History  Of St Joseph


Church History compiled by Judy Bender Moyna


Linked Parishes

Linked Parishes

St Joseph-Elkader,

St Mary's -Strawberry Point

Sacred Heart-Volga

St. Joseph

Office: 563-245-2548

Father Paul Peters

Rectory: 563-245-1325 


On this page you can read the history of our church.

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Even before the town of Elkader was laid out and named for the brave Arab Chief, Amir Ab Del Kader, religious services were held for the Catholics by an Irish Missionary Priest traveling by horseback from Holy Cross to surrounding missions parishes offering mass on alternating Sundays in Elkader, Guttenberg, Garnavillo and other parishes. The first mass was said at this location in the mid 1840's in a log cabin that was located where the Elkader PostOffice now stands. The first Baptism recorded here was in 1855. (click on photo to enlarge) The first resident Pastor was Rev. Peter McGinnis who took charge in 1856. His first action was the purchase of land. Soon after began the erection of the first rock church from limestone, quarried on the hill behind the church. That early Church was a large building for so few members. It was 1858 before the roof was completed. The congregation had to stand or kneel on the dirt floor, because the interior was not finished until later. As time went on, the furnishings were added. The wooden min altar and the pair of side altars were tall and ornate. At the time the church grounds were completely enclosed, with horses and a cow grazing within the fence. The horses were used to pull the pastor's buggy and the cow provided the pastor's milk. there were no gates, so the parishioners had to enter the grounds by crossing the stiles. Later the church fence was removed and the grounds were circled with a wrought iron fence and rows of pine trees. Three large brass bells, cast in Cincinnati and weighing 5,400 pounds, were purchased for $1,800 in 1876. At that time, "there was not a larger or better set of bells anywhere in the states," stated a newspaper clipping of that time. A separate belfry was built on the Church grounds to house the bells. On the largest bell, the names of 72 donors were inscribed. In 1887, Father J.F. Reilly was transferred from McGregor to Elkader. During this time, a sanctuary and sacristy were added to the Church with seating capacity for 100. By 1897, St. Joseph's parish had outgrown the "Rock Church." After months of discussion, the majority of parishioners agreed to erect a new church. Thomas Byrnes, builder of the Elkader Keystone Arch Bridge, and the Bayless Hotel was awarded the contract for the erection of the new church without decoration and furniture at a price of $12,000. On April 24, 1898, the Cornerstone was laid. the Church was dedicated on Thanksgiving Day.The dimensions of the main body of the building are 50' by 85' and the total length is 104', including the sanctuary. The steeple above the bell reaches 142' to the top of the Cross. The Gothic vaulting in the interior is supported by two rows of ornamental columns. These columns were originally marbleized. Between the columns on the vaulted ceiling were large circular oil paints of various Saints. During the 1960 renovation, major pieces of the church's original furnishings were removed. At that time, the interior was plastered with Kalloite and finished with artistic Fresco painting. The roof and spire were covered with the best quality Pennsylvania black slate. In the 1980's the roof was replaced completely with new black slate. Cont:


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