Together in Faith
St. Joe's
History - The Beginning

A little more than 140 years ago, Stevens Point was only a backwoods frontier town, a clearing in a dense forest of virgin pine. Gradually, it developed into a prosperous lumbering center, thanks to the forests and the abundant water power.

Around 1851 Father Godhardt, the Franciscan pastor at St. Bartolomew's Church in Fort Winnebago (Portage), arrived in Stevens Point. He may have been the first priest ever in the area. He labored as a pioneer missionary on the upper Fox and Wisconsin rivers, his territory extending from Berlin to Montello to Portage and then north to Grand Rapids (Wisconsin Rapids) and Stevens Point. Throughout the region he planted the faith, laboring assiduously and devoutly in the Master's cause. In Stevens Point he became acquainted with George Stevens. It was probably the respect he felt for the pioneer that led Father Godhardt to name his first church here St. Stephen's.

At the time, Engelbert Stenger and Alexander and Charles Krembs were the only German Catholics residing in Stevens Point. By 1873 a number of Catholics from Treves (Kreis Trier) arrived here, among them being Mathias Adams, Nicholas Bungert and Louis Wollenschlaeger. In the following year came John Theiler from St. Peter's in the old Austrian-Hungarian Empire. He was to be one of the founders of St. Joseph's Parish. It was he who induced a large number of his countrymen to come to America, residents of St. Peter's, St. John, St. Andrew, St. Joseph in Wieselburg and Moenchhof, Austria-Hungary. Many came. And many more came in the late 1870s and 1880s from Trier, Beuern, Giisfeld Cologne and the Rhineland Province. And these were soon joined by yet more immigrants from Bavaria and Silesia, all German speaking.

Until 1883 the original St. Stephen's Church had accommodated all Catholics of all nationalities, but so rapidly had the congregation increased and so mixed in language were its members that Father Nicholas July, the pastor, advised the Germans to form a congregation of their own.

A committee of German-speaking Catholics took the initiative and called such a meeting to form the new parish.The results of their deliberations were printed in the Portage County Gazette of July 2, 1884:

The German and Hungarian portion of our citizens, who reside in the eastern part of the city, or rather those who have made Stevens Point their home within the past few years, are about to build a new Catholic Church edifice.

Two lots, the southwest corner of the Warren forty (now Boyington) are the corner of Reserve and Jefferson streets, have been selected, and work will probably be commenced on the new structure the first of next week. It will be 40 x 75 feet, veneered with brick, and when completed will cost $8,000.

It will be known as St. Joseph's Church, incoporated under the laws of the State, with Francis Xavier Krautbauer, Bishop of Green Bay as president; the Rev. Nicholas July, vice president; Xavier Young, secretary; and John Fronauer, treasurer. Committees will call upon our citizens to solicit aid for the new place of worship this week.

History — The Beginning  |  History — 1884-1916  |  History — 1916-1946  |  History — 1946-1984