In the original town of Memphis (Shoals)
the Catholic Church began to serve the people of this area in June
1853 when Clement J. Horsey deeded 10 lots to Bishop St. Palais, of
the Diocese of Indianapolis, "as a site for Catholic Church and
for the benefit of the Catholics of this vicinity." Mr. Horsey
was a non-Catholic and probably had no motive in making the donation
other than the hope of financial profit, which he expected to reap
from the advanced price at which he would be able to sell the
surrounding land, most of which he then owned, if a church were only
built there. Several persons who resided in Memphis at the time
stated that several of these lots were purchased from him and that
he donated the others. Father Patrick J. Murphy from St. Marys,
Barr Township, visited the place about this time, and he collected
the money with which to pay for the purchased lots. His chief
contributors were persons employed on the O & M Railroad, which
was being built then. It was these same people who constituted the
first congregation organized in later years. Part of the lots were
sold by Father Quinlan for the purpose of buying ground for a
graveyard, which is just northeast of the town adjoining the town
cemetery. Records indicate that the three-acre cemetery was
established on May 20, 1867.
The neat brick 60 by 30 feet church with
stone foundation was erected in 1869 under the guidance of Father
Louis Gueguen, when it was a mission from Loogootee until the year
1871. Father Gueguen named the church in honor of his own patron,
St. Louis, according to the HISTORY OF CATHOLICITY. When first
built, it was to be used as a school afterwards when the
congregation should become strong enough to build a new church.
Thomas Hart (whose sons were substantial aiders of the church), a
Mr. Kimmeling (who resided there only temporarily), and Martin Mohr
(who was a stone mason who did much to start and build the church)
were trustees during the construction of the church. Germely was
treasurer for a time at this early period and was one of the early
workers. In fact, all the Catholics then residing there were willing
It was then a mission from Salem until 1873
when transferred to St. Marys. In 1875 it was joined to St.
Simons, Washington, where it remained until 1877 when the
Reverend Michael Quinlan was assigned the first resident pastor. The
Shoals Church then served two other churches, Salem and Mitchell, as
missions. The Salem Church was closed and the property sold in 1887,
leaving Mitchell as the only mission.
The two-story frame rectory built in 1878
at a cost of only $500 stood on two lots west and facing the church.
An entry shows that $95 of this amount was realized from a steamboat
excursion the river, less $5 paid to Mr. Hayes for advertising in
Washington papers. The rectory was destroyed by fire in 1895, and
the residence of the priest was moved to Mitchell in 1907 after the
mission was opened at Willow Valley in 1906.
The following priests have served the
Shoals parish: As a mission, 1853-77, the Rev. Patrick J. Murphy
from St. Marys, Barr Township; the Rev. Philip Doyle, the Rev.
John Mougin and the Rev. Louis Gueguen from Loogootee; and the Rev.
B.H. Kintrup from Mitchell. In 1877 the Rev. Michael Quinlan became
the first resident pastor serving until 1882. He added the frame
sacristy to the church.
He was followed by the Rev. P.R.
Fitzpatrick,1882-1887. Father Fitzpatrick put in the neat little
Romanesque style altar. Father W.H. Slaven of St. Martins
served for one year 1887-1888.
On September 18, 1888, the Rev. P.J. Byrne
took charge attending also to Salem and Mitchell and during the
watering seasons in French Lick. It may be said that his coming
marked a new era in the history of Catholicity there. He went to
work at once in an interested and zealous manner as if he thought
only of bettering his people and building up his parish regardless
of whether his stay would be long or short. The good people in the
parish never before had the opportunity or encouragement as now, and
they were not slow in availing themselves of the one and showing
their appreciation of the other. The cemetery had been put in order,
the church painted exteriorly and neatly papered inside. A marble
plate with the name of the church upon it had been placed over the
door and a neat cross had been placed upon the belfry. A choir had
been organized and was making good progress, and the residence had
been repaired and furnished. Around the church lot in various places
a number of young trees had been set out by Mr. Richard Honey who
made his headquarters there, and soon the trees added greatly to the
beauty of the property and to the comfort of those who frequently
used it, particularly in the heated season. Mr. Honey, who was not
enumerated as a regular parishioner, had often helped in various
ways and deserved to be remembered.
During Father Byrnes years, Forty
Hours Devotion was held with 85 communicants. Rev. Fathers Piers,
Doyle, McCabe, Donaghue, and Slaven were present and assisted the
pastor. Mrs. Driscoll and Alice Crane from Washington were present
and aided the choir.
Phil McGovern, who was Martin County
Auditor, was formerly at St. Martins. He, Charles Mohr, and
James McHany were members of the Branch 63 Catholic Knights of
America at Loogootee, but they expected to have a branch of their
own in the future.
J.M. Swords and family of three sons and
three daughters were of great aid to the church during their
residence of eight years there. The sons and daughters directed and
largely consisted of the choir while they lived there.
William Wilds had always been one of the
most liberal parishioners. He had been in the liquor business for a
number of years but had been desiring to quit. Over his bar was
painted in large letters the legend "DRINK MODERATELY."
His friends would recommend him as Archbishop Irelands "Model
Father Byrne serving 1888-1894 was followed
by Rev. L. Fichter, 1894-1897; the Rev. Francis W. Wolf, 1897-1900;
the Rev. W.J. Cronin, 1900 ( 9 months); the Rev. Theodore J.
Mattingly, 1900-1903; and the Rev. August Sprigler, 1903-1907. From
1907-1915, Shoals was attended by priests from Mitchell; and from
1915-1931, it was attended by the Reverend Assistants of Bedford.
Shoals was again served as a mission from Mitchell from 1931-1944
when the new Diocese was established at Evansville, and Shoals was
then attached to St. Martins. This arrangement continued until
September 1950 when Father Edwin Spalding was assigned as resident
pastor. The Reverend Fathers Timothy E. Kavanaugh, James L. Bolin,
D.J. Manning, Omer H. Eisenman, Paul A. Deery, P.A. Brisse, John J.
Vincius, Jerome Bennett, August. B. Fichter, Arthur P. Mooney, and
Anthony E. Roach served the parish as a mission from 1907-1950.
Succeeding Father Spalding as resident
pastors were Father Richard L. Hoffman 1858-1963, James P. Hannigan
1963-1969, Albertus P. Lutterbach 1969-1975, and Kenneth R. Betz
On September 2, 1982, St. Marys once
again was without a resident pastor being served by Father Paul
Stone, of St. Martins, Whitfield. On June 4, 1983, Msgr. Carl
A. Shetler was named pastor of St. Martins, Whitfield, and
administrator of St. Marys.
The rectory-residence, built 1896-1897, was
razed in 1988, and construction of the parish hall was started the
first week of May 1988 and was completed on November 1, 1988. An
Open House/Dedication was held on January 8, 1989.
On July 10, 1996, Msgr. Shetler was
succeeded by Father Gregory Spencer, of St. Josephs, Bramble.
Father Spencer departed St. Marys in June 1997.
St. Marys was then served by visiting
priests until June 28, 1997, when Bishop Gerald A. Gettelfinger
appointed Father Leo C. Kiesel as temporary administrator. Then on
November 24, 1997, Bishop Gettelfinger appointed Father Kiesel as
pastor of St. Marys and to continue as pastor of St. John in
Loogootee, where Father Kiesel resides.
During the summer and fall of 1999, the
pews were removed and refinished, the kneeling pads were replaced,
some new lights were installed, and the church interior was
repaired, painted, and carpeted. The exterior was restored to the
original brick, new windows were installed in the sacristy, and new
doors were installed in the basement and the sacristy.
The Most Reverend Bishop Gerald A.
Gettelfinger celebrated the 10:00 AM Mass on Sunday, October 24,
1999. An Open House carry-in dinner celebrating the 130th
anniversary of the building of St. Marys church followed at
11:00 a.m. in the Parish Hall.