the county. His official assignment ended on February 28, 1900, the last year of the nineteenth century. The secular press was strangely silent about his departure. Could the people of the county whom he had served so faithfully for fifteen years have dismissed him without a 'whooley' (Irish for party)?

Following several assignments, mainly in the east, Father Kervick was last encountered at the Trappist Monastery, Gethsemane, Kentucky, in November, 1913, where he was the "victim of partial paralysis from muscular rheumatism" and had been obliged to give up active work." At this point, for our purposes, he dropped out of sight.

Joseph Mangan, who was born in Ireland, must have experienced an early call to the priesthood. While not quite fifteen years of age, in 1889, he was admitted to the seminary, where he studied the classics for four years, then philosophy for two years. At the invitation of Bishop Cotter, he came to Minnesota in June, 1895. He studied theology at St. Paul Seminary, St. Paul, for four years. On May 27, 1899, not quite twenty-five years old, he was ordained at St. Paul Seminary, by Bishop James Trobec for the Diocese of Winona.

In March, 1900, Father Mangan had charge of St. Martin for four months, at the same time serving St. Leo, Pipestone. At the bishop's orders, presumably, the parish purchased lot 9, Block 15, the lot north of where the rectory now stands, from two different companies. The price was $13.50 to each company, the transaction taking place April 24, 1900.

But there is more: plans and specifications had been set up; bids had been let; the result? Evidently, that house never got built.  Instead, a house from somewhere in the countryside was moved in.  Nevertheless, eastern Pipestone county was ready for its first resident priest.

The first wedding to take place in St. Martin Church was that of John W. Delaney and Catherine Madigan on June 5, 1900, also a first of Father Mangan. Picture is the courtesy of Margaret (Delaney) Strum of Minneapolis.





Daniel John Lavery was a Wisconsin native. Encouraged by the powerful example of Samuel Augustine Mazzuchilli, whose cause at the Vatican, is now moving toward canonization, he entered St. Thomas College, St. Paul, studying the classics. Later, he studied philosophy and theology at the St. Paul Seminary. He and Father Mangan, of whom you are to read more, were ordained together on May 27, 1899, by Bishop James Trobec, for the Diocese of Winona.

St. Martin was Father Lavery's first pastorate. He was well accepted in the parish and was known for his 'friendliness, his hearty greetings, and laughter.' The exact date of his arrival can only be estimated as being about July 1, 1900.

Shortly after Father's coming, there occurred a two-day religious observance (a mission perhaps?) with the Woodstock band participating. On September 2, the baptism of Catherine Ann McMahon took place, which was to be the first entry in the baptismal register. On Sunday evening, September 15, the parish staged an ice cream social, complete with recitations, short speeches, and music by the Woodstock band.

While the parish got off to a 'Marching' start during Father Lavery's first six months, there were events worthy of mention which occurred in 1901. There was an outbreak of smallpox in early March which quarantined the Sullivans, parish members. In October, Father Lavery took over the mission of St. Ann, Slayton, to which he would minister the remainder of his time in Woodstock. Hence, many baptisms recorded in St. Martin register are actually Slaytonites.

In February, 1902, a smallpox epidemic struck Woodstock, and the entire city was under quarantine. Fortunately for Father Lavery, he was ministering at St. Ann, and he missed being grounded. Toward the year's end, November 21, the parish purchased lots 10-12, Block 15. Now the east half of block was owned by the parish. Trees were planted on this property, some of which still stand.

Sometime during 1902, before Father Lavery's departure, an addition was built to St. Martin rectory. Following other assignments, Father Lavery retired to Shullsburg, Wis. in 1952, where he died in 1953.

During the interlude of a year, St. Martin would revert to a mission status. The local and diocesan churches were busy. Besides his duties as resident priest at St. Leo, Pipestone, Father Mangan, to whom you have already been introduced, took temporary charge of St. Martin in late January, 1903. As the only priest in the county, he was busy about the spiritual affairs of the Catholics in Cazenovia, Edgerton, Jasper, Pipestone, Trosky, Ruthton, and Woodstock, with trips outside the county to Avoca, Flandreau, Elkton, or Slayton, if time permitted.

The diocesan church was busy at this time, too, as Bishop Cotter paid his first official visit to Slayton, in October, confirming twenty persons. Later in October, the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Help was organized at Kenneth, Rock County, under the laws of Minnesota.

During the past year, Father Mangan had baptized 15 persons and buried at least one person, Richard Atkins, known as Woodstock's 'millionaire.'


Mathias Graeve spent his youth in Westphalia, Germany. He entered St. Francis Seminary, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in about 1898. He completed four years of theology study at St. John's Abbey, Collegeville, Minn., where he was ordained on June II, 1903.

By 1904, there were several German families in the parish, who could not speak English; consequently, a German speaking priest came about periodically to hear confessions. With the coming of Father Mathias Graeve, this need was met, and considerable support was given to those members of the parish.

A new step for the parish was the organizing of a board of trustees. Early in 1904, six men were chosen by the people and approved by the bishop. Three were German speaking, and three were English. They were J.S. Malone, J.M. O'Neill, J.P. Ryan, John Demuth, William Colling, and A. Luken. The bishop designated J.M. O'Neill as secretary and William Colling as treasurer. Father Graeve was to act as proxy for the bishop. They were to serve two years and to meet quarterly. At about the same time, John Campbell and William Holdgrafer were appointed as Advisory Council.

Now the group was ready to move ahead. On May 26, 1904, a decision was made to "begin work on a choir loft at once." They also adopted by-laws for the parish.

The year 1904 made a record. There were 153 days with temperatures below freezing, making it the coldest year since records had been kept.

The year, 1905, saw the first Mongolian pheasants introduced to the state, not to be hunted until 1910. Prairie chickens were so numerous that market hunters bagged about 200 a day. For the first time, the modern hunting season as we know it, made it mandatory by August that all those hunting outside the county purchase a hunter's license. Of 38 licenses, 5 went to members of St. Martin.

Because of all good things have a way of coming to an end, so Father Graeve was moved to Lismore, in October, 1905. Other assignments were Johnsburg, Adams, and lastly, Lewiston, where he died on May 29, 1938.


Joseph Zahner was a native of Sackville, Wisconsin. His collegiate years were spent at St. Francis Seminary, Milwaukee, and then, curiously, he transferred to St. John University, Collegeville, for the year 1896-97. The next two years at St. Paul Seminary, he studied philosophy. For his theology, he attended St. Meinard Seminary, Indiana. He was ordained June 1, 1901, by Bishop Donoghue, a full six months before his twenty-fourth birthday.

Father Zahner arrived in Woodstock in late 1905. Friendly and talkative, a bit of a tease, he took up residence in the rectory located just north of the church. This pastor, who loved to hunt, kept six or eight dogs in the house, and each day he cooked cornmeal and meat scraps for them. It is believed that he was the first resident priest to have owned an automobile.

Hardly had the dust and rubble of the San Francisco earthquake and fire (April, 1905) settled when talk began about enlarging the existing church. On September 9, the pastor and trustees agreed to honor the bid of Florence George Sullivan, a local carpenter and member of St. Martin, in the amount of $3,978. He agreed to complete the work by December 1, 1906, except for the painting and building of the top portion of the belfry, which he would finish as soon as weather would permit. Incidental items about Sullivan you may enjoy: he was Emmet O'Neill's uncle; he was editor of the Woodstock News in 1907; he had the presence of mind to snap a picture of the church before altering its appearance, and for our purpose, its reproduction, as it appeared in the News, was used earlier in this reading; and his daughter, Mrs. Veronica Purcell (age eighty) lives in Utica, N.Y.

The expansion by Sullivan and his crew consisted of the transept and sanctuary at the west end and part of the belfry at the east end. Studio art glass windows were installed during construction. On June 1, 1907, the parish took possession of the enlarged church and paid Sullivan $3,050. This was short of the amount stated in the contract, and obviously, in late November, Sullivan brought suit against the parish. The defendants argued: contract not fulfilled; poor quality workmanship; and inferior grade materials had been used. In January, 1908, the case went to district court. Pipestone, and the twelve member male jury brought in a verdict in favor of Sullivan. He received an additional $743.82, which was less than the amount he had sought. The parish had asked for some work on the rectory at the same time of construction on the church, which accounted for the discrepancy. It was a no-win, no lose situation.

To add further to this trend of improvements and progress, a pipe organ was added. On September 7, 1907, the parish purchased lots 1-3 (Block 10) from Marie L. Bennett for $1,800, which included a two-story wood frame house that existed on those lots.

In addition to the previously mentioned lawsuit, there were other causes for sorrow: in a span of six months, the parish buried Willie Schraeder, a victim of typhoid pneumonia; in June, it was Michael Ryan, a chronic sufferer, resulting from whooping cough; and in August, it was twenty-year old Ed McMahon. Later in the summer, Chisholm (on the Mesabi Iron Range) burned to the ground, leaving six thousand homeless. The people of Pipestone County contributed money to their cause.

In late January, there occurred a two-day blizzard that paralleled the 'big storm' of 1888. But then as a requite, the parish, if not the county, swelled with pride when Father Francis O'Neill, a former member of St. Martin, offered his first Mass in St. Leo, Pipestone, on Sunday, July 4, 1909.

In the course of the same summer, St. Martin parochial school was constructed, and it was ready for occupancy in September. In the meantime, Father Zahner had vacated the rectory in favor of the house in Block 10, which for a time became the new rectory. To staff the school, the parish engaged three Sisters of St. Francis, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. They were 'comfortably settled in the former rectory,' which, as the News reported 'was fitted up for them.' Fifty eight children were enrolled, that number increasing to 72, when the older children finished the fall farm work. The figure recorded in the Official Catholic Directory, however, put the total enrollment at one hundred one.

The simple two classroom wood frame structure accommodated the younger children. The older children were housed in the church sacristy. Children in this group could have received a smattering of German among their other subjects. A third Sister acted as cook and housekeeper.

During the pleasant time of the year, the children who lived close, walked to school, while those who lived farther away drove a horse and buggy. These horses were put-up in any spare stall about the city. When cold weather set in, these distant children either returned to their respective rural schools or boarded in town. Three young girls siblings, Mary and Annie Kellen and their cousin Laura Feyereisen lived in the convent with the nuns. Upon seeing nuns for the first time, Annie fainted. After running for one year, the school closed at the end of May, 1910.

During the summer of 1910, grievances between pastor and some parishioners began to pop up. One family went so far as to sell out, crops still standing, and move away from the parish. Evidently these altercations were reported to Bishop Heffron, who paid Father Zahner an overnight visit in November. The bishop could have recognized some sort of mental, unrest, for he advised a month's rest. A natural sequence followed as Father Zahner was transferred from the parish. Could it have been that he, a Luxembourgian in descent, was experiencing a deeply seated nationality prejudice? Those who study history know that the native born Luxembourgians love the Germans as the Dutch love the sea.

Edgerton had been attached to St. Martin as a mission for most of the decade. This changed in December, 1918.

Father Zahner contracted influenza during the worldwide outbreak in late December, which developed into pneumonia. He met death at St. Elizabeth Hospital, Wabasha, on January 23, 1919. His funeral was held the next day-the authorities were desirous of interring quickly to check the spread of the disease. Remains lay in the cemetery at St. Joseph Orphanage, Wabasha.


St. Martin was reduced to mission status for the second time in a decade, due to the abrupt, unexplained departure of Father Zahner. During this gap, January through August, 1912, Father Mangan of St. Leo, Pipestone, was in charge. The J. F. Delaney family occupied the now empty rectory.

The spiritual affairs and material needs seemed to be moving smoothly under Father Mangan's administration. Mass was offered each Sunday at 10:30 a.m., and young people were preparing for first communion and confirmation. On Memorial Day, services were held at St. Martin, with Methodists and Presbyterians suspending theirs in this joint observance, also attended by five veterans of the War of the Rebellion, better known as the Civil War. In June, 29 children made their first communion. Concrete walks were laid about the church property in August.

Then tragedy struck the parish in rapid order. The John Ryan family lost a 3-year old daughter to diphtheria in late July, and for a time all church and social gatherings in the Woodstock area were forbidden until the danger passed. In August, Michael J. Giever died from appendicitis and in September, the Hugh Cullen family lost their two youngest to typhoid fever.

While sorrow hung over the community for a time, the parish returned to celebration that fall and on Thanksgiving Day staged an elaborate bazaar that netted the ladies $404. A traditional dinner was served at noon, a supper at 5:00 p.m., and at midnight, a second supper for the dancers who had just wound down. Meals were served in the Rock Rapids cream station, with the bazaar and dance in the opera (city) hall. The big item was the drawing that night for a hard-coal burning stove. The winner? Henry Giever.

Because Father Mangan had charge of three parishes, his responsibilities were many. Yet, he must have taken comfort when, on June 14, 1912, ninety-seven of his subjects were confirmed, the largest class in the history of the parish. Among them were many who bore family names, some of which are familiar. They were: Clarence Adams, Leo Adams, Nora Adams, Alton Bean. Henry Bennett, Mary Bennett, Mary Campbell, Clara Caulking, Mabel Caulking, Anthony Claseman, Frederick Conway, Anna Cullen, Elizabeth Cullen, John Cullen, Joseph Cullen, Mary Cullen, Francis Deick, Henry Deick, Lena Deick, Mary Deick, Raymond Delaney, Antone Demuth, Edward Demuth, Nicholas Demuth, Elizabeth Douty, Anna Fagen, Albert Feyereisen, Gabriel Feyereisen, Henry Feyereisen, Laura Feyereisen, William Feyereisen, Milo Flannery, Elizabeth George, John George, Josephine George, Nicholas George, Clara Giever, Francis Giles, John Giles, Mary Goeppel, Laura Grundler, John Grundler, Roy Grundler, Anna Hall, John Hall, Arthur Hendren, Ernest Hendren, Francis Hendren, Frederick Hendren, James Hendren, Nellie Hennessy, John Houselog, Louise Houselog, Joseph Houselog, Walter Houselog, Anna Kellen, Henry Kellen, Mary Kellen, Nicholas Kellen, John Kennard, Margaret Kennard Laura Kerby, Guy Kirsch, Leo Kirsch, Charles Malone, James Malone, John Malone, Vincent Malone, Anna Mandersheid, Lena Mandersheid, Mathew Mandersheid, Daniel Moriarity, John Moriarity, Frank Nothem, Hubert Nothem, Margaret Nothem, George Probst, Nicholar Probst, Paul Probst, Catherine Reiff, Erhart Reiff, Edward Ryan, James Ryan, Mathew Ryan, Nellie Ryan, Anna Schilling, Carl Schilling, Margaret Shea, Francis Shields, Laura Smith, Adolph Stepanek, Joseph Stepanek, Albert Tebben, Anna Tebben, Dora Tebben, and Anna Wingle.

With confirmation behind them, the parish welcomed in July the first of its six families of Dutch ancestry: the Henry Slingers, who bought a farm in Chanarambie Township; five who were to come later were, Ohlenkamp, Ossefoort, Spoelstra, Van Stelten, and Zant. That same month, Henry Kellen, Sr., bought his first automobile, a Jackson, rolled it, and never drove a car the rest of his life. In August, the farmers reaped a bumper grain crop, the best in the county to that time, and harvest hands in the vicinity received $2.50 to $3.00 per day and were hard to find at that price.

Rapport wasn’t all ‘peaching’ even though Father Mangan allowed the parish to have a St. Patrick Day dance during Lent, because he had told Winfred Bartlett, Pipestone, “If the Hennesseys don’t stop fighting among themselves, I am going to close up the parish." Undoubtedly, it was a relieved pastor who left St. Martin, but not before he offered the Mass of Christian Burial in August, for 12- year old Milo Flannery, the victim of a farm accident.


Twenty months had elapsed without a. resident pastor. Then, September, 1912, much to the imagined delight of the parishioners, Bishop Heffron appointed Father James Collins to St. Martin. One source stated that the people were soon to wonder how they had ever survived without a priest so very congenial and pleasant appearing. Another said that he was 'middle-aged, fleshy, and pompous.' Autocratic or not, Father Collins was to remain a full twenty two months.

The day-to-day business of the parish resumed. Much of the activity was marked by sorrow: Teddy O'Neill died of blood poisoning; Joseph Deick Jr. died of typhoid fever; Joseph Sr. followed him to the grave three months later; the grief stricken wife almost joined them shortly after, having contracted pneumonia.

There was a brighter vein. The parish was able to meet a payment to St. Mary College, Winona, for it was now fiscally sound. The school, being vacant at the time, was rented to Campbell as a residence. President Wilson authorized the observance of "Mother's Day," and it was semi-officially added to the calendar in 1914.

Father Collins knew a bit about medicine, and when young Edward Kellen languished on his bed of pain with polio, he 'doctored' him with pills. The lad took them and began to feel better.

Before departing in July, 1914, the maverick, Father Collins, had performed several baptisms and marriages. His name is listed in the Official Catholic Directory, Diocese of Winona, 1915.


James Donovan was born at Bandon (County Cork) Ireland. He studied the classics at St. Finbar, Cork, then transferred to St. Kiernan, Kilkenny to study philosophy. The assumption is that he sailed to United States in the summer of 1910, arriving in sufficient time to begin his study of theology at St. Paul Seminary, St. Paul until 1914. He was ordained by Bishop Heffron at St. Mary College, Winona, January 15, 1914, for the Diocese of Winona, after one short assignment, he assumed the spiritual yoke of St. Martin in July, 1914. He could not have conjectured that he would spend his pastorate equally between the world at peace and the world at war, for soon the world would be at war.

In stature, Father Donovan was a large, broad shouldered man of strength. He drove a high-back Model T; did some hunting with a re-bored muzzle gun; was somewhat stern in temperament, so the school-age children believed when he questioned them in the classroom. We also know that he was capable of dealing with trying questions, trading rebuttals when necessary, as he did when he told Elizabeth Holdgrafei , "If you go to heaven, I don't want to be there. You're too ornery." He counted among his closest friends the Henry Claseman family, who hosted him often.

Be that as it may, the parish was treated by a visit from Father Francis O'Neill in August, 1914. He celebrated Mass for his hometown friends whom he hadn't seen for nine years. In November, the parish put on its annual bazaar and fair in the opera hall.

The year 1915, saw considerable improvement in the physical plant. In January, a Mr. Winter of Worthington, installed a lighting system in both the church and the rectory. The Church exterior was painted, and in September, an excerpt stated that "a force of men are busy placing new metal walls in St. Martin Church." About this same time, the belfry underwent some roof repair. Henry Reiff, con-tractor, told his helpers, Sylvester Reiff and Gabriel Feyereisen, "Don't skimp on the nails." A new bell was installed in early December.

In early February, 1916, Michael Boland, a native of Ireland, Civil War veteran, and father-in-law of Roger Ryan, breathed his last. In late July, Father Donovan, L.A. Beck, and John Giever engaged in a "three-cornered moving stunt" that changed "the location of each." Bishop Heffron was recovering from his illness crises. In November, Father Cremin of the St. Paul Seminary lectured to the people in the city hall: his subject, "Is the Catholic Church at Home in the American Republic?" This was open to everyone, admission, $1.00. Some writer (Worthington Globe) stated: there was frost every month of the year.

If 1916 was important for no other reason, it was important to Lake Wilson: St. Mary Church was organized. Charter members numbered at least twenty persons, and they made their first purchase of property.

It goes without saying that the ladies of the parish planned, executed, and served many a meal at bazaars, funerals, weddings, and on other social occasions. Over the years, their work has contributed appreciably to alleviate the financial burden of operating a church. Crowds from the surrounding areas have come to Woodstock to enjoy the food and fellowship.

During the late teens, there were nationality clashes within the Catholic parishes; to name a few; St. Paul, Shakopee, Belle Plaine, Browerville, and Perham. Aside from the fact that some cities could support two or more churches, it seems that with a few it was more because of the peoples' desire to worship in a facility of their own to avoid language problems or cultural differences. Already St. Martin had three 'camps,' but the people had the common sense not to press for separating and splitting the parish.

In 1917, the Thomas Noterman family gave up their meat-market business in Shakopee and detrained to Woodstock. Their first impression was very negative, but stay they did. Now St. Martin had four families with Belgian roots, the others were: Cauwels, Steels, and Van Heftes. In July, Margaret Shea, a local teacher and long-time church organist, moved to Pipestone. In September, the parochial school reopened.

The United States was now involved in World War l. St. Martin furnished its fair share of men during that twenty-month involvement from April, 1917 to November, 1918. One parishioner, William Tebben, remarked before leaving, "I'll be back in a box." Those words were prophetic, for he died a short time later of influenza. Doubly sad his brother Bert died (same cause) a month later. By December of that year, there were at least one-hundred cases in the Woodstock area. The scourge was worldwide, with twenty million persons having died with it.

The war brought tension among citizens, aliens, or others who might be termed Pro-German sympathizers. One such incident involved a parishioner, John Giever, who came to his place of business one March morning and found his store front windows smeared with yellow paint. The south side of the building was painted with "Pro German" in 4-foot letters. Said one citizen, "John has refused to give to the Red Cross or anything patriotic, so he had it coming." In any event, Giever's name appeared on the Loyalty League membership roll in July.

In January, 1919, Cecilia Shields matriculated at St. Gabriel Convent High School, Fulda, where she had the advantage of taking piano lessons. This talent she pursued further at St. Theresa College, Winona. Thus the stage was set whereby she became the church's organist, a position she filled so faithfully and expertly for about twenty-three years.

Because of the post war let-down and reduced markets, the country entered the 1920 Panic that lasted until 1922. This did not deter commerce locally. In February, 1920, Father Donovan purchased from Margaret Malone lots 3 and 4, Block 16, including the house on it, for $2000. The house on these two lots was moved and became the home in which Arild and Isabelle Clausen now live. The house that stood on lots 1-3, Block 10, was moved to the vacated lots in Block 16. This home then served as the rectory until Father Hennekes moved across the street to the house vacated by the sisters in 1928. Because of this purchase and whatever other bills were unpaid, the parish borrowed $6000 from the Chicago Title and Trust Co. in August, 1921, at 7% interest, payable in 10 years. The mortgage was fully satisfied in 1928.

Father Donovan left Woodstock in late 1922, but not before the parish had contributed $60 to each of the Orphan's and Seminary collections. He went to his eternal reward on April 3, 1945. He was buried at Calvary Cemetery, Austin.



Father Thomas Patrick Doyle was a native of Ireland, where he received most of his education. He crossed to the United States in the summer of 1919. He entered St. Paul Seminary, St. Paul, to complete his study as a theologian in June, 1921. On the 21st of June, he was ordained by Bishop P.R. Heffron of Winona at St. Mary's College for the Diocese of Winona.

Father Doyle spent a brief period as an assistant at Caledonia and Rochester, arriving in Woodstock in December, 1922. Relaxed and outgoing, this 24-year old pastor was a boon for the youth. While he loved to hunt (he was a poor shot), his love for baseball endeared him to the young. Wherever Woodstock played, the new priest would accompany the team as one of its most loyal fans. At world series time, especially if George Piepgras*, nicknamed the 'Great Dane,' pitched for the New York Yankees, Father Doyle would invite the parochial school boys to the rectory to listen to the games.

*The Piepgras family lived 3 miles east and 1/2 mile north of Woodstock.

Hardly here a month, it was reported in January, 1923, that the new pastor had cancer. He received treatment in Rochester, and it turned out to be only an infected tooth.

An economic upswing was in evidence, when in 1924, the First National Bank of Woodstock had a surplus capital of $30,000 and was loaning to good farmers at 5% interest. Because the need for recreation and socializing were ever with us, and because the people wanted to splurge, the parishioners staged a two-day celebration. On the evening of November 26, 1924, the parochial children put on a program. The next day, there was a dinner in the city hall. A highlight of the occasion was the donation of a registered Holstein bull calf by St. Mary's College, Winona, to be raffled. Were you the winner?

Today, we take modern communication for granted. To the John Schneider family, their first radio was a big event. Did they listen to KSOO? In August, young Harold Schneider suffered a painful accident when he was entangled in a hay loader.

From January, 1920, until its repeal in 1933, the Eighteenth Amendment proved a failure to legislate the consumption of intoxicating liquors. During this time, there were at least two Catholic parties engaged in either the manufacture or the sale of 'hooch,' which not only was illegal, but was also sometimes disastrous, as was the case with at least one person, who died of moonshine poisoning in 1926.

In the spring of 1927, Father Doyle had the ground north of the parochial school prepared for a clay tennis court, using a mixture of blue and yellow clays. A club was formed, with Ted Kockelman as vice-president and Cecilia Shields as treasurer. Who was president?

This fun-loving pastor's last year in the parish, 1928, was marked with at least three unhappy experiences. Dorothy Quam was severely burned with wood alcohol that spilled on her clothing and ignited as she approached the kitchen stove. Mr. Quam also received burns on his hands and arms when he tried to smother the flames with a blanket. In August, the parish borrowed $5,000 at 5% interest from Costello Co., Sioux Falls, to take care of debts that accrued over the years. The half-block on which the church and rectory now stand was mortgaged for that purpose. Lastly, he had tried to keep the school open, but to no avail.

Father Doyle had several assignments after having left St. Martin in September, 1928. His last appointment was Chaplain at St. James Nursing Home, St. James, where he died on January 4, 1959, with burial at that place.

School Revisited

In September, 1917, after standing empty for seven years, the parochial school reopened. A battery of three nuns, Sisters of St. Francis, Rochester conducted the school and convent. In return for their services, they were paid a total of $400 for nine months. They netted an additional $135.35 from music lessons, organist's salary, and laundry and altar services. In comparison to their counterparts in the local public school, District 33, these nuns had worked for a mere pittance. In truth, one teacher was paid almost as much as the three nuns combined.

During the next 11-year period, the enrollment for the eight grades fluctuated from 75 students in 1917-18 to a low of 50 for 1922-23. There was a tuition charge of about $1.50 to $2.00 per month per student, which also fluctuated when the farm children returned to their respective rural schools in winter.

Following is an edited version of a typical student's experiences at St. Martin parochial school, that of Marcella (Noterman) Shaefer:

"I was a happy first grader when I started school. Walking up about ten steps, I saw the strong rope used to ring the big bell in the belfry of the anteroom. Beyond that was a cloakroom, leading to two classrooms. Windows were on the north and south walls, with blackboards, a teacher's desk, single desks, a cabinet with maps, globe, and a crucifix in each room. An ell on the west end of the north room housed the chapel, with doors that opened for daily Mass.

"My brothers and I drove Babe and a buggy three miles to school. The horse was kept in Kellen's barn during the day, and we walked about six blocks from there to school. We made sure that we were on time for the 8:00 A.M. Mass throughout the years. The boys served as soon as they learned their prayers. Oh, how I envied them. We all participated fully, using a leaflet. I used to get 'goose bumps' singing 'Dies irea, dies illa.'"

"At St. Martin, we learned the 4 R's: Reading, 'Rith¬metic, 'Riting, and Religion, beginning with grade one. Classes began immediately after Mass. We recited the 'Morning Offering,' at noon the' Angelus,' and before dismissal, we prayed the 'Hail Holy Queen,' or said an 'Act of Contrition.' Sister Aloysia told us that we got our Faith from our parents, they from their parents, thus handed down, unwritten."

"In Grade 2, we made our first Confession which must precede our first Communion. Those who had been absent a lot had to be instructed by Father Donovan. We received First Holy Communion in a body - boys in dark trousers, white shirts, and ties - girls in white dresses and veils. We were enrolled in the Brown Scapular. Our greatest caution (our parents also) was no food or drink from midnight through the 8:00 a.m. Mass. The third or fourth graders received their Solemn Holy Communion."

"Sister Eulalia, in Grade 4, combined our Bible stories into a nutshell when she taught us how to pray the rosary-Mary's Prayer. She told us to think about the mysteries when we prayed this most powerful prayer. During Lent, we recited the Rosary, taking turns with a decade."

"We studied the saints, and naturally St. Martin was the first, followed by one’s patron saint and how each had earned sainthood.  Certain holy days and saints' days meant a day free of school, especially St. Patrick's day, even though we weren't told about it until after Mass."

"One might think that the other three R's were neglected. Not so. In 5th and 6th grades, we had races in addition and problems in long division that covered the entire blackboard. Spelling bees were popular, a holy card for the winner. Fourth graders knew the 48 states and their capitals."

"A handkerchief was a must for everyone. If anyone needed one and was without it, he or she got special treatment with a belt behind closed doors."

"One day, someone discovered that Sister had hair. The news spread fast, and one by one, each of us found an excuse to go up to her desk. Sure enough, hair escaped from the covering by her ear. Until then I thought nuns were creatures from another world."

"In Grade 5, we graduated into the south room. Sister Magdalen made learning fractions such fun. We brought apples to school and cut them-the best part, we could eat them or trade them."

"The history and geography of Minnesota were surprising. You mean there are other people around? Indians at Pipestone making pipes from stone in their quarry? We studied and recited 'Hiawatha.' Sister Arcadia taught 6th grade. She really made history and geography come alive. We also had Palmer Method booklets, which, if done correctly, earned for us a certificate of merit."

"During September and October, the 6th, 7th and 8th graders came from the country to study in preparation for the Sacrament of Confirmation. Father Doyle was the instructor. Part of our study was Bible and Tradition, besides Advanced Catechism by Rev. O'Brien. Father Doyle was a fun-loving priest, but he thought it strange that children knew so much about other things and not about religion, as if-let the Sisters do that! He enjoyed having J .S. recite the 7 capital sins. Rattling them off, ending with sloth, J. would slump into his seat, and Father would roar! He also delighted in catching us off guard and asking, 'What was the Sunday sermon about?'"

"Aside from having fun, Father Doyle spent a great deal of time teaching the value of the Mass. What is a Mass? The Mass is the perfect act of worship: a sacrifice of adoration, thanksgiving, petition and contrition. Are we at Mass as a sort of duty, and nothing more? Is there no joy, no loving Him more?"

"Our 'day' arrived in early November, cold, gray, and windy. We were in line for our march to church when Father told us, 'The bishop won't have time to question you.' That announcement equaled that of hearing that we had passed our State Board Exams in our other subjects! Way back when, State Board tests were given to 6th graders in Spelling, Hygiene, and Citizenship; 7th grade, in Geography; and 8th grade, in 'rithmetic, History, and Grammar, all given at the Public school in Woodstock."

"We had our fun days. At Halloween, we bobbed for apples; Thanksgiving, programs depicting the Pilgrims, with Irish jig; and Christmas, Santa and all the goodies."

"In Grade 7, Sister Kevin taught percentages and measurements, such as how much carpet or wallpaper a room would require. She occasionally called on me to take charge of the room. I was then taunted with, 'Sister's pet.' Sister James, who replaced Sister Kevin because of illness, was very strict and stern. Her brown eyes snapped. We just knew that she had eyes in the back of her head, and that she could hear a pin drop."

"If we were lucky and passed all the exams, our grade school days were over. Why had it gone so fast? Why, after learning so much did I know so little? After the sad feeling of separating had drifted away, I decided that there would be days even greater than those in the past at St. Martin!"

To accommodate the needs of the parish, the Rochester Franciscans sent three or four nuns a year to staff the school and convent, one of whom usually taught music. Below is the best record available listing those who served:


Sr. M. Cyprian-Superior; Sr. M. Valeria II; Sr. M. Wilhelmina, organist


Sr. M. Arsenia II-Superior; Sr. M. Valeria II; Sr. M. Wilhelmina


Sr. M. Cyprian-Superior; Sr. M. Georgine; Sr. M. Valeria II-1st semester; Sr. M. Wilhelmina; Sr. M. Clement-2nd semester


Sr. M. Pauline I-Superior; Sr. M. Aloysia II; Sr. M. Damian-2nd semester


Sr. M. Aloysia II-Superior; Sr. M. Michael I; Sr. M. Ladislas


Sr. M. Eulalia-Superior; Sr. M. Georgine; Sr. M. Delphine I


Sr. M. Magdalen-Superior; Sr. M. Seraphica; Sr. M. Brendan


Sr. M. Ladislas-Superior; Sr. M. Kilian; Sr. M. Adrian, organist


Sr. M. Kevin-Superior-1st semester; Sr. M. James-Superior-2nd semester; Sr. M. Vincent; Sr. M. Adrian


Sr. M. James-Superior; Sr. M. Kilian; Sr. M. Brendan


Sr. M. James-Superior; Sr. M. Kilian-to February; Sr. M. Brendan

Beginning with the 1922-1923 school year, the nuns expressed their antipathy toward the school and convent. To make the convent a bit more habitable and to make the nuns happier, Father Doyle had running water and a bathroom installed during the summer months. These improvements assuaged the situation temporarily. In 1928, the Rochester Mother House informed Father Doyle, to wit:

"Owing to the very limited attendance at Saint Martin School and to the poor school building and poor equipment of the same, we are withdrawing our Sisters from Woodstock until such a time these present conditions can be remedied."

Lacking sufficient financial support from a scanty enrollment, the parishioners had no defense. Thus the school that had instructed many dozens of children closed in the spring of 1928, never to reopen.

Years of Sacrifice

"Pastors like generals just fade away", wrote Msgr. J. Stanley Hale. And, until recently, that seemed the case with Father John Lawrence O'Connor, who came to Woodstock in October, 1928. His homeland was Eagle Centre, Iowa. Scranton, Pennsylvania, seems to have been his center of learning, having been ordained there in 1906, as a Passionist Missionary priest. He entered the Diocese of Winona under Bishop Heffron in 1912, evidently severing his ties with the Passionists and becoming a secular priest at that time.

Msgr. Hale, now in retirement in Worthington, knew Father O'Connor in his early years when he (Father O'Connor) was assistant pastor at St. John, Rochester, in 1914. From another source: "In August, 1916, Father J. Lawrence O'Connor came to Worthington as pastor. He was an excellent orator and was in demand as a public speaker, especially during the fund raising campaigns of the First World War." Before his coming to Woodstock, he already had ten year service behind him as a State Chaplain to the National Guard. He received his discharge from the Chaplain's Corps in May, 1933.

Though Father O'Connor was a good entertainer, he did not mix well with the people, and his tenure at Woodstock is marked by little activity beyond that of a normal ministry. There were things, however, of an engaging nature that transpired during this time. In March, 1929, Woodstockites shoveled snow for the Omaha Railroad, it being almost to the eaves of the coaches. Attesting to his ever popular appeal as an orator, Father O'Connor gave the Memorial Day address at Pipestone that year. The parish purchased an additional acre for the cemetery on September 20, 1929, about which you probably have already read. You may wish to refer to that section.

According to the Federal census of 1930, Woodstock's population was recorded as 277 persons. That the city's population was down, was due partly because a number of farms were no longer within the city's corporate limits. Because of a severe drought in the upper Mississippi valley, the farmers were hard pressed, and there was a noticeable shift of rural to urban population in all areas of the upper Midwest. The general economic health of the nation was in trouble. Later in 1930, Father O'Connor took part in the Eucharistic Congress in Omaha, Nebraska. In October, N.J. Biever foiled the would-be-attempt of a robber at 1:00 a.m. Firing four shots to frighten him into submission, the noise aroused several townspeople who soon apprehended him. He was dully handcuffed and turned over to Sheriff Shepherd. In the same month, Bishop Kelly confirmed 60 persons.

Rumor had it that in February, 1931, Highway 47 (now 30) would be graveled in the summer. Again N.J. Biever came to the force, this time to encourage the State Highway Department to run the road through Woodstock. The State argued, and rightly, that the road would be longer and two overpasses would have to be built. The decision left Woodstock off that main route.

Even though Father O'Connor observed his 25th anniversary to the priesthood while in Woodstock, there is no record of any special event in his honor. Early in November, 1931, the parish sold lots 1 and 2, block 10, to Henry Ressmeyer for $1.00 and other considerations; at the same time, selling lot 3, block 19, to John L. Demuth for $1.00 and other considerations.

The spiritual concerns of the parishioners were not left unattended. In November, 1931, during a very rainy period, a mission that ran from Sunday evening to Friday evening was conducted by Father Stanton. During the school year, Father O'Connor taught religion to the children, and, though he got off the subject when talking with them, his gift with words was evident.

Early in 1932, Father O'Connor was experiencing some sort of mental or physical difficulty. There were conflicting reports in the secular press; was he hospitalized at a Rochester hospital in serious condition? Was he at a sanatorium in Milwaukee, Wisconsin? In the Official Catholic Directory, he is listed as being on leave of absence from the Diocese of Winona. In 1936, he was welcomed into the Diocese of Portland, Oregon, as a retired priest, by a sympathetic Iowan, Bishop Howard. Father O'Connor died there in March, 1944.

In early June, 1932, the parish came home to roost, so to speak, under the wings of St. Rose of Lima, its 'mother' of forty-two years earlier. Father Kearney, a native of Ireland and the pastor at Avoca since 1925, was born August 20, 1888. He stepped in to pick up after Father O'Connor's departure, and he served St. Martin until the early part of October, 1932. Though the parish experienced a temporary mission status during this time, God was at work: there were three baptisms and one marriage.




The terrible thing about the Great Depression was that it threw so many people out of work. And in the depths of it, there came Father Anthony Hennekes, driving his Essex.

Father Hennekes was a native of Petersburg, Iowa. He spent his collegiate years and his years of theology and philosophy at St. Meinard's in Indiana between 1898-1906. In May, 1906, he was ordained by Bishop Cotter for the Diocese of Winona at Adrian. After several assignments, he arrived in Woodstock on October 10, 1932.

The newly appointed Father Hennekes lost no time in getting affairs into motion, for on that very day, he and the parish trustees met and decided to rebuilt the house just north of the church; both houses were in need of repair at the time. That in itself might have been enough to sour his sentiments toward the parish, for he did not like Woodstock. From the 'old school' and 'old fashioned' in his ways, Father Hennekes was small in stature and not particularly strong. His legs bothered him as he would often be seen in a chair, hoeing in his garden.

Considering the financially difficult time, Father Hennekes did some remarkable things for the parish. Each Sunday, vespers were sung in Latin by the choir, and if his sharp eyes missed any choir members in the gallery, they heard about it in the confessional. For one young lass, her penance was - 'attend the next vespers.' During his four year tenure, Father Hennekes dedicated each home to the Sacred Heart. Instructed beforehand, occupants of the place of visit were to meet the pastor at the door with a lighted candle and the greeting: "Praise be Jesus Christ."

Nineteen hundred thirty-three also saw low prices. Shelled corn was worth 7¢ a bushel-not enough to make it worth trucking to market. Several parishioners were burning corn for fuel rather than spending money for coal that they could ill afford, but also because good quality coal was scarce. To conserve the parish's meager resources, Father Hennekes resorted to crowding the parishioners into the sacristy for the early Sunday Mass, much to the dislike of the people, 'rather than to spend money on fuel to heat the church so early in the morning.

Father Hennekes was with the parish just a bit over six months when he and the trustees entered into an agreement, thus: "for the parish livery, the pastor furnish the car and the parish to furnish the gas, oil, and upkeep." From February through December, 1933, the full expenses were $46.83.

The years 1933 and 1934 were ones during which the parish had difficulty making ends meet. Father Hennekes received $929.52 per year. Catechism had always been taught in the church, and in late December, 1934, through March, 1935, the parish rented, at $1 per month, the old Dr. Doms office building for this purpose. It is not known how long this arrangement continued.

In 1935, activity within the parish stepped up somewhat, though the pastor's salary was a bit less, $815.77. In March of that year, a parish guide was printed by the Woodstock News and distributed to the parishioners. One item in it is worthy of mention: 'Not to be in an ecstatic condition of devotion when the contribution box approaches.' Is this advice for Catholics everywhere? Because of the financial status of the parish, it was necessary to borrow $4,500 from the Merchants Bank, Winona, to cover all debts. The financial juggling continued. In December, 1935, the pastor asked for and received permission to sell the old parish house and lots 3 and 4 in block 16, the proceeds of which were turned over to the First National Bank, Woodstock, to meet a debt obligation.

While Father Hennekes was attending the Eucharistic Congress in Cleveland, in October, the church was redecorated, work having been done by F.H. Luchter , Milford, Iowa, with Lawrence DeMuth, a parishioner assisting. At this time, side altars were added. To spare the expense to the parish, the pastor, out of gratitude to God for returning him to better health, paid the entire bill. Despite the extreme financial difficulty of the parish, $40.00 was sent to the Clerical Relief Association.

In 1936, despite the economically hard times, the parish was able to remit $112.50 to the Merchants Bank on its semi-annual interest payment. The first two months of the year recorded at least 29 consecutive days when the temperature never rose above zero. Snow drifts matched the intense cold. During one such episode in February, men spent all one night and part of the following day shoveling out the Omaha train at Woodstock. School children froze their ears and noses. Snow in February measured twenty inches.

About the same time, the parish minutes stated: "It was decided that Father Hennekes would pay the current bills and be reimbursed later." To tell the truth, that wasn't a decision; it was a must. The parish was broke!

Yet the parish continued. In April, there was a mission, given by Father Titus Hugger (love that name). At the end of August, Father Hennekes paid the bills. In September, he preached his farewell sermon, leaving Woodstock for Dundee. Eventually he moved to Phoenix for his health. He died April 24, 1950, and is buried in Phoenix. It is not known whether or not he had received a salary for the year 1936.


Edward Scheuring was born at Iona, Minnesota, the second eldest of six children. After his grade and high school training there, he entered St. Mary's College, Winona. In September, 1926, he en-rolled at the St. Paul Seminary, St. Paul, and was ordained in June, 1930, at the St. Paul Cathedral by Archbishop Austin Dowling for the Diocese of Winona.

Father Scheuring, the first diocesan born priest to serve St. Martin, arrived in Woodstock in September, 1936, and immediately set to work. During his four years in the parish, the emphasis was on the youth. In late December, he called this age group together and formed a local unit of the CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) for religious, ethical, educational, and social formation of youth. Elected for the year 1937 were the following: Francis Schneider, President, Cecilia Shields, Vice President; Lela Nece, Secretary; and Raymond Biever, Treasurer. Meetings were held the first Thursday of each month with business and social a part of each program. Wasting no time, the new unit staged a Christmas Holiday party (December 29) in the city hall. Lenora ('Tiss') Kellen, Ted Ossefoort, Lawrence DeMuth, and Marcella Noterman made the dance arrangements; Alice O'Hearn, Vincent Powers, Laura Markl, and Dorothy Quam had charge of card playing; and Florence Markl, Harriet Schneider, Rose Giever, and Rose Kellen worked on the lunch details.

An enthusiastic sportsman, Father Scheuring constructed and supervised the Woodstock community skating and hockey rink in January, 1937, located just north of the parochial school. A gang plank was laid to the south room entrance of the school to provide the luxury of a 'warming house.' It is believed to have been the first such rink ever built in Woodstock, all the more remarkable because water had to be hauled from Rock River, three miles distant. Hardly had the ice thawed when in April, work began on the construction of a tennis court on the same site. Like the skating rink, the facility was open to the public. The project was in charge of the CYO Athletic Committee, which also sponsored a boxing card (coached by Jack Biever) with the following taking part: Eddie Amundson and Virgil Goblirsch; Melvin Kirsch and Dick Baack; Arnold Walgrave and Bernard Flannery; Eli Walgrave and Marvin Cahill; Norman Melcher and Lorne Weston; Cody Baack and John Trigg; and Don Daniels and Leroy Kirsch.

Not all of 1937 was given over to the attention of the youth in the parish. CCD (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine) and Propagation of the Faith were added as societies in which all might partake. The success of these as societies was due in no small part to the efforts of the pastor.

Continuing our chronology, in January, 1938, the NYA Recreational Project began sponsoring entertainment each Friday evening in the city hall. Every Tuesday evening the children were invited to the parochial schoolrooms for table tennis or boxing. That March, the CYO presented the first of its three plays, "The Spite Fence." Walz and Walz loaned furniture for the set. By now, the parish activities had expanded so much that more space was needed; hence, on May 9, the parish acquired lots 6-7 (block 14) from the State of Minnesota and lots 8-9 of the same block from Peter and Agnes Daniels for $1 and other good and valuable considerations. This new area was used for a soft ball diamond and for many years was the only playing field in the city, other than the school grounds. On Memorial Day, Father Scheuring gave the address in the city hall. In September, this pastor who was known for his speedy driving, except when on horseback, met with a serious, almost fatal, accident that kept him hospitalized in McKennan's, Sioux Falls for quite some time.

While havoc and fascism were pervading all of Europe in 1939, the CYO unit was moving ahead with success. There was an exchange of playing host to other units in the area. When the group took a short trip, the local public school bus driver, Edward Amundson, was engaged to transport them. In March, the second of its plays, "Family Upstairs," was presented. Playing in this were: Helen Quam, Ed Slinger, Laura Markl, Ed Schneider, Alvin Melcher, Walter Powers, Eileen Melcher, Maxine Markl, and Dorothy Daniels.

As if there was a cause to compensate, there was a burst of activity in 1940 that eclipsed any of the previous years. In February, the CYO canvassed the entire parish in an effort to persuade the parishioners to subscribe to Our Sunday Visitor, the Register or the Sacred Heart Messenger. Pausing just long enough to catch their collective breaths, they staged their third play, "Excuse My Dust," in March. The group traveled to McKennan's, Sioux Falls, where it gave one presentation of the play, and again on a 6-day trip to the Black Hills in June, the group presented their play at Kadoka and Custer, South Dakota. Actors were: back row, Elizabeth Schneider, Lewis DeMuth, Ed Slinger, Eileen Demuth. Front row: Nick Kellen, Ed Schneider, and Irene Engbarth. For most of the young people who made the trip, it was the longest distance and lengthiest time they had ever been away from home. Ed Amundson provided the transportation. Later in June, William Krell, Jr. and Bernard Flannery went off to CCC (Civil Conservation Camp) at Lewiston. During this time a four-week summer catechetical course came to a close for sixty-two children, an annual event. In August, Father Scheuring took Laura Markl, Ed Schneider, and Eileen Demuth to Summer School of Catholic Action, Chicago, Illinois, for a week-long exposure to the trappings of religion, youth, and fun.

In September, 1940, Father Scheuring delivered his farewell sermon and left on Friday of that week for his new assignment, Ellsworth. He served successively at Lismore, Easton, Fulda, and Brewster, from which he retired in June, 1978. Presently, he resides in lona, the source of his earthly roots, yet close to Woodstock. His frequent visits are appreciated.

Theater of Action


Hilary McNallan grew up amid the beautiful hill Country of Wabasha County, at Conception, Minnesota. His preparation for the priesthood was taken at St. Paul Seminary, St. Paul. He was ordained in June, 1934, at St. Joseph Church, Owatonna, by Bishop Kelly. He had only two assignments before coming to St. Martin in 1940, his first parish. Because of an illness for which he had been hospitalized, he assumed his post in a recuperative state. Upon meeting him for time, that which endeared him to his new parishioners was the unusual manner that triggered his laughter. When his funny bone was tickled, he went into a semi-bowling-like crouch, bent his left leg up and slightly forward, and simultaneously brought down his right hand to slap his left knee. The better the story, the longer one kept the new pastor in a doubled up position. But enough of this teasing.

No one could have known that the decade of the '40's would be divided about equally between war time and peace. Europe had already been at war since 1939, thanks to Hitler and his ilk. Father McNallan's peaceful beginning soon changed with the draft mandate. Equally disturbing was the terrible blizzard of November 9-11, which brought rain, snow, and bitter cold. Livestock, poultry, and about three fourths of the pheasant population were left dead in its wake. Rounding out the remainder of the year, the church held a bazaar in the city hall on November 19, 1940.

The next sixteen months were a mixture of parish business and war preparation, which will be treated in order. Pre-Lenten weeks of the late thirties into the forties witnessed to Friday evening card parties. In March, the CYO staged You're the Doctor, at least their fourth home talent play. On June 22-26, the pastor and many of the parishioners attended the Ninth Eucharistic Congress on the Minnesota State Fair Grounds, St. Paul. The weather for the event was bad. During the last day, Sunday, it rained hard, and everyone was drenched. A new fabric called ratine at this time was a favorite with women because it was wrinkle free, but it had a bad characteristic also. Under the hot sun, which came just before Benediction, skirts began to shrink and creep upward, much to the embarrassment of the ladies. It was a great day! In August a chapter of the National Council of Catholic Women was organized in the parish. Sadness reigned with the multiple funerals of the three Orval Swenson children in September.

Meanwhile, war was becoming more and more imminent, and there were preparations galore. The first draft quota for the country was made-up in April, 1941, with another to follow in July. The first St. Martinites to be drafted were Nick P. Kellen and Theodore Ossefoort. A scrap aluminum drive yielded 700 pounds, an appreciable amount. By September, food prices began to soar. With the bombing of Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, by the Japanese, and the declaration of war by Germany against this country on December 11, the United States was in a World War on two fronts. All men born between February 17, 1898, and December 31, 1921, were required to register. To raise money for the war effort, a $5 auto tax stamp must be affixed to every car, renewable yearly. By January, 1942, rubber, tires, and automobiles were rationed. In February, the country went on war time, and soon sugar would be rationed. While the country was indeed in the throes of a mighty struggle, an event occurred that was closer to the hearts and minds of the parishioners than the mighty war effort.

During a fierce rain storm, May 26, 1942, not like any storm that had unleashed its fury in the vicinity, with thunder that rumbled and shook the earth, accompanied by displays of lightning that splayed out in bold relief against the sky like the raised veins on the back of one's hands, a bolt struck the steeple. On looking out the window, one small boy in a nearby home called to his father, "Daddy, do you want to see a ball of fire?" The father looked out. He saw the large iron ball on the steeple, at the base of the cross, a flaming red. It was indeed a ball of fire. In approximately three hours, fire consumed the church, despite the best efforts of the local fire department and those of nearby towns. At the risk of life and limb, Father McNallan rescued the Blessed Sacrament and a few costly vestments; others in the parish retrieved a statue and yanked lose a couple of pews from the rear of the nave. There was some damage to the rectory and the loss of 2-3 trees. The total loss was an estimated $16-17,000, with insurance covering only a portion of the amount.

Talk of rebuilding began almost immediately, but there was a war emergency and a scarcity of materials. Attentions were turned to a facility that was available; men and women of the parish rallied, cleaned, and set up folding chairs in the vacant parochial school. A short time later, Mans and Lee, proprietors of the Orpheum and State Theaters, Pipestone, donated 250 seats to St. Martin that had been removed from the remodeled Orpheum. After some getting-used-to, Mass was offered in the old school for 1½ years, and business of the parish took on a normal pattern. There were 2 weddings, 19 baptisms, and 8 funerals.

But the parochial school, at best, was cramped. Seating capacity was inadequate, and there was no facility for mothers with babies. Despite a wartime emergency and shortage of materials, and rationing, plans for rebuilding went forward. Father McNallan had already received permission from the Apostolic Delegate, Cicogani, Washington, D.C., to erect the Stations of the Cross in the temporary church, with all the indulgences pertaining thereto.

In March, 1943, during a trip to Winona, Father McNallan viewed with Bishop Binz the plans for the new church that had been drawn up by Thorwald Thorson, Architect, Forest City, Iowa. The bishop gave his go ahead. With that, Tony Claseman began excavating the basement in early May. Hasslen & Sons, Ortonville, general contractors, ran the concrete foundation, and in early June, brick work for the walls began. The work progressed rapidly, and by the middle of September, carpenters were already to work on the interior. In the course of construction, there were countless odd jobs performed by volunteers, even to running cement for the basement floor. By early November, the building was ready for occupancy, minus the pews.

While the church would suffice for celebrating Mass, there were some details yet to be done. Because of wartime scarcity of materials, the light fixtures were fashioned of wood by Father Philip Mathews, pastor at Luverne. Folding chairs were soon replaced with new pews. Stained glass windows were added in March, 1945.

The transaction which cost about $29,500 and led to the construction of the lovely brick structure that now graces the site of the former church razed by fire on May 26, 1942, was the single largest project, until that time, ever undertaken by the parish. Romanesque in architectural style, the new church* was dedicated by Bishop Binz on June 11, 1944, with the entire congregation and several visiting priests joining in the celebration.

*For additional details of the church, see the Dedication Souvenir booklet, dated June 8, 1944.

In the meantime, World War II was raging and causing a great deal of tension for everyone. Scrap metal and rubber drives were being scheduled. Many items were either being rationed or in short demand, such as, fuel oil, tires, gasoline, shoes, alarm clocks, coffee, sugar, meat, butter, flour, cheese, fats, some canned foods, and lumber. Black Market was the illegal but possible source of products not otherwise available. It was reported that horse meat was being sold for human consumption, as a substitute for the real thing, and that Converse Produce, Pipestone, was dealing in jack rabbits. Practice black-outs were held, just in case such occasion arose.

By early 1944, St. Martin could vouch for people in the armed services. Sadness settled over the parish when news of its first Gold Star victim was received. A message to his mother, Agnes, stated that Lawrence Flannery had died and was buried at sea on July 20, 1944. This caused a double sorrow for the family, as the father, Michael Flannery, had passed away only a few days before, and his funeral had already been scheduled for July 29th. Hurriedly, a catafalque was built by Joseph Cullen to use in the double funeral service. A mere forty-three days later, the parish received news of its second Gold Star victim, that of Lawrence Peters, who was killed in action in France, September 1st. Memorial services were held for him at St. Martin on October 7, 1944. These two men constitute the parish's only Gold Star service people. In a happier vein, Bertus Zant had received the Purple Heart award.

The nation was saddened in April, 1945, at the sudden death of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who had broken all precedence by having been re-elected to a fourth term.

Then the inevitable took place, that for which the country had so long worked, sacrificed, and prayed: V-E Day (Victory in Europe), Monday, May 7, 1945, to be followed by V-J Day (Victory over Japan), August 14, 1945! The war was over!

Heavy snowfall was recorded in December, 1945. The Omaha train was delayed in a drift for three days. Luckily for the five crew members, there were cots in the caboose. Like good Samaritans, the Clarence Arens family furnished the men with meals and evening fun. One of those men, a conductor, Roy Seely, now retired in St. James, has kept in touch over the years with kindly notes of appreciation for the Arens' hospitality.

There followed a resumption of activity in the parish, although high prices, scarcities, and shortages were still current issues. Marriages totaled those of the three previous years combined. Then a dreaded specter appeared: in January, 1946, Sharon Engbarth contracted polio and spent more than five months in a hospital; Jim Kellen was the next case in October, 1948. There were other cases around the area. This demon continued its prey until a successful vaccine was developed by Jonas Salk in 1954.

In 1949, the parish girls, under the tutelage and managerial skill of Dorothy (Daniels) Janssen, organized and fielded a girls’ softball team, which competed with other girls’ teams in the area. This was the forerunner of future girls’ teams.

In 1949, a questionnaire was filled out to satisfy The Catholic Church in the Diocese of St. Paul (1952). St. Martin unofficial boundary was reported as bounded by lines 5 miles west, 4 miles east, north to the Lincoln-Lyon counties line (edge of the New UIm Diocese), and south to the Rock-Nobles counties line. This area of 216 square miles included Woodstock, Ruthton, Holland, almost all of Hatfield, and Edgerton, comprising eastern Pipestone county and western Murray county.

Father McNallan bade adieu to the parish on the evening of Tuesday, January 17, 1950, the longest resident pastor to that time. After other assignments, he retired to a winter home in Phoenix, Az. He spends his summers with a sister in Mankato.


"We now have a big city priest," remarked someone upon the arrival of Father John P. Gengler in January, 1950. And indeed it was true, if one considered that he had just come from St. John's, Rochester, had been Louvain educated, a former army chaplain, and enjoyed in a remarkable degree the virtue of leisure-the ability to do all things well.

John Gengler spent his formative years at Caledonia, Minn. In 1930, he matriculated at St. Mary's College, Winona, followed by a four-year course at Louvain, Belgium, where he was ordained, in July, 1938. He had one assignment at Austin, Minn., before entering the service as an army chaplain, returning to the diocese in 1945.

In Woodstock for only a generous three weeks, Father Gengler announced from the pulpit on February 13, 1950, the need for the construction of a new rectory. Assembling a building committee comprised of Henry Ossefoort, John Schneider, Clarence Arens, William Krell, Sr., and himself, they drew plans for a suitable home, approved by Bishop Fitzgerald, not to exceed $25,000. This amount was to include architect's fee and contract for construction of house, garage, plumbing, heating, and electrical work.

Before the construction of the rectory got underway, however, the trustees met to consider the conversion of the furnace in the church to oil burning equipment. The stoker-fed method was dirty and outmoded. It sometimes went on the 'fritz,' as was the case when Joe Cullen and Fred Melcher climbed into it and manually unloaded its contents.

On Ascension Thursday, 1950, the site of the new rectory was staked out, and work got underway. Ralph Edwards, a local contractor known for his workmanship, somewhat on the expensive side, won the principal contract. Edwards fulfilled the contract, but the actual cost mushroomed to nearly $36,000. Among those who helped in the construction were: carpenters, Elmer Arndt, Alvin Melcher, Ferrill Nece, Grant Edwards; concrete block work, Thomas Kennard, Sr.; laborer, Thomas Kennard, Jr. Lindberg of Tracy was responsible for the brick work and plastering. During the course construction Father Gengler lived in the basement, while his sister Margaret, his faithful housekeeper, took employment elsewhere until a new rectory was ready for habitation. To conserve energy during inclement weather, a basement room served as a chapel for daily Mass. This practice has continued throughout the years. The exterior architectural style tends toward a Georgian Colonial, re-commended by Bishop Fitzgerald, and is the only home in the city with an upstairs living room.

Meanwhile, bids for the sale of the old rectory were received in September. William Krell, Sr. was now the owner and moved it to Block 2, lots 7-10, where it stands today.

Because Father Gengler had been Army connected, it was only natural that he would be a member of the local American Legion. In 1951, following further his military connection, he began offering Mass one day a week, Friday, at the Chandler Air Force Base, which practice he continued the remainder of his time in Woodstock. This accounts for strange names in the marriage and baptismal records.

In July, 1951, the old parochial school building, used intermittently over the years for various parish functions, was sold to Alvin Melcher for $600. Melcher used the lumber to build a small house for himself and his bride, Dorothy Voss, and the remainder of the material he sold to William Krell, Jr.

Talented beyond the ability of the average priest (who, as a class, are already above average intelligence and ability), Father Gengler played both the organ and piano and chanted a good High Mass. He knew a smattering of French, spoke Luxembourgish*, and wrote and spoke good German. This latter ability was of practical use, for occasionally he heard a confession in German. More importantly, he encouraged the people to receive the Eucharist more frequently, for which the parish owes him an eternal debt of gratitude.

Father Gengler was of Luxembourgian ancestory, as were Fathers Zahner before him, Britz and Olsem to follow.

A 'whiz' at bookkeeping, Father Gengler prepared the required financial statement of the parish to be sent to the diocesan chancery when there was a transfer of priests. He then bid farewell, September, 1953. After serving other parishes, he retired to his beloved birthplace, Caledonia; likewise, his dutiful sister, Margaret. If you are missing him today, July 24, 1983, Father is celebrating the 45th anniversary of his priesthood!


He came to St. Martin from Fountain-Wycoff on September 16, 1953, in the thirty-fourth year of his priesthood, did Father Paul Leo Britz. His interim service of a mere seven and one-half months was not without activity: there were 12 baptisms, 2 funerals, and 2 marriages.

Prompt in beginning Mass, he read Latin superbly and breezed through the Holy Week services of 1954, but he found it taxing because of a heart condition.

During this brief period, the parish witnessed change, technological innovation, and the passing of two old timers. Taking advantage of a low interest rate, the parish borrowed $9,500 from the Diocese and paid off all smaller loans. On November 15, the area experienced shirt sleeve weather of 71 degrees. In early January, 1954, the first hearing for the consolidation of District 33 was aired. A fortnight later, John Kellen, Sr., a member of the parish since the 1890's, shuffled off his mortal soul. Close on the heels of his death, the dial telephone system became a reality for the Woodstock area in February, the first in the county. Then on March 2, ninety-year-old James Feyereisen, a one-time member of the parish early in the century, breathed his last.

Father Britz was quiet and reserved. Presumably, it was necessary for him to conserve his strength. He did not make friends easily for he spoke to very few, and he rarely smiled. As time passed, it became increasingly clear that this pastor was a 'loner,' at least in a mild degree. He performed his sacerdotal duties and the paper work attending the administrative aspects well. He had a dislike for Woodstock and spent some of his spare time away from it. He was referred to locally by some as "Our Substitute." A man of considerable integrity and no small amount of courage, Father Britz died of a heart attack on July 30, 1963. His remains rest at Mapleton.

A Brighter Tomorrow


The easy going Wilfred Daly Sullivan was one of nine children who lived on a farm near Guckeen, Minn., a whistle stop close to Blue Earth. He considered being a priest early in life and got a push in that direction when he attended St. Thomas College, St. Paul, his first taste of a Catholic school. After a year, he transferred to the University of Notre Dame, where he made the' acquaintance and won the friendship of Tyrone Power. Returning to Minnesota, he spent his college days at St. Mary's College, Winona, then to the seminary of St. Paul the next four years. He was ordained June 2, 1940, by Bishop Francis Kelly at the Queen of Angels Chapel, College of St. Teresa, Winona.

Father Sullivan came to St. Martin June 30, 1954. The next three years would be 'salad' years for the parish. The effects of World War II were fading from memory, crops and prices were usually good, and the parish’s only concern was the debt on the rectory. In the fall, Father Sullivan asked for voluntary contributions in the amount of $8,000 not later than the end of the year. His request was met.

Because the parish has always been largely a rural one, it is not surprising that the ladies operated a food stand at the County plowing contest on the Earl Biever farm, August, 1955. While the date may not be correct, it may have been the year that Father Sullivan and Thomas Kellen planted those precious maples that now provide shade between the church and the rectory.

The year 1956 saw some material improvements. In January, the pastor and his trustees explored the possibility of finishing the church basement by covering the joists and beams. The April bill for the basement work came to $488.68, less than anticipated and certainly low by today's standards. Probably they could decorate the church during the summer. A bid for this work in the amount of $1,825 by Richard Allen was honored. Monies from the Jerome Schneider family, Laura Melcher, and the Henry Kellen, Sr. estate paid the entire bill. Work was completed in September.

Gregarious and non-forceful by nature, Father Sullivan took many of his meals in the restaurant, especially after his housekeeper with the crippled hands left. Meals were often followed by a game of pinochle. Father’s infectious laughter was a treat to hear.

Bishop Binz had a policy to move the younger priests about every three years: and, while Father Sullivan was very content at Woodstock, he reluctantly accepted a transfer, July, 1957. Following other assignments, he now lives in retirement at Blue Earth with his sister, getting along the best he can with a heart ailment.

Administrator pro tern of St. Martin from July 2, through August 12,1957, 36-year old Father Woodford’s sojourn of 6 weeks was like an extended vacation. The adult population of the parish liked him; the young of the parish loved him, just as the young of Pipestone, his previous assignment, cared about him. When he played his stereo, with the rectory windows open, all who lived on the east end of the village were treated to the music, whether they cared about it or not. Too soon he left for Monterey-Truman, his next assignment, but that is the way life is when you are the lunch meat between two slices of bread.


A convert to Catholicism at age twenty, Cyril Paul Peterson was an Iowan who first pursued a career in law. From January, 1938, to September, 1939, he studied at Holy Family Seminary, St. Louis. He completed his theology at Kenrick Seminary, St. Louis, and on June 18, 1941, he was ordained by Bishop Paul Schulte, Leavenworth, Kansas, for the Missionaries of the Holy Family. On September 29, 1948, he severed his ties with the Missionaries and entered the Diocese of Winona. Father Peterson took up his duties at Woodstock on August 13,1957.

Average in height and tending toward a stocky build, this priest walked with a slight hitch in his gait, the result of polio as a child. His specially designed shoes and slight to port were overlooked when he gave his sermons. They usually consisted of the pure Gospel and a curious mixture of his commentary on current events plus his previous night's TV viewing. Bringing to bear his legal training, his words were practical, understandable, and shot with Christian truths.

Father Peterson’s mother, Hannah, who served as his housekeeper, was also a convert. She was petite but not fragile, had an inner toughness about her, and was delightfully pertinacious. She once said to a parishioner, “I have a sharp tongue, and if anyone needs combing, I can do it!”

The first years of Father Peterson's pastorate, a prelude to Vatican II, were lean years of manifest physical activity. In 1960, the situation perked up somewhat. In June, following a successful week of 'vacation school,' sixteen children made their First Holy Communion. Top attendance for this catechetical 'blitz' came to 93. In October, the parish was treated to Forty Hours, conducted by Father Curtis of Jasper.

Come shades of the past! One July 9, 1961, the CYO of St. Martin enjoyed an outing to Lake Okoboji, the first such excursion to that place since August, 1947. To round out their activity, the CYO staged a pot luck dinner at the Richard Lingen home in August.

A Renewed Faith Community

In 1959, Pope John XXIII ‘threw open’ the ‘windows of the Church’ allowing much needed change with was to follow. As a result, the world witnessed, and the parishioners experienced the effects of the Vatican Council II (1962-1965). In gradual steps, the traditional Latin of the Liturgy changed to English (vernacular). While it had not been heretofore a strict matter of church legislation not to do so, the priest began to celebrate Mass facing the people. A new altar was fashioned obligingly by Edward Schneider and Art Dries. To facilitate the reading of the Epistle and Gospel, a public address system was installed.

Aside from the major changes in the Church's sacramental life, there were others that affected the laity in their governance. The traditional trustee form of the parish’s business life was replaced with a Parish Council, Serving on that first Council were: Joseph Stepanek, President; Frances Cullen, Secretary; Darlene Ford, Gladys Demuth, Betty Mandersheid, Edward Mandersheid, Art Dries, Earl Biever, Raymond Lingen, Stella Lingen and Edward Schneider.

Refraining from eating and drinking from midnight onward in anticipation of the reception of the morning Eucharist was dropped. The rank and file were asked to devise their own penances rather than be 'told' by the Church what they must sacrifice. This was an attempt to shift the responsibility to the person in the pew. Father Peterson also began the practice of publishing a Sunday bulletin, which would be helpful to the present parishioners and to the future persons doing research.

Like any mortal, the pastor needed time off for vacation, and during the summer of 1969, he and his mother removed themselves from the parish for five weeks. In his absence, Father Patrick Russell was sent to fill in. Within his first days at St. Martin, he officiated at two funerals, Anna Ryan and Clifford Peterson. Unable to contact anyone in the parish who could advise him concerning the cemetery, he did the best he could. The best was not good enough: Anna Ryan was buried in the wrong lot, much to the chagrin of the family.

To make up for lost time, and to affect some necessary tasks in the pastor's absence, some ladies asked if they could do some cleaning. And clean they did! They washed many baskets of altar linens, household linens, curtains, and whatever else needed laundering. Some men of the parish repaired a leak in the rectory roof. At the end of the 5-week period, the substitute left, and the pastor returned. Father Peterson and Hannah were less than pleased with what had inspired in their absence.

Over the past few years, this pastor and his mother had become very attached to animals. They had housed and fed many cats. But Father Peterson had his favorite, Oscar, the rooster. The pastor could have disposed of him, but to plague the donor, Oscar was to become the most privileged 'cock of the walk.'

St. Martin was growing, and in 1970, the membership was estimated to be between 95 and 100 families or about 425 persons. St. Rose of Lima. Avoca, which had been the 'Mother' for so many parishes, including Woodstock, was now without a resident priest and had put its rectory up for sale. To finish the year, St. Martin sold lots 6-9 (Block 14) to Nicholas and Beulah Kellen for $300 on December 31. Except for the cemetery, the church, and the rectory, and the half block on which the latter stood, the parish no longer owned any 'extra' land.

In 1971, the parish staged two farewells, the first in January to honor Donald Kellen (and Viola Voss, his bride to be) for his 12 years of service to the parish, and the second for the pastor and his mother on June 27th. Bowing to the request of Bishop Watters, Father Peterson severed his ties with St. Martin. One July 1, 1971, six weeks and one day short of a full 14-year pastorate, he went into retirement on a farm near Missouri Valley, Iowa. Alas! In November, on Thanksgiving Day, Hannah was killed in an automobile accident, her priest son at the wheel. Father Peterson presently lives in Council Bluffs, Iowa, ministering to people as his capacity allows.


Upon meeting this priest for the first time, that which struck one was that he was personable, wore clothes well, and overflowed with busyness and enthusiasm in equal parts.

Sylvester Francis Brown was born in Mankato, orphaned at an early age, but was given a home with an aunt. Answering to the nickname, 'Sal,' he spent his collegiate years at St. Mary's College, Winona. He studied theology at Theological College, Washington, D.C., and was ordained on May 31, 1956, by Bishop Edward Fitzgerald, in the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, for the Diocese of Winona.

Before coming to Woodstock, Father Brown had about fifteen years of experience in various colleges or the seminary, except for an interim when he was doing graduate work at Oxford, England. Father Brown's assignment to St. Martin was his first as a pastor, the bishop granting him a request for a parish of his own. He also had charge of St. Mary at Lake Wilson, which has been a mission to St. Martin ever since. His first Masses were offered July 4, 1971.

A number of events are worthy of mention during Father Brown's tenure. Young at heart, he mustered a renewed interest in the CYO, for in October, he, with a helper, chaperoned a hayride party, Ed O'Hearn doing the honors on the tractor. Mindful of spiritual renewal for his flock, there was a five-day Better World Retreat in January, 1972. In February, he addressed the Winona Council of Catholic Women at St. Martin, the topic - the Prodigal Son. In July, the lilac hedge, which had served as a buffer to the south, was removed, and a new sidewalk was laid the length of the church. Repair was done to the walk on the north side of the church, all with volunteer help.

A census in January, 1973, barring any error, showed an even 222 persons in the parish who were eighteen years or older. Of this number, about twenty-three percent were single or living alone.

In 1980, Pope John Paul II issued a statement to the effect that priests could no longer run for, or assume, public political office. Father Brown began doing substitute teaching in the Pipestone Public High School in September, 1973, for the sheer pleasure of keeping busy. He was called to 'pinch-hit' in various departments, but his greatest surprise came when he was called to teach music. He was not known to refuse, and his earnings went to charity.

Father Brown was an advocate of up-dating. He was anxious to promote the changes suggested by Vatican Council II which had not yet been ventured. In 1971, the parishioners experienced the first baptism (Barbara Johnson) taking place during the liturgy. The laity were to assume more participation in the Mass, and 'cantor' and 'lector' were becoming household words. Groups were to prepare the liturgy for a special season or occasion and design a banner to further accent the theme. Confession was more correctly referred to as the Sacrament of Reconciliation, while Extreme Unction was recast as the Sacrament of the Sick. For the first time in the history of the Catholic Church, women were allowed in the Sanctuary to participate in the Liturgy.

A new organ was purchased in 1973. Anticipating this step, Father Brown encouraged new organists by having Mrs. Milke of Holland give lessons at parish expense. This new organ was placed on ground level, with congregational singing, rather than a choir.

There were other things worthy of mention: the church basement was newly carpeted; a much needed chore, the cemetery was platted; Rose Kellen retired from 33 years of teaching religion to children, undoubtedly, a record; and the Communion rail, having lost its utility, was removed.

On July 10, 1974, Father Brown was transferred from Woodstock to Blue Earth. He had used his attributes well. He is presently serving Pax Christi parish, Rochester. During his tenure in Woodstock, his aunt, Elsie Waterman, had been his dutiful housekeeper. She had endured much physical hardship and is presently residing at Madonna Towers, Rochester.


During the Vietnamese Conflict (1961-1975), it was the custom for those on the front lines to be removed periodically and sent on R. and R. (Rest and Recreation) to Australia, Japan, or some nearby neutral country. Having been refreshed, they would once again take up arms and return to the front. In a similar fashion, but for an altogether different reason, Father James William Hennessy was sent to Woodstock for recuperation following serious eye surgery, thus giving some credence to the notion that St. Martin is the vacation spot of the Winona Diocese.

James William Hennessy spent his youth in the city where he would later be ordained. He entered Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary, Winona, in 1953. In the fall of 1957, he entered St. Paul Seminary and pursued philosophy and theology. On May 27, 1961, he was ordained in the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart for the Diocese of Winona by Bishop Edward Fitzgerald, affectionately known as "Fitz" to many of the Diocese's priests.

Father Hennessy arrived in Woodstock on July II, 1974, accompanied by his mother, Anna, who though quite frail, assisted him where she was able. Shortly after arriving, Father Hennessy informed the parishioners that if an emergency could occur concerning his eyes, not to delay, but to rush him to Rochester immediately. Such occasion never arose.

A talented musician, Father Hennessy composed his own music, strummed a guitar, and occasionally performed for the congregation. He has a lovely singing voice.

Because of economic situations and low enrollment, many Catholic schools were either closing or consolidating. Father Hennessy informed the St. Martin Catholic Women of such situation in Rochester, whereby the ladies could buy a set of steam tables for their kitchen if they would act fast. William Arens, accompanied by Ed and Rose Manderscheid, drove to Rochester with a horse trailer and for a mere $500, plus $30 for transportation fee, returned with this much used and appreciated bargain.

In early 1975, Burton Tinklenberg was contracted to divide the church basement to accommodate six classrooms with folding doors. At that time, he and his crew made the necessary alterations in the kitchen to set the steam tables in place.

Though Woodstock was for him a temporary assignment, Father Hennessy did not stint on his talent. With his good speaking voice, his sense of humor, his Irish wit, and his gift for choosing words, he made his sermons terse, yet full of meaning. He seldom spoke longer than seven minutes. His gift of speaking spilled over into his writings. When asked to participate with the other ministers, he wrote a short but very meaningful article on fortitude for the weekly religious series published in the Star.

The people of St. Martin really felt a letdown when Father Hennessy informed them that he was to leave after only one year. Woodstock's loss was a gain for Easton and Delavan.


Father James Edward Dandelet was St. Martin's fourth Iowan to serve the parish. Sometime during his early youth, the family moved to Minnesota, where he attended Pacelli High School and Junior College, both in Austin. He had spent time in the service before he matriculated at St. Mary's College, Winona, in 1948, transferring to St. Paul Seminary. He was ordained by Bishop Fitzgerald on June 6, 1954, in the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart for the Diocese of Winona.

Among several assignments, Father Dandelet was administrator and assistant editor of the Courier before assuming his spiritual duties at St. Martin on July 15, 1975. Of a typical French temperament, he spoke and read rapidly, with a dramatic quality in his presentation. Meticulous in his ways, he desired that the people stay through the Mass, and rightly so, but it brought some criticism from the laggards. September saw a change in the management of the CCD classes. The parish withdrew as a participant of the Pipestone Religious Education Center, coordinated by the Notre Dame Sisters. Hereafter, CCD would be conducted by lay volunteers.

The year, 1976, was one of severe drought, and consequently, a poor crop year. But this did not affect the population size of the parish. According to a diocesan-wide census for that year, there were 365 persons living in the parish; and of the 126 parishes in the Winona Diocese, St. Martin ranked 80th in size.

Father Dandelet's French ancestry spilled into the domestic area of his life. He was a culinary artist of merit who enjoyed preparing meals; and his friends and neighbors were invited from time to time to partake of his efforts. A restaurateur would have benefitted from his skills.

In every parish and in every life, there is tragedy of varying degrees. Such an event occurred in November, 1977, when Joan (Mrs. John) Kontz, who attempted to walk home from the city one evening, lost her way. Search parties coordinated by Sheriff Gene Spicer fanned out in a number of directions the following days, including a plane that scanned the area, but all to no avail. Last seen on Thanksgiving Day, her frozen remains were found by Everett Boeve, December 7th, in a field not too far removed from the area that had been searched. Remarkable was the ecumenical spirit shown by the many people who joined in that search.

Guilds within the Council of Catholic Women had been organized during Father Hennekes' time. At the onset, there were twelve in number, later reduced to nine. Upon the canonization of Maria Goretti, one was added for the single women of the parish and named in her honor. All this was further reorganized in Father Dandelet's time when the number was reduced to four and thereafter known as the four commissions. The ever difficult work of the ladies was still appreciated, but their monthly dinners were reduced to four a year.

The church having seen many changes since Vatican Council II, was to see many more. In Father Dandelet's time, the Mothers' room was converted into a reconciliation room, with the option of receiving the sacrament in the traditional way or face to face. Another change gave people the option of receiving Holy Communion in the hand.

For a number of decades, Father Bernel Deslauriers, late of St. Leo, Pipestone, had pinch-hit at Woodstock, offering the Mass and occasionally baptizing a child. It came, then, as a shock when this priest and avid fisherman went to his eternal reward in May, 1979.

On June 6, 1979 there was cause for rejoicing on the part of the parish, especially the pastor's, for on that day, Father Dandelet celebrated his 25th anniversary as a priest.

In March, 1980, the men of the parish showed their chivalry by serving a full roast beef dinner, with corn, mashed potatoes, and gravy, to a crowd of nearly five hundred people.

Bringing to St. Martin gifts that no pastor had before him, Father Dandelet, after almost a full five years, was transferred to parishes at Leroy and Grand Meadow, effective July 1, 1980.


Andrew David Olsem is the 4th oldest of 14 children who grew up on a farm in the area of Dundee. In 1959 he began his college study at Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary, Winona, graduating from St. Mary's College with a B.A. in 1963. He studied theology at St. Paul Seminary and in 1967, was ordained by Bishop Fitzgerald at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Winona, for the Diocese of Winona.

Although his assignments before coming to St. Martin and St. Mary on July 1, 1980, had been short, Father Olsem had already accrued a considerable amount of experience. His first considerations were some much needed physical improvements to the church and the rectory. Needed most was the installation of a new furnace in the church. The rectory took on a new look with a paint job from basement and up. The kitchen underwent a complete renovation with new cupboards and paneling.

This devotee of farming, snowmobiling, and all kinds of music from rock to classical, bears a solid support and interest in affairs that concern the entire community. In 1980, a jointly sponsored religion program was launched by the American Reformed and Lutheran churches with a very few Catholic children attending. Classes were held for a week at the American Reformed Church. In June, 1981, this program was carried a bit further, and the Catholic and American Reformed children met at the American Reformed Church, with a few Lutherans attending. The week concluded with a program open to the public. This program had been so successful that it was duplicated in the summer of 1982, again with a few Lutheran children attending. Classes were held at St. Martin for a week, culminating with a program for everyone. Success spoke for itself, as the joint instruction continued in the summer of 1983, following the pattern of alternating and meeting in the American Reformed Church.

In 1981, some much needed repair was done to the church's exterior. A contractor, with volunteer helpers, re-shingled the church and rectory. Painting was done on the wood trim, and new gutters were added to the church. Here, too, a bit of ecumenism was manifested when Roy Heard hauled shingles from the Twin Cities for St. Martin.

At the end of Father Olsem's first full year, St. Martin was eighty-fourth in size out of one-hundred twenty four parishes in the Diocese. Father Olsem was fortunate to hire an experienced secretary, Marlene Staloch, who came to St. Martin on May 7, 1981, taking up residence at the rectory.

In July, 1982, the city underwrote a $55,000 street blacktopping project. In anticipation of the church's modernization, the parish council elected to have the street by the church black-topped to a wider width, plus a driveway, totaling $7,500. Now the pastor was preparing the parishioners for the extensive church renovation project looming ahead.

Following much discussion and consideration, St. Martin entered into contract with Schettler Studio of Carroll, Iowa, for $35,428 for a complete renewing of the church's interior. The actual work began in September. Preparation for painting was almost a major project in itself, a maze of timbers and canvas tarp. Repair to the walls preceded three coats of paint. Coordinated colors of light hues gave the church a bright appearance. A gold line is the only contrast. Pews were sanded and re-varnished. The sanctuary was extended to bring the altar closer to the people, and elevated for better visibility. New oak furniture included: an altar, a pillar for the tabernacle, a pulpit, a baptismal font, and an offertory table. The entire church was newly carpeted. Other new improvements and additions were: three ceiling fans, four candle sticks, three statue brackets, one holy water font, four doors, two collection baskets, three misselette holders, and one credence bracket. Father Olsem, Dorothy Janssen, Marlene Staloch, and Arild and Isabelle Clausen are credited with renewing the vigil light stand and the tabernacle. Our indebtedness to the diocesan office now was: October 29, 1982, road improvement, $7,500, and December 1, 1982, renovation, $22,000.

The process of renovation has enhanced the physical appearance of the church. Hopefully, all aspects of worship will be improved because of less distracting symbolism. Father Olsem suggests that 'there will be a feeling of belonging, that everyone is in God's family.'

As you consider the annals that have made this history of St. Martin possible, you should note that there were eras of hardship and dire need. Likely, the Catholic families who built the first church in 1883 were themselves in sod shanties, but their religious fervor carried them onward. Rebuilding the church in 1943 was an inappropriate time because of rationing and shortages of materials, and high prices, yet there was a necessity. Somehow, with a few delays, everything fell into place, and after a time, the parish was one of two in the diocese that was debt free.

The parishioners undertook a huge step in modernization, especially so because the road improvement came at the same time. All the repair and renovation was worthwhile, but it was expensive. With zeal, enthusiasm, and sacrifice the people will tackle the burden that lies ahead and rise above it. That's the spirit of St. Martin!

So ends the history story according to James Kellen.

But the history continues...

In 2016 the Diocese of Winona began to implement its re-clustering plan.  The parishioners of St. Martin were asked to consider whether they wanted to become an oratory or choose to close.  After many meetings and prayers, it was voted to close the parish and merge with St. Leo, Pipestone, MN.  On July 24, 2017, the last Mass was celebrated by Bishop John Quinn along with its pastor, Msgr. Gerald Kosse.  The parishioners then began to give the various sacred articles of the church to many other parishes in the area.  During this time, New Life Treatment Center, Woodstock, MN began to show an interest in purchasing the buildings of St. Martin which included the Rectory and the Church.  In the Fall of 2017, the buildings of St. Martin and its ground was sold to New Life Treatment Center.  The merging of St. Martin was put on hold as it waits the settlement of the sexual lawsuit against St. Leo, Pipestone, MN.  

Future Pastors:

1984-1985 - Fr. Donald Olsen

1985-1989 - Fr. Eugene Egan

1989-1990 - Fr. Larry Gavin

1990-1994 - Fr. Robert Taylor

1994-1997 - Fr. Kevin Connolly

1997-2008 - Fr. Martin Schaefer

2008 - Fr. Gerald Kosse