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Early History of St. Ignatius Loyola Parish
Our current church building was built in 1904 and dedicated on February 19, 1905/
If you wish to read only about the origin of the current church building, please begin reading here. Otherwise, enjoy a bit of St. Ignace history prior to the new church by reading the whole article.
One of the most complete histories of the Catholic Church in the Upper Peninsula is the History of the Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie and Marquette by Rev. Antoine Ivan Rezek. All of the following is extracted from his Volume II (pp. 144-152) published in Houghton, Michigan, 1907. Included are Fr. Rezek's conclusion about Father Marquette's grave, some insight as to how much property in Saint Ignace once belonged to the diocese, a listing of some of the pastors, and the story of how our current St. Ignatius Loyola Church came to be. Readers looking for more information on Father Marquette's role in Saint Ignace should refer to Father Rezek's History of the Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie and Marquette, Vol. II., in its entirety.
The [Jesuit] Relations hold their singular place in history; their truthfulness has never been questioned. From their pages we have followed Marquette from the shores of Lake Superior to the St. Ignace Mission, we traced his labors there, his explorations of the Mississippi, we gave the narrative of his holy death and the final interment at St. Ignace. These are indisputable facts. For modern times it only remained to find the site of the ancient Jesuit chapel in order to point to the world the grave of Père Marquette which time will hardly ever efface from the mind of man. This was amply done by his not less saintly successor, Rev. Edward Jacker. Hence, no reasonable doubt can any longer be enter¬tained but that St. Ignace is in possession of the last burying place of James Marquette, the Jesuit, the missionary, the explorer of the Mississippi, and, what we confidently hope, the saint of God's holy Church.
To the possible query why did not the Jesuits, upon their return in 1712, remove the remains, the answer suggests itself, because they have found the grave desecrated by the superstitious hand of the pagan Indian, as has been so conclusively proven, and the few relics of bones that might have been found, if indeed ever looked for, were left to their natural destruction.
Sensible to the honor so singularly imposed upon St. Ignace by Providence, the citizens hastened to show their sense of appre¬ciation by erecting from public funds a suit¬able monument over the grave of him whose whole life will be extolled unto endless generations. On May 23, 1882, in public session of the Village council, Trustee Reagon, in a heart-felt talk addressed the councilmen and people assembled and in conclusion offered the following resolution:
"Whereas, Rev. Father Kilian Haas has invited the citizens of St. Ignace to contribute to the erection of a suitable memorial chapel over the grave of Marquette; and
"Whereas, This pioneer missionary, martyr and explorer planted here his mission, on the far frontier, more than two centuries ago, and here he lived and toiled, and, dying not far away, was returned here to a grave; and
"Whereas, His name and fame are, in a measure, bequeathed by time to the people of St. Ignace, who, recognizing his foresight, see for themselves a grand future for this site of the mission he founded, and for the Upper Peninsula over which his watchful care extended; and in order that they may assist in perpetuating and preserving from desecration the grave of him whom it is sought to honor, therefore be it
"Resolved, By the President of the Board of Trustees of the Village of Saint Ignace, that the sum of ---------- be, and the same is hereby appropriated from the general fund, to be expended in the erection of a suitable iron fence, with stone copings and corners, and gateway bearing some suitable inscription, such as, 'Here for two centuries have rested the remains of Marquette. Erected by the people of Saint Ignace, 1882,' and that the sidewalk be laid with flagging, and that two iron street lamps be set at the curb and lighted every night, to point to the visitor and to remind the citizen that the people of Saint Ignace honor the memory of the illustrious dead of two centuries past; and it is further
"Resolved, That, with the approval of Father Kilian Haas, a contract shall be let for the work, which shall be first approved by the Council, executed under the inspection of the Committee of Public Improvements, and that D. Farrand Henry, Esq., civil engineer, be invited to assist in the plans and designs, and Father Kilian Haas be invited to co-operate with the committee in so far as his duties will permit."
Nor must the merits of Father Haas be overlooked in this case. As soon as the historical question was settled and every reasonable doubt as to the genuineness of the site allayed, he thought the duty devolved upon the citizens to honor the distinguished dead by a modest monument until such time when friends and country will recognize his worth by a substantial shaft which will tell the posterity in equal terms of the merits of their ancestors and of the intrepid explorer. The Village furnished the monument and Father Kilian Haas, O.M.C. the following inscription:
Revdi. Patris J. Marquette, S.J.
Die 18, maii M D C L
XXV XXXVIII annos nat.
et Sepultus est in isto sepulchro
A.D. M D C L XXVII.
R. I. P.
Lapis iste erectus est ab incolis oppidi
A.D. M D C C CLXXXII
Rev. Father Jacker severed his connection with the mission in the fall of 1878 to become administrator of the diocese upon resignation of Bishop Mrak. The congregation had again to depend for services on Mackinac Island. In the meanwhile a change in the administration of the diocese had taken place. Bishop Vertin appointed Rev. C.A. Richard in November, 1880, to the vacant pastorate, but he remained only till January of the following year. By this time, on account of great scarcity of priests, the new ordinary invited the Capuchin Fathers of Calvary, Wisconsin, to establish themselves there. In May, 1881, the Very Rev. Bonaventure Frey, provincial of that order, after due reconnoitering, concluded to accept the parish. Rt. Rev. Bishop Mrak attended the mission until June when the Capuchins formally took hold of it. The first and only Capuchins at St. Ignace were Revs. Kilian Haas and Isodor Handtmann. The order gave up the mission October 23, 1882. Father Haas secularized for the diocese whilst his colleague returned to the monastery. During a couple of months the orphaned congregation was successively taken care of by Father Chamblon and Bishop Mrak until the appointment of Rev. John Cebul, December 9, 1882, who served the place until June 17, 1885. During this administration Father Cebul lengthened out the church in the front, thus adding considerable room to the old seating capacity. Thereafter the successions were: Rev. F.X. Becker, from July 5, 1885, to October 10, 1886. During fifty years the old rectory had become well nigh uninhabitable. Recognizing the extreme need of a new house Father Becker exerted himself to erect a new house at a cost of three thousand dollars. Rev. John A. Keul, from December 8, 1886, to October 15, 1887.
Rev. A. Th. Schuettelhoefer, from October 31, 1887, to April 28, 1888.
Rev. Edward Chapuis, from May 6th to October 3, 1888.
Rev. J.H. Reynaert, from October 23, 1888, to October 28, 1889.
Rev. H.J. Rousseau, from November 17, 1889, to August 17, 1890.
He enlarged the size of the old sacristy by removing the partitions of the old residence. The room served afterwards for the purpose of the winter chapel.
Rev. John Henn, from August 30, 1890, to August 28, 1891. In his time the church was painted inside and outside.
Rev. John Cebul, from September 24, 1891, to January 10, 1893. During his second administration, Father Cebul purchased a larger bell, and built an open shed [for it] directly in front of the old house. It remained there until Father Mockler's time when it was removed to the roof of the old residence with the old chimney for its rest. From there it tolled its varied song until removed to the more honorable place in the belfry of the new church.
Rev. Joseph Haas, from January 15, 1893, to October 14, 1894.
Rev. John Keul, from October 27, 1894, to September 13, 1897.
Rev. Joseph P. Kunes, from September 20, 1897, to November 22, 1898.
Rev. Adam J. Doser, from December 18, 1898, to October 20, 1901. He leveled the old cemetery. Rev. John J. Mockler, from October 27, 1901, to the present day. [Father Rezek's work was published in 1907.]
In St. Ignace the diocese owned considerable land, claims seven, eight, and twelve of the Private Claims. This property dated from Bishop Rese's time, and the following is its history.
Claim number seven, is described to wit: All that certain piece of land, lying and being at Point St. Ignace, bounded North by land claimed by the heirs of Louis Babeux, East by the Straits between Point St. Ignace and the Island of Michilimackinac, South by the land claimed by Jean Baptiste Bertrand to contain two arpents in front and extending back to contain one hundred and sixty acres. It was patented by the U.S. to Pierre Molleur. He sold it, March 2, 1825, to Nathan Puffer, for forty dollars. Isaac Blanchard bought it, August 15, 1825, for the same price. Then Jonas A. Stone acquired it, August 23, 1825, for the same consideration and sold it to Jonathan N. Bailey, April 9, 1826, for twenty dollars. It remained in his possession until August 1, 1829, when he disposed of it to John Drew for one hundred dollars. William Sylvester bought it, May 4, 1831, for fifty dollars. Then John Graham purchased it, September 1835, for eighty dollars, and again deeded it to Rt. Rev. Frederic Rese, October 21, 1835, for a consideration of one hundred and fifty dollars.
Claim number eight: All that piece of land described as follows: Northwardly by Lot 9, Eastwardly by Lake Huron, Southwardly by Lot 7, and Westwardly by the Public Lands and being designated on the connected map of Private Claims as lot eight at Point St. Ignace, containing seventy-one acres and being the same lot that was conveyed to the said party of the first part by Patent of the U.S. dated October 12, 1830. The Patent was issued to John B. Tesserrons. He conveyed it for a consideration of one hundred and fifty dollars to Frederic Rese, September 9, 1835.
Claim number 12: All that piece of land bounded and described as follows: Eastwardly by Lake Huron, Northwardly by land owned and occupied by Louis Martin, Southwardly by lot 11 and Westwardly by the Public Lands, containing two arpents in front and said lake and extending back as far as the survey of the lot extends Westwardly and being designated on the connected plat of private claims as lot twelve at Point St. Ignace. It contains 134.81 acres, and was patented to Joseph Delvaire, who disposed of it to Isaac Blanchard and wife, who in turn sold it September 21, 1835, to Rt. Rev. Frederic Rese, for five hundred dollars.
Claim thirteen: A piece of land at Point St. Ignace containing 62,472 square feet. Conveyed for the purpose of building a Catholic church, school-house and parsonage, bounded on the East by Lake Huron, on the North by lot fourteen, West by the Martin lot, and on the South by the aforesaid lot thirteen. The said piece has two hundred and twenty-eight feet in front, measured from the South to the lot fourteen, on the West side of lot thirteen, and two hundred and seventy-six feet deep measured westwardly from Lake Huron. This land was conveyed to Bishop Rese, September 10, 1837, with the understanding that Louis Martin's family were to have a front pew in church, free of charge. This compact was always lived up to, though the family contented themselves, in their modesty, with a 'back seat.'
As the title of all these lands was vested in Bishop Rese, his heirs, misled by the nature of his illness which rendered him incapable of making a will sold this property to Peter W. Hombach for thirteen hundred dollars. To the great disappointment of both parties, a legal will was filed with the Probate Court giving the title to the diocese. In the meanwhile Upper Michigan, in which the lands were located, was erected into a proper diocese and the successor of Bishop Baraga made a claim upon the lands on behalf of his diocese. Bishop Borgess, having become the third bishop of Detroit, naturally opposed what seemed to him an unwarranted pretense, and the case was referred to Rome for decision. Pius IX decided in favor of Bishop Mrak. Since then this possession of land has spun its jolly story for the onlooker, but not for the owner. The latter was always more or less annoyed by these holdings. The handy hook-file at his desk was always burdened with due tax bills and plausible lease offers. The more regularly he paid the former the more irregularly the latter paid him. The tenure of the fishing rights was held under the caudal stipulation to furnish the residing priest with as much fresh fish as he needed for his own use. The tenant acquitted himself of this obligation in a real scriptural manner—we have toiled all night and taken nothing—and permitted the reverend pastor to deduct philosophical conclusions from that—and buy his fish. Leasing proved unprofitable and burdensome. Then some town lots were sold outright. The largest sale—and worst—was that of the water front of claim thirteen. In the hope that it might materially benefit the town, Bishop Vertin sold it to the D.S.S. and A. Ry. for the paltry sum of six hundred dollars. On what remained of claims seven, eight, and twelve, the bishops paid taxes until 1903, when Bishop Eis sold all holdings outside of claim thirteen to Patrick Mulcrone for the sum of one thousand two hundred and fifty dollars.
The old church and house are located on claim thirteen, and to the rear of them, on the same claim to the north, was the old cemetery. In 1887 Bishop Vertin apportioned a piece of land for burying purposes, on his own land and consecrated it. But as much as a new burying ground was necessary, for people will die despite themselves, the old church more loudly proclaimed the necessity of a new one. This, however, could not be had as readily as a cemetery, particularly when it can be carved out of a whole section for the mere asking. The new church had been a subject of discussion for many years. Priest after priest came and went without having had more heart than to talk about it. Late in the fall of 1901, Father Mockler came to town. He, like many of predecessors, soon was apprised of the dilapidated condition of his church. As if to set aright things in his mind, for a couple of months he said nothing. But when the snow commenced to melt the following spring everybody in town knew that he intended to build a new church. Discour¬agements, which were more liberal than donations, he heeded not, but set to work collecting funds for this new enterprise. Twenty thousand seemed like so many millions among his few, not over-wealthy parishioners. With his pluck and perseverance he made the most incredulous believe in a final success. But as trouble never comes singly, to the financial problem associated itself the question of the church site. The everlasting switching on the one-track railway yard, stretching along the front of the church property, had long ago become a nuisance during services, particularly on Sundays. He could not move the tracks, so he resolved to move the church. Up on the hill, an elevation commanding a full view of the lake, he selected two lots. He purchased them from Mr. Murray. Excavations were begun in the spring of 1904 and the cornerstone was laid in June by Father Connolly, S.J., assisted by himself and Rev. J.J. Keul of Mackinac Island in [the] presence of a great concourse of people. His indomitable zeal encouraged the sacrifices of the people, and before the middle of the winter the new St. Ignace church stood ready for dedication. On February 19, 1905, it was solemnly dedicated by the Rt. Rev. Frederick Eis.
The church is of Gothic design and forms a cross. It measures one hundred and ten feet in length and fifty feet through the transcepts. It is built of red pressed brick and Bedford stone trimmings. The tower rises to a height of eighty-five feet. In the basement is a winter chapel and rooms for various other purposes. Inside, although yet unfrescoed, it makes a good impression to which the stained glass windows, donated by members of the congregation, contribute a splendid effect. The historic painting representing the patron of the church hangs above the main altar. The whole is a fitting and lasting monument to Father Mockler's zeal and the sacrifices of his people.
Moran, a small settlement on the D.S.S. & A. Ry., north of St. Ignace, has a church dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Mary. There are only five German families: the Beckers, the Soeltners, the Brauns, the Lipnitz' and Roggenbacks. To Mr. Otto Roggenback most of the credit is due for the building and paying for the neat little church.
The congregation of St. Ignace numbers fewer than two hundred families. According to nationality they are Irish, French, and Indian. Considering the resources of the town, it is nothing short of marvelous that they have erected a church with little over three thousand dollars indebtedness, which, too, has been paid by the—much to be regretted—sale of the old church property.
A parochial school this parish never possessed. In 1898 the Ursuline Sisters, from Chatham, Ontario, built an imposing academy and opened a boarding and day school. Children of both sexes are accommodated. The usual monthly tuition is charged to pupils who can afford to pay it, others are made welcome. At present there is an attendance of one hundred. Besides the customary eight grades, the Sisters conduct a high school course. In the community there are eleven Sisters, with Mother Angela as the superioress.
For the sake of historical truthfulness we may add another word about the ancient painting of St. Ignatius and the chalice, both owned by St. Ignace church. It is certain that neither article enjoys the antiquity ascribed to it. The chalice is modern in design, cup silver and gilt, and is undoubtedly one of those brought over from Austria by Bishop Baraga in
Ursuline Academy & Convent (ca. 1920)
The Mission Church Building
One of the most complete histories of the Catholic Church in the Upper Peninsula is the History of the Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie and Marquette by Rev. Antoine Ivan Rezek. All of the following is extracted from his Volume II (pp. 125-127) published in Houghton, Michigan, 1907.
St. Ignace "Mission Church" (1837) with 1884 addition
"We must return, in our narrative, to St. Ignace. The old mission site [in what is now the city of St. Ignace] remained practically deserted after the removal of the mission to the Lower point in 1741. The prominence of the trading post at Mackinac attracted the attention of home-seekers. [They were drawn] … to settle where not only marketable provisions and dry goods could be had, but where in case of exigency protection was afforded them. …
According to the best traditions, the ubiquitous Irishman, John Graham, a survivor of the Hudson Bay massacre, broke in upon St. Ignace in 1818. Louis Grondin came from Canada in 1822, and two years later his brother Pierre Grondin followed. Other contemporary settlers were: François Perreault, Michel Jeandreau, Michel Amnaut, Louis Charbonneau, Jean Baptiste Lajeunesse, Isais Blanchette, Louis Martin, François Truquette, Charles Cettandre, François De Fevere and the Americans, Hobbs, Puffer and Rousey, soldiers of the Revolution. The McNallys, Chambers, and Murrays came in 1847-48-49. The spiritual wants [of these settlers] were attended to from Mackinac Island until 1836 when they considered their number strong enough to have a church of their own. Father Bonduel, the pastor, willingly acceded to their wishes and commenced the erection of a chapel. Squared timbers were in readiness in the spring of 1837, and [by] the closing of that year Mass was celebrated in the new edifice.
The first child baptized in the new  church was Agnes Labutte, January 1, 1838. After Father Bonduel in 1838, the priests from the Island, in their succession, Santelli, Skolla, Van Renterghem and Piret, attended the mission. Father Pierz from Arbre Croche, resided in St. Ignace during Father Piret's temporary absence from January 15th to June 5, 1852.
The first resident pastor, having charge of only St. Ignace, was Rev. S. Carié, a French priest, whom Bishop Baraga engaged on his first trip as bishop to Europe in 1854, but who arrived a year later on account of not being able to obtain the release from his French Ordinary. He remained in St. Ignace from December 5, 1855, until March 22, 1856. The complex of services to the mission, for almost twenty years is a varied one, viz: Rev. E. L. M. Jahan, from June 9, 1856, to July 12, 1857, from Mackinac Island. Rev. A. D. J. Piret, from December 6, 1857, to September 15, 1868, as resident pastor. Rev. Charles Magnée, a resident priest only a few weeks in September, 1868. Rev. Mathias Orth, resident pastor, from November 5, 1868 to November 28, 1869. Rev. Nicholas L. Siffrath, from Cross Village, residing at the mission from January 30th to April 9, 1870. Rev. C. Varry, S.J., from the Sault, residing from September 4th to September 18, 1870. Rev. M. Orth, from February 6th to May 6, 1871, residing. At this period, trouble arose between the pastor and people, and Bishop Mrak, to restore order, was obliged to take hold of the congregation during June 1871. On the 29th of that month, he appointed Father L. Lebouc to the pastorate, who remained until April 8, 1872. An interregnum of nineteen months followed during which Father Moise Mainville, from the Island, and in August, 1873, Bishop Mrak himself served the mission. On November 17, 1873, Rev. Father Edward Jacker became the regular pastor, but resided on Mackinac Island until summer 1876, when he moved to St. Ignace.
Father Jacker, known through the diocese as a saintly man and scholar, divided his time between ministrations and historical researches…."
The "Old Mission Church" of 1837 was moved in the 1950's from its original site to its current location adjacent to Fr. Marquette's gravesite in Fr. Marquette Park in St. Ignace. Today it serves as the home of the Museum of Ojibwa Culture. It is the oldest Catholic church building still standing in Michigan or Wisconsin, being about 10 years older that the oldest existing church in the Detroit area. The Old Mission Church was abandoned as a church in 1905 when the present St. Ignatius Loyola Church was constructed.
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