Church: Humbird - St. Joseph Catholic - Fairview (150th - 2020)

Contact: Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon

Surnames: Emer, Heiss, Goldsmith, Spitzlberger, Geyer, Bergmann, Gunkel, Boehm, Schulak, Volz, Guzowski, Babinski, Suter, Frydrychowicz, Flasch, Havestadt, Schwebach, Hofer, Bauer, Till, Stenz, Wernerus, Trompeter, Ellmaurer, Orlowski, Raschke, Thomas, Stromberg, Hardy, Sheridan, Ausman, Geissler, brake, Cooney, Wohlmuth, Bofenkemp, Molinaro, Urbic, Freking, Platt, Ziegelmaier, Heindl, Cassidy, Lescynski, Bukman, Burke, Dioka, Velickakathu, Rybicki, Stanislaus, Thelen, Bemish, Selz, Voves, Ray, Kaufman, Janke, Dimmit, Elfering, Kutchera, Mitchell, Baugher, Traczek

----Source: Clark County Press (Neillsville, Clark Co., WI) 8/12/2020

St. Joseph Catholic Church-Fairview Turns 150 (Anniversary - 2020)

By Lori Johnson

It’s a wonderful time indeed when a church can celebrate 150 years of being. For St. Joseph’s Catholic Church - Fairview is just that! Quite possibly the oldest church in both Jackson and Clark Counties, the church is rife with history.

There were already many Catholics gathered in the area when the Diocese of La Crosse was established in 1868--settlers were of German, Swiss, Polish, Irish and French Canadian. Before the church was built, people gathered at the house of Joseph Emer (Mission House) located across the road from where the current building stands. Joseph and Cordula Emer sold 2 ½ acres of land for a Catholic cemetery in June 1868 and the first Bishop of La Crosse, Michael Heiss visited in September 1868 from Milwaukee. Rev. Charles Goldsmith visited St Joseph on his missions ministering to over 70 families.

St. Joseph - Fairview was officially established in 1870. It had the distinction of being located at the junction of three counties, on land in Garden Valley/Cleveland in Jackson County, Humbird in Clark County and Fairchild in Eau Claire County. The parish is recorded as being a mission of Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls from 1870 to 1876, like many parishes during the time and has had their missionaries serve parishes in other communities including St. John Cantius in Fairchild, Immaculate Conception in Alma Center, St. Anthony in Augusta and St. Andrew in Millston.

In November and December of 1875, a rectory was completed, and Rev. Lorenz Spitzlberger moved in as the first resident pastor in 1876. Masses were held the second Sunday of the month with others having him travel to mission churches of Neillsville, Black River Falls, and Augusta. In the short time he was here, he performed 44 baptisms. He was here until August of 1876 and later, from 1878 to 1883, he had charge of 50 missions in Minnesota and Dakota. Rev. Paul Geyer is also listed as having served in 1876. He became Vicar General of the diocese and later became the first pastor of the new Sacred Heart parish in Eau Claire.

Rev. Adolph Bergmann assisted Father Geyer in 1876 and became the 2nd resident pastor from 1877 - 1879. He was the brother of Anton Bergmann of Fairview. He came from Germany and later brought other family members over. The erection of a parish school occurred in 1877, Father Bergmann died in 1895, is buried at St. Joseph’s cemetery, and a window in the present church is in his memory.

Many priests were here who were not listed as pastors. Rev. Michael Heiss, nephew of Bishop Heiss served 1877 - 1878 and was here when the school opened in October of 1877.

Rev. Charles Gunkel’s time here overlapped Father Bergmann’s tenure 1878-1879, and also in 1879 Rev. Joseph Boehm, who was later credited with the building of Sacred Heart Hospital in Eau Claire, and Rev. Francis X. Schulak served St. Joseph’s.

The 4th Pastor of record, Rev. Joseph Volz 1879-1885 served many mission churches as well as St. Joseph’s. Rev. Roman S. Guzowski served from 1885-1886, and Rev. August Babinski from 1866 -1889. Fire destroyed both St. Joseph’s church and school in February of 1887, and in October 1887 Father Babinski established St. John Cantius in Fairchild. Jesuit missionary, Aloysius Suter, S. J. also served for two months in 1889. Rev. Constantine Frydrychowicz was appointed by the Most Rev Killian Flasch to serve from 1889-1891. Rev. Anthony Havestadt served from 1892-1894.The building of the present St. Joseph church occurred in 1893 and was dedicated that November by Bishop Schwebach, accompanied by Vicar General Fr. Geyer and eight other priests.

Fairview was Rev. James Hofer’s first appointment in 1894-June1898. He was born in Switzerland in 1849 and arrived in the USA in 1894. He had 400 souls under his care until he was transferred. Rev. Joseph M. Bauer and Rev. Xavier Till also served in 1898.

Rev. Joseph Stenz started the new year with his appointment January 1,1899 and served until 1908. In 1900 a one-story brick school building was built, and in 1905, the present rectory.

Rev. Mathias Wernerus was appointed to serve from August 1908 until 1910. He later built the Dickeyville Grotto and is buried there.

Rev. Lorenz Trompeter came in 1910-1914, assisted by Rev. Paul Geyer. Rev. John Ellmaurer served from 1914-1920. In 1917 the parish school closed. Rev. Joachim Orlowski, M.S.C. spent three months until his replacement, Rev. Rudolph Raschke came, just in time to celebrate St. Joseph’s Golden Jubilee. He served until 1929.

Rev. Norman W. Thomas had a short term from April through December 1929. Rev. John Stromberg served from 1929 through 1931. Rev. George Hardy served from 1931-1932.

Rev. J. J. Sheridan was at St. Joseph’s from 1932-1941. In Oct. 1933, the school burned down, in 1924 the church basement was made. Rev. Augustine Ausman served from 1941-1943 and Rev. Ralph J. Geissler from 1943-1945.

Rev. Joseph L. Brake was appointed from 1945-1948. Following him were Rev. Claire Cooney 1948-1950, Rev. Carl A. Wohlmuth 1950-1952, Rev. Andrew Bofenkemp 1952-1959, and Rev. Matthew J. Molinaro 1959-1969.

Rev. Rudolph Urbic was the Pastor from June 17, 1969 through 1972 and was there when St. Joseph’s 100 years were celebrated in 1970. Pope Paul VI was the head of the Catholic church, Bishop Fredrick W Freking the Bishop of La Crosse then. Celebrations included an outdoor Mass celebrated by Bishop Freking, a banquet and a centennial program. A centennial booklet was published which included an interesting account of those memorable first 100 years.

Rev. Platt succeeded Father Urbic and served from 1972-1973.

Rev. David Ziegelmaier, an Army chaplain, serving in Germany and Vietnam was appointed pastor in 1973, serving until 1980. During his time there, many parish improvements happened - remodeling the church basement, repairing church windows and siding the church and the rectory. Father Francis Heindl and a missionary served on weekends until Rev. John Cassidy arrived, serving from 1980 to September 1985. Mardi Gras and ecumenical services with other churches continued, and more activities were added. New storm windows and lower vents were installed in the church, the church was painted inside, a new altar installed, and the tabernacle was moved to a side altar. A back stairway was completed, and the cemetery enlarged. The rectory roof was repaired, and parishioners refinished the church pews. Father Art Heindl helped out until Rev. James Lescynski came in November,1985 to 1989, a non-resident priest. Eucharistic ministers were first appointed. He loved to sing and formed the St. J Singers. A new church furnace, a new water pump in the rectory basement, new carpeting in the church basement and a new roof over the sacristy entrance were major expenditures that were needed during that time.

When Father Jim left, retired priest, Father Bukman filled in on weekends until Rev. David Ziegelmaier returned in April 1989 until 2006. Father David had the honor of meeting Pope John Paul II in 1986. The church ceiling, hallway and rectory bathroom were repaired, and a major landscaping job enhanced the grounds. Their first polka mass ushered in their yearly Pot-Luck Dinner.

In 1992 St. Joseph’s joined with Alma Center’s Immaculate Conception, and St. John Cantius, being a tri-parish community.

In 1995, St. Joseph’s celebrated 125 years with a Mass conducted by Bishop Raymond Burke, church dinner, and a parish directory with more history, and photos of all parishioners.

Rev. Jude Dioka served from 2007-2011, Rev. Varkey Velickakathu, serving from 2011-2014, was the pastor when the St. Joseph and St. John’s joined with Neillsville and IC with Black River Falls. With the coming of Rev. David Rybicki from 2014-2017, Alma Center was once again joined with Fairview and Fairchild. Rev. Arockia Amirtha-Raj Stanislaus served from 2017-2018.

Current pastor, #36, Rev. Daniel Thelen, who came in 2018, shared his journey to the priesthood and St. Joseph‘s. Says, Fr Dan “I grew up on a small dairy farm in Clear Lake, Wisconsin. My family instilled a strong Catholic identity. We prayed the rosary often and we were quite involved in our local church. I really appreciate the constant love and devotion my parents had for each other and their witness of a strong marriage.

At about the age of 10, I first felt a call to the priesthood and that call reappeared in 2007, crediting it to the perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament at Notre Dame Parish in Chippewa Falls where the seeds of a vocation were again planted.

From 2011-2015 I studied theology in Rome at the Angelicum and lived at the Pontifical North American College. My time in Rome provided many unique opportunities to see the universal church. Of particular note was the opportunity to be present when Pope Francis was elected, and the white smoke arose from the Sistine Chapel. Prior to my studies in Rome, I studied at Mundelein Seminary near Chicago. I was blessed to take a mission trip to Mali, Africa during my second year of seminary. This experience, along with my studies in Rome, gave me a profound understanding of the beauty of humanity in every corner of the world. I was ordained a priest for the Diocese of La Crosse in 2015. During my five years as a priest, I have been blessed to serve in Wausau, Eau Claire, and now in Alma Center and Fairchild. For me, the best word to describe the life of the priest is ‘fullness’. Every day is unique and blessed. Whether a family is in sorrow or in joy, I am called to enter into the most precious moments of person’s life. From birth to death, I am able to minister the saving grace of Jesus to his beloved people. The priesthood is a life of renunciation but when lived generously it is a remarkable life overflowing with spiritual abundance and joy.”

Looking back, it is interesting to note that from this little country parish, two became priests and ten became nuns over the years: Rev. Peter Emer, Rev Joseph Scheffer, Sister M Emily Bemish, Sister Magna Bergmann, Sister Emerentia Emer, Sister Dionysia Emer, Sister Roseen Gorst, Sister Monica Scheffer, Sister Clarita Selz, and Sister Elizabeth Voves. Sister Mary Angela Ray and Sister Marcella Ray entered at the same time.

Which brings us to 2020. Joining Father Dan are staff members Dawn Kaufman, Parish Secretary and Bookkeeper, Jolene Janke, Music Director, and Dave Kaufman, Groundskeeper. Church Council members are Rick Dimmitt, Dennis Elfering, Jan Eflering, Jolene Janke, Sheila Kutchera and Fr. Dan. There are 53 families (more than 100 members) belonging to St. Joseph’s and they are proud to be a part of this historic parish.

It is also the year of the 150th anniversary of this wonderful church. Much excitement was in the air and a great celebration was many months in the planning stages. Committee members Fr Dan Thelen, Jan Elfering, Dawn and Katie Kaufman, Melanie Mitchell, Marci Baugher, Jolene Janke and Rozanne Traczek had many ideas of how to acknowledge this event: Mass by the Bishop, a celebratory dinner, the setting up of a “history room” to go through to bring back memories. Church members were asked to contribute photos and information about events held at the church over the years with plans for a DVD. Excitement was high and the enthusiasm was contagious.

Unfortunately, part of the church’s history in 2020 includes contagious COVID-19, which brought all the planning and preparations to a temporary standstill. Because of concerns due to the pandemic, it was decided it was in the best interest of the health and safety of the parishioners and guests to postpone the celebration. But, like the very first members of this congregation, they were not going to let this roadblock keep them from looking forward to the anniversary - just making history by postponing the celebration until 2021, giving them even more time for planning this milestone event. So, for now, Happy Anniversary, St. Joseph-Fairview and looking forward to the celebration in 2021!

Current Pastor – Dan Thelen
Contributed Photo

If the walls could talk. St. Joseph’s-Fairview is the perfect example of a little white country church and has many memories we wish it could share. Contributed photo



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