|Town of Eden Cemeteries:
ST. JAMES CEMETERY
Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin
St. James Cemetery is located in the Township of Eden, Fond du Lac county,
Wisconsin. It is platted as the SE 1/4 of Section 8, Township 14 North,
Range 18 East. The land for a Catholic Church and cemetery was deeded in
1849. The church served as a small mission church for the area, and eventually
became affiliated with St. Mary's Catholic Church, established in 1888
in the village of Eden. Edward Lloyd, born Aug 29, 1856 and died
Dec 5, 1868, is the earliest recorded death found on the surviving tombstones.
Forty of fifty Irish-Catholic families, many of them born in Ireland, settled in the southern part of the Town of Eden in 1848 and 1849. Missions had been established about eight miles apart from Green Bay to Milwaukee and were served by missionary priests, Father Roerhl, Father Bonduel, and Father Dael were among the first priests to serve in Eden.
The area was covered with trees and brush except where there were oak openings and low land. There were no roads but deer trails or bridle paths used by the Indians. The early settlers carried small axes and blazed the trees along their road so they could find their way home. Almost all travel was on foot; the missionary priest walked from mission to mission. (Father Roerhl, who walked from Green Bay to West Bend and back on his missions, was once offered a horse to keep by one of his parishioners, but he turned down the offer because of the cost of upkeep for the animal.) We can easily understand why a high hill was chosen for the first church, as it showed a fine view of the surrounding country.
In the winter of 1849, logging bees were held. Trees were cut into logs, and the first Catholic Church in Eden was speedily built by men of the parish, supervised by James Flood, a carpenter. Wooden boards for the interior were brought from Fond du Lac, a day's journey through brush and woods. Some of the wooden decorations were produced on the first lathes in Fond du Lac County. Custodian of the log church was Tom Fitzgerald.
The log church served until 1865 when a better and more substantial frame building was planned. A lot was purchased from Patrick Brennan in a thickly settled area. Under the direction of Father McGowan, the pastor of St. John's Byron, the new St. James Church was built.
The new St. James Church received its name in a rather unique way. Several teams of oxen were sent to Fond du Lac with logs to be cut into lumber. Father McGowan told the men that the first one to return would have the new church named after him. Shortly after midnight James Brennan returned with his load of logs. The second to return was Christopher Flood.
The first cash donation toward the new church building was made by a
Capuchin priest. He was Father Hyacinth, an uncle of the late Peter Schommer.
In 1873 a Dutch group settled three miles north of St. James Church and the Airline Railroad (now the Chicago and Northwestern) was built through this settlement, not the Village of Eden. In 1887 the archbishop approved a second church, and St. Mary's came into being in 1888. St. James Congregation continued with a membership of 40 to 50 families, but gradually the activity moved to St. Mary's in Eden. From 1865 to 1894, St. James was a mission of St. John's Byron. Since 1894 it was a mission of St. Mary's. In 1910 it was decided to have Mass at St. James only in the summer months.
The regular summer Masses were discontinued in 1962. The last Masses to be read in the church were on Poor Souls Day in 1964 and 1965. A field Mass was read on the front steps of the old church on August 29, 1971. These last Masses were read by the Rev. Walter Gehl. Maurice Ryan and John Baumhardt Jr. were the last trustees of the parish.
Among the early families who built these churches were the Callahans, Dillons, Floods, Mangans, Lawlers, Meades, McDonalds, McGinnitys, O'Rourkes, Vaughans, Lymans, McEnroes, Burkes, Ryans, Kelleys, Wards, Clarks, Lloyds, Whealons, Smiths, Flynns, O'Briens, Cosgroves, Reillys, Carrs, Fitzgeralds, Welshes, Shanahans, and Sammons.
The pastors who served these churches from 1848 until the present were Father Roehrl, the first missionary in the area; Father Bonduel who headed north after his work in this area; Father Dael; Father Matthers, the first resident pastor in Byron; Father McGowan, 1863 to 1865; Father T. A Smith, 1865 to 1870, who built the present Byron church; Father Hannon, 1870 to 1876, who was the first priest to reside near St. James Church; Father Cody, 1876; Father O'Brien, 1879 to 1881; Father Colton, 1881 to 1883, who was the last resident pastor; Father Wrynn, 1883 to 1886. Father Johnson, who started St. Mary's in Eden in 1888; Father McFarland, 1895 to 1927, who built the present rectory in Eden in 1896; Father Hegeman, 1927 to 1934; Father John Durnin, 1934 to 1939; Father Vincent Thomas, 1939 to 1950; Father Robert Anthony, 1950 to 1956; Father Gerard Clark, 1956 to 1964, Father Walter N. Gehl, 1964 to ......, and Father John O'Brien.
In August 1971, the members of St. James Congregation decided that the church had to be dismantled. The foundation was beginning to crumble and the building appeared unsafe. During the razing of the building, it was discovered the roof beams had rotted in many places. The timbers in the bell tower had crumbled like sawdust. The supporting beam along the front of the church had rotted away and the uprights between the doors were just hanging from the shaky roof.
On the rear of the vestment cabinet there was found an interesting eulogy written by the maker of the cabinet. "James Maney, Eden Wisconsin. Eden is my native home but heaven is my place of rest. This will be read when I am dead and molding in a grave. All will pass away then as I do. I was born in the year 1850. January the 1st in Ireland. Carpenter and joiner by trade. James Maney, Eden Wisconsin, April 20, 1887"
James Maney was married to Bridget Fitzgerald, an aunt of John Baumhardt Sr. Of Eden.
The wooden church of St. James was heated by three stoves. The Baumhardt family, four generations of whom are still living in Eden, served as church custodians for more than 70 years. George Baumhardt and his son John Baumhardt Sr. took turns on cold winter weekends to cut wood and keep the church warm.
In the tower was a cast bronze bell with the inscription "From McNeely's Foundry, West Troy, New York, 1848." Apparently the bell was used in the old church and then transferred to St. James Church in 1865.
There are many items that should bring back memories to older members of the community. One such item is the sanctuary bell used at Mass. This is a bronze bell that stands about 15 inches high. A wooden mallet must be used to ring the bell. It is believed that in 1865 this bell was purchased as a used item.
After standing for 106 years, St. James Church is now a memory. Many baptisms, marriages, funerals and other events took place in this wonderful church. God alone is the judge of the success of this church in the long history of the Catholic Church in America.
St. James/St. Mary Parish History - Eden, Wisconsin pub. 1988
St. James Cemetery Inscriptions, originally published by Fond du Lac Co. Genealogical society, 1970's