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St. Joseph Catholic Church at 1306 South A Street, Elwood, IN 46036-1941 US - HISTORY

HISTORY

In the early history of the parish, its first pastor, Fr. B. Biegel, and the city of Elwood, Indiana are very difficult to separate since they grew simultaneously. As a young man of 23 years, Fr. Biegel was energetic, hardworking, and enthusiastic when he came here in 1889. He set forth to expand the church membership and the physical aspect. The town of Elwood had about 800 residents with 175 Catholics. For forty-six years Fr. Biegel worked in the interest of both the parish and the city. Elwood was first called Duck Creek and the first settlers received their mail at New Lancaster in Tipton County until the Civil War era. Duck Creek was later changed to Quincy, but due to another city of that name in Illinois causing confusion for the post office department, it was suggested a new name be chosen. The name given in 1869 was Elwood, after Jesse Frazier’s oldest son. Natural gas was discovered in the area in 1887 which brought a large influx of people to the vicinity. Many of these were catholic, which increased the church membership at St. Joseph’s. On June 15, 1889, Elwood Mission became a regular parish with Rev. B. Biegel as the first resident pastor; He was 23 years and 10 months of age when his appointment went into effect on Sunday, July 28, 1889. At that time, Fr. Biegel said his first Mass in Elwood, where there were twenty Catholic families among its 800 residents. Fr. Biegel had just been ordained in the cathedral of Immaculate Conception at Fort Wayne by Bishop Joseph Dwenger. The buildings of the parish consisted of one small frame church with an attendance of 175 members. It was just a settlement prior to 1860 when it became a Mission.On September 1, 1894, the Sisters of St. Joseph took charge of the parochial school which had been established in 1891, consisting of one room with a second room being added in 1893. On February 14, 1898 the schoolhouse was damaged by fire, originating from a defective chimney. The entire roof was destroyed and school had to be continued in the Church. The building was immediately repaired and a second story with two rooms, was added. The cornerstone was laid for the new church on October 8, 1899, and the super structure was completed in July 1901, taking approximately two years to build. It was one of the finest churches of its kind in the state. In 1939, a large brick two story structure was built to house the large school attendance, and this building was in use until 1970 when school was close in June at the end of the term. The building was razed in 1977 to make room for building the multi-purpose center. In 1944 the diocese of Lafayette was created from part of the Fort Wayne diocese, and St. Joseph’s parish became a part of the new diocese. We were a member of the Fort Wayne diocese prior to that date. On July 7, 1986 Rev. Kenneth T. Raczek succeeded Fr. Wicklum as eighth pastor of St. Joseph. Unfortunately, Father Raczek passed away in 2004 and St. Joseph then became a cluster parish with St. Mary's of Alexandria under the spiritual guidance of Father Paul Cochran.

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