NEGenWeb Project


Top Row--Prince Max of Wied visited in Nebraska in 1833; (2) The
Log Cabin of the German Colony at Grand Island; (3) The Lone Tree

Second Row--(1) The Liederkranz Hall; (2) Locomotive of 1867;
(3) St. Michael's Church, Central City; (4) Duetsche Heim; (5) G.
M. Dodge, Chief Engineer of U. P. R. R.

Third Row--(1) Very Rev. August Heimes; (2) St. Francis' Hospital;
(3) Original Building Nebraska State University; (4) Creighton
University, Omaha.

Fourth Row--(1) Parochial School at Grand Island; (2) Nativity B. V.
M. Cathedral; (3) First Territorial Capitol of Nebraska; (4) First
Claim Cabin.

Fifth Row--(1) Hall County Court House; (2) State Soldiers' Home;
- (3) Federal Building at Grand Island.



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Rev. Cyrinus Schneider, O. F. M, Army Chaplain


Rev. Patrick Lynch,
Woodriver, Nebraska


Rev. John Flood
Platte Center, Nebr.


His Excellency Rt. Rev. James Duffy, D. D., Bishop of Grand Island


Rev. Wunibald Wolf Grand Island, Nebr.

charge. In 1924 the Franciscan Sisters of Lafayette built the Good Samaritan Hospital. In 1929, Keene's Home for the Aged was opened, in charge of the Sisters of Corpus Christi. Fr. Muenstermann also attends Catholics at the State Tubercular Hospital and The Industrial School For Boys, both located at Kearney.


The visiting priests were: Revs. Fourmont, Kelly, Erlach, J. M. Ryan, P. Lynch, Fr. Conway.

The resident pastors were: Rev. P. J. Boyle, 1881-1883; Rev. Hayes, 1883-1886; Rev. Thos. Haley, assistant; Rev. Nicholas Holtz, October, 1886-December, 1886; Rev. Albert M. Hork, August 18, 1886-1890; Rev. Eugene Gary, July, 1889-October, 1891; Rev. James A. Breen, November, 1891-September, 1893; Rev. John Fitzpatrick, October, 1893-November, 1896; Rev. F. A. McGovern, January, 1897-December, 1898; Rev. D. P. Harrington, January, 1899September, 1899; Rev. C. Z. Petlach, October, 1899-November, 1901; Rev. P. R. Kennedy, December, 1901-June,


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1902; Rev. F. McCarthy, December, 1902-September, 1906; Revs. Joseph Roth and Korte, assistants; Rev. Thos. P. Haley, July, 1902-November, 1902; Rev. M. L. Daly, October, 1906December, 1910; Rev. Hy. Muenstermann, January, 1911, to the present day.


Frenchmen first found and named the "Island", but the Germans were the first to settle here. Hall County was established in 1855 and organized in 1859. The first white settlers came in July, 1857, from Davenport, Iowa. A. H. Barrows, a banker, had organized a company to found a colony in Nebraska. The company went under in the panic of 1857. Among the pioneer settlers were five Americans and the rest Germans, mostly from Sleswig-Holstein, including six women and one child. Five emigrant wagons left Davenport May 28, 1857 and arrived at Grand Island, July 4th. Fremont and Columbus were then the only towns of the north side of the river. It was a courageous deed to settle 150 miles from the Missouri river in a territory visited by the murderous Sioux. Great cold, lack of supplies, etc., were overcome by indomitable will and harmony of purpose. Reinforcements came in July, 1858.


Among the earliest Catholic settlers were the brothers Patrick and Richard Moore, who hailed from Iowa City, in 1859. Rev. A. Fourmont, of Columbus, was the first priest to visit Grand Island. He celebrated Mass in a log house, which was situated three miles west of what is now Wood River. The house belonged to A. Moore, the home that gave the first native priest to Hall County, viz., the Rev. Anthony Moore. In those early days Mass was celebrated by Father Ryan in other private homes and in section houses as a number of section bosses and many of the working men along the Union Pacific H. R., were Catholic Irishmen. Fr. Ryan erected the first frame church in September, 1868.


About the same time as the Moores came to Wood River the Windolph families, also Catholics, likewise came to Grand Island. These, too, occasionally had an opportunity to satisfy their religious needs when a priest from Omaha or Columbus celebrated mass in one of the primitive cottages. Grand Island, however, developed more rapidly and in 1864 organized and was given mass once a month in the section house by Rev. J. M. Ryan. Under his watchful care and aided by his zealous labor the mission grew with the growing town. In 1868 the Catholics obtained from the U. P. R. R. Company a site for a church, viz., the whole north half of block 81 in the original town of Grand Island. By extraordinary effort and generosity they, in this year, raised a sum sufficient to erect a frame church, which was completed in September of the same year. But, alas, a severe windstorm completely demolished it. Severely disappointed they continued for awhile to worship as in the past. In 1873 they made another attempt to build a church, but owing to the limited means and financial depression all over the county, this proved abortive. Despite the great ravages of the grasshoppers in 1874, 1875 and 1876, they made a final and successful attempt on February 17, 1877. The trustees and about 30 families succeeded in raising a sufficient sum to erect a church. Fr. Ryan attended this as a mission church from Columbus. The people elected Joseph Juneman as president, Jas. Cleary as secretary and Joseph Windolph as treasurer, with Patrick Dunphy, Patrick McCarthy, John Kraft and Ed Doberstein as members of the building committee. They erected a brick foundation and frame superstructure --x-- ft. The cornerstone was laid on May 7, 1877, and in July the church was dedicated. In 1877, however, the Rev. P. J. Erlach came to reside at Grand Island and in 1879 he built a parochial residence.


Rev. Almire Fourmont, Rev. Wm. Kelly (July, 1863-July, 1865); Rev. P. J. Erlach (August, 1865-December 10, 1866), were the priests of Columbus, who visited Grand Island at fairly regular intervals.


Grand Island received a resident pastor in the person of the Rev. P. J. Erlach in December, 1877. He remained until July, 1880. His successors were: Rev. Richard Phelan, July 6, 1880March 10, 1884; Rev. Patrick S. Lynch, April, 1884-October 7, 1886; Rev. Wunibald Wolf, October 7, 1886-1914, when he resigned.

Fr. W. Wolf was sent to build a larger church. The building committee consisted of Jas. Cleary, Adam Windolph, Nicolaus Becker, John Tighe, and Peter Heintz. The parish was incorporated by James Cleary and Adam Windolph, trustees. The cornerstone was laid by Bishop O'Connor, August 15, 1888, dedicated July 7, 1899, by Vicar General H. Shaffel, as representative of the Bishop. Rev. F. S. O'Callaghan preached the dedicatory sermon. The priests present were:


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er, of Omaha; Walsh, of Lexington; Lynch, of Wood River; J. Mueller of St. Libory, Stever, of Ashton, and Hork of Kearney.


A meeting was held January 4, 1893, to discuss the erection of a parochial school. James Costello, Frank Lange and Hy Lange formed the building committee.

Under Father Wolf St. Mary's Church was incorporated with James Cleary and Adam Windolph as trustees. As a larger church was needed, a building committee was appointed. It consisted of James Cleary, Adam Windolph, Nicholas Becker, John Tighe and Peter Heintz. The cornerstone for the stone foundation and brick building, with basement, was laid by the Rt. Rev. Bishop O'Connor, of Omaha, August 15, 1888. The building was dedicated by the Very Rev. R. Schaffel, Vicar General, while Rev. F. S. O'Callahan delivered the sermon, on January 4, 1893.


As the Rt. Rev. Bishop urged the establishment of a school the Duhrsen property south of the church was purchased and on September 9, 1893, the Sisters of St. Joseph opened the school with an enrollment of 120 pupils. In March, 1877, the Grand Island district was erected into a deanery, and in July, 1897, the pastor was made an irremovable rector.


When Kearney was erected into a diocese, March, 1912, Grand Island became part of the new diocese. But this arrangement lasted only five years when the Rt. Rev. James Duffy, the first Bishop, made a change.


Already on April 11, 1917, the Rt. Rev. James Duffy, Bishop of Kearney, with the permission of Rome, transferred his see from Kearney to Grand Island, largely because of better railroad facilities. In April, 1920, ground was broken for the new Cathedral school and a K. C. hall. It is a two-story brick building trimmed with Bedford stone, includes a full basement and measures 60x115 feet. The clubrooms of the Knights of Columbus are in the modernly equipped basement. The first story contains the classrooms for the grades and the high school department. The second story comprises a hall, etc., with a seating capacity of 600.


The Rt. Rev. J. A. Duffy is a native of St. Paul, Minnesota, and was born on September 13, 1873. His parents were James and Nora (nee Shiely) Duffy. He made his classical studies at St. Thomas College. After graduating from college he entered St. Thomas Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. After the completion of his philosophical and theological studies he was ordained May 27, 1899, by the Most Rev. John Ireland at St. Paul. His first assignment was assistant at Immaculate Conception Church in Minneapolis, where he remained for three years. His next appointment was as Pastor at Le Sueur, Minnesota, (2 years). During the next 81/2 years he was Rector of the Cathedral in Cheyenne, Wyoming, under Bishop J. J. Keane.

When the new See of Kearney was erected on March 7, 1912, Fr. Duffy was appointed its first Bishop. The new diocese comprised 29 counties and parts of Dawson, Hall, Lincoln and Keith Counties lying north of the South Platte River in the State of Nebraska, or roughly speaking the whole of the middle and northwest portion of Nebraska. The Rt. Rev. Bishop was consecrated April 16, 1913, and transferred to Grand Island April 11, 1917. On his accession the new diocese numbered 23 priests and a Catholic population of 11,000. Besides laboring zealously for the increase of religion the Bishop succeeded in erecting the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which was solemnly consecrated in July, 1928, in the presence of Cardinal Hayes of New York, Archbishop Keane of Dubuque and 21 Bishops, 22 Monsignori and 175 priests. The beautiful new Cathedral on its completion was free of debt. The present status of the Grand Island diocese is: 64 diocesan and two religious priests; 50 churches with resident priests; 50 missions with churches; 15 stations; 4 chapels; 6 clerical students; 3 academies; 14 parochial schools with 2,500 pupils; 3 hospitals; 178 Sisters. The Catholic population is about 25,000 (5,400 families). There were in 1929 about 235 marriages, 1,261 baptisms, 129 converts, 280 deaths. The Mexican immigrants fluctuate between 2,000 and 4,000.


Besides laboring zealously for the spiritual welfare of his flock, His Excellency succeeded in erecting the fine new Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

(From "The True Voice", July 13, 1928).

Rt. Rev. Bishop A. J. Duffy and the priests and people of Grand Island are justly proud of their beautiful cathedral, which has been completed so successfully and cleared of debt before it was opened for worship. It is not one of the


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largest of the country; but it is one of the best in a young and scattered diocese. Its style of architecture is unique in this section of the country and it is complete in every detail. Its erection marks a step forward for the diocese of Grand Island and opens a new era for that portion of the Lord's vineyard.

Construction of the new cathedral was begun in the spring of 1926 under the direction of Architects Brinkman and Hagen. The style is Tudor Gothic with a fine soire rising from the junction of the transepts with the nave. The building is of stone, 60x179 feet in the nave. The width of the transepts is 120 feet. Its seating capacity is 900. The altars are of marble. The main altar is the gift of Dr. M. L. Rich and cost $15,000. The other altars were also donated by friends of Bishop Duffy. Exclusive of the altars, the total cost of the cathedral was $205,000. All this has been paid in full on the completion of the cathedral. It is a beautiful building, a credit to the city of Grand Island and to the diocese. Those who attended the consecration marvelled (sic) not only at the beauty of the building but at the fact that it was erected at such low cost. The general opinion of those who did not know the cost was that it must have been at least $400,000.


The consecration of the Cathedral took place on July 5th, 1928, in presence of his Eminence Cardinal Hayes, of New York, Archbishop J. Keane, of Dubuque, and twenty-one Bishops, one hundred seventy-five priests and large delegations of people from all parts of the diocese of Grand Island. Cardinal Hayes had arrived the day before from Omaha, where he had installed the Rt. Rev. Bishop J. F. Rummel, in a special train. He was accompanied by about fifteen bishops and seventy priests. Rt. Rev. Bishop J. Duffy consecrated the building and the main altar while four Bishops consecrated the four side altars. Most Rev. Archbishop J. Keane preached especially on the powerful influence of the Mass on individual souls for their sanctification and bringing them closer into union with God. After the ceremony at the Cathedral dinner was served for the prelates and priests at the Yancey Hotel. Father Galvin, of Spalding, was the principal speaker. Also Cardinal Hayes made an address. In the evening an organ recital was followed by Sacramental Benediction by Bishop Rummel. The Cardinal spoke in the Cathedral on this occasion.


Rev. Wunibald Wolf, who labored so long and so faithfully at Grand Island, was born February 22, 1854, at Fleckenberg, diocese of Paderborn, Germany; immigrated to the United States in May, 1873; was ordained June 24, 1880, at St. Francis, Wisconsin, with the late Rev. John Mueller, who died at Columbus in March, 1930. After laboring at Crete until 1897, he was made pastor of Grand Island, later irremovable rector, July, 1897, then dean, and also served as chaplain at the Soldier's Home. In 1914 he retired to St. Francis' Hospital erected in 1886 at a cost of $15,000 and enlarged in 1893, 1899 and 1905 ($40,000). The new hospital was finished September, 1912 (cost $80,000). The old building serves since as an Old People's Home. There he passed to his reward July 5, 1918.

In 1891, the Grand Island parish, of the Nativity of the B. V. M., numbered 41 German, 78 English, one Italian, and one Danish, families. The K. C. of A. numbered 21 members and the hospital had 46 beds.--Dritter Deutsch-Amerikanischer Schematismus, by Rev. John N. Enzelberger.--In 1914, St. Mary's parish numbered 200 families and a total, including the Catholic veterans in the Soldier's Home, of 1,100 souls.


The Rev. Augustus W. Heimes was appointed to the rectorship of St. Mary's at Grand Island (now the Cathedral) on November 8, 1914. Father A. Heimes was born in Westphalia, Germany, September 3, 1877. His parents were Frank and Teresa (Deutenberg) Heimes. He came to the United States in October, 1880. After graduating from the parochial school of St. Bernard's in St. Paul, Minnesota, he entered the Pontifical College "Josephinum" in the fall of 1893 and was ordained in Columbus, Ohio, June 10, 1904.

Having served as assistant at O'Neill for six months, as pastor of Ewing, Nebraska, for two and one-half years and at St. Libory seven years, he was appointed to St. Mary's, Grand Island, after an concursus held at Omaha.


Assistants at St. Mary's, Grand Island, since 1904 were: Revs. Kaspar Grobbel, Paul Moser, Patrick McDaid, John J. Kavanaugh, Chas. Havorka, Patrick Moynihan, and Aloysius Jarzemski. Chaplains of the Hospital were: Revs. J. Stocker, James Gleeson and Peter McLaughlin and others.


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© 2004 for the NEGenWeb Project by Sherri Brakenhoff, Ted & Carole Miller