St. Mary's - Our Lady of Seven Dolors Catholic Church - Festina

St. Mary's Catholic Church, Festina, Iowa

St. Mary’s – Lady of Seven Dolors Catholic Church has a large presence in Festina, Winneshiek County, Iowa, as you can see by the 1886 Festina Plat Map (known as Twin Springs at the time). 

Festina (Twin Springs) 1886 Map
1886 Plat Map of Twin Springs (Festina), Winneshiek County, Iowa

Beginnings of Our Lady of seven Dolors Catholic Church

I received the following article from a distant cousin and do not know the source. I assume it is a document provided by the church regarding its history:

Our Lady of Seven Dolors is the only parish in the Archdiocese of Dubuque to originate as an Indian mission. It was the first parish in the Archdiocese with the exception of the Dubuque cathedral, to have a resident pastor.

In 1840 the U.S. government-built Fort Atkinson and moved the Winnebago Indians there. Pressure from white settlers forced their move from the Yellow River area north of McGregor. Rev. Joseph Cretin of Dubuque had ministered to the Catholic Winnebagoes (converts of Fr. Samuel Mazzuchelli’s) at Yellow River and soon visited them at the fort. He persuaded Bishop Loras to send young Fr. Remigius Petiot, a seminarian from France, as a resident missionary chaplain. He was warmly welcomed by the Indians and the white Catholics attached to the Indian agency, but not by the Rev. David Lowrey, Presbyterian missionary and official Indian agent. Rev. Lowrey did all he could to prevent Father Petiot from ministering to the Indians and finally sent a company of dragoons to demolish his crude shelter. After three months Father Petiot returned to Dubuque. He had baptized 14 Indian children during his stay.

The next year, 1843, Father cretin came from Prairie du Chien at regular intervals. A rough log chapel was built by Catholic soldiers, Indians, and traders. This became known as “Old Mission” and it was by this name the early Festina parish was known. Father Cretin, however, named it “Notre Dame du Desert” ––Our Lady of the Wilderness. Because of the hardships endured by him in establishing the mission parish, he changed the name to “Notre Dame des Sept Doleurs”––Our Lady of the Seven Dolors, the name that has endured to the present. The Catholic Almanac for 1846 lists the parish––“Winnebagoe Mission, Our Blessed Lady of the Seven Dolors––Very Rev. Joseph Cretin. He has to bear every kind of opposition, even from the Government, which forbid him to keep any schools.”

By 1848 and 1849 the Indians and troops were moved from the Fort Atkinson reservation to Minnesota, opening up the Neutral Grounds for settlement. Pioneer families from Oldenburg, Indiana, came in 1849, and purchased the abandoned buildings at the mission farm. The largest log building was dismantled and reassembled on the site where the Smallest Church stands today. They kept the name Our Lady of Seven Dolors. Frank and Mary Huber donated 20 acres to the diocese for the Church. It was the first church in Winneshiek County. Bishop Loras sent Rev. G. H. Plathe to conduct services there every three months. As membership increased, he came every month, followed by Rev. M. Lentner in 1851, Rev. M. Remsen in 1852, Rev. L. Schwaiger, and Rev. W. Emonds in 1853.

Between Christmas and New Years, the small church burned and arson was suspected. Unfortunately, all church records were lost in the fire. To Prevent this from happening again and also because of frequent floods, a new log church as erected in Twin Springs (Festina), where a majority of the settlers lived. The land was donated by Andrew and Rachel Meyer, Wm. and Maria Kabeisman, and Clemens and Caroline Funke. This was recorded in the Catholic Almanac of 1856––“Old Mission––Seven Dolors of the B. V. (German) Rev. Philip Laurent, a good school. This church was burned in 1854 by incendiaries; it has been rebuilt on 100 acres of land, twice as large, and ever since Catholicity has grown at such a rate that in one year the following four churches were erected in the neighborhood:

    • St. Clement––Two miles above Fort Atkinson (German) 55 acres of land attended from Old Mission.
    • St. Luke––(German) log church 40 acres of land attended from Old Mission eight miles distant.
    • St. Terence––Fayette County, 80 acres of land attended from Old Mission.
    • St. Rose––Chickasaw County, 80 acres of land attended from Old Mission.”


Rev. Philip Laurent was the first resident pastor. Since he was the only one in the wide area, “Our Lady” became the “mother church.” Rev. Louis Decailly was the next pastor, 1856, followed by Rev. M. Flammang, 1857, Rev. Henry Fedderman, 1858, and Rev. Frederick Hannasch, 1861. Entries in the parish records range from as far north as Fillmore County in Minn. To the Volga area in the south. Rev. Conrad Schulte came in 1867 and stayed till 1870 when Rev. Urbany took charge. Rev. August Sauter came in March 1877. Under his direction the parish celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of “Our Lady’s” location in Festina. To commemorate this event, Rev. Sauter wrote a jubilee book printed in the German language.


Membership List of St. Mary's Catholic Church April 1857

STATUS ANIMARUM––Membership List
Month April 1857 (as in the official records)


Andres Joseph, wife: Dorothea, children: 
     Peter 22, Edward, Wilhelm, Johannes, 
     Joseph, Catherina, Franz 10, Heinrich 8
Bauhaus Bernard, wife: Christina, children: 
     Johannes, 4, Catherina 2
Bechtel Sebastian, wife Elisabeth, children:
     Carolina, George, Anton
Brokamp Herman, wife: Elisabeth, children: 
     Maria 12, Elisabeth 8, Franz, George,
Bütman Bernard, wife: Sybilla, children:
     Angela 2, Maria 4, Bernard ½ 
Bruchna Mathias, wife: Dorothea, children: 
     John 16, Albert 14, Maria 10, Anna 8
     Catharina 4, Silvester 1+
Böing (Schulze) Theodor, wife: Carolina, Maria 
Bromling George, wife: Catharina, children 
Balzer John, wife: Maria, children 
Cabeiseman Wilhelm, wife: Maria, children:
     Wilhelm 7 [Kabeiseman?] 
Cremer, Wilhelm, wife: children: Wilhelm, 
     Heinrich, Caroline, Joseph 18 
Dress Friederich, wife: Elisabeth, children: 
     Maria 7, Johann 3, Veronica ¼ 
Dress Michael, wife: Elisabeth, children: 
     Wilhelm 2 ½, Maria ½
Dimp Theodor, wife: Christina, children: 
     Heinrich 4, Bernard 2 
Dörr, Wilhelm, wife: Maria, children: Helena 
     6, Anna 4, Wilhelm 1
Daldrup E., widower, children: Elisabeth
Dreyel George, wife: Maria
Doyle, Barnard 
Eimes Friderich, wife: Maria, children: 
     Maria 3, Wilhelm 1 
Eimes Wilhelm, wife: Elisabeth, children:
     Maria ½ + 
Eppel Andreas, wife: Elisabeth, children: Alexis 
     16, Therese 14, Chrisostemus 9 
Etteldorff Friederick, wife: Maria, children: 
     Catherina 6, Anna Maria, Friderick, Jos. 

—–page break—–

Mohr Heinrich, wife: Agnes, children: Rosa 
Martineck Thomas, wife: Elisabeth, children: 
     Albert, Maria 7, Joseph 5, Franz 3, Wenzel
McManes Philipp, wife 
Pieper Heinrich, wife: Elisabeth, children: 
     Bernard 16, Johan 14, Elisabeth 12, Theresa 
     10, Christina 15 
Rademaker Bernard, wife: Lena, children: 
     Bernard 13, Wenzel 9, Heinrich 7, Helene 5 Schneberger George, widower: children: 
     George 18, Anna 16, Johann 11, George 8, 
     Maria 5 
Schneberger Michael, wife: Anna, children
Schons Friderick, wife: Margaritha, children: 
     Catharina 10, Peter, Nicolaus, Cath. 
Schons Heinrich, wife: Maria, children: 
     Maria 6, Julie, Carolina, Margaretha 
Scholbrock Heinrich, wife: Louisa, children: 
     Heinrich 11, Theodor 5, Clemens 1 ½ 

Fredrich Herman, wife: Catharina, children:
     Joh. Herman 3½, Elisabeth 1½
Funke Clemens, wife: Gertrude, children:
     Heinrich 4, Wilhelm 2, Clemens
Gerleman Wilhelm, wife: Marie Catherina,
     children: Ebernard 4, Heinrich, Friederich,
     Carl, Josephina 16
Gallagher Bernard, wife: Susannah, children:
      John, Catharina, Peter, Lorenz
Gartner Paul, wife children
Gehling H.
1857 April
Giesing Joseph, wife: Elisabeth, children:
     Maria Catherina 21, Lydia 19, Joseph 12, An-
     na 9, Frederich 7, Heinrich 5, Theodor 1
Gobert Wenzel, wife
Holthaus B. Wilhelm, wife: Elisabeth,
     children: Wilhelm 9, Maria 7, Heinrich 5,
                      Elisabeth 3½
Holthaus Herman, wife: Francisca, children:
     Agnes ½ 
Holthaus Theodor, wife: Elisabeth, children: 
     Theodor 1 ½, August ½ 
Hess Carl, wife: Margeritha, children:

     Josephina 9, Wilhelm 7, Helena, Edward,
1857 October
Kinker Bern
, Heinrich, wife: Joh. Catharina,

      children [now spelled Huinker]
Lensing Johann, wife: Maria, children:
     Heinrich 8, Bernard 5, Maria 3, Francisca
     1 ½, Helena
Lensing Wenzel, wife: Gertrude, children:
     Maria ½
Leard John
Lone Michael
Lensing Louis, wife
Meyer Andreas, wife: Regina, children:
     Marianne 11, George 9, Francisca 7, Louis 5,
     Agnes 3 ½, Philipp 2, Catharina ½
Mülles Henrich, wife: Anna
Merric Bernard, wife: Josephina, children:
     M Josephine 3, M. Catharina ½

——page break——

Schüssel Peter, wife: Maria, children:
     George, Peter 16, John, Joseph 14
Sudtelgte Bernard, wife: Maria, children
Spielmann Philipp, wife: Barbara, children
Scheidelmantel Heinrich, wife: Kunigunda,
     children: Josephina 4, Wilhelm 2, Theodor ½
Schupantesh John, wife children
Schneeberger Sophie, Anna
Schreier Herman, wife: Theresia, children
Stripple, wife: children: John and Hienrich
Schmid John, wife
Slone, widower
Unger Friederich, wife: Anna Maria,
     children: Herman, Elisabeth 19, Heinrich
     16+, Fritz 13
Ullenhage Ferdinand, wife: Catherina,
Wimber Franz, widower + children:
     Elisabeth 23, Andreas 16
Werner Christian, wife: Walburga, children
Zweibohmer Herman, wife: Antoinette,
     children: Herman 1½, Fritz  



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