Adapted from the original email letter by Paul Ovaitt sent on June 10, 2023
TILIW - Tom Rueschhoff, Part 2 – Immaculate Conception Church -– Early Catholic settlers – Broken record - Bring in the Jesuits – Father Helias – Arnold Krekel – would-be readers
Gentle readers, as promised in part 1 of the Thomas Rueschhoff story, I told you I wanted to write a little about the history of Immaculate Conception Church. I will mostly draw from a digital presentation that was made for the 150th anniversary of IC. I received it via email from Sarah Peper. (I presume it was also printed in pamphlet form.)
I am unable to copy and paste from the version I received, but it does allow me to copy each slide (minus a few chopped-off words). So, I’ll start with some excerpts from the earlier 100th anniversary publication of 1951.
When I quizzed Professor Walter Kamphoefner on the topic of IC’s early days, I caught him at a busy time, but he did offer me this: “At the risk of sounding like a broken record on chain migration, the most interesting thing I have to contribute is that the great majority of the founders came from a tiny village on the southern tip of Oldenburg, Holdorf, near the town of Damme. I gave a lecture there one time…always try to put in some local detail, and told of the amazing progress the Volkerding family made, and wouldn’t you know there was a Bernd Strueckhoff-Voelkerding in my audience.”
Which reminds me, gentle readers, I recently used the expression, “like a broken record”, with a twenty-something, and I had to explain myself to her. Oh, well.
With this influx of Catholics, Bishop DuBourg (the bishop of Louisiana and the Two Floridas; his episcopal seat was in St. Louis) had to find a way to provide spiritual care for the newcomers to his diocese. In 1823, DuBourg went to Washington, D.C. to consult with President James Monroe and John C Calhoun, the Secretary of War, on Indian affairs in his diocese. While the bishop was there, Calhoun suggested the use of the Jesuit priests who were established in Maryland. The Jesuits were invited to come to STL, and they accepted the invitation.
Next slide, please. 😊
The slides then list some of those early Jesuit pioneers, and my eye was caught by one name: Father Helias. The high school I attended in Jefferson City, Helias High, was named after him. Quoting the slide show, “Father Helias, S. J., the great Jesuit missionary, who visited Hancock Prairie, Marthasville, French Village, Bailey’s Creek, Portland, Fulton, Rockport, Fayette, Mt. Pleasant, Lake Creek, Bourbeuse, Columbia, and Jefferson City.” Of course, I was once told that Helias was a missionary priest, but it takes on a greater perspective with this information in the IC slideshow.
Below is a portrait of Ferdinand Helias which I found in the July 15, 2013, edition of the Jefferson City News-Tribune.
“Born of Belgian aristocracy, Father Helias chose the wilds of the American frontier. He left behind fine clothes and beautiful homes for buffalo-hide coats, log cabins and sleeping along the trails.
Helias earned the nickname ‘Apostle of Central Missouri’ for establishing seven parishes and more than 20 missions, most of which eventually became parishes. Although his service was in the mid-1800s, his legacy extends beyond a name for streets, schools and organizations. He is entombed at St. Francis Xavier (in Taos, MO, just east of JC.) and a small museum tells his story in the basement of his beloved parish.“ https://www.newstribune.com/news/2013/jul/15/father-mid-missouri/
And if you have lots of time on your hands, check out this long bit of history from jesuitarchives.org. http://jesuitarchives.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/chap14.pdf
The next slide of IC Church history also interests me because it makes note of the Masses which were held in Krekel’s barn. Walter Kamphoefner recently shared information with me about Krekel’s barn, but it was part of an upcoming publication; hence, I cannot quote him, and besides…I seemed to have lost the Word document from Walter. 😥 But there’s plenty of published information about the Krekels. And this barn…I don’t know if it belonged to Arnold Krekel, or his brother Franz, or their father, Franz, but that’s not why I’m interrupting this story…I just want to call attention to Arnold.
Here’s a paragraph from Wikipedia that attempts to summarize this amazing guy: “Born in Langenfeld, Prussia, German Confederation, Krekel emigrated to the United States in 1832. He attended St. Charles College and read law to enter the bar in 1844. He was a surveyor in St. Charles County, Missouri. He was a justice of the peace there from 1841 to 1843, and was in private practice beginning in 1844. He was a county and city attorney of St. Charles and St. Charles County from 1846 to 1850, and was editor of the St. Charles Democrat from 1850 to 1864. He was a member of the Missouri House of Representatives in 1852. Krekel served in the Union Army throughout the American Civil War as colonel of a regiment of Missouri volunteers. He was President of the state constitutional convention in 1865 during which the Missouri emancipation proclamation was approved which formally abolished slavery in Missouri.”
Gentle viewers, here’s a photo of Arnold which I found in an article written in January 2023, by local historian, Dorris Keeven-Franke.
The article is excellent, so allow me to provide a link to Dorris, in exchange for swiping another photo… Arnold’s home in Jeff City (now a B&B). https://stcharlescountyhistory.org/2023/01/10/arnold-krekel/
Okay, now I’m back on topic. The first IC Church, which no longer stands, was built in 1851. Their first Mass was in early November of that year.
The current church structure which you see on Highway 94 was built in 1901. I have an old photo from Donald Struckhoff. Its exact date is unknown, but note that the chimney near the front of the building was still present.
Gentle would-be readers, I have been told by many of you that my articles are too long, and you don’t have time to read them. Sigh…so I’m signing off on part 2 of the Thomas Rueschhoff story, without even writing a word more about him. Oh well, that just means there will be a part 3…