The Early Years
The follow history of St. Mary's congregation near Moselle, Mo. was started January 1, 1907 by the Rev. Anthony Wigger, the first resident pastor. The facts, as stated therein, were related to him by the4 older members of the congregation who had lived to see them.
In the year 1876 three families, to wit: Wm. Finder, Ulrich Breer and John Otten had erected a small log building for a school near the present residence of the first named Wm. Finder to enable their children getting a Catholic education. They employed Mr. August Bolte as teacher, who was to receive a salary of $75.00 per annum, which the good people for want of ready cash paid in grain, mainly wheat. Each of the three families also boarded the teacher, free of charge, for the period of four months each. They also agreed to furnish him a horse and saddle as often as he would wish, principally that he might be able to attend the Sunday services in the parish church. Soon there were other Catholic families who neigher could, nor would send their children to parish school, 8 to 20 miles distant. They also wanted to send their children to this newly founded branch school. The people held a meeting in Mr. Finder's house and came to the conclusion that it would be best not only to have the school, but also to form a mission congregation, which could be attended to once a month. They agreed to build a church and school in about the center of this missionary district. Mr. Finder showed a map of Franklin County and pointed out the location where the mission buildings should be erected. As they, however, thought they might have made a mistake in location the place on the map, Mr. Wm. Finder and Mr. Joseph Hanneken were requested to measure off with a rope to find the exact cent of the settlement. At the same time a committee was appointed to call upon the pastor of St. John's congregation at Gildehaus, their parish church, the Rev. Father John Gerard Nordmeyer, to inform them of their resolution and to ask him respectfully to assist in the undertaking. He received the committee graciously and promised his full assistance, but he was an old man and did nothing in the matter.
The 15-18 families living scattered within the boundaries of this mission district were obliged to go, as before, to the parish church, some ten to twelve miles distant.
In the winter of 1879-1890, the teacher Mr. Bolte sent a letter to the German Vicar General of the Archdiocese, Very Rev. Henry Muehlsiepen of blessed memory, begging of him to see to it that the mission Moselle be duly established. Father Muehlsiepen asked Father Nordmeyer of Gildehaus about the matter, but not receiving any satisfactory answer came himself in early spring of 1880 to see what could be done. Mr. Anthony Eckelkamp received the Vicar General at the Moselle station and brought him safely through the waters of the river Boubeuse, then very much swelled from the spring freshets. Father Muehlsiepen styed over night at the house of Mr. John Otten, and on the following morning selected the site for the church and asked the people to erect a frame church thereon. The site selected was a little west of the place measured out with the rope, and belonged to Mr. David Overschmidt, who at once made a present of three acres of land for the new foundation. The work on the church was started at once. Father Muehlsiepen sent a plan and the specifications for the building.
There was an offer from a St. Louis lumber firm to furnish all the lumber necessary for $350.00. But, the few members of the new mission wee afraid this would be too much for them to pay, as they could not look for any help from outside, least of all from the mother congregation, St. John's.
Mr. Wm. Hanneken rode on horseback to Washington, Mo.; about 18-19 miles distant, where he contracted to get the lumber as well as the labor for the sum of $350.00.
Early in the summer of 1880 the Washington carpenters started work on the new building, a small frame church, 22 x 32 feet. As soon as they were finished, the plasterers from the same town started their work. Altars and pews were ordered from and made by the altar builders at Washington. A white chasuble and other things necessary for the holy sacrifice of mass were purchased. When all was complete, the church and its furnishings had cost $750.00 for most of which the people owed.
On September 1st (of the same year) 1880, the Very Rev. Father Muehlsiepen came, blessed the new church and celebrated mass therein for the first time. The people were greatly elated. After the services a pleasant picnic was held on the church grounds where mostly watermelons were sold for the benefit of the building fund. David Hanneken, born about that time. a son of Henry Hanneken of Moselle, was baptized on the day of his birth in the new church and has the distinction of being the first one baptized therein.
One year after the church was built, in the winter of 1881, the log house was erected which served as a schoolhouse since then and up this time.
The following are the names of the families and single persons who have helped to build the church in 1880: Jacob Austgen, Ulrich Breer, Wm. Finder, Jacob Gasch, Wm. Hanneken, Henry Hanneken (Meramec), Hry Lindemann, Hermann Lindemann, John Otten and his unmarried brother Wm. Otten, David Overschmidt, Peter Prentner, Hanry Pomm, and Lucan Roth.
Early during the contemplation of establishing the mission some families living a little north of church had expressed a desire to also join the Moselle congregation. They were: Henry Hanneken, teacher, Bernard Brinkmann, Henry Hanneken (Pin Oak), Joseph Hanneken, Clemens Vondera and Richard Vondera. But, the selection of the church site and some other arrangements not being agreeable to them, they withdrew entirely and left the burden to the above named thirteen families, continuing to attend services at St. John's (Gildehaus). But after the church and school were completed and paid for, they consented to join the Moselle mission.
Father Muehlsiepen himself came in the beginning once a month to say mass, preach, get instructions, baptize, etc.. When he could not himself come, he sent another priest in his place. This continued until December 1880 when Rev. Bernard Stemker came once a month from Pacific. When he was sent by the Archbishop to save the Kirkwood congregation from ruin, his successor, Rev. Feltmann continued to come as also his successors: in April 1885 Father Hennes and in February 1887, Father Gadell. From March to September 1891 Father muhlsiepen again attended in person every month when the pastor Sullivan, Rev. Henry Hussmann took over the mission and came twice a month. The arrangement was continued under his successor Rev. Chas Schaefer from October 1895 to April 1904. When Rev. Henry Fabry succeeded him, the last three named, as stated being pastor of the Sullivan, MO. parish.
The first parochial teacher at Moselle, Mr. August Bolte, continued in his office until 1883. When he left, the little congregation was a sore dilemma. But the people were determined to keep up the Catholic school, considering it the foundation for the future. Mr. Henry Hanneken, a member of the Moselle congregation, who had attended hight schools in Germany, was prevailed upon to become teacher. He assented, went to Washington, MO. for a time to prepare himself and learn to play the organ and become the teacher in the fall of 1883. For three years, up to June 1886, he managed the school with distinction. Right in the start he prevailed on having melodeon for the church, gave himself an ox to be raffled, realizing $75.00 and the congregation rejoiced by having high mass when their pastor came for service. The people had promised Mr. Henneken to build him a residence near the church and school, which was built in 1883 under the direction of the then pastor Father Feltmann. The lumber was bought very cheap at the Richwoods, Mo., saw mill and hauled from there, enabling the congregation to build the two rooms and kitchen house for a cash outlay of $50.00. Mr. Hanneken lived there as long as he taught school.
In September 1886 a certain Mr. Mund was appointed teacher and he remained for three years. Then Mr. Henneken, who had farmed during these years, was reappointed. But this time, he taught for one year only, preferring the farming, and a self styled "Dr. Arnold" was accepted, but had to leave during the first few moths. Mr. Hanneken was again prevailed upon to take over the school, which he did and remained in the position until 1897, being one of the most proficient Catholic lay teachers. Rev. Charles Schaefer engaged in September 1897 Miss Katie M. Weber who came with her younger sister Miss Lizzie who was to keep house for both. The teacher's residence, being too small for this purpose, Father Schaefer had it enlarged. The roof was taken off and a second story containing two attic rooms was added. A new roof was put on, the rooms were plastered, a stairway placed in the house, and the entire cost of the change did not exceed $200.
Miss Weber taught for two years, and then Miss Mary Hilkemeier was appointed her successor, but remained one year only when she married. In 1900 Miss Mary Wernert became teacher, remained for two years and was succeeded by her sister Miss Laura Wernert. In June 1904 Father Fabry engaged again Miss Kate W3eber who occupied the teacher's residence with her aged parents.
An addition to the old frame church was built in the fall of 1896, a new sanctuary and a sacristy. Mr. Wm. Finder did this work and was ably assisted by other members of the congregation. The Messrs. Finder, Wm. Otten and Frank Espowe who had never before tackled anything of the kind even did masonry and plastering work and did it very satisfactory. The cost of the addition was $300. New pews were also bought, and Mr. Finder and Mr. John Eckelkamp elevated the choir loft.
The first trustees of the congregation were the Messrs. Wm. Hanneken, John Hagedorn and WM. Vondera followed them. The first named died on December 11, 1907 and Messrs. George Otten and Jacob Gaasch were added to the two remaning trustees. The trustees for 1910 were Messrs. John Hagedorn, Jacob Gaasch, John Finder and Anthony Hanneken.