Together in Faith
St. Joe's
History - 1884-1916

Ground breaking took place without fanfare on July 9, 1884. J.W. Smith of Stevens Point received the contract for carpentry work for the grand price of $335. Father A.J. Abb, assistant to Father July at St. Stephen’s, was acting pastor of the struggling congregation. The dedication took place on November 16, 1884 with Father July as celebrant.

This first church was a crude attempt at a modified Roman Style. The brick veneer was never added; the church remained a white clapboard affair. In those pioneer days, out here on the very edge of the Green Bay diocese, everyone seems to have been a master and a “servant to none.” And so the church was the product of a committee and a lot of free volunteers. As a result, the building ended up top heavy! The sidewalls had a tendency to spread and before many storms rocked the building, the plaster began to drop from the ceiling, endangering the worshipers. This was somewhat remedied by putting up a light-weight wooden ceiling and running heavy rods from side to side which served the double purpose of holding the building together and as a perch for an occasional stray sparrow.

The sidewalls were plain plaster. Simple pine benches served as pews. The altar resembled a large box, surmounted by a tabernacle. Despite the simplicity of construction, the people were happy to have a place to worship in their humble way and to hear the Gospel and a sermon in their own tongue.

The people of St. Stephen’s continued close ties for some time. Their priests served the parish and among the various signs of concern for this new congregation was the donation of the old organ at St. Stephen’s by the Notre Dame Sisters after they had won it in a raffle!

Every parishioner or paying member was expected to make a $300 contribution on the average. This was mighty big money given the small wages in those days before organized labor.

Disaster struck the parish at dawn on Sunday morning, October 26, 1915, when one of the nuns of the school discovered a fire in the church. The building was destroyed.

When the fire companies arrived, the frame building was a mass of flames, fanned by a brisk east wind. The task of the firemen was a hopeless one, and by 10:30 the edifice was a total wreck. It is believed the fire was caused either by defective wiring or a defective chimney.

Plans were immediately started for the building of a new church. A building fund of $4000 plus $5000 insurance was available for the start of the new structure.

This time the parish engaged a competent architect and engineer - E. Brielmaier and Sons of Milwaukee - and work on a new church and rectory was begun in early spring of 1916. The structure of Romanesque style, built on the site of the original church, has since been the house of worship for St. Joseph’s Parish.

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