History of St. James Continued



One of those who will be long remembered for his untiring and unselfish efforts to alleviate the sufferings of those who looked to him for spiritual health was Father Clement, a physician to souls, who broadened out his sphere of usefulness and ministered to the physical ills of his flock so successfully that patients flocked to him from miles around to take advantage of his practical knowledge.  This holy man still further blessed the world in that it was he who having come upon the spot while deer hunting, first suggested the present magnificent site of St. John's University as a proper place for such an institution.[20]

          
Father Clement remained until March, 1860, when he was replaced by the Rev. Eberhard Gahr, O.S.B. who stayed until the end of that year.
 
With the coming of the Civil War there was some change in the life at Jacobs Prairie.  Especially affected were those whose fathers and sons departed for the scenes of battle.  In quick order fourteen of their number had joined some regiment or other. Among those who served were Anton Labunde, Henry Kirsch, Mathias Hansen, Peter Meinz, Peter Gilley, Dominic Gilley, Nicholas Hansen, Sr., Nicholas Hansen, Jr., Michael Boos, Peter Thomey, Christopher Neis, John Bauer, Nicholas Kirsch, and another Nicholas Hansen.  Two of these men were among the earliest settlers of St. James; namely, Nicholas Hansen, Sr., and Peter Meinz.  The former came to Stearns county in 1855 and settled on eighty acres. At the outbreak of the war he went to Rockville and enlisted in Company G of the Ninth Minnesota Volunteer Infantry.  He was wounded in action but returned after four years of service, bought another 'eighty' where he stayed until his death in 1910.  Peter Meinz, the other pioneer, at the age of twenty-three came to the United States in 1854.  Working hard and long, he finally acquired 418 acres of land, which he left to join the Fourth Minnesota Regiment, Company G on October 14, 1861.  After fighting Indians in the Northwest and Confederates in the South was released at Savannah, GA in December 22, 1864, he returned to his farming which he kept up until retiring to St. Cloud in December, 1899.  There he died on April 18, 1901.  The Rev. Pius Meinz, O.S.B., of St. John's Abbey, and Sister Celina Meinz, O.S.B., of St. Benedict's Convent, are his children.
 
In December, 1860, the Rev. Pius Bayer, O.S.B., was assigned to take over the growing parish as a non-resident pastor, as his predecessors had also been.  He served the parish from Richmond where he had on the same date been appointed the first resident pastor.  The people were still recovering from the hard times caused by the grasshopper plague.  Through all this the Church had been a source of hope and consolation to the pioneers, but they had been unable to develop it beyond its original state as far as the material plant was concerned.  The people had barely enough to keep their families going, and they were in no position to build or enlarge at St. James.  The passing of the famine did not bring much immediate relief either.  Having fought it out with nature, they were now about to fight it out with the Indian.
 
The famed Sioux Indian uprising which began in August, 1862, the month following the appointment of the new pastor, the Rev. Magnus Mayr, O.S.B., left the whole region in a state of unrest for over a year.  The first news of the event, the massacre in the Minnesota Valley, which touched off the flame, reached Stearns county on the evening of August 20 in a letter from E. A. C. Hatch, at Fort Ridgley, addressed to Superintendent Thompson of St. Cloud.  Steps were taken immediately for protection against the Sioux and the Chippewa Indian tribes.  In the Jacobs Prairie vicinity two main blockades were erected at St. Joseph and Richmond, the latter being the best fortified.  Beyond Fair Haven, Richmond, and St. Joseph it was reported that there was not a single house with an inhabitant.  Some of the Jacobs Prairiers hurried to Richmond, others to St. Joseph, a few to St. Cloud, and others as far away as St. Paul to stay with their relatives.[22]
 
Concerning those who went to St. Joseph, Father Bruno states:


The men capable of standing under arms patrolled the vicinity during the night with orders to fire a shot as soon as an Indian was noticed. The church bell was then to give the alarm and the townsfolk were to place themselves in defense.  Occasionally a timid or imaginative militia man mistook a stump for an Indian, a sharp report sounded through the quiet night and who might describe the agony and shrieks of the terrified women and children.  My pen is inadequate.[23]


At Richmond, Father Magnus Mayr, O.S.B., who had been serving Jacobs Prairie from there, was in charge.  He had put the church at the disposal of his congregation, and there they gathered for protection.  Father Magnus, "a civil engineer and a zealous priest," as he was called by Father Bruno, had the surrounding prairie plowed under and seven feet high earthworks erected.  Loopholes were put in the ramparts at intervals; and "two wooden pump shafts were metamorphosed into field pieces, having been well hooped by the blacksmith."[24]
 
Food grew scarce.  The harvest was in the field ready to be taken in, but no one dared to leave the barricade at Richmond.  Not only were the people hungry; the cows bellowed for food.  Some of the women and girls were trained to cast bullets.  The men, under armed cover, went from one field to the other for the harvest.  When the first weeks of the scare had passed, Father Bruno, ever the minute man, now in charge, decided to release his families from their captivity.  Then one evening a dozen families arrived with the news of a slaughter not five miles from Richmond.  "A great panic seized the encampment.  No one dared entertain the idea of leaving the fortification."L25]  A party of Sioux braves ventured within Richmond territory and there was a short skirmish, but they never attacked in force.
 
It was only after this move that Company G of the 25th Wisconsin Regiment arrived at Richmond.  Surprisingly their appearance caused more local disturbance than all the Indians put together.  "The settlers soon lost their tranquillity and for some mysterious reason patrols of troops sent out to scout never came back alive.  Finally even the Captain was slain, though not a trace was to be found of the Indians.  One morning the refugees awoke to find that the soldiers had departed."[26]
 
All this terror filled the hearts of the people for only a month, but it seemed like years to them.  After the battle of Wood Lake, September 23, 1862, Little Crow and his Sioux warriors left Minnesota and by October everything was normal in Jacobs Prairie.  They had weathered another storm.  Father Bruno stayed with them after the scare as their pastor, and served them from Richmond until 1863.  He was followed by the Rev. Matthew Stueremberg, O.S.B., who remained for two years, until March, 1865.
 
As early as 1864, during the pastorate of Father Matthew discussions were held concerning the possibility of replacing the original log church with a more elaborate edifice.  In that year the log church of 1858 was replaced by a frame structure, thirty by sixty feet.  This same building project saw the erection of a frame parsonage in anticipation of a resident pastor, a desire not fulfilled until August 8, 1873.  For the next nine years it was used only intermittently by the pastor.  Besides this, however, it also served as a home for the teachers and their families while they were serving the local district school.
 
Father Matthew did not have the privilege of using this new frame church in which all took such pride, for the next March the Rev. Anschar Frauendorfer, O.S.B., took over the responsibilities as pastor at Richmond with Jacobs Prairie as his mission.  Here he stayed for the next six years until 1871.  The parish, however, was no longer in its infancy. The year after Father Anschar's arrival the first new parish was divided from the thriving prairie parish of St. James by the Most Rev. Rupert Seidenbusch, O.S.B., Bishop of the Vicariate of Northern Minnesota.  It was the old St. Nicholas which was the first daughter of St. James to build a little frame chapel of its own.  Richmond was growing, too, and these two busy parishes were a difficult assignment for one man.  Father Anschar's burden was relieved in 1871 when the Rev. Joseph Vill, O.S.B., started serving St. James from the abbey at Collegeville.  In August, 1873, it was seen that under this arrangement enough attention was not given to the needs of what was now, according to the parish record, a reputable parish.  Thus the Rev. Vincent Schiffrer, O.S.B., was appointed as first resident pastor of Jacobs Prairie on August 8, 1873.
 
Father Vincent's was a busy little parish, and to take care of the expansion be built an addition to the church in 1875.  But 1875-76 held other things in store. More grasshoppers returned.  The people, well on the way to prosperity, had too soon forgotten their vows and processions.  This return of the hoppers soon revived their fervor, since it was far worse than the earlier affliction.
In answer to their prayers the grasshoppers were at last lifted from their fields never to return.
 
Grasshopper plagues were not the only troubles that Father Vincent had.  Everything was progressing well in Jacobs Prairie when the event that changed its future occurred. Michael Sargel built a brewery in Cold Spring.  The brewery itself was all right, and Father Vincent, of good Krainer stock, would have been the last to condemn its products.  The point at issue was that it wasn't built at Jacobs Prairie.
 
In 1856 everything had looked well for the Prairie, but even then business men were saying that in the end a settlement at Cold Spring would develop faster.  "The Prairie was good farm land but it was out of the path of big events. Cold Spring, on the other hand, was located on the Sauk River, and the mineral springs from which it took its name were a sure business opportunity from the start.[27]  The first warning of the changeover had come in 1862 with the opening of a store in Cold Spring.
 
Jacobs Prairie was sure to lose its position when in 1865 a flour mill was built on the Sauk River.  Why the Benedictine Fathers decided to take up residence at St. James instead of at Cold Spring in 1873 is not definitely known.  Perhaps the small number of Catholics in the growing city could have accounted for it. No doubt, however, the older missionary monks felt a special duty toward their firstborn. The firstborn, however, soon gravitated toward the source of great expectations, and the Benedictines followed them to Cold Spring.
 
According to the Rev. Ronald Roloff, O.S.B., in his articles on the St. John's parishes, it seems that there was some tension over the matter.


It would appear that Father Vincent opposed the move to Cold Spring even after the inevitable became clear.  The brewery, which was to put the seal upon Cold Spring's predilection, was built in 1874, the very year that Father Vincent took up residence on the Prairie.  Yet it was three years before a church was built in Cold Spring and four before the pastor moved there; and the end of Father Vincent's tenure as pastor curiously coincided with the removal to Cold Spring.  Perhaps this is merely coincidental; but it was not unlikely that Father Vincent preferred to remain with the quiet and solidly Catholic people of St. James rather than venture into the worldly atmosphere of the Sauk River town.[28]


The Rev. Leo Winter, O.S.B., became the second resident pastor of St. James in 1877.  He at once set about building a small chapel on a hill about a half mile east of Cold Spring, dedicated to Mary Help of Christians.  Father Leo built it as an act of thanksgiving to God for the lifting of the grasshopper plague.  It no doubt also served as an opening wedge for the movement into Cold Spring.  The people of St. Nicholas were also able to make use of it.  The pastor was to say Mass here every Saturday and a procession was to be held every year on August 15.[29]  Father Leo remained at the Prairie barely long enough to accomplish the move.  Having arrived in May, 1877, he moved his residence to Cold Spring in the following January.  Once more St. James was orphaned, and there were no services held there between January and October, 1878.
 
For the next twenty-seven years the little church on the prairie was to be cared for by Benedictine Fathers from the Abbey.  Among those who served it were Fathers Bernard (later Abbot) Locnikar, Alphonse Kuisle, Ludger Ehrens, Stanislaus Preiser, Eugene Bode, Boniface Moll, Anthony Capser, Bernard (later Bishop and Vicar Apostolic of the Bahama Islands) Kevenhoerster, Leonard Kapsner, Anselm Ortmann, Lawrence Steinkogler, Agatho Gehret, and Bonaventure Hansen.[30]
 
June 27, 1894, was another fateful day for the congregation.  This time the visitation was in the form of a cyclone which destroyed the church entirely and did severe damage to some of the surrounding farms.  The St. Cloud Times Weekly of July 6, 1894, records an on-the-spot account.  It reads as if written the day following the event.


A furious cyclone swept through Stearns County last night at sunset.  Through the Richmond, Cold Spring, Jacobs Prairie and St. John's district.  Leaving devastation in its great path.  Houses, granaries, and barns are downed by the storm.
 
One man fatally and one seriously injured and one missing.  Cattle and horses were killed and injured in great numbers.  St. John's Abbey is also struck by the destructive cyclone.  All the buildings around the institution damaged.
 
The cyclone struck at 8:30 at Cold Spring.  The chapel was completely wrecked.  It was blown from the wall and one corner seemed to have plowed the ground about a foot and a half in depth.  About two rods away of (sic) the chapel the walls were scattered among the trees.  The lower part of the altar could not be found.  Parts of the chapel were strewn down the hill and across the road.
 
St. James Church at Jacobs Prairie was blown down. The school remains.  Winkels' farm, all buildings were taken and Mr. Winkel is seriously hurt, and son John fatally.  It is reported that the Danzl boy that stayed at Winkels' is missing.  The crops appear unhurt except for the corn.
 
Other damages were Webers' excepting house (all buildings on the place where Edward Kollman now lives).  Thielens' new barn was moved five feet (where Raymond Froehle lives now).  The Witzman granary and windmill destroyed (where Joseph Witzman lives now).  Barthels' barn (where Roman Hansen lives now) blown away, cattle in barn unhurt.  The granary gone at Winkels' place (now Matt A. Schreifels).  John Schreifels', some building gone (where Nicholas Huberty now lives).


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