Saint Mary's Church History
After our area west of the Mississippi River opened for white settlement as a result of the 1851 treaties, we find that the first few Catholic pioneer families in our immediate area began to arrive in the middle of 1850's, followed by expanding numbers rather rapidly in the ensuing years. Due to the initiative of the settlers they obtained a priest on a part-time basis after they deputed John J. Fuchs to visit Bishop Cretin in Saint Paul with their request. Father George Keller from the Order of Saint Benedict offered Mass in the Fox home in May 1856 and also baptized several children that day.
"The first religious services held in the village of New Trier were at the house of Eugene Thein on section 12 in the fall of 1855. Fr. George Keller, the Catholic Priest who had conducted this initial worship, the following summer organized a parish and built the first Church in Hampton Township. This was a small log affair, which was afterward used as a parsonage, until destroyed by fire."
Taken from History of Dakota County Minnesota, written by Rev. Edward Neil - 1881.
Later a frame chapel/church seating approximately 200 people was constructed near where the present church stands.
Rev. John Bayer placed the cornerstone for a new limestone church on Ascension Thursday, May 5, 1864. This cornerstone can be seen above the present vestibule entrance doors and reads "Maria Schutz Kirche" May 5, 1864 translated to mean "Mary Protector Church".
As the years went by and the stone church became too small, the wood frame chapel, which was still nearby, was moved next to the stone church to accommodate the growing parish. This was the building arrangement until 1909 when Father Peter Stubinitsky made plans for the present brick church. While this new church was being built the people attended Mass upstairs in our present school for a couple of years. The peoples' willing and faithful support show the pride they take in their church and parish to this day. Of this church we can say: the commanding; the Beaux Art Classic Style as designed by Architect Paul Ries of Saint Paul; its design which suggest architectural ties to churches in Germany; its association with the heritage of the most ethnically homogenous population of Dakota County as presently found in New Trier and some of the small surrounding communities; the cornerstone of the 1864 stone church incorporated into the new building, and the statue of the Virgin Mary and Child enshrined over the main door, having been donated in the last century (cast in 1862); all of these facts have added a special significance which resulted in this church being entered on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980 by the United States Department of the Interior.
In preparation for the parish centennial in 1956, Father Nicholas Gillen supervised an extensive renovation.
- The Communion rail was moved below the steps so it was easier for everyone to receive Holy Communion
- The floors were refinished and the tiling was added in the sanctuary and the aisles
- The walls and statues were repainted
- From February to June in 1956 the Church Hall was extensively renovated; new concrete floor, restrooms installed and the modern new kitchen was built
As the men from the parish worked on the hall project, the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary was uncovered under the old stage area. This statue was donated by the John J. Fuchs family for the stone Church and had been put there for safekeeping and forgotten. After this statue was repainted, it received a prominent place in the hall until renovations in 1977 when it was put in the arch-window above the main entrance.
Supervised by Father Marvin Klaers and the parish council another renovation began in 1976 and lasted for over a year. At this time the church received a whole new look.
- The outside was tuck pointed, cleaned and glazed to bring back the original color of the outer walls. The white brick encasement of the original concrete supports were replaced to accent the beauty of the redbrick
- The entrance of the church was changed so that we could enter the hall without going outside
- In 1980 the ceiling plaster was removed and replastered. The entire church and all the statues were repainted
- In 1989 a former parishioner donated the money to clean and gold leaf our beautiful altars to their original beauty
- On June 25, 2006 St. Mary's Church celebrated their 150th Anniversary (1856 - 2006) with a Mass of Thanksgiving celebrated by Archbishop Harry Flynn, followed by a German Dinner and a day full of events
Other projects that have been completed are:
- The window frames around the stain glass windows were stripped, stained and varnished - April, 2006
- Handicap lift installed and completed - November, 2006
- Confessional renovated and made sound proof - July, 2007
- Added a handicap parking area -August, 2007
Over the years the following priests have served as pastor:
Yes, we are truly proud of our church and each year there is a need for some maintenance to the building.
As we look over our heritage we are grateful for what our forebears have done for us in sacrificing their families, homes and Country to come into a wilderness to establish new homes in a new land which are now our homes and our Land. They brought the faith with them and lived it under the often trying circumstances that pioneer times called for. We at the church of St. Mary are proud and appreciated what our ancestors did for us and the community and are happy to share it with the many visitors that come from far and wide to visit, seek family histories and take pictures each year. THANK YOU FOR COMING!
The BLESSED VIRGIN SHRINE between our school and convent was erected by Maximillian Rech in 1909 in memory of his wife (Anna Klein) who died in 1907. At the suggestion of the Sisters at Saint Mary's, the shrine was erected near our school so the children could pray by it. On feast days, especially on Corpus Christi, our parishioners prayed and sang hymns - the children scattered flowers on the ground.
Max Rech's birthday was May 13, 1862. Ironically on that date in 1971, Our Blessed Mother appeared to three small children at Fatima. In recent years, the parishioners of St. Mary's have a procession to the shrine every year on May 13th.
Sisters M. Matthia Gores, SNND, 104 years of age, remembers her brothers Martin and John helping haul the rocks for the shrine. John later ordained a diocesan priest. Sister Matthia died a few weeks short of her 105th birthday which would have been on January 8, 1999.
The mission of St. Mary’s Parish is to proclaim and celebrate our salvation through Jesus Christ,our pilgrimage to the Father’s Kingdom enlivened by the Holy Spirit. Our Catholic faith community is nourished by our sacramental life, especially the Sunday celebration of the Eucharist. With Mother Mary as our model, we demonstrate our faith through worship, education, vocations and service.