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Sheboygan County, Wisconsin Genealogy & History

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St. Michael's {Town Mitchell} First Christmas Mass

Early Years of St. Michael's

The following account is taken from an article written by Thomas Heraty for the Sheboygan Herald during the last days of 1912. In it, he describes a mass held at Mitchell on Christmas Day of 1852.

Town of Mitchell. December 25, 1912

Sixty years today, I attended the first Christmas mass celebrated in the town of Mitchell, at the log house of Michael Murray. Mass was said by Father LaBoule, a missionary French priest who traveled through the new settlements, administering to the spiritual needs of his people. Sometimes he baptized as many as three children of the same family during a visit.

The men and women of those pioneer days were coarsely but comfortably clad and were strong, rugged and healthy. Knowin what they had to encounter with the forest giants, the word "fail" was unknown to them. Horses, there were none, and but a few teams of oxen, and no roads. At that time it was an unbroken forest in western Mitchell, there being not even a blazed trail between that part of the town and Mr. Murray's. To pilot us through the forest we had to have the services of Indian Wabaca, who with his family occupied a large wigwam on the east side of Long Lake. There were only about twenty persons who attended the mass.

(editor's note)- Two years later in the spring of 1854, Michael and Ann Murray would deed three acres of their farm, located in the NW 1/4 of Section 21, Mitchell Township, to the diocese of Milwaukee, then under the administration of Bishop Martin Henni. During the following summer, settlers from the surrounding area, almost all of whom were recent immigrants from Ireland, felled, hewed, and rolled-up the logs for the first religious edifice to be raised in the Kettle Moraine. For the next five years, this building dedicated to St. Michael assumed the role of a "station church" and was visited at frequent intervals by missionary priests as well as the residing pastors of Sheboygan's St. Mary Magdalene. Listed among these circuit-riding clergy were the Reverend Fathers: Mathias Gernbauer, Patrick Bradley, Peter DeBerge, Morris, Francis Stracher, Michael Downey, Francis Tierney, Benedict Smeddick and Theodore David.

In the spring of 1859, with the appointment of Reverend Francis Fusseder as the first resident pastor of St. Mary's of Cascade, St. Michael's of Mitchell was elevated to the status of a mission parish, allowing its congregation to enjoy the benefits of weekly Sunday mass. At least it was weekly at the times when the weather and the tortuous route of the Madison Road allowed the passage of the pastor from Cascade. By 1861 the onrushing tide of Catholic settlers into the area mandated the building of a more spacious church, resulting that year in the raising of the mortice and tenon-framed structure we know today as St. Michael's.

Contributed by: Connie Michaels-Lipp

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