St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church
was founded November 14, 1875, when the first mass was offered in the
new church by Father Guegen of Loogootee, who had drawn the plans and
supervised construction. The stone walls of the now defunct St. Rose
Church at Mount Pleasant served as the foundation and basement of this
The Church has been blessed with many fine pastors through the years,
each of which who have added their own personal touch.
In 1884 the first rectory was built, a new roof was put on the
church, pews put in and a vestry was built as well as a new sacristy.
This was done within a year and ten months plus more land was
purchased, all without any debt to the parish.
In 1884 the first Altar Society was formed with 58 members. In 1889
the bell tower was erected on the front of the church. The bell, which
weighs 493 pounds, was purchased at the cost of $102.28.
In 1895 St. Martin received a tract of land from Mr. & Mrs. John
Downey to be used as the parish cemetery. Until this time, all had
been buried at St. Rose Cemetery at Mount Pleasant. Father James
Stremler, one time Chief Secretary to Pope Leo XIII, blessed the
cemetery on August 25, 1895. A short five years later Father Stremler
would be buried in a vault at the foot of the cross in the new
In the mid 1890s, the Whitfield Grade School, a state operated
two-story frame structure was built next to the church.
The stained glass windows were installed by Fr. Joseph Duffey in
1913, and in 1926 Fr. Clarence Burkart named the Altar Society the "St.
Ann's Altar Society" next Fr. Leo Lindeman installed new pews and
a serviceable confessional was obtained.
Fr. John Vincius returned to St. Martin in July 1937, after having
served as pastor in 1934. The furnace was in very bad condition, and
he persuaded the parish to install a new one. On a very cold December
8th, the new furnace was fired beyond its capacity and a fire broke
out during the late Mass. With the help of parishioners and the local
fire departments, the loss was kept to a minimum requiring a new
furnace, floor and covering for the walls.
In March 1945, Fr. Anthony Roach became pastor and it was during his
time at St. Martin that this parish was considered strong enough to
have a Mission to care for - this was the Immaculate Conception Church
The Cemetery Association was established in 1946.
In December 1955, during the Christmas season the church had its 2nd
fire. A votive light ignited a Christmas tree and the high backing of
the side altar was damaged beyond repair creating the need for more
The shrine was built in honor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help and
weekly devotions were begun. The parish hall was built and dedicated
in 1957, with Father Roach laying many of the blocks himself.
Fr. Herbert Muensterman became pastor in 1958 and was only at St.
Martin for seven months, but redecorated the church in Georgian Style
which included a canopy of red velvet curtains and a hand-carved
crucifix for the altar.
In August of 1959, Fr. Victor Kunkler was installed as pastor. He
again did a lot of remodeling, which included lowering the ceilings
and installing new light fixtures as well as a new heating system. It
was Father Kunkler who celebrated the first mass in English facing the
people on Thanksgiving Day of 1965.
In 1967, Father Raymond Reising became pastor and more remodeling was
started - the high altar was removed, a new tabernacle placed on the
back wall of the sanctuary, carpeting installed in the sanctuary and
the communion rail was removed. An electronic bell system was also
installed and a new rectory was build.
In 1969 the Whitfield School was closed and the students were
reassigned to either Loogootee or Rutherford School.
In June 1970, Fr. Richard Hoffman started the CCD program, and in
November of 1970, an administrator was named instead of a pastor - Fr.
Fr. Paul Stone served as pastor from June 1975 to June 1983 then
MSGR. Carl Shetler became the new pastor at St. Martin.
On June 2, 1990 a tornado came through Whitfield and totally
destroyed the hall, the steeple toppled from the church, and other
damage was done to the church and rectory and many homes in the
neighborhood. After repairs were made to the church and rectory Father
Carl set about the task of designing a new parish hall. Dedication of
the new hall was held on July 12, 1992.
In July 1997, Father Tom Kessler was appointed the new pastor of St.
Martin, The task of dealing with the priest shortage was begun in
earnest and clustering of the four parishes became a reality.
Updated History description needs to go
As of July 1st, 2014, St. John the
Evangelist Parish in Loogootee was formed out of the extinctive
union of the following four Parishes and one Chapel:
St. John the Baptist in Loogootee, IN
St. Joseph in Bramble, IN
St. Martin in Whitfield, IN
St. Mary in Shoals, IN
St. Mary Chapel in Barr Township, IN
Through this extinctive union we are moving forward with a larger,
more vibrant, and refreshed Catholic Church family in Martin County!