1. Rev. Francis X. Pierz, Die Indianer in Nord-Amerika, ihre, Lebensweise, Sitten und Gebrauche, u.s.w.(St. Louis, 1855), Appendix. A translation of this appendix which was originally written to supply prospective settlers with information on the country and climate of central Minnesota may be found in English translation in William P. Furlan, In Charity Unfeigned (Paterson, N.J., 1952), 245-246. Father Pierz’ original title for the descriptive brochure was Eine kurze Beschreibung des Minnesota-Territoriums. These pleadings from Father Pierz’ pen were appearing in the German newspaper, Der Wahrheitsfreund, as early as March 4, 1854, and were still going strong in the April 16, 1862, issue of the same paper.
2. “Parish Baptismal Register,” St. Joseph, Minnesota. As were many of the Masses of those days, it was said in one of the pioneers’ homes. The next entry in the St. Joseph records is dated February 6, 1855. His visits to the people remained intermittent because of his many duties. The arrival of the Benedictines on May 20, 1856, remedied this situation somewhat.
3. William B. Mitchell, History of Stearns County, Minnesota, I (Chicago, 1915), 250, gives 1855 as the date for the first Mass at Jacobs Prairie. This mistake is said by many of the natives and older families of St. James to have been made by merely counting back fifty years from the Golden Jubilee of the parish. The jubilee, however, had been postponed a year to coincide with the celebration of the First Solemn Mass of the Rev. Pius Meinz, O.S.B., a son of the parish. Further proof that the first Mass celebrated by Father Pierz was not on the Michael Brixius farm in 1855, as stated by Mitchell, and as some still believe, is the fact that Michael Brixius did not arrive in Stearns County until 1857. According to a short sketch of his life in Mitchell, Ibid., II, p.1008, he left Germany in 1853 and after a three months voyage arrived in the United States. A blacksmith by trade, he found employment in Cincinnati for four years before moving to Minnesota. He lived on his claim until his death on April 13, 1910, except for the time he spent in St. Cloud during the Indian uprising.
4. The Ludwig-Missionsverein was founded at Munich, Bavaria, on December 12, 1838, by King Ludwig I for the express purpose of giving financial assistance to the Catholic missions of Asia and America. The original letters of Father Pierz’ correspondence with the mission organization are in the Minnesota section of the archives of the Ludwig- Missionsverein, preserved in the chancery of the Archdiocese of Munich. The Rev. Colman Barry, O.S.B., while on a research fellowship from the Catholic University of America in 1950, made photostatic copies of this section for the Archives of St. John’s Abbey. Some of them were printed in English translation for the first time in The Scriptorium, XII (August, 1952), 44-59, a magazine prepared by the clerics of St. John’s Abbey for private distribution, which stresses research in the history of St. John’s Abbey.
5. “Letters of Rev. Francis Xavier Pierz to Ludwig-Missionsverein” The Scriptorium, XII (August, 1952), 50. A section of this letter is missing, and one cannot help wondering whether it might have helped much in the proving of the point.
6. Ibid., p.52.
7. A joch is a tract of land plowed by a yoke of oxen one day.
8. “Pierz Letters,” op. cit., p.57.
9. Rev. Bruno Riss, “The Beginnings of St. John’s Abbey,” St. John’s University Record, II (February, 1889), 16.
10. Ibid., p.16. It was a small group of Yankee settlers who were causing the trouble. They had preceded the German pioneers into the territory and were determined to keep control of it. With their minds’ nourished on Maria Monk stories reaching them from the east, they were not too ready to accept the Benedictines as the spiritual and, as it turned out, the civic leaders in their community. On their arrival the monks had their trouble in St. Cloud, also. Rev. Bruno Riss, The Record, II, p. 15, tells that the very night they arrived in St. Cloud the inhabitants of the district staked out the entire prairie between St. Cloud and the crossing of the Sauk River, leaving not a spot in the vicinity upon which the monks could settle. The explanation for this hostility truly lies in the activities of the so-called Know Nothings. Their hatred for the Papist thing, the Catholic Church, was outspoken and resulted even in the burning of some convents. In 1855, just a year before the coming of the Benedictines to Jacobs Prairie, Massachusetts had appointed a committee to inspect the convents of the state, with the expectation of disclosing untold terrible enormities. The whole enterprise became a farce; but the general public had not yet freed itself from the conviction that monasteries were dens of Satan. cf. Theodore Maynard, The Story of American Catholicism (New York, 1946), 289-304.
11. Ibid. (March, 1889), p.25. So fast did the claims go at St. James that on September 2, 1857, the Rev. Cornelius Wittmann, O.S.B., wrote to Abbot Boniface Wimmer, O.S.B., “The best claims which are in St. Jacob are all gone.” (Rev. Cornelius Wittmann, O.S.B., to Abbot Boniface Wimmer, O.S.B., Archives of the Archabbey of St. Vincent, Latrobe, Pennsylvania, which in the remainder of the notes will be abbreviated AASV.) In fact earlier (October 1, 1856) the Rev. Bruno Hiss, 0.S.B., had written to Abbot Boniface, “I am not able to give the exact number of families since so many are coming in each week; but . . . in St. Jacob over sixty.” (Rev. Bruno Hiss, O.S.B., to Abbot Boniface Wimmer, O.S.B., AASV.)
12. Six weeks earlier Father Bruno was not so sure how the souls at St. Joseph, Richmond, and Jacobs Prairie would be cared for. On July 4, 1856, he wrote to a confrere at St. Vincent’s that “the other three parishes were given to us the day before yesterday, namely St. Joseph, fifteen miles away (from St. Cloud); St. Jacob, seventeen miles away; and Richmond, twenty-two miles away. I do not know who will take care of these places yet. At any rate as long as we have no horse it is quite inconvenient to go so far per pedes Apostolorum in this great heat, and added to this is the hardship of carrying on one’s back everything necessary for the celebration of Mass.” (Rev. Bruno Riss, O.S.B. to a Confrere, AASV.)
13. The Record, II, pp. 25-26.
14. Ibid. (July-August), p.74. The grasshoppers gave Father Clement Staub little cause for worry. Making virtue out of necessity, he explained his attitude to Abbot Boniface Wimmer on July 2, 1857. “I have nothing more to do than to take care of Richmond and St. Jacob. There is plenty of work and everything is in wonderful confusion. I have started and accomplished quite a deal in both places, and with the help of the grasshoppers it will go better as time goes on.” (Rev. Clement Staub, O.S.B., to Abbot Boniface Wimmer, O.S.B., AASV.) If the grasshoppers were keeping the settlers out of the fields, at least they were keeping them in church.
15. Ibid. pp. 74-75.
16. Ibid., p. 75.
17. “St. James Church, Cold Spring, Minn.,” My Message, IV (November, 1919), 355. The building and history of this chapel will be treated chronologically with its actual erection in 1877.
18. Anna Maria Brunner was the grandmother of Eldred and Albert Peters, Cold Spring, Minnesota; and the aunt of George, Michael, and William Brunner, of the same city.
19. Father Bruno Riss reported to Abbot Boniface Wimmer on November 9, 1856, that such situations caused no difficulty. “As far as the gratuitous work of the people of the parish is concerned, it was offered as often as required.” Father Bruno goes on to say that sometimes there were so many on hand to help that they were discouraged from coming again because they had to stand around and wait for something to do. Financial assistance was not lacking either, for in the same letter he told of receiving at first $100 a month from Jacobs Prairie. On another visit to St. James he received $200. (Rev. Bruno Riss, O.S.B., to Abbot Boniface Wimmer, O.S.B., AASV.)
20. Mitchell, op. cit., I, p.379. Among his famous medicines was one called Philopaidia, which went on the market as a cure for tonsillitis. According to the Reverend Timothy Majerus, O.S.B., The Church of St. Joseph 1871-1946 (St. Paul, 1946), 28-29, the students at St. John’s University used to call it “Fill-up-and-die.”
21. Peter Meinz also left his mark on the memories of the people of the Prairie by donating two cows to aid in the payment for the rebuilding of the church after the tornado of June 27, 1894. The two cows were raffled off; the first prize went to John Doll, who, though blind, picked the best one.
22. Mitchell, op. cit., II, pp. 1006-1012.
23. The Record, III, p.27.
24. Ibid., p.27.
25. Ibid., p.27.
26. Ronald Roloff, O.S.B., “Our Parishes in Carpet bagging Days,” The Scriptorium, VII (Christmas tide, 1946), 22.
27. Ronald Roloff, O.S.B., “Our Parishes: The Plants Take Root,” The Scriptorium, VII (Summer, 1947),40.
28. Ibid., p.40.
29. This “Grasshopper Chapel,” as it has been called was built on five acres donated by John Masselter. From the time of the first service there it became a shrine for pilgrims who came by foot from miles around. It was destroyed by the cyclone of 1894 and was not rebuilt until recently by the Rev. Victor Ronellenfitsch, O.S.B., and the members of the community of Cold Spring and other friends. The plaque on the front of the restored chapel tells its own history:
1854 Father Francis X. Pierz offers first mass in this vicinity.
1877 Father Leo Winter, O.S.B., erects a chapel in honor of the Assumption of B.V.M. to avert grasshopper plague
1894 June 29 (sic) Tornado destroys chapel
1951 Chapel rebuilt during the pastorate of Father Victor Ronellenfitsch, O.S.B., by members of the community and other friends
30. Father Bonaventure has a special relation to the church in the vicinity of Jacobs Prairie and especially to the “Grasshopper Chapel.” At present, at the age of eighty years, he is still serving as pro-Vicar Apostolic of the Bahama Islands. He often tells the following story of himself. In letters to Father Victor Ronellenfitsch, O.S.B., and Mrs. Joseph Backes, a relative, he tells that the old chapel, the one before the tornado, was known as the “Maria Himmelsfahrt Kappelle.” When he was eight years old, he became seriously ill with an ailment commonly called St. Vitus’ dance. He was unable to speak, or to feed himself, or to get up unaided. His mother, vowing that she would dedicate her son to the service of God, began a series of pilgrimages. For months there was no sign of improvement in his condition. Then, one Saturday, she and her son Henry walked barefooted from the family home in Luxemburg, Minnesota, to the chapel outside of Cold Spring. They remained to attend Father Leo Winter’s Mass, and later they went to confession and received Communion. It was not until Tuesday that they returned home on foot, praying the Rosary all the way. Here they found the invalid, now Father Bonaventure, up and able to care for himself.
31. Francis Beauchesne Thornton, Catholic Shrines in the United States and Canada (New York, 1953), 316. “In 1894, a terrible tornado howled through the district and the shrine was torn from its foundations. Part of it was broken to matchwood; part of it came to rest in a grove of young oak trees, bowed even to this day with the force of the blow. Only the statue of the Virgin and Child escaped the fury of the storm.” cf. n. 29.
32. At the time of the cyclone and after there was some controversy as to whether the parish church at Jacobs Prairie should be rebuilt, for some believed that the parish could easily be split into sections which would be allotted to the neighboring parishes which had for the most part sprung from St. James. A delegation was sent to St. John’s Abbey by the people of the Prairie in order to insure their rights. Prior Pancratius assured them that they would get a pastor if they would rebuild. The decision had been left to Father Pancratius, since Abbot Bernard was either too sick, or already in his last agony at Shakopee, Minnesota.
33. My Message, IV (November, 1919), p.357. In 1915 the parish celebrated the sixtieth anniversary of its organization in a simple, but fitting manner.
34. This period did, however, bring trouble for the trustees of the parish. On Sunday, December 31, 1922, Mr. Peter Taufen, a trustee of the parish, dropped dead from his chair at his home of a heart attack. Fifteen years later Mr. Matt Jonas, another trustee, repeated the same performance, but this time it happened in church just after the Mass had started on November 27, 1937.